Comfort and Tea in these times… when we cannot travel to Italy right now.

Comfort and Tea in these times…

Hi from Luciana Masci from Touring Abruzzo 

Some Italian treasures collected on my travels
Some Italian treasures collected on my travels

In these troubling times since February our lives have had a big shake up and change. With my yearly tours to Italy everything has come to a halt, just like that overnight.

After 16 years of travelling to Italy to lead the tours it is so disastrous and sad that I cannot be there this year.

I am based in Brisbane, Australia and spend part of each year in Italy where I am based in Abruzzo.         

As we cannot travel within Australia or out of Australia it has given me much time to reflect on my life and work. There are things which do give me comfort and solace in these sad times. 

As I isolate and do my best to stay home I enjoy:

  1. My beautiful things around me…

Over a lifetime of travelling I collect beautiful pieces especially c eramics. The ceramic sea urchins are from my visit to the Amalfi Coast and I explored the famous ceramic village of Vietri.

The coaster is a piece from Castelli, in Abruzzo and the ceramic and cork mat is from Portugal way back in 1986!

I have also been fortunate to know wonderful Australian friends who have gifted me special pieces like the blue and white teapot from Vietnam and my prized Royal Crown Derby teacup and saucer both from Rosemary. I will treasure these pieces forever as she is no longer with us.

 

2) Tea tea and more tea…

For an Italian is it strange to say that I don’t drink coffee?? I am a green tea drinker. I love the fragrant jasmine green teas, sencha tea and also herbal teas like peppermint.

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I take it outdoors, indoors and also on my bed with a warm wool blanket…that is super comforting.

3) Cooking and Baking ….

I love to pull out my old recipes and also find new recipes to try out on my family and friends.

I find comfort in making my traditional Abruzzese and Italian recipes like gnocchi, chicken soup, spaghetti alla chitarra with a slow cooked lamb sauce.

Here is a new sponge cake recipe my cousin Loredana shared with me from Abruzzo over a Whats App chat!

I will share it with you here – it has only 3 ingredients and it works every time. In this recipe I cut it in half and sprinkled it with coffee and a liqueur I had in my cupboard (like cointreau or frangelico)., then filled it with homemade nutella spread and whipped chantilly cream!

Great comfort food starts at home
Great comfort food starts at home

Italian Sponge Cake    (Pan di Spagna) by Loredana 

6 eggs

150 gr sugar

180 gr plain flour (sifted and add 2 teaspoons baking powder)

In a mixer bowl add the eggs and sugar and beat with an electric mixer for around 20 mins until the mixture is pale and creamy and with lots of volume. This is how the air is introduced into the sponge mix.

Turn the mixer off and gently fold in the sifted flour with a spatula or wooden spoon, careful not to overwork the folding. 

Place in a greased springform cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 170 deg and bake for 30 – 35 mins. It should be soft to touch and the cake come away from the sides.

Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.

 

4) Gardening…

 

Flowers from my garden
Flowers from my garden

 

So satisfying to grow food at home
So satisfying to grow food at home

With my Italian heritage gardening and growing food is part of our DNA! Coming from family who have always farmed in rural Abruzzo, I have always grown up with a vegetable garden.

Here is my pumpkin plant growing which I will harvest soon in our autumn season here in Australia. At the moment I am growing tomatoes, herbs and some greens as well as eggplants. 

I also enjoy growing some flowers like this hibiscus called Lemon Delight and my yellow chrysanthemums which come from our nonna Liberata’s garden and we saved the plants and pass it onto all our family now. 

5) Painting…

My painting "Reaching into the Light"
My painting “Reaching into the Light”

My newest passion is trying to learn to paint. I have always loved sketching but over the years as I become more busy it was something that got forgotten. I have recently got out my old sketch book and seen the things I drew… Now I have picked up paint brush and put paint to canvas.

 This is my latest effort. I have called it “Reaching into the Light”.. What do you think?

I have drawn inspiration from our first people here, our aboriginal people with their rich culture and design. 

I hope to do more, as I find it really zones me out and it is such a mindful practice that I can get lost in my world for a while. It actually has been so good for my mind, body and soul, I wish I can do more and try out different techniques and perhaps learn to mix and blend colours..

Well these are a few of my favourite things, when I am not travelling and working in Italy. 

Thanks to Maria Laura from Laura Selection who has inspired me and encouraged me to write a few word on Comfort and Tea in these times. 

I am looking forward to our collaboration with Maria Laura from Molise region which is just below our beloved Abruzzo. We have created and curated a superb new tour programme “Back Roads of Molise” which was ready to launch this year 2020, however it is on hold for 2021 and we are ready to go with it.

It will be 8 magnificent days exploring the little known region of Molise together with Luciana and Maria Laura!