Friday, 16 June 2017

It's Amber Nectar Time Again

Cheap, delicious, easy - give yourselves a treat and make Apricot Conserve - recipe courtesy Perpetua. 
Currently apricots are only £1.50 a kilo.
1 kilo stoned apricots
750 grams sugar
That's it - two ingredients - absolutely nothing else!
  Place the washed and stoned apricots in a large bowl covered in all the sugar for at least 18 - 24 hours. After that time they will look like the photo below - this is known as macerating

The apricots are now surrounded by their own concentrated viscous juice and the sugar has almost dissolved - even if some sugar remains it is alright to go ahead as it will breakdown during boiling.
Bring them gently to the boil. When boiling point is reached, simmer for 20 - 25 mins.
Put into warm sterilised jars, screw on lids -
  that's it, what could possibly be easier or quicker
Now you have the main ingredient to make some easy Apricot & Amaretto ice cream too
350grams creme fresh (full fat)
350grams Greek yogurt (full fat)
300grams apricot conserve
licqueur glass of Amaretto
gently fold the creme fresh and yogurt together, then swirl in the apricot conserve
Churn as per your ice cream machines instructions, after a few minutes add the Amaretto - the alcohol makes for a softer ice cream.
Almond licqueur and apricots are a perfect marriage.

 If you don't have a machine you can place the mixture straight into a lidded container in the freezer and keep mixing it yourself from time to time.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Olive Groves, Vineyards, and Trullis

  The Province of Bari, Puglia, is home to olive oil, wine, and dwellings called Trullis.
 Trullis are scattered all across the landscape where they serve as both simple protective shelters and places to live. You see them in olive groves and vineyards, some are farm dwellings, or domestic homes, and Trullis are now popular as holiday lets.
There origins are obscure, though the name is traditionally applied to ancient round tombs found in the Roman countryside. These little buildings are said to cope well with summers heat as well as winters cold.
The town of Alberobello with its many conical 'hobbitesque' dwellings is considered to be the Trulli capital of the area.
Many of what were once homes have been turned into shops selling specialised local produce and restaurants
The pinnacles of the conical rooftops terminate in various different styles and
some of the roofs are painted with pagan, christian, or magic symbols considered to be a protective element for the residents dwelling inside.

There is even a Trulli church although it is only 90 years old.
  Alberobello is geared up to catering for the tourists, but we enjoyed having a wander around, and purchased several packets of specialised local pasta to pop in our suitcases.

We were very happy to have an opportunity to visit the unspoilt hilltop town of Locorotondo a few miles away. There we met a young Italian wine producer who showed us around his own beautifully preserved Trulli farm and vineyard. His wife gave us a tasty buffet of local produce and we sampled all of his different wines.

In southern Italy you may have been confused by the fact that I have called this region either Apulia or Puglia, but they are one and the same thing - Apulia is the regions traditional Latin name from antiquity, and Puglia is its modern name.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


Sitting beside the Adriatic Sea, the city of Bari is the capital of the Apulian region in southern Italy
The only previous information that I knew about Bari was discovered on a holiday taken in Turkey three years ago. I learnt that the 744 year old relics of St. Nicholas were purloined in 1087 from the ancient city of Myra, Asia Minor (now Demre in Turkey), and taken by Italian seafaring raiders back to their home in Bari
It was common practice back in the Middle Ages to steal holy relics as they attracted lots of pilgrims. Visiting pilgrims need to be housed, fed, and provided with souvenirs, so relics became a source of income not only for the destinations that held them, but also for the abbeys, churches, and towns en route.  
The fairy lights are connected with a religious festival held each and every May to celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of the relics 930 years ago.
Basilica di San Nicola is one of Puglia's first great Norman churches and was built specifically to house the relics.

Inside the basilica there was a statue of St. Nicholas which is carried aloft from the basilica each and every May before it is placed on a boat where it rides the sea for the Festa di San Nicola. As I mentioned earlier the festival celebrates the anniversary of the arrival of the relics, and Roman Catholic pilgrims visit from all over the region to follow the procession at sea in many colourful flotillas. The next day there is a huge outdoor mass where the saint is venerated, and on the last night of the festival there is a spectacular firework display

We found that the relics are held in a reliquary kept down in the crypt, but on climbing down the steep stone stairway were surprised to discover a Christian Orthodox ceremony taking place. The crypt was full of Russian men and women, some of whom were prostrating themselves on the floor as they then made their way to the reliquary and placed the upper part of their body through an opening in it.
We sensed that something very significant for them was taking place but had no idea what. 
On our return home we heard on the news that a small part of St. Nicholas's rib had been removed from the reliquary around the time of our visit. With previous special consent from the Pope it was flown to Moscow in a chartered plane. At this moment thousands of Russians are flocking into Moscow in order venerate, touch, and kiss the casket containing the rib of St. Nicholas. Apparently President Putin has already visited.
You can see some interesting videos here showing the arrival of the casket in Moscow and it's departure from Bari. The delivery of the reliquary was marked by the festive ringing from all of Moscows more than 600 churches. The commencement of the ringing began with 'Ivan' the rarely-used great bell in the tower at the Kremlin.
 The rib will remain in Moscow until mid June when it will then be transferred to St. Petersburg before returning back to Bari sometime in July. 
St. Nicholas is Russia's most loved and revered saint. 

Saturday, 3 June 2017


I like to return home from Italy with a selection of different pastas 
Roast some tasty small sweet fresh tomatoes,
sprinkle with olive oil, a small crunch of good qualty sea salt, a little sugar, and some balsamic vinegar
 roast until caramalised
Whilst roasting tomatoes cook your pasta - this is Foglie d'ulivo -a spinach flavoured pasta resembling the leaves found on an olive trees
I also returned home with several packets of a pasta mixture containing dried herbs, sundried tomatoes, garlic and chilli etc. It has such lovely colouring that it almost looks fresh - the flavour is good too
When the pasta is cooked, mix in some olive oil, a mixture of herbs, fresh or dried, and two finely crushed cloves of fresh garlic

 Top with tomatoes and serve with freshly grated
parmesan cheese and a green salad 

Thursday, 1 June 2017


 Ostuni is a small white hilltop town with a lovely cathedral at its heart
In the main square is a statue of their patron saint - Sant'Oronzo. Legend tells that he saved the people of Ostuni from the plague by instructing them to white wash themselves with same lime that they used to paint their homes thus ensuring that they were cleansed and protected from the plague: lime wash is apparently naturally anti-bacterial.

 Built between 1435 and 1495 in the late Gothic style with a magnificent finely carved rose window. The interior of the church is c18th and has a handpainted ceiling
Opposite the entrance to the cathedral is the Scoppa Arch forming a courtyard linking the seminary buildings
The glory of the cathedral is the Neapolitan painted ceiling showing scenes from the boyhood of Jesus during Passover at the temple in Nazareth

It is really not surprising that older Italian women seem to be slim and fit climbing up and down all of these steps and hillsides each day whilst going about their daily tasks.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Walled Garden

 We've had some very hot weather since our return,

and it has been lovely to have time to relax
and enjoy the garden

The flowers in this area have an ethereal quality - we leave them to their own devices to seed and scattered around.
 There could be a happy ending to our Boxus balls that got blight - strangely, and rather unusually, they have started to regrow again, as can be seen above.
However, the Box still look rather shaby, but we are filled with hope.