Italian Inspiration

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Fresh with inspiration from her wonderful getaway in the Italian Alps, Sophia shares how she will bring the wonders of Italian cuisine into her own garden...

There is nothing like a spot of travel to inspire both the mind, and the tastebuds for new ideas in the kitchen and garden. 

We were fortunate as a family, to have recently enjoyed a wonderful ski holiday in the Italian Alps, more specifically in the beautiful ‘Aosta Valley’.   Here we enjoyed wonderful meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner to fuel a busy day on the slopes.  Perhaps a little too much delicious cheese and wine and the freshest of pastas for the waistline to appreciate, but hey, we were on holiday!

To counteract these delicious indulgences, we also enjoyed the most wonderful healthy vegetable dishes, particularly when we stumbled across a special little restaurant tucked away up the mountain valley, slightly off the radar of the slopes.  Unassuming and simple but oh my goodness, their chef could certainly cook and obviously respected the very best produce.

 Aosta Valley 

We enjoyed beautiful red, green and speckled radicchios which I shall certainly be growing in my kitchen garden this spring.  Not just for salads, but casseroled whole with the addition of a little Gorgonzola cheese and red wine vinegar makes the most delicious treat that counteracts any bitterness. 

We also enjoyed the most succulent of Asparagus, which reminded me that having planted our Asparagus bed a number of years ago, we can finally enjoy the first pickings of our investment this year. 

Of course, the Italians do produce the most incredible tomatoes, and it is hard to imagine their country’s cuisine without them. Even at this time of year, we enjoyed the sweetest of fruits.  This has inspired me to try a couple of new Italian varieties in the greenhouse this year, such as Marzano, which is considered best for creating sauces, and ‘Pachino’ which are small and deliciously sweet.  ‘Marmande’ which I have grown for many years and shall continue to grow, are perfect in a summer tomato salad.

 Artichokes and Tomatoes 

The stars of the show though, in this wonderful little alpine restaurant, were without a doubt, the most gorgeous baby Globe Artichokes.  Served raw and finely shredded and dressed simply in oil and lemon juice, they were the most special things I have tasted for a long time.  My artichoke bed here at home, has come along nicely in recent years with regular division, so I am anticipating a decent crop this summer.  However, instead of waiting for them to all grow in to big round globes, I shall now be picking most of them young and sweet, no larger than a golf ball, and enjoying this new found simple way of eating them in this humble but special salad, or kept small and halved and simmered gently in to a pasta sauce. 

Italian inspiration......Delicioso!  Bon Appetito!

Have any of you been particularly inspired by an ingredient on your travels?  I would love to hear...

Thanks for reading!

Sophia is an interior designer living Kent, who also writes for her own blog Sophia Home where she shares all things that inspire her daily; including design, home, garden and travelling.