Montepulciano, Good Friday lunch

We are in Tuscany for Easter, at an agriturismo near Montepulciano with friends. Just wonderful. It is raining today, but we had a glorious say yesterday with lunch in Montepulciano.Vino nobile
Montepulciano is famous for wine, especially the vino nobile di Montepulciano….Brunello
…and the Brunello di Montepulciano are also amazing.
We had lunch here, at La bottega del Nobile.
Crostini, with carciofi, tartufo, fegato, garlic and spicy tomato. Lovely.
We had gorgeous pasta: pici con ragu di cinghiale, pici con ragu di anatra, and ravioloni with pork. Then cantucci with vin santo, and a wonderful Sambuca to finish. After wine and Sambuca shopping, we wandered up the hill for coffee at Polizano.
Olive wood
It is touristy, but so pretty! And you can find olive wood cutlery…
Fridge magnets
… Tacky fridge magnets….
Old masonry, set into a wall….
Yellow vespa
An Easter-yellow Vespa
New bishop
Signs welcoming the bishopBell
And this on top of a tower.
Then we headed out to our agriturismo, among vineyards and cypresses. Wonderful day!

Oatmeal-coconut stuffed baked apples


“Natale con i tuoi, pasqua come tu vuoi…..” I keep hearing this. Roughly translated: “Christmas you spend with family, Easter with those you wish.” Everyone seems to be counting down to Easter, though Easter Monday (Pasquetta) is the only day off for many Italians. The classic activity then is a picnic in the countryside, I am told. Yes, Good Friday is actually a working day here. Quite a contrast to a Norwegian Easter, which for many started last weekend as they headed to their mountain cabins for a week of skiing.

This is Rome, and it is spring, so we will be heading to Tuscany soon for three days of wine, cheese, and general Easter enjoyment. In anticipation of cheese shopping in Pienza, the fridge is being cleared out a bit. However, we had friends over for a weeknight dinner and needed a simple dessert with what was in the house. Aha! Baked apples it was.

Oatmeal-coconut stuffed baked apples

5 apples
40g coarse oatmeal
40g dessicated coconut
1/2 tsp cinnamon
40g butter, shaved in
40g golden syrup or honey

A little golden syrup or honey to drizzle over before baking
Serves five.

Core and peel the apples. You will be stuffing the apple centres later, so it is fine to have a slightly wide ex-core. I discovered this as I misjudged the apple core direction and needed to core some again……There is plenty of oatmeal stuffing though, you might need less if you are a better apple corer!


In a bowl, mix oatmeal, coconut, and cinnamon. Shave in the butter (a paring knife will help) so you can roughly amalgamate the mixture with a fork, like making crumble topping. Stuff the apples generously with oatmeal mixture, stand upright in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle a little golden syrupor honey over each apple, maybe 2 tsp for all apples together. If there is any extra oatmeal mixture, spoon it in next to the apples. Cover dish until ready to make.

Dinner going well? Heat oven to 200C. Bake 30 min or so at 200C, until the apples are slightly softened but not so long the stuffing burns. I baked these ten minutes covered, only because I forgot to take the glass lid off….. Then twenty minutes more, the apples should still have a little resistance. Turn off oven. Put lid on or cover, so it does not dry out, and serve when needed.

Notes: It might be nice with vanilla custard on the side, but this was lovely as was. Easy weeknight dessert that could be prepared in advance and popped in the oven when guests start eating dinner. Ours were chatty, so something robust enough to be left a bit worked well. I thought the apples might discolour without a squeeze of lemon juice, but the smidgen of golden syrup may have resolved that.


Easy sourdough polenta bread rolls for Sunday lunch

20140413-115840.jpgIt is a quiet Sunday morning in Rome, and we have a lunch invitation from friends with a private garden. Private gardens are rare here, as most of us live in flats, and even a large terrace is a luxury, though in most films set in Rome everyone seems to have rooftop terraces with stunning views. We like our little balcony, where I grow herbs and dry laundry, and where friends can smoke and watch the traffic.

Still, on a sunny spring like today, it will be glorious to go out for lunch, to drink prosecco in the sun, while the barbecue sizzles and we enjoy the company of good friends. They live near the Appia Antica, so we may end up there later. I should probably excavate some sunscreen, and a hat. As my contribution, I am bringing these easy sourdough polenta bread rolls.

Easy sourdough polenta bread rolls for Sunday brunch

100g mature sourdough starter (100% hydration, this one was rye/wheat based)
30g coarse rye flour
70g polenta
50g wholewheat flour
350g plain flour (here, 00)
350g water
5g salt (add after half an hour)

For baking, a little poppyseeds or mixed seeds

The evening before: mix the ingredients, and stir. Cover bowl with a shower cap. Leave for half an hour, then add salt and fold dough in bowl (a spatula or spoon works for me). Enjoy dinner and a couple old episodes of Black Books, and fold the dough a few more times. You will see the dough developing structure, and increasing slightly in volume. This is a typical 500g flour/350-400g water recipe, it generally works for both yeast and sourdough baking. More water may be needed, depending on the flours used. I added polenta this time, just for a little extra crunch.

Here’s the dough after a night in the fridge. And that’s my starter in the jar in the back, fed yesterday — I just do 50g or so, then feed before baking, without discarding extra starter – it seems to work. I’ve been leaving it unrefrigerated more, which seems to improve it, and baking smaller batches of bread. Anyway, back to the bread rolls:

Divide the dough in half, and roll it into a rough sausage shape. It will be quite sticky. Using a spatula or knife, divide each roll into 6-7 pieces. You could roll these into a nice tight shape, using more flour, but I wanted a more rustic type roll and just dolloped then onto a baking sheet with baking parchment. Optional: sprinkle some seeds on the rolls, pressing down slightly so they do not fall off. Let rolls rise 20 min or so while oven heats up.

Bake at 230C for 20-25 minutes or so, in the middle of the oven, until they look golden and sound hollow when tapped from below. These took about 25 min, a bit longer than expected, but done they are and off to lunch we now go, with piping hot rolls (and sunscreen….)

20140413-122912.jpgA very good Sunday to you all!

Notes: I started the dough last night, you could swap out the sourdough with 1 dry yeast and make it the same way. I added seeds to only half the bread rolls, as there will be small children present at the lunch who are not fond of seeded bread.