Lemon And Strawberry Jam. The Things I Do While Working

Lemon and strawberry jam. The things I do while working

Strawberry and lemon jam

While I cook for the new book, while I write recipes and headnotes, while I take pictures perched on a chair and try to remember to save them before erasing the memory card, I keep myself occupied. Among a recipe tested and my sourdough starter refreshed, I roll out puff pastry, I let the bread rise in the oven with the light on, a more interesting show than the average tv production, and I make jam. A lot of jam.

Kneading the bread and making jam are two primitive pleasures which root me to the ground. They clear up my mind. They help me to redefine my priorities and find a quiet corner in my busy day. They are also an ideal soundtrack to write: the jam gently simmering on the stove and the bread singing while cooling down are a natural symphony. When you open the door you are overwhelmed by the fragrant aroma of the just baked bread and the fruity smell of strawberry jam. A much more enjoyable welcome than the hearty smell of an oxtail stew. Salivating, yes, but slightly too persistent.

Fresh bread and strawberry jam are the essence of a reconciling afternoon break. I feel like I am instantly in my beloved England, enjoying a high tea in a comfortable tea house in the green humid countryside. I can feel heavy Wellington boots at my feet, my cheeks reddened by a walk along muddy country roads and the citrus smell of a steaming Earl Grey in front of me. I miss a generous serving of clotted cream but some mascarpone or a creamy ricotta can do the trick.

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Picking Wild Apples And My Place In The World: An Apple Preserve

Picking wild apples and my place in the world: an apple preserve

I am now an expert in stealing all those special moments just for myself, I try to set them in the day just like jewels, make them valuable and intense, though fleeting. I am almost over with the book, recipes are done – tested, photographed and written – and the Italian version is completed, now I’m going over everything again from the introduction, translating into English. It’s fun and interesting because it’s like reliving everything again from scratch, flavours, surprises and people. I also discover new words every day: for example, I finally found the correct translation for my favourite herb, pimpinella, that apparently in English is salad burnet.

On Thursday I will finally fly to London to spend some time with my friends before the Food Blogger Connect, the unmissable event that has represented the highlight of my blogging life in the past three years. So in addition to the book, I have to pack my stuff – books, Mac, camera, some nice dresses and comfortable shoes, to move to London for ten days. I already know that I will do this last minute, as usual, trying to tuck the cheese and the salami – the most appreciated gifts – among my clothes. You’ll recognize me at the conference: I’ll be the gentle lady with a heady smell of cheese and pork… Thank goodness I leave in the afternoon on Thursday.

Usually there is a constant element in these special moments, special person: my sister Claudia. A fennel infusion, a project for the upcoming autumn, a joyride in the fields or a few minutes playing in the sun with our cat Wolf (he’s getting so cuddling and sweet, I don’t think I need to explain you why we would buy him a whole atlantic salmon when he looks at us with his shimmering eyes… nope, we’d rather buy a mackerel, we support local fish).

In one of those moments stolen from the oh-my-how-many-thing-I-still-have-to-do pace we went looking for wild apple trees, because a few weeks before Claudia had tasted a delicious nutty cake made with wild apple preserve. We’ll talk about the cake in a few weeks, for the moment we needed the main ingredient, the tiny wild apples.

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Italian Table Talk: Grape Harvest And September Jam

Italian Table Talk: grape harvest and September jam

If you live in the countryside, you’d better not be in a hurry when you leave your house in any September morning. Any other time you find yourself stuck behind a tractor bursting of ripe grapes,  carrying its buzzing load to the closer cellar. Arm yourself with patience and get mesmerized by the dull sound of the tractor engine and twitching bunches of grapes, impatient to become wine… you perfectly know you’re not allowed to go anywhere but to follow sheepishly the tractor. The time has come: it is the harvest season.

There are so many traditions, legends and meanings related to this moment of the year that we decided to fully dive into this buzzing period with our monthly Italian Table Talk theme. It is a movement that from North to South touches every region of Italy, each with special recipes they call for grapes as key ingredient.

Jasmine today will tell you about a recipe that is very dear to me, the grape schiacciata, while Valeria and Emiko present recipes from Veneto: Valeria has prepared grape must puddings named sugoli and Emiko a savory dish, the risotto in cantina as described by Elizabeth David. As for me, come and see …

My first paid job required rubber boots, old tattered clothes, thick gloves, a sun hat and pruning scissors, so hard that at first I needed two hands to open and close them.

As soon as I finished my final exams at high school I went to a local winery, a few miles from home, and asked to be enrolled as grape-picker for a month, a rite of passage for many young students, a sticky September between the rigor of the high school and the anarchy of the first months of University, when everything is new and slightly confusing.

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