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

Ad occhio, cooking by eye

Ad occhio, Italian for “by eye”. It’s a very natural way to cook, measuring by eye and cooking not by the clock but by the way something looks (or smells or feels). It’s the way I first learned to cook – standing on a stool so I could look over my grandmother’s electric stove top, learning to scramble eggs. Or making pancakes dotted with banana slices or fried rice with eggs (still my go-to comfort food) with my mother. These... Read More

Peach and amaretti tart

Most of the time I buy fresh produce based on what looks good — and then I decide what to prepare with it at home. I really do feel like it’s the best way to shop and eat because more often than not the things you come home with are the freshest, the most in season, the most delicious ingredients to start out with. Right now the tomatoes look good, the firm, small, ribbed zucchini with bright yellow blooms still attached do too, and... 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

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

Saffron and ricotta frosting for a birthday cake

It seems like a long way to go about getting some fresh saffron to frost a birthday cake with, but it was worth it. I’ve been plotting for months with my friend, Sarah Fioroni, to let me get involved with the saffron harvest at her family’s farm in San Gimignano. It’s not the first time I’ve celebrated my birthday with a saffron theme on the farm at Fattoria Poggio Alloro — there was this pumpkin and saffron risotto... 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