If you are looking for the tastiest highest quality food ever then you need to look for artisan food.
Artisan food should not have additives or preservatives as these are generally a sign of poor quality, of shortcuts, of scale at the expense of taste. This is how many big commercial industries work: they add flavour enhancers and additives to their foods to make up for the lack of quality in their products as in most cases their only goal is to make money.
I often visit farmers and small producers when I am over in Italy. I love to see how they produce their food, I genuinely love chatting to them, understanding their world, the passion for what they do and their difficulties as well. Of course I childishly know that at the end of our conversation they will reward me with a bite to eat and I will be able to sink my teeth into their fantastic produce. And that, believe me, draws me to them like a magnet.
This time food came to me…instead!
Meet Malcolm and Claudio who set up Laganum. They buy directly from Italian farmers, importing the food to the UK and with nothing in between manage to sell at reasonable prices.
Artisan food is different from industrial food for many aspects, in fact you cannot compare the two things at all. Artisan food is produced by non-industrialized methods often handed down through generations.
Here you can see sliced tomatoes drying in the sun to produce what we know as “sundried tomatoes”. Allowing tomatoes to dry in sunlight brings out their amazing flavour beautifully.
I was sent black chickpeas which I have never seen before. They grow in the mountainous area of Basilicata. They are smaller and harder than the white chick peas but with an amazing nutty flavour. As they are so rich in iron and proteins the local population, when there was not much available, used to give their cooking water to pregnant women to drink.
Our food system seems to have largely forgotten the magic of food, often referring to it merely as a product. Frankly I find this quite sad.
The quality of artisan food is obvious at every step: from the selection of ingredients, the care of process, and finally with the joy in presenting it to others.
I tasted an interesting cheese, new to me: “Cacioricotta” made with milk from goats near the Tripaldi dairy’s base in the hills of Basilicata. This is a hard cheese with a salty taste ideal to grate on your pasta dish particularly with pasta al pomodoro (in tomato sauce). I enjoyed this with taralli, a Southern Italian snack with a similar texture to breadsticks.
I tried the passata (tomato sauce) made with cherry tomatoes from Pachino which are cultivated in the deepest South-Western end of Sicily where seasonal temperatures are constantly mild all year around and exposure to the sun protracted. Rich in mineral salts, lycopodium and carotene it helps prevent free radicals and fight degenerative diseases. The sweetness of this tomato is incredible! Only in Southern Italy will you get such delicious tomatoes!
You can see why I love artisan food and you don’t need to have lots of it as it is so satisfying and delicious.
And this is my simple but tasty recipe with black chickpeas and pasta (serves 4).
Drain them, put them in a pot, cover them with salty cold water and cook for at least 1 hour or until soft. Cook 200 g (1 and 1/2 cups) of short cut pasta in salty water. Drain it and add it to the drained chickpeas and some of their cooking liquid.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan, along with a rosemary stick, a garlic clove and a handful of cherry tomatoes. Stir fry for a couple of minutes then pour it onto the pasta and chickpeas stirring for a minute. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.
I enjoyed this. The nutty taste of the chickpeas combined with the pasta goes beautifully together making it a healthy and very nutritious meal indeed!
Disclosure: I was sent the food for review, I was not paid for it. All opinions and enthusiasm are my own!