It seems everywhere we turn we are reminded of the current economic situation that really puts a dampner on our desire to indulge. Who says the financial gloom-mongers’ talk of a recession need rain on our gourmet parade! Italians are famous for the dolce vita and why would they ever let the credit crunch get in the way. Here's our guide to the living like Dolce and Gabanna with the money of gepetto pinocchio - inside secrets from our Italian staff...
Don't buy champagne...buy Prosecco.
Fast becoming the preferred and more economical choice when reaching for the fizz Prosecco is made from a variety of white grape of the same name. The grape is grown mainly in the Veneto region of Italy. The main ingrediant of the Bellini cocktail, it's the perfect antidote to a day cooking up a storm in the cocina.
Prosciutto - more than just a Ham
Like all Italian ingrediants there is more to prosciutto than meets the eye. There are two types of Prosciutto (cooked and raw or cured), most non-Italians think of the uncooked, air cured variety known as Prosciutto crudo. Prosciutto has been made in Italy since Roman times, the name coming from the Latin word meaning, "dried of liquid." Prosciutto di Parma, the variety most non natives have heard of has been praised for its flavour for over two thousand years. One of the great tings about prosciutto is it keeps forever - almost!
A sophisticated but thrifty dinner party starter Prosciutto e Melone (simply prosciutto and melon) is always a hit!
Never scrimp on good espresso.
Italians will never compromise on coffee! Espresso is brewed by forcing steam or hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee.
Espresso was developed in Milan, Italy, at the start of the 20th century and quickly became a hit amoungst Italian society. Espresso has a thicker consistency than drip coffee and is much, much stronger. Most Italians would never dream of starting a day without one. Great traditional brands that won't break the bank are Illy from Trieste,Segafredo from Bologna and Italy's favourite brand Lavazza from Torino.
Grana Pedano...the poor mans parmesan
Very similar in flavour to it's famous cousin although less sharp and milder Grana Pedano is known amoungst Italians as the poor mans parmesan. The name comes from the noun grana meaning (‘grain’), which refers to the distinctively grainy texture of the cheese, and Padano, which refers to the valley Pianura Padana.
Grana Padano was created by the monks of Chiaravalle who used ripened cheese as a way of preserving surplus milk. By the year 1477, it was regarded as one of the most famous cheeses of Italy.
Like Parmesan Grana Padano is a semi-fat hard cheese which is cooked and ripened slowly (for up to 18 months). It is produced by curdling the milk of grass-fed cows. It is produced year-round and the quality can vary seasonally as well as by year like wine.
Good home cooking...
Integral to Italian life and the perfect solution to the credit cruch, cooking at home is not only more economical than dining out, but offers the chance for that very Italian tradition of hours and hours at the dinner table - living the dolce vita. If you would like to learn how to cook and live Italian style then come and join us in Italy for our Flavours Italian Cooking Holidays 2009.