When the empty jars followed me all the way to the English countryside…

Apologies for the silence folks, but I couldn’t get myself near a computer in my last week away, which meant a lengthy break from T&T.

So here’s a quick recap. My second relaxing and food-filled week in Tuscany included:

A trip to Florence and lunch in an osteria just behind the Ponte Vecchio, where I had the most amazing pasta I’ve ever eaten. Tagliolini with porcini mushrooms and butter. Simple. Exquisite.
A Sri Lankan feast with an amazing eggplant (brinjal) salad, the best fried rice I’ve ever eaten and some croquettes (not to be confused with “cutlets”. Language barrier error!). A little taste of southern Asia in a leafy Tuscan garden.

A day of forgotten suncream and the first burn of the trip. All I did was sit my pasty white skin out from under the umbrella for a moment!
A road trip to Lucca, a beautiful walled town, with narrow lanes, people everywhere riding bikes, cute leather boutiques, window displays heavy with sweet Italian treats and some pretty tasty beef carpaccio.
A hermit day spent reading the amazing book Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. An absorbing World War 2 story, that had me hooked from the first page and bawling on the last page. I recommend.
A lesson learned that cheap Chianti in the bottle with the straw cover, which looks so rustic and good, is actually a sure-fire way to a morning after headache.
An afternoon spent haunting the garden of our villa, taking photographs and trying to do justice to the beauty of our spot.

Our fellow residents.

Lemons. They followed me to Italy…

The enormous sage bush. It was bigger before we used it in our cooking…

A blue door.

The pebbled driveway. Brutal on bare feet.

An Italian floor.

The view from my bedroom window.

The perfect spot for outdoor eating.

A last night celebration with true bellinis – I peeled the peaches, schmooshed them through a sieve and served the puree topped with perfectly bubbly Moet. A pretty nice to way to end our Italian fiesta.

… and then we hopped a plane back to London and I headed to the English countryside to hang with my mum.

If you’ve ever wondered where my love of all things preserved comes from, it’s from my mum, who has the proper Fowlers Vacola preserving gear and a never ending supply of empty jars at the bottom of the pantry. Jealous, me? No.

So what did mum and I do on a sunny afternoon in the English countryside? We preserved stuff. Well, we made red currant jelly at least.

Following a recipe from one of the most battered and well-worn cookbooks I’ve ever seen, we de-vined our hand-picked red currants, boiled them in some water till mushy, drained the mush through a muslin overnight, added one pound of sugar to every one pint of syrup and boiled til it passed the set-test.

In the morning sunshine coming through the kitchen window, it glowed a fiery red. And had the right kind of red currant kick to it (Delia says red currant jelly shouldn’t be as sweet as jam, but should retain some of the bitterness of the berries). It passed the wink test.

Not only did we bottle stuff, but we also iced the cake for my nephew Hugo’s naming ceremony. Mum had made the cake earlier and also candied some pretty gorgeous blue flowers. Really all I did was watch and learn, as Mum put the whole thing together. Well, I did use my nimble fingers to roll some white icing flower buds…

My mum is a pretty clever lady in the kitchen. I am glad that I inherited at least some of her skills in that area!

And lastly, we walked the garden (a typically English cottage garden) and sniffed and picked some roses. Check out the colours!

Sadly, on my return to London and of course then my return to Sydney, I wasn’t able to bring any of my English cooking home with me. Maybe I can send mum a jar of my marmalade in exchange for a jar of the red currant jelly? Though I’m sure if I can’t bring it in at the airport, there’s got to be some law against it coming via post… Might have to rethink that.

So there you have it, after a few more days in London involving my favourite crispy prawn balls and a flowering tea at Ping Pong, a pint of cider and some bangers and mash for lunch, a quick wander around the shops, many happy tears on Hugo’s big day, a long afternoon drinking by the Thames (it’s no match for Sydney harbour in the scenic stakes for sure!) and a tearful goodbye at the airport, I have returned home to a haven’t-been-heated-for-three-weeks-cold flat and the nerve-wracking excitement of starting a new job.

Life is good.



About Tablecloths & Talking

Food. Friends. Fun. Preferably together. I love to eat, drink & be merry. I love to write. Tablecloths & Talking is me writing about doing the things I love.
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3 Responses to When the empty jars followed me all the way to the English countryside…

  1. G says:

    I am terribly, TERRIBLY jealous of your trip. It looks AMAZING.
    Happy 60th Bob!

  2. genevieve says:

    Wow – that currant jelly looks fab, what an amazing colour! If only you could have brought some back with you 😦

  3. Glad you had a great trip, best of luck with the new job….whatever that it is!!

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