I was browsing a newspaper website for inspiration for our Friday night dinner and came across a dish called malfatti. It literally means “badly made”, as they don’t look pretty.Continue reading “Malfatti (or Gnudi)”
We had a very special guest this week-end, and we decided to treat her like she deserves: sharing with her our favourite food and food places. I might write in more detail about some of these, but for now, here is the summary:
We went to an Italian dinner party last Saturday. Due to an interesting combination of circumstances, there’s all sorts of people from all sorts of countries at these events. They’re always very convivial and it’s a bit like the ideal big family party, in which the food is amazing AND you actually like everyone 😜
One of the guests was D. He’s such a warm person and always so cheerful, but also very interested in people, not just one of those annoyingly “bubbly” characters (we all know someone like that!).
Part of his family come from this area of Italy called Alghero, in Sardinia, who speak a language similar to Catalan. This provided for one of the most exciting moments of this year as I got to meet his family that were visiting London, and we managed to understand each other by speaking Algherese and Valencian respectively. How can we understand each other by speaking different languages, you might wonder? Because both are dialects of Catalan! This was a bit of an “Alice through the looking glass moment”, but in a “Sole through the Catalan textbook moment” version, as I was talking to someone who was using a version of Catalan that sounded positively old-fashioned. I wonder how did I sound to them! It was as if I had met a mythical creature after learning about this strange region in Italy where they speak Catalan. So very interesting!
But there was a different delight in store on Saturday. D said he had brought something for us. How intriguing! I genuinely didn’t know what to expect, but then he produced this bottle of liquid gold (i.e. olive oil, for those of you who don’t understand Mediterranean people):
He had brought more – in fact they came all the way home carrying multiple bottles like this. We got to try it on M’s delicious sourdough bread. Oh wow. That was absolutely fantastic (and I should write about M’s breadmaking skills and feast hosting abilities some other day).
It had been freshly extracted; the smell was absolutely beautiful. It had that sort of balanced spiciness that gently wakes up your nose and says “hello! am I not pretty?” and then hugs you and elevates whatever you pour it over. And I’m not exaggerating, I swear.
I took good care of this bottle myself. I held it closely, carefully keeping it upright, all the way up from South London, on a Night Tube. My partner kept excitedly saying it was our first time on a Night Tube, but I have a vague memory that I have taken it before on my own. I might have been a merry traveller maybe, and that’s why I don’t remember. Or maybe I have dreamed it.
Either way. I have been (not so secretly now) sniffing it each time I get into the kitchen, and agonising trying to decide if the salad I just prepared will be good enough for this oil, or if I should “just” use the upscale Greek oil I got from Borough Market a couple weeks ago. I feel sorry it will eventually be over. A good problem to have!
And now let’s step back almost 15 years ago (!), the first (and last time) I visited Speaker’s Corner. I found this guy defending olive oil and sipping it from a bottle:
What an experience! (I hope you’ll excuse the terrible video and audio quality, but 2004’s cameras weren’t what we’re used to nowadays, what with the portable full HD cameras in our pocket…)
I wonder how would this speaker feel about D’s olive oil…
In the meantime, I’m very grateful for the gift. So thoughtful… and delicious! 😋
“Coques” (singular: coca), in Valencian, are an entire division of “flat breads” typical from the area. They’re sometimes called “tortas” in Spanish, but most commonly referred to as “cocas”.
There are many versions: sweet or savoury, subtle or brutal. They’re often very seasonal: there are cocas for specific times of the year, festivities and events. They can also vary a lot between regions; seasonings and toppings might combine to make a very different result from what you’re used to, even if the base or the appearance are very similar.
Coca de Fira is traditionally eaten during the annual fair (fira, in Valencian) in my hometown. It is a really substantial dish, and a serving can keep you going for a long time, so it’s very suitable for browsing the goods on display and haggling for hours! (specially when November turns out to be cold, which happens from time to time).
This year marks the 600th anniversary of the fair, and my mum was telling me about all the celebrations she was attending to mark the occasion, and how of course they were celebrating with Coca de Fira. I got “a bit” jealous and so I decided to bake my own.
It is a bit difficult to achieve the exact coca you would get if you were in my hometown, because their cured meat has a very particular flavour provided by the seasoning, and also because they use a special type of mushrooms that I’ve never seen in London, but in the best spirit of the dish, I focused on getting a good base, and replaced ingredients with the closest I could get. And the result made me incredibly happy!
We didn’t just spend our time in Italy eating food… we also had Italian lessons, in which we learnt about… food and drinks! 😂 Continue reading “A lesson on making pizzas”