A friend of mine suggested I read Isabel Coe’s La Dolce Vita: Sweet Dreams and Chocolate Memories, a fascinating story about a woman and her family in Italy and Switzerland and the fond memories she has about cooking, especially with chocolate. My friend and I had been discussing our favourite desserts that our grandmothers once made and knowing how much I love all things Italy and chocolate, she kindly let me borrow her copy of the book.
The recipes featured in this book sound heavenly, I have not dared to test them myself because I don’t know whether the end result would be successful and if it was, then how do I stop myself from eating the entire dessert? Isabel Coe talks of her Omama’s Chocolate Mousse, Nonna’s chestnut truffles and her Mother’s chocolate sandwiches, Isabel learned to cook at a young age and finds comfort in these recipes handed down through generations now that she lives in Australia and lives with the feeling of being homesick. One of the first recipes to grab my attention with its simplicity is Omama’s Creme Chocolat, described as a dessert that ‘tastes rich yet is somehow light to eat’ and is best served with chocolate madeleines.
Omama’s Creme Chocolat (Isabel Coe)
300ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
1 1/2 tablespoons boiling water
150g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Place the cream in a bowl with the vanilla pod and leave to infuse.
Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and stir until dissolved. Stir in the sugar and leave to cool.
Lightly whip the cream and fold into the chocolate mixture.
Eat slowly and savour every mouthful.
I particularly love the last step in the instructions for preparation 🙂
If you have read the book and made any of the recipes contained within I would love to hear about it and if you haven’t read the book but love a good story about family and food, I recommend reading ‘La Dolce Vita’. Reading this book brings back many food memories of my own: shelling peas into a bucket for my Nanna as she prepares Christmas lunch for 20-30 people; beating sugar and butter by hand while sitting in the sun hoping that the warmth would speed the process; and eating the blackest, juiciest plums straight from the tree in my Grandmother’s backyard. It makes me wish that I had captured more of my family stories while my Grandparents were alive.
I want to share a few of my photos taken during our short stay in Lucerne, Switzerland during Spring 2011. All of my photographs can be found on my smugmug gallery but not everyone can be bothered looking through hundreds of images.
One of the most photographed sites in Lucerne (or Luzern) and possibly Switzerland, is the old wooden Chapel Bridge, a covered wooden footbridge across the Reuss River.
The markets are a real treat to see on a sunny day, the river is lined with market stalls and at Easter time there are many stalls selling gifts and decorations to celebrate the upcoming event.
In addition to wandering around Lucerne’s old town, we took a trip up to Mt Pilatus via the bus and cable car, the views are spectacular on a clear day or so I am told, it was cloudy most of the time with temperatures of minus 3 and 4 degrees Celsius.
Every now and then the sun would come out, blue skies would appear and the temperature would rise making our day on the mountain even more spectacular.
At night the city was just as beautiful, the streets were crowded with people looking for somewhere to eat and tourists with cameras took prime position on the bridges to capture the reflection of the lights on the river and lake.
You get fed well when flying Emirates, the meals are pretty good in comparison to many airline meals I’ve eaten but it is important that you don’t eat all the food on offer otherwise you will feel extremely uncomfortable and besides delicious treats awake once you reach your destination. When travelling around Europe you expect to eat good food and drink lots of wine because its usually cheaper than soft drink and mineral water and generally tastes good as well. We’ve had some great, inexpensive meals and also a couple of ordinary expensive ones, most of the time we’re dining on baguettes, paninis or crackers with cheese and cold meat but after a while the craving for vegetables and a different taste can’t be ignored.
In Paris we tried escargots in herb and garlic butter at La Grange on Rue Mouffetard, nice except for the slight hint of dirt on one particular snail. The bread served with the meal soaked up the herb and garlic butter nicely, in France and Italy the bread comes free with the meal. The cheese we bought made our fridge smell, we threw one lot out (it may have been perfectly okay to eat however the smell made us heave) and ate the rest cruising on the train to Amsterdam. Wine was cheap and much lighter in flavour than Australian wines, we ordered the house wine on most occasions and it was served up to us in a carafe or jug.
My favourite meal in Amsterdam was frites and mayo, the dinner we had at the Blazer Brasserie was delicious and the cheap thai (9 euro) on our last night was the best value. No way was I trying the pickled fish that are sold at stalls, I’m fussy about fish and they look horrible and slimy.
I’ve tried to remember to take photos of all our meals eaten at restaurants and cafes, having started well I’m now failing dismally and usually half way through my meal before remembering that I have a camera on me. The most expensive meal we had was in Lucerne Switzerland, I forgot to photograph the main and should have scanned the bill because it is a meal we won’t forget and not because it was the best one we had. The meal was nice, local produce and wines followed by luscious creme caramel with cream and strawberries, for 120 swiss francs you might expect more, but hey, we’re in Switzerland and everything is expensive.
In Germany, Marty ate Weiner Schnitzel four nights in a row, it is a dish that brings back wonderful memories of childhood meals with his Grandparents and I have to admit that it was quite tasty. I tried having different meals even though we ate at the same restaurant in Bacharach and Rothenburg ob de Tauber, we enjoyed the company of the host at each place and the food was good. Our most memorable meal and one of our favourite experiences was courtesy of a friend of Marty’s, he took us to Neuschwanstein and showed us some of the surrounding area and then we went to his family home for the most delicious meal of roast pork, crackling, potato dumplings and salad. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat anymore Joe’s Mum brought out cherries and Bavarian cream and his Grandmother started cutting up cake. Their hospitality and friendliness really made our day, it was also nice to have freshly brewed coffee to finish the meal – we hadn’t had much success with coffee in Germany.
The food in Italy is so far, so good, breakfast was lacking initially (prepackaged croissants and toast) but our stay in Varenna on Lake Como has proven to be a ‘filling’ one. Seafood in Venice is a must, I even ate little fishes fried in batter, at first quite nice but after a while I couldn’t eat anymore and the whole prawns fried were nice (couldn’t bring myself to eat the heads) although I after consuming half the meal I was a little over eating whole fried creatures. Chocolate shops and sweet shops line the narrow streets, Lindt and Perugian chocolates of all kinds and you can pick and mix – we added to our stash of sweets for the Easter weekend. We couldn’t find crostoli anywhere, a small bakery over near the Rialto markets sold something very similar and we ate the sugary fried treat as a snack while walking back to the hotel, wish I could remember what it was called.
In Florence we’ll be attending a cooking class, maybe I’ll have something more interesting to write about, until then I’ll try to remember to take more photos.