Tag Archives: Garbatella

Garbatella stopover in January

Garbatella in January

It’s been a busy few weeks: Christmas in Norway, back to Accra for New Year’s, now a two-week trip to Rome for work, and we head back to Accra this weekend. Unfortunately I picked up a bad cold in Norway, which turned into acute bronchitis. Denial and paracet only gets you so far, I discovered, though I tried! January is also harmattan season in Accra, with dry dusty winds from the Sahara making the city look foggy from dust, which did not help the coughing. So I have had some days sick in bed while in Rome, missing work, and am slowly recovering. Wonderful to be home in our own apartment (the friend of a friend staying here moved out while we are back). We felt the four earthquakes last Wednesday, spooky though no damage here.

Bar dei Cesaroni
 It is weird being back in Rome after 14 months in Accra. The bar up the hill still has good coffee,  tattered Roma signs and the grey parrot outside. Good coffee bars everywhere, lots of public buses! Romans may complain about AMA (rubbish collection), but AMA just collected our broken washing machine and and old armchair, free of charge. No open sewers, no chickens. Lots of people wearing black, and the cars look so small and new! Wonderful food — fresh salads, pizza margherita, mozzarella, rughetta, pasta amatriciana: it’s all been amazing.

Cheese at Garbatella farmers market ….and CHEESE! Real cheese!! Not just expensive plastic “Irish cheddar” from Shoprite. We bought cheese at the farmers’ market up the hill: pecorino stagionato, ricotta fresca con tartufo, carciocavallo affumicato, scamorza, more pecorino with walnuts, with pepper and with peperoncino, formaggio di capra, ricotta secca…….ahhhhhhh. Much of it vacuum packed, going back to Accra with us, and some it being enjoyed fresh now. Bliss.


Here in Garbatella we have an excellent pasta shop downstairs. We had a busy schedule to see friends for dinners most nights, but with me being sick, we had to cancel most and have been living off cheese, and fresh pasta: ravioli con pistachio, agnolotti (meat stuffing), ravioli all’ carbonara….  I am hoping to squeeze in ravioli con carciofi before we go. Every day the selection   changes slightly. Maybe I can get some fresh pasta Friday, and hope it survives the flight back.

Garbatella cat Random Garbatella cat enjoying January sunshine. My goodness, just going for a walk in a pretty neighbourhood seems such a luxury now.  Like being able to drink the tap water, or have an elevator. Internet fast enough to watch videos! Seeing friends and neighbours is lovely too.

Garbatella Via Passino, Garbatella. The pine trees look like they are leaning more than last year. There are changes since we were last here in July last year: the corner pub is now a tattoo parlour, and the ferramenta (hardware store) that closed is now a nail salon. The bar across the piazza that was renovating for ages opened last year and is still there, quite trendy – we went for a drink last summer, and there were actual hipsters there. But most things are reassuringly familiar, which nice. Nice if not too gentrified here, I love this neighbourhood.

We fly back to Accra this weekend, which will be nice too. Accra is great in a very different way, and I am really looking forward to Ghana mango and pineapple again, as well as seeing the wonderful people we know there too. Now we just need to think about what we pack in our 2×23 kilos of checked luggage each: cheese, pasta, more cheese, what else?

Terrace party with the neighbours

terrace party GarbatellaI have been pondering: What to make for a condominium “Festa della Estate“? We have a lovely rooftop terrace over looking Garbatella, our neighborhood here. For several years there has been a ban on using it for anything but drying laundry, but there is an ongoing thaw. Last summer we had a summer terrace party for the building, where eveyone brought a dish and we enjoyed the sunset and evening breeze. Really nice!

We recently had the second annual terrace party, and I have been debating what to bring. Nothing Italian, for sure: we have some excellent home chefs in our palazzo, and each dish is tasted, scrutinized and debated, in a friendly, slightly competitive and very appreciative way. For the party last year we made an English summer pudding, very exotic and that went down well. Nothing too foreign either, and something that holds up in the heat. What to make? This year we contributed Pimm’s (an English summer apertivo with fruit and cucumber) and a cold, crisp Norwegian cucumber salad, as it is close to 30C even in the evenings.

IMG_20150605_194537The menu and contributions is below, as shared by email. Yes, after years of bad photocopies our building with 24 flats has embraced email! So we get updated on the collapsing sewer pipes, bicycle parking, possible rooftop gardening, and party menus. It is actually really improving communications. The menu contributions planned (in Italian):
– lasagne
– aperitivo + insalata
– torta salata + bevande
– vino
– insalata russa
– un secondo (a sorpresa)
– frittata di maccheroni
– pollo al cherry e rotolo di frittata
– arrosto in salsa al pistacchio e pane
– dolce
…niente male no? Aggiungerei del cocomero (lo porto io) se no che festa dell’estate è!!


It was all really delicious — those ones just above are the frittata di maccheroni from our neighbour Mara.  Those were snapped up quickly, unlike my cucumber salad. It IS good though! Great with cold poached salmon as a summer dinner. And the Pimm’s was definitely a hit (though I know now just who is allergic to strawberries……)


Cold, crisp Norwegian cucumber salad
One cucumber
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
50 ml white vinegar
Enough water to cover

Make this the day before serving it, so the flavours meld and the salad is cold. .
Shave the cucumber thinly with a cheese slicer (invented by a Norwegian, did you know that?) and layer in a bowl with salt, sugar and vinegar. Add enough water to cover. Repeat, depending how much salad you want: I made a medium-sized bowl with four cucumbers, just add more salt, sugar and vinegar. Taste and add more salt, sugar and vinegar if needed. Fresh dill is nice too if you have it. Cover and store in fridge.

We sampled dishes, ate cherries, gossiped about the construction  works across the piazza, enjoyed amazing millefoglie contributed by the restaurant below, and it was a really lovely evening.


Walnut sourdough loaf

Another beautiful sunny day here in Rome, so my visiting mother-in-law and I ambled round Garbatella, my neighbourhood. She had seen a cardigan at one of the bancarelle, the street stalls that carry clothes, shoes, kitchenware, underwear, sheets: most stalls change neighborhoods almost every day, so we never found her cardigan. On our walk today, we met this Italian tour group twice. Professional guide, remote headsets, discussing Fascist architecture; I did not want to disappoint their experience of a genuine Roman quartiere by speaking English, so we quietly passed them. Here they are in our piazza, photographing the “La Garbatella” relief on the wall.

No cardigan, but I did get sewing needles, and met neighbours at the regular neighborhood market. Such a sign of respectability, to introduce your suocera (mother-in-law). I realized this after a neighbour in Testaccio (another Rome neighbourhood) told me they thought I must have a dark and terrible past, since my parents never came to visit. Years later, I do appreciate that my respectability ranking has edged up this week, having in-laws here. They are so nice, and are enjoying themselves immensely.
Walnut sourdough
This is a sourdough loaf I baked for their arrival.

Walnut sourdough loaf

100 grammes mature sourdough starter, 100% hydration
400 grammes lukewarm water
375 grammes plain white wheat flour (I used 00)
125 grammes wholewheat flour
40 grammes of shelled walnuts
8 grammes salt

Stir the sourdough starter with the water. Add the flours and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. After this initial rest, add the salt. Fold dough with a spatula. Add more flour or water if you think the dough needs it.


Cover the bowl and let rise for about a couple hours at room temperature. Fold the dough a few times (just in the bowl, using a spoon or spatula). You will feel the dough becoming more elastic and responsive, and it will increase nicely in size. Fold in the walnuts during the last fold. I had bought these nuts at the farmers market, fresh walnuts. Just crack them and tiss the shelled nuts in, no need to chop them.

For baking same day: move the dough to a floured banneton and cover it with plastic (a hotel shower cap works well), and let it rise 5-6 hours at room temperature.  I cheat, and line the banneton with baking paper, less pretty markings but easier to lift over to the pot. OR: If you are in Rome, it is October and your kitchen is still 27C, leaving the dough to rise overnight in the fridge might work better. Depends when you want to eat and have time to bake.
Walnut sourdough

When ready to bake: heat your oven to 250C, with a cast iron pot. When it is properly hot (or after at least 20 minutes), take the pot out carefully. Invert the dough onto a piece of baking paper, slash the dough, and put the bread in the pot. Bake at 250C for thirty minutes with the lid on, then 10-15 minutes more with the lid off, until the bread looks done and the base of the bread sounds hollow if you tap it. About 45 minutes in all, depending on your oven. Cool before slicing.
This is my contribution to Fiesta Friday: a fragrant walnut-speckled loaf. A little late, but with visitors here, time is tight. Happy FF 37 to all! Special thanks to our gracious hosts Angie at The Novice Gardener, Julianna at Foodie on Board, and Hilda at Along the Grapevine. I am going to browse and admire the wonderful FF contributions now, I am always delighted and inspired by what you all bring! Thanks for sharing.

Fiesta Friday