My mum has just returned from a week’s hillwalking in the snowy Dolomites and was kind enough to bring me back a really interesting selection of local produce. The South Tyrol region in the north of Italy is a real melting pot of Italian, Austrian and German influences – having been part of Austria prior to the First World War – and this is made very apparent through the cheeses, meats, breads and biscuits produced in the area.
This unpasteurised hard cows cheese, Alta Badia, is matured for 180 days and named after the lush Alta Badia valley it hails from. Smooth, nutty and firm, it bears more than a passing resemblance to gruyère – although less sharp – and is completely delicious! I’ll be having this generously melted over a crouton basking gloriously atop Nigel Slater’s French onion soup.
I’m probably most looking forward to trying this Südtiroler Speck, a juniper-infused cured and smoked ham which is unique to the area and has been afforded protected geographical indication (PGI) status. Sliced paper-thin, it’s essentially prosciutto, but I also fancy chopping it up into lardons and serving it as a tasty addition to salads and brussel sprouts. I think I hear coq au vin calling, too.
Judging by the lush and rich landscape of the Dolomites, this honey is bound to be something pretty special. I’m fantasising about marrying salty and sweet by drizzling it over grilled halloumi and figs – if it lasts out until they come into season this summer. Until then, I’m hoping it’ll re-energise my old faithful midweek dinner of honey mustard chicken.
Now I just need to find the time to get to work in the kitchen with all of these beautiful ingredients. So much food, so little time!