Sunday 25 March 2018

My recipe book: Le ricette di mamma

I keep on experimenting with new cakes or changing old recipes I keep in an old ring A5 binder with a picture of Bonnie Bonnets going to school with white pinafore and school bag on the cover. The recipes are all handwritten and fading away so I thought it was time to type them out properly maybe in a booklet for the use of the whole family. For this reason I started with the recipes I had already tested and posted in this blog (and the previous one I had on Lancashire Life website) in the past seven years and created a book for me and my children. I collected more than 150 recipes from the blog (some of them have little mistakes I overlooked but I decided to leave it as it is) and organized them in starters, primi piatti (first course, that is soup and pasta), secondi piatti (second course, mainly fish and meat), pizza, side dishes, cakes and desserts, and biscuits.

I dedicated the book to my children and my daughter in law and also added some quotations and a foreword. On the cover there is the picture of one of my paintings I thought was appropriate to the topic. It was great fun, rewarding and useful as now I have all the recipes at hand.

Most of the recipes come from what my grandmothers and my mother taught me. Some of them are adapted from magazines and newspapers, and all have the ‘Italian touch’; a way of cooking characterized by simple, healthy and tasty food.

Some of the cakes are my exclusive creation, a thing I am very proud of as making cakes is almost an art, the final ornament to a delicious meal.

Here is a new cake I have just experimented which can be useful during Easter time:

Easter cake with dried coconut and apricots

You need: 250 g of plain flour, 150 g of dried sweetened coconut, 50 g of melted butter, 3 eggs, 150g of white caster sugar, some dried apricots, 1 tsp and a half of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, the grated rind and the juice of a lemon.

Grind the lemon rind and the sugar in a blender. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the melted butter, lemon juice and dried coconut. Finally mix in the rest of the ingredients except for the apricots. Pour the mixture in a round cake tin you greased previously, and arrange some dried apricots on top; finally sprinkle the top with two tbsp of golden caster sugar. Bake at 180° C for 30-45 minutes and enjoy it!

Sunday 18 March 2018

My daughter Valentina’s 18th birthday

In February we celebrated my daughter Valentina’s 18th birthday. It was a great family gathering as my sons and my other daughter came from around the UK to the residential school where she lives near Doncaster. We put up a party in her beautiful accommodation, a bungalow the Hesley Group built just for her.

She’d had a party at school the day before as well and as soon as we arrived she showed us the presents they gave her, a unicorn blanket she proudly wore on her head and a pink My Little Pony soft toy.

My other daughter and I decorated the room with banners and balloons while one of my sons played with her using some glow in the dark stuff I’d found at the supermarket. Together they assembled some phosphorescent little tubes provided in the package in a very fanciful creative way and built bracelets, glasses and a sort of hat. She wore them in a dark room enjoying it tremendously.

Later on my other son and my husband took the present we had brought for her: a big soft gorilla toy as tall as her wrapped up in birthday paper. At first she couldn’t believe such a big pack was for her, then she tore up the paper and hugged and squeezed it. She was so happy about all the presents that she donned everything we had brought her: a new blue dress plus leggings, black boots, a silver scarf, a party badge, a Minions backpack, and even the inflated balloons that decorated the room, which she eventually wanted tidied up to her shoulders. It was her way to say that she was enjoying everything we had prepared for her and wished to treasure it.

The two members of staff present that day supported us in everything; all the staff that has been following her in these two years (about six people in all) are so committed to her care and well being that they have been nominated for an internal award, which I hope they will win as they really deserve it.

At the end of the day we had the cake. Valentina was delighted with it, she blew the candles and prompted us to clap our hands. Then we cut it and she liked it so much that she had two big slices, about one third of the whole cake.

On the whole the day went very smoothly and we had great fun with her. It is unbelievable how much she has improved and how much she can take part in family and community events now, coping with almost everything, compared to two years ago, that is since she moved to the residential school in Doncaster. We are so grateful and happy about all the work the Hesley Group do for her and for the great achievements they attained with our daughter.

Now Valentina is no more a ‘child’, bureaucratically speaking, she is an ‘adult’. She will be out of education in about a year and a half and new arrangements will be made for her by the social services. Let’s hope they will be as good as they have been so far. As a family, we will always be at her side, she is such a cracking irresistible young lady!

Saturday 10 March 2018

Back to the UK

Coming back to the UK was a relief, though I felt I missed my mum. She had been here for seven months and her presence had become part of my life, her routines were my routines, we shared concerns, outings, cooking, and we regularly met the friends of the Italian community. I felt sad for a while but then life goes on, and after all this is what she wanted, go back to her home and her friends in Italy.

At home, I decided to keep the Christmas lights and decorations for another two weeks as the weather was rather gloomy and I was still feeling in a festive mood. Keeping Christmas going was also a way to virtually delay what is inevitably going to happen in spring, that is my daughter’s departure for Japan to attend a two year master course in Tokyo. It is heartbreaking for me to have her so far away but this is what she wants. We will skype, whatsapp and email each other as much as possible to keep updated. I will go to Japan for sure to visit her sooner or later and she will probably come back for Christmas. She really loves Japanese culture and has been attending Japanese classes for four years, which shows her interest and enthusiasm. But I know I will miss her dearly.

As soon as I was back, I plunged in Margaret Atwood’s books to carry on with  my PhD research. I am mainly concentrating on her early works at the moment (The Edible Woman, Surfacing, Survival and The Circle Game), an engrossing reading that indicates how she developed her reasoning about possible alternatives to the stereotyped roles of women in society and about the politics of society itself. The function of power structures and ideology is fundamental in her work; a function she defines showing its inherent contradictions, inconsistencies and construction, and trying to indicate possible different options. But there are no final solutions or definite answers, and this is maybe something we need to acknowledge.

In January, I was also in Cardiff for a meeting at the IB centre, as I am an IB principal examiner and they needed to explain to me some assessment procedures. I wasn’t well as I had caught a bad cold in Italy, which got worse and worse because of the cold weather and the stress of travelling. But the whole experience was very useful and interesting. I could meet the principal examiners of Portuguese, Spanish and French (who is a Québécois retired teacher). We exchanged opinions and ideas, and I acquired good insights of Canada by the Canadian colleague. I would like to visit Canada before the end of my PhD as I think it is essential for me to see the areas and cities that Margaret Atwood describes in her novels. It is a world of fiction, of course, and Canada today is not what it was in the 70s and in the 80s, but still I think it would be worthwhile for me to experience Canada, not just read about it.

We also visited our son in Oxford and found an exceptional Italian restaurant (La  Cucina, )where we will probably celebrate his graduation in 2019. It is not a big place, more like a trattoria, but the food is superb, and it has a pay and display parking place in the back (parking is a nightmare in Oxford). We had gnocchi al gorgonzola (gnocchi with a blue Italian cheese), pappardelle all’anatra (pappardelle with duck tomato sauce), a special calzone looking like a pizza on the edge, cannoli siciliani, an extra special ricotta cheesecake and cake with pears and caramel. Everything was so good that we proclaimed it the best Italian restaurant ever in the UK.