A month in the life of
AldoZilli From holidaying in Italy to saving the blue fin tuna, top-chef Aldo Zilli, takes us through his monthly escapades. And what a month it was... I finally finished writing my new cookery book so it was time to take Nikki and my children on holiday. It was the first time that Twiggy, my little daughter (who is just 11 months old) got to go on a plane, and the first time for us travelling with two little children. Well, to say it was a challenge is an understatement! With two prams in Stanstead and no lifts to take us up and down, it’s a surprise we managed it. We did – finally – arriving in Pescara airport to the sweltering welcome of 40 degree heat. So, for the next 10 days it was beach, food and wine for Nikki and I. My purpose of holidaying in my own region of Abruzzo was also to go and visit the earthquake area in L’Aquila as I am raising money in one of my restaurants to rebuild a school there. Well, it was much worse than I expected as people are still living in tents outside what was a beautiful medieval town. I was given a tour by one of the security guards as no one is allowed in and felt very lucky to have my family and my house to go back to, as so many of them didn’t. I went to see a film called The End of the Line recently, which stresses problems with overfishing – especially that of blue fin tuna, which is almost extinct now. I joined the campaign to take it off the menu and it has had a great response. I was quite in shock when I first saw a picture of my old friend, Greta Scacchi cuddling a cod and then receiving a call from her to ask if I would consider supporting the campaign – but bless her she didn’t need to take her clothes off to convince us chefs to take blue fin tuna off the menu. Hope she didn’t catch a chill! As we should be eating fish three times a week it’s also good to know that there is fish out there that we can eat without feeling guilty, such as mackerel, herring or sardines. Little tip: simply wrap in foil with lemon, olive oil, garlic and rosemary and BBQ. Talking about BBQ’s, the annual food festival, Taste of London, was in June and for the first time in five years I decided not to have my restaurant, Zilli Fish, there with our BBQ. So, I went along as a guest, got to catch up with all my fellow chefs, and I tasted all the different foods. In particular, it was good to see Gary Rhodes back on form and cooking. After one, or two, glasses of champagne I went to visit the Le Gavroche stand, which had a fantastic slow cooked beef with fluffy mash prepared by the man himself, Michel Roux Jnr, and what a generous man, despite the massive queues on his stand he managed to serve everyone with food and pink champagne – one of the most generous chefs at the festival, like myself! The best however, was yet to come. As I was wandering around the park I spotted a ginger head with big glasses that could only belong to Chris Evans, so after not seeing him for three years we had to have a drink, but like the old days one drink led to another... I ended up the next day with a banging headache as I don’t really drink anymore, but it was worth it as I had a great night and caught up with lots of great friends. 22
Nikki and I were invited to the House of Commons for Tea on the Terrace by Dorothy Purdew OBE, the founder of Champney’s Health Resorts – the challenge was to skip the demonstrations and get there, at the weekend London always seems to have road closures, demonstrations or normally both going on. Nikki absolutely loved it. After taking a look at the food on offer in the terrace I opted for strawberries and tea as I am trying to lose some of my holiday weight and sarnies are not good for the waist line. The highlight of the day was a speech by Cherie Blair telling all of us that MPs, despite the bad publicity are doing a fantastic job trying to run this country and we should trust our Prime Minster and the system more... could this be because she is married to a former one maybe…?
We took our three year old son, Rocco, to The Ice Age 3 premiere and I probably enjoyed it more than Rocco – popcorn, 3D glasses and great special effects! Nikki and I normally say no to premieres but this was great. After the premiere I went straight to the kitchen as it was Fathers Day and I had to cook lunch for all the fathers and their families, and my family too. After a long day with my young family and cooking for my customers it was time to go and see my older daughter, Laura, who lives in Notting Hill. No credit crunch there it seems – every restaurant and bar was packed with lots of Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant look-a-likes. Laura had managed to book a restaurant that serves Pan Asian cuisine, but unfortunately my Black Cod was terrible, even though the chef had two attempts at making it. It wasn’t fresh and very mushy, but luckily we didn’t let the bad food spoil the occasion as I don’t get to see Laura that often and we had a wonderful end to what was a very eventful Fathers Day. During the summer I love all the berries available and ate English strawberries while watching the tennis. Courgettes were also in season and so versatile, I like them simply chargrilled and served with some parmesan or basil. If that‘s not to your taste they are also great either fried or in a ratatouille. A great white wine to go with this fabulous seasonal food is a Gavi from Piedmont, very clean and dry. Another feature on the menu was one of my favourite ingredients, broad beans, either simply done with fennel, buffalo mozzarella and red chilli salad or with fried potatoes and parma ham. For a simple and energising recipe that really makes great use of broad beans, have bucatini pasta, goats cheese and basil, you can still taste the summer with this. Buon Appetito. Aldo Zilli
A month in the life of top chef, Aldo Zilli...