Italian Table Talk: Olives & Hunter’s stew

After living in Tuscany for so many years, November has come to mean many things to me: rainy days, changing colours in the landscape, vino novello (‘new’ wine, that young, grape juice-like wine produced from September’s harvest), white truffles, a cappuccino in the morning to warm up and above all, the olive harvest and that first press of bright green olive oil. There is nothing like this thick, grass-coloured oil, which I have... Read More

The art of being frugal

There aren’t many of us who couldn’t do with saving a bit of cash, especially around this time of year when, leading up to Christmas, money seems to fall between the gaps in your fingers like water. For us this year, the count down to Christmas is also taking on another meaning as we’re about to become parents. It’s an exciting time but the thought of also not being paid for the next six months or so is daunting, to say the... Read More

An autumn risotto from San Gimignano

I was hooked at my first meal at Poggio Alloro. The family-run agriturismo and organic farm sits on a hill looking directly at the town of San Gimignano. It is one of the most stunning views of Tuscany, one of those views that you only dream about or see in postcards and wonder if there are really places that exist that look like that. The Chianina cows graze on the hill side, the vineyards follow the rolling hills surrounding the property and the... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Chestnut biscotti for Ognissanti

Food is such an integral part of culture – it’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately especially after contemplating whether or not food writing was important. In the article, Michael Ruhlman (author and charcuterie/salumi-maker extraordinaire), poses the question with some pretty convincing points and quotes, such as this one by George Orwell, no less, written about 75 years ago: “I think it could plausibly be argued... Read More

Celebrating 100 with Homemade Nutella Sponge Roll

The 100th blog post. A relatively small milestone in the hundreds of other milestones that I hope to one day reach in my life, but one that should be celebrated with something a little bit more special than usual. I had in mind a cake – after all, what is any celebration without a cake? So I consulted Marco, who must be the only person on the planet who doesn’t like sweets. If I’m going to celebrate, I want him to join in too – he... Read More

Springtime foraging & wild garlic frittelle

There is something enormously satisfying about foraging for food, something that makes you feel that even in the city, you can skip the supermarket and go out and search for your own food in the parks around your suburb. More than just being frugal (although that in itself has its own merits), Nigel Slater put it perfectly when he said, “the pleasure is more the idea of exploiting something that is otherwise considered of little use.” For a novice... Read More

Schiacciata all’uva – Florentine grape bread

This is one of those things that you crave for many months of the year but can only find for a fleeting moment. Then you have to wait patiently for the rest of the year before they will appear again in bakery shop windows. You can of course make it at home (that’s what the recipe is for!), but grapes – and the best ones to use for this delicious treat, local Tuscan wine grapes such as canaiolo or American concord grapes, called uva fragola... Read More

Eat your greens: Fagiolini sfiziosi

Classic Tuscan dishes are rather meaty, hearty, starchy dishes, with few vegetables playing the heroes. Yes, tomatoes make a big appearance, especially in the summer when bright, fresh tomatoes are used in the wonderful bread salad, panzanella, and bruschetta. Spinach or its other green leafy relatives, silverbeet and kale, are found in bread soups or mixed with ricotta in pasta fillings. But do you see what I mean by starchy? When you want a contorno,... Read More

Zia Nerina’s Ragu alla Bolognese

Bologna is only 100 kilometres from Florence yet it is a food-world away. The home of mortadella, tortellini, lasagne, cappelletti and tagliatelle pasta – served of course with the most famous pasta sauce in the world, ragu alla bolognese – Bologna is in many ways the centre of Italian cuisine. It helps that this food-centric city is in Emilia-Romagna, a region also blessed with other staples of good Italian food including the balsamic vinegar... Read More

Italian Table Talk: Risotto in Cantina

September in Italy is largely regarded as the season for la vendemmia, the wine harvest, when most of the peninsula is busy picking the grapes that have been carefully tended to over the year. Some regions have already done it by August – places like Puglia’s far south where the intense heat ripens the local grapes fast, or up north in Lombardy where the delicate sparkling Franciacorta wines require grapes with higher acidity. Naturally, for... Read More