Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Monday, 21 May 2012

Roman Holiday, without Gregory Peck or Audrey Hepburn

There is a large flat screen to the front of the seat
 and a drinks cabinet to to the side
Warning: an advertisement follows. 

When travelling on Emirates A380 business class, who needs a destination? The journey is all you need.  No, really - it is that good. Comfortable, private, great service, the good times roll.  I should mention the hunter gatherer was actually downstairs in economy.  But before you feel too sorry for him just bear in mind he qualifies for standby tickets for him at 10% of the usual fare, courtesy of his son the Emirates flight attendant. 

Luxe must end, and eventually we arrive in Rome.  We are here because h-g has not been to Italy before and has a vision of wandering around  "the antiquities".  I think he has been watching too much Spartacus, and the vision I have is on endless queues.  A little internet digging reveals I can avoid the horror of hours standing in a line listening to Mindy and Chip from Minnesota jawing on. I simply buy a pass that promises no waiting for entry to popular sites.  Sign me up!  

This proves an inspired move, as the Omnia pass (another ad - I should be paid for this) makes us queue-bypassing champions.  One day we hit the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill, and on another the Vatican: St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel.  My God, the Sistine Chapel. The line to get in must have stretched 500 metres at least.  I was last there in 1979 and you could walk around, take your time and admire Michelangelo's beautiful ceiling.  Indeed, I remember the guards telling us off for lying on the floor to better see the frescoes.  In 2012 you can barely breathe it is so crowded.  I have been trying to calculate how many people they cram through in a day - one site I read estimates 20,000.  And that is in a room about 40m x 13m.  Anyway, thanks to our pass, the longest line I stand in all day is for the loo.  Meanwhile I figure Mandy and Chip lose about 3 hours of their lives they'll never get back. 

This is all well and good I hear you say, but isn't this supposed to be a food blog?  Well, the h-g thinks all his Christmases have come at once when breakfast Italian style is coffee and pastries.  Then for lunch on the first day he has pizza with prosciutto, which is extraordinarily good, with a lovely thin, crisp base, smear of tomato and thin slices of prosciutto draped after cooking. This is, of course, research.  We aspire to creating pizza bases in this style once we get the pizza oven working on our return home (finally installed the day before we left).

Food highlights so far include Beef Carpaccio topped with arugula (that's rocket to you and me), drizzled with a perfectly balanced olive oil and lemon dressing and topped with thick chunks of parmigiana.  This delight we enjoy at a neighbourhood restaurant with the decor of a 1970s New Zealand style Italian restaurant, complete with a murial (sic) of the Colosseum. No Chianti bottles with candles or gingham tablecloths though.  The Parpadelle con cinghiale - wild boar - is also a winner.  

Our trip through the Jewish ghetto in Rome not only feeds our minds but also our stomachs.  Unfortunately we fail to find the restaurant spoken of by the recently returned ex-pats - I was dead keen to try a highly recommended pasta dish, the name of which translates to "priest strangler".  Recovering Catholics everywhere dream of such a thing!  

Instead we learn that artichokes became a staple food of Jews in the ghetto, though I am still not sure why.  Many restaurants have large bowls of the vegetable displayed and Carciofi alla giudia ( fried artichoke) is one of the most famous dishes of Roman Jewish cuisine. 

And so our Roman holiday draws to and end. It has been a good five days: we did all the things the h-g wanted to do, ate and drank well, and the weather gods smiled, though a little rain book-ended the day today.  A storm is forecast for tomorrow.  We don't mind as we will be on the train to Venice, and rumour has it there's quite a lot of water there anyway, rumour has it there is quite a lot of water there anyway. 
in the distance, the queue for St Peter's Basilica runs from the far left to beyond the edge of the photo

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