I am submitting to R&R at the beach resort of Otranto at the bottom of Puglia... swim, eat, walk, sleep, read, work (just turned in my next book manuscript to Random House – a memoir coupled with the story of building a house in the South of France). I am reading anything I can get hold of by Italian author Elena Ferrante – exceptionally unsentimental observations of human behaviour but quite beautiful writing. Even in this touristy town the food is fantastic, for example today I ate mussels grilled with breadcrumbs and pecorino cheese then cavatelli pasta with scampi, bottarga (dried roe) and almond sauce then squid scapece style – escabeche – with mustard sauce. I mean really.... I ask you! Just beautiful.
The Puglia tour went off like a song on a summer's day – full of joy and warmth. Down here it's hard to get a bad meal or a bad glass of wine. This is an isolated land, surrounded by sea, with extraordinarily high quality produce – olive oil, pasta, grapes, wheat, seafood like you've never seen (they eat all seafood raw here) and lots of green vegetables like chicory, rocket and turnip tops. They go mad for fava bean purée, which Chef Tiziano served up with fried green peppers, fried fresh olives, fresh figs and white grapes for our last night together.
We had the most wonderful group of gastronomads who fused on impact and were a delight from beginning to end. We spent the first half of the week in the beautiful Baroque city of Lecce wandering around palaces, eating seafood, having cooking lessons and drinking café Lecce (espresso, ice and almond syrup). The second half of the week found us holed up at the gorgeous Masseria Montenapoleone in the countryside, sailing the high seas on a yacht, eating more seafood, learning how to make mozzarella and visiting the ancient trulli (cone shaped stone houses) in Alberobello. The last night was our usual understated affair with singing, dancing, flowers, love letters and a complete lack of enthusiasm to go to bed.
Next stop Mumbai for my first ever visit, then on to Jaipur to host the first of my two Indian culinary adventures. Ciao for now.