Tag Archives: Italy

Happy Birthday to Me!

8 Jan

Before you ask, no, it’s not really my birthday today, actually, it happens to be my darling sisters ( HAPPY BIRTHDAY SARAH!!)

However, I am (belatedly) celebrating the 1st birthday of the narcissistic ramblings I call my blog. I’m filled with the same feelings I presume new parents have on their own child’s first birthday, pride, smugness and a slight disbelief that I have lasted a year without killing it.

Alot happened in 2012 for me. I learned how to make scotch eggs, I moved house, 6 TIMES. I learned how to drive, I realised I quite like Dublin after years of being terrified to even walk through it, but, really 2012 was about leaving my terrible call centre job and moving to Italy to work on a farm.

Doing the internship at Spannocchia and subsequently working on a biodynamic vineyard taught me so much about food. Yep, I learned that eating peas freshly picked is one of the sweetest things you’ll ever taste, that you can smell the tell tale signs of a great wine vintage in its first few days of fermentation and that  coughing and spluttering is how to judge the quality of a Tuscan olive oil. But, I also learned the importance of food globally, the horrific practises towards live stock in commercial farming and the unfair, unsustainable and utterly wasteful methods of food production and distribution we have today.

But on the upside it has made me realise what I want to do, so here I am, back in my home town, working in two community gardens and being paid Sweet.Fuck.All, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. (well, unless someone wants to give me more money? Hello? Anyone?..)

So here’s to a great 2012 and hopefully a better paid 2o13.

Happy New Year!

Highlights of 2012;

Visiting the hill top village of Colle di Val D'Elsa.

Visiting the hill top village of Colle di Val D’Elsa.

Harvesting saffron

Harvesting saffron

Visiting a medieval castle in Tuscany

Visiting a medieval castle in Tuscany

Drinking a 10 year old Brunello for lunch.

Drinking a 10 year old Brunello for lunch.

Seeing " The Best Genesis Cover Band in Italy" in a beautiful monestry.

Seeing ” The Best Genesis Cover Band in Italy” here.

Eating at Dario Cechini's butchery.

Eating at Dario Cechini’s butchery.

Making chocolate cookies with a fantastic pastry chef

Making chocolate cookies with a fantastic pastry chef

Getting burgers handed to me with beef from our farm and homemade brioche buns.

Getting burgers handed to me with beef from our farm and homemade brioche buns.

Having to go to class and drink wines.

Having to go to class and drink wines.

Making our own Nocino, an Italian green walnut liqueur.

Making our own Nocino, an Italian green walnut liqueur.

Getting to see inside a porcine Aladdins cave of wonder.

Getting to see inside a porcine Aladdins cave of wonder.

Getting to live here for 3 months.

Getting to live here for 3 months.

Getting to eat vegetable we had harvested in the morning for dinner.

Getting to eat vegetable we had harvested in the morning for dinner.

Getting to battle broody hens every morning for our eggs.

Getting to battle broody hens every morning for our eggs.

Having dinner on this terrece every evening during the summer.

Having dinner on this terrece every evening during the summer.

Getting to make our own pizza in a real wood burning oven.

Getting to make our own pizza in a real wood burning oven.

Having lunches like this handed to you.

Having lunches like this handed to you.

Getting to work with these two fantastic women in the garden for 3 months.

Getting to work with these two fantastic women in the garden for 3 months

Foraging my own Chanterelle mushrooms.

Foraging my own Chanterelle mushrooms.

Working during the wine harvest in Colombaia

Working during the wine harvest in Colombaia

Getting look after these cuties (I never look upon a sausage in the same way again)

Getting to look after these cuties (I’ll never look upon a sausage in the same way again)

Eating the most amazing local food.

Having the most amazing dinners.

Learning that Americans aren't as scary as the movies make them out to be.

Learning that Americans aren’t as scary as the movies make them out to be.

Making pasta for the first time.

Making pasta for the first time.

Getting shitfaced on amazing Chianti Classico before noon.

Getting shitfaced on amazing Chianti Classico before noon.

Going to the local market in Tusany.

Buying amazing local produce.

Tasting the white wine 30 days into fermentation

Tasting the white wine 30 days into fermentation

Getting to harvest the 2012 vintage of the most amazing wine have I ever tasted for the two most amazing people I have ever met.
Getting to harvest the 2012 vintage of the most amazing wine have I ever tasted for the two most amazing people I have ever met.

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The Perilous Search for a Free Breakfast

19 Oct

Mushrooms are great

Free mushrooms are better.

Free Chanterelles are the shizz.

So you can imagine my face of idiotic glee when I stumbled (quite literally) onto a huddle of free wild Chanterelles one early morning this week. I did feel slightly ashamed though, 3 Christmas’s ago I received John Wrights River Cottege Handbook on Mushrooms and it has taken coming to Italy to actually use it.

Because in Ireland we seem to have lost our knowledge of mushrooms, nowadays most people wouldn’t know the difference between a tasty field mushroom and a Destroying Angel (myself still included) and every autumn the newspapers are full of the foolhardy attempts of people who try. In Italy, however the penchant for a spot of fungi foraging is still very much alive (as the numerous cars parked haphazardly on country roads here are testament to).

So inspired by all the gluttonous Italians around me, I had set off to get some breakfast that I hoped wouldn’t have me in the morgue by sundown. Thrashing my way through the woods I came across so many I was unable to resist taking a sample of each back to Settima, housekeeper and forager extraordinaire. However, after a rudimentary conversation (as my Italian suck balls) of me pointing to each mushroom asking “This one? Can I eat this?” and her condescendingly shaking her head, it would seem the Chanterelles were the only thing I discovered that were edible/not going to kill me.

So if you do find yourself with an inkling to forage find yourself an old Italian lady or a good guide-book (I suggest the latter as an easier, more portable option) and remember if you can’t name it, don’t eat it

Happy Hunting!

Chanterelles on Toast

(Any mushrooms you can forage from the woods/market will do the job)

Clean off any bits of dirt/insects/general outdoorsy stuff with a slightly damp cloth (do not wash as it will make your mushrooms soggy)

Heat some oil and butter in a wide pan on medium/high heat until the butter foams

Add a small pinch of fresh thyme and then the mushrooms, add salt to help release the water and then raise the heat a bit

Move them around enough to stop them burning but not too much (you want them to caramelise, not steam)

When they have turned golden, dump on top some toast (I toasted mine in the pan while the mushrooms cooked to gather up all their flavour, waste not want not people), throw some parsley and black pepper on top and dig in!