Hazelnut, brown sugar and espresso biscotti

I do love a happy accident in the kitchen – that pleasant surprise when something you didn’t mean to do turns out marvellously well. It happens all the time, a missing ingredient that you forgot or didn’t have, for example, that makes the dish even better than the original. Of course, this might just be luck. The same thing can have the opposite effect too, depending on the circumstance and the ingredients. My sister in law famously... Read More

Pistachio, polenta and olive oil pound cake

I was quite amused the first time I heard Italians talk about, “plum cake”, even more so when I realised that the cake in question was not made with plums at all but was actually a pound cake (as romantic as it sounds, actually, little, mass-produced, packaged “plum cakes” are commonly found in the supermarket as a breakfast item). To me, it always seemed as though this erroneous translation was a matter of someone mishearing “pound cake”. It’s... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Torrone sardo, the perfect homemade gift

It’s crept up on me this year. Here I was still thinking it’s October, but suddenly it’s December. Time to start preparing gifts and thinking about the Christmas table, though my mind is elsewhere as I’m really trying to plan my baby’s first birthday! I knew having a Christmas baby would make the holidays different and I have this feeling that from now on my Christmasses are always going to creep up on me and the birthday... Read More

Spiced walnut linguine, a recipe that tastes of history

It goes without saying that Florence is a city that lives in its past. In every nook and cranny, history – a fantastic, unique history that influenced the way the entire world saw things – seeps out onto the well-trodden stone streets and into the every day. On some occasions all it takes is walking right through the centre of town, passing over literal layers of history in a square like Piazza della Reppublica, the spot where the medieval mercato... Read More

Artusi’s Almond Milk Gelato

After last week’s Amaretti Ice Cream Sandwiches, I’ve still got this thing for almonds. And ice cream. Or more precisely, gelato. In this case, it’s almond milk gelato, scented with a splash of orange blossom water – a 120 year old recipe from my favourite, Pellegrino Artusi‘s cookbook. I’ve used his gelato and sorbet recipes before and, whether using a modern ice cream maker or the good ol’ freeze and stir method,... Read More

Artusi’s Nocino – a spicy walnut liqueur

Saint days are not only times for rituals, celebrations and traditions but they are also handy seasonal reminders, like a bookmark in the calendar. San Giovanni or St John the Baptist day, June 24, is a perfect example. Being near the summer solstice, it’s a day that signifies midsummer and celebrates the bountiful summer season. St John the Baptist is Florence’s patron saint so on June 24 the Florentines are gearing up for a day off with... Read More

Chestnut crepes: Preserving the taste of autumn

Chestnut flour is a great reminder of autumn that easily stretches out my favourite season to last throughout winter. Readily available throughout Tuscany, chestnut flour is produced locally all over the region from Prato to Amiata to be made into pasta, bread and pastries. It is also the essential ingredient in one of my favourite cold weather snacks, Necci. Chestnut flour has a naturally low moisture content, which means in centuries past it was... Read More