Sunday lunch with the Ferante family
Last month Phil Haughton travelled to Italy in search of good food and good olive oil. In the first part of his journey, he meets a local family in the Abruzzo region and tries his hand at pasta making.
“When my wife Gerry and I arrived in the farmyard of the Ferante family in late October, several of the family were there to welcome us. Father Ercolino, his wife Filamina, and their son and his wife, Elio and Sonya, were among them.
Elio and Sonya guided us to their big summer kitchen and huge lean-to barn. There was a pizza oven all fired up from the heat of burning olive branches, a large kitchen table for food preparation and another outdoor table to sit 20 people. We were there to learn the traditional craft of pasta making.
The plan for the day was to learn from the women of the house and create ravioli, stuffed with a rich ricotta and parmesan filling. And we were to serve it with the Pomodoro, slowly reduced with bone stock. Pomodoro, a tomato-based pasta sauce typically used in the region, is a far cry different to tinned tomatoes and Passata. It takes tomato sauce to heavenly heights, deep in flavour from organic tomatoes, herbs, onion and garlic.
Pasta making was a great experience and at the end we had the pleasure of joining the Family for Sunday lunch. And in traditional Italian style, there were many courses to enjoy. The antipasti was a polenta dish. It was with chickpea flour, garlic, sausage meat and small chunks of pancetta, and topped with sweet, crispy red peppers. The dish had been cooked slowly, and in lots of olive oil. They probably use five times the amount of olive oil we use here in the UK. The result was a simple thick soupy dish topped, so simple; a perfect autumnal dish. Then we had fresh borlotti beans cooked with pumpkin. This again had been cooked for hours, and the result was a soft earthy taste that the kids loved in particular. Next we had our ravioli dish, followed by roast chicken cooked in the pizza oven and reared here on the farm. The chicken tasted divine; a robust, smoky flavour with crispy skin.
Extraordinary Lamb brochettes, cooked on skewers over the BBQ, was the last main course. Naturally the lamb was their own. In fact everything we ate was made lovingly on the farm. All the food was accompanied by local red wine and finished off with ice cream, espresso and grappa for those that could not resist.
To work off our meal we walked and talked our way around the farm while the children raced around on bikes and played table football. Actually we all played table football. The Italians won 10-3 to England!
Sharing nature’s bounty
Elio and his family live off the land; olive oil being the main harvest and income source. They bottle the fabulous Pomodoro alongside this. Elio and his father talked with Stephen and I about sourcing his olive oil and Pomodoro for Better Food. Stephen is a close friend of mine with a mutual love of Italian food, and he used his fluent Italian to translate. This family produce simple, good food and they expect no more than a modest return. But in the UK we are used to buying the bargain olive oil and tinned tomato’s from industrial scale producers. Are we really going to be able to provide a good market for these lovely people?
Better Food is all about opening markets for the best producers and celebrating those who grow with respect for their land. Olive oil is an essential to a lot of us home cooks, and essential to the livelihoods of Italian farmers. It’s the healthiest oil available to us from Europe and I want to make this widely available to our customers. I want to offer them the best in terms of ethics, taste and price. If things go well we may work with Elio to supply Better Food with borlotti beans, and grilled vegetables in olive oil.”
If this has got you hungry for more, then check back here next week for the second installment of Phil’s adventure. The Ferante family olive oil will be available in store from next year.
Phil is the founder of Better Food. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.