I am in the middle of a very exciting food tour through Tuscany in Italy, where I am spending my time on farms and food production units, learning about what it takes to create beautiful fresh food using locally grown ingredients. The best part of my travel is that I get a glimpse into the family routine and meals of the locals, and I keep a keen eye on how meals are being prepared, so I can get some inspiration when I cook back home as well.
What strikes me as most fascinating, is that a typical Tuscan home-made meal is incredibly simple. With beautiful fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, the concept of farm to table is real, and it takes very little to convert a patch of vegetable garden into a delicious meal on the plate. I suggest you begin by growing some herbs in your kitchen garden, and here are a few simple ways to bring out the best flavour from those home grown herbs!
When you get your hands a box of fresh ravioli or tortellini, the only way to enjoy it would be with a classic sage and butter sauce – follow the recipe at the end of this article to get your sauce right!
Thyme combines beautifully with fresh cheese or paneer. Whip up some fresh cheese, and mix in some crushed thyme and salt, and you have an excellent appetizer ready to go! Spread on bread, or just eat along some fresh vegetables and it is just the right flavours to whet your appetite before a great meal!
With its strong, aromatic and slightly sweet flavour, basil adds a punch to any meal. The simplest thing to do would be to shred it over a salad, but make a coarse pesto by smashing up some basil leaves with garlic, cheese, oil and some nuts, and you have an instant pasta sauce that is bursting with flavour!
Basil is also the trick to convert tomato pulp into delicious sauces, all you need is a handful of leaves.
Rosemary goes famously with potatoes, but is also delicious on a morning slice of bread with some olive oil. Slice up some fresh bread, drizzle it with some olive oil, salt and some sprigs of rosemary, and stick it into the oven for a couple of minutes. Its a delicious and quick start to your day! If you are a cheese lover, there is nothing that a few shavings of parmesan cheese cannot improve!
Parsley looks quite a lot like coriander or cilantro, grows in large bunches and has a much milder flavour. The best way to store parsley for longer periods of time would be to clean it and chop it fine, and stick it in a plastic bag into the refrigerator for whenever you wish to use it.
Parsley combines very well with lemon and olive oil, and is my favourite herb when putting together a couscous salad. Couscous, chickpeas, onions, parsley, lemon and olive oil tossed together with a sprinkle of salt and pepper – and there you have a quick and easy lunch in minutes!
Recipe: Sage and Butter Sauce
What you need:
Two bunches of fresh sage leaves
Heat the butter in a sauce pan until it melts, keep the flame low and stick in the sage leaves such that they are coated in butter.
Heat for a couple of minutes until the flavour of sage is in the butter.
Mix the sauce with freshly cooked ravioli or tortellini, add salt as per taste, and grate parmesan cheese over the top to serve.
Written bySurabhi Ganguly
Surabhi, is an engineer turned food professional, who quit a decade-long corporate career to set up her own venture, Slyly Simple Gourmet Kitchen. Surabhi loves travel and exploring new cultures, and wherever she goes, she brings back a food memory that influences her cooking. Her unusual and easy recipes use unique ingredient combinations and strong, distinct flavours.