Ciao AmalfiWriting, photography & tales from daily life on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, through the eyes of Laura Thayer, an American writer, blogger, photographer and art historian. Currently co-writing a novel with my mother, Sandra Thayer, set on the Amalfi Coast.
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Category Archives: Food
I suppose if you lived in Georgia life might give you peaches. Perhaps oranges if you call the Sunshine State home. On the Amalfi Coast life really does give you lemons … and a lot of them! They’re stacked up in baskets at the markets and fruit and veggie shops and hanging on the trees just about everywhere you go. The choice of what you might do with the lemons life gives you is wonderfully rich on the Amalfi Coast. You could make limoncello, always a good choice, or you could squeeze it fresh over a salad or fish, make lemon risotto or some good old fashioned American-style lemonade.
I was in the mood for baking recently, and so I pulled out one of my favorite dessert cookbooks. To say I love The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook is the understatement of the anno. After being introduced to the cookbook from a friend, I stopped in The Hummingbird Bakery in South Kensington (and again in Notting Hill!) in London last March. They had chocolate cupcakes with mint frosting. I was smitten.
Since then I’ve had great success with every single recipe I’ve tried from the cookbook. And, oh, have I tried some! I’ve introduced my husband’s Italian family to the wonderful world of cupcakes and brownies. The cupcakes–particularly the cream cheese frosting–have been a huge it, and the brownies are now specially requested at holidays. Oh, and you should see what happens when you introduce Italians to home-baked chocolate chip cookies! You’d think they were the best thing since chocolate chip cookies. Oh … wait … well, you get the idea.
Since there’s just the two of us and neither my husband nor I are big on sweets, I rarely make dessert except for family gatherings or holidays. Yet I do love the classic lemon cake that is very popular on the Amalfi Coast. Yet, a whole cake is just too much for us to ever hope to finish alone. I’ve been eyeing the pound cakes and loafs in The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook lately and decided to give the Lemon Loaf of shot since it’s a lot smaller than the recipe I have for lemon cake in a bundt pan.
Oh my. Yes, you have to make this lemon pound cake at home. It’s one of those heavens to Betsy recipes that you’ll want to make again and again. I got impatient waiting for it to cook as the house filled with the lovely scent and made my stomach rumble. When it came out of the over and I drizzled the lemon syrup over the top the wait became nearly impossible. When it was finally cool enough to slice, I made tea because everything is better with tea. (I suppose you could have it with coffee, just don’t tell me …)
Let’s just call this my English twist on an Amalfi Coast tradition! Taking the photos was hard work and was duly rewarded with another slice of cake. Then I snapped a photo on my cell and sent it to my husband promising to try not to eat it all before he came home. Yes, this is one of those cakes that requires photographic evidence.
I wish I could share a slice of this lemon pound cake still warm from the oven. But the second best is to share with you the recipe so you can enjoy it at home!
Recipe for The Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Loaf
320 g caster sugar
grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
560 g plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
250 ml whole milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
200 g unsalted butter, melted
freshly squeezed juice and grated zest of 2 lemons
100 g caster sugar
a 23 x 13-cm loaf tin,
greased and dusted with flour
Makes 8–10 slices
Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.
Put the sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until well mixed.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in another bowl. Add
one-third of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat well, then beat in one-third of the milk mixture. Repeat this process twice more until everything has been added. Turn the mixer
up to high speed and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Turn the mixer down to low speed, pour in the melted butter and beat until well incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over
with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45–55 minutes, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched.
For the lemon syrup: While the cake is baking, put the lemon juice and zest, sugar and 200 ml water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over low heat. Boil until it has reduced by half, or until it has a thin syrup consistency. When the hot cake comes out of the oven, pour the syrup all over the top. Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Thank you to Ryland, Peters & Small for allowing me to share The Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe for Lemon Loaf! The Hummingbird Bakery Cook Book Deluxe Edition is published by Ryland Peters & Small at £20.00 and is available from www.rylandpeters.com.
Very exciting news for all of you Amalfi Coast lovers in the UK! Tune in tomorrow evening to the MasterChef UK show on BBC One to see the semi final, which was filmed at the beautiful Mamma Agata Cooking School on the Amalfi Coast. In this episode, judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace take the semi finalists on a culinary odyssey to Italy, including a stop in Ravello to learn Mamma Agata’s cooking secrets and enjoy those dreamy Amalfi Coast views. Sigh … and what amazing views they are from the Mamma Agata cooking school!
Enjoy a sneak peek here with the preview for this episode of MasterChef UK. But you won’t have to wait long to see the full episode! Here are the details:
MasterChef UK on BBC One
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
If you didn’t catch Mamma Agata and her family featured on MasterChef UK, you can catch it all here. One word of warning … don’t watch when you’re hungry!
There are some days that—without even having to think about it—are unanimously pizza days. Sometimes that means we go out in the evenings for pizza or stop in one of our favorite restaurants in Amalfi for a quick lunch. Other days it means making a quick call and having pizzas delivered to our front door. Oh … yeah … now that’s the life in Italy!
Today was very much one of those days to order pizza for lunch One of my favorite pizzas in Italy, pictured above, is pancetta e cipolla in bianco, which is made with pancetta and onions without a tomato sauce. While I love the traditional pizza, many of my personal favorites are without the tomato sauce. If you haven’t tried pizza without the tomato sauce, give it a go on your next trip to Italy!
Of course with the traditional pizza margherita you can have all kinds of different toppings. My husband likes prosciutto cotto and mushrooms. The pizzas are delivered on a scooter from the next village over, which accounts for the mushroom that looks like it tried to make a flying leap over the crust. So now you know … this is what you do when it’s pizza day on the Amalfi Coast!
If you love Italy ephemera and pizza, you might get a kick out of Pazzo for Pizza Boxes (Crazy for Pizza Boxes) on Facebook!
The limoncello and mandarinello are ready! We picked mandarins and lemons in Amalfi last month, and the rinds have been infusing in pure alcohol since then. It’s longer than usual for the recipe from the Mamma Agata Cookbook that I use, but I simply kept forgetting to finish them off! The final result was tasty either way, but we still have to do the taste test comparison to last year’s batch. We picked lemons that were just turning yellow and were still a bit green, and the color of the limoncello (on the left) is ever so slightly green. The rinds of the lemons are at their most aromatic when they are still just a bit green. We picked the mandarins later this year than usual, so the color of the mandarinello doesn’t seem quite as intense as last year. But the flavor is still divine!
Do you make limoncello or other liqueurs at home? Limoncello is super simple, and only takes about a week to make. Although some recipes call for infusing the rinds for much longer, even up to 40 days as Cherrye from My Bella Vita has found out in Calabria! If you make limoncello at home, how long do you let the rinds infuse? Would love to hear!
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” – Henry David Thoreau
As I broke open the pomegranate and brilliant red seeds tumbled into the waiting bowl, I glanced up at that quotation by Thoreau tacked on the cupboard in the kitchen. I smiled because I had to think this is exactly what Thoreau had in mind. With red stained fingertips I picked the seeds gently out of the pomegranate pieces, every so often stealing a few to savor the sweetness while I worked. I look forward to pomegranate season all year long. When it finally arrives in the autumn, I just can’t wait to break open the first one.
My first memory of eating a pomegranate was in elementary school sitting out on the dining terrace in the hot Florida sun. There was a sweet girl in the class one year behind me who dreamed of one day becoming a doctor, a heart surgeon to be precise. I remember admiring her drive and passion way back then, and I’ve never doubted that she achieved her goals. We weren’t in the same class and only rarely met, but I liked watching her pour over encyclopedias in the library and knew we had a lot in common. She had long straight black hair, a shy smile and brought the most intriguing things in her lunch sack. That’s where, one day, she pulled out a pomegranate. It was the first time I had ever seen one, and I was so grateful she let me try some. In retrospect, I imagine she was grateful to have found a kid who didn’t make fun of her for having a pomegranate instead of peanut butter crackers or a fruit roll-up!
That was the first time I ate a pomegranate, and I often think back to when I was a kid as I work the seeds out of pomegranates now. I suppose that’s because I never ate them again until moving to Italy. One early autumn day on the bus from Amalfi to Sorrento I swore I saw a pomegranate on a tree as the bus whirled around a corner near Positano. I came home and looked up the word immediately in the Italian dictionary. Melograno is the Italian word for the tree and melagrana is the word for the fruit. I kept my eyes out for them when I visited the fruit shop, and soon enough I spotted piles of pomegranates arriving for the autumn. Now they’re one of the fruits I look forward to each year with the arrival of autumn on the Amalfi Coast.
Whatever influences pomegranates may have on me, I’m happy to resign myself to them.