Saturday, 26 November 2011

In search of the finest tiramisu in Rome

My trip to Rome last weekend started off with a story about a jar of vegemite. In case you don’t know what vegemite is, I will try and explain. It is thick dark yeasty stuff, a by-product of beer, which is used as a spread and is high in B vitamins. A member of the mite family, it is very similar to Marmite and Promite, and you either love it or hate it. Most New Zealanders will have a preference for either Marmite or Vegemite, and my friend in Rome preferred the latter, which she requested I bring specially over from London (you can’t, of course, buy such horrific foods in Italy).

I bought a 220g jar of Vegemite, packed it neatly into my Ryanair-cabin-regulation-size wheely suitcase, and forgot all about it. Even when my bag was pulled aside at Gatwick airport, I couldn’t imagine what they might have found. A huge man started unpacking my suitcase in front of me. Thank goodness I had packed my underwear neatly. He quickly found what he was looking for and pulled out the jar of Vegemite. “I’m sorry, but you can’t take this on board with you, it’s over 100mls.”

Oh, for goodness sake. My jar of vegemite was duly confiscated at Gatwick airport. We suggested to the man that he might want to take it home and try it, but he did not seem particularly keen. Next time you are travelling, remember, Vegemite is a dangerous substance to fly with and must be packed into your check-in bags.

So it was that I arrived in Rome Vegemite-less.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Apple Cake

A week ago, a friend of mine emailed to say she was making apple cake. Ever since, I have not stopped thinking about apple cake. And then, last night, my boyfriend comes home with 10 perfect granny smith apples he had picked up from work (he had been working at a dentist conference, of course). So, the stars aligned, and I was destined to make an apple cake.

My boyfriend also bought home, from the local Oxfam, a near-immaculate vinyl copy of the 1983 Emmylou Harris album, White Shoes. This album makes a great cake-baking backdrop, especially the first side with In My Dreams, White Shoes and a cover of On The Radio.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Fried cheese

I have spent the weekend being self-indulgent. For me, that means not getting out of bed until 11am, drinking cups of black coffee with sugar, with chunks of Montezuma’s Orange and Geranium dark chocolate. Taking my time doing the shopping and dreaming up what to make for Saturday night dinner, pottering through our local wholefoods shop, Mediterranean food hall, and wonderful organic butcher and fishmonger, Harrys Fine Food. Then, once home, spending the afternoon slow-cooking lamb tagine, while reading my book on the couch. And Sunday, I have managed to finish off my book, pop some lemon slice into the oven, and only had to leave the house once to get some ingredients, but otherwise have been selfish enough to keep the day entirely to myself, and not share it with anyone. Completely self-indulgent. I adore weekends like these.

Speaking of indulgent things, what can possibly be more indulgent than fried cheese? The Greek fry haloumi, according to Wikipedia the Slovaks and Czechs each have a version, and I am pretty sure the Americans will have some kind of deep-fried cheese dish.

When I was in Sicily, a couple of months ago, in celebration of my imminent birthday, we had an exceptional and memorable meal at Torre Bennistra, a hotel-ristorante in Scopello. This place may not look amazing when you first walk in, but go down the stairs to the restaurant, and sneak outside to tables perched virtually on the clifftop overlooking the Mediterranean below. The tables had reserved signs on them, but someone in our party managed to remember the Italian word for birthday, il compleanno, which she casually dropped into the stilted Italian-English conversation with the waitress. This was a smart move, we were given the best table in the house and attended to beautifully and warmly for the rest of the evening.