One of my most memorable holidays as a child was when we went on a family road trip to the south of France and on the way back we just passed through the borders of Italy and stayed there for a night. The holiday was not memorable for the reasons that most people remember holidays for, but because after a week of being in our villa we just seemed to have disaster after disaster, but looking back on it now it was so funny. I won’t go into the specifics as we are here to talk about food, but let’s just say one highlight involved the 6 of us crammed into our car along with all our tent gear and our trailer on top of the car as the tyre had burst…Luckily I kept a ‘holiday diary’ when I was younger so can re-live the memories whenever I want to. I also seemed to have glued every holiday piece of paper memorabilia into my diary, hence why I still have the receipt from our Italian evening. Now as it was getting towards the end of the holiday, I was obviously getting bored with it and my recollections seemed to get less detailed as we went along so the above entry didn’t really describe at all how the evening went at all, but I will try again now.
It was all of ours’ first trip to Italy. After arriving at a very busy campsite in Demonte, we went in search of our evening meal. As we walked through the cobbled streets of a nearby village, the only place that was open was an old Italian Hotel which also opened its restaurant to the public. Nobody there spoke English and I remember hearing some waitors running into the kitchen shouting ‘Inglesi! Inglesi!’ When we walked into the restaurant everyone stared at us, it was like one of those moments in a film when hush descends, the tinkling of cutlery on plates stops and everyone looks up and watches your every step to your table. But as soon as we took our seats it was a hub of activity again, holidaying Italian families sitting through about 12 courses, waiters rushing round with bowls of food in their hands and trollies to serve to the hungry guests. The primo piatto was spaghetti con ragu and my brother James didn’t seem to grasp the fact that until you said that that was enough, they would keep putting spaghetti on your plate. His eyes nearly popped out of his head as the spaghetti was piled onto his plate until my mum told him that he had to stay stop. Luckily James has a ferocious appetite and as you know, spag bol is one of our favourites, so he was fine. Then we had stuffed courgettes with lamb, breadcrumbs and herbs I seem to remember for our secondo piatto. I had been learning Italian at school and everyone was asking me what everything meant and if I knew what the word was for this or that. Not being very confident I was so nervous and seemed to get brain block for any Italian words. So I don’t think I really ate as much as I usually would as I was nervous and I could just feel my tummy churning round. Mum and Dad ordered a bottle of red wine and Mum asked me if I would like a glass to ‘calm my nerves’. Now I used to hate wine then but the moment the claret liquid passed through my lips I thought it tasted wonderful.
So despite all my nerves, we all did have a fantastic evening and a true taste of Italy. We also manged to get by on a combination of French and my basic Italian. One of the recipes we took away from that trip was the peaches some of us had for dolce (dessert) and in the summer we try and recreate them. We are still not 100% sure how they made them but our version tastes similar and it is very simple, just peaches, halved and the stones removed from the inside. Then add in a thumb sized piece of marzipan to each centre, a square of good quality dark chocolate and a good splash of Amaretto. Wrap them in foil and put them on the BBQ to cook or in the oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes or until the peaches are soft and cooking in their own juices. Serve will a dollop of cream or ice cream or both!