A culinear Odyssey through Europe with Aleksandra Karmowska
Meet full time dreamer Aleksandra Karmowska
We are very excited to introduce you to Aleksandra Karmowska author of the amazing blog "Hai Mangiato"
I was born in Poland and that is where I grew up and went to school. I come from a farming family and later on in my adult life I have also become a farmer.
I have always felt that I wanted to see a bit of the world, explore and travel. During high school my parents sent me on my first proper trip abroad during summer holiday along with other pupils. They were low budget holidays but so much fun. That is when I met my best friend, the greatest treasure next to the unforgettable memories.
My first experience abroadMy first experience of living abroad was in Spain. I took a year off from University in Poland and decided to learn the Spanish language, attending a language school and working simultaneously. Apart from a great joy I had studying another foreign language and culture, was the food. That period was a real eye opener for me, especially because during the time of my growing up in Poland there was little choice . I spent a year in Galicia, e region of Spain prised for the best see food (from cold waters) in the country, for which I developed a great appreciation. In Spain I discovered beautiful, delicious and yet simple food made with love to the produce and tradition. And I loved that.
The food capital of the worldI spent 10 years in London, where I studied and worked. My first job upon arrival before taking a degree in finance was at a Michelin star restaurant of Gordon Ramsay. This job in particular has shaped my attention to detail, appreciation and respect for the chefs and the gastronomic industry broadly speaking. There is so much choice in London from the incredible variety of take aways and casual dining across all cultures to the other extreme of top end Michelin starred establishments. While I was there, London truly became the food capital of the world.
The culinair experience continousI am not a professionally trained chef. I have gained my experience and knowledge by practice, asking questions, watching others cook and falling in love with cook books. I am still learning (of course) and I can’t think of a better place to continue my culinary experience than in Italy. My partner and I had decided to leave England and try to go and live in Italy, for which we had developed a real affection. The idea was to stay initially in Rome only for a year or so while discovering the rest of the country. Almost 5 years have gone by, we are still here. Having said that, we are shortly departing to begin our next chapter in Venice.
1. What made you want to start a cooking blog?I didn’t plan it. It came as an encouragement from some of my family members and friends when they heard me describing how to prepare certain things I cooked for them. It took me a while to decide if to start it, there are so many beautiful food blogs out there. …but then, everybody has a different story to tell.
2. What is your favourite cuisine?I have a few cuisines that I really like but the more I discover Italian regional food and cooking, the more I am convinced that, overall, that it is Italian cuisine that I enjoy the most.
3. What was your childhood or earliest dream?When I was a little girl, I wanted my life to be like a fairly tale, cosy and safe. Perhaps, as with many other children, not knowing anything else at this very young age, your imagination can work its magic. When I was a teenager, I actually had a dream to live in Italy, not even having been to Italy before. Over the course of years and experiences passing by all of a sudden and rather unexpectedly, I came to live in Italy. I do question myself every now and then, am I dreaming?
4. What is your first memory of a dish that made you dream?I don’t have a particular dish in mind but I do remember how tasting beautiful seafood that needed very little accompaniment changed my taste buds. It was when I spent a year in Spain, in Galicia to be precise with the best cold water sea food in the country. Since then, I have always wanted to be able to enjoy and learn to cook such wonderful delicate produce.
5. Do you have any food memories that have influenced your cooking style?I have always liked a well prepared comfort food nourishing and soothing both body and soul. I believe that it is one of the reasons why I enjoy Italian food so much.
6. Describe your food style in five words.
It is seasonal and mainly local. What is available in the local market dictates what I cook.
I tend to choose the produce of good quality, I care where it comes from and I try not to waist food
(which can be easily done with food photography)
7. Who has influenced you in your cooking style or philosophy?My Italian flatmate in my early years in London (while sharing an accommodation) on cooking pasta with care and preparing tasty, simple and delicate but nourishing food. Much needed during my University years. Then I watched and fell in love with the Raymond Blanc BBC Tv programs. These are the ones that make you dream. And Giorgio Locatelli, Italian chef in London. They all share the same philosophy: respect the produce, cook it with care and love as well as that even a very complicated dish, is not impossible to make.
8.What inspires you? Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration can come literary from anywhere. I can be inspired by an image, another plate of
food, a description of food and I try to recreate something that appeals to me. But travelling, above all, is my greatest source of inspiration.
9. What is an example of a springtime menu you would prepare for your friends?When cooking for guests I choose something that isn’t overly complicated and allows me to stay more withe friends than in the kitchen. I’d choose something that I know well hot to make or needs only reheating. In Rome “la vignarola” is a staple dish, which consists of seasonal vegetables like: peas, broad beans, baby artichokes and asparagus. These are gently cooked in little liquid turning into a wonderful spring dish. Then it would prepare linguine pasta with pesto Genovese (which I would prepare a bit earlier). As a main course, when the days are warmer, I like to make a baked fish, either in a salted crust or baked in white wine, tomatoes, garlic and lots of parsley. None of these is difficult, just needs placing in the oven and baking until it is ready. To finish the meal lime pavlova decorated with fresh fruit for pudding.
10. What is your guilty food pleasure?Lasagna. I adore this heavenly and comforting combination of meat ragù, béchamel sauce and almost melting and thin sheets of pasta running through. I can’t stop myself from eating it when put in front of me. Apart from that there is this little and unassuming pastry place in the Jewish Quarter of Rome called “Boccione” which bakes “la torta di ricotta e visciole” (a ricotta and sour cherry tart) which is absolutely to die for. I make myself buy only a half or quarter of it at a time, otherwise I would finish it all.
11. What is your favourite ingredient?This is a tricky one. There are many ingredients that I use a lot. Like good lemons or olive oil which can elevate any dish or an ingredient to another level. I’ve come to love artichokes (over a period of time), which are a big thing in Rome. I cook them in so many ways: alla Romana, alla Veneziana , à la Barigoule (French way) or I like to have them stuffed with meat and cooked all together. They play a big part in salads or side dishes. In this case I serve them raw and thinly sliced.
12. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?I live in Italy and there is no other place I’d rather be. The more I travel across Italy and discover it’s regions, the more I am infatuated by this country. It is just stunning, not to mention the woks of art, the history, food and wine. Living in Rome, is like living in a museum. It’s not always easy, but once you gaze upon the Pantheon for example, all that is left behind.
13. Any recommendations of restaurants in Rome?My very favourite for many reasons is “Osteria Margutta” in the lovely Via Margutta, in the heart of the Historic Centre. It offers Roman Classic menu along with it’s own creations and particular flavour concoctions, that I always look forward to having. Another restaurants that we go to often are: Felice a Testaccio,Dillà, Matricianella, Roscioli. Neapolitan pizzeria Sorbillo is worth going to as well.
14. Which chef would you love to sit down and have a chat with?Giorgio Locatelli
15. Do you have any dreams for the future?My dreams go a long way, to my childhood (question 3) of a cosy and safe life, with happy people around me. It may not seem a lot, but I believe it is.
16. And last but not least do you consider yourself a full time dreamer?
Yes, I consider myself a full time dreamer. I find that dreams and being able to dream can be one of the most beautiful thing in the world and one of the greatest pleasures in life.
Doesn't Aleksandra looks beautiful in our Odyssey Navy Blue Pyjama set?
Images are made by Aleksandra Karmowska
Are you curious about Alkesandra read more on her blog: "Hai Mangiato"