Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The food in Puglia

I am very proud to say that I introduced Michele to pasticiotti.

They're delicious little cakes filled with custard and they are so incredibly moreish! They're a typical cake from Puglia and the Lecce region in particular so whenever we head down they are the first thing on my to-eat list.

We normally go to Murrieri in Racale to buy them - if you go, make sure you go for breakfast and eat a nice warm, fresh one! My favourites are the chocolate ones that have a layer of rich chocolate sauce underneath the custard.

Pasticiotti aside, our holidays in Puglia can unwittingly turn into a bit of a health kick. Working on the house all day means we're keeping active and then lunches are often salads eaten outdoors with freshly baked bread from the shop around the corner. I'm a real sucker for stracciatella - if you've ever had burrata, you'll know that it's pretty much the best thing ever. Except that stracciatella is better as it's essentially a tub of the burrata's creamy, sloppy heart - paradise!

Being right on the coast, there's also plenty of fresh fish - so much so that you might just get sick of it! If endless platters of Gallipoli prawns and anchovies and octopus aren't your cup of tea, heading inland for about ten minutes will show you a completely different menu. Normally restaurants on the seafront will serve up fish so those in the towns don't. There you're more likely to find vegetables and cheese and meat - the fruits of the earth. Orecchiette is the typical pasta shape of Puglia and is often eaten with cime di rapa, a bitter green vegetable cooked up with garlic and chilli - although every restaurant or town will have its own variation!

But when I am in the mood for fish, l'Angolo Blu in Gallipoli cannot be beaten. The menu doesn't really change that often but their almond encrusted prawns and their tagliata di tonno (strips of tuna steak seared at the edges on a bed of rocket, balsamic vinegar and tomatoes) are so delicious I'm glad it doesn't.

You eat well, you live well. It's a completely different world down there.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The beach in Puglia

Of course, most people head to Puglia for the beaches. And quite rightly so.

The first time I went down to the heel of Italy, we spent our first evening drinking beer on the free beach at Lido Pizzo. 

It's just a ten minute drive from the house and is lovely in the daytime too (although pack some sturdy sandals - we turned up on a day when lots of seaweed had washed up on the shore and it took us a while to trek past it all!)

Lots of beaches in Italy have been privatised and cost a fair bit but I refuse to pay for sea and sand so we always head to Pizzo. The carpark costs €5 for the whole day - brilliant!

However the real star of the show in the area is Porto Selvaggio:

A stony beach leads into the sea, which is both warm and freezing cold depending on where you swim; there are freshwater springs under water!

The water is crystal azure and it's really worth taking a diving mask or some goggles along to see all the fish and sea creatures living at the bottom.

After a swim, lunch can be had on picnic rugs underneath the pines listening to the cicadas creak.

It is easily one of the best beaches I have ever been to and I can't wait to go back again next year. Possibly with a delicious spread of pasticiotti which will make an appearance in a post very soon...

But for days when we don't have much time or don't want to drive anywhere, there's something incredible right on our doorstep.

Just metres away from the house, the road drops off into a rocky moonscape with the sea just the other side.

Too scared to dive in, I eased myself into the water slowly.

And not too gracefully either!

Admittedly I got an attack of paranoia and suddenly began to fear that a shark would sniff me out and that would be the end of that. Do you get sharks in Puglia? Absolutely not. But my logic was that you don't normally get whales in the Thames either and that's happened before. Never say never right?

So after a 10 minute dip, we ambled along the coastline for a little while (mainly to have a closer look at this old villa that's been abandoned for as long as Michele can remember!)

It's such a beautiful building. Apparently it's connected to the little harbour by underground tunnels and in years gone by, fishermen used to go there and eat together. Rumour is it's haunted by their voices, their conversations echoing off the walls at night...

You can probably see from the pictures that it's not the most comfortable of beaches for lying back on. There's no sand to splay your toes in or snuggle down into on top of your towel but I much prefer stony beaches - sand drives me absolutely mad!

Plus it means that sneaky little lizards come to play amongst the holes in the rocks.

A yoga mat, a towel and a scarf to shade my poor English skin from the sun and I am absolutely sorted.

And with views like that, I really couldn't ask for more anyway.

To see the villa, check out my last two posts about the house and its gardens! Where's your favourite beach escape?