If you’re like me and you’re into food head to Umbria; it’s a trip I do together with my partner, Jeremy, and a couple of friends every year in the summer and let me tell you, I really look forward to it every time. We stay at our friend Gianluca Piermaria’s family house in a little village called Cantalupo on the outskirts of Bevagna. The village is very simple, in contrast to the picturesque surroundings of the amazing hills of the area.
The Piermaria house is big enough to take us in without feeling cramped. Every time we are there I say “this is the kind of life I would like”. Around the house there are is a fig tree, plum, walnut and vines; also a plot where Gianluca’s mum, Iolanda, grows all the vegetables for the season (and to keep them going for the rest of the year she preserves a lot). There are plenty of chickens, rabbits and cats wandering about!
The trip started at three in the morning to catch a flight to Rome at 7am. Two hours later we land in Rome, then a two hour train journey to Foligno, and then another 25 minutes journey by car to Cantalupo. What kept us going was the knowledge that a nice lunch was waiting for us.
It was Thursday, which meant “baking bread” day for the rest of the week and while the wood oven was on, lots of other cooking goes on as well. We started with home-made white lasagne with fresh artichoke and sausage meat, followed by a succulent whole roast goose with roasted mix vegetables and the most delicious potatoes that had been swimming in fat underneath the bird, accompanied by a simple tomato, cucumber and lettuce salad from the garden. The finale was a fluffy and “light as a feather” walnut and cinnamon flan, and all that was washed down by a chilled home made white wine! Of course after such a meal nobody could go further than bed for a little nap.
It is such a pleasure to go food shopping in Umbria. Even the supermarket stocks seasonal, fresh and only local food; I can’t stop myself from buying far too much stuff to take back home. I keep telling myself not to buy too much and always end up with more than myself and Jeremy can carry - cheese, salami, balsamic, black truffles and my favourite, Acquavita D’uva Regina grappa.
Jeremy was lucky this year as it was his birthday when we were there so we celebrated twice. The first time a fabulous dinner cooked by the lovely Iolanda and Gianluca, and the second was at our friends Daniela and Craig’s house, where I made all the salads; then we set up a humble barbecue outside the house and Gianluca cooked lots of different cuts of meat.
On the menu were: freshly picked figs with aged pecorino cheese, honey, mint and balsamic; roasted round courgettes with spicy breadcrumbs, parmesan and lemon; celery salad with sultanas, capers, olives and parsley; beef chops; pork belly; 2 types of sausages; lamb cutlets; cakes, pastries and lots and lots of wine!
Like any respectable town or village in Umbria, that has its own one celebrated food item (sweet potato, artichoke, pig, wine, olive oil), on the fourth day we went to the [link http://www.prolococantalupocastelbuono.it/ snail (lumaca) festival] which takes place in Cantalupo every year at the end of August.
It’s a charity event supporting people in need and the village in general. On the menu, guess what, snails in lots of different ways.
Lastly, I must mention Iolanda’s wonderful fritters. We tried them last year and we couldn’t keep our hands off them. This year I promised myself to get the recipe and see how she makes them, which she kindly let me do. Here it is.