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

Bonci’s Focaccia Pugliese

Few things are as good as really well-made, fresh bread. That initial crunch, then the springy softness of the inside, perhaps still warm. Even better when it’s homemade and the smell of bread baking fills your kitchen and lingers throughout the house. I’m lucky to have a passionate home baker as a husband. I love having homemade bread around but if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be able to get all the way through... 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

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

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

Lessons from a Florentine market & Fennel salad

“What are you going to do with those?” Asked an elderly woman eyeing the artichokes I held like a bunch of flowers towards the busy fruttivendolo, waiting my turn to pay. There are many reasons why I prefer shopping at the farmers’ market to shopping at the supermarket, and this is just one of them. Each and every visit to my local market in Florence has always been a learning experience. Particularly when this happens. Fellow market goers... 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

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