Dolianova Sardinia – Food Tour

Sardinian Seadas Drizzled With Honey

Sardinian Seadas Drizzled With Honey

The fire snapped and crackled as the ancient olive wood burnt in the enormous fireplace.  The smoke gently flavouring the suckling pig as it turned slowly on the large metal stake like spit.  This was dinner Sardinian style.

Suckling Pig Roasting on An Olive Wood Fire

Suckling Pig Roasting on An Olive Wood Fire

We’d set out some three hours previously from the centre of Cagliari to Dolianova, a small town ten kilometres away. This had been a last minute booking and only the four of us were on the Food tour.  After looking at the eleventh century Cathedral, we headed off  into the dusk and the countryside to an olive oil pressing mill.  Huge mounds of untidy spiky Paw Paws loomed out of the gloom giving way to contorted ancient olive trees, making the landscape more Arthur Rackham than regional Italy.

Olives Waiting To Be Pressed

Olives Waiting To Be Pressed

Down a rutted dusty track with a strong fragrance of  cedar and pine from the Mastic bushes.  We eventually arrived at the mill.  It was now quite dark but the machinery was in full  force.  Precariously stacked, tiny three wheeled trucks, that are made to buzz up and down the narrow romanesque streets, queued to deliver the days crop.  Stocky, weathered farmers in cotton overalls unloaded their  bright green olives, emptying the multicoloured plastic crates into huge containers, along with a variety of massive jerry cans and shiny milk churns ready for the freshly pressed oil.

Eclectic Olive Oil Containers

Eclectic Olive Oil Containers

Despite the machinery being really high tech and computer operated, much of it was outside under the glass awning and in a slightly Heath Robinson way the crushing process trailed through the ‘L’ shaped veranda and on into the mill interior.  Each stage was carefully monitored until a deep green viscous, unfiltered and fragrant oil poured into the eclectic mix of containers.  Each farmer taking home his own pressed olive oil after just one hour.

Fresh Unfiltered Olive Oil

Fresh Unfiltered Olive Oil

After a wonderful tasting of unfiltered and flavoured oils with copious amounts of crusty country bread, we piled back into the car to make our way, in the pitch black that only truly rural countryside can offer, to the Agritourismo Baccu Cardu.

Suckling Pig Roasting In The Giant Fireplace

Suckling Pig Roasting In The Giant Fireplace At Baccu Cardu

I’m not sure we would have found it on our own in the light.  In the dark, we seemed to be driving swiftly towards misshapen silhouettes of trees, momentarily illuminated by our headlights, before rapidly changing direction.  Like a ride on an old fashioned ghost train swinging round the tracks.  Finally we pulled up in front of a sizeable farmhouse.

Seadas Dough, Rolling The Dough, Sealing The Seadas, Frying The Seadas

Seadas Dough, Rolling The Dough, Sealing The Seadas, Frying The Seadas

The large beamed restaurant was empty, but the greeting from the farmer and his wife was extremely warm.  The huge fireplace, I mentioned earlier, was in one corner, the remainder of the space set with gingham covered tables.  Across the front of the room was a demonstration area for us to join in making a traditional Sardinian dessert – Seadas.  Made from a lard dough, formed like ravioli and filled with young provolone cheese and lemon zest, before being fried in olive oil.  The final touch – a drizzle of local honey.

Melting The Provolone, Spreading The Provolone, Cutting Disks Of Provolone Cheese

Melting The Provolone, Spreading The Provolone, Cutting Disks Of Provolone Cheese

We were constantly distracted by the theatre of the suckling pig and the wonderful smelling fire.  The demo over, we sat down to a fabulous spread of truly local dishes.  An anti pasti of local cheeses and parmesan, cured meats including proscuitto crudo, salami and guanciale (pig’s cheek) which, although being more fat than meat, is sliced very thinly and has a wonderful flavour. Plates of homegrown aubergines soft and sweet, charred from the grill and artichokes drizzled with olive oil.

Suckling Pig, Sardo Pecorino, Guanciale And Salami, Aubergine, Sheeps Cheese And Parmesan

Suckling Pig, Sardo Pecorino, Guanciale And Salami, Aubergine, Sheeps Cheese And Parmesan

This was followed by two pasta dishes, made using their own flour, a pappardelle with cream and artichoke hearts and enormous pillows of ravioli stuffed with ricotta and parsley in a tomato sauce.  Copious amounts of wine were poured and then the suckling pis was served.  Cut into bite size pieces it was presented in an oval cork bowl, very typical of the area.  Crisp crackling and meat flavoured with the olive smoke, it was delicious, but we’d already eaten so much.  Fennel and potatoes were served on the side and we settled into enjoying our main course.

 

Sardinian Seadas Drizzled With Honey

Sardinian Seadas Drizzled With Honey

Finally the dessert we’d helped to make, was lightly fried until it was pale golden brown and drizzled with honey which melted over the warm crust.  This was like a mini pie, crispy on the outside and melting lemon cheese flavour in the centre.  The provolone is so young it tastes more like a ricotta.  Grappa and limoncello followed the dessert and we left merry and very full.

This was a wonderful way to spend the evening and a very different sort of food tour. We would never have discovered these dishes left to our own devices in Cagliari and a chance to see the true traditions of any country is a privilege.

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Perfect Gift – Sparkly St Nicholas Gingerbread Cookies

Christmas Gingerbread Cookies

Christmas Gingerbread Cookies

The battered red wooden skis and memories constructed from family stories and photos are all that remains of our two years in Germany.  Pictures of my older sister, then three, dressed in a furry lined anorak, Scandi patterned hat and mittens proudly skiing to Kindergarten. Photos of my mother, barely recognisable behind the veneer of 1950s European fashion, pushing a pram around the university campus where my Father was a professor. Continue reading

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Cupcake Doughnuts Filled With Hotel Chocolat Raspberry And White Chocolate Jam

Doughnut Cupcakes With Hotel Chocolat Raspberry & White Chocolate Jam

Doughnut Cupcakes With Hotel Chocolat Raspberry & White Chocolate Jam

When Hotel Chocolat offered me a choice of their wonderful chocolate goodies, I didn’t want to go for Dasher the Chocolate Reindeer or the beautiful Enchanted Forest in caramel and milk chocolate.  I knew these would be fabulous with the distinctive quality that Hotel Chocolat chocolates always have.  I wanted to try one of their slightly more off beat products, White Chocolate And Raspberry Jam. Continue reading

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Book Review – Spice By Dhruv Baker

Discover how to use Spices With Spice by Dhruv Baker

Discover how to use Spices With Spice by Dhruv Baker

Masterchef fans may well remember Dhruv Baker, the winner of the 2010 series.  His deft use of spice and astounding palate were often commented on by judges John Torode and Greg Wallace.  Baker has now put that experience and his love of flavour between the covers of his first cook book, Spice.

Split into practical sections, based around ingredients, Baker  demystifies spices, saying that spice is about flavour, not heat.  This book shows you how to get the best flavour from ingredients that are easily available from the supermarket and many of which may already be in your kitchen cupboard.

Chicken Lollipops in Spice By Dhruv Baker

Chicken Lollipops in Spice By Dhruv Baker

It would be a mistake to think of this as just another Asian cook book.  Influenced by his multicultural background with an English father, Indian mother and having lived in Mexico, India, Tanzania as well as Great Britain, the dishes span as many continents.  Slow Roast Pork Belly With Fennel And Coriander, Aubergine Crisps With Truffle Honey, Braised Duck With Star Anise And Galangal and my favourite, partly because it  is fairly simple, but mainly because it packs a punch of flavour – Mushroom Pilau.  A side dish or a main, full of fragrance from the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, rich in texture from the earthy flavoured mushrooms and a sweet crisp crunch from the fried onions.  This has quickly become a Glam favourite.  With over a hundred recipes, there’s still many more to explore.

Masterchef Champion Dhruv Baker's Mushroom Pilau From His Cook Book Spice

Masterchef Champion Dhruv Baker’s Mushroom Pilau From His Cook Book Spice

Unlocking The Spice Cupboard at the back of the book is an alphabetical list of spices with clever descriptions of flavour and uses, from Ajwain Seeds to Vanilla Pods.  It includes the different ways that spices can be used beyond the obvious: making flavoured oils, dry roasting, marinades, rubs and flavoured butters.

Chocolate And Cinnamon Torte From Dhruv Baker's New Cook Book Spice

Chocolate And Cinnamon Torte From Dhruv Baker’s New Cook Book Spice

The section on Drinks is a innovative addition and again steers away from the mundane, with recipes for a Cardamom Martini and Pear And Prosecco Spritz.

This book is an all rounder with great dishes, it instills a confidence with spices in the cook and has some new and out of the ordinary dishes to experiment with and Baker wants his readers to do just that.  “Once you have tasted some of the recipes…you might want to add more or less spice, or add or take away ingredients…..however you use them, I hope that you will make them your own.”

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Venison Cottage Pie With Spring Onion Mash

Crispy Spring Onion Mash Topped Venison Shepherds Pie

Crispy Spring Onion Mash Topped Venison Cottage Pie

The steel grey light of a damp November day gives way  to cold  fat drops  splatting against the windows as the wind drives the rain forward.  The fire’s lit, the intermittent crackles forming a percussion with the rain.  It’s time for comfort food.  Game is perfect when the weather gets cold, but you don’t always want the bones and bits that go with a pheasant or a quail.  Venison mince is the perfect ingredient for a meal eaten curled up on the sofa.  Rich in flavour and a creaminess from the oats, it can be eaten with just a fork or a spoon and if you make a cottage pie it has all your veg too!  Well nearly.  What’s your favourite dish to warm you on a cold autumn day? Continue reading

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Spiced Broccoli Patties With Curried Dip

Spiced Brocoli Patties & Curried Dip

Spiced Brocoli Patties & Curried Dip

There are times when all I want is vegetables.  I’ve done with meat and fish I just want to be renewed by healthy flavours, herbs and spices.  These little Patties pack a punch of flavour from the cumin and coriander and a sweetness from the caramelising of the outside as they’re cooked.  With a hint of chilli and the barely cooked herbs these are a perfect light lunch or snack slathered in a lightly curried dip. Continue reading

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Exploring Talmont Sur Gironde, France

Mud Flats On The Gironde Estuary

Mud Flats On The Gironde Estuary

The sun shimmered off the mud flats as we drove along the coast road. The gulls circling and diving, finally landing on the bald stones that lay camouflaged by seaweed, it’s soft ozone smell rising to mingle with the fragrance of sun baked grasses from the fields nearby.  Then, there was Talmont, perched high on a rocky outcrop, a twelfth century fortified village sticking out into the bright blue sky. Continue reading

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Wednesday Words – Review Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes

Tom Kerridge Best Ever Dishes

Tom Kerridge Best Ever Dishes

Tom Kerridge’s second book to accompany his BBC TV series Best Ever Dishes,  is a delight of wonderful photography and twists on classic dishes from home and abroad.  Whilst this is not a book for a quick midweek supper the recipes are very achievable for everyone except the real beginner. Continue reading

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Emmer Wheat Tagliatelli With Fennel Seed Pork Meatballs And Tomato Sauce

Fennel Seed Sausage And Tomato Pasta Sauce

Fennel Seed Sausage And Tomato Pasta Sauce

The tiny kitchen in our London flat was the height of mod cons for the 60s.  We had a fridge, A FRIDGE!  It required constant maintenance and once you put in a pint of milk and a lettuce, it was full.  But at least we didn’t have to hang the milk out of the window in a bag to keep it cool.  Wall shelves, a tiny built in work surface and a larder cupboard completed the storage. The white stone butlers sink was squeezed in next to these wonders of the modern age, but required you to slide in sideways past the cooker to get to it.  This kitchen was small, even to a child of three or four it was small. Continue reading

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Chai Spiced Chocolate Brownies

Stack Of Chai Spice Chocolate Brownies

Stack Of Chai Spice Chocolate Brownies

My rug samples were spread around me, saved from the dusty factory floor by a sheet, not quite white but not yet grey.  The flourish of colour making a vibrant splash against the cheerless concrete.  Beautifully patterned, each careful tuft had been meticulously costed by my Indian supplier and the negotiations were about to begin.  Electricity was intermittent in this small rural community and the usual whir of the air conditioners was missing from the general factory noise.  In the hot sticky atmosphere I wondered how fast we could get the job done, longing for the hotel bar and bath.  With a nod from the owner a young Indian boy entered with a tray of dark milky tea.  The spicy aroma hit me long before the drink was in my hands, cinnamon, fragrant cardamom, peppery cloves and sweet nutmeg.  A milky drink with a perk from the tea and a miracle of spices to enliven even the most lethargic.  This was my first taste of Chai. Continue reading

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