Beans Cooked in a Tuscan Jar

“First you need good beans.” The good advice of Elizabeth David always goes straight to the heart of the matter. We arrived back in Tuscany a week ago for what should be a few good months of family time, visiting friends and research, all peppered with good doses of eating and drinking. No sooner had we arrived at my mother in law’s house, weary from traveling halfway across the globe, did the pantry and kitchen doors open wide in invitation... Read More

Pizza with Homemade Mascarpone & Speck

This is a recipe that combines three favourite things. Pizza. Speck (or prosciutto if you can’t find it). And mascarpone. But not just any mascarpone — homemade mascarpone. Because homemade is so incredibly easy, you’ll wonder why you never tried it before, and because it’s so fresh, you’ll find it hard to go back to store-bought. Although often thought of as a sort of soft cream cheese, mascarpone is technically not... Read More

100 year old apricot jam

This is a 123 year old recipe for apricot jam. It comes from my battered and worn pocket sized edition of Pellegrino Artusi‘s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. I only bought it a few years ago, it’s just battered because I use it all the time. I carry it around in my bag and read it’s old fashioned Italian like a novel. It’s often held open on one page with one hand while the other whisks or stirs. I don’t... Read More

Millefoglie – A thousand layers

Usually, things are planned. Books are thumbed through, blogs are scrolled through, the fridge and pantry rummaged through. Menu planned. Ingredients bought. Recipes tested. But, less often, things are unplanned and just happen. Unexpectedly coming together. Something of the sort happened with this dessert, millefoglie – known better by it’s French name, millefeuille, meaning a thousand layers. It may be French but it’s the go-to dessert... Read More

Bonci’s Focaccia Pugliese

Few things are as good as really well-made, fresh bread. That initial crunch, then the springy softness of the inside, perhaps still warm. Even better when it’s homemade and the smell of bread baking fills your kitchen and lingers throughout the house. I’m lucky to have a passionate home baker as a husband. I love having homemade bread around but if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be able to get all the way through... Read More

Back to basics: The soffritto

I remember my mother telling me when I was a young teenager in the kitchen that the key to a good soup or ragu is the way that the onion is cooked – softly, gently, sweating in butter or olive oil until transparent. I’ve followed that advice ever since. The gently cooked onion is a foundation for flavour in the dish. It’s something magical and this is also what it behind the Italian soffritto and the French mirepoix. The soffritto,... Read More

Zia Nerina’s Ragu alla Bolognese

Bologna is only 100 kilometres from Florence yet it is a food-world away. The home of mortadella, tortellini, lasagne, cappelletti and tagliatelle pasta – served of course with the most famous pasta sauce in the world, ragu alla bolognese – Bologna is in many ways the centre of Italian cuisine. It helps that this food-centric city is in Emilia-Romagna, a region also blessed with other staples of good Italian food including the balsamic vinegar... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Risotto in Cantina

September in Italy is largely regarded as the season for la vendemmia, the wine harvest, when most of the peninsula is busy picking the grapes that have been carefully tended to over the year. Some regions have already done it by August – places like Puglia’s far south where the intense heat ripens the local grapes fast, or up north in Lombardy where the delicate sparkling Franciacorta wines require grapes with higher acidity. Naturally, for... Read More

Artusi’s Torta Margherita: 3 simple ingredients

This classic Italian cake is one of those things that every cook should have up his or her sleeve, especially when it’s Pellegrino Artusi’s recipe, a 120 year old recipe that is yeast-free, gluten-free and dairy-free, even without meaning to be. It’s made with just three ingredients – eggs, sugar and potato starch – for a dead simple, thrifty and light-as-a-feather cake. A genius recipe and one that should be committed... Read More

The Perfect Bistecca Fiorentina

Whenever someone asks me about the quintessential Florentine dish, two things immediately come to mind, which should also be an indication of the carnivorous Tuscan diet. The first is panini al lampredotto – tripe sandwiches, which are not everyone’s cup of tea (but they should be!). The other is the colossal bistecca fiorentina – Florentine steak. Curiously, the Italian word bistecca is actually borrowed from the English “beef steak.”... Read More