A Tuscan Classic – Ribollita

So how has everyone been coping this week with the HOTTEST weather on record in the UK and much of Europe? Dark, cool rooms or being in or near water have been the answer, but sleeping at night has been tough hey? When it’s super hot, I never feel particularly hungry and I certainly don’t want to be cooking with heat by a stove/oven for that long. I gravitated towards making salads, and on Thursday (the hottest day ever) I made my Vietnamese chicken salad – well a fusion of two of my recipes in fact – this one and this one .  It’s very straightforward and packed full of flavours and textures. It tasted cleansing and zingy with some good elements of crunch.

As crazy at it may sound when the going gets hot sometimes a soup – yes soup – can cool you down. You know how much I love soups and dals, and on our recent jaunt to Florence we ordered a Tuscan favourite – Ribollita – quite a few times when dining out. It’s a classic Tuscan dish that uses stale bread, tomatoes and my store cupboard favourite, white beans. It’s a meal in itself and gets the approval from the whole family so I thought I would make it my blog post for this week. I hope you like it. It’s a great year round recipe, so instead of just discarding stale bread try making this Tuscan classic instead.

 

Ribollita – a classic Tuscan dish

Serves 4-6

2 white onions, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

3 medium sized carrots, finely chopped

1 whole garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 wedge of parmesan rind (you know the end you normally want to throw away right)

2x400g can of good plum tomatoes

1 large handful of cavolo nero also known as Tuscan kale, roughly chopped

400g jar/tin of white beans

Approx 300g stale white bread (I like to use sourdough, but whatever you have to hand)

1 tsp red pepper flakes

70 ml of good extra virgin olive oil with extra to drizzle

salt to taste

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  2. First prepare the onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Place to one side
  3. Next remove the stalk from the kale by gliding your hand down the stalk to remove the leaves from the base of the stalk. Then roughly chop and place to one side.
  4. Cut up a wedge of parmesan rind and place to one side.
  5. Remove the plum tomatoes from the cans and strain, keeping the juice and then using your hand break up the plum tomatoes and place in a different bowl to the juice.
  6. Roughly tear by the bread.
  7. In a large pan – I find my trusty Le Crueset pan works really well for this type of meal – heat the oil and then add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic along with some salt. Allow to soften and the onions to become translucent but not brown.
  8. Add the plum tomatoes – still keep the juice to one side – and mix in thoroughly. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  9. Now add the parmesan rind, red pepper flakes, tomato juice and the strained white beans and stir in gently so that the flavours can infuse together.
  10. Add 1 litre of water and simmer.
  11. Now add half the cavolo nero and once wilted add the rest.
  12. Follow a similar step with the stale bread. When you have added the second batch of stale bread, add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and place in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  13. Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

 

 


Memorable Eating in Florence

Arriving in any new city is exhilarating and thrilling and Florence is no exception. I’ve been a few times in the past but it had been a decade since my last foray in the city so remembering where to eat needed fresh research. One exception is Il Latini, which is a Florence culinary institution, that is always worth seeking out.

Il Latini: Via dei Palchetti, 6R

Hams hang from the ceiling at this charming Florence eatery that has exceptional Florentine food and welcoming staff. It is a place to linger and enjoy the buzzy atmosphere and a real sense of occasion when you go there.

So the other places to recommend when you visit are as follows:

Trattoria Mario: Via Rosina, 2r,

This place is a real gem, that was so good we returned to twice. The first time it was so busy that we were ushered to what seemed like a store room in the cellars with wine stacked up. Tables were huddled together and we all felt rather grateful to have been giving a table at all as its the kind of place that you want to arrive as close to noon as possible to guarantee a table. The menu changes daily – its short, which all good menus should be (in my view). It is equally loved by tourists and locals as the food is excellent, very kind to the wallet and has a good traditional trattoria vibe. Be warned if you are in small group you will be sharing a table with others, but that makes it all more fun right?

We had to wait for about 5 minutes on one occasion otherwise we were seated immediately. The courgette ravioli, below was very memorable and I will certainly try to replicate it myself in my own kitchen.

Got to love a birds eye view!

L’Giuggiolo – Osteria/Pizzeria: Viale Augusto Righi, 3 A/D

Recommended by the taxi driver who was extremely enthusiastic that we go. Within a few mouthfuls of food we understood the reason for his pride. We would not have naturally visited it as it sits anonymously on the road at the outer environs of Florence, just outside Fiesole. You can take the bus to Fiesole or a taxi which takes around 15 minutes. The food is sublime and the service is relaxed giving us a very comforting Sunday lunch experience. The pastas were perfectly cooked and generous and the bistecca was as good as any we have eaten. Furthermore being outside the tourist centre the bill was much more modest. It’s location makes it a good place to have a post or pre-lunch hike, so take some good walking trainers.

 La Menagere: Via de Ginori 8r

This places oozes cool with its crittall windows, arched vaulted ceilings, its mismatched lamp shades and stone flooring. It’s one of those concept stores that gives you the option to buy all manner of wonderful things – whether its some beautiful flowers, music, a pastry and coffee, breakfast or perhaps a more refined evening meal. Whilst we did not eat here, it goes on the list as it is very different from anything else I saw in Florence and is a good place to have a pre-dinner cocktail or a coffee and watch the world go by. It would not be out of place in London’s Shoreditch, New York’s Brooklyn, Tel Aviv’s Jaffa or LA’s Echo Park or Silver Lake.

Gelateria Santa Trinita: Piazza Dei Frescobaldi, 8/red

Florence is teaming with gelateria but if you are not careful you will be paying overinflated prices if you opt to buy one too near the Ponte Vecchio. Gelateria is perfectly positioned just by the Ponte Santa Trinita, which affords excellent views of the Ponte Vecchio. Portion size is super generous – I opted for the smallest size in a cone and as you can see from the photo below I could pick two flavours – nocciola (hazelnut) and black sesame (definitely try this one if you have not done so before). It came to 2.80 euros – the same portion at one near the Ponte Vecchio was 6.50 euros. There is lots of choice and the quality is very good.

Osteria Del Cinghiale Biano: Borgo S.Jacopo, 43r

Located on the ground floor of a thirteenth century tower in Borg San Jacopo, one of the quaintest streets of medieval Florence. The first dining room is situated right in the old tower, with the original antique stone walls in view. The second dining room and the kitchen were built in the tower’s old courtyard, which was covered by vaults in 1500 in order to best bear the weight of the historic building. It’s rustic and charming and the staff were attentive and welcoming. Wild boar and truffles feature on the menu so are definitely worth trying. The tiramsu is also an obvious choice for dessert and got a definite thumbs up from my family. You do need to book though so don’t just turn up.

La Bussola: Via Porta Rossa, 56r

If pizza is what you are after then La Bussola will definitely tick that box. The restaurant is a lot bigger than it appears at first glance, with options to sit at regular tables inside or outside or on stools up at a marble bar. There was a wide choice of pizza – as well as lots of non-pizza options too. I can’t fault the pizzas – they were the right thickness, were generously covered and tasted great. Whilst you probably could walk in off the street, we had made a booking to be on the safe side.

Mercato Centrale: Via dell’Ariento

This place is Florence’s answer to Borough Market. Downstairs artisans sells there wares with hams, cheeses and olives galore, upstairs is a massive food court which is super busy and the perfect place to pick up a snack or two and a beer. Whilst you can eat at that level – which is hard as so many people are trying to also find a seat – I recommend finding your way up to another level, with more seating and a chance to actually sit down.

Alimentari Uffizi: Via Lambertesca, 10/R

A biouji family run deli, a stones throw from the Uffizi gallery down a quiet street. It is a great place to stop for a glass of wine and a plate of prosciutto from the present owners’ son’s farm. You perch on wooden stools and tables and order a range of delicious antipasti. It’s the type of place that you are really happy to have stumbled across as it feels so welcoming and Italian.

 

Ristorante Toto: Borgo Santi Apostoli, 6r,

After arriving into Florence around lunch time we decided to find somewhere close to the station that we could walk to with our luggage and indulge in a bowl of pasta – as you do! After some speedy research we opted for Toto Firenze. It’s spacious and buzzing and the waiters were welcoming as they showed us to our table. The restaurant prides itself on its famous ‘ fiorentina bistecca’ and looking at those served up on other tables (as well as the meat fridge below) it was most impressive, but we were craving pasta so all opted for the spaghetti carbonara. Portions were generous and the food tasted great. Price wise the restaurant is also very good – so a perfect place to go with a family or group.

So that’s it folks. We ate at a few other restaurants that were good, but bang for buck I felt the ones above were more of a ‘home run’.

If you discover any different from this list do leave a comment in the comments box below, I would love to know. Equally if you try any of the above let me know what you think. Did you have an equally good experience?


A Weekend in Turin

When I mentioned I was heading off to Turin for a weekend away I must admit the usual reaction was something along the lines of ‘really, isn’t Turin just an industrial city’ or ‘interesting choice’ with a hint of sarcasm. I purposely picked it as it is off most people’s radar and I was convinced there would be lots to see and do, and ultimately eat, away from throngs of tourists. What I discovered was that Turin delivered on every level – cheap tickets on BA, easy transfer to the centre of town (we took the train and then local bus on the way in and returned in a taxi), a stunning hotel that served the best breakfast I can remember having eaten in Italy, delicious meals out – with change from €50 for 3 of us, museums, great shopping and ultimately the most amazing food market. The sun shone and there was a relaxed grandeur to the city. In short, it was the perfect weekend away that ticked all our boxes and more.

Where To Stay

I booked the four star Hotel Victoria Torino, which is centrally located and has a wonderfully inviting old school charm (that you would not sense from the outside) and serenity about it. The decor is British country house meets chinois in a deliciously charming fusion.  There is a grand fire place, big sofas and the owners’ collection of French and Italian works of art as well as number of Asian pieces dotted around, clearly picked up on the owners’ travels overseas. The overall effect is charming and a place that you want to linger and enjoy a coffee or an aperitivo in the evening. In fact, Poirot would not seem out of place residing in the Hotel Victoria Torino.

The other major plus about the hotel is that it has a spa/hammam with steam rooms, sauna, cold plunge pool and jacuzzi as well as a lovely space with sofas, magazines and fruit and tea. There is also a magnificent pool (which was one of the reasons I booked it), which guttingly was closed when we were there as it needed some work. It is now back up and running. As we were three friends we managed to book a very large duplex room, which had two double bedrooms and another ‘bedroom/sitting room’ on a lower level with a double sofa bed. The space also included two bathrooms, one included a bath. It was perfect for us and a very generous space, allowing us all to have our own rooms.

The breakfast was also incredibly generous with a wide variety of treats to accomodate both the sweet and savoury palate. You can choose to eat inside or out in the courtyard, which was just warm enough for us with the suns rays shining down on us.

Price wise we split the bill between three and each ended up with change from £200 for a two nights stay. Amazing value for the offering.

 

What to Do

Visit the Porto Palazzo Food Market (on Piazza della Repubblica)

It is the largest open air market in Europe with around 800 stalls from Mondays to Fridays. Inside there is a Farmers market with over 100 stalls and another section selling all manner of meats, cheeses and fish.

The place is bustling and the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere of Turin over a coffee.

If you are there over lunch time grab a plate of ‘fritter mista’ and a glass of local white wine from Gallina Pescheria Banco N.2. It has quite a following so get there early to secure a table.



Stroll around the famous flee market of Balon

Open every Saturday morning and every second Sunday of the month (on Sundays there is more on offer), this flee market is a wonderful place to wander and find that real gem you have always wanted in your life. It is a stones throw away from the Porto Palazzo Food Market and is a maze of 250 stalls selling a wide range of antiques and retro furniture. Amongst the stalls are a number of restaurants, especially along Via Borgo Dora.

Sample and buy some Chocolates

Yes you read correctly. Turin is THE place of chocolate innovators owing to its history back in 1585. The Turin-based Duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel I, married the daughter of Philip II of Spain and through the Spanish colonies, raw cacao arrived in Italy. Turin’s expertise for chocolate burgeoned and turned the city into the chocolate centre of Europe. Today, the city is still synonymous with the sweet treat – especially Nutella, which was given life by Pietro Ferrero, a pastry chef in Turin.

 

The two well known chocolatiers are:

Confetteria Stratta (Piazza San Carlo 191)which opened in 1836. It is the perfect place to pick up ‘gianduiotto’ the most symbolic chocolate of Piedmont -bite-size, boat-shaped, hazelnut chocolates that were invented in Turin.

Guido Gabino (Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange 1) opened in the 1960’s now has two branches. Beautiful little orange bags are filled with individually wrapped chocolates. I may have picked up some from here on my visit.

Take a Glass Lift up to the top of the Mole Antonelliana for a panoramic view

An absolute must is to visit this architectural landmark in Turin. It was originally conceived as a synagogue but after being bought by the Municipality of Turin it was made into a monument to national unity. Completed in 1889 it was, at the time, the tallest building in Europe reaching 167.5 metres. The building also houses the National Museum of Cinema which spirals around the central atrium as the glass lift speeds up through the central part of the building. My advice is to prebook tickets for either the panoramic view and/or the museum. The queues on the Saturday for the panoramic view were easily a couple of hours wait so we returned on the Sunday at 9am when it opened and when there was a shorter queue and only a 30 mins wait, before returning to our hotel for a leisured breakfast.

The view from the top is spectacular and you can see the whole of Turin and the snow-capped Alps in the background. (first photo at top of blog post).

 

Visit the Turin Shroud in Turin Cathedral

Probably one of the most well known facts about Turin is that the shroud is housed in Turin Cathedral. The shroud is a length of linen cloth bearing the negative image of a man that some believe depicts Jesus and that the fabric is the burial shroud in which he was wrapped after crucifixion. Evidence points to it being a medieval creation and a forgery owing to radiocarbon dating. Nonetheless it is interesting to visit the Cathedral, which is just next door to the Royal Palace of Turin.

Wander the streets and marvel at the architecture and beautiful arcades

Turin is great to amble around on foot, although the classic orange tram cars also add a rather picturesque backdrop to the whole experience. There are some beautiful arcades, which I urge you to explore and wander through. I particularly loved the art deco LUX cinema in Galleria San Federico.

Just near by is the food speciality shop ‘Ferrero’ on Via Antonio Giuseppe Bertola 6/D, which is definitely worth popping into. It has a little restaurant attached where you can join locals for a bowl of carbonara and a glass of Barbaresco.

The Baroque architecture is beautifully elegant and I spent a lot of time looking up at the towering buildings as I wandered the streets.

If you are after a spot of clothes shopping then they have all the known brands, as well as lot of chic boutique Italian stores that are worth visiting. You want to head to Via Roma, as well as the two main department stores: ‘San Carlo 1973’ on Piazza San Carlo 201 and ‘Top Ten’ on Via Marcello Soleri. Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange – away from the main drag – has lots more boutiques worth checking out. It was here that we bumped into the only other British tourist we saw on our weekend – actor Ralph Fiennes – clearly having done a spot of shopping himself.

I didn’t manage to get to ‘Verdellila’, unfortunately, but I hear it is Turin’s answer to Anthropologie – in a hidden courtyard behind a glass gate. It’s on Corso Re Umberto 17. Next time….

 

On my list was a number of places which we ran out of time to visit, but on my next visit I will try and spend time in the following:

The Egyptian artefacts at Museo Egizio

A museum specialising in Egyptian archaeology and anthropology. It houses one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities, with more than 30,000 artefacts. We ran out of time, but on a return visit I will be making a bee line for this museum.

The Galleria d’Arte Moderna

This modern art gallery was on my to do list but again we ran out of time. We decided that we would have a leisured weekend instead of running around trying to fit in everything to 48 hours. It looks and sounds fascinating so if art appreciation is your thing then this place is worth checking out.

The original Eataly

Set in a vast converted factory in the southern area of Turin, next to the former FIAT Lingotto factory, you will find the Eataly mothership opened in 2007. It houses a staggering array of sustainable food and drink, along with beautiful affordable kitchenware and cook books.  You can take a food tour whilst you are there and end with lunch sampling the incredible produce on offer. The NY branch of Italy is really impressive and I can only imagine that the mothership in Torino is equally impressive.

 

Where to Eat in Turin

Aperitivo is serious business in Italy and our Hotel had a great bar with snacks where a number of the guests began their evening. You can also visit it even if you are not staying in the hotel. It’s an oasis of calm and grandeur.

Caffe Vini on Via Porta Palatina, 9/g. This rather enchanting ‘piola’ is a simple tavern that has been serving traditional food, local wines and a welcoming glass of vermouth to locals and passing travellers since 1850. The places oozes charm and nostalgia with old Campari and Cinzano posters adorning the walls, faded rusty mirrors and a room and courtyard full of locals. We managed to slip in to secure a table just in time before the place really begin to throng with people. It’s open at lunch times and early evening. We sampled the local vermouth – heavenly- with some bar snacks, although we could have easily had our antipasti here as the plates of food coming out of the kitchen really looked very tempting indeed.

Da Ciani Piola Caffe

A few minutes walk away from Caffe Vini is Piola Caffe on B, Largo IV Marzo, 9. YOU NEED TO BOOK  (+39 011 569 0425) this place as it gets rammed. It is located on the edge of very pretty little green space called Giardino Bottero. It is good, honest, home-cooked food. Nothing fancy, but at a price point that is attractive with everyone. It is a good place to try local antipasti and pastas. Our meal included many antipasti, three pastas, a tiramisu and some wine and water came to €43 for the three of us. Pretty unbelievable. They do have secondi options too but we found the antipasti and pasta more than enough.

 

Pizzeria IV Marzo

Just across the way from Piola Caffe is a great little pizza joint called Pizzeria IV Marzo. A great little menu with outside dining options and the perfect place to have lunch in the sun, soaking up the ambiance of this pretty neighbourhood. They have a good selection of beers and wines. It’s popular but does not take too long to get a table.

Di Michele or Porto di Savona

Both restaurants are on Piazza Vittorio which is a huge, elegant piazza running down to the River Po. I was recommended both restaurants and the concierge managed to get a table outside at Di Michele. I hear that Porto di Savona is a little more formal than Di Michele offering a number of local Piedmont dishes, where as Di Michele has a broad selection of Italian pastas and pizza. The food was tasty – and no different in quality than Piola Caffe, but three times the price – which to be fair was still reasonable at €125 for the three of us. I would be keen to try Porto di Savona next time to see how that compares as I hear good things about it.

Di Michele: Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 4 +39 011 888836

Porto di Savona: Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 2 +39 011 817 3500

In Balon, the flee market district I have a strong recommendation for:

Trattoria Valenza

I have had many recommendations to go here next time. With decor along the lines of ‘grandmas living room’ this gem offers traditional piemontese cuisine which has been described as outstanding. Honest, homely and rustic, it makes me want to book a return ticket to try this place alone.

Via Borgo Dora, 39,

+39 011 521 3914

Jazz Club Turino

Two minutes walk from our hotel – Victoria Hotel Turino – is the Jazz Club Turino. We walked passed it each evening and the place was full with jazz devotees listening to the bands on stage. The glass structure allowed us to peer in and it looked a really fun way to spend an evening. I have no idea what the food is like, but perhaps it is worth checking out or going to have some drinks and listen to the jazz.

Via S.Francesco Da Paola, ang, Via Giovanni Giolitti

+39 011 882939

reservations via the fork

 

 

Turin really is a fabulous city that I would not hesitate to return to or recommend. There is so much to see and do and if you have fine weather, like we had thankfully, it is a joy to walk around soaking up the atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Celebrating 100 Years of La Scolca Wine at Novikov Mayfair

Photo by Tibor Silva

It’s not every day that you get invited to help celebrate 100 years of La Scolca winery, hosted by the very charming and charismatic owner and CEO, Chiara Soldati, at the Italian restaurant of Novikov in Mayfair. The vineyard is located in the Piedmont region of Italy and was purchased between 1917-1919 by Chiara’s great-great grandfather who planted Cortese vines in an area traditionally used to cultivate only red grapes. Through the hard work, drive and tenacity of the Soldati family La Scolca winery has created an extraordinary set of wines that have brought attention to the “Gavi” region and to the Cortese grape.

Photo by Tibor Silva

Attending the seven course lunch were a host of gourmet food and wine connoisseurs from industry, the press and bloggers, as well as some of the most respected general managers from well known Italian restaurants across London. The gathering was intimate and celebratory and we began the occasion with a glass of Soldati Brut Millesimato to mark the occasion. This sparkling wine is 100% Cortese, is fresh, full with a velvety embrace.

The menu as you can see below, was beautifully put together and each dish presented was a triumph. I particularly loved the crispy sweet paprika coating to the calamari – nice touch – and the spiky artichoke salad from the starters and both mains were exactly the type of dishes I would naturally choose from a menu – and I got to eat both. LUCKY.

Photo (above and below) by Tibor Silva

With our food we were treated to two different wines from the La Scolca winery – Gavi La Scolca (Gavi D.O.C.G. wine), which is a delicate, dry white that paired beautifully with the antipasti and seafood and fish dishes that we ate. Following this we had the Gavi dei Gavi Black label, which again is made with the Cortese grapes and was utterly delicious, and one that I will most definitely be seeking out again.

Drinking Chiara’s beautiful wines got me thinking. Both the white wines I had drunk would work rather well with some of the Indian recipes that I make. Something light, fresh and possibly citrusy would work well with these wines.

Back in my kitchen I came up with a lemony tomato chicken curry, that does not have much chilli heat but is delicately spiced. I think it would work brilliantly with Chiara’s wines or other Gavi whites.

 

Lemony Tomato Chicken Curry

serves 6-8

4 medium tomatoes, quartered

1 large potato, quartered

1 large white onion, quartered

3 green chillies, halved

2 tbsp oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tsp ginger paste

4 lemons, juice only

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

1 tsp brown sugar/jaggery

1 tsp salt/to taste

2kg chicken on the bone (legs and thighs)

1 large handful of freshly chopped coriander

 

  1. Blend the tomatoes, potato, onion and green chillies in a blender until smooth.
  2. In a deep wide pan heat the oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds so that the begin to sizzle – within 20 seconds – and then add the garlic and ginger paste. Move around the pan for a minute before adding the tomato and onion puree.
  3. Add the lemon juice and the remaining spices as well as the brown sugar/jaggery. Mix together.
  4. Add the chicken and coat in the masala mixture. Place a lid on the pan and keep on a medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring intermittently so that nothing burns on the bottom of the pan and the chicken cooks through evenly.
  5. You may find you need to add a little more water if the sauce is drying up.
  6. Taste test the salt level and check the chicken is cooked through – it sometimes takes a little longer on the bone.
  7. Before serving mix in the fresh coriander and serve with some simple plain rice and some dal (see my recipe library for a wide selection).

 

Me, Chiara and Susi – check out her blog www.foodwithsusi.com @food_with_susi
I was a guest of Chiara Soldati. Some of the photos above (mentioned) were taken by Tibor Silva

 

 


Mountain Air and Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Mr B and I have just returned from one of those magical long weekends when you literally have to pinch yourself that what you are experiencing and seeing is actually real. We were attending a friend’s wedding in South Tyrol in Northern Italy, but due to logistics we decided to fly into Munich, a city we hold dear and one that we visited last December. Driving through Germany, Austria and into northern Italy may sound like a bit of an epic journey but the truth of the matter is that it only takes 3.5 hours and we thought a scenic drive through the  Brenner pass would be rather pleasant.

Our destination was the stunning eco spa hotel, Vigilius mountain resort, which was lovingly designed by architect Matteo Thun. The hotel blends into the natural environment seemlessly due to the use of materials from renewable resources. All the water used in hotel – from the pool, shower, baths and drinking comes from the Vigiljoch spring water.  To reach the hotel you need to take a cable car for about 15 minutes and upon arrival you really do feel a world away from the stresses and interruptions of day to day living. There is no Wifi or TV in the hotel, which allows you to really switch off and enjoy the natural environment that you find yourself in.

The wedding itself allowed us to explore the mountain side, not least because we had to take a single chairlift a further 15 minutes higher up the mountain and then a 15 minute walk to the church. It was one of those experiences that we will remember and cherish forever, not least because of the surreal nature of taking a chairlift dressed in wedding attire.

The smell of the pine forests and the wood burning in the chimneys conjured up happy memories of times in the mountains when the snow was thick and heavy. It was refreshing though seeing the mountains covered with grass and wild flowers and the cows with bells around their necks.

During the church service itself, the cow bells could be heard just outside the church entrance, to the extent we would not have been surprised had they ambled in to take a look at what was going on.

On Sunday, after all the wedding festivities were drawing to a close, Mr B and I returned to the top of the mountain and had a good amble around the wooded paths that are carved into the mountain. We came across characterful chocolate box houses similar to the ones that we all draw as children. I loved the green shutters and the window boxes filled with bright red flowers matching perfectly with the red gingham curtains.

We returned, one last time, to the church where we had spent some precious moments the previous day.

It was hard to drag ourselves away from such a picturesque spot, with beautiful blue skies and wonderful green mountains.

Returning to London I was convinced that the good weather must surely have arrived to our shores – I was clearly delusional after all that mountain sun and fresh air – as the rain persists and people’s moods continue to fray.

As activities with Big A and Little Z are housebound with the continuous downfall, we decided to make some Chinese marbled tea eggs. In China, the eggs are a common snack that are adored by school children and adults alike. The marbled effect, that is created through gently cracking of the hard boiled eggs, is attractive and unique, in that no two eggs will look the same. The girls love to see the different effects that are created each time we finally break open the shells.

I have loved hard boiled eggs for as long as I can remember, to the extent that no picnic is complete without them. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, Chinese marbled tea eggs also taste really delicious with the subtle flavours of tea, soy and aniseed gently resonating from the egg. So why not try making these next time you plan on having a picnic when the sun shines or, for that matter, when it rains and you decide to have it inside instead.

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Sourced from Balance and Harmony Asian Food by Neil Perry – p193

6 free range or organic eggs

3 tbs Jasmine tea leaves (or black tea leaves)

2 cinnamon bark sticks

3 star anise

half tsp sea salt

100 ml dark soy sauce

1. Place the eggs in a pan of cold water so that they are completely covered and gently bring the water to the boil. Simmer gently for 6 minutes.

2. Gently transfer the eggs to a bowl full of ice and then cover with cold water. Place the pan of boiled water to one side as you will use this later.

3. Once they are cooled tap the eggs gently so that the shell cracks but does not break off. You want to have the effect of lots of small cracks.

4. Place the eggs in the pan of boiled water and add the tea, cinnamon bark, star anise, salt and soy sauce.

5. Simmer for a further hour and then remove from the heat and leave to cool completely. The longer you leave them the more flavour is drawn into the eggs and the more marbled the eggs become. Those above were left in the fridge overnight.

6. To serve remove the eggs from the stock and carefully remove the shell to reveal the unique marbled effect.