Schiacciata all’uva – Florentine grape bread

This is one of those things that you crave for many months of the year but can only find for a fleeting moment. Then you have to wait patiently for the rest of the year before they will appear again in bakery shop windows. You can of course make it at home (that’s what the recipe is for!), but grapes – and the best ones to use for this delicious treat, local Tuscan wine grapes such as canaiolo or American concord grapes, called uva fragola... 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

Nonna Genia’s Torta di Pasta Frolla

With the autumn weather in Melbourne getting cooler and a little drizzly, I’ve been craving something sweet lately. Something innocent to nibble together with a cup of tea or a little espresso. I found the perfect thing while thumbing through one of the most treasured cookbooks I have on my bookshelf, Nonna Genia. The classic cookbook of the rolling hills of the Langhe area of Piemonte is full of the centuries old recipes collected by Luciano De... Read More

Gelato in Florence & Fior di Latte al Rosmarino

There are many rituals closely associated with Italian eating habits – the morning espresso or pre-dinner aperitivo, for instance, the post-dinner digestivo or post-dinner, post-coffee ammazzacaffè, ‘coffee killer’. But one of my favourites is the post-meal passeggiata, gelato in hand. It’s a ritual that’s hard to keep up living outside of Italy, unfortunately. For one, there’s not enough strolling that goes on these days on a regular... Read More

Tuscan Easter: Schiacciata di Pasqua

“Variety is the spice of life. Italy has infinite variety and infinite spice.” Professor Mario Pei in 1950 was right on the money when he wrote this in reference to Italy’s strikingly diverse regions and cuisines. Not only are Italian regions so different that language, food, habits, rituals and culture change from border to border, but – in a smaller and no less distinct way – this happens even from town to town within a region. This is... 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

Bomboloni that will get you out of bed

Morning rituals. Sometimes they’re just things you could literally do in your sleep, helping you get through the morning in a blind haze. And in some cases they are what you get out of bed for. Bomboloni would come under the latter category. The local coffee shop near my mother in law’s house sits in the main piazza of a sleepy town centre in Tuscany. People gather there throughout the day to chat, to take their espresso at the counter (standing... Read More

Zabaione, sweet and easy

Around this time of the year in Australia, it’s only natural to make pavlova for every summer party. It’s the quintessential Australian dessert, with a crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside meringue, freshly whipped cream and seasonal fruit. But  then you’re left with all those egg yolks, which I hate to waste. So I’ve found the best thing for those orphan egg yolks: zabaione. In fact, this old fashioned Italian dessert –... Read More

Elizabeth David’s Chocolate Cake

Where does one start with a woman like Elizabeth David? Well, perhaps we can start with something this perfect flourless chocolate cake. A slight crust on top, moist inside, this barely-an-inch-tall cake is decadent, yet light, and disappears when it hits your mouth like a kiss. This cake must have had such an impact on ordinary British kitchens in 1960 when this recipe came out in Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. She is truly one of... Read More

A Spicy Slice of Panforte

I love finding old cookbooks, hand-me-downs from relatives or books found rummaging through second hand bookshops. Once, I even carted home a box full of old cookbooks waiting for the recycling truck. There are treasures in these books, even little ones, like a dog-ear and stained page from that well-used recipe, or – my favourite – a handwritten recipe tucked away in the pages. An old book on Tuscan cooking borrowed from my husband’s aunt had... Read More