Holidays! A week away on Giglio

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True to tradition, we went to Isola del Giglio for a week (like here, and here, and here.) Every year, a great group of friends, and the same routine: a morning cappuccino (or three) looking at the sea, a swim, lunch in the garden, more reading and swimming, apertivi and a long seaside dinner. Bliss! Who’d have thought this would even be possible four months ago? No international travel for us anytime soon, so a week on a quiet small Tuscan island was bliss.

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We had self-catering accomodation with lots of space, and DIY lunches in the garden every day. Delicious. Salads, fresh focaccine, slabs of cold watermelon, melon and ham. When it was our turn I made Fennel pasta bake with lemony breadcrumbs, glutenfree and regular version, with green salad. Another night I made a peach and mascarpone tart, very nice indeed. The peaches are lovely and sweet.

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Yes, we always carried masks, and it was required to wear them outdoors in populated areas of Giglio, plus in all shops and restaurants of course. Not needed for the beach, if you kept your distance. Masks are just a habit now, we have lots of cloth ones and wash them for the next day. The contagion numbers are pretty good in most of Italy at the moment, which is well deserved after months of lockdown and discipline, and most people are still very careful and respect the rules. The police were also encouraging people to wear masks, in a nice way though, and there was hand sanitizer at all entrances.

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Not too crowded.

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Kitchen with a view. I hope you also get a little safe holiday at some point this summer.

Italian seaside and ricotta tart with nectarines

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Off to Isola del Giglio for the annual beach holiday: lazy cappuccini at the bar, morning swim, lunch in the garden, relaxing in the shade, afternoon swim, apertivi and Aperol Spritz, and a great dinner with friends. Rinse and repeat: an excellent week of doing very little.

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Rome had been hot: not an African heat, as the papers claim, but warm enough to make sleeping difficult. A week of sleeping with sea breezes and waves (and the occasional Italian live bar music from across the bay) was perfect.Some nights we went out for dinner, some nights we cooked in: BBQ, pasta con vongole in seawater (one part seawater to four parts fresh water, we discovered last year that 1:2 was far too salty.) I really enjoyed being in a kitchen with a view and a cool breeze, not sweating in an Accra kitchen. One day I made ricotta tarts with nectarines, one gluten free tart and one regular, basically the same but one with gluten free pastry and gluten free flour.

Ricotta tarts with nectarines

One package of ready made puff pastry (pasta sfoglia)
450 gr fresh ricotta
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbs flour
3-4 peaches, sliced into wedges

This was in an old gas-heated oven, which chars things from below so I did not blind-bake the pastry. Use pie dishes of about 24 cm, line with parchment paper if not included with bought pastry. Mix ricotta, whisked eggs, flour and sugar and pour into pastry shell. Add wedges of nectarines (or apricot halves, peaches, cherries: whatever you have.) Bake at 180-200C for 45 min or so, until filling is set. Cool and enjoy.

Note: I should have used electric grill to make the top a little golden – tasted great though.

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Seaside risotto with spring onions

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I am back in Accra after a week of holidays on Isola del Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany: good friends, excellent food, and the chance to cook with fresh Italian ingredients. Long lazy mornings with cappuccini and cornetti, morning swims, lunches cobbled together for communal eating in the garden, followed by a siesta, or a swim, before apertivi and dinner. Very relaxing. This was an ad hoc lunch dish: a risotto with spring onions, a side dish for the gluten-avoiders while the rest of us had pasta with pesto.

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Risotto can be made with so many vegetables. Here, the spring onions were left over from making Ottolenghis courgette and herb filo pie for another lunch – very nice! Just being able to cook with a sea breeze and a view like this was lovely.

Seaside risotto with spring onions
One onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbs olive oil
2 cups risotto rice (here arborio, I’d normally use carnaroli)
spalsh of white wine
1 litre simmering stock (vegetable, chicken – I used fish stock as that is what we had)
4-5 spring onions, washed and chopped
handful of fresh basil
pinch of salt and pepper

Optional if not using fish stock: a handful of grated parmesan when serving

Heat the olive oil and fry the chopped onion gently. In a separate pot, keep a litre of stock on a low boil. We’d planned to make takoyaki  (Japanese fried octopus balls) one day so I’d brought fish stock cubes to replace dashi, but we never got around to that, so in the risotto it went.  Add the rice to the pot or pan, to toast it slightly. Add a splash of white wine if you have some handy. Keep the risotto on low heat, enough to keep it boiling slightly. Then add hot stock, one ladle at a time, and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Then add more stock. After five minutes or so, add the chopped sporing onions. Keep adding hot stock, one ladle at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed. I threw in some chopped fresh basil.  Eventually the stock is all added, and the risotto has gone from a al dente to done and a bit starchy. Taste if it needs salt and pepper, and enjoy with a sea view.

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If using a vegetable stock or chicken stock, a generous handful of parmesan right before serving will pull this together nicely.