Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Olive oil time!

You could be forgiven for thinking this is another one of my homemade liquors, but no, it is in fact olive oil pressed less than 24 hours earlier, at one of the best restaurants in our Area. Beautiful peppery flavour mopped up with crusty Italian bread - and that was before the meal! And yes, that is, of course, a glass of local Montepulciano d'Abruzzo sneaking in in the background.

The food at Il Torchio in Pettorano sul Gizio is really good, the wine is good and the price is good, what more can you ask for...our own little bit of Abruzzoheaven!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Coriander movement!

As coriander is really difficult to find here and I love to cook Asian food, I was sooo pleased when all my plants flourished (thank you Donna for the seeds...I have finally used them!)

We had fresh leaves for a couple of months to use in Chinese, Indian and more recently some Guacamole then I allowed them to set seed with the intention of collecting them to grind.

So, I managed to collect one full jar of seeds, but just as the rest of the seed dried out, I hadn't quite got round to collecting them we had a MASSIVE thunderstorm. Result: all the coriander seeds were blown off the plants. I came out in the morning to see my cherished plants stripped bare - I was not a happy lady.

Now though, I can happily say I have several randomly placed coriander plants sprouting up in the garden!! And you never know, from the amount of seed that blew away, if all the seeds germinate I might be starting up my own coriander market here in central Abruzzo!!

The Boys' Veg Patch

Back in February I blogged about Getting Going in the Garden. Looking back now at all the things I enthusiastically wrote about, we have achieved a huge amount, and yet not really many of the things we wanted to concentrate our time on back then!

The area designated for the pizza oven became reassigned as the boys veg patch because we were finding it difficult deciding how to organise the space. It was 'temporarily' planted out with lettuce, rocket, spinach, watercress, melons, tomatoes, courgettes and coriander.

The boys helped us plant the seeds in only the way a four and six year old can. Throw a handful of seeds in my nicely made rows and then announce 'We're bored now' leaving mum and dad to finish all the work!

Everything but the watercress was a resounding success (not enough water I think), we have been creative with courgette salads and I am loving the courgette crisps (recipe here for anyone who wants it). Scroll down for the photos.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Doing it like the locals: Making Passata Pomodoro.

Italy - synonomous with tomatoes bursting with flavour.

So, with our 102 tomato plants (yes 102!) that we have tended since Spring it would just be rude not to store them for use over the winter. You cannot claim to be a local here if you do not grow, harvest and make passata pomodoro from your the gallon.

 Of course, it meant buying more kit (everything seems to mean buying more kit at the moment) but with a bit of advice from our friend Giuseppe we have a machine that should last us a lifetime. We even got our apartment guests involved in chopping and pulping, much to their delight (I think!).
So we chopped, and we pulped, and we re-pulped, to make sure we got every drop, and we bottled and we boiled and now? ...Now we just have to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

With passata fresh from our home grown, organic tomatoes pasta pomodoro will never quite taste the same again! Bellissimo!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Making Limoncello...yum!

Inspired by my host country (they haven't kicked me out yet!) and my friend Katy, I have tonight been making Limoncello. Vodka, Lemons, Sugar and just sounds right, doesn't it?!

Here are the wonderful ingredients...

Zest your lemons (this is one of 6 large ones)...

Tip into the sugar, water and vodka mix...

Give it a good stir...

... and bottle.

Leave for a minimum of 24 hours or up to three months (yeah right!)

Sieve, put in the freezer and then drink, freezer cold.

I'll let you know what it tastes like tomorrow then!!

I used Lorraine Pascale's recipe, but there are plenty of them out there on the internet if you want to give it a try. And on Friday, with the juice of the lemons that are left behind I will be making homemade lemonade for our secret seven meeting in the shed...I did promise Jake after all!!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

From barrel to bottle

One night, after a few glasses of the good stuff, a new project was born. In 2012 we harvested our own vineyard for the first time and made our own wine...that in itself is a bit of an achievement for two novices. So, why stop there we thought?

So enthused (carried away?) were we with the whole wine making thing -or was it the wine?! - before we had even harvested our first grapes we had the genius idea that, instead of bottling our wine in the standard green litre bottles with beer bottle type metal caps as do most folk round here, we would go all out and bottle and label our wine to make it look like the real deal. During a conversation with our lovely guests, the Sharmans, last summer, whilst sitting on the terrace, under the stars, Adrian mentioned that he might be interested in using his  graphic design expertise...which started the cogs working!

After some careful thought and a suggestion from Adrian, we decided that we wanted a label that would tell a story, a label that would develop with us, as our knowledge of the wine making process grows. Adrian translated our ideas and our wording into our first year's label.

From then on there was no going back. We ordered the labels, bought the bottles and corks from our fabulous local vineyard Pietrantonj at Vittorito, run by two superbly dynamic sisters, who are the eighth generation of winemakers in their family, we bought a corking machine and a bottle drying rack, and set to with our Ikea funnels and Robert Dyas plastic jug - nothing but the latest techniques and most advanced technology is used in our bottling plant!

So now, all that is left is to sit back and enjoy our 2012 vintage, whilst pondering our label for the next harvest. Watch this space...!!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

One year on

One year ago we moved to this amazing place to start new adventures. What a year! We have laughed often, cried sometimes and I think achieved an enormous amount in a short space of time. Our feet don't seem to have touched the ground and we have so much more that we want to get done...bring on year 2!!

I honestly believe we deserve to be proud of ourselves and I wanted to share some of my thoughts after our crazy first year. Here they are in no particular order:

Top 6 things I love about being here
  1. Good cappuccino almost anywhere for only a euro.
  2. Skiing and sledging in the winter; walking, canoeing, swimming and cycling in the summer.
  3. Default blue skies year round (although they have not been quite so 'default' so far this year!)
  4. My new English and Italian friends, who have all been so welcoming.
  5. The amazing mountain views we see everyday when we look out of the window...
  6. Seeing my children blooming in a new culture and language
Top 6 things we miss:
  1. Crumpets
  2. Decent Tea (our families have been superb at keeping us supplied on various visits!)
  3. Cheddar cheese...please cheddar companies start exporting to Italy (more specifically Abruzzo)
  4. Friends and family - thank goodness for Skype!!
  5. Indian, mexican and chinese this part of Italy you eat Italian, full stop!
  6. Porridge!
Top 6 things that frustrate me about being here
  1. How beautiful this region is, yet how difficult it is for people to find out about it.
  2. How difficult it is to find out information about how things work...and contrary to what others would have you believe, things do work here...just in a somewhat complicated, sometimes illogical fashion!
  3. How long everything takes (post office queues, making hospital appointments, paying bills)
  4. ...
no...that's it...I honestly can't think of anything else. Must be a good sign don't you think?!!!!!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Catching Fireflies

During the last month or so we have been watching the amazing phenomenon of fireflies floating around our garden. During a barbecue with our 'Irish Bugnarese' friends on Thursday night the spectacular fireflies were out once again. Inspired by the book with the same title by Tony Rocca that Dougie has just finished reading all nine of us decided to go catching fireflies. I can't begin to describe the cries of excitement from the grown ups each time they managed a catch, suffice to say it is difficult to know who had most fun - the kids or the adults.

We transferred six of our catch into a large glass jar with holes in the lid and when all the festivities were over and we were snuggled into bed the fireflies were our nightlight for the night. Dougie and I sat in the dark fascinated watching them for ages . Released in the morning, I am pleased to report that all flew away happily and now we have the jar on standby for the next time!

The Guest Garden

So one of this year's bigger projects was to make a private garden for the apartment, something I have been wanting to do for about four years now. Those of you that are following us on facebook may well have already seen the photos. Now, here comes the story!

Should we, shouldn't we, should we, shouldn't we? We should-ed and shouldn't-ed for a while (we have taken to our new country's 'piano, piano' - slowly, slowly - approach quite well I feel) and then the true face of team Reid revealed itself. Seriously, work isn't worth doing unless you are under serious pressure!! So, with just ten days to spare before our first booking of the season we went to the builder's yard and made the decision to go for it. From then on in there was no turning back!
Poles are in!
Fence is going up.

 Creating the garden involved:
  • digging holes and concreting in 7 posts and 4 corner spars
  • wiring the posts
  • attaching the fence
  • putting up screening for privacy
  • knocking through the wall from the terrace
  • digging out and transplanting 7 rather (too) well established laurel bushes
  • building and paving a step
  • capping a wall and finishing to make the garden entrance
  • painting the wall
  • creating a culinary herb bed
What can I say? True to form we got the job done with 3 hours to spare! Yes, if it hadn't been for the fact that our lovely Dutch guests  (the De Bruine family) arrived late evening, we might have had to warn them to mind themselves because the paint was still wet. But as it was, they remained blissfully unaware of our frantic building, clearing and painting, interspersed with all our usual guest preparation duties.
Before the breakthrough.
The moment of no return...


Digging out the hedge
Even our neighbour helps!
And still the digging continues...
A work in progress
6 hours before arrival
3 hours before arrival

Now, there is a private little haven for all our guests to enjoy!

Friday, 28 June 2013

June is all about the cherries...

Yes, I know, it has been, well...a while! We have been crazy busy this month with guests in the apartment, the end of school and all the various activities that involves, Dougie's mum to stay and a trip to England to see our lovely friends, but in truth...June has really been all about the cherries for all of us!

We have made cherry jam, cherry liquor, cherry cheesecake, cherry pie, cherry milkshake and cherry smoothie and the cherries keep coming! We have frozen a few kilos to see us through the winter and today we have picked another 5kg. More jam on the horizon methinks!