A gentle breeze rustled through the trees today here at Bellaugello Gay guesthouse in Umbria. The past few days the breeze has turned quite cool and wintry , suitable weather for a sauna in our wood fired Finnish sauna, which is currently lit and hovering at 80º with the guys enjoying the sweat. There is a dusting of snow on the Apennines, and a chill in the air.
However spring is clearly on the way, the embankments are covered in delicate wild violets and the first spring primroses are in peeking out, just as the fruit trees are beginning to burst into bloom, a delicate pink of the apricot and almond trees, cream of the sloe, and just he first hint of plum and peach tree buds, it is a real joy to see, I just hope that we do not get a sharp frost to rob me of the fruit blossom.
Last night in front of a roaring fire at dinner we feasted on a Ribollita, thick satisfying Tuscan style soup made with with cannellini beans, cavolo nero, celery and chard, liberally doused with our own Bellaugello olive oil and home baked bread. This we followed with a gratin of baccalà, the salt dried cod so popular here in Umbria. It always amazes me just how popular this dish of north atlantic salt-dried cod is here and just how many local recipies there are. It is an oft seen dish back in Scotland, where the fish is landed and salted, the recipies may be different but the basic raw ingredient very much the same. Having done a limited amount of research it seems that the salt cod here is mostly from Norway, and has been eaten in Umbria and central Italy for several hundred years. Why Norwegian and not Scottish I have yet t o find out. I know variations of the recipies travel south along the atlantic seaboard, through western France and Portugal, but it does amaze me to find it at every market here in Umbria a land-locked region.
Dinner was finished off with two puddings, one of my favourites, a sharp lemon tart, and utterly indulgent fruitti di bosco flan, rich with red berries, and of course a glass or two of grappa….