Mon 5 Nov 2012
Someone asked me the other day if I’m settling back into reality after the wedding and honeymoon. Though we’ve only been back to work for about a month, things have been so mad busy it feels like we’ve been back forever. The events of last month almost seem like a faint memory, like they happened a long, long time ago.
As we married in Tuscany, we decided to stay in Italy for our honeymoon. My sister and her husband joined us for the first part of it, and the four of us rented a house in Praiano, a small town which sits on the famed Amalfi Coast. And for the second half Mountaineering Man and I stayed at a hotel in Positano.
Besides the incredible ocean views from our cliff side residences, the most memorable part of our honeymoon was the food. Italians have such a gift for creating the most flavourful, beautiful dishes out of very simple ingredients. One of our favourite meals was at a small family-run restaurant right by the sea in Praiano called Trattoria da Armandino; we loved it so much we ate there three times. I had a lovely handmade pasta dish made with beautiful, fresh-caught clams and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Though there’s no visible sauce, the pasta tasted of the sea – salty, briny and savoury. Everything was cooked perfectly; the pasta al dente, the clams juicy and bursting with flavour. MM devoured his simple fresh anchovies, which he deemed the best meal of the honeymoon.
We spent the days walking around town, which on the Amalfi Coast means trekking up and down hundreds of stairs. This, of course, meant that we could eat whatever we wanted and not feel a pang of guilt. One night my sister and I went to the local corner shop and got everything we needed for an at-home feast of chicken sausages, lemon chicken and grilled vegetables, all washed down with some crisp Italian white. We finished the meal with an array of Italian lemon cookies and chocolates.
We had so many memorable meals on our trip, which will continue to inspire my cooking for years to come. However I did cheat by picking up a few packets of risotto and pasta ingredients at a cosy little deli in Positano. One was for a lemon risotto, a very popular dish in the citrus-rich region, and the packet version was absolutely spectacular. Of course as it was risotto there were no shortcuts, and I still had to slowly add stock over about 30 minutes of constant stirring. It was well worth the effort.
But the packets were not without issues, as most of the directions were translated from Italian to very questionable English. One pasta “sauce” packet was for aglio e olio, one of Italy’s most popular dishes consisting of pasta, chilies, garlic and olive oil. The instructions were quite vague: soak the packet ingredients in olive oil for 30 minutes, and then toss with cooked pasta. When I poured the ingredients into a bowl of olive oil, the amount of chilies seemed a bit much – even for a whole pot of pasta. I took a photo of it and sent it to Lorraine of ItalianFoodies, and her reaction was “Holy sh*t!” – that should have been my first clue.
So I decided to just use half of the chili/garlic/oil mix in our two servings of pasta. It certainly looked and smelled lovely, but about three bites in both MM and I were sweating profusely and gulping down large glasses of water. Even though we’re both spice-heads, it was far too hot to enjoy. Still, we managed to finish about three-quarters of our plates. We put the rest of the mixture into a jar to use more as a hot sauce, which is working out fine.
And we’re having “Italian night” at least every two weeks, so we can temporarily escape the cold Irish autumn for the warm breezes of the Amalfi coast.
Turkey Sausage Pizza on a Spelt & Oatmeal Crust
After we put the leftover chili/garlic/oil mixture into a jar, MM wondered aloud if it would be good drizzled over pizza. A light went off and I decided that’s what we’d have for dinner the following evening. As I had a big bag of spelt flour in the press, I decided to make a spelt crust – and the result was a light, yeasty, perfect pizza dough that baked into a lovely crispy crust. Turkey sausage is very difficult to find, and though I generally avoid Tesco I buy it there as I cannot locate it anywhere else. Of course you can top your pizza with anything you’d like!
Spelt Crust – I used this recipe, which was so easy!!
Several spoonfuls of pizza or pasta sauce – I used a very basic pasta Mariana sauce
4 onions, caramelised. I slice into thin slices and cook in some olive oil over medium heat for 30-40 minutes until the onions are brown and sweet.
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
4 turkey sausages, cooked and sliced
1 corgette, sliced thinly
A few slices of mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 200 C.
Roll or hand pull your spelt crust into two pizzas – I hand-pulled and pushed mine into two, rectangular pizzas and put them on baking trays (one per tray). Now top first with the sauce, then divide and evenly top with caramelised onion, bell pepper slices, sausage slices, corgette slices and cheese. Place in oven (one on top rack, one on bottom rack) for 15 minutes, then switch the pizzas so the bottom one is now on top and vice versa, and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Slice and serve – and drizzle with chili oil if you have it!
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