Alex James: Getting a pizza the action from a master

Rural Notebook

Share
Related Topics

I've been working on a portable pizza oven to go with the mozzarella I'm developing. It's almost perfect. The dough explodes and goes to heaven but the cheese isn't cooking quickly enough. So I'm on a busman's holiday, in Puglia, agricultural Italy, right down the bottom, in the heel, discovering the secrets of cheese melting from the masters. If you want to eat well in Britain, you can these days, probably as well as anywhere, but it still takes a bit of asking around. Even if you try to eat badly here, it's impossible. Italy has easily the best food in the world.

I suppose cooking stuff is not really that complicated, at least, anyone can learn how to do it if they can be bothered. A lot of people are learning, too. Where Italy and probably France have the edge on us is in being able to source good ingredients easily. Part of this is due to the climate, and part of it is cultural. In Britain, food culture is developing, it's fashionable, but here in Italy it's beyond that, it's traditional and they have the best food only because they're the world's best farmers.

For my host this evening, living in the countryside is like living in an enormous sweet shop, surrounded by hundreds of varieties of figs, properly weird melons, ancient olive groves and cherry tomatoes. He farms around a hundred acres, grows everything from his own tea to his own cigarettes, cures his own meat, makes his own liqueurs and serves it all up in the farm he's converted into a luxury hotel.

He snickered at the poor people of Milan who have to eat three-day old figs, the poor souls. It was so refreshing. He had exactly the attitude to people who aren't farmers that we seem to have towards people who are. "You know, it must be tough not being a farmer." He said, with a grin. I totally agree.

Striking gold in Italy

Puglia is olive country, and the ancient groves, stretching for miles, are just coming in to season. There is nothing so pretty as an orchard. Some of the trees, the old grandads, are over a thousand years old and lean over so far that they have to be propped up with piles of breeze blocks. It's surreal, suggests infinity, and the value locked up in those trees is boundless: A goose that lays golden oil.

A common language...

"Why you wanna make smalla hoven for da pizza?" We're starting again from first principles. That's what I love about farmers, so practical. We speak a common language. To make pizza, first build your oven...

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all