So… last year you did that spring clean in your kitchen and finally ditched the pasta machine that’s been gathering dust in the back of the cupboard. Probably patted yourself on the back then for decluttering… but this year, it’s a different story. You now realise that it’s the missing piece on your road to winning lockdown bingo. The insta-famous banana bread and choc-chip cookies have been made, the sourdough starter is alive, and you’ve participated in more Zoom quizzes than you ever thought possible… but how to tick off ‘make you own pasta’ without that sodding machine?! You will no doubt have a rolling bin or empty wine bottle which will absolutely do the job but requires a bit of hard graft and extra time… so that’s definitely an option, but I’ve got an even better one for you.
Forget about the thinly rolled sheets to be cut into fettuccine or folded in ravioli or tortellini. Stick with something altogether less faff but equally satisfying. Friends, I am going to suggest you make cavatelli. This small rustic shell-like pasta shape is made from semolina flour which is another bonus if you find yourself rationing wheat flour. I managed to easily source it in the international foods section of my Sainsbury’s or you can order it online, doesn’t appear to be in short supply. And the final reason why I think cavatelli (or are they actually called gnochetti… no amount of googling has given me a definitive answer) is worth your time, is that it actually doesn’t take that much time – from flour to finish in around an hour!
There is a lot of truth in the old cliche that ‘food brings people together’. Without food being involved, it is likely that I would never see half of my friends, nor would I have met half of the new ones I have made in London. Any food usually works, but I think it is the most familiar and comforting ones that do the ‘bringing together’ the best. My proof is in the pizza. I can think of nothing else that would bring four food-loving, photograph-taking, blog-writing ladies together more enthusiastically or religiously than the simple pleasure of a good pizza. Meeting for pizza has become such a ritual, we turned it into a club and happily hold our meetings anywhere a decent slice is served.
Our latest meeting took us all a little out of our ways (these are the extreme lengths we go to for Pizza Club) to a cosy corner of Fulham which has been transformed into a slice of the Italian south. Meridionale, which literally translates to mean ‘from the South’, aims to showcase the best of the Southern regions such as Naples, Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia so we were excited to discover some new dishes or curious tweaks to well-know favourites. But first, we had to pop the prosecco to adjourn the meeting… we don’t have too many rules at Pizza Club however that is definitely one of them!
Now, I certainly don’t want to encourage emotional eating but I’m also not self-righteous enough to condemn it when the stress levels hit boiling point. We’ve all had those days: friends that pester, colleagues who whinge, clients who complain, or heck, even just random strangers who lack those common social etiquettes can drive me bonkers. All those things make me shamefully inhale that packet of crisps at 11am or that Snickers bar at 3pm. If that still doesn’t help, I go for the big guns – a big ol’ bowl of noodles or pasta.
I’m not fussy about which of those carb-heavy comforts rush to my rescue, as long as one is in front of me at dinner time, I’ll survive. So after a particularly long and arduous day in the office, no one was happier to walk through the recently refurbished doors of Venerdi than I was, especially when smacked in the olfactics with such sublime aromas! I won’t lie, a double dose of Aperols (joys of the Happy Hour) arriving within minutes of me sitting down, perked me right up too.
On my way to dinner, I managed to window shop at Victoria Beckham’s flagship store, narrowly avoid being clipped by a Bentley whilst crossing the road, and almost stumbled into a private members’ club. All part and parcel of walking through Mayfair, perhaps? How the other half live. If the tables were turned, I could actually be stocking up on VB gears, have my driver ferry me around in the Bentley, and be darting from one club to another. But no, this Kiwi lass is unlikely to be joining the Mayfair set… the closest I’ll get is to frequent the restaurants in their hood.
On this occasion, it was QP LDN. This swish Italian comes to Mayfair via the Amalfi coast where its sister restaurant, Michelin starred Quattro Passi resides. QP LDN aims to bring a taste of this authentic Amalfi coast inspired cooking, something I was very much looking forward to after the eventful journey to the restaurant. I was also more than happy to accept a gigantic Aperol spritz whilst waiting for my dinner date Vicky.
If you’ve had the pleasure (modest much?) of talking to me in the last month, you would have also had the misfortune of hearing me whinge about being stuck. Stuck in London while everyone else seems to be jet setting off on exciting city breaks or relaxing beach holidays. Stuck without any exciting plans of our own and not even being to make any as we don’t know when we’ll be able to leave the country again. Being stuck kind of sucks. For those of you who don’t know, we’ve handed our passports over to the Home Office, hoping, begging, praying that they’ll give me a new visa, letting me stay past my current ‘get out of Britain’ date of early December.
When we first parted ways with them we were optimistic for a faster turnaround time than the six months they quoted, but now almost four months later, I think it’s safe to say we’re just hoping it’s not more than six months. It hasn’t been all bad though, we’ve embraced being stuck and had some wonderful (food) adventures in Britain, spending a couple of weekends in Cambridge and Brighton, and a longer weekend in Yorkshire. But I just want to go somewhere else… a place where the language is not one I speak, the wine is cheap, and people there live for their food.
Most people will tell you that you’d be crazy to visit Boston in the winter; the New England weather may be notoriously changeable but the one constant at this time of year is the cold. Having experienced it myself, I can’t disagree with those people but hey, we should all be a little crazy sometimes right? Boston winters may not be as beautiful as the springs or autumns, but there’s a certain elegance to the snow covered streets glistening in the sunlight and those cloudless bright blue skies. Not to mention the fact that you can follow that red brick road all the way round without having to push past the hoards of Freedom Trailers!
By the time we arrived in Boston we were suffering from a bit of diner’s fatigue- it was nearing the end of our epic trip and we had wolfed down some seriously good food, but the downside of that is it makes you really miffed at the seriously average food. So we wondered, would Boston be in the awesome or average category?
Last weekend, mum and I popped down to Dunedin to visit my sister and get our first taste of Otago student life. The long drive from the airport through all that greenery reminded me we were no longer in the big smoke, and the hodge podge of dingy looking cottages reminded me we were definitely in studentville. I’m sure there are lots of lovely, probably palatial homes in Dunedin but that was not the hot spot I was hanging out in. My sister’s flat with all its windows and doors in place is probably one of the better in the neighbourhood, but I was pretty glad I booked a hotel room…