‘Tramontana’ diary

The village in the picture is Torri, located about 8km from Ventimiglia and close to the French border. It’s a very traditional Italian village of about 250 inhabitants and we moved there in February 2008. ‘Tramontana’ is the pen-name I use for my diaries; in Italian it’s the north wind and as I ‘blew in’ from the north it seemed appropriate. This is the first of the diaries I wrote for The Riviera Woman, starting just before we moved to Torri and running for something less than three years.

So on with the first diary…

Opportunist Christmas fare
A couple of weeks ago a neighbour gave us a bag of small oranges from a tree in their garden. Tangerines, clementines, I’m not sure what. Quite edible but a rather large quantity; too much to eat as fruit. So I decided to make jelly with them. I’d already had some success with crab-apples picked from a tree up in the Rhône Alps on a visit there back in October, so why not oranges? They aren’t bitter oranges so unsuitable for making marmalade.

Not wishing to be burdened by following a recipe, I threw a load of the oranges and a couple of lemons into a pan, covered them with water and brought them to the boil. Once they were soft enough to be mashed I applied one of those stick food processors and reduced them to what looked like mashed carrot. I then filtered them through a muslin sheet I’d acquired. The result was about three pints of cloudy orange liquid (and a big pile of pulp, which got thrown away). I then added a little over a pound of sugar per pint, and boiled the whole lot down for a few hours until a sample of it would set once cold. It’s surprising how little is left; just two or three jam-jars’ worth.

But the result is superb. It’s a bit like the middle of a Jaffa Cake, and excellent as a component of a variety of sweets and puddings. I hereby commend this recipe to the assembled multitude.

The weekend was wet. Really wet, in a way we rarely see in this part of the world. After a week or more of unusually cold weather it bucketed down solidly for two days. Then today the skies cleared. We were out in Arma di Taggia, along the coast, doing some last-minute shopping (looking for a turkey, as it happens) and we went into the supermarket under grey skies and came out under blue, with brilliant sunshine flooding the car park. The journey back along the Riviera was glorious, with the sun sparkling off the sea and the car windows open because of the heat.

To round off the day, at about 10.30 we went for a walk along Ventimiglia beach, which is only about 200 yards from our flat. On a bench by the side of the promenade sat a boxed panettone (Italian Christmas cake), so after looking around furtively in case the owner had noticed its loss we quickly scooped it up. That’s seven euros saved. The beach was magic; a warm night with the lights of Monaco sparkling across the bay. To prolong the moment we walked back into town and popped into the main church, where the organist was practising for the mass to be held later this evening. So it was a nice walk, with a free concert and cake thrown in.

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