Jennifer Kerr off on her Italian cooking adventure!

Vivacious Jennifer Kerr has arrived in Italy and is ready for her big food adventure. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

BUBBLY and beautiful Eastern Cape cafe owner Jennifer Kerr has sold her popular Walmer restaurant and deli and embarked on a “crazy” culinary adventure.

Jen had dedicated more than seven years of her life to the establishment of Deli on Main in 9th Avenue, having given up a successful career in IT to follow her dreams and share her love of fresh, healthy and simple but always stylish food.

And through her hard work, warm personality and gutsy attitude, Deli soon became a success story, attracting an extremely loyal clientele and earning a solid reputation for its unfaltering commitment to quality.

But for Jen new adventures beckoned. Inspired by her  Italian fiance Stefano (the two got engaged in the Karoo last weekend!) Jen sold Deli and left for his home country last week, where the vivacious blonde will be spending the next two to three  months learning as many Italian kitchen secrets as she can.

While on her “gastronomic working holiday” (she is scheduled to return to South Africa in September, with nuptials to follow in November) she will also write a blog detailing her many foodie adventures.

Jen’s first stop will be the Le Marche region which is bordered in the east by the Adriatic Sea.

“Le Marche has a varied and beautiful landscape with coast, hills, and mountains,” Jen enthused. “I’ll initially be working in Fano, a seaside resort and fishing port. The restaurant is called Alla Lanterna and I will do seafood, pasta-making, breads and other authentic Italian meals.

“While in Fano I’ll also spend time at a company called Sacchi, which supplies fresh truffles all year long to national and international markets. They also produce a wide range of completely natural truffle products and I can’t wait to learn all about this rare delicacy!”

Stefano will join  Jen later and the two will work together at Monte San Savino, a five-hectare organic farm in Tuscany, where they will make “miso, creams, sauces, wine, grape juice, bread and tofu to sell at local markets”, she said.

“We’ll be helping with all activities on the farm and learning about all facets of organic growing. Naturally, I’m cooking everywhere I go… and gathering as many recipes as possible!”

The couple will also visit Stefano’s family home in Tagliolo Monferrato, in the region of Piedmont which is home to many of the country’s top restaurants and where many of its finest wines and cheeses are made.

Scroll down below where, as a tribute to her trip,  Jen will share her recipe for a delicious courgette carbonara.

Jen's courgette carbonara. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Courgette Carbonara: The Recipe

Jen says she chose this recipe as courgettes are in season right now and this is a delicious way to use them in pasta… “above all it’s soooo easy!” Carbonara, she explains, is a classic pasta sauce made with cream, bacon and Parmesan “and is absolutely delicious”. Try to buy the best ingredients you can, she says, “as that’s what really helps to make this dish amazing”. She recommends that, before you start cooking, it’s important to get yourself a very large pan, or else use a high-sided roasting tray, so you can give the pasta a good toss.

Ingredients

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper;  6 large courgettes;  500g penne
; 4 large free-range or organic egg yolks; 100ml double cream; 2 good handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese; olive oil; 12 thick slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, cut into chunky pieces; a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped, flowers reserved (if you can get hold of flowering thyme).


Method

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Halve and then quarter any larger courgettes lengthways and slice them at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the penne. Smaller courgettes can simply be sliced finely.

Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions. To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly and put to one side. Heat a very large frying pan (“a 35cm one is a good start – every house should have one!”), add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the courgette slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves and give everything a stir, so the courgettes become coated with all the lovely bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.

Jen says it’s very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the courgettes, bacon and lovely flavours, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.)

Get everyone around the table, ready to eat straight away. While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning, then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stodgy if left too long.

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