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

Broad bean pesto

I’m on a broad bean kick lately. The beans we planted five months ago have grown outgrageously. They’re taller than me and are producing lovely, long velvety fingers of pods, which all of us (the 11 month old bean-eater included) have been picking, opening and eating right there on the spot. They’re just so good like this when they’re young and tender that I’ve hardly had them any other way. Broad beans (also known as... Read More

The simplest dessert

When it comes to choosing a recipe, length does matter. Short, simple recipes always appeal to me. Carefully chosen ingredients that you can count on one hand. A gentle tousle, a sprinkle of this or some other straightforward preparations and it’s done. The good ones are balanced, even elegant, and seemingly more elaborate than they are. These are worth having up your sleeve. The second thing that matters to me when choosing a recipe is authenticity... Read More

Ricotta & Fig Tiramisu

What are the recipes that you have at your fingertips, those ones that aren’t even recipes, strictly speaking, but a familiar orchestration of ingredients coming together in that way that you like best? I pondered this when I was asked recently about which recipe I could make in my sleep. A recipe that I don’t need to measure, or if I do, one that I don’t need to refer to a book or notes for. A recipe that is also adaptable, changeable... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Ragu di coniglio, a family recipe

It’s perhaps a tad stereotypical but the idea of the family recipe and Italian cuisine really go hand in hand – that idea of the Italian nonna, apron on, standing over bubbling, steaming pots, weaving magic without the use of recipe book, putting her secret touches here and there, getting ready to feed an army, even if there are only four of you eating. It may not be everyone’s nonna, but some still remember her like that. After much... Read More

Back to basics: The soffritto

I remember my mother telling me when I was a young teenager in the kitchen that the key to a good soup or ragu is the way that the onion is cooked – softly, gently, sweating in butter or olive oil until transparent. I’ve followed that advice ever since. The gently cooked onion is a foundation for flavour in the dish. It’s something magical and this is also what it behind the Italian soffritto and the French mirepoix. The soffritto,... Read More

Sarde a beccafico

Whenever I see fresh sardines at the market, shimmering with their silver scales, I have to have them, regardless of what was going to be on the menu before I noticed them. Packed full of flavour, nutrients and cheap as chips, they are an essential ingredient in regional Italian home cooking from top to toe of the peninsula. Pasta con le sarde is probably my all time favourite pasta dish, in any of its guises (though I’ve always loved the Sicilian... Read More

Simple things & saffron salt

Things have been busy lately; deadlines have been piling up on each other, there’s a nearly nine month old baby crawling around my ankles and time seems to just slip away without me noticing it’s suddenly September. It’s times like these that I turn to simplicity to get me through the day – choose the simplest route, the simplest option. It’s usually always a good idea. Take dinner, for example. Believe it or not, despite... Read More

The truffle hunt

It’s a gorgeous winter’s morning – too gorgeous really to be called winter – for a drive through New South Wales countryside towards Reidsdale, near Braidwood. We pass plenty of paddocks, dotted with resting sheep and cows, a blur of pale yellow ochre under a crisp, bright blue sky. It’s a day for truffle hunting. We’re greeted in Braidwood by Kate Marshall, a Sydney girl turned country. Instantly it feels as though we’re... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Gelato, affogato & some history

There is one thing that I don’t miss about Florentine summers and that is the searing, stifling heat. It seems a strange thing to say from Australia, a sunburnt country if there ever was one, but the heat in Florence is one that simply takes over your entire day. There is barely any relief from it. I’m writing this from the end of a particularly bearable Melbourne winter, but I can feel and taste those hot, sticky Florentine summer days... Read More