The more chances we have to travel, the more we seem to bring back food…or try out new food.
We’ve been doing this for a while when visiting Italy. Some of the best options are ones our friends have introduced us to. A great alternative to crisps and nibbles is the tarallo (taralli if you have more than one, which of course you will), a little loop of seasoned bread baked to a similar finish to bread sticks.
We’ve also tried gnochetti sardi, not actually gnocchi but very small shell shaped pieces of pasta, which are wonderful in a stew. They cook right down but still have a little bit of a bite to them.
Our May trip to Spain was a chance to try out food that I’d read about for a while. We bought membrillo, quince paste that is meant to be best tried with sharp manchego cheese. We also found packets of very thick hot chocolate, and saffron that is much cheaper than in the UK. The market in Madrid had some fantastic pastries as well as lots of fruit – including grapes with double pips.
We benefitted from my colleagues’ experience when we all met up in the evening. A few had previously lived in Spain, and so we tried baby octopus (surprised at how good it was), grilled asparagus with lots of salt and pepper (I changed my previous dislike of asparagus) and a fair few other things as part of the tapas experience.
I managed to have some time in Berlin between my induction courses in Germany and Austria. I knew it had lots of good Turkish food, amongst other things. My surprise was just how popular the cocktails were…a little reminder of its former decadence in the Thirties?
In Graz, Austria, the local speciality was pumpkin oil, a strong green colour, which is served with every salad. But it’s also good with meat, and is meant to be very good for you.
When I stayed on for the induction course, food was a key part of the way the centre (a former castle) was run. You could buy local organic apples etc – but equally lots of cake was available every breaktime.
The honesty boxes were working overtime…but just in case you missed out, they kindly served cake at the end of every lunch time too. And strong red wine to finish up the course. Or finish off the tutors, most of whom then had to dash back up to Vienna and the outskirts for teaching next day.
We tried a ‘tourist menu’ in the Trastevere suburb of Rome with a certain trepidation – would it be good? In fact, it was a fantastic meal, allowing us to try some Roman specialities we knew, such as spaghetti carbonara, but also the veal dish saltimbocca, which we didn’t. It really does ‘jump in the mouth” as the name has it…
It’s just as well I’m writing this after an evening meal. My apologies if it’s making you hungry. Or maybe not. I may have kicked my cookbook buying habit, but I’m still happily cooking away. My great plan for the Christmas holiday: making my own tarte tatin, having now acquired some pans that will go on the hob and in the oven. Jamie would approve.