Tag Archives: food

A photo a day in December: days 6-10

 Click on any photo to enlarge

I am rather excited that a) I actually did another 5 days of my photo-a-day challenge, and b) I found some colourful things to take pictures of!

In days 6-10, we have:

  • “Superfood salad”, aka brussel sprouts, pomegranate and hazelnuts. (It’s based loosely on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Before serving I added apple and a vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt and chili powder.)
  • The skating rink in Piazza Carlo Alberto;
  • A tin of home made cookies;
  • Bark and lichen — ooh nature; and
  • Possibly the coolest shop decoration ever: they have covered the entire store front in a patchwork knitted/crocheted blanket:
    Shop front with knitted decoration

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

I liveblogged my reaction to that article about fairy bread.

Epicurious posted an article about fairy bread. It was… quite something. Here I liveblog my response.

Fairy Bread.jpg
This is an accurate photo of fairy bread. This is not the photo Epicurious used.
By GemslingOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Ooh! An article about fairy bread! I can already feel the nostalgia for every kid’s birthday party in primary school except mine, because Mum wasn’t into processed foods. While I’m airing grievances did I mention we were only allowed one teaspoon of Milo in our milo, that’s not milo that’s just vaguely brown-coloured milk.

The cover photo is cute, but what’s with the long hundreds & thousands? Is this one of those weird regional variations, like how apparently in parts of New South Wales they call “slides” “slippery dips”? (True confessions: a friend once called a slide a slippery dip and I have never been able to get over it. 70 years from now we’ll be in nursing homes and every few months I’ll be hologram-calling him or whatever, to say you really call a slide a slippery dip?)

And is that confetti on the lower-right one?

“[T]he name gives it an air of complex, unknowable magic”. Sure. Whatever. If you’ve read this blog a while, you know how I feel about purple prose food writing. Also, apparently fairy bread is “sparkly and fun and colorful and weird”? That’s several orders of magnitude more whimsical than I’d have thought fairy bread warranted.

I’m getting worried… “a slice of bread generously spread with butter”. Butter..? I mean, I suppose if you live in some kind of dystopian future that doesn’t have margarine, that sickly yellow margarine that doesn’t taste anything like butter or like vegetable oil or like anything edible really. That is what you use for fairy bread. But if you don’t have that, I suppose you could use butter. If you really had to.

Oh hey, it’s that food-writing paragraph about the history of the dish. Fairy bread was inspired by a Robert Louis Stevenson poem. Not by a mother of school aged kids saying will you stop whinging about how hungry you are, you know where the fridge is, fer cryin out loud.

And we eat it “as breakfast”. I dunno, maybe other kids did eat it for breakfast and it was just my healthy eating mother who made me have cornflakes instead. We also eat it “after dinner” — yeah nah, in my family it was tinned peaches and evaporated milk if we were lucky.

But more to the point… Toast. What. “Fairy toast”. No.

No really, toast??!!

Isn’t the purpose of fairy bread — to get all food-writerly — to show off the varied textures of the ingredients: the chewy soft white crap-bread, the crunchy layer of hundreds and thousands that are slowly dissolving into the slick greasiness of the margarine below them. How does toast possibly fit into that picture?

Effin’ toast. I am done.

Ok, I’m not quite done. They not only want me to use butter, they want me to make my own butter. Get out of here.

And “sparkly sanding sugar”. What even is that? I ask the friend who posted this on facebook. Probably a known carcinogen she replies.

“And don’t think you have to be a child to enjoy fairy bread: everyone deserves a little sparkle in their snack, even grown-ups.”

No.


Update: My mum comments on facebook…

I must have made fairy bread at least once when you were a kid because I’ve still got a jar of hundreds and thousands in the cupboard But I agree about the toast. Mum xxx

I haven’t told a baking disaster story for a while — here’s one involving apricot upside down cake.

ArmenianStamps-407.jpg
By Post of Armenia – http://www.armenianstamps.com/2007.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5504935

If we all collectively agree it’s still — I dunno, mid-August, say? — we can make it not be the end of September already, right?
You in? Good.

September has rushed by, but at least I have been slightly less busy this week. I’m still busy at work but I’ve only left the house 2 weeknights. (As opposed to 4 last week and all 5 the week before.) I have rediscovered lost skills, like how to cook my own dinner! And how to get to bed before midnight! It is very exciting.

On Sunday night I found myself rumaging through my fridge in a bit of an I’ve been pretending to be an extrovert for the past fortnight and now I’ve got some time to myself I don’t know what to do loose end. Having barely been at home, I had of course wound up with a fridge full of things that needed using up asap — some questionable-looking peaches, some eggs of unknown provenance, a container of cream that was use by 25 September.  This peach cake recipe came to the rescue. (NB: adding lemon juice to cream to make kinda-sorta sour cream totally works if you’re using it for baking.)

Also, earlier in the summer I had been bested by a cake with fresh fruit in it, and it was time for revenge. Continue reading

Taxidermy boar wearing sunglasses

I went to Salone del Gusto and the only photo I got was this taxidermy boar wearing sunglasses. (I am such a bad blogger.)

My extremely glamorous expat life right now is more like my extremely busy life, so it might be a while before I write a coherent narrative blogpost again. Also, I am a terrible blogger anyway — Thursday evening I spent a couple of hours wandering through Salone del Gusto, an internationally-famous food show (aka obviously a good blog topic, slap bang in the middle of my “Turin life/food/things I do as an expat but wouldn’t have done back in Australia” niche) but I was too focused on free samples of cheese and booze to take any notes or photos for a blog post.

(I wrote about Salone 2 years ago, but this year they’ve moved it from the ugly horrible exhibition centre in Lingotto to outdoors in the centre of Turin, which is definitely a nicer setting. If you’re in Turin this weekend, you should go!)

For now, some notes on the rest of my life…

While every season is food season in Italy, autumn is even more food season. A couple of Sundays ago was our traditional pilgrimage to Asti for the Festival delle Sagre, a huge festival of Piedmontese food. Imagine an open space dotted with stalls, each representing a village in the area and selling one or two of that village’s specialties, plus wine at 50 cents/glass. And then throw in a Ferris wheel (why not), folk dancing demonstrations, and thousands of happy Italians with paper plates in their hands and wine in tumblers in holders around their necks.

WINE HOLDER

WINE HOLDER. Genius.

This is the third year in a row I’ve been. Traditions have started to form, like starting the trip with friciula (fresh fried bread-y-pastry-y with lardo) from Mombercelli. “You reckon the friciula stand is in the same place this year?” “Come on, what do you think? We’re in Piemonte.”

(The friciula stand is near the centre of the festival grounds, as it always has been and always will be.)

Meanwhile, Facebook’s On This Day strikes again: a couple of days after the festival it reminded me of photos from the first time I went, 2 years ago. Of the group that went then, only 2 of us were there this year, because everyone else has since left the country. (Come back guys!!)


Two weeks ago, I had the bright idea to get back into running for stress-relief. No tracking distances or times, no pushing myself, just getting out there in the autumn evenings for fresh air and feeling less like a brain in a jar.

In those two weeks, I have already started noting distances run, decided it would be cool to work up to running 10 km comfortably in time for my birthday in November, and googled a bunch of 10k training plans… ZOE, NO.


But maybe I am getting better at relaxing? Earlier this month I went to the beach with some friends and actually enjoyed it rather than getting there, going for a swim, then drying off and going “uh, can we go do smething now?”

Beach near Finale Liguria

Possibly the secret was that these friends have two small children and I can attest the beach is much more fun if it’s socially acceptable for you to build over-engineered sand castles and collect a lifetime supply of mildy-interesting rocks. (Oh wow, that is a brown rock, isn’t it? Shall I put it with the other brown ones?)

(Practical note for future reference: we went to the private beach of Hotel del Golfo in Finale Liguria — the big advantage being that you can throw money at your problems and pay for parking, rather than drive up and down the Ligurian coast for hours looking for a spot. There’s a patch of public sand on the same beach as the private section, so you don’t actually have to pay for a chair if you prefer to bring your own. Parking/beach use is open to non-guests according to availability.)

White chocolate cheesecake with strawberry topping

That time a cheesecake made me swear off baking

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good baking disaster post — if you’re a newcomer to this blog you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m actually competent with food. (This is a false impression.) But today I have a story for the Oh My Goodness I Am Never Baking A Cake Ever Again What Was I Thinking files… Continue reading

Orecchiette with zucchini and parsley

Every easy pasta recipe I know, for future reference (part 1)

This post is inspired by my experience last Friday of going from, “I’m going out for dinner with friends” to “Ok, change of plans: I’m hosting dinner with friends” to “What the heck, I’ll invite more friends” to “Hang on a second, what am I even going to cook for these people??!” over the space of a few hours.

I mean, pasta, obviously, that’s pretty much the full extent of my cooking skills, but it’s amazing how my mind blanks when it comes to the question of what to put on said pasta.

So here, for future reference, are some dishes I know I can cook at short notice that are still nice enough to serve up to other human beings.

  • Orecchiette with cime di rapa (turnip greens): This is what I made on Friday. It generally requires a trip to the shops since I don’t usually have fresh orecchiette or turnip greens on hand, but it’s dead easy: Get a big pot of salted water on the burner. In a frying pan on very low heat, do a good amount of olive oil with finely chopped garlic and anchovies and some chili paste, leave it to go all soft and flavoursome. Wash and chop the turnip greens, put in the boiling water, give them a few minutes to soften then add the orecchiette. Once cooked, drain, and then toss together the pasta, greens, and the garlicky-anchovy-y oil. Add salt to taste. (Here’s a recipe with actual quantities and cooking times; in Italian but it has lots of pictures.)
  • Pasta with radicchio and olives: I wrote about this before. It’s my winter comfort food. I don’t think it’s “authentically” anything, besides, you know, delicious, but whatever.
  • Puttanesca: Not going to look for a recipe to link, since the whole spirit of this is to throw together whatever tasty things are lurking in your fridge/cupboard: tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies, chili.
  • Carbonara: I keep those supermarket tubs of pancetta bits in the freezer along with a bag of pre-grated parmesan/similar cheese for carbonara emergency dinners. PRO TIP FOR LIVING IN ITALY: if you’re in conversation with a group of people from Rome and there’s a lull, try asking them how many whole eggs vs egg yolks you need to make carbonara for four people. Assuming you have an hour free for the ensuing discussions, that is.
  • Zucchini “carbonara”: I learned this from a friend in Florence who cooked it for an easy Sunday lunch once. (Ugh, I know, that sounds like something you’d read in a tedious food memoir, but it really happened.) Thin slices of zucchini, cook in olive oil until soft. Meanwhile, cook your pasta. Toss everything together along with eggs and cheese like you would a carbonara, add fresh parsley and black pepper. (Here is a fancier recipe for basically the same thing; in English.)
  • Potato pasta: This isn’t as quick as the others, but I’m reasonably likely to have all the ingredients on hand and it involves double carbs, which endears it to me forever. I do something in between this recipe (in English) and this recipe (in Italian) except I’m lazy about washing up so I do it as a one-pot dish: cook the potatoes until they’re just at the point where you can stick a fork through them, then add the pasta and a bit of hot water/stock to the same pot, stir occasionally and/or add more water as needed until the pasta’s cooked. (It will take longer than the cooking time given on the pasta packet.)

What’s your favourite easy recipe?

 

The River Dora, Turin

Green grass and pots of ragù and day-to-day life.

It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve had lots of ideas for blog posts and nowhere near enough time or energy to turn any of them into reality. So this week will truly be a collection of snippets…


I often feel odd writing about the truly day-to-day stuff of living in Italy, especially since I know many of my friends here read this blog (hi guys!) and I can imagine them rolling their eyes and saying, “yeah, we know how to buy bread, duh.” But of course many of you don’t live here (why ever not??) so one of these days I should write a post about the process of getting a haircut when you don’t really speak Italian very well and the stylist doesn’t really care what you ask for anyway, because it’s fairly hilarious.

Also, a question for those of you who are better at Being an Adult than I am: do you trim your own fringe (bangs)? I do, because it feels silly to pay someone else to do it when I am in possession of a pair of scissors, a bathroom mirror, and only slightly below-average fine motor skills, but does this make me uncouth?


Last week was the Jazz Festival, and like I do every year, I fully intended to go to many concerts and ended up going to one. Or, half of one. I had a couple of house guests and we’d agreed to meet up Friday night at the free concert on Piazza Castello. The music was great, but after about 15 minutes, V. turned to me and said, “You know, this is really the sort of music you should listen to sitting down, with a glass of wine in your hand” — miming holding a stemmed glass — “not standing out here in the cold.”

So 10 minutes later the three of us decided to go back to my place and drink wine, instead.

(This is how many of my attempts at cultural experiences end up.)


My grand — and possibly only — achievement this weekend: I made a big pot of ragù and filled up a collection of freezer tubs so Future Me can eat nutritious food even when she can’t be bothered cooking. (Future Me is always so needy, geez.) I used this recipe (in Italian), because I was intrigued by the inclusion of milk and the use of white wine — I think I like it! And not just because I’ve got enough of the stuff to feed me for weeks…

Actually, the best achievement wasn’t making the ragù, it was realizing that I could roughly chop the carrot/celery/onion, and then throw it in the food processor to get a fine dice. I think this is something people who cook have known about since approximately the invention of food processors, but as a not-very-Adult person who trims her own fringe and doesn’t own a proper kitchen knife, this is a revelation.


If you’re friends with me on Facebook you’ve already been subjected to this joke but:

20160415_084245 (640x640)

What, by driving a truck?


Finally, a question for locals — has this Spring been more green than last year, or am I imagining it? Somehow, last year was all about the blue of the sky, but this year I have become very aware of the green of the leaves of the plane trees visible in my bedroom window, and the grass as I walk through Giardini Reali or along the Dora river.

My two guesses at rational explanations are: 1. I really am imagining it; and 2. there was so little rain last year things were actually less green. Any other suggestions?

Hills in Barolo

Wine and pancakes and sandwiches.

So besides winning the War on Pigeons (I am still proud of myself), what have I been up to recently..?

  • Went wine tasting a couple of weeks ago with some friends on a gorgeous Spring afternoon. Rolling hills, rows of vines, magic light as the sun got lower. I hadn’t realized how much I’d needed to get out of the city until I squatted, absentmindedly patting a friendly farm dog, my eyes drinking in the open space in front of me. Turin is a beautiful city, but sometimes you need a distant horizon.
  • (You’ll notice that’s a description of wine tasting that doesn’t say anything about wine. That’s because the current status of my sense of smell is that a lot of red wines are very pleasant to me, and I could even tell the ones we tried were better than my usual “what’s on special at Da Marco?” bottles, but the only note I can positively identify is the smell of olives. Which I smell in every red wine. Pretty sure a basic requirement for sommeliers is being able to distinguish the scent of wine from olive oil.)
  • My friend C. and I tried to go out for brunch one Saturday, but brunch isn’t really a familiar concept here. “How about we host our own pancake brunch on the Monday public holiday?” I said. So we sent out a group message and got a handful of people saying they’d come.

    “But you’d think the idea would be more popular!” she said… so we went on a bit of an invitation spree at church and suddenly we were spending the Sunday afternoon thinking about what we’d do if the number of people coming greatly outnumbered the number of chairs in my apartment.

    In the end, we made pancakes for 15 people (only 3 in excess of the number of seats!), using 5 batches of this recipe which is the best (I know 3.5 tsp of baking powder sounds ridiculous, but it works! and you can’t taste it). We had a lovely brunch/afternoon of sitting around chatting with old friends and new. I even busted out my emergency Tim Tams later in the day, which is a sure sign of a good party.

    After everyone left, we spied the dregs of a bottle of sparkling wine, and toasted our brunch-hosting success. (Moral of the story: always host parties with C!)

  • Was at dinner on Saturday night with another friend A., and partway through a couple sat down at a table near us. The woman was so! familiar! I spent the rest of the meal wracking my brains, How do I know that woman? Should I go over and say hi? On the bus ride home, Does she live in my building? Or maybe she’s a friend of a friend? I’m sure I know her, I hope she didn’t see me and think I was blanking her. Finally, as I was lying in bed… Oh that’s it! She works in one of the lunch places near my work. So probably a good thing I didn’t go and say hi, since the full extent of our prior contact is “Prendo un panino” and “3 euro 50”.
Freshly cooked hot cross buns

Making hot cross buns in Italy

Now it feels like Good Friday,” said my Irish friend A. as she helped me butter hot cross buns still warm from the oven last night.

For as long as I’ve lived in Turin, every Easter I’ve thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a hot cross bun right now?” But hot cross buns are not an Italian Easter tradition, and I’ve never found a decent substitute. (Yes, colomba has dried fruit, but the texture is totally different and there’s no spices.)

This year, I finally decided to make my own. Here’s how I did it:

Continue reading

Write now, despair later

Notes from my extremely glamorous life: Write now, eat radicchio later.

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve been quite good about keeping a journal… except that I always write the most when nothing very interesting is happening. All the times that I would like to be able to look back at with a record of what I did and what I thought about it are blank. And then I come to write entries for this blog and I sit there and flick through my journal and think, “What have I even done this week?!”

Part of the problem is that I am a very lazy/reluctant writer, hence my need for a post-it note, WRITE NOW, DESPAIR LATER. (Full credit to my sister for that piece of motivation.) It works remarkably well, probaby because it doesn’t pretend that the feeling of “urgggh I don’t wanna write” will ever go away.

But anyway, not having any useful notes of what I did this week, I’m stuck writing about what I remember off the top of my head. Which I’m sure will give you a full indication of how extremely glamorous my expat life here is…

I went to the markets the other day, where I remembered I needed some olives. There are lots of stalls with olives at Porta Palazzo, but I decided to go to the one with the free samples and showmanship. This was a terrible decision from the point of view of efficiency — the stand is busy (because: free samples), even as you’re being served, the guy keeps turning aside to top up the sample plates and yell at passers-by that they should come and buy some olives, and then you end up buying more than you’d planned (again because: free samples). But I think I ate enough in the way of samples to make it worthwhile.

Part of the reason I needed olives was because I’d just bought a bag of radicchio and I wanted to be able to make my radicchio pasta, which is loosely based on a dish you sometimes get in restaurants here, but adjusted to my tastes (salty & bitter):

  • Put your pasta water on to boil and cook the pasta in the background while you make the radicchio “sauce”.
  • Chop the radicchio into small-ish pieces, a few centimetres squared, rinse and drain.
  • Heat oil in a pan, throw in the radicchio, add some of that stock that comes in jelly-like form in little plastic containers — as in, put a spoonful of that stuff in without adding any water.
  • Stir as needed, and once it’s starting to cook add chopped up olives (I like olives with chili).
  • Throw in some milk, let the liquid reduce a bit and/or add more liquid as needed. If you don’t have milk, use the pasta water.
  • Once the pasta’s cooked, drain it and stir it through.

Bam! You have dinner. I had this for dinner tonight; I probably eat it at least once a week in winter.