Italy – the land of a never-ending summer. Through my rose-tinted glasses, I see Italy as a place that is forever stuck in golden hour, where people adorn their conversation with Aperol Spritz and bowls of olives. The food. The culture. The history. The art. The romance. The scenery. Ahh, la dolce vita.
The reason for my overly romanticised, Anglo Saxon delusions? Every time the sun comes out, I want to fill my belly with fresh, Italian flavours. Sun = Italy. So, as the sun poked itself out over the clouds in Chamonix today, a food-based celebration was in order. Craving Italian freshness, an early evening dinner in the sunshine with good quality ingredients was just what the doctor ordered.
I love this quote on Italy by the great Italian journalist, Beppe Severgnini:
“Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It’s alluring, but complicated. It’s the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred meters, or in the course of ten minutes.
Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis.”Beppe Severgnini
When it comes to the tastiest of marine creatures, octopus wins tentacles down for me and the Italians know how to cook it. Fresh, not fussed with too much and oh, so tender. Octopus is not as intimating to cook as it may seem, all it needs is a bit of care in preparation to ensure that it tastes deliciously tender and the flesh remains delicate. To break down the collagen and stop the octopus from being tough and rubbery, I boiled it for an hour or so in aromatics before flash grilling it on the barbecue for extra taste. The bi-product of this method of preparation leaves you with an amazing fishy broth which can be used for something like a seafood Pho or base for a fish bisque. The alternative to cooking cephalopods through long and slow and slow methods is to cook them rapidly to prevent the muscle fibres from toughening in the first place. I used this method of cooking with squid tube which I popped onto a screaming hot barbecue to go with the octopus.
The only secret is to really treat yourself and use the best quality ingredients you can find, these simple recipes rely on the ingredients to sing loud and proud. I hope the sun is shining as you read.
Serve your BBQ octopus and squid with a delicious, vibrant salsa.