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cookbooks

Fried tuna polpette, a favourite pantry meal

Whenever I make polpette, I have this image in my head of tiny Nonna Lina, Marco’s grandmother, standing by the stove, frying, creating an enormous pyramid of these polpette, only to have people pop in and out of the kitchen, stealing the one on the top, too hot to even hold let alone stick in your mouth. “Polpette” is also the name for meatballs but it can really refer to any roundish fried thing, regardless of whether or not they... Read More

Finally, one meal we can enjoy as a family – Tuscan spiedini di carne.

I have a picky eater. For any fellow distressed parents of picky eaters (in particular parents who care about and love food, whose lives even revolve around food) out there, I’m here to say it’s all going to turn out fine. My daughter Mariu was always particular with food. She refused to eat baby mush. Or be spoon-fed. No purees, her tightly sealed lips made sure they never reached her tongue. We did baby led weaning without even realising... Read More

Sicilian chocolate, almond and lemon torta

In Carol Field’s In Nonna’s Kitchen, this delicious dessert is called a Torta ripiena di mandorle e cioccolato, in other words, an almond and chocolate tart. Or perhaps you could more literally translate it as a tart filled with almonds and chocolate. Field found this recipe in the handwritten journal of Giovanna Passannanti, a Sicilian woman who was in her eighties when the book was published in 1997. Aside from the almonds and chocolate, it... Read More

A guide to spaghetti con le vongole

One of the most iconic Italian pasta dishes ever, spaghetti con le vongole is a firm favourite of our whole family — which is saying something as my eldest daughter is a dreadfully picky eater! Anyone who has to cook for a picky eater will appreciate that feeling of immense satisfaction (and perhaps relief) at being able to cook just one thing that everyone can enjoy together — well, for us, it’s this. And it just happens to also be... Read More

Introducing Tortellini at Midnight

I’ve shown you the behind the scenes and you may have seen some of the recipes, like Nonna Anna’s polpette and the love story behind them, or this comforting rice pudding but here I would finally like to properly introduce you to Tortellini at Midnight. It’s a cookbook with a family story woven throughout it that follows the ancestors of my husband Marco’s family from Taranto in Puglia to Turin in Piemonte and finally to... Read More

Budino di Riso (Baked rice pudding) from Tortellini at Midnight

This isn’t a pretty dessert, let’s face it. But then so many treats that you could label comforting aren’t usually, are they? And I would put this in the same category as bread and butter pudding, rice or semolina pudding, even french toast or pancakes. It’s simply good, rather wholesome, definitely rustic and absolutely homely. An oldie (literally; it comes from Pellegrino Artusi’s classic cookbook from 1891) but a... Read More

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

Honey from a Weed, the world of Patience Gray

Honey from a Weed is one of those few cookbooks I could keep by my bedside. I like to open it at random and become absorbed by a recipe or a story, like the one about sharing a dinner with shepherds on Naxos, the differing views of a Milanese and a Salentine diver on what to do with the an octopus, or the “majestic” Catalonian feast that ended with a century old wine that tasted of chocolate syrup.  Published in 1986, it is more than just a... 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

Ricotta gnocchi, a recipe from Ostro

I have known, and admired, Julia Busuttil Nishimura, for many years now and always felt connected through our love of Italian food, Tuscany (Julia lived in Florence and in Orbetello, just 10 minutes away from where we lived in Porto Ercole while I was writing Acquacotta) and Japan. So I have been eagerly awaiting her debut cookbook, Ostro: The Pleasure that Comes From Slowing Down and Cooking with Simple Ingredients, and it is a beauty — it... Read More