Sunday, 20 March 2016

Aroma di Roma

Rome is a feast for the senses in all respects but olfactory delights may not be the first that spring to mind. In truth, fragrance can be found all around the city .

We enjoy the scented blooms in the Rose Garden........

...... the orange blossom in the courtyard of Palazzo Dora Pamphili.......

.....and the jasmine, tumbling over sidewalk walls. Rome is heavy with the scent of flowers


Wood smoke rising from the pizza oven in the trattoria below our apartment was one of the abiding scent memories from our 2012 trip to Rome.

Then there are the charred edges that so define the thin crust of a Roman style pizza which has a perfume all of its own.

In Trastevere, La Renella, a neighbourhood bakery, uses hazelnut shells to fuel the oven, the aroma of which permeates the bread that is produced here.

In the winter there are hot chestnuts to be found on many street corners. An aroma that speaks to us of Christmas.


Orange trees heavy with bitter fruit are found all over the city but our favourite grove is found in the Orange Garden on the Aventine Hill.


This winter we bought home fruits that had fallen from the trees and made marmalade with them. A lovely culinary souvenir.
The fabulous markets have stall upon stall of fragrant seasonal fruits, As you would imagine summer is a particularly aromatic time to visit.

In spring the trees that line the Lungotevere are heady with the scent of fresh leaves,

In all honesty we can't say that the Trevi Fountain has the most romantic smell (more cleaning chemical than fresh water) but Oceana looks magnificent after the restoration.

However, pure, fresh water is freely available from the many 'nasone' around the city.


The hint of the exotic floats through ancient doors  as incense is distributed during Mass. A scene replicated so many times in this city of more than 900 churches. On feast days the perfume lingers in the streets from outdoor services.

Probably our favourite aroma di Roma - who can resist those wonderful pastries, especially when served up with the best coffee.

Row upon row of delicious baked delights .......

.....presented in a beautifully wrapped parcels.

If only we could package our scent memories like this - what a wonderful gift that would make.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

More Precious than Jewels

On this Festa della Donne or International Women's Day I would like to remember Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi who became a role model for future Roman women, including Aurelia, mother of Julius Caesar

Cornelia was the daughter of Publius Scipio Africanus, conqueror of Hannibal, & his wife, Aemilia. She married the much older Tiberius Gracchus and they had 12 children together, only 3 of which survived, including the brothers Tiberius & Gaius.
After her husbands death she chose to remain a widow, even rejecting the hand of King Ptolemy of Egypt. Instead she devoted her time to educating her children and elevated the role of mother to a career.
The boys grew up to be social reformers who defied the political institutions of Rome and were seen as friends of the average Roman citizen. Their sense of civic duty was totally inspired by Cornelia. .She supported her sons even when their actions outraged the Patrician families into which she had been born
Sadly both brothers died violently as a result of their popular reforms. Plutarch reports that Cornelia 'bore the loss of her two sons with a noble and undaunted spirit'
She retired to a villa outside Rome where she studied literature, Latin & Greek & was sought out for advice and conversation.
She was known to have lived modestly and the story goes that when a woman guest was displaying her finest jewellery, Cornelia gathered her children around her and declared 'these are my jewels' - a scene depicted in the painting by Angelica Kauffman


Sunday, 6 March 2016

Recipes from Rome - Rachel's Ragu

Ragu isn't necessarily a recipe that you would normally associate with Rome. However Restaurant Colline Emiliane, near the Trevi fountain, specialises in dishes from the Emilia Romagna region, home of the aforementioned ragu.
We need to sample the Lasagne at this restaurant on our next trip to Rome but for now I am using Rachel Roddy's recipe for Guardian Cook. It can also be found in her fabulous cookbook 'Five Quarters'

The quartet of onion, carrot, celery and pancetta (known as the ' battuto) is softened in butter & oil until fragrant & glistening.

 I made my first mistake here by not taking note of how small to cut up the vegetables (Rachel says 'finely chopped')
The bay leaves go in at this point too. These aren't just any bay leaves - they are bay leaves harvested from our sweet little terrace in Rome last summer & dried in the hot July sun.

The meat goes in once the vegetables are softened & is stirred until browned.

Wine goes in next & is left to evaporate for a couple of minutes before it is joined by the tomato puree which has been dissolved in water. It is now left to simmer gently until almost all the liquid has disappeared. I found that this took much longer than the 30 minutes in the recipe.
The final step is to add the full fat milk in stages whilst it 'blips & burps' away. By this time the kitchen is filled with the most gorgeous aroma - shut your eyes and you could be in Italy!

The correct pasta to use is a ribbon pasta such as tagliatelle, fettuccine or pappardelle but I'm using capricci, much easier to manage whilst watching 'Saturday Night Takeaway'