Homemade Alchermes liqueur

It felt like I was mixing a magic potion. A little bit of this. A little bit of that. A crumbling of some bark, a few seeds. And then the final touch: a couple of spoonfuls of dried insects. Kermes or cochineal insects are what give this Renaissance-aged Tuscan liqueur it’s distinct colour, and its name. The dried insects infuse the liqueur with a deep, pinkish-red magenta hue and are then strained out, along with the other spices that permeate... Read More

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

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

I Pescatori di Orbetello: Dinner straight from the Lagoon

I love the five minute drive to Orbetello from our home in Porto Ercole in Monte Argentario. I look out the window, waiting for that curve after you pass the sandy stretch of Feniglia, when suddenly you hit the flat lagoon and you see the old town of Orbetello rising right out of the water, a little reminiscent of Venice. Orbetello’s lagoon characterises and in many ways defines the city. Created by two sand bars (the beautiful, long, soft-sanded... Read More

Polpo e patate — Octopus and potato salad

Food brings people together, this we all know. It unites people around a table, for the everyday or the special. A meal is the reason to go out, to stay in, an excuse to get to know someone new or celebrate with those closest to your heart. It’s also the main thing two food bloggers who have never actually met in person know they have in common. So from the get-go, you know that an offer of, I’m in town, let’s get together and cook,... Read More

Pasta mista con patate e cozze – Pasta with potatoes and mussels

Living in a port town (and an island-like port town at that) means I am spoilt for choice when it comes to seafood. And when the supermarket isn’t that handy for me to get to but the local pescivendolo (the fishmonger – though I should point out, here too I am spoilt because it’s not just a fishmonger but the outlet direct from the fishermen themselves) is, it means fish is often on the menu for dinner. I particularly love shellfish.... Read More

Palamita sott’olio (Bonito preserved in oil)

I must admit that I am one to succumb to an impulse buy every now and then. Well, actually, almost all my produce shopping at the market is an impulse, except for when I actually plan for a recipe and need certain ingredients. Whatever looks good or cheap or particularly interesting is what ends up in my basket – perhaps it’s a box of figs, jammy, over ripe and going for next to nothing or a bunch of herbs that I don’t normally see,... Read More

Call out for recipe testers & Tuscan pork roast

This week I was given some bad news about my cookbook. It’s release will be delayed. For those who know already the process behind the making of a cookbook (or any book for that matter), it can take months and years of work but also a lot of patience and waiting around. I thought I was quite lucky that my book was going to be released just a year after being offered the deal, but the downside to that was an extremely tight deadline. The manuscript... Read More