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!

Super quick review for a super quick brunch: Andina Shoreditch

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I had this place on my list of bars/restaurants to try for quite a bit and I don’t know why I didn’t stop there before, since I pass by it almost every day.

So, last Sunday I decided on a whim to grab a bite before deliberately losing myself in the craziness of the Christmas Shopping District: Oxford Street. After all, I have gifts to buy like everyone else.

Little sister of the famous Ceviche in Soho, Andina is a Peruvian Bar which concentrates its focus on Andean soul food with a modern touch, a necessity if you want to make it among the uncountable hip restaurants in Shoreditch and London in general.

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The first thing you notice as soon as you get in is the brightness of the place, thanks to the natural light coming from the big windows that surrounds the room. Then the quirky decor of the yellow tiles, the wicker basket chandeliers and the colored yarn hung on the walls add authenticity and modernity without weighing the interior down.

Unfortunately for us, G and I were seated downstairs in a very much different room with an aseptic bar, dim lights, furniture almost totally made of aged wood and a large mirror that covers completely a wall.

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I ordered simple poached eggs and avocado sourdough toast, just to play it safe after the flu I got during the week, while G got the Chicharron sandwich, which according to Andina’s menu should be the best bacon sandwich: chunks of confit pork belly with camote (sweet potato) ketchup, with red onions and tomato. Challenge accepted.

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The service was fairly quick, and in no time we had our plates. While mine was a bit bland in flavour and unfortunately cold, G’s sandwich was too much for me to handle, not really the best bacon sandwich as the menu claims. Excessively greasy with a strong pork flavour, that remained in my mouth for quite a bit that afternoon, even until dinner time.

My vote: I expected more from this place, to be honest. I cannot talk about their other specialities or their famous ceviche which I would like to try one day, but as a place for brunch I give Andina a 6. In my opinion there are far better places in Shoreditch and in London in general, to have a bite.

Andina,1 Redchurch St, London E2.

December’s list My 2013 frivolous ranking

Even though my job situation is still stuck, I cannot really complain about this 2013. However, there is always room for improvement, so I hope 2014 will be a year of change.

To summarise some positive aspects of 2013, I wrote down my frivolous ranking.

5. I finally tried Ladurée macarons and I believe the best flavour is liquorice.

4. I got into Design and felt like my hidden artistic personality reemerged after a decade.

3. I went to a Michelin starred restaurant for the first time. And I felt totally inadequate.

2. I finally bought my first iphone after years of careful thought.

1. I had the chance to spend more time with my family.

I wish you a happy 2014.

 

And now in Italian.

Anche se la mia situazione lavorativa è rimasta in una situazione di stallo, non mi posso lamentare di quest’anno passato. Certo, si può fare sempre meglio, perciò spero che il 2014 rappresenti il cambiamento.

Per riassumere alcuni aspetti positivi del 2013, ho buttato una classifica un po’ frivola.

5. Ho finalmente provato i macaron di Ladurée  e posso dire che il gusto migliore è la liquirizia

4. Mi sono fortemente appassionata al Design, questo ha fatto sì che la parte artistica del mio carattere potesse riemergere dopo anni e anni.

3. Ho mangiato ad un ristorante stellato per la prima volta. E mi sono sentita totalmente inadeguata.

2. Mi sono finalmente decisa a comprare un iphone dopo anni di ragionamenti vari.

1. Ho avuto la possibilità di passare più tempo con la mia famiglia

Vi auguro un buon 2014

Christmas Cicerchiata, memories and Nonna

As I previously mentioned in the last post about my Christmas Eve dinner, I am strongly attached to my family’s traditional food, because it reminds me of the happiest childhood that I could possibly have. Let’s say that, in a Proustian way, I have wonderful memories linked to Christmas food, so these holidays I spent as much time as I could with my two Nonnas in order to understand the secrets of their recipes.

Apart from anchovy fritters, I am also emotionally attached to Cicerchiata. This is a dessert composed by small fried marble-like balls made of sweet dough, dipped in hot honey and decorated with dried or candied fruit.

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Easy? Definitely not, as it requires a lot of work. Kneading the dough is the first thing to master, in order to ensure the ideal texture: not soft, but not hard either. “How do I know the right consistency?” I asked my Nonna, and she just replied: “You don’t, you’ll feel it and learn with experience.” The answer I would expect from someone who prepares delicious dessert without using a kitchen scale. Experience, this is the word.

I believe these moments must be treasured because they are precious, and I hope to pass these memories on to my children one day, maybe while preparing or eating some Cicerchiata together.

And now in Italian.

Come ho già scritto nel post precedente, riguardante la cena della vigilia di Natale, sono molto attaccata alle pietanze tradizionali della mia famiglia, perché sono legate all’infanzia più felice che potessi avere. Diciamo che, come accadde per Proust, ho dei ricordi meravigliosi legati ai piatti di Natale, perciò in questi giorni sto passando molto tempo con le mie nonne, in modo da tentare  di capire i segreti delle loro ricette.

A parte le frittelle di alici, sono molto attaccata alla Cicerchiata. Questo dolce è composto da piccole palline di impasto dolce (tipo frolla), fritte e passate nel miele caldo. Il dolce è poi decorato con confettini, frutta secca e/o candita.

Facile? proprio per niente, perché è un dolce che richiede tanto impegno. Una buona lavorazione dell’impasto, assicura la giusta consistenza delle palline, che non devono essere né troppo morbide, né troppo dure. “Come faccio a sapere quando sono arrivata alla giusta consistenza?” ho chiesto a mia nonna, e lei mi ha risposto: “Non lo sai, lo senti e poi impari con l’esperienza.” Proprio la risposta che ti aspetti da chi prepara dolci buonissimi senza misurare gli ingredienti, o come dice lei, “facendo a occhio”. Esperienza, questa è la parola chiave.

Credo che questi momenti siano molto preziosi, e spero che un giorno io possa passarne i ricordi e le emozioni ai miei figli, magari preparando o mangiando un po’ di Cicerchiata tutti insieme.

My traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner

In our big, noisy Italian family, Christmas Eve is a big deal and it means a lush dinner prepared by my lovely 90 year old Nonna and me as Sous Chef.

In Italy we follow the catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat on the 24th, therefore it is customary to prepare a fish based dinner. Since in the past meat was considered a luxury, catholic traditions urged their followers to either fast, or to eat light food (i.e. seafood) in order to show respect for the birth of Jesus Christ.

It is funny how fish turned out to be a luxury in modern times, so the tradition itself gradually changed and the intention not to sin became a sinful indulgence.

Back to my family dinner. You can find a list of the food we are preparing and a couple of pictures.

Anchovy fritters

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Pasta with prawns and tomato sauce

Stewed eel

Salted codfish salad with Nonna’s homemade pickles (courgette, aubergine and artichokes).

Insalata di Baccalà

Octopus salad

Polpo

Fried eel

Dessert is either Pandoro or Panettone, but we usually buy them because first, we get really busy with all the preps for this dinner and secondly they are require a huge amount of patience and care that, at the moment, we do not have.

Merry Christmas!

 

And now in Italian.

Nella nostra chiassosa famiglia, la vigilia di Natale è molto importante e, a parte il significato religioso della festa, implica la cena preparata da mia nonna e me come sous chef.

Come quasi tutti gli italiani, anche noi rispettiamo la tradizione cattolica dell’astensione dal mangiare carne, per questo, è usanza preparare una cena a base di pesce.

Nell’antichità, la carne veniva considerata un lusso per pochi, così, per dimostrare rispetto per la nascita di Gesù Cristo, i cattolici venivano incoraggiati a digiunare o  consumare un pasto leggero a base di cibi poveri (ad esempio il pesce).

E’ curioso pensare che il pesce sia diventato, nel tempo, un genere piuttosto di lusso. E così l’impegno a non commettere peccato, è diventato un peccato di gola.

Ritornando alla nostra cena, qui c’è la lista delle pietanze che mangeremo ed alcune fotografie (vedi su) di quello che stiamo preparando.

Frittelle con alici

Pasta con gamberi

Anguilla al sugo

Insalata di baccalà con i sottaceti fatti in casa da mia nonna

Insalata di Polpo

Anguilla fritta

Il dolce è spesso il Pandoro o il Panettone, ma quelli li compriamo, perché dopo aver cucinato per tutto il giorno, non abbiamo certo il tempo e la pazienza che questi due dolci richiedono.

Buon Natale a tutti!

How “ethic” is “exotic”?

Yesterday I was watching the news and a journalist was talking about an increase in extravagant food demand for Christmas, especially exotic meats, when I heard that in some villages of Molise it is customary to eat hedgehogs. This is a big mistake, I thought, but with my enormous astonishment I suddenly heard my father’s voice: “Oh yes, tastes like pork.”

First of all, it is necessary to establish the meaning of exotic: whether it describes something either far from us or just uncommon to our average habits, like, for example, eating hedgehog meat. We arbitrarily decide what is edible and what is not, consequently, some eating habits are defined as normal, while others are perceived as weird or ethically unacceptable.

The first time I ever considered eating exotic meats was in the summer of 2011, when I was in Brisbane, Australia. My colleagues and friends were willing to eat as kangaroo or crocodile meat. These and other Australian native species, are legally hunted or farmed in the accordance with the wildlife conservation laws, so eating their meats does not endanger the environment neither does it represent a felony.*

Honestly, I was not convinced, but I gave up and joined my group in our Australian eating experience. The expert chefs from Tukka restaurant prepared 4 courses, each one containing an iconic Australian animal: crocodile, emu, opossum and kangaroo.

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Crocodile

Crocodile: white meat, whose appearance and consistency are similar to chicken. Flavour results in an overwhelming mix of chicken and fish with some herbal aftertaste.

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Emu

Emu: very red and tender meat, similar to beef.

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Opossum

Opossum: I cannot recall the precise flavour, but I clearly remember this meat to be chewy.

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Kangaroo

Kangaroo: tender and lean, with a flavour that reminded me of venison. Really good.

When I wonder why I ate those meats, I believe the answer is that they do not belong to my own culture and they do not undermine the ethic of that cultural identity I belong to.

The topic of which meat we consider edible, varies according to different cultures, people, views and food habits. For example the sacred status of cattle in India forbids their slaughter; eating rabbit meat is something perfectly normal in Italy but taboo in other countries, just as Japan. However, it is not necessary to virtually travel around the globe in order to find other examples. In fact, last year, the horse meat found in some bolognaise sauce turned into a an enormous scandal that spread all over the UK, where horses gained pet status. Again different points of view.

Personally, I do not have any problems eating horse meat, but I would never eat dog meat, because I consider my own like a family member, a person. Just as horses for British, I reckon.

What is the limit between “exotic” and “normal”? I wonder what differentiate dogs from other animals. Is it a matter of different cultures? Maybe it is just luck, luck to be in the right place at the right historical time. Maybe because “some animals are more equal than others.”

*For further information about wildlife conservation in Australia, have a look this link:http://www.dfat.gov.au/facts/kangaroos.html

And now in Italian.

Ieri, durante il telegiornale, si parlava di proposte alimentari stravaganti per il Natale, in particolare di carni esotiche, quando sento nominare il Molise e l’abitudine, in alcuni paesini, di mangiare ricci di terra. Non faccio in tempo a pensare che il giornalista abbia commesso un grosso errore, che, con mio immenso stupore, sento la voce di mio padre che dice: “Sì, sa di maiale.”

Prima di tutto, credo che occorra capire cosa si intende per esotico: cioe’ se si parla di qualcosa appartenente a paesi lontani, oppure al di fuori delle abitudini alimentari comuni, come, appunto, il riccio di terra. Decidiamo arbitrariamente cosa è commestibile e cosa non lo è, cosi’, certe abitudini alimentari che noi riteniamo corrette e normali, vengono viste come strane, o come eticamente inaccettabili da altre culture.

La prima volta che mi sono posta la questione era l’estate del 2011, quando mi trovavo a Brisbane, in Australia. I miei amici e colleghi volevano mangiare il canguro o il coccodrillo. Queste due, ed altre specie animali esotiche, sono cacciate o allevate in Australia legalmente e con tutti i parametri che la leggi sulla conservazione della fauna selvatica richiedono, per cui mangiare le loro carni non costituisce né pericolo per l’ambiente, né reato.

Io non ero così convinta, ma alla fine ho ceduto.

Gli esperti chef del ristorante Tukka ci hanno preparato 4 carni di 4 simboli australiani: coccodrillo, emù, opossum e canguro.

Coccodrillo: una carne bianca la cui apparenza e consistenza sono simili al pollo. Ha un sapore molto particolare di carne e pesce con note erbose.

Emu: ha una carne rossa e tenera che sembra manzo.

Opossum: non riesco a ricordare il sapore, ma quello che mi è rimasto impresso è la consistenza gommosa.

Canguro: tenero e magro,  ricorda la carne di cervo, sia per consistenza sia per sapore.

Quando mi chiedo perche’ mai abbia mangiato la carne di questi animali, credo che la risposta sia perché, essendo così lontani dalla mia cultura, e non ne intaccavano l’etica.

Tutta una questione di punti di vista, infatti, pensiamo allo status di sacralità di cui godono le mucche in India, per cui non vengono uccise per uso alimentare. Oppure ai giapponesi che inorridiscono al pensiero di mangiare conigli, cosa perfettamente normale nel mio paese. Comunque non occorre andare tanto lontano per trovare altri esempi, basti pensare allo scandalo della carne di cavallo trovata in alcuni prodotti nel Regno Unito, dove gli equini sono considerati animali da compagnia. Non avrei problemi a mangiare carne di cavallo, ma non riuscirei mai a mangiare un cane, perché facendo parte del mio ambiente familiare, per me sarebbe come mangiare una persona. Penso proprio come il cavallo per gli inglesi.

Allora qual è il limite tra “esotico” e “normale”? E mi chiedo cosa differenzi il cane dagli altri animali, forse la cultura di una nazione rispetto ad un’altra? Forse è solo fortuna, quella di trovarsi nel posto e nel momento storico giusto. Forse alcuni animali sono più uguali degli altri.

Speaking of authenticity…

Quick post, as I am back in London for few days before going home for Christmas.

I was wandering around London Bridge the other day, so I went to Borough Market, in other words: the paradise for food tourists.

Suddenly something caught my attention: ‘Nduja from Kent? What?Are you kidding me?

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‘Nduja is a spreadable salami characterised by a very spicy flavour (that red colour has a reason!). This speciality comes from Calabria, the tip of the “Italian boot”, and it is only available in that territory, except for some specialised Deli in big cities.

So as I passed by this stall, I was surprised at first and then a bit annoyed, because I believe in authenticity and this is not the case. Let me be clear, as Italian I am flattered that some trader attempted to produce ‘Nduja with their local pork, but then it is not ‘Nduja, just something similar, we could say a “‘Nduja-style salami”. If that had been written on the label, I would not have said a single word. Because ‘Nduja, as every other product on this planet, has its own history and characteristics connected to precise ingredients and traditions, which frankly, I do not believe it is possible to reproduce in other territories. There is a reason why you will not find any Italian company that produces French cheese, it would be meaningless, because if I want that, I look for a French trader.

You, customer, do you want ‘Nduja? fine then, buy some Italian imported one.

And just for the records, there was a stall from Calabria whose ‘Nduja is imported directly by the trader, who goes back to Calabria every time.

And now in Italian.

Post veloce, perche´ sono a Londra per qualche giorno, prima di tornare a casa per Natale.

L’altro giorno vagavo per l’area di London Bridge, così ho pensato di passare per il Borough Market, il paradiso per i turisti enogastronomici.

All’improvviso, qualcosa ha catturato la mia attenzione: ‘Nduja del Kent? eh? mi prendete in giro?

La ‘Nduja è un salame spalmabile, dal sapore molto piccante (quindi c’è un motivo per tutto quel colore rosso!). Questa specialità viene dalla Calabria e spesso si può trovare solo in quel territorio o in qualche negozio specializzato in prodotti tipici nelle grandi città italiane.

Quindi, quando ho visto questo prodotto, mi sono sentita prima sorpresa e poi seccata, perche´ io credo nell’autenticità dei prodotti ed in questo caso, non ci siamo proprio. Voglio essere chiara, come italiana mi sento lusingata che qualche produttore abbia provato a riprodurre una specialità della mia nazione con la carne locale, ma allora non è ‘Nduja, è qualcosa di simile, un “salame tipo ‘Nduja”. Se sul cartellino fosse stata scritta questa dicitura, non avrei avuto nulla da dire. Perche´ la ‘Nduja, come qualsiasi altro prodotto su questa terra, ha la sua storia e le sue caratteristiche, legate ad ingredienti specifici e tradizioni, che francamente non credo sia posssibile riprodurre in altri posti.

C’è una ragiorne precisa per cui è impossibile trovare un’azienda italiana che produca formaggio francese: non avrebbe senso. Perche´ se volessi questo prodotto, mi andrei a cercare un produttore francese.

Vuoi acquistare della ‘Nduja? allora assicurati di comprare un prodotto importato dall’Italia (o comunuque originale, per i miei lettori italiani).

E tanto per precisare, al mercato c’era anche uno stand di prodotti tipici calabresi, la cui ‘Nduja viene importata direttamente dalla Calabria e personalmente dal titolare, che torna ogni volta al suo paese per controllare la produzione.