Thursday, 9 June 2011

Mon 6 June - d'Artagnon & A Bunch of Cherries

Sometimes it's not a bad thing to give yourself a bit of a nudge out of the comfort zone.  Making the few changes that we have have thrown up a few unexpected benefits.  

The supermarket ban has taken us to exploring other places, people, words and phrases.  Saturday morning, however, wasn't a brilliant start.  We spent the morning in Guardiagrele fumbling through my badly translated shopping list with various long suffering shop keepers and I do admit to thinking this is actually going to be harder than I thought.  The shops that we visited were fairly poorly supplied with anything other than a few of the usual peppers, tomatoes and courgettes.  Just not the same selection as the supermarket and certainly not as easy as browsing the shelves to find what you want.  Ho hum, I consoled myself, it's going to take time.  This is all part of the process, working out what's where, what's what and the best places to go.

But Guardiagrele did have the best machete shop in the whole of Abruzzo.  A little hardware shop towards the piazza at the upper end of the main street.  A beautiful selection of knives all lined up in the window.  

The 4th Muskateer caused a few sideways glances from passers by as he danced around the shop like d'Artagnon, swooshing the blades at imaginary bracken, brambles and branches, or possibly, and more likely, slaying his attackers as they came for him, one after the other.  

Finally, after he'd beaten a path through the undergrowth (or was triumphant in his battle) a rather mean looking blade was selected and packed away for his birthday next week.

Shopping done, with a modicum of success, we stopped for coffee and ice cream in a little piazza by the church with all it's magnificent bells.  This beats supermarket shopping any day.

Elder flower
Sunday, too, was another day of exploring new options with a mixture of success and disappointment.  Having seen an abundance of white umbrella flowers lining the paths of our nature ramblings I thought the area was rich elderflower.  

So, spurred on by various recipes for elderflower cordial, champagne and ice-cream we took off for the hills with our foraging kit, Tina and a newly shorn Fausto the dog joining us too.

We took the path from Garifoli up onto the montepiano and my heart sunk to see the elder flowers had all turned to bundles of tiny green berries.  Not elder at all.  Elder flowers all the way through to July.  Dogwood.  An easy mistake, apparently, differentiated by it's smooth leaves as compared to the serrated edges of elder.

Curry plant
But we did find a number of cherries trees absolutely dripping with ripe fruit.  And surprised Tina with the mass of curry plants that absolutely cover the top of the montepiano, filling the air with it's sweet spicy smell, reminiscent of Indian takeaways.  A small cutting, I have to confess, was secreted into my rucksack along with the little sprig of honeysuckle cut earlier.

By Monday I was getting more into the swing of shopping local and KP's rested groin was ready to take to his bike once more.  So up the hill to my favourite little alimentary lady in Roccamontipiano .  Tiny little shop, a bit hit and miss on the veggies displayed outside but once in through the beads over the door, you're in a real Aladdin's cave of goodies.   The kind always smiling lady was ever so patient and helpful over my shopping list and guided me through my clumsy bread flour and jam sugar translations.  And she even had fresh yeast in the fridge! Can you believe it?!  I haven't seen fresh yeast in many many years.  What a joy.  This is what it's all about.  

Shopping done we zoomed down the hill and back up the other killer side into Garifoli and straight into bread making mode.  It's been a long time since I was kneading bread on a kitchen table instead of throwing a few ingredients into a bread machine before running out the door.  And it felt good.  10 minutes of kneading later and the bread was left to prove in the sun under a tea towel in the garden.  And, boy, did it prove!  Two hours later and I was looking in awe at the massive piece of dough absolutely filling the bowl in front of me.  Another quick knead and in the oven it went.  

In it went for 35 minutes as we got our cherry picking gear together.  The warm heady bread smell coming from the oven filled the house.  

Of course we couldn't wait for it to cool and two slices were taken from the loaf barely before it had gone from oven to table.  So there we were, wandering up the hill to pick cherries eating warm bread with melted butter dripping down our chins.

Doesn't get much better than this.

An amazing 3 kilos of cherries of cherries were picked, pitted, bubbled in the pan and potted into jars before bed time.

A good day.

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