My happy moments from 2014, New Year’s resolutions and snow

The Snow Queen Milla.

The Snow Queen Milla.

It’s snowing from yesterday. Italy, the land of the sun around here looks pretty much like Winterfell, but I’m not Arya Stark even though I got her short hair and her surly attitude.

town hall square in Campobasso, Molise, Italy

Town hall square in Campobasso, Molise, Italy.

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Quite a lot of snow I would say.

Milla, my 9 year old cocker spaniel is snoring at my feet enjoying her cozy blanket. I guess in a perfect wintery scenario the only things that are missing in the picture are the sound of crackling fire and a hot chocolate with marshmallow. Too bad I don’t have either of them, but I can fake it with the virtual fireplace sound on a 5 hour long youtube video and a Nutella jar.

Usually the end of December leads to make new resolutions for the next year, but they almost never work, at least for me, like the classic losing weight, or spending less money on unnecessary stuff. Because let’s face it, these two are the hardest promises to keep for a woman, am I right?

The last couple of months have been really tough on both G and I, so there’s not as much enthusiasm to start a new year as the previous New Year’s Eves. However, I feel it’s necessary not to give up to negativity, so the one and only resolution I am making for 2015 and my future as well, is to work really hard on myself in order to start finding happiness in every little thing.

2015 will be a year of change and I know it for sure. It’s not just the holidays’ atmosphere to do the talking, but the recent circumstances that are pushing me to do something, more like a make it or break it kind of situation.

I like to keep this blog as a drama free place, so I want to start my important resolution from here.

As you might have previously read on The Weird Frittata, every month I like to write a chart/bucket list of products/places I loved and recommend. This time it’s different, because I’m going to write what made me happy during 2014 even what it looks like to be negative, because I want to believe there is a bright side in everything.

So, here it is:

  • The early months of 2014 spent at home in Italy with my family. Even the unemployment has its own bright side, because I could treasure every moment with my parents and relatives (you know, Italian families are quite big). I had the wonderful experience of reconnecting with my family and enjoy my Nonna’s cooking, which I tried to recreate and practice as much as I could. Needless to say that her special recipes will always be in my heart for ever.
  • Moving back to the UK. This time I discovered London from a new perspective experimenting with ethnic restaurants, discovering new recipes and hipster places, just what I needed after a long Italian winter. This rediscovery made me realise how much I love food and the industry that gravitates around it, to the point that I would like to blend in and be part of it. Even though I’m thankful to London for each life experience I had, my love-hate relationship with this city keeps going on, and I’m afraid it’s not going to last that long. It’s like when you get back with your ex and you know that after the initial happiness the old problems will rise again. In fact, here I am again in a “It’s not you, it’s me”, kind of phase and I am grateful for that, because I know that I need to look for something else in my life. Rather than something, it’s somewhere.
  • House sharing again, Thank you London rental prices! Seriously how could this be positive? You might ask, but I’m now more convinced than before of what I want for 2015. Respect is the first answer and I could go on, but anyone who has shared a property knows, for example, how hard it is to keep it clean without ending up in an argument with the other flatmates.
  • All the job interviews gone wrong. You can learn from your mistakes, they say and I’m sure to have learned something about myself and how to deal with these kind of situations. Luckily, it’s not all about me. There are lot of jerks who think they are entitled to treat applicants like trash, because they are in a position of power. I am thankful I don’t have to deal with them on daily basis.
  • Now something not about me. G. finally entered the career field he chased for a long time and I’m happy for him to have found his own path. It’s just the beginning and will be difficult but seeing the person I love being happy makes me want to work hard as well and pay him back with the same positivity he gives me every day.

I saw on Pinterest something called resolution jar and I believe it’s a nice idea to keep the positive mood throughout the year. What you have to do is just fill an empty jar with notes about all the good moments you have during the year and then, around the end of December, you can empty the jar and go through all of your notes to remember those positive moments that we tend to forget in favour of the negative ones.

Now for all of you lazy people out there (including me), this is a lovely idea but also a commitment as well, so find whatever works best for you: a notebook, a board, a calendar or just an app on your smartphone, but never stop staying positive!

I’ll try my best, you should too.


Happy New Year, guys!

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Sunday Brunch at Lantana Shoreditch: my review.

It happens every Sunday. I roll out of bed with semi closed eyes uttering weird sounds and wander in the house before realising how late it is and regretting those two hours I overslept, because the bed couldn’t let me go. The routine continues like this: usually after drinking some coffee in slow motion, I call my mum to catch up with the latest family gossip, but every time I end up getting scolded. Why? Simple, because it’s almost lunchtime and I preferred sleeping rather than waking up and do the preps for Sunday sauce, as every good Italian woman should do according to my mother’s and gran’s thought. At this point I have two options: 1) Lie and tell her that the sauce is on the stove simmering since 7 am and if I am convincing enough I also can find a quick excuse for my sleepy voice. Unfortunately I am such a bad liar, so I go straight to number 2. 2)Tell her I’m going to have brunch.

Her reply is always immediate: “Why? You’re not American.” Then it becomes melodramatic: “Hearing you’re losing your national identity makes me so sad.” Seriously, mum? I should probably take her to brunch next time she visits to try to change her mind.

After a quick search, G. and I decided for Lantana in Shoreditch, a trendy Aussie style café renowned for their excellent coffee blend and their signature drink, the flat white. I had already tried their coffee and cakes at their original location in Fitzrovia during my MA year at SOAS, and I kept going back at the time just to reward myself with quality products after classes, exams, you name it. This time it was all about brunch.

We arrived around 12:15 and we joined the long queue, because the café was packed with customers. Good sign.

The place has nice aged wood interiors without frills, in line with the trendy simple but absolutely vintage style, which is common to many independent coffee shops in London. Not really bright I would say, as the room can only benefit from two windows, so in rainy days like yesterday, the artificial light becomes necessary even at midday.

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The very kind waitress asked us if it was ok to wait 20 minutes, and of course we were more than happy to do it, but 20 minutes soon became 40 when we finally got seated. Well, it can happen when the kitchen is particularly busy and orders keep piling up, right?

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Soon another waiter came to our table and when I was about to order, he informed us that the food would have taken another 15 minutes. Fair, our order needs to be cooked and plated. Plus, what could have we possibly done after queuing 40 minutes to get a table, stand up and walk away?

Too bad that 15 minutes became 30. At this point I was very hungry and, honestly, annoyed, but our food finally came.

Smashed avocado and streaky bacon on sourdough toast with a poached egg and rocket (£7.5) for me and slow braised beans with ham hock served on corn bread with grilled chorizo, a poached egg and spinach for G (£8.5).

Well, I have to say that the kitchen staff made up for the wait with their flavourful dishes.

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A matter of perspective: the portion was bigger than it looks here.

My choice celebrated the always winning union between bacon and eggs, with a fresh note added by a creamy mellow avocado and the final bitter touch given of rocket to complete the dish. Nice, without any doubt. However, I would have seasoned the avocado with some pepper, smoked paprika and sumac just give it a spicy kick.

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Same goes for G.’s choice.

G’s order as well had a nice harmony in the combination of ingredients. In fact, the hearty beans braised in tomato sauce and ham hock gave respectively acidity and texture to contrast with the distinctive sapidity of chorizo and extremely peppery corn bread.

I give Lantana 7.5 that could have been easily transformed in a higher score, but the long waiting at the entrance and then at table was a significant source of influence. I perfectly understand that Brunch can be a busy time, but more communication and coordination of the staff could significantly improve the customers’ experience.

Lantana Shoreditch, Unit 2, 1 Oliver’s Yard ,55 City Rd. EC1Y1HQ

Does colour influence the taste and flavour perception of food?

Last Saturday I found myself staring at my partner’s cheeseburger questioning his choice of cheese: Red Leicester.

Red Leicester cheese @Neal’s Yard Dairy. The one in the burger was unnaturally brighter.

Last Saturday I found myself staring at my partner’s cheeseburger questioning his choice of cheese: Red Leicester. I had never tried it before last week, because that bright orange colour sincerely put me off every time I considered buying that cheese. The fact that it’s coloured with annatto, a natural extract of the Archiote tree’s fruit, still doesn’t convince me entirely. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s just an irrational instinct, but that colour in a cheese still feels unnatural to me. Never judge a book by its cover, right? So even though I had preconceived ideas, this was the right time to finally have a bite of that intensely bright orange cheese and prove myself I was just having unreasonable biases. A little bite full of expectations, I would say, but then a sense of confusion mixed with disappointment hit me hard: Red Leicester tasted just as regular Cheddar. (Forgive me, cheese purists!) Why was I experiencing that negative feeling? I kept wondering, until I suddenly got the answer: my brain and eyes just fooled me. Even though being surprised and, at the same time, fascinated by this phenomenon, I rationally tried to give myself an acceptable explanation: my brain did an association with a familiar cheese based on that bright colour. Red Leicester should have tasted nutty and sharp, just like my beloved Molisan Provolone Cheese when is aged for a couple of year and gets a warm golden shade. It’s not news that food companies add colourings to their products in order to alter their appearance, making them look fresher and more appealing for customers. It’s an effective technique that bears its fruits because we always “eat with our eyes” first. We start making choices about favourite colours since childhood and try to apply them to various aspects of our daily life. Neuroscientists claim that this is due to an early association of a positive feedback to a certain colour, so during our life we tend to recreate that comforting feeling by choosing the same colour, which often becomes our favourite one. Kids love coloured food because they can associate an exact colour with their favourite toy, or cartoon character. For example, It’s not rare, during the Italian summer, to witness children happily devouring a “Smurf  gelato”, which is nothing other than a blued dyed vanilla ice cream. Less happily their mothers will struggle to remove those stubborn blue stains from clothes, but this is another story. Anyway, sorry mum!

Gelato Puffo or Smurf Ice cream. @foodspotting

We are the same children, who grow up and change their eating habits for healthier and “more natural” options. We learn the importance of colour in foods as an essential characteristic to judge the freshness of a product, for example we experience the consequences of eating a steak that turned green, and painfully regret we didn’t toss it. Literally. In the meantime, the society we live in has shaped a stable idea about the food we eat, its wide range of colours and the flavour we associate with each one of those shades. In other words we develop a precise idea of what a certain food should taste like based on its appearance in our own cultural context. This is why we are confused, and at times disappointed, when this matching does not happen. Now, try to picture a young woman being tricked by her friends into drinking what looked like a blood orange smoothie. Then imagine her wide-eyed expression when, in a fraction of a second, her tastebuds rapidly experienced the strong sour and salty flavour of Gazpacho.  Yes, that woman shouting at her friends was me.

Yellow watermelon on hungryforchange.tv

Sometimes it can also be fun to see our cultural certainties crumble, like the first time I tried the yellow watermelon. I was visiting a nice Japanese lady in Tokyo, when she brought a beautiful blue ceramic plate with some precisely cut slices of yellow watermelon. Yellow? Thank God, she “couldn’t read my poker face”, but I was seriously puzzled inside. “That melon would have been sour, like every unripe fruit.” My stream of consciousness kept flowing in the few seconds necessary to thank my host and take a slice. A first bite and within a moment I felt so stupid! Because it was even sweeter than the common watermelon I crave every summer. I am sure that without this experience I would have never bought that fruit because of a preconceived idea. The mental association between the colour of a food and the assumption we have about its taste is a field that neuroscientists are still exploring, but recent experiments have revealed some remarkably interesting results. For example, an experiment conducted by the Ohio State University showed how using a red colouring in white wine led the unaware participants to describe the aroma and the flavour of the drink with adjectives belonging to the semantic field of red wine. Colours influence our daily life and even the choice of the food we eat. I am fascinated by the way our brain works, leading us to pick a specific coloured food over another simply because it gives us pleasure. However sometimes the same brain tricks itself and that’s when a new memorable colour related experience is created, whether it is positive or negative. What do you guys think about the influence of colours in the choice of our food? Please let me know in a comment below.

August favourites: 5 food smells and their reassuring memories

 sugo

I know, I know, it’s September already and I haven’t wrote a post in ages but in my defence I was so busy moving back to London that I barely had time to sleep.

So I finally found a place, but I’m not sure if I’m going to stay for a long period or looking for something else, because these two months have proved me that finding a decent place you can call home in London is just like the film Mission: Impossible.

London has changed so much during these three years I left, but its smell of curry and hot soups enhanced by a “little” pinch of glutamate, remains the same that strongly penetrates the streets during the long winters. As much as these two food smells do not really classify as my favourite ones, I have to admit I was relieved it did not change. For an emotional creature of habit like myself, it’s always overwhelming to deal with life changes, therefore in those moments I always look for something familiar to cling on to.

As Marcel Proust wrote in The Search Of The Lost Time,

When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.

Here are my favourite food smells and the memories they are connected with:

  • Freshly baked bread – Seriously,who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked bread? you can find bread throughout the world, and even with its differences, it remains a constant of nutrition. This is enough to make me feel at home, even when I am far away. When I was little, I always went grocery shopping with my Mum for Nonna and as I gave her the loaf of freshly bake bread we bought, she used to reward me with the first crusty slice. Crunchy and still warm. Reassuring, this is what the smell of Freshly baked bread is for me.
  • Barbecue – I have never been a carnivorous, so when I happen to smell the burning charcoal that fills the air up with smoke I don’t really think about tender juicy steaks straightaway. To me barbecue smells like the end of summer. Every Year, between August and September my big Italian family used to gather in a distant uncle’s country house for a couple of days to produce the homemade tomato passata for the whole year while us kids played outside with my uncle’s two Maremma dogs. The barbecue rewarded the all the hard work of those two days. I can still picture it in my mind: Nonna and my mother checking the last bottles while my dad prepared the fire and I was either climbing on a tree or playing with the ball. Yes, very feminine of me. 
  • Lemon cake – My mother has never been a skilled baker and even her Lemon Cake is far from being amazing (Thanks God she doesn’t read this) but just the thought of her baking this cake fills me up with joy, because the whole building where my parents’ apartment is, becomes permeated by that sweet scent. More than once I overheard neighbours saying things like “This is Lemon cake, I’m sure. Oh, I would really like a slice right now!”
  • Nonna’s Sunday pasta sauce – I know it sounds kind of cliché but this really is one of the most comforting food smells of my childhood. That meaty tomato sauce was carefully prepared from the early hours of Sunday Morning and being left simmering until lunch time, when it was thick and fragrant. That was the scent of uncountable lunches together year after year.
  • Strawberries: I remember my dad picking me up at elementary school on Saturdays, asking me to smell his hands and guess. It was his way to tell him he was coming directly from home where cut strawberries and then seasoned them with sugar and lemon juice. It was his way to treat her daughter on a Spring Saturday. I have never eaten strawberries differently, but now  and even though Dad still prepares strawberries for me once in a while, his hair have been turning grey and I I’m no longer a child with the same carefreeness.

I am really curious to know about your favourite ones, so feel free to leave a comment. In the meantime I will try as much as I can to keep you updated about my foodie adventures in London, or everywhere else.

 

And now in Italian.

Lo so, lo so, è già settembre e non scrivo un post da tempo immemore, ma a mia discolpa devo ammettere che sono stata così occupata con questo trasloco a Londra che sono stata fortunata a trovare del tempo per dormire.

Così ho finalmente trovato un posto dove stare, ma non sono sicura se rimanere per un lungo periodo o cercare di qualcos’altro, perché questi due mesi mi hanno dimostrato che trovare un posto decente, da poter chiamare casa a Londra, è come il film Missione: Impossibile.

Londra è cambiata tanto in questi tre anni in cui l’ho lasciata, ma il suo odore di curry e zuppe calde aiutate da un “piccolo” pizzico di glutammato, rimane lo stessa che riempie le strade durante i lunghi inverni inglesi. Per quanto questi due odori in realtà non compaiano nella classifica dei miei preferiti, devo ammettere che mi sono sentita sollevata del fatto che fossero sempre gli stessi. Per una persona emotiva e fortemente abitudinaria come me, è sempre travolgente a che fare con cambiamenti di vita, quindi in quei momenti cerco sempre di qualcosa di familiare per aggrapparsi a.

Come Marcel Proust scrisse in La ricerca del tempo perduto,

Ma, quando niente sussiste d’un passato antico, dopo la morte degli esseri, dopo la distruzione delle cose, soli, più tenui ma più vividi, più immateriali, più persistenti, più fedeli, l’odore e il sapore, lungo tempo ancora perdurano, come anime, a ricordare, ad attendere, a sperare, sopra la rovina di tutto il resto, portando sulla loro stilla quasi impalpabile, senza vacillare, l’immenso edificio del ricordo.”

Qui ci sono i profumi odori di cibo che adoro ed i ricordi che sono collegati ad essi:

  • Pane appena sfornato – Scherzi a parte, chi non ama l’odore del pane appena sfornato? Il pane si trova in tutto il mondo, e pure con le sue differenze, rimane una costante dell’alimentazione. Tutto questo mi fa già sentire a casa, anche quando sono lontana. Da piccola,  accompagnavo sempre mia madre a fare la spesa per Nonna, e quando le portavo il pane fresco, aveva l’abitudine di darmi con la prima fetta, la più croccante. Croccante e ancora caldo. Rassicurante, questo è ciò che rappresenta per me il profumo del pane appena sfornato.
  • Barbecue o grigliata – Non sono mai stato una carnivora, così quando mi capita di sentire l’odore del legno che brucia e che riempie l’aria di fumo, in realtà non penso subito ad una bistecca. Per me la grigliata rappresenta la fine dell’estate. Ogni anno, tra agosto e settembre la mia grande famiglia si riuniva nella casa di campagna di un lontano zio per un paio di giorni. Si doveva produrre la passata di pomodoro fatta in casa che sarebbe poi servita per cucinare durante tutto l’anno. Tutto mentre noi bambini giocavano fuori con i due maremmani dello zio. La grigliata non era altro che il premio finale per il duro lavoro dei grandi durante questi due giorni. Riesco ancora a vedere con la mia mente Nonna e mamma che controllano le ultime bottiglie mentre mio padre prepara il fuoco ed io arrampicata su un albero o a giocare con la palla. Proprio una signorina! 
  • Torta al limone – Mia madre non è mai stata una pasticciera dotata e anche la sua torta al limone è tutt’altro che sorprendente (Grazie a Dio lei non legge il mio blog), ma solo il pensiero di lei che prepara questa torta mi riempie di gioia, perché l’intero palazzo dove vivono miei genitori si riempie di quel profumo dolcissimo ogni volta. Spesso ho i vicini dire cose come “Questo è profumo di torta al limone, ne sono sicuro. Quanto vorrei una fetta proprio ora!”
  • Sugo della Domenica di Nonna – So che sembra sorta di cliché, ma questo è davvero uno dei profumi più confortanti della mia infanzia. Il sugo veniva pomodoro preparato con cura dalle prime ore di Domenica mattina e veniva lasciato sobbollire fino all’ora di pranzo, quando diventava denso e profumatissimo. Quello era il profumo di innumerevoli pranzi insieme anno dopo anno.
  • Fragole – Mi ricordo che mio padre veniva a prendermi a scuola tutti i sabati e mi chiedeva di annusare le sue mani e indovinare di cosa profumassero. Era il suo modo per dirgli che stava venendo direttamente da casa, dove mi aveva preparato le fragole con lo zucchero e succo di limone. Era il suo modo di viziare la figlia in un sabato di primavera. Non ho mai mangiato le fragole in modo diverso, e anche se papà prepara ancora le fragole per me di tanto in tanto, i suoi capelli sono diventati grigi e io non sono più la stessa bambina con la medesima spensieratezza.

Sono davvero curiosa di conoscere i vostri odori preferiti, quindi sentitevi liberi di lasciare un commento.

Nel frattempo cercherò per quanto possibile per tenervi aggiornati sulle mie avventure foodie a Londra, o in qualsiasi altra parte del mondo.

Vegemite vs Marmite, an impartial comparison from an Italian perspective

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I remember missing hummus during my long months in Italy. I kept telling myself “what are you complaining about? Italian food is amazing.” Yes, undoubtedly true, although what I missed was obviously not just hummus, but the wide choice that London has to offer in terms of different products and cuisines. This testifies how travelling changes our own way of thinking and in this case eating, opening our minds to new food adventures.
For example with the exception of Nutella,I personally never considered spreads as fundamental. Yes, the occasional peanut butter on toast once in a while, but never a necessary pantry staple. Last week while I was pushing my trolley in a busy aisle of my local supermarket I saw Marmite, the British yeast spread, and something happened in my mind.

When I was in Australia 3 years ago I tried Vegemite, the Australian yeast spread, because I was curious about the flavour. “You can either hate or love it, there’s no middle ground” I was told. These words sounded like a challenge I had to take up, so I gave Vegemite a go and I ended up really liking it. So when I saw Marmite, its British opponent, on the supermarket shelf I knew I had to try it see for myself how different it was. Also to discover which side I have to take during the heated arguments between my British and Aussie friends on which spread is the best.

Before I start, for those of you who might wonder why anyone should eat a yeast spread, you will be surprised to know that both Marmite and Vegemite are rich in Vitamin B and folate.

My personal test:

Vegemite:

  • Colour: dark chocolate brown.
  • Aspect: thick almost jelly-like, in fact it doesn’t drip when trying to take a little quantity out with the butter knife.
  • Aroma: first mouldy, because of the yeast, and then you can smell traces of monosodium glutamate.
  • Flavour: extremely salty and of course yeasty because yeast is the main ingredient. Although Vegemite’s recipe includes spices and vegetable extracts, in my opinion they are not so strong to balance the combination of yeast and salt, that I would define overpowering .
  • How to eat it: Aside from the classic Vegemite toast (toasted bread, butter and a thin layer of Vegemite) and its variations, I would add it to stews or soup to give these recipes a nice umami kick.

 

 

Marmite:

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  • Colour: burnt caramel
  • Aspect: runny, it reminds caramel sauce or dulce de leche both for colour and texture.
  • Aroma: Yeasty as Vegemite but less strong in glutamate.
  • Flavour: As predicted by my nose, Marmite is less salted than its Australian opponent. After the savoury note comes the aftertaste which is slightly bitter, due to a combination of yeast, vegetable extracts and spices that, here in Marmite, I can definitely taste.
  • How to eat it: like Vegemite, on toast, but I would rather use it for the preparation of soups or stews because of its aftertaste that reminds stock cubes.

Yast spreads, you either love or hate them. I my case I ate them and my impartial choice is: Vegemite!

*In the meantime my auntie and my cousin came for a couple of days and I gave them a Marmite toast telling them it was a sweet spread like Nutella, just because I am evil and wanted to see their reactions. Both were surprise by the unexpected flavour but while my cousin was nauseated, my auntie loved it.

 

And now in Italian.

Ricordo che durante i miei lunghi mesi in Italia mi mancava l’hummus. Continuavo a ripetermi “ma di cosa ti lamenti? Il cibo italiano è tra i migliori del mondo .” Sì, indubbiamente vero, anche se quello che mi mancava davvero non era solo l’hummus, ma l’ampia scelta che Londra ha da offrire in termini di prodotti e cucine diverse. Questo testimonia come viaggiare cambi il nostro modo di pensare e in questo caso mangiare, aprendo le nostre menti a nuove avventure gastronomiche.

Ad esempio, con l’eccezione di Nutella, non ho mai considerato fondamentali le creme spalmabili. Sì, il burro di arachidi sul pane tostato una volta ogni tanto, ma non l’ho mai considerato un prodotto da non farsi mai mancare in dispensa. La settimana scorsa, mentre stavo spingendo il mio trolley in un corridoio affollato del supermercato vicino casa, ho visto la Marmite, una crema spalmabile a base di lievito, e qualcosa è scattato nella mia mente.

Mi spiego meglio, quando ero in Australia tre anni fa ho provato la Vegemite, la crema spalmabile australiana a base di lievito, perché ero curiosa provarla dopo che avevo sentito più volte ripetere: “O si ama o si odia, non c’è via di mezzo”. Queste parole suonavano come una sfida che dovevo accettare, così ho dato un’occasione alla Vegemite e devo dire che mi è piaciuta. Così quando ho visto la Marmite, il suo competitor britannico sullo scaffale del supermercato, sapevo che dovevo provare questo prodotto. Anche per scoprire da quale parte stare durante le accese discussioni tra i miei amici britannici e australiani su quale delle due creme sia la migliore.

Prima di cominciare, a quelli che si chiedono perché mai dovremmo mangiare una crema spalmabile a base di lievito, rispondo che sia la Vegemite sia la Marmite sono ricche di vitamina B e acido folico.

Il mio test:

Vegemite:

  • Colore: marrone scuro come il cioccolato fondente.
  • Aspetto: denso, quasi gelatinoso. In fatti non cola quando si prende con il coltello.
  • Aroma: si sente un odore quasi ammuffito, per via del lievito, e delle tracce di glutammato monosodico.
  • Sapore: estremamente salato con retrogusto amaro di lievito, ovviamente perché è l’ingrediente principale. Sebbene la ricetta di Vegemite comprenda spezie ed estratti vegetali, a mio parere non sono così forti da bilanciare la combinazione dominante di lievito e sale.
  • Come mangiarla: parte il classico toast con Vegemite (pane tostato, burro e un sottile strato di Vegemite) e le sue varianti, personalmente aggiungerei il prodotto a zuppe e stufati per dare un pizzico di umami al piatto.

Marmite:

  • Colore: caramello bruciato
  • Aspetto: meno densa rispetto alla Vegemite, infatti cola dal coltello. Ricorda salsa al caramello o il dulce de leche, sia per il colore e la consistenza.
  • Aroma: odora di ievito come la Vegemite, ma risulta meno forte in glutammato.
  • Sapore: Come previsto dal mio naso, la Marmite è meno salata rispetto al suo competitor australiano. Dopo la sapidità arriva il retrogusto leggermente amaro, a causa di una combinazione di lievito, estratti vegetali e spezie che, qui nella Marmite, si sente decisamente di più.
  • Come mangiarla: come Vegemite, sul pane tostato, ma piuttosto la utilizzerei per la preparazione di minestre o stufati a causa del suo retrogusto che ricorda dadi da brodo.

Vegemite o Marmite, o si amano o si odiano. Nel mio caso si amano e la mia scelta è imparziale: Vegemite!

* Nel frattempo, mia zia e mia cugina sono venute a trovarmi per un paio di giorni e ho approfittato per provare loro la Marmite dicendo loro che era una crema spalmabile dolce come la Nutella, solo perché sono cattiva e volevo vedere le loro reazioni. Entrambi erano sorprese dal sapore inaspettato ma mentre mia cugina era letteralmente disgustata, a mia zia mi è piaciuto molto.

 

June favourites: 5 products I’m loving

London, I’m back! Even though I still have to find a place to live and right now my temporary room is full of boxes and piles of clothes everywhere, I have to admit it’s nice to be back. Yes, because I missed London’s buzzing and lively atmosphere, the fact that there’s always something going on just around the corner, an event to attend or a new restaurant to try. Obviously, I missed the food and the availability of almost every cuisine it’s possible to imagine, because after months of delicious Italian dishes, I’m now ready to go back to healthy/fusion/international food.

My 5 favourite products of the month are a proof of this:

  • Rebel Kitchen matcha green tea Mylk with coconut milk. One word: AMAZING! Love at first sip, because this drink tastes exactly like matcha Frappuccino, that I use to drink in Japan. The fact that this product is capable of bringing back good memories in such a Proustian way, makes me happy to buy it again. The healthy bits: not only is it naturally sweetened with dates, but it’s also dairy free thanks to coconut milk.
Screen Shot 2014-06-28 at 16.12.09

from my last vist at Wholefoods

  • Chia seeds. Now that the quinoa craze is losing its hype, it’s time for another Aztec plant that can easily qualify for the Superfood prize of the year, because of the high protein and fiber content just to cite only two of this plant’s countless benefits. Chia seeds look like a cross between poppy seeds and tiny lentils, but they puff up when soaked reaching a gummy consistency. I only tried them in yogurt or warm milk, so I still have to learn the other ways to eat them, but I can imagine I would also sprinkle them on salads or mixed with my usual breadcrumb for chicken or fish.
chia seeds

Photo: Jacqueline

  • Kettle chips in smoky barbecue flavour. I may be late as usual, but I discovered this flavour only recently, when some Italian friends invited me to watch the game Italy vs Costa Rica. I ended up eating the whole bag to cheer myself up after Italy’s loss. Lamest excuse ever.
  • Bubble Tea. Late again, but I had to make up for the lost time and try this hipster drink. At first, drinking and chewing tapioca pearls together was kind of new, and weird for me, but then I grew to love bubble tea. Of course the things I love are either expensive or have high calories, in this case I wouldn’t drink bubble tea on a diet.
Bubble Tea

Photo: Kenton

  • Tymsboro cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy. This store is like a paradise for cheese lover like myself, I always admired it from afar during my years as a broke student who preferred quantity over quality. I’m still penniless, but I guess my tastes have grown up, so I decided it was time to buy cheese there. After tasting 4 types of cheese, I chose Tymsboro goat cheese: tangy and creamy; better tasted on its own with a robust red wine.

London, you feed my stomach and, hopefully, my creativity, so even if we have always been in a “it’s complicated”-kind-of-relationship, let’s make things work this time.

And now in Italian.

Londra, sono tornata! Anche se devo ancora trovare un posto dove vivere e in questo momento la mia sistemazione temporanea è piena di scatoloni e mucchi di vestiti ovunque, devo ammettere che è bello essere tornata. Sì, perché Londra mi è mancata, insieme alla sua atmosfera piena di vita a al fatto che ci sia sempre qualcosa da fare, un evento a cui andare, un nuovo ristorante da provare. Ovviamente, mi mancava il cibo e la possibilità di poter accedere a qualsiasi tipo di cucina si possa immaginare, perché dopo mesi di ottimi piatti italiani, ora sono pronta a tornare al cibo fusion/sano /internazionale.

I miei 5 prodotti preferiti del mese ne sono la prova:

  • Rebel Kitchen drink al tè verde matcha e latte di cocco. Una sola parola per descrivere questa bevanda: INCREDIBILE! Amore al primo sorso, perché ha lo stesso identico sapore del Frappuccino al matcha che bevevo in Giappone. Il fatto che il gusto di questo prodotto sia in grado di riportare alla memoria dei ricordi in modo così proustiano, mi rende felice e molto propensa a comprarlo di nuovo. I dettagli importanti per la salute: non solo sfrutta l’alto potere dolcificante dei datteri, ma è anche adatto agli intolleranti al lattosio grazie al latte di cocco.
  • Semi di Chia. Ora che la mania della quinoa sta decisamente rientrando, è la volta di un’altra pianta azteca che può facilmente qualificarsi per il premio Superfood dell’anno, per l’alto contenuto di proteine ​​e di fibre tanto per citare solo due degli innumerevoli benefici che questa pianta apporta alla nostra salute. I semi di Chia sembrano un incrocio tra semi di papavero e delle piccolissime lenticchie, ma si gonfiano e raggiungono una texture gelatinosa quando vengono incorporati in ingredienti liquidi, grazie alla loro capacità di assorbimento. Per ora li ho provati solo con yogurt o latte caldo, quindi devo ancora imparare ad usarli nei mille modi suggeriti dalla rete, ma posso immaginare di cospargere questi semi su insalate o mischiarli alla mia classica panatura per carne e pesce.
  • Patatine Kettle gusto barbecue. Arrivo in ritardo come al solito, ma ho scoperto questo sapore solo recentemente, quando sono stata invitata a casa di amici italiani per guardare la partita Italia – Costa Rica. Ho mangiato l’intera busta, perché, diciamolo, era l’unico modo per soffocare il dispiacere della sconfitta dell’Italia. Ok, è una scusa poco credibile!
  • Bubble Tea. Di nuovo in ritardo, ma ho dovuto recuperare il tempo perduto e provare per forza questa bevanda hipster. In un primo momento, bere e masticare palline di tapioca insieme è stato qualcosa di nuovo e strano, ma poi ho cominciato ad apprezzare questo drink. Naturalmente le cose che amo appartengono a 2 categorie: o sono costose o caloriche, in questo caso, non consiglierei il bubble tea a chi è a dieta.
  • Formaggio di capra Tymsboro di Neal’s Yard Dairy. Questo negozio è un paradiso per gli amanti del formaggio come me e durante i miei anni da studentessa senza una lira l’ho sempre ammirato da lontano perché, per forza di cose, mi trovavo costretta a preferire la quantità rispetto alla qualità. Comunque, la mia situazione economica non è cambiata molto, ma credo che i miei gusti siano cresciuti di pari passo con l’età, così ho deciso che era ora di entrare in quel negozio e di fare il mio primo acquisto. Dopo aver assaggiato 4 diversi tipi di formaggio, la mia scelta è caduta sul Tymsboro, un formaggio di capra dal sapore molto deciso e dalla consistenza cremosa. Un sapore così forte e pieno si esprime al meglio da solo, ma accompagnato da un vino rosso robusto.

Londra, tu nutri il mio stomaco e, si spera, anche la mia creatività, quindi, anche se siamo sempre state in una “relazione complicata”, facciamo funzionare il nostro rapporto questa volta.

 

May favourites: 5 Italian food idioms that will make you smile

It’s over, my long months spent at home in Italy are coming to an end, and I will be finally moving back to London in a couple of weeks, with mixed feelings and few quids in my pocket. Right now I have too many worries that won’t leave me alone and, consequently, I rapidly find myself stuck on ideas about what to write about. I tried everything, but I still haven’t found a method to overcome creative block, because apparently nothing seems to turn my brain off, the real culprit of the self censorship I apply on my “stream of consciousness”.

While thinking about not to think I accidentally dropped a bottle of water and my mom sarcastically told me: “your hands are made of ricotta”. I laughed first, but then I thought it would be interesting to share with non-Italian speakers my favourite Italian idioms about food. Oh and by the way, hands made of ricotta is the equivalent in English of being a butterfingers.

  • “Friggere con l’acqua”, literally “frying with water”, means trying to achieve something without the necessary economic means, being stingy but still attempting at doing something that would require money. It often happened to me to be invited to dinner and compliment the host on their food and hear: “Well, thanks, we do not fry with water”, meaning they prepared everything without cutting corners.
  • “Essere come il prezzemolo”, literally “to be like parsley”, meaning to be everywhere considering that parsley is the most used herb in the kitchen. Lately this expression is often referred to “celebrities” or even better to people from reality shows who don’t have any particular skills but are constantly on television, newspapers and/or the internet.
  • “Preso con le mani nella marmellata”, literally “to be caught with the hands in the marmalade jar”, meaning to be caught doing something wrong or forbidden. This expression originated from the love that kids have for sweet food and when, back in the day, they didn’t have nutella or oreos, they used to snack on bread with marmalade, but not too much. So they were tempted to steal the marmalade and often caught with their hands in the jar, doing exactly what they were forbidden to do.
  • “Cercare il pelo nell’uovo”, literally “to look for a piece of hair inside an egg”, meaning to be a fussy, meticulous person who always looks for imperfections in every single situation. The expression comes from the impossibility of finding a piece of hair inside an egg.
  • “Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo”, literally “the old hen makes a good broth”. This idiom refers to a woman who is no longer young but has acquired wisdom over the years. Something tells that I’ll use this for myself in the future, distant distant distant future.

These are my 5 favourite Italian idioms about food, but there are many more as in any other culture, which I’m curious to know, so please leave me a comment to quench my thirst for knowledge.

Hope to get rid of creative block as soon as I can.

 

And now in Italian.

E’ quasi finita, i miei lunghi mesi passati a casa in Italia stanno arrivando al termine visto che fra qualche settimana mi trasferirò di nuovo a Londra con sentimenti contrastanti e poche sterline in tasca. In questo momento ho troppi pensieri che non mi lasciano in pace e, di conseguenza, mi ritrovo senza idee su cosa scrivere. Ho provato di tutto, ma non ho ancora trovato un metodo per superare questo blocco, perché a quanto pare nulla sembra riuscire ad azzittire il mio cervello, che poi è il vero e unico colpevole della censura che ferma il mio ” flusso di coscienza”.

Mentre pensavo a come smettere di pensare, mi è caduta una bottiglia d’acqua dalle mani e mia mamma mi ha subito detto: “hai le mani di ricotta“. A parte la risata iniziale, ho pensato che sarebbe stato interessante condividere con i lettori non italiani i miei 5 modi dire preferiti riguardo il cibo.

  • Friggere con l’ acqua: significa cercare di ottenere un risultato pur non avendo i mezzi economici necessari. Spesso mi è successo di essere invitata a cena e di complimentarmi con i padroni di casa per la bontà delle portate preparate. Quasi sempre mi è stato risposto: “Grazie, mica friggiamo con l’acqua”, cioè tutto è stato preparato come si deve.
  • Essere come il prezzemolo, cioè essere ovunque visto che il prezzemolo è l’erba aromatica più utilizzata in cucina. Ultimamente questa espressione è spesso usata per descrivere varie “celebrità” o meglio (peggio?) ancora partecipanti di vari reality show che non hanno alcuna abilità particolare, ma sono costantemente in televisione, sui giornali e / o su Internet .
  • Essere presi con le mani nella marmellata, nel senso di essere sorpresi a fare qualcosa di sbagliato o vietato. Questa espressione è nata dall’amore che i bambini hanno per i dolci e quando non c’erano le merendine, l’unico dolce che ci si poteva concedere era pane e marmellata, ma ovviamente non troppo. Quindi la tentazione più grande era quella di rubare la marmellata ma spesso si veniva colti sul fatto.
  • Cercare il pelo nell’uovo, descrive una persona meticolosa ed esigente che cerca sempre di imperfezioni in ogni situazione. L’espressione deriva dall’impossibilità di trovare un pelo nell’uovo, visto che niente potrebbe penetrare il suo guscio.
  • Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo. Questa espressione si riferisce a una donna che non è più giovane, ma ha acquisito esperienza e saggezza nel corso degli anni. Qualcosa dice che userò questo modo di dire in un lontano, lontano, lontano futuro.

Questi sono i miei cinque modi di dire preferiti sul cibo, ma ce ne sono molti di più sia in nella cultura italiana, sia nelle altre. Se ne conoscete qualcuno, lasciatemi un commento.
Spero davvero di sbloccare le mie idee prima possibile.