May arrival in Italy from the Caribbean, means the end of the artichokes,  mid way through the fava bean and pea season… but it does mean longer warmer sunnier days, baby zucchini and french beans, strawberries, apricots, new peaches, nectarines and of course my favourite pomodorini or pomodoro ciliegino … the sweetest cherry tomatoes you can ever want to eat… they are like eating sweets.

Spring and early summer must be my favourite season in the Mediterranean and we are in Italy, the place of love of food, wine and culture where everything revolves around what we are going to eat for lunch, pranzo or dinner, cena… my appreciation of food becomes more and more intense learning from the Italians. Shopping at local markets where each day you see the same people coming to buy a couple of carrots, or zucchini, a melanzana, ( aubergine ) stem of tomatoes, bunch of parsley all dependant on what they are going to cook that day,  whilst I order in kilos, for my 6 crew members onboard, who I cook for daily. I admire the fact that things are bought in season and daily here, which is how most people used to buy 50 years ago but now we are into convenience foods, what is in the supermarket regardless of what time of year it is… it would be good if we could move back towards cooking what is in season, what is available from the area we live in. Yes it means sacrificing but it does mean we probably could get back to a healthier diet and lifestyle. It also means eating tastier foods, and in tern helps local farmers, producers and the likes of, as the Slow Food movement does, which was started here in Italy.

Food tastes its best when it is in season regardless what the big supermarkets say and advertise enticing us to buy fruit and veggies out of season, or from miles away. When it has ripened on the tree, in the sunshine, local to the area you are in. Food does not really travel well, and we all know this but tend to ignore it and continue to buy strawberries at Christmas as there is a pavolova recipe in a cooking magazine. I am the same when I am cooking for owners, and guests onboard the yachts I work on as they are on holiday and I am there to cook delicious food for them whilst we are cruising in all sorts of tropical, or exotic  or Mediterranean areas.

Now however I can concentrate on foods of in Italy  whilst we are here, cruising and racing …. Fava beans, some of my favourite spring vegetables can be eaten raw with pecorino sardo … fresh pecorino, which is made from sheep’s milk and has a slight tang to it but is full of flavour. The fava beans can also be podded, boiled and then removed from their skins, and mashed to make a wonderful dip or topping for bruschetta, or add them skinned to pasta with proscuitto and shaved pecorino, throw them through a salad, or add them and fresh peas to steamed tender young French beans as a side dish.

I buy kilos of fava beans and pod them munching on them as I wander around the market wondering what other delight I should buy for today lunch or dinner, before heading towards the fishmonger for some fresh anchovies or the butcher for some veal for the crew. It is so inspirational being able to shop daily for food, and certainly makes you appreciate local markets, as they provide so much goodness to our day.

Being my first post I will leave out the recipe, Fava Bean Dip until another day, so I can measure up the correct quantities as I normally pod, boil, skin and then make a dip or the bruschetta topping and fail to measure anything as tasting becomes far more important. In the end we can follow recipes but you can find that however close you are to following a recipe you always add you own bit…more salt, less sugar, find another herb you would like to use with a dish.. so cooking is creative it is something very personal and in some sense those who cook can pass on lessons to others but really the best way to learn is to play around with food yourself and create the flavours you like and enjoy