Wow. That was a long break; I took a shorter one when I had Bea! You may or may not know that Adam and I just (late August) got married in Umbria, Italy. It was beautiful, amazing, perfect. But you know me, I like to paint a true picture, warts and all… Honestly, it was a shock to me exactly how tiring it was. And now I understand why people get married then have children, not the other way around. It was so much fun but such hard work, balancing partying and wedding preparation with early starts and teething babies. We hosted the wedding ourselves at the big old house we rented, and the wedding itself came after a week of late nights and high jinx, so as you can imagine we were a little pooped afterwards. A ‘familymoon’ in Tuscany followed, again great but bloody tiring. I think the penny is finally dropping: life with little kids is ALWAYS exhausting. Just get over it woman (I hear you cry!)…
So yes it was an emotional roller coaster. Laughing till I cried one minute, then crying till I laughed the next. The best bit? Spending time, not just one day, with my close family and friends. And, of course, finally sealing the deal with my lovely and amazing husband. I couldn’t wait to come home and get back to normal as a married couple actually. When it comes down to it, that’s when I’m happiest. On a Sunday afternoon, roast in the oven, music on, glass of wine on hand, cuddling up with my kids and my soulmate, my now husband.
So, here’s what I learned about Italian food whilst we were out there: they season – heavily. And it really makes the simple ingredients sing. They are very proud of their regional food, and they don’t eat much else. This is a good thing, I think, but it highlighted how different we Brits are in that respect. They are so passionate about their local and seasonal ingredients, which they should be, and it’s wonderful – but they don’t appear to eat much else. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s very different to who we are as British people. I feel that the only good thing to come from the British Empire is that we have become, not everyone but most of us, cosmopolitan in the true sense of the word. In Manchester you eat food from different cultures every day of the week – our diet here is a reflection of the community around us. In Italy it’s all about, well, Italy! Who can blame then though really with such fabulous food? We adored the local Pecorino cheese, just picked fresh ceps, salty slices of perfect Margarita pizza, and giant slices of finocchiona – but the first thing we ate when we got home was a Thai takeaway!
This dish I actually created in Italy, influenced by the simplicity of food there. There was a tiny shop (it also served as the bar, coffee shop, and a very good restaurant too) across from the house. It stocked limited but very good supplies. I needed to cook a quick lunch for me and Bea one day, so I bought some big tomatoes that smelt amazing, a tin of cannellini beans, some garlic, some butter, and a huge lemon. I picked some rosemary from the garden. I whipped up this dish on the hop, and it was damn tasty. I mushed up half and spread it on some rustic country bread as a bruschetta and had the other half as was. I used butter when I first made the dish as the shop had run out of olive oil. But when I got home I changed to olive oil – either, actually, works well. The kids absolutely love this. I make it quite regularly now, as a quick lunch normally. It’s on the table in 15 minutes, and makes for a nice alternative to normal beans on toast. It’s classy enough to do as a starter or as a side to roast lamb for adults too.
Tomatoes are just coming to the end of their season. This would be a perfect way to use overripe ones that you have grown yourself. Or buy some good quality ones from the shop – however do not attempt this with watery, hard, flavourless ones though (or tinned) – it just won’t work.
To make enough for 2 adults or 1 adult and 2 children:
1 tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil (or a large knob of butter)
Few stalks of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped finely
2 or 3 very large tomatoes, or equivalent amount of small ones, chopped roughly (don’t bother skinning or deseeding)
Good squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper (be generous)
Small mugful of water
- Heat your olive oil or butter over a medium heat using a heavy bottomed frying pan or similar. Add your garlic when bubbling. Soften the garlic but don’t let it brown.
- Throw in your rinsed beans. Toss in the garlicky oil.
- Now tip in the chopped tomatoes. Toss again. And the chopped fresh rosemary (do not use dried!), a squeeze of lemon and add a splash of water. Turn the heat right up to get it bubbling, then turn down to a medium high heat, adding more water when needed.
- Cook for about 15 minutes at quite a bubble, always adding more water as it sucks up the liquid. It should have thickened up nicely after this time. Season well. You may want to add more lemon.
- Pour a little good quality olive oil over to serve and eat with rustic country bread.