It’s the start of April and l am on the beach, my biggest dilemma......deciding whether l should shed my jeans and expose my super pasty winter legs to the sun. It’s 9 o'clock and already quite warm. The sand is spotless after a winter with no visitors, the sun is making the sea sparkle like a thousand diamonds and a small fishing boat has just flashed past.
A stunning day with the coastline of Calabria in sight and the still snow covered mountains of The Pollino National Park making a spectacular backdrop.
Having just about given up eating meat for a variety of reasons we live on amazing local produce here, gorgeous fresh vegetables which are grown a maximum of 20k distance. Protein in the form of pulses and of course fresh fish.
Our Mare Jonio, actually part of the Med, is populated by a vast amount of fish species that we never see in the UK, particularly the very ugly, bony ones for soup and an amazing selection of squid and octopus.
Particularly delightful are fresh anchovies, which are amazing, and surprisingly versatile for such a small fish. My favourite way of preparing them is as part of a fish antipasti.
Stuffed Fresh Anchovies
This is a bit like making a sandwich....remove the head and remove the central bone from two anchovies, wash really well, dry and lay side by side, they should be two evenly sized, butterflied mini fish, put a fillet of salted anchovy on one half and top with the other fresh anchovy.
Flour, egg and breadcrumb and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
Shallow fry in extra virgin olive oil and serve warm with homemade sweet chilli sauce.
I love Lobster Thermidor, but lobster is really not a speciality here and l hate killing them anyway. So l have created Scampi Thermidor, which is possibly even more delicious. A kilo of fresh scampi will make 4 small first courses, it’s expensive and the cleaning is a bit tedious but it’s worth all the effort.
Remove the heads and the shells from the scampi. If you are really accomplished you should be able also to remove the gritty, dark thread from the top side of the scampi. If not gently slice the flesh and hook it out rinsing well. Gently shallow fry in butter, raise the heat, pour in a tot of brandy and set fire to it. This is spectacular cooking at its best. When the flame dies and all the alcohol is consumed, add double cream, black pepper and a handful of grated parmesan cheese. I like to serve these in scallop shells, embed them in coarse salt so they don’t tip over, fill with the scampi and the sauce and sprinkle more parmesan on top. Put into a hot oven and cook until they are browned and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Delicious served with fresh bread to dip in the sauce.
We also find superb Seabass and Seabream here. The bigger wild ones are the best but obviously cost more. The mono portion farmed fish however also taste delicious cooked this way.
Seabass with Potato Scales
Get your fishmonger to clean the fish, leaving the head on, but removing the gills. Also run a knife down the inside of the backbone and thoroughly rinse out all the congealed blood which is nasty and bitter. Also have them scaled.
Peel and slice thinly 4/5 potatoes put them in cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Cook them until translucent but not falling apart, then drain them. These are the scales to put on your fish. Put the fish on a baking tray and get creative. Layer the potato slices to resemble fish scales, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and scatter big, fat olives and halved cherry tomatoes.
Cook in a hot oven for 25 minutes small fish, 40 minutes for large fish. As its a complete meal l would add just a wonderful green salad, full of crunchy fennel, celery and rocket and a palate cleansing lemony pudding, lemon tart with fresh strawberry sauce and a side of homemade lemon sorbet.
Fish is wonderfully healthy, simple to prepare and delicious. It's nothing to be frightened of. The watchword is don’t overcook it.
The Bergamot and it's flower filled terrace are looking wonderful. It’s an amazing space to live in and l feel really blessed to own this delightful escape from reality.
Bookings are starting to come in for the summer months, however the Easter break is still available. The weather has been amazing, 20+ degrees with deep blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Its a nice time of year as the evenings are still a little nippy, a log fire makes the ambiance really cosy or lighting the fire pit on the terrace is a good option.
Dates for the Easter break are flexible and the offer includes a traditional Italian Easter Lunch cooked by an award winning chef.