Italy

Why Italy?

Elysia chose Italy. And that’s good enough for me!

My experience of Italy

One of the best things about living in the UK for two years (apart from knowing it was only for two years), was the opportunity to fly to so many wonderful European cities for weekends. From an Aussie perspective, that is just unimaginable.

We had a weekend in Rome, which I loved. Having done five years of Latin at high school, seeing the Appian Way, the Forum and the Colosseum was awe-inspiring.

The cannoli in Rome was amazing, as was the limoncello. The limoncello we get in Australia is nowhere near as good as that in Europe. My memory of European Limoncello is thick and syrupy and it sticks on your tongue and tastes amazing. But the stuff we get in Australia is thin and watery, and not all that lemony. There’s something to look forward to if I ever get back to Italy!

We also had a weekend in Sicily, but that was not the best holiday I’ve ever had. The first thing that the receptionist told us were all the streets that we should not go near after dark, and the hotel was slap-bang in the middle of them! We had heard great things about the Catania fish market, but it turned out to be about three trestle tables set up in a little square. And, for the life of me, I could not find anyone who spoke English that could get us on a bus to go to the top of Mt Etna. Sicily was, most unfortunately, most forgettable.

Preparation

Lunch in Italy will be on Sunday 18 February, and I’m anticipating another wonderful feast.

The Italians, like the Greeks, have been emigrating to Australia for many decades now, and their delicious food and vibrant culture have become an entrenched part of the Australian way of life. How much richer we are, in so many ways, for their contributions!

And, as with choosing the Greek menu, there are so many wonderful and familiar foods to choose from. Shaping up for a spot on the menu are bruschetta, grilled fennel and asparagus salad, gnocchi, osso buco, tiramisu, cannoli, strawberry gelato, panna cotta and affagatto. Definites on the menu are Will’s ciabatta and my lasagne. Will makes amazing bread so it has to get a guernsey and, with shameless immodesty, I hereby stake my claim to making THE BEST lasagne in the world. It’s a big call, but it’s a great lasagne.

Let’s hope the weather is kind to us. Not too hot and not too wet!

A presto!

Friends of mine, Neil and Jill, are joining us, and will bring chinotto and chianti. That’ll be interesting – I tried chinotto as a teenager and hated it, but I’m sure my taste buds have matured since then.

The tiramisu and cannoli shells both have marsala in them, so I had to buy a bottle. I’m sure the label hasn’t changed since I used to drink it in my teenage days (and much preferred over chinotto). I might buy some lemonade, and have a few drinks of marsala and lemonade tomorrow – jeepers, but that’ll be a blast from the past!

We should be able to eat outside – they’re predicting neither 39 degrees nor a one-in-ten-thousand years rainstorm. The prediction is 25 degrees, which sounds perfect. And very Italian!

The menu

Our menu is:

  • Bruschetta
  • Lasagne
  • Osso buco
  • Parmesan gnocchi with nutty sage butter
  • Grilled fennel and asparagus salad
  • Ciabatta
  • Tiramisu
  • Coffee and Amaretto panna cotta
  • Cannoli
  • Strawberry gelato
  • Affagatto

The house smells amazing!

Here are the recipes for our faves – Italy best recipes

Click here to see all our favourite recipes.

Lunch in Italy, Sunday 18 February 2018

Italia! Bellissimo!!

Our Italian lunch did not disappoint, and we finished yet another international lunch reflecting how good life is.

We started with bruschetta, which was my favourite. I had prepared the fetta, garlic and chopped basil the night before, so it was well-flavoured by the time it got onto the yummy crispy toast with the tomatoes that had been chopped and also stored with basil the night before.

Jan liked the pan-fried gnocchi with sage and parmesan, which is one of my favourite Donna Hay recipes. I have tried to make potato gnocchi many times but it always ends up very claggy (maybe I use the wrong kind of potatoes), but this recipe uses ricotta. It hasn’t failed me once.

Will brought some lovely home-made ciabatta. He’s got bread-making down to a fine art, has Will. And we had some lovely oil and vinegars to dip it into.

For the first time in more than 40 years, I used a recipe to make the sauce for the lasagne, and I’m very glad I tried it. Adding bacon and chorizo gave it a real kick, and I also used beef and pork mince for the first time – usually I just use beef mince. The recipe said to add mixed spice, but I won’t do that again, and I wonder if it should have read mixed herbs.

The osso buco was also note-worthy, and as delicious as it usually is.

But the desserts! Oh, the desserts! Are there better desserts anywhere in the world than in Italy? Tiramisu, fresh strawberry gelato, cannoli, coffee and amaretto panna cotta – wow to each of them. Did I really say the bruschetta was my favourite?

Well, they were all my favourites until the affagatto appeared. Love, love, love affogatto!

Again, Elysia has taken a great range of photos. Thank you, Shish – you’re a treasure! And thanks for choosing Italy – it was a very good decision.

The drinks

The marsala and lemonade, as expected, took us back in time, as we reflected on those drinks we thought were so sophisticated back then – cold duck, Mateus rose, porphyry pearl. And then Jan announced that she used to drink marsala straight. She’s hard-core, that woman!

Jill and Neil brought a bottle of chianti, and a bottle of chinotto (which we never got around to sampling). The chianti was perfect for quaffing in the sun over our mains – but we adjourned inside for dessert as it was a tad too hot outside.

The ambience

Loving the Spotify playlists! They add greatly to the ambience, although they seriously muck up my Monday Discover Weekly playlist.

The quiz

I was very excited to hear that Liam wants to write the quiz questions, and delighted to hear his method of handicapping his father, thereby giving the rest of us a chance of victory. Liam has decreed that Will will only have 15 minutes to read the factsheet and place mat. Good thinking, Liam!

Liam did an amazing job. Thank you, Liam! And his strategy to prevent Will from winning the quiz was a great success. I won the quiz but, in truth, I should win every quiz seeing as I put the factsheet together!

Here’s the factsheet – Factsheet_Italy

Here’s the place-mat – Place-mat_Italy

And here’s the quiz – Quiz_Italy

Where to next?

Next month we’re off to China. Lani wants me to help her do the quiz questions – I’m so excited that the kids are getting into the spirit of these lunches. Lani also wants to try some of the different Chinese foods before our lunch, although she keeps asking for dumplings with water in them – where on earth did she get that idea?

Sadly for now, it’s ciao and grazie to Italy, and ni hao, to China.

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