6th November 2007
Thankfully my declaration of Winter has proved to be a little premature and, as sometimes happens, the Gods conspire to throw together the makings of a near perfect day; blue skies, russet trees, the low mellow sunshine of Autumn - and Arezzo antiques market.
This compelling jumble of tat and treasure is more of a spectacle than a place to procure a crafty bargain. We go with friends who claim to be on the lookout for large wooden rosary beads, “You know, big ones like the chief monk would have used”. We, on the other hand, are determined to buy nothing, steely in our resolve. It doesn’t last long, of course, and within the hour we are haggling over the price of an unfeasably large retro fan. Luckily, we are being tutored in the art of haggle by a ‘grand master’ and, after a flash of the cash and a strategic interlude (during which we visit San Domenico to discuss tactics under the gaze of Cimabue’s strikingly beautiful and asemetric crucifix) we return to the stall and clinch the deal. Kerching!
Arezzo is such a classy town, it was recently voted one of the best places to live in Italy (by Italians) and I can see why. Despite being full of Renaissance goodies it still manages to be alive and hip and trendy.
It was also home to the effusive artist/architect/writer Georgio Varsari, the ‘Nigel Dempster’ of the Renaissance and anyone who has a real interest in this period really must read his ‘Lives of the Artists’ (Volumes 1 and 2). They are sometimes acerbic, sometimes gushing but always fascinating - a bit like an historic ‘Hello Magazine’.
I say this was a near perfect day because, to make it perfect, you should really remember to book a table for lunch. We didn’t.
The Best thing I ate today;
Roast Pumpkin Risotto
I make this risotto a lot at this time of year and it’s very comforting; savoury, sweet and full of Autumnal goodness.
OK, this is more of an idea than a recipe because I’m sure most of the people reading ‘The best thing I ate’ have some idea how to cook.
A quantity of pumpkin depending on how many people you are feeding. Chop it into cubes and simmer half of it in a little stock until soft and then puree it. The rest, roast in the oven with olive oil, some branches of thyme and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Meanwhile, make a white risotto, with onions, garlic, white wine and stock and, just before it is ready, stir in the pumpkin puree with a slug of cream (or not) and lots of parmesan cheese. Just before you serve it add a handful of rucola and stir again. Serve with the roast pumpkin and thyme piled artfully on top.
I’ve also made this with small wedges of red onion roasted along side the pumpkin and served it without the rucola. Although it may seem like a pain to cook the pumpkin in two different ways, this risotto is all about texture as well as flavour. So give it a try.
Where to get it;
Make it yourself