You’ve got to hand it to the Italians. They certainly know how to do fast food in style and it always looks amazing and colourful. Of course, they do have the wonderful Mediterranean climate, great for growing veg but it does infuriate me that we can’t get their tasty tomatoes here unless we grow them ourselves or pay premium. Tomatoes from the supermarket pale into insignificance – watery, flavourless.
So us Grundtvig delegates are here at the Eccelsa cookery school Bari near Alberobello, Puglia, watching a demo by chef Domenico Maggi. He’s keen to show us stuff we can easily knock up ourselves. I take the opportunity to ask him what he thinks of our Jamie Oliver -he’s very quick to approve of Jamie’s work with kids and school dinners.
Turning to the food now, he places toasted bruschetta slices on a tray. He roughly chops ripe tomatoes and decants into a bowl. Selecting a few celery stalks, he cuts away the white ‘heart’ at the base (he eats those himself – maybe he doesn’t think they’ll taste right), chopping the stems up into chunks and adding them to the tomato. He also adds chopped, a large handful of fresh dark oregano leaves, followed by two finely chopped garlic cloves and some finely chopped red onions. As a dressing, Domenico uses a local Agua Salé recipe ‘La Caletta’ (CHA-LET-TA)- water, salt, herbs, pepper. You could add Vincotto but vinegar is too sharp he advises. In fact pre-soaking onions in salted water for a couple of minutes with a drop of balsamic beforehand knocks out the sharpness and is a good tip for us Brits when the only onions we can get hold of are the really strong ones.
Work the dressing through turning carefully so as not to bruise the ingredients and top the bread generously with the mix. Then grate Cacia Ricotta (this is salted ricotta cheese) over the top. Simples!