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

Autumn salad of fennel, walnuts & pomegranate

My recent visit to the Val d’Orcia is still heavily imprinted on my mind. The textures of the hills that look like pencil drawings, that first chill in the air and the first roaring fireplace of the season. Everything looked and tasted like autumn. Just before we left we stopped for a visit to see the sisters of Puscina, a family-run flower farm between Pienza and Montepulciano. They took us on a stroll through their garden beds overflowing... Read More

Autumn in Val d’Orcia

It’s no secret that autumn is my favourite month in Tuscany. It’s partly the relief from the relentless heat of summer, that feeling that you can finally breathe again, and partly, well, mostly, it’s the food. The cooler weather finally lets me get back into the kitchen (in particular the oven, which I usually avoid at all costs in the summer), to do the things I really love, like slow cooking and baking. And autumn’s ingredients... Read More

24 hours on Giglio Island

I’m still trying to gather the right words to describe the simple beauty after my first visit to this little Tuscan island last week. Some things are best left to record in images, like mental snapshots, rather than try to find the words. Giglio is like that for me. It is only a hop, skip and jump from home in Monte Argentario – a breezy one hour ferry ride from Porto Santo Stefano. So we made a quick, 24 hour visit, which is doable for the... Read More

Ansonica grape jam

I first found crates full of these white grapes with a scribbled sign stating “local grapes, 1 euro a kilo” at the fruit and vegetable shop down the road. Cheap grapes are a sign that we are already well into the vendemmia (grape harvest) season. Being married to a sommelier I probably should have known right away what kind of grapes they were, after all, this part of Tuscany is the only place that grows these. But it took me another... 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

Gastronomic Guide to Porto Ercole

Rocky cliffs, Spanish fortresses, the azure sea and pretty ports. Admittedly it’s not usually for the food that people visit Monte Argentario and its little town of Porto Ercole, where we currently live. But if you happen to be exploring this most beautiful and quite rugged part of Tuscany, here’s how you can also eat really well in the area. Everyone has been to Tuscany. But what they often mean is they have been to Florence. Or the... 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

A day in Juls’ Kitchen – a Tuscan cooking class

Disclosure. I’m about to tell you what it’s like to cook with one of my very dear friends, in the kitchen of her picturesque, quintessentially Tuscan home. So I am possibly a little bit biased. But when I write, I like to write about something I love and something I wholeheartedly recommend, whether it’s a recipe, a book or an experience – and this is no different. I first met Giulia over dinner in Florence several years ago.... Read More

Panzanella with vongole

Summer in Tuscany – it is all about not using the stove. Or using it as little as possible. Contrary to many people’s wishful thinking, there’s really nothing glamorous about being under the Tuscan sun – it’s a sweltering, all-encompassing, sticky heat, made all the worse by the fact that most towns and cities are made of heavy, medieval stones that heat up during the day like a pizza oven and retain the heat all night. Touch... Read More