I’m feeling the need for a change of direction for my blog – a new focus. Every food blogger out there is reviewing restaurants and cafés; I don’t feel like I’m contributing anything new. And if they’re not doing that they’re writing their own recipes, which, as an amateur home cook, I don’t feel capable of doing.
Last weekend I cooked two great dishes which I was really pleased with – one a mushroom risotto from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy, and the other ricotta and spinach cannelloni from a recipe I found on a great blog called Souvlaki for the Soul. I wanted to write about them but I thought, who wants to read about me cooking someone else’s recipe? I’ve been mulling this over for the last week and I’ve now realised that as a self-published writer I have the luxury of being able to write exactly what I want, so if I want to write about making these dishes, then I should. And so I will!
So, this blog is going to be less about restaurants and cafés (although there will still be some write-ups) and more about cooking at home. It’ll get me doing more cooking, which I love, and hopefully give me greater scope for my other great passion at the moment: writing! And if it entertains my readers along the way, then that’s the cherry on the cake.
My plan at this stage is to tackle one theme at a time and really explore it, for a month or maybe more, before choosing another theme. Taking an ingredient as a theme is a nice idea, but in reality I think it could get a little tedious eating, say, lamb for a whole month, however varied the styles of dish. Therefore I think I’m going to start with a national cuisine and see how that goes. Partly because of my aforementioned culinary adventures of last weekend, and partly because of an inspiring interview I heard on ABC Radio National yesterday morning with Antonio Carluccio, my first theme is going to be Italy!
Carluccio said that one of the reasons Italian is, after Chinese, the most popular cuisine in the world is because it’s simple to cook. But to create great simple Italian food requires knowledge. I would add that it requires a real appreciation of the beauty and sensuous delight of simplicity – a perfectly ripe tomato, a good quality extra virgin olive oil. You can throw together a simple pasta dish very quickly, but if you don’t use good, fresh ingredients and you don’t tend to them with love and care, your pasta dish will not sing as it should do.
I was won over to the wonders of good, simple Italian food in April 2008 when Mr T and I holidayed in Italy for two weeks. The pinnacle of this trip was a picnic on a hillside in an olive grove, just outside the impossibly pretty Tuscan village of Montisi where we were staying. We had been tearing around Rome and Florence seeing a lifetime’s worth of art and stunning churches which was amazing but exhausting, and it was so lovely to finally relax. We visited a couple of shops in the village and bought a loaf of bread, some salami and prosciutto, a big ripe tomato and a little tub of fresh pesto. Sitting among the wild flowers, drinking in the views, those few simple foods made a meal fit for kings – and, incidentally, the perfect setting for a proposal of marriage! I’ll never forget it.
Growing up in the UK, Italian food and Italian restaurants were ubiquitous. I must admit I came to think of Italian food as rather ho-hum, unimaginative fare – food for people without sophisticated tastes! Moving to Australia I couldn’t get enough of the Thai and other Southeast Asian flavours that are everywhere here. But with my growing interest in food, the explosion of the food revolution on television in the last few years, and visits to some exquisite Italian restaurants, I have come to appreciate that there is far more to Italian food than meets the eye. And now I’m going to roll up my sleeves, get stuck in and see if I can recreate some of that Italian magic! I hope you’ll come for the ride.