So I can guarantee that a recurring subject on this blog will undoubtedly be food! I love food. A lot. It’s always going to be a bit of a battle for me to not over-indulge, as I can resist anything but temptation (thank you Oscar Wilde). But I’m never going to deny myself the pleasure of eating good food and enjoying it. It’s part of who I am. It’s my thing. I plan the next meal whilst I’m still eating the meal in front of me and continually hunt for the new restaurant or cafe to try out. I’ve been brought up in a family who like to eat and it becomes a pass-time and social event in my calendar.
Luckily my best friends and hubby enjoy eating nearly as much as I do, so I get to enjoy foody experiences with them too. I just don’t think we’d have a successful marriage if hubby was a picky eater. In fact, after 10 years of vegetarianism, he played a large part in introducing me to food I hadn’t eaten in a long time, including steak! Rare steak! From one end of the spectrum to the other. I do try to eat and buy food responsibly where I can, so I definitely don’t lack in morals when it comes to food. No fois-gras for me!
Although I don’t have a huge repertoire, I do enjoy cooking. I enjoy reading cookery books even more. I like to imagine all the things that I might cook, but rarely end up actually doing it. I have a solid catalogue of dishes that include a bloody good pasta-bake, thai green curry, spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino (I’ll come back to that in a bit), king-prawn and garlic stir-fry and that’s probably about it. My favourite foods are seafood, pasta, noodles, mushrooms and steak and I love things flavoured with garlic and indulged with cream. Wine is also incredibly important to my eating experience, but that’s a whole other blog-post!
So, whilst we’re talking about my food encounters, where better to start than my recent honeymoon to Italy. We were incredibly lucky to have just under 3 weeks in Italy, visiting Venice, Lake Garda and finishing up in Tuscany. This was the perfect trip to unwind, relax, walk a lot, eat and drink. In fact we spent most of our time eating…and drinking. Well when a litre of Prosecco on the menu is cheaper than a bottle of water, who’s going to say no! Most of the time we ate out twice a day, usually 2 courses, always with bread and always with wine or Prosecco. Good Italian food prides itself on using the freshest of ingredients, simple cooking and combined with a nice bottle of plonk and a basket of bread. That’s all you need. If we’d eaten the same amount of food somewhere like America or France, where everything is incredibly rich, creamy and/or fried, then I think I would have come back at least 2 stone heavier. But Italian food feels light and fresh and it’s really easy to be healthy (when you want to).
After just a couple of days in Italy, I quickly discovered what is now one of my favourite meals on earth. And one of the simplest: Spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino. Translated as spaghetti with garlic, oil and red chilis. It’s incredibly simple and cheap to make, even a novice cook like myself is able to replicate the simple dish packed with flavour. And it’s on nearly every italian pasta menu and is generally circa €6. It’s a winner on every level.
In case you’d like to give Spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino a go, here’s the recipe:
– cook your dried spaghetti according to packet instructions, in salted water until al dente
– whilst the pasta is cooking, throw finely chopped or minced garlic cloves into a pan covered with extra virgin olive oil and heat over a medium heat until the garlic is golden and not burnt. I’m bad with measurements, but to give you an idea – I use a pan big enough to take the cooked pasta at the end, cover the base with the olive oil (only ever use extra virgin – I learnt that in Italy) and throw in 4 or 5 large garlic cloves that have been finely chopped
– add some finely chopped red chillis that have a bit of a kick (this part is to taste, but you definitely want some heat!) – dried chillis are a good idea if you can’t get fresh, but you don’t need as much of these as they’re pretty powerful and you don’t want to overwhelm the garlic
– cook the garlic and chillis in the oil for a few more mins, drain the pasta and add to the pan with the oil mixture
– toss the spaghetti and ensure it’s covered in the oil
– serve with finely chopped parsley and a sprinkle of parmaggiano (parmesan) or grana padano cheese
I’ve seen a few simple variations to this dish, which include fried bread croutons for a bit of crunch and small vine tomatoes chucked in right at the end for a bit of sweetness. Either way, you cannot go wrong with this dish!
I eat this dish often, with a glass or 2 of a crisp, dry white wine. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is always a winner for me, but if you want to go local and authentic then I discovered a wonderfully refreshing white wine in Tuscany – Vernaccia di San Gimignano. This is a great white wine and compliments a range of italian foods nicely.
Give it a go and certainly order it if you ever see it on an italian restaurant’s menu – you won’t be disappointed.
I’ll be blogging about some more of my italian food and eating experiences, so keep your eyes peeled for Part 2.