As long as I can remember I have wanted to write a book. But in more recent years, the book of my dreams has been a cookbook. Like many with a similar dream, it’s really the whole reason I began this blog. And then one day, just like in a dream, I received an email, out of the blue.
Are you doing a book? Asked the subject line. I read it and re-read it. And then, Would you be interested in the idea? It was from one of my favourite publishers, Hardie Grant. We specialise in creating beautiful cookbooks. I would love to hear from you.
I read it a few times over, just to make sure I was reading it correctly, before running through the house to find my husband to throw my arms around him, shouting the news (it was perhaps a tad too early in the morning to be shouting things to sleeping people but I figured for this would be forgiven).
Many more email exchanges later and a visit to the London office of the publishers, then the Melbourne office, then some invaluable advice on things like book proposals, statistics and royalties from generous friends like Rachel Roddy (I am so keenly awaiting her upcoming book inspired by the food of her Roman neighbourhood, Testaccio, and her English background), Katie Parla (She is currently working on a much-awaited book on Roman cuisine), and Emma Galloway (author of blog and kitchen-staple cookbook, My Darling Lemon Thyme), along with some amazing support from the team at Food52, and I could finally say to myself, I’m writing a cookbook.
But I’m still pinching myself and I probably will be until August 2015, when the book is to be released.
The subject, I feel lucky to say, is exactly what I wanted to write about. It’s a subject very close to my heart, and a subject that I have been writing about for many years: Florence and her food. Not Tuscany, but more precisely, Florence. The city I called home for seven years, the city where I met and married my husband. The city where I started this blog and the place that inevitably inspired this blog.
It will hopefully be a one of a kind cookbook. A first, really – at least in English. The sort of book that shares the stories and the recipes of a unique city (helped along by a hefty dose of photography), as if you were taken by the hand and led through the streets, stopping off at bakeries, markets, trattorie and wine bars, sampling dishes along the way. Something that is, quite frankly, very traditional, and very – well, Florentine, which just happens to be the title of the book.
I’m here right now, collecting some last minute material and photographing my favourite food icons of this city. Mornings have been spent at the markets for seasonal things like uva fragola (concord grapes) to make schiacciata all’uva or funghi porcini, buying little household items like wooden pastry rollers and treats such as a thick slice of crostata or some warm necci and perhaps a little too much coffee. All in the name of research, of course.
I love that “research” has also included things like chats with my husband’s aunt for her ideal recipe for trippa alla fiorentina, Florentine style tripe (and subsequent visits to the in-laws’ preferred countryside butcher) or visits to the local artisan pasta maker for tips on making fresh pasta.
Fresh from this morning’s trip to the market were these porcini, with a few finferli (chanterelles) thrown in for colour. Some pappardelle made before my very eyes at one of my favourite Florentine shops and my daughter zealously taking cuttings from the herb pots on the terrace and lunch practically made itself.
This isn’t one of the recipes in the book so I’m happy to be able to share this wonderful autumnal dish, a recipe I wrote about back in 2011 using Caesar’s mushrooms. It is my favourite way to prepare any wild mushrooms — that is, extremely simply, letting the mushrooms speak for themselves. If you use ready made pasta and once you’ve taken the time to clean the mushrooms of their forest floor dirt, this meal can be on your plate in a matter of minutes. Don’t go too crazy with the cheese, you don’t want to mask the flavour of the mushrooms.
- 2 medium porcini mushrooms
- handful of chanterelles
- knob of butter
- drizzle of olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- ½ cup dry white wine
- salt and pepper to taste
- handful of grated Pecorino cheese
- handful of fresh calamint (nepitella), or oregano