Eating & playing in Venice with a little one

It doesn’t take long for this city to work its magic on me. One look at that long, low horizon shaped by the grey-green Venetian waters as the train pulls into its island station and I find myself breathing a sigh. It may sound cliche but it’s lagoon, the water-lapped maze of streets and canals, its crumbling buildings and piazze hidden away like pockets are truly the stuff of dreams. But when I was there a couple months ago, a quick... Read More

On wild vegetables and acquacotta

A surprise find at one of my favourite markets in Florence last week led me to this beautiful and ancient dish, acquacotta (literally, “cooked water” but also meaning “cooked in water”), a tradition of southern Tuscany and Lazio, where the fields are filled with mounds of curly, jagged-edged weeds and other wild vegetables and greens that I had never seen and certainly never cooked with before. There’s something about eating wild vegetables... Read More

Italian Table Talk: The aperitivo

It’s early evening, you’ve finished work and are ready to wind down. Perhaps you’re also a tiny bit hungry, or, at least, are at that point where you start imagining what you’ll be eating for dinner. You’re on your way home and perhaps it’s a place on the way, your regular, where you know you’ll bump into a friend or two and a drink is in order, along with some nibbles. Nothing that will ruin your appetite... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Tiramisu for a celebration

It’s crept up on us so quickly – one year of Italian Table Talk, the blog posts that once a month create a flurry of emails deciding themes, topics, recipes, often starting with, What are you making? and resulting in dishes and their stories as told by four girls with different perspectives but the same passion for sharing experiences, the traditions, the rituals of real Italian cuisine. It all started with bread, as I like to think any Italian... Read More

Sarde in Saor

By far one of my favourite Venetian cicchetti is sarde in saor – fried fresh sardine fillets marinated in softly cooked white onions, usually with vinegar, raisins and pine nuts, all preferably prepared the day before serving. Found in the bacari nestled along Venice’s narrow laneways, where one stops for an ombra (a tiny rounded glass of local wine) and a bite to eat, this cicchetto is just as suitable as an antipasto at the table. The sharpness... Read More

Pesche Ripiene – Stuffed Peaches

Simplicity. It’s such a reassuring concept. Everyone knows that the simple things in life are often the best, and honestly, who doesn’t need to simplify their lives every now and then? No one needs to overcomplicate their lives. And at this time of year, when the holiday rush and madness seems to be over and – well here in the Southern Hemisphere anyway – the long summer days call out for time to be spent enjoying them, you can relish... Read More

Zia Nerina’s Ragu alla Bolognese

Bologna is only 100 kilometres from Florence yet it is a food-world away. The home of mortadella, tortellini, lasagne, cappelletti and tagliatelle pasta – served of course with the most famous pasta sauce in the world, ragu alla bolognese – Bologna is in many ways the centre of Italian cuisine. It helps that this food-centric city is in Emilia-Romagna, a region also blessed with other staples of good Italian food including the balsamic vinegar... Read More

Calabrian Simplicity: Bucatini alla Reggina

At first I didn’t hear the staccato sound of the double ‘g’ when my Calabrian friend Anna suggested she would make me bucatini alla reggina. To non-Italian speakers, it may not seem like much but it can make all the difference. I heard bucatini alla ‘regina’, which would mean the ‘Queen’s bucatini’. It made sense to me at the time, there are plenty dishes named after the Savoy Queen of Italy, including two old classics, pizza... Read More

Ben venga il Minestrone

The Italians are brilliant with words, especially when it comes to food. Take that most humble of dishes, soup. In English, we pretty much have the one word to describe it. Oxford Companion to Italian Food author Gillian Riley makes the point that Italians have many specific words for the dish while English is rather limited, “Soup and stew are easygoing, almost interchangeable words in English, used to describe many recipes, anything from a thick... Read More

The language of food

The Italian language is fascinating and beautiful, but even more so for a food lover. Dialects and slang all add to the mix, making it even richer than what the basics cover. The brilliant Italian-American linguist Mario Pei knew a thing or two about this. The Roman-born, American-bred Columbia University Language Professor wrote over 50 books on the subject of language. I experienced nothing short of an epiphany when I was reading something... Read More