What food souvenirs have you brought back from your holiday?
There's only one foolproof way of eeking the maximum out of a treasured and transient summer holiday: bring back the maximum stash of foodie-centric souvenirs from your holidays and revel in cooking with them. It’s the perfect excuse for re-living the culinary highlights of your hols.
Almonds for every course?
A word of caution though: many years ago, after an idyllic holiday in Majorca, I was completely besotted by the infinite versatility of cooking with almonds. So I decided to throw a dinner party serving Majorcan almonds for every course: white almond and garlic gazpacho; chicken with tomato and almond sauce; almond and orange cake with almond ice cream. I thought it was a triumph, my guests decided I was obsessive, got bored by almonds starring throughout the dinner and have teased me ever since.
Lucques olives from Provence
So as with most things in life, moderation is all. My haul this year has included fantastic, thick, plump anchovies from Collioure in South West France that are so delicious it is a shame to cook them. Instead, I've draped them over devilled eggs, added them to salade niçoise or buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad, and served them pincho-style on cocktail sticks with some equally wonderful provençal lucques olives and a chilled glass of rosé.
From Gouda in The Netherlands, I brought home a mini-round of aged Gouda cheese with a robust earthiness unlike anything I've bought in the UK and great waffle biscuits. I'm greedily anticipating my trip to Parma for their annual Festival del Prosciutto di Parma and will be sure to take a suitcase ample enough to bring back an outrageously large hunk of two-year-old Parmigiano Reggiano and (vacuum-packed) sweet, nutty Parma ham for serving with extravagant abandon.
An absolute must from Spain is saffron, always strands and never powder (which is frankly of horribly inferior quality). Look for saffron of consistent colour throughout in a sealed box: the best will be labelled from La Mancha. It has infinite uses beyond paella and is fantastic in custard, ice cream and shortbread.
Spices are the best, safest (and most compact) way of recapturing what's quintessential about many holiday destinations. From Morocco return with ras-el-hanout, which translates as “top of the shop”. It’s a mixture of the very best spices - always including cardamom, cumin, coriander, chilli and up to fifty or more other spices. Watch where locals are buying from and don't be embarrassed to sniff it to ensure it is aromatic - and be wary of anything too cheap. Elsewhere Baharat from Turkey (made with allspice, cardamom, cassia bark, cumin and dried chilli) is great for rubbing into lamb or chicken.
Unusual condiments travel well too. Kaya, a kind of coconut jam, from Singapore is great on pancakes with fruit and maple syrup. Although dulce con leche from Mexico is increasingly available in the UK, it's always pleasing to have something more authentic.
Whether you’ve opted for a staycation this year, or you’ve been jetting off around the world all summer, what’s the most exciting treat you’ve sampled from your travels, or indeed your colleagues’ or friends’ travels? Is there anything you regret bringing back?
Sudi Pigott is a food and travel writer.