If you are a food lover, there is nothing more enjoyable on holiday than exploring the weekly market in a French town, or buying fresh fish and seafood straight off the boats for your barbecues. Here are a few hints to help you make the most of the local produce.
Try to find out how well your holiday villa is equipped – it is maddening to arrive and find only a few battered pans and blunt knives. If this is the case, think about taking a few items, including a garlic press, can opener, lemon reamer and corkscrew, with you. Bear in mind, though, that you can’t take anything sharp in your hand luggage on a plane. Also, ask if there’s a grill and oven as well as a hob.
* Remember that, certainly in Europe and the Mediterranean, markets will feature what is currently in season. So try to cook recipes that include these foods. You might be able to buy other fruit and veg, for example in supermarkets, but it will be less flavourful and often a lot more expensive.
In most European markets you are expected to touch and smell fruit and vegetables before buying to check their ripeness. And, unlike in Britain, produce will often look much more misshapen as it is not bound by supermarket regulations on size and appearance.
Take a small dictionary with you if you aren’t fluent in the language: some items may not be too familiar by sight, or could have the name written in the local dialect. Local people are usually happy to tell you the more common name.
In a similar vein, if you see an unfamiliar food, ask someone to tell you how to cook it and it might become a family favourite!
As in this country, don’t be shy about asking a butcher or fishmonger to trim the meat or gut your fish.
Concentrate on cooking dishes you will find in that country. There is no point in spending hours trying to track down ingredients that may not even exist there, or be very over-priced. And home-produced food will taste much better.
* If you like barbecues, find out if there is one at your destination. If not, you could always buy a disposable one locally.
If you have the time, do what the locals do and shop on a daily basis. That way, you can be sure that your food is really fresh.
If an ingredient mentioned in Delia’s recipe isn’t available, try to substitute something else.
Remember that ingredients might look a bit different: for example, baby aubergines can be mauve or white, cucumbers are often much thinner and courgettes can be yellow as well as green.
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