Monday, June 28, 2010

night time on the farm tenuta di spannocchia

workshopping at tenuta di spannocchia

this was only my second time in italy, don't know how i've managed that. i was paying kitty (flat mate extraordinaire from college) a little visit and while there giving a poetry workshop. she now lives and works on the farm tenuta di spannocchia, which is a place that 'encourage[s] global dialogue about sustaining cultural landscapes for future generations through the example of the tenuta di spannocchia.' kitty is their education director and a fabulous job she does too. i not only had my own personal tour guide for the farm but i did a salumi tasting (all products made in situ) and an olive oil tasting.

most of my time was spent kicking back enjoying the food (everyone on the farm eats dinner together at the main villa), enjoying the wine (they produce their own), the sunshine and the lovely lovely quietness. I managed to read two books between food and napping: the infinities by john banville (thank you jamison) and on chesil beach by ian mcewan (thank you kitty).

in terms of books about tuscany though everything that you've seen, read or heard appears to be true. full of its own cliche's and importance it's still hard not to be charmed by it all. any writing i attempted though was riddled with terrible predictability. even on my return home its hard to write about it with any sense. speaking of writing, while i was there i gave a creative writing workshop to some very enthusiastic farm interns; 99% american and 1% australian. they were an amiable bunch considering only two or three of them had ever done a workshop before.

we started out by having a general discussion about poetry. turns out its not just irish schools that ruin it after all. after which we looked at some food related poems primarily the fish by billy collins and clearances by seamus heaney. it took them a while to warm up but once they got going they couldn't be stopped, finding meaning and similarities all over the place. it was quite enjoyable to sit back and watch it all unfold. after all of that excitement we went about writing a little something. 10 lines was the goal or the limit (depends on your frame of mind). turns out i couldn't even churn out more than 8 lines about a pepper (it's hard to write on demand!). they did well, there were some beauties about cutting bread and preening plants. i live in hope that i have converted at least one of the non-believers to the merits of poetry.

work done it was back to the food, wine and laughing. with many the new pound filling my jeans i headed homeward. but lets face it a holiday is not a holiday without some bad airport food. menu tuscan from mr panino was without a doubt the best finish to a holiday anyone could wish for.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

long weekend

i always feel that a long weekend should be marked with a culinary treat. jamison was paying me a visit and accompanying me to various dublin writers festival events including a reading by paul lynch (falling out of heaven) and paul murray (skippy dies) which was pretty great. by the way if you haven't read skippy dies yet-get thee to the bookstore. i really can't recommend this book highly enough. at nearly 700 pages its not short but it moves at a terrific pace. i'm tempted to go on but i won't-just buy it. we also attended the 40th anniversary of the gallery press. all the big names were there: heaney, mahon, carson, montague, mcguickian, ni chuilleanain and alan gillis to name but a few. i also have to note that gillis is my new poetry hero-what a legend (a new collection is forth coming, september i believe).
but back to the culinary treat. i opted to go all out with matching wines and everything (all the wines are from o'briens and less that 15€ each). the food theme was vaguely frenchy surf and turf. i even prepared a little amuse bouche. good lord. i was definitely having a serious rush of blood to the head.
heres the low down:

amuse bouch: vietnamese (was once a french colony....) inspired crab.

1 tin of white crab meat
half teaspoon granulated garlic
about 6 mint leaves chopped finely
drop of nam pla
tiny sprinkle of chili flakes
1 teaspoon cream cheese
salt and pepper

mix and put on mini crackers

wine match: la pieve spago frizzante, italian.

starter: mussels in a white wine and cream sauce with baguette

i'll be honest i don't know what the weight was of the mussels. i do know that i had to discard about half of what i bought because they were already open. it cost my 3€ if thats any help....

1 shallot, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
half glass of white wine
glug of regular cream
1 packet park baked baguettes

i sweated the shallot and garlic until soft. while that was going on i rinsed and de-bearded the mussels and then threw them into the pot. then put in the wine and put the lid on. gave everything a shake. as it was the first time i've ever cooked mussels i took the lid off several times to take a peak at what was going on. if memory serves me correctly it took about five minutes (i'd like to say at this point i did have a half a bottle of prosecco in my blood so this is a little bit of guess work!).
after they appeared to have all opened i took them out with a slotted spoon and put them in the bowl i was going to serve in. then i reduced down the liquid that was left to about half. when it was reduced i added in the glug of cream and poured them over the mussels. oh-forgot to say that while all of this was going on i had the part baked bread in the oven. i tore that into pieces and served it with the mussels.

wine match: 07 schloss schonborn riesling trocken, german.

main: marinated steak served with a puy lentil, rocket and toasted almond salad.

so the marinated steak is my own interpretation of a nigella lawson recipe that recommends marinating the steak while its resting rather than before cooking.

1 piece rump/sirloin steak (again i don't know the weight it was about 7€ worth)
olive oil, for rubbing and marinade.
3 stems lemon thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed.
juice of half a lemon.

i coated the steak with olive oil and seared it on a griddle pan for about 3 minutes on each side then transferred it to a large dish where the above ingredients were ready and waiting. i left it in the marinade for about 3 minutes on each side and then sliced it and put in back in the marinade again for one last little toss.
i toasted the almonds, dry, on the pan. i cooked up some puy lentils and opened a packet of rocket! combined those on the plates and topped it with the steak.

wine match: 07 norton barrel select malbec, argentina.

cheese course

1 piece of cashel blue with many crackers

wine match: m.chapoutier muscat de beaumes de venise (not bought in o'briens)

desert: chocolate sauce with strawberries

1 big bar of bournville
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons cognac
1 packet strawberries

melt the chocolate and add the cream and cognac. serve in bowl and dip the berries in!

wine match: whatever is left over.....

all in all: yummy!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

a word: anticipation

an•tic•i•pa•tion [an-tis-uh-pey-shuh n]–noun

1. the act of anticipating or the state of being anticipated.
2. realization in advance; foretaste.
3. expectation or hope.
4. previous notion; slight previous impression.
5. intuition, foreknowledge, or prescience.
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