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

Artusi’s November: Pumpkin Pie

I’ve said many times how much I love autumn, particularly for the season’s food. It just feels natural to be a little more indulgent at this time of the year, allowing yourself plenty of comfort food or that extra slice of pie. Pumpkin has to be right up there as one of my favourite autumn vegetables. Just before leaving Italy a few weeks ago, we had pumpkins coming at us from all directions, most notably from my husband’s nonna’s... Read More

Hazelnut and Espresso cake for a Birthday

It’s the first time in twenty years that I get to celebrate my birthday at home. Home is a funny concept for me at the moment. It no longer means the home that I have known for the past seven years in Italy, or the one I’m going to make in a new city on the other side of the world. At the moment in this homeless state, “home” is actually a house I have never lived in, the house that my parents bought when I left the nest for good to... Read More

How to make honey from figs

One of the things that I love about traditional Italian home cooking is how essential it is. There is a reason for everything, nothing is by accident. Food just makes sense here, and the more you see the changing landscapes and traditions of each individual region, the more you see why food and its traditions are so different from one part of the peninsula to the next. I recently travelled to Puglia, which is pure heaven for a food enthusiast. A beautiful... Read More

Fig Frangipane Tart and falling for Florence

I have to admit that my love affair with Florence did not start with the typical “love at first sight:” But it wasn’t far off. I was a twenty-year-old art student when I had my first taste of living in Florence, exactly ten years ago. I arrived at the train station with my luggage and not much else – no where to stay, nothing booked, no contacts. I can’t imagine ever doing that now but I guess I was more of a spontaneous traveller... Read More

Artusi’s July: Raspberry Acetosa

July in Tuscany. The heat is the sort that you cannot get away from. If you live in the city, it’s especially unbearable. Hot African wind blows its way into cities, heating them up like a giant hairdryer. The ancient stones of the palazzi and squares bake in the sun and the heat lingers on for hours after midnight. Anyone smart and organised enough has escaped to the sea or the mountains. Those who haven’t, can’t or are waiting until the traditional... Read More