“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
This is a fast food kids favourite suggested by an Italian single mum who lives in Rome. I interviewed her once about the dilemmas facing Italian working mums, including the pressure to spend huge amounts of time in the kitchen. She certainly doesn’t bow to that expectation, hence her speedy crostini, ready in under 15 minutes. All you need are the ingredients for a basic ham and mozzarella sandwich, plus an egg, whack the oven on and you’re laughing. For a more grown-up twist, replace cooked ham with saltier parma ham or some finely chopped anchovy fillets, cut the cooked crostini into small bitesize squares and nibble with a glass of wine, or two depending on how your day has been.Read 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
I learned to make this simple cake standing in the kitchen that used to belong to one of Sicily’s most notorious mafia gangsters. I’m sure he’d have been a dab hand at dicing the apple but luckily he’s in a high security prison. His country property has been repossessed and turned into a restaurant and guesthouse. It’s lovely chef saw how much we loved her apple breakfast cake and there it was every morning waiting for us. Soft, plump and packed with juicy bits of apple. She says this was a firm favourite with her three girls when they were little. This is a cake that keeps really well and is also perfect for a tea time treat. I was so determined to recreate it’s aesthetic beauty as well as taste that I brought home a rather lovely silicone ciambellone or ring mould. It’s possible to buy them outside Italy if you want to look on the internet or in kitchen shops. If not then a normal loaf tin is fine too. I don’t mind at all.Read More
Pieces of delicious green fluffiness. This souffle is a bit like a quiche without the base and is perfect for the whole family. It can be cut into small cubes for younger children and babies who’ve already been introduced to eggs. Today for lunch we all ate it alongside cold meats and salad. It’s also great with a bbq or eaten cold at a picnic.Read More
What’s not to love about cool pink sandwiches for a dessert or snack? The icy crunch of chilled watermelon combined with silky sweet ricotta. Irresistable. This embarrasingly simple idea makes a healthy change from endless lollies and ice-cream. Little people love helping cut the shapes out and bigger people might also like to try these with a slice or two of parma ham, and a nice glass of chilled white wine.Read More