Rick Stein’s Long Weekends

Rick Stein grape picking
Image from BBC Two

I’ve been watching a programme recently that combines two loves of mines (and of many other people I’m sure). Rick Stein’s Long Weekends explores a different European city, slightly off the beaten tourist track, and the local food every week, with a side of culture thrown in for good measure.

Some of my favourite holidays have combined the sense of discovery of walking around a city and squirreling out its treasures and the delights of eating local food in hidden gem restaurants. I’m loving the programme because it really conveys the joy I’ve felt after the best sorts of holiday. It makes me want to explore these cities (and countries), inspires me to experiment in my cooking, and gives me wonderful ideas for my next meal!

The past weekend, I watched an episode on Bologna that had an obvious focus on pasta dishes. I just had to make Tagliatelle Bolognese afterwards. Apparently, that’s the type of pasta everyone will use for this dish in Bologna. No one would be caught dead using spaghetti, as that is a type of pasta that historically comes from Naples. Instead of my usual variation with a hint of red wine vinegar and chilli, the programme inspired me to use more traditional herbs to my Bolognese sauce. I added dried oregano, thyme, basil and a bay leaf. I also added a teaspoon of fennel seeds, used frequently in North Italian cuisine according to Rick Stein, which gave the ragu sauce an wonderful depth. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and the inspiration it will bring!

What are your favourite cookery programmes? Have you been watching Rick Stein’s Long Weekends?

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