Hazelnut, brown sugar and espresso biscotti

I do love a happy accident in the kitchen – that pleasant surprise when something you didn’t mean to do turns out marvellously well. It happens all the time, a missing ingredient that you forgot or didn’t have, for example, that makes the dish even better than the original. Of course, this might just be luck. The same thing can have the opposite effect too, depending on the circumstance and the ingredients. My sister in law famously... Read More

Going wheat free: Polenta crostini with mushrooms

A few weeks ago a bomb was dropped. My Tuscan husband, the can’t-live-without-bread, pizza-loving, pasta-making man that he is, was told he has a severe intolerance to wheat and that he’ll need to cut it out, cold turkey. Needless to say, when your partner or someone in your family has to change his or her diet, it pretty much means that the whole family change their diet, unless you want to cook separate meals to cater to everyone’s... Read More

Cherry Jam and three months in Tuscany

Where is home? It’s always been a complicated question for me. I never spent very long in one country when I was growing up, living back and forth between Australia and China then going off to study in the US. In fact, the longest I have ever spent living in one place, one country, at one time is Florence. Seven years. Although for the last couple of years I’ve been living in my home country, I still feel most at home still in Florence.... Read More

Carciofi ritti – stuffed stewed artichokes

There are certain dishes that I love eating when in Florence, seated at a bustling and often crowded trattoria at lunchtime, because firstly, there’s the atmosphere that is just as much part of the dish as the bare ingredients and secondly, there is something so nice about having these things made for you by well-versed hands. But I finally decided that this in particular, these plump, melting, whole artichokes, cooked in a simple Tuscan manner... Read More

Pistachio, polenta and olive oil pound cake

I was quite amused the first time I heard Italians talk about, “plum cake”, even more so when I realised that the cake in question was not made with plums at all but was actually a pound cake (as romantic as it sounds, actually, little, mass-produced, packaged “plum cakes” are commonly found in the supermarket as a breakfast item). To me, it always seemed as though this erroneous translation was a matter of someone mishearing “pound cake”. It’s... 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

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

Millefoglie – A thousand layers

Usually, things are planned. Books are thumbed through, blogs are scrolled through, the fridge and pantry rummaged through. Menu planned. Ingredients bought. Recipes tested. But, less often, things are unplanned and just happen. Unexpectedly coming together. Something of the sort happened with this dessert, millefoglie – known better by it’s French name, millefeuille, meaning a thousand layers. It may be French but it’s the go-to dessert... Read More

Backyard broad beans & how to eat them

I began dabbling in gardening in the most unlikely of places – a rooftop overlooking the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. It got a good bit of sun and we had a wide terrace, so we decided to experiment with some tomato seeds in little terracotta pots that matched the rooftops. It was a step up from the previous pots of sage, thyme and basil that I’d kept on window ledges of tiny apartments. Like magic, they sprouted and grew. We moved them into... Read More