Italian Table Talk: Olives & Hunter’s stew

After living in Tuscany for so many years, November has come to mean many things to me: rainy days, changing colours in the landscape, vino novello (‘new’ wine, that young, grape juice-like wine produced from September’s harvest), white truffles, a cappuccino in the morning to warm up and above all, the olive harvest and that first press of bright green olive oil. There is nothing like this thick, grass-coloured oil, which I have... Read More

The art of being frugal

There aren’t many of us who couldn’t do with saving a bit of cash, especially around this time of year when, leading up to Christmas, money seems to fall between the gaps in your fingers like water. For us this year, the count down to Christmas is also taking on another meaning as we’re about to become parents. It’s an exciting time but the thought of also not being paid for the next six months or so is daunting, to say the... Read More

Frittatine Trippate: When You Don’t Have Offal

Eggs and tomato are a classic, rustic combination in the cucina povera, the peasant cooking, of Tuscany. In a way, you could think of this even as a variation on the uova al pomodoro (eggs poached in tomato sauce) recipe I posted a couple of weeks ago. They’re both essential, simple, comforting dishes that are quick and thrifty to make – hallmarks of a good cucina povera dish! The name of this dish is a little bit misleading for those... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Street food of the Tuscan Coast

Street food is one of the best ways to get to the nitty gritty of not only a city’s cuisine, but even its character, its history and its habits. It’s also a might fine way to eat your way through a city without burning a hole in your wallet and it happens to be the theme of this month’s Italian Table Talk, a discussion amongst four food bloggers of Italian cuisine’s true facets. Discover Venice’s bacari for some cicchetti with... Read More

Sugo Finto with Handmade Pici

This age-old Tuscan dish has a name that illustrates that wonderful connection between food and language that Italy is so good at. Sugo finto, literally “fake sauce” or, more appropriately, “fake ragu” (as ‘sugo’ is used as often if not more than the borrowed word ‘ragu’ in Tuscany), is so-called because it is a meatless ragu. Born of the poor peasant kitchens when meat, particularly beef or veal, was a rare and special ingredient,... Read More

Blood & Chocolate

My old boss in Florence once recounted to me, full of nostalgia, that when he was a child, his small hometown near Foggia, Puglia, would hold a pig festival. Essentially it was an age-old tradition where the town pigs would be butchered and celebrated by using the whole beast, right down to the very last drop of blood. The fresh, warm blood would be collected and then, on the spot, mixed with milk and chocolate and cooked into a dark, decadent, custard-like... Read More

A Florentine farewell: Panini di Lampredotto

If someone were to ask me for the most typical Florentine dish, my answer would be simple: panini di lampredotto. Round bread rolls, opened up and filled with steaming hot lampredotto, topped with salsa verde. It is a dish and a tradition only found in the city of Florence. Lampredotto (the fourth stomach of a cow, technically known as the abomasum in English) is not easily found in other cuisines, but the Florentines have been preparing it for centuries... Read More

Artusi’s May: Tuscan Chicken Liver Pate

Artusi’s May: Tuscan chicken liver pate If there was one defining Tuscan recipe for me it might just be the recipe for chicken liver pate served on crostini, generally known in Italian as Crostini di Fegatini, Crostini Neri or Crostini Toscani. This favourite Tuscan antipasto is rustic, tasty, cheap and sensible (why throw away a perfectly good part of the chicken?) and it features on the menu of literally every trattoria in Tuscany, not to mention... Read More

Chestnut crepes: Preserving the taste of autumn

Chestnut flour is a great reminder of autumn that easily stretches out my favourite season to last throughout winter. Readily available throughout Tuscany, chestnut flour is produced locally all over the region from Prato to Amiata to be made into pasta, bread and pastries. It is also the essential ingredient in one of my favourite cold weather snacks, Necci. Chestnut flour has a naturally low moisture content, which means in centuries past it was... Read More

Sugo Bugiardo: Fakes, liars and runaway chicken

Like in many traditional peasant cuisines, Tuscan cooking was quite imaginative when faced with hard times. Tuscans are very good with using up their leftovers, or turning the less noble parts of animals into unforgettable meals. But they were also very good at imagining that they were eating something that they weren’t. My mother-in-law, born right after the war in central Tuscany, once recounted to me that when she was a little a girl they didn’t... Read More