I live just a short walk from a modest pine forest that has always intrigued me. As a child, I was not allowed to go there alone, I had always to be accompanied by an adult, because you never know who you can meet there, in the woods it gets dark sooner and you can easily get lost… All these warnings have always loaded each walk with mystery. I would look around and listen to every sound, attentive to every change of light or to the sudden silence of birds and insects. Instead of scaring me, this turned every walk into an adventure, a feeling that accompanies me even today.
Growing up, I managed to set myself free from the need of a permission to go into the woods. I lived every walk among those trees ever since as an immense gift of freedom and confidence. I have entrusted to the wood my secrets, I made pacts with the seasons and with the wind, that no longer scared me.
One of the goals of my new way of approaching work and life is also to treat me more often with these regenerating walks which root me down to earth and make me understand where I come from.
Just before the Three Acres Gathering, in between meals to arrange, farm visits and shopping at the market, I took my friends into the woods with the excuse to search for some natural decoration for the welcome table. The true reason was of course to forget for a moment all the responsibilities of the weekend organization and breathe freely the balsamic air of the forest.
There, I realized that it had arrived.
Autumn has arrived into the forest, you could notice it looking at the road that passes through it. It is now ploughed by wide puddles that reflect the sky and its moods. The leaves muffle your steps, the bushes are coloured by rose hips and juniper.
Every so often you hear the dull thud of a pine cone that fells on the ground, or a branch that surrenders to the weight of time and crashes on the underlying bushes.
Autumn is the most reflective season, you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. It is the season that, after the summer adventures in the endless days of light, takes you back home, into the house, looking for the heat of a stove. On sunny days, however, it still manages to invite you out: it is the brightness of its fading colours, it is the promise of a warm sun that makes you unbutton your jacket to enjoy every ray of light. You will happily abandon the warmth of you house for an outdoor adventure, enjoying those hours stolen to the rain.
The pine forest called us in an autumn afternoon and filled our eyes with stunning colours.
Autumn has arrived into the market. I walk among the market stalls and feel the changing of the seasons, I feel the time passing by me, the scenic design changes rapidly behind me. One moment there are tomatoes everywhere, you can smell the unmistakable green aroma of their leaves which anchors me overwhelmingly to summer. I get distracted for a moment and all the shades of red are replaced by the colours of the forest.
Mushrooms and chestnuts appears in every market stall, a perfect palette of shades of brown, colours that would completely win the heart of painters and stylists. Apples and pears now hold court. I like to choose local ones, smallish, maybe not perfect, a bit rusty. The new extra virgin olive oil is advertised by local producers, they invite you to taste it with a piece of crusty bread. The breadcrumb soaks the olive oil and you taste in your mouth the pure juice of olives, then you feel the tickling in your throat and you cough, laughing. This is the taste of Tuscan olive oil, green, bitter and spicy, the taste of a bruschetta toasted on the fireplace, rubbed with garlic and doused in new olive oil.
I begin to mentally create hearty menus, which require burners and oven, I fill a shopping bag and rush into the kitchen, anticipating the sheer pleasure of turning ideas into tastes and smells, as if I was embracing for the first time the new season.
Autumn has arrived in the kitchen. Grandma makes lunch in the early morning, leaving the window ajar in her small kitchen to let some fresh air in, to check on Noa in the garden and to see if there’s somebody passing by, in our little village of fifty souls in the countryside.
The smells of her kitchen, the garlic gently fried in olive oil, the tomato sauce stirred with patience with a wooden spoon, they run away through the ajar window, they come up on the first floor, knocking on my windows, to tickle my appetite and reassure me, because the years pass, the seasons follow each other, but punctual as every autumn they return, the scents of the forest combined with those of my grandmother’s kitchen.
Roasted turkey breast with mushrooms
For the first roast of the season I put together the scents of the forest, some mushrooms sautéed with garlic, catmint and fresh thyme, and the more traditional smells of the butchery: a few slices of cured pancetta, made by the book by my butcher.
I asked him to open the turkey breast, I covered it with finely sliced pancetta and sautéed mushrooms, I wrapped it onto itself and secured it with butcher’s twine. First I seared the meat on the stovetop, then I added a handful of potatoes, a glug of white wine, and I moved the pan directly into the oven to roast. Hence the step up to the table was short.
Roasted turkey breast with mushrooms
- 500 g of turkey breast, butterflied
- 100 g of pancetta, cut into thin slices
- 150 g of mixed mushrooms
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh catmint
- 200 g of new potatoes
- 1/2 cup of white wine
- Slice the mushrooms and cook them in a pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, a crushed clove of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme and catmint. Once cooked and thoroughly dry chop them and set aside.
- Open the turkey breast on a cutting board and cover it with slices of pancetta, leaving aside three or four slices of pancetta to line the rolled turkey on the outside.
- Cover the pancetta with sautéed mushrooms and wrap the turkey onto itself. Use the the reserved slices of pancetta to wrap it, then tie the turkey with butcher's twine.
- Cover the bottom of a casserole with olive oil, heat it on medium fire and roast it until brown on all sides. You will need about 10 minutes. Now add the new potatoes.
- Transfer the casserole into the oven, pour in the white wine and roast in the oven at 200°C for about 40 minutes, basting occasionally with the sauce.
- Let it rest at least an hour before slicing it. Heat the sauce and serve the sliced turkey with sauce and roasted potatoes.