October 28, 2014

Pumpkin Pistachio Bundt Cake

Last week I turned 27. As for every birthday, my first thought goes to what I have done in the year that passed, and to where I am now.  The second goes to cake – to all the cakes I'd have in the previous years, and those I'd like to have in the future.

As I was eating my rustic, nutty birthday cake, these memories suddenly came to mind. I wrote them down as they came, following the stream of my thought. What came out of it is a story about a pastry shop and its cakes. 

The recipe doesn't have much to do with any of those cakes, but it is one I have been making and that I love deeply, as it has all I like, as an adult, about cakes: a subtle sweetness, rustic appearance, a moist crumb and a warming feeling. It also contains three of my favourite ingredients: pumpkin puree, pistachios and almonds. Good for birthdays or for those lazy Sundays spent writing indoors with a cup of coffee on your side.

October 14, 2014

A Lunch at Petersham Nurseries

It wasn't my first time at Petersham Nurseries. Yet, the place seems to change its skin at every visit – an ever-evolving being, dancing along with the seasons and the weather and the moods.

We were there for a lunch and wine tasting event. Arriving early – something rather unusual for me – I went on exploring the nurseries of plants and flowers, unusually colourful for being early autumn. From every corner, I could hear the muffled noises coming from the tea house, serving light lunches and teas to people looking for a corner of peace and beauty in what is the London countryside; and the bustling cafe – a restaurant really – in full Saturday service swing, alive with the sound of plates and coutlery. For a good while, I got lost in thought among the outdoor patches, hiding behind tall flowers and vased trees, admiring the casually messy yet so elegant compositions of species and colours. Measured wilderness – almost impossible to reach when one tries so hard. Effortless beauty.

I could have spent hours in the shop nestled in one of the nurseries, browsing eclectic pieces of furniture mingled and morphed with elegant flatware and stoneware, shabby chic gardening tools, and fine cotton textiles. They all have been carefully picked in markets and artisan shops all over the world, creating unusual, well-thought pairings and contrasts. I saw myself falling in love with a set of white ceramic plates and bowls, and with the cupboard hosting them. One day, I thouhgt.

I came back from my explorations right in time for lunch. The theme of the tasting was Friuli Venezia Giulia, the region of Italy bordering Slovenia on the furthest North East side. Wine was going to be from the region, with food paired accordingly. Welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine, we sat and nibbled on Parmesan crisps and grissini hugged by a generous slice of San Daniele prosciutto. I was slowly warming up to the crowd, trying to come out of my bubble of shyness, and getting to know the people around us. I was immediately fascinated by the story of the Scottish man of Iranian origins sitting in front of me. Predictably, we ended up talking about the food culture in our respective countries for the whole length of the meal.

The first course arrived promptly: fresh 'paglia and fieno' (literally, hay and straws, the green given by the presence of spinach in the pasta dough) with mushrooms and zucchini flowers, a delicate start washed down by a fresh, crisp white Tocai Friulano. Braised rabbit followed, served on creamy polenta alongside sweet roasted heirloom carrots. Paired with a pale pink pinot grigio, this dish brought the meal to a whole different level. Cheese closed the lunch rather than dessert, in order to present the last red wine in the list of tastings. On the platter, moreish sweet muscat grapes and milky wet walnuts helped alternate the saltiness of a delicious ubriaco cheese, which I kept reaching for the ever last morsel.

More wine? Why not. Coffee? Sure. Lost in conversation, we stood up not earlier than 5pm. Light and sated, and with dusk fast approaching, we headed back to Richmond through the meadows, and along the Thames. The path was now silent. A fine autumn night upon us.

Disclaimer: Lara kindly invited us to take part to the wine tasting lunch organised by Petersham Cellars as her guests. All views are my own.