Sneeze-Free Bell Tent


I love Wight

Popping home and being pampered for a week or two after being away in another country, culture and weather system is a real treat. In August we finally got a bell tent after a couple of years deliberation. The push to buy it came when Giacomo was able to get time off work and come home with me. He had been over to the Isle of Wight with me three or four times previously but politely suffered and sneezed through his stays. Being allergic to dust, animals and feathers makes our house a contamination zone, with carpets, animals coming out of our ears and heavy feather duvets and pillows. 

A mutual excitement for camping meant that the proposal of sleeping in a tent for four nights instead of a comfy bed in the house went down extremely well. The results weren't soggy camping and almost more enticing than a warm bed in the house.

Mummy Mence didn't leave anything out; bunting, guitar, geraniums, rugs, oil lamps, luxury blow up bed, sweetie jar and the list goes on.

One of the most spoiling extras to the tent was the tea light chandelier. When lit, the tent was visible from the house as a glowing and welcoming love den and from the inside it was a sparkly princess tent. 

The tent was a huge success and has already been booked up for next summer. I won't be requesting it for my Christmas stay. Brrrr

Fresh Figs


The Joy of Picking and Eating

Growing up with a fig obsessed mother, (the fruit itself, soaps, candles, bath oils, the works) I have come to think of the fruit as a rare and wonderful thing. The rarity of finding good, ripe figs in english supermarkets also helps along this myth.

This summer I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend's house in the countryside just outside Ferrara for a sunny afternoon and it just so happened that they have an enormous fig tree that was dripping with fruit needing to be picked. 
Picking figs sounds much more romantic than the reality of the operation. Figs are seriously sticky; they ooze a white milk that smells heavenly but clings to skin and clothes and refuses to wash off. Figs also attract insects. Lots of insects; bees, wasps, ants, flies and more. However, balancing on tip toes, barefoot, trying to avoid fallen figs that are being devoured by wasps while getting dripped on by sticky fig milk is definitely worth it when you have a bowl full of them to show for it at the end.

Peach Crostata


Seasonal Produce

One of my favourite things about loving food and living in Italy, is the availability of seasonal produce. Emilia Romania is an extremely fertile region and home to parmesan and balsamic vinegar to name a few. When going to markets or local fruit shops, the cheapest things to buy are those in season, meaning it is hard not to buy and eat these tempting products. 

The downside to this is that I have only been successful in finding coriander once in the year that I have been living here. I am however extremely lucky enough to have a mother that brings over coriander plants in her hand luggage! 

June and July are months where peaches, nectarines and plums are everywhere. They are beautifully ripe and almost always overripe, never needing to be left in a fruit bowl for a few days, and definitely shouldn't be as they go bad if not enjoyed within a day or two.

I happened to receive two trays full of juicy, ripe peaches and nectarines, white, yellow and dwarf, in two days. One person cannot consume this amount of ripe fruit before they go over. I ended up stewing lots of them to eat with yoghurt, but still had too many taking up my limited kitchen space. So I looked to a tart recipe and found a delicious peach and amaretto crostata that I adapted.

Ripe Peach and Amaretto Crostata

(My favourite sweet pastry recipe that hasn't failed me yet is Ottolenghi's.)

Sweet Pastry

165g plain flour
50g icing sugar
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
90g cold butter, cubed
1 free-range egg yolk
1tbsp cold water

-Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the butter, rubbing between fingers until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. 

-Add the egg yolk and cold water and mix until it just comes together, but avoid over-squidging.

-Remove from the bowl and knead briefly before forming a disc shape and wrapping it in cling film.

-Use straight away or keep in fridge until needed.

Peach and Amaretto Filling

4 tbsp soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch sea salt
6-8 ripe peaches
2 tbsp lemon juice
two handfuls crushed amaretti biscuits
1 egg

-Preheat the oven to 200C.

-Slice the peaches and place in a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and lemon juice making sure that the peaches are evenly coated with the mixture.

-Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness on a sheet of baking parchment.

-Roughly spread the crushed amaretti biscuits over the pastry, leaving a 3cm edge all the way around.

-Place the peaches on top of the biscuits and pour over any remaining juices. 

-Fold the pastry up over the peaches and secure by overlapping the pastry and pressing into place.

-Brush the pastry with a beaten egg.

-Transfer the tart onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 or until golden and bubbling.

I didn't manage to get a photograph of the finished tart as it was gobbled up within minutes! This was such an enjoyable way to use up never-ending peaches and my first ever rustic crostata.


Here we go


Kick up the arse...

My first oil paints were given to me for Christmas last year and have been sitting sad and untouched in the cupboard since then. The canvasses have been looking at me intimidatingly for the same amount of time, making me feel guilty for not daring to tear off the plastic and put paint on them. 

The same thing goes for the blog. I created it before christmas, set everything all up and named it. Every month I pluck up the courage to start writing and posting, but each post gets sent to the draft box and remains unpublished. 

Today I braved opening my oil paints for the first time and thought it was a good occasion to publish my first blog post. 

I spent last weekend with a friend who is also experiencing the same fear of publishing then publicising her blog. This anguish stems from the numerous blogs that get sent to you on facebook every other day and not wanting to become one of those. She informed me that this fear also is part of my quarter-life crisis; being nearly 25 and fresh out of university, most of my generation is currently experiencing the sentiment of inadequacy after a lifetime of confidence coming from the support of the education system. She told me to get on with it. Here we go...

Last summer Giacomo came over to the Isle of Wight to stay with me and my family. We are lucky to have a steady stream of pheasants that stroll through the garden as if it were their own, a sight not so common in the city streets of Ferrara. After seeing the little fellas wandering around, we did the usual exchange of english and italian words, the italian word for pheasant being fagiano, and then carried on with whatever we were previously doing. The next morning when we came down for breakfast my father had an excited outburst shouting, 'look Giacomo, phesantiiiii', to which we all giggled. The turning of an english word into an italian 'sounding' one is something that I do almost everyday living in Italy, stumbling and bumbling with the italian language and making mistakes that I am completely oblivious to, resulting in chuckles at my expense. 

I thought that a blog could be a great way of documenting my first year living in Italy and my daily blunders that are so common amongst foreigners getting by abroad.