Italian Cuisine

Italy is calling me . . .

For anyone following my blog you’ll know that I have a long held affection for Italy. It is my special place, the place where I always feel like the best version of myself.

Perhaps it’s because their whole approach to food and life resonates deeply with me. In Italy food is such an intrinsic part of their identity. It is how families come together; it is how they celebrate the bounty of the land and the sea; secrets are passed from generation to generation. They have a certain touch that I’ve not experienced anywhere else in the world.

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Italian Vegetable Stew with Meatballs

Although I’ll confess to being no vegetarian I do have a great love for vegetables. More than any other food group they bestow the colour that brings dishes to life and provide so much of the nutrition that a healthy diet needs.

My husband is trying to go easy on the carbs at the moment so I’m challenged with finding alternatives for the classic carbohydrates that feature in my favourite dishes. Not an easy challenge as I wouldn’t normally say there was an alternative (or one I’d be happy with) for pasta with meatballs or rice with a curry or crusty bread smeared with unsalted butter to mop up juices. My approach to healthy eating is more along the lines of moderation rather than elimination. But I’m happy to help my husband in this brief experiment to see if he can shed a few kilos before we fly off to Italy in a few weeks for a much needed holiday.

Yes, Italy! And let me tell you there will be no eliminating carbs on this holiday. Just let me at that first bowl of pasta!

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Panzanella – the classic Italian tomato and bread salad

If you’re a follower of my blog then you’ll know about my obsession with Italy and all things Italian. Particularly the food. The people of this very special place seem to have a magic touch when it comes to flavours and combinations. They can make the simplest dish taste like one of the most delicious things you’ve ever eaten.

Although the Caprese salad has a special place in my heart and is one of the first things I eat when I get to Italy, Panzanella is another classic Italian salad that proves you need not trade flavour and deliciousness for simplicity.

Now that we’re finally marching into summer here in New Zealand tomatoes will be gracing my fruit bowl (yes, they’re a fruit, not a vegetable) throughout the warmer months. And tomatoes are definitely the hero of this dish, along with the fabulous bread. Tomato and bread salad? Thank you, Italy!

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Battling through winter – and a return to my magnificent Italy

Let me start this post by apologising to all my lovely followers for being absent from our blogging world the last few weeks. I’ve been unwell, a nasty winter virus that seems to have lasted an age. Have you ever had a cough that you thought would never leave you??!

Fortunately we’re in our final week of winter in New Zealand. September heralds the beginning of spring. It may take a while for the temperatures to start rising but at least there are lighter mornings and evenings to enjoy in the meantime.

So how does one boost themselves after battling through winter and the horrible bugs that come with it? Well, my husband and I decided to sit down at the laptop and book a holiday. Always a sure way to lift my spirits.

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Dinner for Two – Roasted Butternut Risotto with Prosciutto and Sage

It was only a few months ago that my fellow bloggers were posting winter warmer recipes while my own blog was alive with fresh berries and all things summer. Now the seasons have shifted and it’s been turned upside down – winter in the south and summer in the north. But there must be balance in all things.

I have no problem with the change in season. As much as I love summer I look forward to winter – for two reasons. One is boots – laugh if you will but there is something very special about the first outing of winter boots once the weather cools.

The second, of course, is winter food. By the time autumn creeps in I’ve had my fill of salads and sprightly summer food. Time for a bit of comfort – dishes cooked long and slow in the oven, hot puddings, hearty porridge for breakfast and, of course, those fabulous autumn and winter vegetables.

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Mascarpone Cream with Morello Cherries and Amaretti

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of quick and easy desserts. I’d guess that my sweet tooth is at about medium strength. That is to say I tend towards savoury in general. For instance, I’m more inclined to order a starter than a dessert when I eat out (unless it’s a long and lazy evening of eating and I can fit in three courses).

But that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally indulge in something sweet and sinful. For all that healthy eating is an important part of our lives, there are times when eating has to be about pleasure only.

When it comes to choosing dessert for a dinner party I more often than not go for something quick and easy but that doesn’t necessarily appear so. When a pudding looks spectacular and tastes even better there’s no need for your guests to know it took twenty minutes for you to put it together. You can simply smile and accept the incoming praise gracefully while secretly thrilled that you were able to produce so much gorgeousness with such little effort.

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Basil Pesto – and the “king of herbs”

I don’t know how I’d cook without herbs. Whether they are being used as a star ingredient, a last minute scattering for freshness or simply as a garnish, these colourful and fragrant wonders of the culinary world have the ability to bring food to life.

If asked which was my favourite herb I’d be pushed to choose one above all others. But at the top of my list are: basil, Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary, mint, tarragon.

I’ll leave it there otherwise I’ll add every herb to the list.

Basil is at the top of the list simply because for me it conjures memories of food I’ve eaten in Italy – scattered over tomatoes, tossed through hot pasta, stirred through a rich meat ragù or simply garnishing a crisp bruschetta.

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Favourite posts of 2016 – and my love affair with Italy

I first posted on this blog back in February 2016, almost a year ago. I had no idea at the time that I would come to love it so much or how big a part of my life it would become.

Nor could I have imagined how much I would enjoy being a part of such a fantastic blogging community. I’m constantly surprised and inspired by the talent and creativity shared by my fellow bloggers.

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Italy’s Amalfi Coast – Spectacular Positano (and a recipe for classic Aubergine Parmigiana)

Last week I talked about my trip to the Campania region in 2015 and some fantastic places to visit – Ravello, Pompeii and Capri. All well worth seeing and easy to reach if you’re basing yourself in Sorrento.

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