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

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

Italian Table Talk: Braised artichokes with calamint

From Melbourne’s Indian summer, I’ve been propelled into Tuscany’s spring – and apparently I brought the warm weather with me. Though the trees are still bearing winter’s naked branches, the hills and fields are covered in a brilliant green cloak, often dotted with flowers. Even the cracks of the concrete and stone footpaths of Florence are filled with chickweed (a fresh tasting leaf with a slight pea-shoot similarity, lovely... Read More

Late summer eggplants – Melanzane Sott’olio

It’s nearly April, when autumn in Melbourne should well and truly be taking over the season but summer is dragging on and after a long, slow heatwave that felt like a giant hair dryer pointed at the city, a bit of autumn weather would be highly appreciated. I’m beginning to crave a refreshing, crisp morning, for example, when you need a nice hot cup of tea or coffee to warm you up and perhaps a floaty scarf to layer over the summer clothes... Read More

Juls’ Pappa al Pomodoro

It’s hard to imagine the days before I met Giulia (you may know her better as Juls from Juls’ Kitchen) and we weren’t yet friends, messaging each other constantly and plotting our next meal together. Between Florence and her countryside home in the Sienese hills, we weren’t exactly neighbours but somehow we found time – and plenty of it – to get together to cook or eat, and usually both, together. Our first meeting itself... 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

The Ideal Energy Meal: Farro Salad

There are just under ten weeks before my due date (yes, folks, that means less than ten weeks till Christmas eve!) and I have just discovered that I have gestational diabetes. It means that for the next ten weeks while I have diabetes, I just have to be a bit more careful with what I eat and when, which can be a challenge for any food blogger, but luckily it’s not an overhaul of my usual diet, it’s just a tad more picky. It means choosing... 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

A lesson in Bruschetta

One of the world’s simplest of pleasures – fresh bread and tomato – is also one of the most mispronounced. La Bruschetta is a much loved menu item in places far and away from Italy’s peninsula but it suffers from being misspelled and mispronounced to the point where the mispronounced version is becoming the accepted norm. Even well-known chefs on well-known television shows who ought to know better are using the wrong words and there should... Read More