I never thought I would miss Italian cuisine so much - that fresh pasta, pizzas which hang off the plate and overflowing markets of fresh fruit and vegetables. After nine months of nothing else, why was I so longing for it again?
The weaning off process from a oh-so-delicious high carb diet proved difficult... In this part of town, the restaurants seemed to offer me exactly what I had just left behind.
Instead, the fresh calamares fritas seemed overwhelmed by Italian menus. Even here there was nowhere to escape! Suddenly my daydreaming of tortellini left me gagging for Spanishness.
Spain? The land of Paella, fresh fish, patatas bravas and tapas?
With luck, our villa was perfect for cooking at home, so instead of spending holiday cash on wannabe Italian dishes, we stocked up with the fresh stuff and feasted on salads, olives, couscous with chorizo, and stuffed green Piquillo peppers. Despite looking rather unimpressed in the photo below, the peppers were more than edible!
I am a firm believer of local and traditional food is best, as I'm sure most are. I prefer a restaurant with a small menu - mainly to speed up the decision process - with dishes plucked from the family tree and embedded in the livelihood of the town. So to find a good-looking restaurant, out of the way of the heaving beach promenade, was just what el dottor had ordered.
Our last night in Javea, dressed to the nines and in panic to find some fresh fish, took us away from the pizzas and into true Spanish territory. A restaurant under the name of Amare (hmmm...an Italian name, no?), looking out onto the harbour with, luck had it, a table laid for 14 and a charming waiter.
Surely too good to be true?
The menus were handed to us, and the gaze of 14 clucky chicks immediately flicked towards paella and the three course set menu. An array of calamares, sea bass with balsamic vinegar, coconut ice cream...my eyes now far bigger than my stomach.
One thing that really caught my eye, was the melon sorbet. Not served as pudding – that was something else, far more indulgent – but as an unexpected inbetweener, a miniature course slipped in after the starter and before the main.
It arrived, very gracefully, as a palette cleanser. And a genius one at that. A strange concept to tuck into dessert when you have hardly begun your main meal, but it really worked. I could no longer taste the fried batter of the succulent calamari, but a sweetness that made me excited about gobbling up my next course.
Is it greedy to drop in an extra mouthful amongst a mountain of food? No, I don't think so. By the time the sorbet is demolished, one miraculously feels un-full again, and could go on eating and eating.
Finally, I felt I could happily release myself from cucina italiana, and begin to be normal again - remembering the important fact that there is more out there other than spaghetti bolognese...
Sadly I was unable to swindle the recipe from the restaurant in Spain, but have instead stolen, tried, tested, and translated the measurements of the melon sorbet recipe from another great blog 'GLUTEN FREE IN SOUTH AFRICA', and although not Spanish, it tasted pretty similar and mouthwateringly tasty.
The success of this sorbet all depends on the melon; under ripe fruit only produces an underwhelming result.1 large, ripe melon- enough to make 4 cups (US measures) /940 ml / 2 pints puree
1/2 cup /125ml water
1/2-3/4 cup / 125-180g Castor sugar, depending on sweetness of melon
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons witblits (heated dry white wine at 80 degrees C) or other alcohol
Ice cream machine needed for churning
Puree the melon with the water, sugar [start with 125g of sugar], salt and taste. Adjust with more sugar if necessary.
Stir in the alcohol and churn 15-25 minutes, or according to the instructions on your machine.
And perhaps to eat before or after the sorbet...
VERY SIMPLE, HIGHLY DELICIOUS STUFFED PIQUILLO PEPPER
20 small green Piquillo peppers - topped and de-seeded
(1 tbsp olive oil if frying)
200g soft cheese
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
20g fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Tabasco (4 drops but add more for more spice)
salt and pepper
These little bite-size peppers are full of flavour and perfect for handing round as an aperitif. They are also extremely quick and easy to make, and seemed to go down as a success.
Before anything, top and de-seed the peppers, making sure you leave the bottom half intact for filling later. Heat up the oil in the pan on a medium/high heat until soft and the skin is starting to brown, or alternatively place them under the grill for 20 minutes.