My Blog List

Friday, 29 July 2011

Update from Fano

Buongiorno from Italy again! Did not have too much to say for myself this last week as working at the restaurant and not moving around much. The hours, as I said before, are pretty gruelling so it's just been head down and getting on with learning as much as I can. When Stefano arrives, I will be doing a lot more travelling and hopefully I will sound more exciting then I do right now :)

However in the kitchen I'm learning so much about seafood and I am loving working in a restaurant that insists on freshness and quality ingredients. I love seeing all the fresh produce and the fish arriving every morning. Yesterday morning I did get quite a surprise when this 50kg swordfish arrived and I was saying…"um…well… I don't have to cut this up do I ?" J Instead I was given 40kg of mussels to clean – good grief there are no small quantities here!

This morning I dared to get up at the crack and headed down to the market at 6am with Flavio, who personally chooses everything each morning. I was amazed, that at this time of the morning, the market was buzzing with most vendors already set up by 6h30 and the first customers arriving…walking their dogs or on bicycle to buy fresh fish and beautiful produce.

During the last week besides the abundant fishies, I have also been learning to make some gorgeous desserts (I LOVE the Amaretto Frozen Mousse!!!) and assist with the bread making. Elide makes fresh bread for the restaurant every day – plain little rolls with sesame seeds, mini pizza rolls with tomato, olive oil & oregano filling baked inside, a sweeter loaf with nuts & sultanas and a huge yummy pizza bread with various toppings which is truly delicious (the onion, salt & olive oil one shown here) – I love making the breads with her every day but can't say I'm good enough to get a job at Vov yet ha J )

I will say however coming from a family who are huge animal activists in Port Elizabeth (please search for Animal Outreaches on Facebook and have a look at the amazing work my Dad & Mum do in and around the townships of the Eastern Cape)…. Wherever I travel there will always be a stray animal or two that I get attached to and want to help.

On my first day here I discovered a small colony of semi feral cats who live in the alley behind the restaurant. There are about 15 of them, but I particularly fell for the very tame mummy cat and her lovely tabby babies… I was far away from any shops to get cat food and would never take anything I shouldn't from the restaurant, but was desperate to feed them. There was plenty of fish waste thrown in the bin that the kitties would love so I scrumaged in the bin (once again I mention how glamorous I am! J ) and hid the calamari from the bin in Stefs camera bag ….. it stayed there till that evening (and its hot!) and let me tell you dears in that heat, I still get a whiff every time I use the camera! LOL! In fact I haven't told Stef yet, but I'm sure he is reading this now and smiling shaking his head, because he knows what I'm like when it comes to animals. J Well needless to say they are all being fed very well now!

I miss my animals at home terribly… late at night when I finish my shift… I take my gelato outside and sit in the alley behind the restaurant on the step in the warm quiet evening… strangely enough, so far away from South Africa, I sit with the stray cats and this is where I feel most at home…

Till next time xxx

PS: 950 people read my last post from all over the world ... I can't believe it :)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Welcome to Fano, Italy !

After a very cool weekend in London (16 degrees you gotta LOVE those British summers !), I landed in a hot & humid Ancona - clear blue skies & sweltering heat - goodbye SA winter hello my Italian summer!

Cousin Linda kindly collected me at the airport, dumped my bags & off we headed to the beach :) Fano is a small seaside town on the Adriatic Sea, well known for its yacht building and woodwork (beautiful furniture, kitchens ect). We arrived at the main beach called Lido & I was flabbergasted at how packed it was on a Tuesday afternoon - forgetting its holiday time here.

Gorgeous bronzed bikini clad bodies everywhere & amidst them, 2 hours later, a wee pink Scottish lobster, looking every inch the tourist with camera around her neck snapping photos at anything that moved ! We sauntered to a lovely beach cafe called Chalet, which Linda says is packed & vibing on a Thursday eve) and had a cold drink & pizza - to return to our loungers to bask later - THIS IS THE LIFE!! not a lover of cold water & big waves, swimming in the warm Adriatic was a dream. The next day was spent doing the same - absolute bliss- and just as well as I had no idea of the work & long hours that awaited me at the restaurant on Wed :) (

So I arrived at work at 9 the next morning to find all the wonderful fresh fish being delivered & let me tell you it was PLENTY!!! Many different verieties which we don't get in SA. I also met the kitchen crue whom I immediately liked - so jovial, fun, friendly & crazy (you need to be a bit daft to work 15 hour days in a restaurant kitchen right ? ) Alessio & Andrea (both 33) - work like mad people - sooooo fast & productive, yet singing, shouting & swearing all the way! I learnt the swearing fast as its repeated... a lot !!! (I got onto Whatsapp with Stef and said what does "this" mean...and he had a good laugh :) )

What a didn't realise at the time is that I had started on a particularly difficult day, a. the owners Flavio & Elide were away catering in Rome & Elide is the ONLY one who speaks any English. b. there was a big funtion table that night - so rediculously busy c. had arrived in a heatwave of 36 degress with almost 100% humidity, however standing next to the old fasioned open coal grill made the kitchen around 40 degrees! (Picture above of Andrea by the grill, no comment on the rude t shirt :) and a grilled seafood plate below)
It was very interesting to see how we managed to communicate with my limited Italian & plenty gestures. First things first, all that fish needs to be prepared and cleaned fast in that heat...they were very kind to start me off on the easy little fishes. Some of the larger ones needed their heads cut off with a huge knive / axe and everyone but me stood back as they did this ... I think my face was quite a picture when all the revolting fish juices splashed all over my face when he whacked it :) they kept saying Scusa Jeneeeefeer Scusa ! while falling around laughing at me :)

So I donned my tight black latex gloves & started pulling the heads off the sardines & digging out the guts (100's of them !) Next only calamari where I think I was sticking my finger up its bum and pulling goodness knows what out..I hate to think!! YES chaps its ALL GLAMOUR here in a fishy kitchen :) !! Please disregard the lovely photo in the Weekend post ( - she is now a "make-upless", sweaty person sticking her fingers up fishes bums! :)

Speaking of bums, the lads have nick named me Jennifer Lopez - I think this is the only other Jennifer they have heard of. I have seriously strong doubts that is because I am as beautiful and more likely that my bum is just as big :) You have to say it with a strong Italian accent...Jeeeenifeeer Lopeeez... every time they say it I crack up laughing.

Next onto preparing for the lunch & dinner and with such a big menu, I honestly don't know how they manage to make all the special sauces, stocks, desserts, clean & prepare all that fish...but they do! I'm desperately trying to to my jobs, while simultaneously keeping one eye on Alessio to see what he is putting in all the secret sauces and trying to understand what they are saying!! (oh dear not a bloody clue at this point!).

That night besides from a full restaurant, there was a table of 20 having so many different plates of food my mouth was gaping open. The waitors come roaring in (jacket & tie this heat nogal!) shouting orders in stucatto & the kitchen staff shout back louder! Alessio has every gas burning on the big hob bubbing with sauces & risotto & he loves throwing the pots & pans around making as much noise as possible. Its just as you would imaging a crazy Italian kitchen would be!! I find no matter where I stand I'm in the way - getting mowed over by the waitors - so I queitly retreat to the corner with my eyes on stalks & help pack the dishwasher - the only place I could be of use at this point as I have no idea what is going on!

By 11pm they could see I was about to fall over & told me to head to bed. They still continued to clean the kitchen SPOTLESS till 12h30 & returned at 8am with smiles ready for a new day. I was absolutely amazed at the level of hard work from the staff & of the responsibility while Flavio & Elide were away in Rome. Extremely long hours & relentless heat, excuted daily with a great attitute. Deli on Main was a walk in the park compared to this!

I would like to mention that during this week of long hours I have eaten pasta every day & delicious gelato every night after my shift & still have managed to drop 2kgs - girls this might just be the best wedding dress diet ever ha ha :)

I have consumed the most delicious seafood pastas I have ever tasted. Alessio & Andrea take great pride in continuously offering me tasters of everything they make. I am constantly scuttling around the kitchen, poking my nose in every pot & scribbling everything in my notepad like a little inspector :)

Today is first day off and spent much of it resting my aching bod & lieing on the beach. I have found even the little bars on the beach serve the most wonderful espresso (Caffe Saccaria) & freshly baked baguettes ...which I'm eating now as I type this....laden with olive oil grilled melanzane, courgettes, pesto and pine nuts.... I'm one happy girl (except to say I miss my Stef).

See you all next week with more news from the Italian kitchen...

love Jen ...intrepid traveller and soon to be fabulous cook ! xxxxx

ps: please take a few minutes to create a google account & become a follower on my blog or if you know of any of your Facebook friends interested in cooking click on the share on Facebook link on the blog page - thanks guys!
pps: sorry can't find the spell check on this blog thingy

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Working Very Hard !

Hi Everyone !

Ill be updating my blog on Monday after my first week in Italy. I am currently working extremely hard ... 12 hour shifts in a very very busy kitchen, so no time till Monday on my day off ... Ill see you soon. Love Jen xx

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Engaged in the Karoo!

The Karoo is a very special place for Stef & I, although I believe many would miss its beauty preferring the more tropical landscapes of other parts of South Africa....but me the arid scrubland, scattered by the many majestic mandarin aloes....the peace of watching the winter sun dip behind the mountains, is simply beautiful.

It has been written many a time about the Karoo that "the silence is so pure that you can hear God think...the stars so near that you can reach out and touch them"

A special friend allows us to visit their slice of paradise whenever we feel the need for the most pure form of tranquility. Nestled deep in a valley, which is all their own, lies a beautiful farmhouse, absolute phones, radio or television. Your radio is listening to the birds while sitting on a soft sofa on the wraparound veranda & your television is an indoor fireplace which just begs you to sit & enjoy a glass of wine (or 2 or 3..oh dear :) )

It was in front of this fireplace that Stef asked me to marry him .. I'm a very blessed & happy girl :) (no more details except to say it truly was the most magical weekend ever!)

We had a fabulous time cooking comfort winter fare...Stef had requested my slow cooked lamb curry (for his birthday) & I insisted on his "brodo" (Italian for broth) with artichoke filled ravioli and parmesan. Drop us off anywhere & we will make great food together! I'm already wondering how I will keep off the pounds while eating & cooking my way thru Italy, as I don't want to roll down the aisle in November :) (the bride will not be big fat & wide! :)

So my friends, it was the perfect time to be together before the exciting & crazy 3 month adventure ahead ...I leave on Thursday - ITALY HERE I COME!!

arrivederci e ci vediamo presto!