Monday, 30 September 2013

Do As the Romans Do

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You didn't honestly think I was going to start with anything BUT the food, did you?? Of course not. This is Italy we're talking about and quite frankly our days were planned around pizzeria perching and punctuated with stop-offs at various gelaterias. A typical day, really, went something like this:  

Breakfast. Coffee. Gelato. Pizza. Gelato. Gelato. Pizza. Gelato. I'm going to come to the pizzerias another time (trust me, they deserve an ENTIRE mention of their own) because today I want to focus on ice-cream, ice-cream and only ice-cream. Luckily for us it was a scorching 32°C throughout the holiday - even luckier, then, that our daily route from Ostiense (where our hotel was) to the Colosseum and beyond (Via Del Corsa, Trevi Fountain etc) was lined with quaint little ice-cream parlours vending every variety of gelato under the sun - from pecsa to panna cotta, limone to liquirizia, they had 'em all. 

What's baffling, though, is that no two gelaterias seemed to have the same selection - some favoured sticking to the traditional recipes (like hazelnut, coffee, chocolate & strawberry) whilst others' USP was innovation and invention. The prize for the wackiest we found goes to The Gelateria Punto Gelato...

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I can imagine some of you recoiling at the very thought of this curious concoction, but, I tried it (how could I not?) and I assure you, it was the lightest, most refreshing sorbet I could've ever imagined. Sure it was peculiar, distinctly tomatoey and bordering on savoury... but it had a subtle sweetness and... well, it was just delicious really! 

I made a point of not having the same flavour twice and boy was that a good call 'cause I can't remember disliking a single one of them. Here are a lot of pictures of gelato for you. Try not to drool. 

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SL x

Gelateria Punto Gelato, 00186 Via dei Pettinari 43, Roma, Italy.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

When in Rome

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It seems, given the opportunity to gallivant for a few days, I'll end up in Italy 9 times out 10. Let's face it, I think I've been to Italy as many times as I have India. I don't know if it's the warmth, architecture, people, culture or simply the Italian way of life in its entirety (most probably the pizza and gelato actually) but its appeal grows with each successive trip. I s'pose it's a bit like a kid in the park - never wanting to go home once they're there ("just five more minutes mummy, please please please?").

Alas, less than a week was all I had this time. As I was a little young to have much recollection of the last time I was in Rome - the only resonating memories being of sweet watermelon, coconut gelato, a lot of steps (y'know, the Spanish ones), the Vatican City and, of course, the Trevi Fountain - it was somewhat alarming when a strong sense of deja vu took over whilst wandering the streets. I've some spots worth sharing with you and also a few... well, mini-minute-revelations if you might. For now though it's time to enjoy what remains of the weekend. Stay tuned. 

SL x

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Some More Brunch: Beetroot Risotto

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I've had a thing for beets since the very first time I saw them nestled in at the Pizza Hut salad bar, glinting conspicuously in the light like purply-pink jewels. But I was a little young then and my palette only stretched as far as croutons and cucumbers. Unfortunately, my memory too had been tainted by the boiled, soggy mass that'd once been served up for "school dinners" (it had proceeded to dye my mash a lucid shade of mauve - I went hungry that lunchtime). So it was only recently when mum bought some home, fresh, that I figured if it looks SO beautiful, there must be a way to make it taste just as good, right?

It didn't take a lot to be honest - once [not soft] boiled, salted and peppered, it's brilliant in salads, as a side or just a snack. So tasty, in fact, that for a long time there was little temptation to experiment at all. But it has fast become a weekly grocery staple and as autumn steers us from summers salad to simmering stews, what better for weekend brunch than a super simple, mega comforting risotto?

What you'll need - 

50g Butter
1 splash Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 Clove Garlic, finely chopped
400g Arborio Rice
1.2 l Vegetable Stock (2 Oxo cubes dissolved in the same amount of water does it just fine)
500g Fresh Beetroot
100 ml double cream
 1 Handful Freshly Chopped Dill
Salt & Pepper (& cayenne pepper, entirely optional) to taste
Squeeze of Lemon Juice
2tbsp sugar

What to Do - 

1. Heat the oven to 180C. Peel & trim the beetroots (use kitchen gloves if you don’t want your hands to get stained) and cut into large wedges. Place them on a large sheet of foil on a baking sheet. Then, toss them with 1 tbsp olive oil and seasoning, and cook for 1 hour, or until the beets are soft.

2. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a non-stick pot over a low flame. Don't heat the pot first and then add the butter as it will burn and smell funny. Once the butter's melted, tip in the onion and garlic and cook until slightly translucent and wonderfully caramelised. (N.B. the desired effect is mellow sweetness, not intense flavour).

3. Add the rice, stirring until coated in the butter and then begin adding the vegetable stock, 300 ml at a time. It's important to stir at least once a minute or so and don't be tempted to add all the stock at once. 

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4. When the rice is al-dente, and the beets are well-roasted, remove them from the oven. Whizz ¼ of them to make a purée and then chop the remainder into small pieces. Stir the beetroot purée, chopped beetroot, salt, pepper, lemon juice and sugar ( cayenne optional) through the risotto and leave to bubble for a few moments.   

5. Finally, plate up, top with fresh dill and a dollop of sour cream should you so wish. Don't, no matter what, be alarmed by the vibrant colours on your plate - that's how it's meant to be!  

Now, I know very well that beets are something of a love/hate thing (and let's face it, they do turn out an alarmingly pink risotto) and I'm yet to meet someone who doesn't enjoy a long, lazy brunch. So yes, turning this out on the table may seem a little dicey, as the last thing you want is a less-than-comforting meal. Though I'm in no doubt, if you are perhaps accompany with these twice-baked potatoes, or some Mexican scrambled eggs

Enjoy! SL x

Friday, 27 September 2013

Change of Heart

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Jodi Picoult has long been a favourite. And whilst I wish I had a more plausible explanation as to how I've been whiling away an abundance of time during this long summer recess... I'm at a loss, really, as to how laying in bed or on the couch or in the park or anywhere else for that matter, reading novels, can be glorified. Yup, even flowery language fails me here as it's been nothing but indulgence. Here's what it is - bar my weekly dose of Devious Maids (I admit to being one of those clicking, re-clicking, reloading and refreshing freaks, awake in the early hours of Monday morning awaiting the finale to materialise online) and the odd soap here and there... well, I guess I've felt a certain void in my relentless show-watching-marathons. Yes, you remember. Now, as tempted as I was to embark upon the Breaking Bad Bandwagon (how did I miss this?!) I figured I should give it a break and... well, you've probably gleaned, read instead.

Change of Heart, the latest of my Picoult conquests, makes for truly compelling reading - I couldn't tear myself away, even on holiday (hang on, I'm getting there!) - any free moment on the bus, train or plane and I was straight onto it. Now, I'm not saying you should read it... but you know... I'm just informing you that it's a good piece of writing, y'know? And I wouldn't want you to miss out. Oh no. That'd be awful...y'know? Say no more. 

I've just come back from Rome and, incidentally, with a change of heart too. More tomorrow. 

SL x


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