An Italian Feast – Grazie Ufuud
There is no doubt about it, Italians are proud of their food heritage and they have every right to be so. With its fresh flavours, vibrant colours and simplicity, Italian cuisine ranks as one of the world’s best and is one of my personal favourites. It’s had a massive influence on British food. Where would we be without our pizza, spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, risotto and more recently the panini? But there is far more to it than these familiar dishes.
The truth is, of course, that there is no such thing as Italian cuisine: every region has its own specialities. The result is a wonderful diversity of styles, ingredients and flavours. Even though I’m a vegetarian, there is plenty to keep me happy: pesto, polenta. tomato sauce, beans, cheeses, olives, foccacia – the list goes on and I haven’t even started on the drinks and sweet stuff. I remember when I was growing up and travel was not nearly as prevalent as it is today, my mother would wax lyrical about gelato – the wondrous ice-cream she fell in love with when an au-pair in 1950s Italy.
You can probably tell where all this is leading. When I was asked if I’d like to review Ufuud, a company specialising in sourcing and supplying genuine top quality Italian products, I didn’t need to think about it for long. One look at the Ufuud website and I was hooked. It’s a food lover’s dream.
Two Italians, Cipriano Moneta and Christian Prazzoli, were somewhat surprised to find when living abroad that genuine Italian products were hard to come by. Their solution to this was to found Ufuud. It aims to supply real Italian products from their source to the customer in the shortest time possible. Most of the products are certified organic, DOC or DOP. Even perishable products are on offer and are kept cool and well packaged to keep them fresh. Delivery is guaranteed to take between 48 and 72 hours outside of Italy. Deliveries are free for orders over €95.
I found the website simple to navigate and easy to use. There is a range of really good quality foods, but not vast arrays of them; it’s really easy to both browse and go to the exact item you are looking for. Ingredients are listed, as is information on how long the product will last and advice on how to use it. There is also information given on the provenance of the products which I found, not only reassuring but also interesting. Online assistance is available and indeed I conversed with a very helpful individual when I was placing my order. The parcel of goodies was well packaged and arrived within the specified time. It came in an insulated box with cool bags to keep the fresh produce at a steady temperature. All of the glassware was well wrapped to avoid breakage and everything arrived in a satisfyingly good condition.
I was delighted to see a section on organic food and immediately picked out a bottle of olive oil and some unusual pasta. Getting my hands on a whole kilo of 24 month aged Parmigiano Reggiano was too good an opportunity to miss. Some authentic Italian tomato sauces were a must. The ones stocked were all simple and elegant, made with good ingredients and no unnecessary additives. The spicy sauce I ordered for example, had tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, chilli peppers and salt – nothing else. I also spotted some unusual products I’d never seen before and a couple of these found their way into my basket too.
I was not going to let this opportunity pass without getting my hands on some Italian chocolate. As it happens the chocolate bars that Ufuud stock are from Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, one of which I have tried and reviewed before.
This was surprisingly smoothy and mellow and sweeter than one would expect for 100% chocolate with no added sugar. It had spicy cinnamon notes with a hint of oakiness. I had a hard time stopping CT from demolishing the bar before I got to use it. I think this might be the nicest 100% chocolate bar I’ve ever tried.
Dark Chocolate 45% with Cinnamon – sugar, cocoa mass, cinnamon
This chocolate has unmistakable individuality. It is a granular bar with a sandy sugary texture not dissimilar to Kendal mint cake. This may sound as unappealing as a seaside sandwich, but it gives added interest and a surprising crunch in the mouth. It reminded CT of a Mexican hot chocolate disc, when I read the packet, I discovered it was indeed designed to emulate the Aztec Xocoatl, so he wasn’t far wrong. The flavour was good, being rich and not too sweet. The cinnamon was pleasantly understated and we managed to demolish the bar with unseemly rapidity. You can see what I thought of the cardamom version I reviewed a while back.
When it comes down to it, there is nothing quite like a hearty bowl of pasta and when you have a good quality ready made chilli tomato sauce with nothing in it except tomatoes, chillies and olive oil, it makes for delightful fast food. It wasn’t quite as fast as it might otherwise have been as I wanted to add a few vegetables from our plot – namely the last courgette, some carrots and garlic. This melding of good Cornish food with sun kissed Italian fare seemed, somehow, rather apt. I sautéed the veg in a little of the olive oil, which was golden with a fruity fragrance and a fresh peppery flavour. I then added the sauce and warmed it gently. At the last minute I grated in 100% chocolate to give some additional richness and umami, although with some of the fabulous Parmesan cheese grated on top, this wasn’t strictly necessary.
The pasta I chose was tortilli made with wholegrain Kamut, which I was particularly excited about. It was really substantial and cooked to a good al dente texture. It was very tasty with a slight nutty flavour. The crevices made it brilliant for picking up the sauce. The sauce itself was spicy warm rather than red hot, which we find just right for pasta. The chocolate worked just as I’d hoped.
CT summed it up succinctly “almost instant food that not only tastes delicious, but tastes like it’s good for you too”.
I’m really looking forward to trying the farina per polenta taragna which is a mixture of ground maize and buckwheat – not a combination I’ve come across before. I’ve also yet to try the chocolate chestnut purée and jar of dark chestnut honey; I’m rather excited about both.
My box cost £83.40. Whilst this is not cheap, I do believe it is really good value. If you want to treat yourself to some excellent quality Italian food or create a top notch hamper for a food loving friend, then go take a look.
Thanks to Ufuud for allowing me to sample some of their products. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.
With a green courgette as part of the pasta sauce, I am entering this, for the very first time, into Shaheen’s Eat Your Greens.
Well carrots and courgettes may not be on the BBC Good Food list, but the season is late this year and astonishingly it seems as though they are – or at least they were a week or so ago. I am entering my pasta in a veg chocolate tomato sauce to Simple and in Season, which is being hosted this month over at Feeding Boys and a Firefighter on behalf of Ren Behan.