“What’s THAT?” demands my daughter accusingly. I’d sneaked into the kitchen whilst she was watching TV to make her a snack inspired by my latest Italian reporting trip. ” Yes I know it’s a tomato…” I say defensively.”But Mummy, I don’t eat tomatoes. EVER!” Hm, sound familiar?
I crouch down and hold the offending tomato up at eye level between us. “Look..” I say, in my best persuasive voice. “I know you don’t eat a tomato like THIS. But you really like tomato sauce don’t you?” She nods. “And you like tomato puree because you suck it out of the tube don’t you?” Nods again. “Good. All I am going to do is take a tiny bit of juice out of this tomato, and spread it on your bread with some olive oil because I thought you might like to try the snack that some very grown up big girl Italian children eat. Will you try it please?” She eyes the tomato and transfers the same distrustful gaze to me. “OK then, I’ll try.” she says. Victory. ”But NO pippy seed things, they’re yukky”.
So I carefully cut the tomato and scoop out the seeds before rubbing the flesh onto a piece of bread. A drizzle of olive oil, and it’s ready. The traditional after school snack that generations of Italians were brought up on, until supermarkets started filling aisle upon aisle with cakey things in shiny wrappers, and giant jars of Nutella.
One group of young Italians in Puglia was so utterly affronted by this, they set up a “festival of granny sandwiches”. The aim was to reeducate people about the old fashioned simple recipes. Since the economic crisis they’ve had unprecedented levels of interest from families looking to the traditional more economic way of feeding children. I was lucky enough to be able to go to the festival and write a piece for BBC News Magazine.CLICK HERE TO READ BBC NEWS ARTICLE
However it was one particular interview with a paediatric nutrionist at the festival which sent me on my own personal guilt trip. As we chatted in the balmy evening surrounded by thousands of families, he explained that many busy Italian mums have now got used to feeding kids prepacked cakes and biscuits, or big dollops of chocolate spread on bread. The result he said was that children have lost the taste for savoury stop gaps between meals. When I laughingly admitted that my daughter was rather partial to the chocolate hazelnut stuff on bread, he shook his head reproachfully and went on to tell me how unhealthy it is, giving an elaborate description of the evil fats and sugars. Aghhh! It’s one thing to make a mum feel guilty, and another to make her feel guilty when she’s several hundred miles from home. So I returned to the UK with a steely resolve to make biscuits and chocolates less frequent treats and to introduce some savoury snacks (although I can’t quite give up chocolate buttons for blackmail purposes).
So I guess you might be wondering how the oily tomato bread went down with my little tomato hater? After she used a toy magnifying glass to inspect for stray tomato seeds, she did eat some and went so far as to say it was nice. But that might have been down to the glass of chocolate milk alongside. Small steps and all that!
Ingredients – I don’t need to do I?
Method – If you’re dealing with a tomato-phobe, remove all pips!
And of course I’d love to know your thoughts… xRead More
Before I embark on a description of how light and fluffy this easy orange cake is, I feel I should explain myself. Perhaps a mea culpa doesn’t matter amid the gorge (collective noun?) of food bloggers posting with hearty gusto out there. However I have failed spectacularly to blog a single recipe in recent weeks. My excuse? Things have been a little hectic of late. In a sort of leaving my staff job, and setting myself up as a freelance journalist kind of a way. But my new business is now up and running and I’m now into my third week of not, I repeat, not getting up at 5am to be in the newsroom for 6. I’m already feeling like a new person. So what better way to celebrate than with cake. This recipe is from the family of a Sicilian man I interviewed for a BBC radio documentary.Read More
This week I emailed a busy Italian journalist and mum I know in Rome and asked her what she cooks her kids when she’s up against it, with hardly any time to think, let alone plan meals, shop and cook. In case you hadn’t guessed, that’s where I’m at now. Too much going on, and too little time to do it in. But enough about me. Her suggestion was simple and nutritious with the bonus of hidden vegetables. I had this frittata on the table in under 15 minutes from when I started making it. Daughter loved it, courgettes and all. Not sure she spotted them under the ketchup to be honest! She certainly wasn’t fooled by the lovely glossy cherry tomatoes you see in my photo. “I don’t eat tomatoes Mummy. Not ever.” So I served her tomato-free frittata along with some potato croquettes I remembered to pop in the oven. Leftover frittata can be eaten cold.Read More
Combining a family holiday with a spot of journalism made for an unusual trip. Of course we enjoyed lazy breakfasts and late lunches overlooking the rugged hills near Corleone. We also went to meet some of my contacts involved in fighting the mafia, and visited businesses formerly owned by notorious gangsters.
You can read the finished article here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15726135
It’s rather different researching a story with a small person in tow. Spontaneous opportunities were sometimes abruptly, even rudely curtailed. I found myself declining an impromptu offer to chat with a local mayor. That crazed hungry stare in my daughter’s eyes meant we were 10 minutes away from meltdown. Sorry Mr Mayor, interesting as you are, you have to come second now.Read More
After 2 years living in Italy, I had to buy an extra case to bring back my very neccessary emergency shoe purchases. I’m returning home after this Sicily trip with rather different accessories. There’s my new silicon cake mould in this season’s scarlet, and a doorstop of Parmesan that’s going to stop the fridge door from closing. There’s also the bag full of rocks, sadly not of the sparkly variety. My daughter insisted that all her friends would like a crumbly black pumice stone from mount Etna’s crater.
Most importantly though, I’m bringing back around 30 fabulous new recipes given to me by the lovely people I revisited around Sicily. Some welcomed us into their kitchens to meet their families and friends and to demonstrate how to recreate the dishes their own children loved and still love. They didn’t mind at all when my daughter wanted to help with the cooking, clapped with delight when she demonstrated her egg breaking skills, and waved away my apologies when she spilt flour all over the floor.Read More
It’s a strange feeling when you’re about to revisit people and places last encountered at a very different point in your life.
This occurred to me as we finally finished squeezing all the toddler paraphernalia into an enormous bag, and squashed cereal bars and colouring books into our hand-luggage. All at the last minute. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed. I’ve never been good at packing in advance.
Whenever I made one of my many trips to Sicily for work it was generally with very little time to pack and prepare; that’s the business of breaking news for you. It meant I always arrived late at the airport trailing a rather suspicious looking case containing my satellite dish for radio broadcasts, an unsightly spaghetti of cables bursting from the pockets. Amazingly that bag was never searched at Italian security and yet I was perpetually late for check in. A last minute purchase of a glossy Chanel lipstick from duty free was of course crucial to hone my reporting skills. This time I’m not sure our trip justifies new posh cosmetics. More likely a packet of chocolate buttons to keep the small person quiet on the plane.Read More