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

Autumn in Florence and baked apples

Autumn is quite probably my favourite time of the year for cooking. It’s that moment that I wait all year for. That immense relief, like a long sigh after a particularly hard day, when the stifling, stuffy, humid summer air cools and changes. I find relief not just in the temperature, but in being able to cook, and therefore eat, differently, too. For the long summer months, I live mostly off fresh produce, chopped into salads, and simple... 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

Dolce Firenze & Pride and Pudding Cookbook

A wonderful thing arrived on my doorstep the day before flying back to Italy: an advance copy of Regula Ysewijn’s Pride and Pudding (Murdoch books). A beautifully designed book devoted to the history of British puddings, both savoury and sweet, it’s been a labour of love for Regula aka Miss Foodwise (who not only wrote it but also did all the design, styling and the photography) and her husband Bruno Vergauwen (who did the absolutely... Read More

Mascarpone and blackberry cake

Amidst my Australian book launch frenzy and the heat wave of late summer crashing its way through the beginning of autumn, there have been berries. First blueberries, which are quickly heading out of season, then raspberries, which my daughter will gobble before anyone else even has a chance to look at them. And finally blackberries, which she won’t touch, so I get to have them. I even attempted to go foraging for my own blackberries, an idea... Read More

Minne di Sant’Agata

If you’ve ever studied art history, you’ll know how to easily spot Saint Agatha in a fresco painting – she’s the one holding her breasts on a platter, a hint at the legend behind her torturous martyrdom where they were cut off with pincers by a powerful Roman suitor when his advances were rejected. The young girl, said to be from a noble family in Catania in Sicily’s east, was buried in her home town where she still watches... Read More

Caramelised figs

I’ve mentioned it before; I can’t say no to free produce. Especially when it comes from Marco’s cousin, Lorella, and her husband, Antonio, who have a vegetable garden large enough that it basically makes them self-sustainable. They have ducks and geese, walnut trees and vines for making their own wine. And, right next to the cubby house that my daughter thinks is paradise, is a wonderfully prolific fig tree. She had thought about... Read More

Caramelised Rice Pudding Pots from Homemade Memories 

One of my favourite food stories ever is the one of Proust’s Madeleines. It’s a story that I think resonates with so many people because there is something about revisiting the perfume or a bite of a special, sweet treat that you had a child, when you are an adult. Something magical. Like the narrator in Proust’s Swann’s Way, a madeleine dipped in tea immediately produced a flood of memories that eventually filled seven volumes:... Read More

Five Quarters & pine nut, rosemary, sea salt brittle

It took me a car ride from Porto Ercole to Florence – about 2 ½ hours – while I had a napping toddler behind me, to read Rachel’s new cookbook, Five Quarters. I don’t normally read cookbooks from front to back, I usually flip through them first, letting the pictures or recipe titles jump out at me — ooh that looks good! Or even flipping to the index to look up recipes with a particular ingredient, something that I either have... Read More