An Acquacotta-inspired Christmas

Some of my favourite ingredients from the Maremma, in southern Tuscany, are also those flavours that I love at Christmas — I’m talking about chestnuts, dried figs, nuts and chocolate, and game like guinea fowl. They are ingredients that make this season’s table feel special yet not over the top. I’d rather be comforted by a Christmas meal than overwhelmed by one and these dishes, for me, do just that. These recipes are essentially... Read More

Easter Adventures in Tuscany and tackling Carol Field’s Colomba

Surely the best thing about colomba, the Easter equivalent to panettone, is the sugared, toasted almond topping that covers the whole thing and crumbles when you cut it, so you sort of have no choice but just to pick up the crusty sugary bits and eat those on their own. I’d always thought that colomba would make a very good baking project but was somewhat intimated by getting the right shape  — it’s vaguely in the shape of a dove,... Read More

Crostata di Susine Selvatiche (Wild Plum Tart)

This is not a very practical recipe unless you chance upon a basket of wild plums at your local farmgate, like I did, while picking out some enormous, gnarled tomatoes, sunny zucchini flowers and purple and white eggplants the size of my fist. Or, even better, find yourself a wild plum tree that no one else (birds and bugs included) has noticed. In years of scouring farmers markets, I have never once come across wild plums, even though they are well-used... Read More

Rose petal and ricotta tartlets

When a friend tells you she has wild roses blooming everywhere, it’s not hard to imagine where the conversation headed to next… to turning them into rose petal jam, of course. My friend Simona Quirini and her family run the beautiful Canto del Maggio, a B&B, restaurant and garden, about one hour’s drive from Florence. We arrived to catch Simona with a wooden crate in her hands, already half full of blush pink flower heads,... Read More

Robinia flower cake and fritters + a giveaway!

I have been dreaming about Mimi Thorisson’s black locust (robinia, acacia or false acacia) flower cake since I first came across it a couple of years ago, while searching for recipes using these bunches of white flowers with a strong, heady perfume similar to jasmine or orange blossom. I’ve been too busy frying them — dipping them in a runny batter, swirling them through a pot of bubbling oil, then eating them crunchy and piping... Read More

The Italian Baker: Remembering Carol Field

The Italian Baker is one of the few cookbooks that I own two copies of, so that I have one in Italy and one in Australia and I don’t have to worry about packing it in my suitcase with me when I travel back and forth. It’s one of the few cookbooks that I have sitting on my desk, in the kitchen, ready to be flicked through or cooked from at any moment. It’s a book that I have always found inspiration in, whether it’s for the... Read More

Ricotta and baby pear tart from Acquacotta

There’s always something strange about crossing the equator and being propelled into the opposite hemisphere, season and time zone. I tried to explain it to my four year old while we were on the long plane ride from Italy to Australia a couple weeks ago: it’s like the land of opposites – when it’s night here, it’s day there, when it’s winter here, it’s summertime there. She seemed to think that sounded fine,... Read More

The occasional bread baker

Just the mere mention of a horoscope and my husband will just switch off. It produces better results than him plugging your ears and singing “la la la la la”. I could be saying the most intelligent thing he’s ever heard me say but if I randomly throw in a star sign, he’s already not listening. So I tend to keep it on the down-low that in my late teens I devoured astrology books, searching for the perfect combination of... Read More

Capri’s flourless chocolate and almond cake

There are a lot of claims out there for ‘best’ chocolate cake recipes, which is not only a wild claim to make, but also a tricky one as, when you consider what makes a chocolate cake ‘the best’, we are talking about preferences that are extremely personal. Chocolate cake can be many things, and serve many purposes. There are ones that are fluffy and moist, a good specimen for a birthday or even a layered wedding cake (like... Read More

Making lady fingers at home

Lady fingers, also known as savoiardi in Italian, are widely used in dessert making, namely, for soaking up rum-splashed coffee and layering into a glass dish with that creamy, rich, sweetened and egg-fortified mascarpone for tiramisu. There are other biscuits you can use but I consider savoiardi indispensable for tiramisu. My Tuscan mother in law prefers to use Pavesini, which are thin, finger-shaped children’s cookies, but being so thin,... Read More