Sunday, August 22, 2010

Urban horticulture - Potatoes in bags

As most years we have a couple of growing bags - one with toms and one with some kind of legume. This year peas, last year french beans, the year before runners.

This year we tried something different. Inspired by our neighbors example we grew potatoes.

potatoes grown in a bag 1 of 4
Three growing bags of potatoes

Mary decided that they were looking a bit scruffy so, as part of the tidy-up before the BBQ, I decided to move one down the alley-way and harvest the other two.

potatoes grown in a bag 2 of 4
Ready to harvest

I laid down a garden sheet and tipped two bags out so I could rummage through and extract the new potatoes.

potatoes grown in a bag 3 of 4
Emptied out

And what I got was a pretty pathetic haul - small but perfectly formed.

potatoes grown in a bag 4 of 4
The final haul

So the third bag is being more scrupulously watered and being given longer to come to fruition. Let's us see what that will yield in a couple of months time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

That's life in the big city

The weekend before last was a fine example of why we love being back in the big city. Fancying an evening of live music we went to see Brian Auger's Oblivion Express at Ronnie Scott's.

The early show was standing room only so we went for the late show which meant time for a leisurely meal beforehand. Courtesy of Top Table Trader Vic's were doing a deal: three courses and a cocktail for £25 from a Hawaiian menu. For a restaurant in a hotel - mind you it is the Hilton Park Lane - the food was excellent and the staff genuinely friendly.

At Ronnie Scott's the doors opened at 10:30 and the support act, The Yazz Ahmed Quintet, came on and did a fine set. Brian Auger's Oblivion Express came on at 11:30 and finished around 01:30 Sunday morning.

Ronnie Scott's
Ronnie Scott's

Brian did plenty of banter including mentioning that Keith Emerson, no less, was in the audience. And so it proved as we passed by the two of them standing chatting as we left.

Getting home? No problem in London! The N87 night bus goes from Trafalgar Square to Wandsworth and beyond (all the way to Kingston in fact). It was packed even at 2 in the morning, standing room only, with a very subdued bunch of fellow passengers many of whom seemed ready for bed.

Such night owls us, eh what?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wine Tasting Dinner from the Abruzzo Region

Wednesday 28th July 2010

Another in the series of wine tasting dinners from Enoteca Turi. This time presented by the widow of the owner and the UK manager doing a double act - she spoke in Italian and he translated.

The food and wine excellent as always but the pace could have been a little faster. I confess that I do not normally have such long gaps between my wines.

The Rosato was very good. I find many rosés are neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat. This was that rare example of a rosé of character.

Of the two Trebbianos it was hard to believe they were the same grape. The first was pleasant enough but the second was in a different league. Deep yellow, warm caramel notes - it reminded me of vin santo.

The two Montepulciano were both powerful wines. The Villa Gemma was, apparently rated number 28 in the world by Parker. Harvested on 13 November - the latest harvest in Italy! Inky black, bitter cherry / smokey and, IMHO, many years still to mature.

And then a bus home in 15 minutes - we love living in London :-)

Update 07-Aug-10: Notes on the food and wine from Pam & Guiseppi


From this simple way of live, many food traditions have been handed down from generation to generation, with some dishes actually traced back to Roman times. Egg and pecorino is common in many recipes to enrich different dishes, and similarities are to be found with the neighbouring regions of Marche, Basilicata and Molise. Intriguingly, there are some sophisticated combinations, such as Scripelle M’busse – a pancake made with egg, flour and pecorino, filled with pecorino and covered with a hot, rich chicken stock; Agnello Brodettato – a lamb stew, where the juices are thickened with egg, pecorino and lemon juice; Zuppa di Cardi – a soup with cardoons, dumplings of egg, pecorino and breadcrumbs in a meat stock. Chilli is used in many dishes, and pulses, especially lentils, play a big part in the local diet. Fish dishes, found on the coast, share similarities with neighbours: plain grilled as well as fish stews spiced up with chilli. Country families follow the age-old tradition of making salami from home-reared pork; many varieties of cured meat unique to this region are to be found, including one made with liver. Highly-prized saffron, introduced by the monks and now grown in the region, is not common in the traditional cuisine.


For a long time, wine making in Abruzzo was dominated by cooperatives, producing reliable red wine from the Montepulciano grape and white from the Trebbiano D’Abruzzo grape. There were a few exceptions, such as producer Valentino Migliorini, who made truly exceptional wine. In the last 30 years, a number of quality-minded producers have emerged in the region, of whom Giuseppe Masciarelli was the leading force, building one of the most dynamic wineries in Italy, in his lifetime. The estate is now run by his widow, Marina Cvetic, with wines such as Villa Gemma Montepulciano D’Abruzzo and Marina Cvetic Trebbiano/Montepulciano achieving cult status, These can be seen on the wine lists of some of the most prestigious restaurants around the world.


Abruzzesi tastes and flavours: deep-fried ricotta ravioli,
traditional salami, deep-fried pecorino dumplings, salted cod fishcake
Montepulciano Rosato Colline Teatine IGT 2009 Masciarelli £19.50
Scripelle ‘mbusse
Pecorino pancake in rich chicken stock
Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC 2009 Masciarelli £19.50
Maccheroni alla chitarra con brodetto di pesce
Homemade Abruzzesi pasta with traditional fish sauce
Marina Cvetic Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC 2007 Masciarelli £59.50
Trio d’agnello
Lamb brodettato with courgette, grilled skewer with lentils, lamb Scannese with peppers
Marina Cvetic Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC 2006 Masciarelli £43.50
Villa Gemma Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC 2004 Masciarelli £95.00
Pizza di ricotta
Ricotta and lemon pie with cinnamon, chocolate and raisins, ratafia sauce
Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2009 Saracco