A friend of mine once commented on the fact that when you got to meet new people, and decided to invite them over to dinner to get better acquainted, they would sometimes invite you back to their home for ‘a return match’. What she meant was that it is sometimes mere politeness that impels us to invite people back to us for dinner — hence the reference to a return match. I really dislike the whole idea. For me, hospitality is all about myself having fun and enjoying the dinner or lunch, and return matches be damned! I can do formal or ‘polite’ meals in a restaurant — but not in my home.
Anyway … a little while ago, my husband ran into the guy who had designed our wedding card. Not your average, gilt-edged ‘stiffy’ of a wedding invitation card, ours was actually a caricature of myself and my future husband posing as two centaurs, and very amusing at that. The artist in question really is an artist and a cartoon designer and is now married for the third time, with a most charming wife (don’t know about the others) and two young twins. They came over for supper earlier this Winter and we had a lovely evening, and my husband was a big hit with the three year-old twins. When they invited us round for supper at their place, we were delighted to be asked … and not just for the good company, I have to add, but because wife in question is from Puglia and had promised us a typical dinner from the Salento.
The evening begins with the brightest of colours and the most joyful of energies: young children and a dog … and talk about a colourful kitchen!
I loved the collection of old 78 rpm records on an old gramophone that still works!
And I surely loved the anchovies fried in the lightest of batters …. mouth wateringly good. Crisp and crunchy and incredibly more-ish …. These are called ‘pettole’ …. they are balls of deep fried dough. English is a very unkind language sometimes … “deep-fried dough” sounds disgusting … and these were succulent and wickedly good!
Fresh burrata …. I really have to get the recipe for this ‘salad’. ‘Salad’ my foot! this was some concoction of mysterious, tangy, silky vegetable-ness posing as salad. It was made up of grilled aubergines, and tomatoes and onions that had been baked in the oven with I don’t know what … Probably THE centre piece of the evening: the ‘pitta’. It’s a pie … it’s a pie the way Harrods is a shop …. The inside of the pitta is made up of …. caramelised onions. A close-up of this miracle of a ‘pie’. The ‘greens’ … the greens that went with the broad bean puré (puré di fave). Home made breads ….
The children were playing and singing and … well, just being children. We, the grown-ups, were sipping our bubbly …. and our hostess just rolled out the dishes onto the table:
There was a main course too …. and dessert. However, the other incredible dish of the evening was the pasta with chickpeas, called “ciceri e tria”. I am going to have to try it one of these days …
Here is the home-made pasta … the flour is not the usual OO kind so typical of Italy’s cuisine but, instead, the semolina kind of flour (durum wheat semolina). The pan on the right contains chickpeas that have been boiling, the one on the left contains some olive oil with a clove or two of garlic being browned, and the large pan at the back is full of boiling water (for the pasta). My friend removed the garlic … and then added some of the uncooked pasta to the olive oil: to fry it! She then added the rest of the pasta that had cooked ‘normally’, as well as the chickpeas …at one point, she also added a small amount of the cooking water. She mixed it all up beautifully and ….A good twist of black pepper ! I really can’t tell you how good this was! Incredible!
Delicious. The ‘ciceri e tria’ and ‘pitta’ and ‘pettole’ were all new to me … and the whole evening was quite wonderful, with the children being good and ‘naughty’ at various intervals and reminding us that chidren, too, are part of an Italian home meal … it was midnight and they were still up. And I was reminded of the fact that very often my children up stayed up till midnight when we had guests for dinner. They (my kids) survived. Indeed, WE (the grown-ups) survived!
PS My children, of course, were delightful … and fairly easy to please, and not at all pesky or just plain ‘pests’ like some other children I have come across … especially those who were always sent to bed at sensible times when their parents wanted to have a good time. Mmmmm.