We are abroad! Trip to Utsira

Yes, we are on holidays in Norway! It is amazing to be back after 20 months. We finally got our EU digital vaccination certificates, so off we went. It was a little nerve-wracking being among so many strangers at the airports and on board, but most people were good about distancing and keeping masks on. With the green pass, it was very smooth to travel. I was really nervous.

My brother kindly collected us at the Oslo airport and drove us to see my parents. Really good to see them again. The next day we headed west with them and are now on Utsira, a small island outside Haugesund. The Brits might know it from the shipping forecast. Rocks, sheep, lots of sky and sea, interesting street art and very nice people.

Barn art

We have had lovely food too: sjøkreps (Norwegian lobster), waffles and brown cheese, homebaked bread with Jarlsberg cheese, Hardanger plums, and of course endless cups of filter coffee. We are enjoying walks and cool weather: after sweltering Rome, it is wonderfully fresh here.

Norway was not hit badly by the pandemic, thank goodness. It is still really strange to be able to enter shops and restaurants here without a mask. We are double vaccinated but got tested before flying just in case, since we are with my elderly parents. Better to be careful.

I hope you are also able to have some safe and lovely holidays soon!

A cake with a view: vegan cocoa rice cooker cake

Back from our annual island holiday in Tuscany, where we had a week of seaside relaxation, lovely seafood and a brief respite from the heat of Rome. Just perfect.

As usual we had a birthday cake to make, but this year I gave up on on the grim oven in the rental flat and tried a rice cooker cake. Yes, my friend brought her rice cooker along and it even has a cake setting. This is also a vegan AND gluten-free cake, and it turned out very well indeed. Definitely something to try again.

Vegan cocoa rice cooker cake

1 cup plant-based milk (I used oat milk)
 1/2 cup sunflower oil
 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
 1/3 cup cocoa powder
 3/4 cup sugar
 1 tsp baking powder
 1/2 tsp coarse salt

Whisk oil and milk. Mix in flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder. Line cooker base with baking parchment, to avoid having to carve it out later. I also brushed the rice cooker sides with a little sunflower oil, but my friend said that might not be needed. Pour batter in and sprinkle with salt. Turn rice cooker on to CAKE setting and hope for the best. Here, it took about 50 minutes until it beeped as ready, a little less time next time. Hard to tell when you really should not open the lid to peek.

Cool and serve. We slathered this in vegan pistachio cream so it was very good indeed!

I hope you also have a little summer joy.


PS Garbatella mentioned in the Guardian today, with a nice pasta recipe!

Mooching around Modena

We went to Modena for a few nights: Rome-Bologna on the Italo train, then a local train Bologna-Modena. It was lovely! Amazing being able to leave Lazio as well. Modena was very clean and tidy, and the historical centre is a glowing assembly of buildings painted terracotta, siena, orange, yellow: just beautiful. We’d been to Bologna before, but Modena is much smaller. Famous for aceto balsamico di Modena (balsamic vinegar), it also has a Ferrari museum and Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti. We stayed outside with masks on, and just enjoyed exploring the food and wine.

We had encountered pesto di Modena before: basically, it is pork lard beaten with pancetta, garlic and rosemary. Best enjoyed on toasted tigelle (little bread ovals) with some chilled Lambrusco. We also had gnocco fritto – not fried gnocchi, but pillows of fried or baked dough (again, with lard) served with mortadella, salami and other cold cuts. Or with jam for breakfast. The tigelle are also nice with Nutella for dessert.

A wedding! Finally festivities like this allowed again.

We also sighed over tortellini at the market, bought balsamic vinegar and and had some wonderful meals, like at Francheschetta 58 (more affordable than Osteria Francescana, though that looks wonderful). Definitely a region to explore more: maybe Parma or Ferrara next time, after the summer?