Tuscan weekend, and ceci cacio e pepe

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I was in Rome last month, and had a weekend in Tuscany with friends. Great company, excellent food, and a lovely time indeed. Just going to the local Coop was an experience: cheeses, wines, pici, ragu di cinghiale, fig jam with almonds, tozzetti……  We also stopped off at Nottola, where we bought wine.

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We took turns cooking,  and we made these ceci cacio e pepe one day as a side dish for lunch.  Super easy if you have tinned chickpeas and parmesan, olive oil salt and pepper. See Joy the Baker for the recipe: Cacio e Pepe Roasted Chickpeas

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Highly recommended!

Italian stopover: vongole, leeks and cannelini

Too much travelling the last few months, too little cooking. We just finished a lovely week off the Tuscan coast with friends. I am recovering from food poisoning  (never again samosas in Dar es Salaam…..) so ate little and cooked less, but this dish went down well. 

Italy is also in the grip of the heatwave named Lucifer. HOT here!

Same island every year, always wonderful. It seemed a bit quiet this year, the Italian economy must still be down. 

But we had a great week! Fresh fish and seafood from the fish truck, shouting Pesce Fresco each morning.

Vongole with leeks and cannelini

Bag of vongole (small clams)
Three cloves of garlic
Two leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
One medium tin of cannelini beans or other beans
Generous handful parsley, chopped
Two tbs olive oil
Splash of white wine or water, half a lemon if you have one 

Toast  or crusty bread to serve

Cataplana debut! I bought this in Lisbon in June, took it back to Accra, but decided this holiday was a good time to try it. Special pan for steaming shellfish, it clamps shut like a low level pressure cooker and worked really well. 

First: soak clams in water in sink for half an hour, removing any damaged ones or ones that do not close. 

Hear pan with a little oil and white wine or water, tip in handful of clams and steam 4-5 minutes with lid on. You will hear clams pop open. With a slotted spoon fish out done clams and do next batch, I did this in three batches so they were not crowded. 
Leaving liquid in pan, add sliced leeks and garlic and cook 2 or 3 minutes while you de-shell clams and remove any that did not open. Optional step, we were waiting for a lunch guest.  Then add drained beans, chopped parsley and clams and heat briefly through. Maybe half a lemon squeezed over? Serve with toast or crusty bread.

Happy holidays!

Montepulciano, Good Friday lunch


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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.
Lunch
We had lunch here, at La bottega del Nobile.
Crostini
Crostini, with carciofi, tartufo, fegato, garlic and spicy tomato. Lovely.
Cantucci
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….
Masonry
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.
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Then we headed out to our agriturismo, among vineyards and cypresses. Wonderful day!