Pasta con le sarde

While I love summer for its fruit, autumn for its earthy flavours and winter for hearty dishes, spring is my favourite time of year for vegetables – asparagus, broad beans, artichokes. And then there are the wild things – weeds, herbs and vegetables that grow spontaneously, filling up cracks in the pavement or taking over fields or overgrown garden corners. Foraging for edible weeds and making food with wild vegetables is taking a step back in... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Artichoke tart

Italy in the spring. It means blossoms and longer, warmer days. Early on, it usually means rain too but also a gorgeous landscape of luminous, bright green pastures of new growth. It means fritelle. It means Easter and plenty of fresh eggs, especially from my sister in law’s busy hens. But, most of all, to me, it means artichokes. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like the variety and availability of good artichokes in Italy. The varieties... 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

Cotoletta alla Milanese

This is one of those dishes that make a regular appearance on our table at home. It’s simple, it’s crunchy, it’s meaty and always satisfying. But while simple, there is somewhat of an art to getting this golden, breaded veal chop perfectly crisp outside and moist inside. All the credit to cooking and testing countless recipes, I have to say, goes to my husband Marco, who is obsessed with getting the most incredibly crisp breadcrumb... Read More

Beans Cooked in a Tuscan Jar

“First you need good beans.” The good advice of Elizabeth David always goes straight to the heart of the matter. We arrived back in Tuscany a week ago for what should be a few good months of family time, visiting friends and research, all peppered with good doses of eating and drinking. No sooner had we arrived at my mother in law’s house, weary from traveling halfway across the globe, did the pantry and kitchen doors open wide in invitation... Read More

100 year old apricot jam

This is a 123 year old recipe for apricot jam. It comes from my battered and worn pocket sized edition of Pellegrino Artusi‘s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. I only bought it a few years ago, it’s just battered because I use it all the time. I carry it around in my bag and read it’s old fashioned Italian like a novel. It’s often held open on one page with one hand while the other whisks or stirs. I don’t... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Zuppa di moscardini

Soup is the measure of a good cook. It may be a simple and humble vegetable soup or an extravagent bisque, but either way, it needs to be made with the knowledge of how to get the flavour out of your ingredients. Layers are key. As is texture. And a good stock goes a long way. It’s a dish that takes not necessarily time but a certain amount of skill and instinct in the kitchen. We decided that soup should be this month’s theme for our Italian... Read More

Bronzino’s Panzanella

Summer wouldn’t be summer without that perfect salad, a must when it’s simply too hot to cook and all you crave are the season’s fresh offerings. Things like this caprese salad, made with heirloom tomatoes straight out of the garden and torn hunks of buffalo mozzarella. In Tuscany, it’s always and forever, panzanella, a rustic bread salad born as a way of using up day old bread and the abundance of fresh vegetables straight... Read More

Cozze Ripiene – Stuffed Mussels

This is a clever and thrifty dish with peasant origins from Puglia, the most southern tip of Italy’s peninsula. It’s an area which is rich and abundant in seafood, grains and vegetables but over the centuries has seen some of the worst poverty in the country. It’s famous port city, Taranto, is known as the city of two seas as it’s home to two geographically interesting bodies of water known as “The Great Sea” and the flat,... Read More

A summer cake: plum and ricotta tart

A neighbour’s plum tree hangs over into our courtyard. By a lot. Dark plums, with a matte grey-blue coating a sometimes dark blue, sometimes pinkish-purple skin. Inside they’re sweet yellow, but when picked a little early, like I did to beat the birds (they wait until that crucial moment when the plums are just ripe – somehow they know – then they strip the tree at the blink of an eye before you’ve even had a chance to get out... Read More