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Issue 71 - The holiday romance

Scotland Magazine Issue 71
October 2013

 

This article is 4 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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The holiday romance

?Sue Lawrence looks back on summers past and dreams of food encounters

Now that summer has ended and the autumn nights are drawing in, we grudgingly accept that the cooler weather is here to stay. So this is the time to think back longingly to holidays. Especially if it is pouring rain or so chilly you have finally given in and switched on the heating; you want happy memories of heat and sunshine.

Although travel to such places as Goa, Ecuador or Namibia are no longer unusual, it is to the Mediterranean that most of us in Britain go, if we are lucky enough to have a week or two off work.

Though British tourists only used to travel to France, Spain and Greece, now the entire Mediterranean is populated by British holiday-makers. From Tunisia to Sicily, Corsica to Crete, we are there, in our droves, wanting to soak up sun, sea, sights and, for most of us, also local cuisine. Although there are resorts that still imagine Brits Abroad only eat fish and chips and drink warm beer, there are also places where you can eat as the locals do. Holiday memories are often full of food-based vignettes. I will never forget the lunch, served on long trestle tables in an orchard in eastern Turkey, of home-baked flat bread fresh from the oven, with garden herbs, fresh white cheese, spit-roast lamb then apricots plucked straight from the branches above our heads. Or the wedding banquet in Provence which went on for hours, each fabulous course interrupted by jazz music loud enough to momentarily drown out the shrill drone of the cicadas, all ending up with caramel-drenched profiteroles from the Croquembouche that was as tall as the bride herself. Or the goat and chips in a ramshackle taverna on a tiny island while sailing near Kephalonia. This memory is strong not only because, strange as it sounds, the goat-chips combination was divine, all basted with local herbs and olive oil , but also, as we sat under the gnarled old olive trees, the sun set slowly over the Ionian Sea and the hills over the bay assumed the most extraordinarily rosy hue.

I will always remember in northern Italy, almost expiring with hunger as we tried restaurant after restaurant for an admittedly rather late lunch, only to give up and park at the café of a town’s swimming pool. My heart lifted, however, as I saw a long table of locals tucking into pasta, for as I sniffed the air, I could detect truffle. This was home-made pasta with shaved truffles, and as we sat overlooking the water, in an incongruous setting for such divine fare, I surmised that, were this a public swimming pool in Britain, we might have a choice of some sort of burger or hot-dog. The following dishes are some that you might recognise from holidays abroad. In Barcelona, every restaurant you go into will offer their simple tomato bread. This is Catalonia’s equivalent of Italian bruschetta, though the Spanish version is softer than bruschetta as the toast is first smeared with juicy tomatoes. Camembert served in Normandy is of course wonderful just as it is, but baked in a light pastry crust here, it becomes a truly memorable dish. And finally pasta with courgettes and lemon simply says southern Italy to me and hot sunny dinners on the Amalfi coastline. So, cheer yourself up over a dreary, wet weekend with sunshine food from the Med – and hopefully some abiding memories. 

Catalan Tomato Bread
Based on that simple but delicious Catalan dishes “Pa amb Tomaquet. Be sure to use vine ripened tomatoes with bags of flavour.
4 thick slices of sourdough or pain de campagne 2 ripe vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in half crosswise extra-virgin olive oil sea salt 4 - 8 anchovy fillets, drained, slivered Toast the bread lightly on both sides. Rub both sides of the bread with the cut tomatoes, squeezing gently to leave a good smear of red. Place on plate and drizzle with oil then sprinkle over a little salt. Top with anchovies and serve at once, with a knife and fork.

Camembert en croute 
Add some finely chopped thyme leaves to the pastry for added flavour
175g / 6 oz plain flour half tsp caster sugar 125 g / 4½oz unsalted butter 2 egg yolks milk 250g / 9 oz whole round camembert, wrappers removed Place the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor with half tsp salt and whiz then add 1 egg yolk about enough milk to combine to a stiff dough : 1 – 2 tsp.
Gather together into a ball, clingwrap and chill for an hour then roll out into a circle. Place the cheese in the middle. Draw the pastry to cover the pie then place, neat side up, on a tight-fitting oven dish. Paint the top with egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven ( 190C / 375F / Gas5) for 35 – 40 minutes untie golden. Serve with bread or new potatoes to dunk, and a big green salad on the side.

Pasta with courgette, lemon and cream
Leaving the courgettes unpeeled makes the dish look even better.
3 courgettes, washed, dried, cut into chunks knob of butter and sploosh of olive oil 350g / 12 oz penne approx 150 ml/ 5 fl oz double cream the grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemon 2 - 3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese Saute the courgettes in the butter and oil until tender and a little brown at the edges. Season them.
Cook the pasta then drain.

Add enough cream to the courgettes to make a rich sauce, add the lemon zest, warm through and check seasoning. Drain pasta, toss into the cream and courgette sauce, adding parmesan to taste and a good grinding of black pepper. Warm the pasta through then eat.