Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas came early thanks to Lanvin x H&M

I was convinced the massive queues outside H&M at Oxford Circus this morning would mean everything would have sold out in minutes, so I wasn't expecting to find anything when I wandered into H&M during my lunch break. Was so pleased to find the pouch which was in my wishlist and bought what appeared to be the last one on the shelf. Happy early Christmas to me! :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sweets from Pasticceria Ascalone, Galatina

It was the shopfront that attracted me first. The old-fashioned door, lace curtains, enticing baked goods on display and a tantalising peek of the interior's equally old-timey counter and patchwork floor had me hovering outside for a few minutes. I watched as people went into the shop and came out with little neatly-wrapped packages. The village shuts down after lunch for siesta. Was the place still open? Finally, I gathered my courage and went in.

As it turns out, my fear of speaking Italian was unfounded. Much can be achieved by pointing and using your fingers. The lady at the counter was very smiley and friendly, and the baker himself, a big man in white with his apron still on, came out and wrapped up my purchases himself. In 5 minutes, I walked out with a little neatly wrapped package of my own. They'd tried to explain to me what the pastries were, but with my masterful command of the language, only got as far as understanding they were cream-filled.

Little biscuit with ground almonds and dates

Later on, I found out that almonds are used a lot in desserts in Puglia, and this pasticceria specialised in old recipes passed down from generation to generation. The Ascalone family has been baking these almond biscuits and cakes and pastries for years and years, and have not changed the recipe in any way. Everything I tried was delicious, and I wish we had more bakeries with such a history in London or even Singapore. There's a lot to be said in heritage and keeping it alive.

Delicious cream-filled tarts

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

All I want for Christmas (and my birthday)

Interrupting my Puglia memories by compiling a little list of wishes. A girl can dream. :)

Clockwise from top: Tsumori Chisato for Petit Bateau top, Reiss pom pom scarf, The Flavour Thesaurus, pink KitchenAid Artisan Mixer, Lanvin for H&M pouch

Monday, November 15, 2010

La Tana del Lupo, Galatina

The best meals we had were at a tiny family-run restaurant a minute's walk away from where we were staying in Galatina. It feels like you're eating in someone's home, what with the warm welcome from the husband (who does front-of-house and all the entertaining) and the wife (who does all the cooking), and fabulous home-cooking.

There's no menu here. Instead, just walk in and trust that you'll be well taken care of. When we went in for lunch, the husband plonked down a freshly chilled bottle of rose on our table. The wife came out and asked us in Italian if we had our appetites. That was a sign of things to come. Lunch was a good 3 hours, but oh, was it worth straining our tummies for.

Antipasti: ricotta, aubergine, zucchini, pumpkin, artichokes, green beans, potato cakes, white bean mousse eaten with toast. That was like a meal in itself.

Primi: A deceptively simple but totally tasty orecchiette eaten with a huge cake of fresh ricotta.

Secondi: The star dish was the beef, but the polpette (meatballs), meatloaf with pancetta and veggies were also bursting with flavour.

Dolci: A massive bowl of fruit was placed in front of us. I decided to have kaki (persimmon) and an apple. A bottle of homemade coffee liquer was also brought out for us to enjoy

We enjoyed lunch so much that we went back there again for dinner on our last night in Puglia. While lunch was very meaty, dinner was all about seafood. It was a beautiful way to finish our holiday.

Antipasti: Prawns, mussels, langoustines, oysters, anchovies

Primi: A huge basket of seafood linguini was placed in front of us. Although I'd vowed to take it easy on the pasta, I couldn't stop myself from slurping up more and more of the linguini. How can you say no to perfectly al dente pasta?

Secondi: Whole orata (gilthead seabream)

Pure seafood heaven.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Windows and doors in Puglia

Just got back from a week-long break in Puglia. It was a wonderful holiday, where I stuffed myself silly with delicious, inspiring food and met some absolutely lovely people. Puglia is located in Italy's heel, and isn't the most popular of tourist destinations. And I like it that way. The towns and villages still retain their rustic charm, buildings are crumbling, roads bumpy and the people genuine and warm. This feels like an authentic Italy, untainted by hordes of tourists and untouched by commercialism.

I particularly loved looking at the windows and doorways while walking around the area. Pictures were taken around Galatina, Lecce and Gallipoli.