Pumpkin and chestnut gnocchi

“Cookbooks aren’t read in a linear fashion,” my editor explained when we decided to cut up my lengthy introduction to Florentine and place bits and pieces strategically throughout the book instead. I knew it was true. I, too, with very few exceptions (Alice B. Toklas’ cookbook and Rachel Roddy’s Five Quarters for example), love flipping randomly through cookbooks rather than reading them cover to cover. Especially when... Read More

Autumn salad of fennel, walnuts & pomegranate

My recent visit to the Val d’Orcia is still heavily imprinted on my mind. The textures of the hills that look like pencil drawings, that first chill in the air and the first roaring fireplace of the season. Everything looked and tasted like autumn. Just before we left we stopped for a visit to see the sisters of Puscina, a family-run flower farm between Pienza and Montepulciano. They took us on a stroll through their garden beds overflowing... Read More

Autumn in Val d’Orcia

It’s no secret that autumn is my favourite month in Tuscany. It’s partly the relief from the relentless heat of summer, that feeling that you can finally breathe again, and partly, well, mostly, it’s the food. The cooler weather finally lets me get back into the kitchen (in particular the oven, which I usually avoid at all costs in the summer), to do the things I really love, like slow cooking and baking. And autumn’s ingredients... Read More

Ansonica grape jam

I first found crates full of these white grapes with a scribbled sign stating “local grapes, 1 euro a kilo” at the fruit and vegetable shop down the road. Cheap grapes are a sign that we are already well into the vendemmia (grape harvest) season. Being married to a sommelier I probably should have known right away what kind of grapes they were, after all, this part of Tuscany is the only place that grows these. But it took me another... 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

From the farm: Eggs poached in tomato sauce

One of the places that I can truly call my happy place is a farm in San Gimignano. Partly it’s because of the wonderful Fioroni family who run Fattoria Poggio Alloro, who I feel are like long lost family because of the way we are embraced (literally and figuratively!) when we arrive, the way we are fed (as if we must not have eaten in weeks), and the familiar way that this place somehow feels like home (we also always stay in the same room,... Read More

Nonna Lina’s Pomarola

I never met Nonna Lina, my husband’s grandmother. She passed away six weeks before I met him, coincidentally on the exact same day my maternal grandfather died. But from the way my husband and my mother-in-law talk about her, the constant references to her, especially when we are in the kitchen, I feel like I know her. And I feel connected to her when I cook her recipes. Lina was tiny, little Tuscan lady, and a good cook. A pedantic one. But... Read More

Panzanella with vongole

Summer in Tuscany – it is all about not using the stove. Or using it as little as possible. Contrary to many people’s wishful thinking, there’s really nothing glamorous about being under the Tuscan sun – it’s a sweltering, all-encompassing, sticky heat, made all the worse by the fact that most towns and cities are made of heavy, medieval stones that heat up during the day like a pizza oven and retain the heat all night. Touch... 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