So winter has kicked in on my side of the world and comfort food is the all time goal when cooking meals lately. I’ve been dreaming of European summers and the Amalfi Coast inspired me to come up with a menu that would take our guests on an Italian seaside adventure, kissed by winter sun through fresh and zesty flavours.On arrival, our guests were welcomed with a citrus gin. Beforehand I had experimented with three flavours where I simply sliced fresh oranges and grilled them in the oven until they began to caramelize in their own juices. While still hot, I then soaked the caramelized orange slices in Saffron gin so that the orange and gin flavours would blend. Then the most effective trick in this mix was to stir the flavours together using a rosemary stalk. The rosemary gives a unique middle note of flavour which just works. Once the orange and gin mix is completely cooled, divide it into seperate gin glasses and simply add crushed ice and pour some tonic water over right before serving.As I think of times spent in Europe over summer, I am reminded of how beautiful their light meals are. They have a gift of using few ingredients but they are fresh and of high quality. This lead to me deciding on a deconstructed Caprese salad for starters…served warm. Hot out the oven balsamic glazed, roasted vine tomatoes served on a bed of basil pesto with pulled apart buffalo mozzarella, proscuitto, fresh basil leaves, salt, cracked pepper and then drizzled with balsamic reduction and high quality olive oil. Let’s not forget the homemade fresh herb foccacia to break apart and share. Bellissimo!For mains, we were well on our way on our Italian food adventure and the sound of the ocean inspired me to make a hearty white wine Frutti Di Mare pasta. A comforting fresh pasta dish soaked in a white wine, tomato and basil sauce with garlic prawns and clams. Served with a fresh grating of pecorino and a cheese and tomato pull apart bread loaf.Last but not least, what is a meal without a sweet treat at the end of it? If you think of an Italian aperitif, what comes to mind? An ice cold shot of Limoncello of course. So I took these flavours and created a zesty lemon cheescake with a lemon curd topping served frozen. This gave a creamy ice cream type texture to each slice and as it defrosted on the plate the flavours and textures change. It works so well and you could probably apply this concept to many other desserts. I also had left over gin soaked oranges which I placed on top of the cheesecake with fresh rosemary and lavender buds from my little herb garden.
A seperate shot of cold Limoncello was also served to each person to enjoy.I hope this post has inspired you to travel into your memory bank and come up with memories that allow you to take your loved ones with you through a meal shared together.