Monday, 9 August 2010

Cooking in Sardinia

Costa del Sud plus boat

View from our flat

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.

Arriving at Calleforte

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.

Tonno

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…

Dinner

Peaches wrapped in ham

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.

Fish stew

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.

Tomato mozzarela salad 2

A super fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil salad.

Fregula sarda

Fregula with charred Mediterranean vegetables and mussels.

Smokey aubergine dip with tapenade

Smokey aubergine dip with tapenade

Cauliflower salad

Cauliflower salad with olives, sun dried tomatoes and chilli

Spaghetti alla bottarga 2

Spaghetti alla bottarga

Further reading:

The Sardinian Cookbook
Pane Carasau
The tuna rap of Carloforte
Casa Teulada

14 comments:

Anthony Silverbrow said...

"...gorging on food that was so fresh and irregularly shaped that it would have given a supermarket buyer an aneurism."

Surely that is the food quote of the year?

Puglia is similar in that it is coastal, has traditionally been crushingly poor but they use relatively little fish in their cooking.

Is moscaime a bit like the Spanish mojama - wind dried tuna?

Finally spaghetti alla bottarga, when done well is an astounding dish. It's great that it's now relatively easy to get bottarga in London.

Jonathan said...

@Anthony Silverbrow - High praise from you. I think you are right about mojama - it seems the word might be Arabic which fits with Sardinia's history (not that I know that much about it). The great thing about bottarga is that because it is salted, dried and then waxed they've done everything they can to make it last the long journey from the Med to the UK. I've got some in my fridge and am looking forward to cooking with it soon.

An American in London said...

I agree about it's being nice that bottarga is relatively-easy to purchase now in London. But I must confess that my efforts to make spaghetti alla bottarga at home usually fail unless I put an indecent amount of butter in. I suspect it's better to order it at restaurants (Olivo and Oliveto are my favorites for bottarga) and pretend you don't know how much butter is in there, but if you have a favorite recipe, please share!

Thanks for the apartment recommendation, too. I'd love to visit Sardinia.

Lizzie said...

Lovely, lovely stuff. I keep reading posts about Italy, I must go soon.

Tamara said...

Great post thank you, I lived in Sardinia for 3 years when I was a child and it's obviously where I have developed my love of all things Mediterranean. I don't hear a lot about people travelling/eating in Sardinia and it's up on the top of my list of places to return too, now you have wet my appetite again.

Gareth said...

Cooking somewhere like this is a real joy. The best food I have ever eaten abroad was self-catering in Syracusa, Sicily. Your dishes look fantastic - especially the peaches and ham.

Jonathan said...

@An American in London - Thanks for the advice about the amount of butter required! Will keep that in mind when I cook it later this week. And yes, Casa Teulada is awesome.

@Lizzie - Super. Italy is magnifico.

@Tamara - Glad to hear that someone who lived in Sardinia doesn't think this is all complete drivel!

@Gareth - The self catering aspect was so liberating. I feel that we left Sardinia with a great taste for what it's all about. And would love to go back. Also, would love to go to Sicily one day as well.

Dan said...

Great post Browners. Love that you're actually in Sardinia cooking Sardinian food as opposed to eating something someone else had made. Impressive.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely surprise! As owners of Casa Teulada, the apartment you used to cook and sample all this incredible dishes, we are really honoured to see a mention and lots of great pictures on your splendid blog. We were immediately caught by your content and decided to follow you.
Grazie Ragazzi for all this valuable information. We are studying a way to promote your blog on our website or show (with your permission) your work and your photos. :-)
Antonio & Cristina

Jonathan said...

@Dan - It makes a nice changes from blowing a fortune on eating out for every single meal. Would definitely do the same again. But I'd have loved to have taken a Sardinian cookbook with me, but I couldn't get my hands on one so just used recipes I found on the interweb instead.

@Anonymous - What fun! Of course you can use the content, so long as you say it's by me and squeeze a link in there. I'm doing a few more posts about the food we cooked so stay tuned. Casa Teulada was beautiful and we've recommended it to lots of friends.

Gourmet Chick said...

Ok so I totally want to copy your holiday- how much was the apartment?

Interesting that they don't use much seafood in Sardinia - something I didn't know

Anonymous said...

@Gourmet Chick: you can view the apartment at www.casateulada.com
the availability is here: www.casateulada.com/AVAILABILITYCALENDAR.htm and for the rates you can see www.casateulada.com/RATES.htm

Jonathan said...

@Gourmet Chick - Seems that Casa Teulada have got in their first. I should be getting some sort of commission for this. You'll have a great time. I can't recommend it enough. Email me if you want more recos of places to go etc. But make sure you hire a car. And enjoy the market on Monday.

@Anonymous - I think a 10% referral fee should do the trick!? But seriously, thanks for making our stay in Sardinia so great.

Antonio Bortolotti said...

@Jonathan: if you go check our "Refer a friend page" you'll find out that we'll offer you a 20% discount on next stay...so even better than the 10% you mentioned! And this is our usual treat to loyal returning guests & their friends (as long as they remember to mention that!!!)
Hope to see you again and if you pop up next year between June/Sept, you'll meet us there. My wife and I are moving into one of the units to offer more extra services, i.e. a new small "SPA" with Reiki and Massage treatments, catered breakfasts and dinners, boat trips, and of course...cooking lessons! (But you don't need them!)

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