Longing for Liguria

Published by Shana Dilworth on 14/08/2018

Peering over the shoulder of my fellow commuter I see a familiar picture in the Guardian Travel section entitled ‘Genovese Made Easy’; it’s a picture of a quaint fishing village nestled between the hills and the sea. The buildings are an array of different colours, from terra-cotta red to a striking yellow. They embody the ruggedness of their surroundings and are weathered from their constant exposure to the intense sun, wind and rain. I sigh. I was just there, far away from the delayed District Line and the crowd of overheated passengers.

There must be a strand of Ligurian ancestry in my DNA and I think it’s somewhere in my stomach. This was my 3rd trip to the Cinque Terre, just south of Genova, and now that I know where and what to eat I venture out beyond the ‘easy’ tourist restaurants to the local spots where I practice my mix of Italian-Spanish. It’s a bit more of an effort but it’s always worth it, I get to eat and drink like a local! The Cinque Terre is located within La Spezia province and is the home of pesto, Torta di Verdura, Forinata - a chickpea flour pancake baked in the woodfire oven and covered in local sweet cheese - and of course Ciuppin, the traditional fish stew of Liguria.

The simplicity of the food is inspiring; the quality of the ingredients makes me envious. The villages of the Cinque Terre are surrounded by ancient, terraced farm land that carves out the mountainsides and blankets them in green. Tomatoes, vineyards and trees - fig, olive and pine - cover the hillsides in all directions, just take one of the many well marked paths from one village to the next and before you know it you will be wondering through the steep vineyards of the Cinque Terre DOC.

Zig-zagging over the walking trails are monorail tracks used for harvesting the local grape varieties like Bosco, Albarola and the more well-known Vermentino. Upon harvesting, some of the grapes are then laid out on straw to dry, making the sugar super-concentrated, together they make up the blend in the sweet Sciacchetra wines that are served around the villages with local cheese and desserts. Although rarely seen in the UK, the dry wines of the Cinque Terre have more than a few relatives available here in London, like one of my favourites from Tuscany: Fattoria Kappa ‘Etabeta’.

Etabeta and onion focaccia with pesto - the perfect snack for a Sunday afternoon in the garden!

My favourite pesto recipe:

  • 50g fresh basil leaves
  • 65g freshly grated Grana Padano
  • 240ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 45g pine nuts (organic - to avoid pine nut mouth)
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Blend and serve.

Shana

Shana Dilworth

View all Shana's articles

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