We had Zsu’s sister come and join us for a few days. After picking her up from the airport we made our way to the Como market hall – where we all decided on a big piece of rump steak and a couple of chicken thighs – before heading out with our hearts set on finding wilderness that would allow us the peace to make fire and BBQ.
We drove for a while, leaving the populated areas behind. But it seemed to be little town after little town, not really giving into anything that was remote enough for what we wanted. It was a while before we even got a hint that something might work out, but when it did, it was magical. A small gravel road, just outside of Merate, that lead us to a dead end but the start of a trail, where over the course of the evening we saw many cyclists, runners and walkers alike.
The spot was brilliant. Tucked away from the road, it was quiet, wild, sheltered and best of all there was an abundance of wild blackberries, that were the best we’d found so far.
Once the chicken thighs were in a marinade, the BBQ pulled off the roof and the fire crackling, we set about picking the blackberries. We dove in deep, Paul seeming to come out much worse off than the blackberry brambles – but not deterred. We collected enough to make a very decent amount of jam.
Then, back to the fire. We let the potatoes and onions roast away above the flames and as they gradually died down we began to roast the beef. Finally, once we were left with only the embers, the heavy grill was used over them to char and blister the carrots, to give the chicken thighs that crispy skin everyone dreams of and to nicely color up the outside of the beef.
We served it all simply as it was cooked – with olive oil, salt and pepper. The carrots we tossed together with blanched green beans and a dressing made from truffle oil, marjoram and white wine vinegar. The vinegar we used is sweetened with concentrated grape must – made by Giuseppe Giusti, a well known maker of balsamic in Modena – although this can’t technically be called balsamic as it was never cooked.
We even almost managed to convince one of the passing walkers to join us, but our lack of Italian seemed to be affecting our efforts!
We’d been carrying around a bottle of the infamous Hungarian sweet wine, Tokaji aszú for a while now and had decided we better use it. We felt it would go nicely with apricots – which we happened to have in a fennel seed and apricot compote – and something creamy. We mixed ricotta and mascarpone together and topped this with the apricot compote, some fresh blackberry jam and wild fennel herb. Quick, easy and delicious.
Before the sun completely set, it was time to give Paul a little trim and make him look a little respectable for his upcoming ‘business’ trip to Berlin. Then as the embers flickered, we sat around the dying fire and shared stories of various different journeys we’d made.