Sunday 13 May 2007

A must-have......

....for any kitchen is an efficient cherry pitter. The bit of kit, I mean, rather than the poor unfortunate (normally) who has to wield it. And more than just any old cherry pitter, it should be a Westmark cherry pitter, for the simple reason that they are amazing. Using mine yesterday evening, I was struck by how every cherry was pitted perfectly every time, completely effortlessly, and with none of that fumbling with every second or third fruit to try and see whether the stone actually had come out because I couldn't be quite certain, by the end of which my hands are usually stained deeply with cherry juice, and half of the cherries are in shreds as a result! I am painfully familiar with this process, as the pitter I have in London is not a Westmark, but something nameless and of inferior quality.

Westmark are German - somehow, not surprisingly. They have a website (, from which you can ascertain more about the science of pitting cherries (and plums, and olives....) than you would ever have thought possible. I'm not terribly interested in that, I have to confess - but I am interested in the fact that I could perfectly pit all the cherries I needed for clafoutis for two (and to have blended the batter) in the time it took to bring a a pot of Claudia's Papardelle to the boil, which was definitely under five minutes!

I bought my Westmark pitter as an impulse purchase at David Mellor in Sloane Square - always a silly thing to do, as I remembered once I reached the cash desk - but I see that now you can get them for quite reasonable prices in all sorts of places. Amazon in Germany are offering them for only four and a half euros a go........

The Kitchen has definitely taken second place to the Garden over the past few days, as this week we are first on the agenda in the 'James Bolton Garden Tours' spring visit to Tuscany - hence much effort has been devoted to slashing, and hacking-back and pruning and weeding, and generally making things presentable. Which explains even more focus than usual on labour-saving efficiency in the kitchen. A combination of lack of time and an aching back!

Today we celebrate - if that's the right word - Pisa's annual Marathon. They started from Pontadera at 8.30 this morning, and by 9.45 the first runners were pattering past our front door, through an otherwise completely, eerily deserted street (Italians do not do Sunday mornings......not for anything). By the time the first few hundred had gone by, several hours later, there were a few more people around - although the response from the passers by was more one of wary bemusement than of awed respect. Today was undoubtedly the hottest day of the year, so far, and clearly the general feeling was that these people were in need of some kind of help. Mind you, Pisani are pretty good at sophisticatedly disinterested apathy about these sorts of things. We have a boat-based Palio every June, with the requisite banner-tossing and medieval costumes, and as far as I can see nobody over the age of fifteen takes the slightest notice of it, but all take the opportunity of a day off to head out to the beach instead. Not sure I blame them.

Tonight's Menu:

Almonds roast with Oil and Paprika, as an amuse-gueule

Ravioli of Mucco and Tartufo.

Baked Sea Bass, with sauteed Radicchio and Fennel.

Iced Gingerbread and White Chocolate Parfait, with poached Prunes.

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