Monday, 9 August 2010
Cooking in Sardinia
We spent an indecently brilliant week in South West Sardinia, staying in an utterly perfect apartment, soaking up sunshine like a roll of Bounty and gorging on food that was so fresh and irregularly shaped that it would have given a supermarket buyer an aneurism. We whiled away our days on sensational beaches and the evenings cooking the best food Sardinia’s lader had to offer on our patio.
You’d expect Sardinia to be obsessed with fish, but curiously it isn’t. Historically Sardinia is a land of hunters who stayed away from the coastline to avoid marauders and malaria whilst spearing wild boar and roasting a variety of animals over juniper wood fires. They are famous for their pork, lamb and goat rather than fancy fish dishes.
Isola di San Pietro, marooned off the industrial zone of Portovesme is a notable exception, given that it is often touted as being the home to the world’s best tuna. The island was named, apparently, after Saint Peter who landed there around AD46 to avoid some vicious baddies. He chose a good place to drop into because it is a stunning island that reminded us of a mini Monaco crossed with Havanna.
If you are fortunate enough to get stranded here, you must try their local specialties of tuna such as intestine and a type of ham like salt cured tuna fillet called mosciame which was a revelation. I had to erect a mini barrier to stop Cowie’s fork from infiltrating my plate! All of this tuna-mania is based on the ancient island ritual for catching the fish in enormous nets which bring the tuna into an a small harbour in Carloforte where the sea turns red as they club the tuna to death. It’s all pretty grim, but the tuna tastes amazing. The videos below show the complex series of nets that are placed meticulously to trap the fish… and then the second video shows the catch being landed and the sea turning red. It’s quite dramatic. Look out for a tuna that is the size of a small London flat. But if you’ve feeling squeamish, be warned…
Other Sardinian specialities include fregula – which is a sort of pasta version of couscous, bottarga – which is salted and dried mullet roe with a flavour that is reminiscent of anchovies and a very flat crisp bread called Pane Carasau – which is, bizarrely quite Scandinavian.
We only ate out once, so had the luxury of cooking with each other for the first time in months. We came back from Teulada’s well stocked market with our fingers almost bleeding from carrying bags full of ripe produce such as gorgeous peaches, melons that smelled indecently fresh and some pecorino that had to be taken away from me because I was nibbling it all the way home.
I’ve got a few recipes set aside for further posts including a cauliflower salad, fun with fregula and spaghetti with bottarga, so in the meantime, here’s a taste of some of the most pleasurable and simple meals of our year so far…
We quickly singed peaches, figs and apricots over the coals and provocatively draped them with hand carved local ham and were in awe of how good they were. It’s a sickening cliché, but when food is this fresh all treating it simply works best.
An amazing fish stew made by charring a range of Mediterranean vegetables over some very hot coals with grey mullet and a garlic tomato concoction.
A super fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil salad.
Fregula with charred Mediterranean vegetables and mussels.
Smokey aubergine dip with tapenade
Cauliflower salad with olives, sun dried tomatoes and chilli
Spaghetti alla bottarga
The Sardinian Cookbook
The tuna rap of Carloforte