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Emiko Davies

Update April 2024: These are all sold out now Culinary workshops for 2024 at Enoteca Marilu! Spring workshop, April 8-12 Early summer workshop, June 3-7  Summer workshop, July 1-5  Autumn harvest workshop, September 23-27 Autumn workshop, October 14-18 White truffle workshop, November 12-16 About the workshops These are 5 day food and wine workshops based in our cooking school and wine bar in our lovely hilltop town, San Miniato.
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At Easter 2023, my husband Marco and I finally opened our own cooking school and enoteca, Enoteca Marilu. It’s a small, cosy space in an ex-stable in a hidden laneway of our town, San Miniato. We waited for 19 months of restoration and paperwork (and even a crowdfunding campaign in the middle of it all to help give us a little extra push) before we could open the space and welcome our first guests and our first year was a great success, with almost completely booked out classes!
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I have been lucky to visit many beautiful places in my home region of Tuscany but Castello di Fighine is so special, it is hard to describe in words what kind of place it is. Picture a hilltop in the middle of the rustic southern countryside and an empty, 11th century hamlet, brought back to life after sitting for centuries in ruins that had been taken over by nature.
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Gohan events coming up! This is my first book tour since March 2019, so I am thrilled to be able to come and meet people and celebrate the book with delicious food and chats. I know I need to still visit so many other places, but sadly this is a self-funded trip and it’s very close to Christmas time when bookshops and restaurants get so busy, but if you have an idea for the next book tour’s event location, please let me know!
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My Japanese grandparents lived in an area with many Buddhist temples (where meat is not eaten) so they were spoiled for choice when it came to fresh tofu shops on their street. I remember those old fashioned shops – spartan, concrete floors and stainless steel vats of water holding the morning’s just-made tofu, and the a smiling old woman selling them, but I especially remember my grandmother’s breakfasts of hiyayyako or chilled, fresh tofu, simply dressed with soy sauce and grated ginger.
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My latest cookbook, Gohan: Everyday Japanese Cooking: Memories and Stories of my Family’s Kitchen, will be out 12 September 2023 in the US, 14 September in the UK and Europe and 1 November in Australia. It is a book I have been longing to write for many years, made up of a collection of my most favourite ever, nostalgic recipes of the Japanese home cooking that I grew up with.
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VENICE — The Lagoon Workshop, 2-7 May 2024 I’ve only been back from the Venetian Lagoon Workshop for a month (read more about the trip here if you missed it) but every time I spend time on the lagoon it leaves a mark on me and this time I’ve decided to try to keep that magic by staying even longer on the lagoon and adding more of the lesser known islands onto the itinerary.
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This is one of those dishes I avoid ordering because I’m always worried it’s not going to live up to how good it could and should be. The ultimate panna cotta should have the perfect wobble — this is an indication of the texture, which should be silky, creamy, melt in the mouth but not too bouncy or rubbery. I’d rather a panna cotta that is more wobbly than too set, personally.
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“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything. The purity of the contours, the softness of everything, the exchange of soft colours, the harmonious unity of the sky with the sea and the sea to the land… who saw them once, shall possess them for a lifetime.” I couldn’t help think of this Goethe quote while I was soaking in the sunset views from the corner of Sicily where Adler have their latest resort, Adler Spa Resort Sicilia, perched on a nature reserve in Agrigento province.
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Introducing our new 5 day Seasonal Workshops at Enoteca Marilu! This is a dream project that we’ve been floating around since 2007, when we thought up an idea to host wine tastings on a medieval rooftop tower in Florence. We finally found our very own space to host cooking classes, wine tastings and a natural wine shop — right in the heart of Tuscany, in our little hilltop town of San Miniato.
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This past weekend we spent a couple of gloriously crisp, sunny winter days with my mother in law, our girls and even the puppy(!) around the elegant northern Italian city of Turin, showing them some favourite old places that we love, while discovering some new spots to add to the list. It was a little harder to do everything that we’ve done on past trips (which, truth be told, involved mainly eating and drinking as I was researching for my third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, where I dedicated an entire chapter to the food and drink of Turin), catering to everyone’s needs but I can say that in Turin there is something for everyone and it was a fantastic city break for the family.
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I have had my eye out on interesting food books for kids and came across this Magic Ramen book from a post by Amy Palanjian from Yummy Toddler Food and it immediately caught my eye because, well, ramen! The girls (4 and 10) both immediately loved the story, honestly so did I — the inspiring true story of Momofuku Ando, who invented instant ramen after witnessing the devastation of hunger and food shortages of World War Two.
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There is a bar I pop into now and then that always has a pastry in the counter that I almost never say no to — they call it simply a fig and walnut pastry (treccia con fichi e noci) and while it’s different to this (that one has something like a frangipane type base and a deep caramel flavour), it definitely inspired the braided shape of this pastry.
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I have been coming to Japan my whole life, ever since I was a baby, my Japanese mother would bring me home with her to visit my grandparents. In 1985, when I was about to turn five, the government made a law that children of Japanese women could now claim citizenship and I got my first Japanese passport, a complicated privilege since children can only hold this dual citizenship until they turn 20 years of age.
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I will just say first of all, traveling in Italy in summer is not for the faint of heart (you might want to read this post on how to survive an Italian heatwave). This was our first full-blown summer in Puglia experience. Most of my trips have been either in autumn or winter and I personally love visiting in these months (this New York Times article agrees).
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When I think of cucina povera — literally “cooking of the poor” or peasant cuisine — I think of things like this dish of Sicilian involtini, which are satisfyingly filling and relatively inexpensive to make for a large gathering as a little goes a long way. We got to make and taste these when I was at Anna Tasca Lanza last year for their annual tomato paste making in August with Fabrizia Lanza.
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Last spring I was invited to spend some time in the Dolomites at Adler, at the original, historic lodge where the resort first began in 1810 in the centre of the picturesque, pastel-toned town of Ortisei (Urtijëi) in Val Gardena in the South Tyrol. Around the Dolomites area, Adler have four resorts (the other we stayed in on this trip and I’ve written about before is Adler Lodge Ritten), plus one in Tuscany at my favourite hot springs Bagno Vignoni, and one in Sicily.
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To celebrate the release of my upcoming cookbook, Cinnamon and Salt: Cicchetti in Venice: Small Bites from the Lagoon City, I am offering a very special trip that I like to call The Lagoon Workshop! The idea here is to introduce you to a part of Venice that is so often overlooked by visitors to Venice but yet is the “internal organs” of the city, as activist Jane da Mosto says: the lagoon.
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This is the simplest recipe, which is part of the beauty of it for me. All you need is a really good, organic, free range chicken and you’re halfway there. Around Christmas and New Year’s in Italy, it’s not unusual to see cappone, or capon, a castrated rooster, on offer and this would be one of the classic ways to prepare cappone too.
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I tasted this dish of cabbage parcels with potato and mushroom recently at a wonderful trattoria, Osteria di Golpaja at the wonderful Villa Pietriolo, a sustainable, organic estate with its own farm animals, olive trees and vineyards, tucked in the hills between Vinci and San Miniato. Everything they use in this beautiful osteria is grown or reared on the property, from the Cinta Senese to the vegetables, and naturally, the seasons dictate the menu.
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San Miniato’s annual White Truffle Festival has been a highlight for me ever since calling Italy home and falling in love with a boy from San Miniato 15 years ago — here is another article about the White Truffle Festival from the early days of the blog from back in 2010. And I have to say, quite happily, that it doesn’t change much.
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Updated September 2023 with some new entries! We have now called San Miniato, my husband’s hometown, our family home since 2020 and I admit that one of the reasons we found this Tuscan hilltop village so charming is the selection of restaurants and food shops in this small historical centre. Other than being a fixture on the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrim route, with picturesque views of the surrounding countryside from every angle you look, San Miniato is famous for being one of the rare places in the world that harbours prized white truffles — in season (October to December) you can taste them in every single place that sells food, from even the simplest bar, and the town celebrates this with their annual festival, Mostra Mercato del Tartufo Bianco and this year will be its 50th (I have been writing about it on this blog since 2010, you can see a post from 2021 on it here — I haven’t missed one since moving to Tuscany in 2005!
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I know, I know, the ingredients might be challenge — chicken combs and testicles aren’t the easiest to obtain or to handle for some — this isn’t for the faint of heart. But I will say that this is a wonderful, divine and very special dish with an incredible Florentine history, and I think in today’s context is still extremely relevant as a sustainable and respectful choice for omnivores who care about eating for the planet.
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We used to live on Via dei Neri, the street that runs from the back of the Uffizi Gallery towards Piazza Santa Croce. It was more than 10 years ago now, when it was still a residential neighbourhood of central Florence. Despite being in the shadow of Palazzo Vecchio and two steps to all the monuments, people lived here — you could tell from the little shops like the fruttivendolo for fresh fruit and vegetables, the bakery and even the little dry cleaner.
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When I first walked into the kitchen of Fabrizia Lanza at Anna Tasca Lanza, you could smell the chocolate from outside. She was baking a flourless chocolate cake for dinner — a dinner which was like a warm embrace after all these months of not being able to meet or travel or get together, one of the most welcoming dinners that began with a comforting, steaming bowl of minestra di tenerumi (a minestrone made with the leaves and tendrils of the long cucuzza squash) and ended with this cake, a melt in the mouth flourless chocolate cake, served with simply whipped cream.
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It began with 120 kg of tomatoes. Six huge boxes of small, somewhat oval tomatoes of a Sicilian variety called siccagno, from the word secco, dry. They’re grown in tiny bushes, low to the ground, without any water at all. When you cut them open they’re just flesh, no juice, and deep, deep red. They taste almost savoury, as if they’ve been sprinkled with salt.
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I was dropping in on Marco’s aunt and uncle, Franca and Riccardo a few years ago. We let ourselves in through the gate, attempting not to let Asia, the giant Maremma sheepdog, escape, and slipping into the house where, behind several piles of books, Riccardo was printing out a short story to share with me. It’s about cake; he thought I would like it.
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Ever since losing my ice cream maker (I lent it to a friend who put it in the dishwasher — never do that!), homemade semifreddi and granita have taken over as my go-to summer desserts when it is truly unthinkable to turn on the oven. The beauty of making semifreddo, which usually has a base of pure whipped cream, whipped egg whites (an Italian meringue) or both is that you can flavour it with whatever you like — I’ve used it with some abundant seasonal fruit that we had too much of, but you could also add (or replace with) liqueurs, coffee, chocolate in any form, nuts, or even nougat.
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We spent a week in our favourite holiday place, the very special Giglio island, a tiny island in Southern Tuscany that can only be reached by ferry from Porto Santo Stefano. It’s the kind of place where time slows down and there is a simplicity to the rhythm of the days when you’re on an island like this so we really slow down when we are here (especially in a spot like Pardini’s Hermitage, where we stayed one year).
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I had the pleasure of a truly relaxing and rewarding getaway earlier this month in the Dolomites, an area of Italy I have only scratched the surface of so far, but that is so worth digging deeper into! I was invited to stay at Adler Dolomiti in the heart of the charming centro storico of Ortisei (more on this soon), and at their sister property, Adler Lodge Ritten, in the beautiful, unspoilt Alpine highlands of Ritten (also known as Renon), sitting northeast of Bolzano in the South Tyrol.
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I’m counting down the days until we get back to our favourite annual Tuscan holiday spot, Giglio island, and in the meantime I’m feeling a little bit nostalgic about the cookbook where this recipe for Insalata Gigliese (a deliciously refreshing salad of tomatoes and celery) comes from, Acquacotta. I recently found out that it is getting harder to find copies of Acquacotta because it sadly isn’t going back into another reprint, which is such a shame because to be perfectly honest it is my favourite.
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As some of you know, we recently bought and renovated our first home — right out of lockdown in 2020 — in the place my husband Marco was born, San Miniato. It’s a hill top village between Florence and Pisa, and equidistant to Siena, San Gimignano, Livorno (the sea! The fish market!), Lucca and Pistoia. It’s really in the heart of everything.
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{UPDATE: We have moved the date of this workshop forward to 30 August- 4 September 2021!} If you love cooking and all of Italy’s regional food traditions then probably you have already heard of Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school in Sicily. It is run by Fabrizia Lanza, whose mother Anna founded the school in the 1980s. Every year Fabrizia hosts a number of students from all over the world at Case Vecchie, Fabrizia’s beautiful nineteenth century property in central Sicily with organic vegetable gardens, fruit and olive orchards, wheat fields and 500 hectares of vineyard (the Tasca d’Almerita winery).
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We’ve had a strange April, most of it spent in ‘red zone’ lockdown (this weekend is the first time since mid-March that some slight restrictions are lifted — two steps closer closer to freedom!) with temperatures dipping to freezing point, even though a month ago it seemed as if summer had arrived a few months early. The cold front was devastating for winemakers in northern Italy, some even set up burning pyres to warm the crops and keep away the frost (as an aside, this was a story I read in journalist Jamie Mackay’s newsletter The Week in Italy, which is excellent if you want to keep up with a range of things going on in Italy).
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Introducing my new cookbook, Torta della Nonna ~ Making sweets was my first foray into cooking independently in the kitchen, and as a teenager I could often be found baking my way through my mother’s cookbooks, in particular an American pie cookbook – I have always had a thing for pastry. You will see a bias towards it in this collection too, from southern Italian custard and jam bocconotti to ricotta-filled crostata and Florence’s little rice pudding pastries, budini di riso.
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It’s not every day that you walk into a butcher shop and come out with a few kilos of bitter oranges aka Seville oranges or arance amare in Italian. But it’s also, I think, not every day that you find a butcher shop that has this sort of garden out the back with a sweeping view over the valley and terraces of mandarins, lemons and Seville orange trees.
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The Valdorcia is one of my very favourite areas to visit in Tuscany, it embodies so much about what I love about this region — the green and golden rolling hills, magnificent stone hamlets, rustic and genuine country food and the delights of the natural landscape, in particular the pampering hot springs. In Bagno Vignoni, one of the most charming towns of the area, natural thermal springs flow that have been attracting travellers since Roman times who appreciated the water’s curing and revitalising properties.
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“It looks like a fleshy purple flower, as fresh as if it had been specially created to bring spring to the dinner table in winter,” wrote Ada Boni in her Regional Italian Cuisine cookbook, while Marcella Hazan calls it the “most magnificent vegetable.” I have to agree. Radicchio might just be my favourite vegetable. It’s beautiful to look at, it’s incredibly versatile — you can grill it, roast it, braise it, have it raw or even in a cake — and that is before I even go into how delicious it is with its slightly bitter, juicy leaves.
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My favourite butcher shop, Sergio Falaschi, which is one of the reasons why we bought a house in San Miniato (joking — sort of!) has one of the prettiest and enticing counters, it could compete with any pastry shop window. It is run by my friend Andrea, Sergio’s son, and they are the fourth and third generation to run this shop, with great care for the products, and in turn the heirloom breed animals and local farmers they work with (see my last post all about their prosciutto di Cinta Senese).
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I have long been taking advice from my friend and favourite butcher, Andrea Falaschi (above), a fourth generation butcher who goes by @guidofalaschi, the name of his great grandfather who first opened the family butcher shop in 1925 in San Miniato. We share the same passion for ethically and sustainably raised free-range animals, Tuscan traditions and quality over quantity when it comes to eating meat.
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Christmas may be upon us but since 2020 is a very different kind of year and we will be just us, I feel we can do something kind of different for Christmas too. Homemade pizza is something we have always loved making but to make it special I thought I might put truffle on it so we came up with this rather unusual combination — but oh it works so well!
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This is a slightly untraditional variation on the most traditional recipe I know for panforte — a sweet, dense, spicy medieval cake from Siena. The recipe comes from the bible of Tuscan cooking, Paolo Petroni’s Il Grande Libro della Vera Cucina Toscana and every time I make panforte (since I first posted about it back in 2011) I make some kind of variation on his recipe.
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The supermarket was offering the prettiest fish plucked out if the waters of the Tuscan arcipelago last night — so fresh they smell of the sea and are still in rigor mortis — for a steal, 6 euro a kilo. Look at how bright eyed and beautiful they are! These small fish — a mixture of different types of sea bream known as fragolino (the pink one, known as pandora in English) and mormora (striped sea bass, with the yellow stripe on his cheeks), along with gallinella (gurnard), scorfano (scorpion fish) are labelled as pesce da zuppa, fish for soup, or sometimes paranza, for frying whole, because of their pint size.
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My first baby, Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence, which I started writing in 2014, was published in 2016. And this month it has been launched in Australia and the UK (the US will have to wait a few more months until 9 February 2021) with a brand new look! It has a slightly smaller format to the original, still hardback only, and a moodier, darker, beautiful marbled cover.
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Back home from a whirlwind trip to Venice with a new set of Covid-19 regulations that means it’s time for a lot of baking (and staying at home). This is a savory bread pudding cake, which as far as I can tell isn’t really a thing but it is the best way I can describe it. Basically it is an excellent way to use up leftovers — stale bread, milk and eggs make the body of the cake, then add whatever you have in the fridge, leftover bits of cheese, some pancetta, that sort of thing.
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I am quite aware that this title sounds a bit ridiculous — because there is no such thing as Tuscan spice pumpkin bread and it sounds like one of those recipes that I see online and abhor, that has nothing at all to do with Tuscany, like “Tuscan salad dressing” (no such thing exists in Tuscany, we just use olive oil and a wine vinegar of choice).
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As family meals go, we are slowly but surely developing a repertoire of meals that all four of us — including the picky eater — can eat together and nothing makes my heart more full than a meal that we can make and enjoy together. To add to the growing list of favourites, Tuscan spiedini di carne (skewers of meat, sausage, bay leaf and bread), spaghetti con le vongole, my mother’s tamago no gohan (a simple stir fry of egg and rice, which I serve with dried seaweed and furikake and always results in empty bowls and requests for more) and my pantry staple, polpette di tonno (tuna croquettes), is this delicious pasta sauce, which goes by several names but the one I like best, for nostalgic reasons, is alla fiesolana, Fiesole style.
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The pandemic has disrupted everyone’s plans and when we initially mentioned this workshop in January 2020 on instagram, it almost sold out instantly. Now, unfortunately, most of those guests have had to cancel their bookings due to travel restrictions. However, we have decided to keep it open and offer the workshop to a small group who can still make it and who want to experience a warm and casual retreat revolving around truffles and wine in Tuscany’s heart, with all the covid-19 regulations in place of course.
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It was serendipitous that I read Patience Gray‘s recipe (which is more of a description of this beautiful summer ritual than actual measurements) for “salsa doppia” (bottled tomato sauce and fresh tomatoes in layers over orecchiette and a shower of pecorino cheese) while visiting Grottaglie in the province of Taranto in Puglia, a small, somewhat unglamorous town that has been known for centuries for its artisan ceramic production.
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Cooking post-lockdown is still keeping us grounded, but also relaxed and even entertained. I have been turning more than ever to Tuscany’s comforting, frugal cuisine for inspiration – it just feels right. Not because we can’t get ingredients or are rationing but just using what we have on hand or what is abundant (hello tomatoes) at the little bottega in the piazza, skipping that trip to the supermarket in favour of staying home or close as possible to it.
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If I could describe the summer break we just had in the Cinque Terre in a handful of words, it’d be a list of some of my favourite things, especially when experienced together: saltwater, anchovies, lemons, sea breeze, pesto, winding coastal roads, chilled white wine and cheesy focaccia that leaves your hands deliciously greasy with olive oil. It’s been over 10 years since my last trip to the Cinque Terre, and even then, we always visited in the off-season, in particular March or October.
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I would go as far as to say that Pellegrino Artusi helped me start this blog almost a decade ago. And write my first cookbook, Florentine. He would be turning 200 today, so I felt it apt to cook him dinner for his birthday. I didn’t choose anything fancy because to be honest, the recipes in his 790 page cookbook are anything but fancy.
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What a summer! Post-lockdown Florence is bittersweet, we are wary and careful – masks still on, distances kept, obsessive hand washing and hand sanitizer a prerequisite for entry into any indoor space – the streets and piazze are free of travellers and previously tourist-dependant parts of the city now are left for residents to discover their own city again. It’s great to be able to see friends and family again and even take the odd weekend away (to nearby Maremma or Venice), but to be honest I’m still reluctant to be out in public too much – home is definitely a haven for me, where I feel most comfortable and where food is still providing comfort and nurturing.
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I don’t know if it’s just me but even after leaving Venice I feel like I’m still swaying on a pier waiting for the vaporetto. Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it was one too many spritzes or a little bit of Venice’s version of Stendhal’s syndrome (also called Florence syndrome, from the feeling of dizziness and like you might faint after being exposed to the great beauty of the Renaissance city that I call home) but my head is still spinning after an intense weekend in Venice!
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Between making yolk-rich pasta, the odd carbonara, or whipping up some crema, I always seem to have a few egg whites lying around — I honestly can’t bear to throw them away. I usually freeze the egg whites, hoping to find something useful for them but inevitably they sit there in the freezer, multiplying. My girls love meringues but I’ve found that defrosted egg whites don’t make the best meringues (or pavlova!).
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Whenever I make polpette, I have this image in my head of tiny Nonna Lina, Marco’s grandmother, standing by the stove, frying, creating an enormous pyramid of these polpette, only to have people pop in and out of the kitchen, stealing the one on the top, too hot to even hold let alone stick in your mouth. “Polpette” is also the name for meatballs but it can really refer to any roundish fried thing, regardless of whether or not they have meat in them.
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I made a video of my girls and I making strawberry tiramisu recently on Instagram and it was such a hit, I loved seeing others making this, so decided it should be a permanent recipe on the blog too! There are so many reasons I love this version of tiramisu, first and foremost because strawberries and cream in any combination is a treat.
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I’ve been talking a lot about what we have been cooking in lockdown for the past two months (most recently for the Financial Times How to Spend It weekend magazine), and it’s unsurprisingly been a lot of comfort food, a lot of baking and lots and lots of bread as our sourdough starter has finally been given a life! Off the back of a fun little live chat that Marco and I did on Instagram recently about wine (you can see the notes from it in my highlights here), I thought it would be nice to do another “what we are drinking” blog post, which is about introducing some interesting Italian winemakers that Marco picked and why we like them.
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This is actually a recipe I already had on the blog — one of the very early ones, from March 2011, believe it or not. But I wanted to revisit the dish. It is one that I love for a couple of reasons — one, because it is a recipe that was first made for me by my college roommate, Sara Lando (an incredible Venetian photographer and part of the duo behind the design of this blog) and it brings me back to her, and our time navigating art school in the US together — nearly 20 years ago now!
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In October 2019 I found myself lucky enough to be in Bergamo, Lombardy, to judge the Guild of Fine Foods World Cheese Awards, which was an exciting and delicious opportunity — I tasted 50 cheeses tasted in one morning! It was a busy time and surrounded by almost 4,000 cheeses in the industrial outskirts of the city near the airport, I must admit that I had no idea how utterly charming and beautiful Bergamo was until after the awards when I took some time to explore the herringbone streets of the historical town with Sabrina, a native Bergamo chef and an old colleague of Marco’s from the Four Seasons.
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Cooking as a family has been keeping us grounded and inspired lately. We have been baking a lot, Marco has started a new sourdough project, while Mariu, our 7 year old, and I have been making some recipe videos. These are two really easy recipes that you can make with stale bread — and I mean you can use completely rock hard bread.
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There is something incredibly soothing about baking. If you love cooking and read this blog of mine, I’m sure that you probably feel the same. When times get tough, or you’re simply feeling down or uninspired or, maybe just because it’s raining or you can’t leave the house because you’re in a national lockdown, baking a cake (or perhaps bread) can be the perfect remedy.
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These are strange and surreal times and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (not such a bad idea) you probably already know that the entire nation of Italy is under lockdown in an attempt to contain the coronavirus, Covid-19. Things change every day, with new regulations, new realities, new travel bans, new closures, every single day. The current situation on the 13th of March is this: Florence is deserted as citizens are encouraged to stay home until April 3rd.
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One late October, my friend Simona, who runs a beautiful B&B called Canto del Maggio, brought us to her special place, a little wooden ‘rifugio‘, as they’re known in Italian, a mountain cabin offering a place of rest and nourishment for hikers. This particular rifugio, called Osteria la Rocca, clings to the tiny stone hamlet of Rocca Ricciarda, high up in the chestnut woods of Pratomagno, between Florence and Arezzo.
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I have spent many, many years tracing my husband Marco’s family tree, a project that started well over a decade ago when I was woking as a restorer, first as an intern and then in the archives of a photography museum in Florence and it struck me on a really personal level how many thousands of photographs (many family portraits) of unknown faces were in the collection.
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I’ve been craving a really good baked ricotta cheesecake lately, but after having a disappointingly bouncy and ‘squeaky’ one recently, I was feeling a bit picky about it. I wanted it above all to be simple — no water baths, or covering your cake tin in foil, and not even a crust, none of this having to crush biscuits with a rolling pin and press the crumbs into a tin!
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I have a picky eater. For any fellow distressed parents of picky eaters (in particular parents who care about and love food, whose lives even revolve around food) out there, I’m here to say it’s all going to turn out fine. My daughter Mariu was always particular with food. She refused to eat baby mush. Or be spoon-fed. No purees, her tightly sealed lips made sure they never reached her tongue.
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I have always loved wandering the Tuscan countryside (or Melbourne city!), picking plants and flowers to inspire a meal. And ever since learning how to dye fabric with foraged plants (see below for a ‘recipe’), I’ve fallen in love with the idea of sharing this beautiful, sustainable process, along with making handmade natural inks over a truly creative, inspiring few days.
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One of the highlights of 2019 was hosting the White Truffle and Wine Culinary Retreat here in Tuscany with my husband Marco Lami. We had 13 international guests (from as far as Argentina and Canada and as close as Abruzzo!) together in a big, traditional Tuscan farmhouse, surrounded by woods. It may have rained quite intensely (it was November after all), but we donned rain boots to visit the olive groves and go truffle hunting and during downtime we curled up in front of the fireplace to play cards, to chat and sip wine.
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I have been wanting to talk about wine on my blog, with the help of my sommelier husband, Marco Lami, and now, off the back of our very successful White Truffle and Wine Retreat a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d share some of the wines we enjoyed that Marco chose for us. “My idea [during the retreat] was to give another perspective of Tuscan wine,” Marco told me, “Tuscan whites tend to be fairly neutral.
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In late October I spent a week on the island of Andros, back in the same beautiful place I was in in June, charming Melisses. And can I say, late October was, unexpectedly, perhaps even more beautiful than in June? It was warm and sunny, punctuated by a few intensely windy days, but perfectly warm actually to be in summer attire on the beach (the girls thought the water was great too, though it was definitely chillier than it was in June).
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In Carol Field’s In Nonna’s Kitchen, this delicious dessert is called a Torta ripiena di mandorle e cioccolato, in other words, an almond and chocolate tart. Or perhaps you could more literally translate it as a tart filled with almonds and chocolate. Field found this recipe in the handwritten journal of Giovanna Passannanti, a Sicilian woman who was in her eighties when the book was published in 1997.
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{UPDATE: SOLD OUT!} I’m so excited to be able to announce that for our new culinary workshop next summer∫, we have Cressida McNamara from Pecora Dairy on board to teach cheese making. Together with me and Marco Lami, my sommelier husband, we will be hosting five wonderful days of cheese, wine and Tuscan food in the Val d’Orcia, one of the most breathtaking parts of Tuscany.
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One of the most iconic Italian pasta dishes ever, spaghetti con le vongole is a firm favourite of our whole family — which is saying something as my eldest daughter is a dreadfully picky eater! Anyone who has to cook for a picky eater will appreciate that feeling of immense satisfaction (and perhaps relief) at being able to cook just one thing that everyone can enjoy together — well, for us, it’s this.
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I am instantly drawn to recipes that require only a few ingredients. I don’t know what is more appealing, the simplicity of the recipe or the curiosity that draws me in: will it really be that good? I often find these recipes in old cookbooks. Somehow I think we over complicate things now, adding more than what is necessary or perhaps covering up for less than delicious ingredients.
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I knew before I even got there that I would fall in love Andros, a mountainous, rugged Greek island, the northernmost of the Cyclades archipelago. When Allegra asked me to host part of a creative workshop at her stunning, cliffside B&B, Melisses, that sits between Chora, the capital, and the port, I jumped at the chance! Mornings began with beautiful breakfasts of summer fruit, copious amounts of thick Greek yoghurt, tahini, and Allegra’s homemade oven-roasted granola, flecked with flower petals and plenty of nuts, plus “freddo espresso”, the Greek version of caffe shakerato, in other words, espresso and ice shaken together.
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Book right away for July 2-5 here or September 10-13 here! We have had such an incredible response to our White truffle and Wine retreat in November that we couldn’t wait to share a few more dates for similar — but ‘mini’ versions — food and wine focused workshops. The first will be in July 2-5, 2019, and the second will be in September 10-13, 2019, which will coincide with the wine harvest season.
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I’m so in love with this pasta — just two ingredients (three if you count a splash of water), spinach and durum wheat flour, rolled and coaxed into the shape of olive leaves. No eggs. It’s basically a green dough for orecchiette, the classic Pugliese ‘little ear’ pasta shapes. Because they are hand-rolled, orecchiette are generally a little thick and when cooked have a good bite to them, they hold their shape well and so they are good with chunky sauces, especially a vegetable sauce — the classic sauce is with cime di rapa, flavoured with a touch of garlic and anchovies, but tomato sauce is the go-to when cime di rapa are out of season.
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My husband Marco has been on the search for his perfect pizza dough. He has long been the one in our family who loves making and experimenting with dough (like with this recipe for Bonci’s focaccia pugliese). You see, he loves pizza and bread and it’s no exaggeration to say he could happily live off them alone if it weren’t for the slightly negative reaction he gets when he eats it, thanks to a wheat intolerance. 
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I’ve shown you the behind the scenes and you may have seen some of the recipes, like Nonna Anna’s polpette and the love story behind them, or this comforting rice pudding but here I would finally like to properly introduce you to Tortellini at Midnight. It’s a cookbook with a family story woven throughout it that follows the ancestors of my husband Marco’s family from Taranto in Puglia to Turin in Piemonte and finally to Tuscany.
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This isn’t a pretty dessert, let’s face it. But then so many treats that you could label comforting aren’t usually, are they? And I would put this in the same category as bread and butter pudding, rice or semolina pudding, even french toast or pancakes. It’s simply good, rather wholesome, definitely rustic and absolutely homely. An oldie (literally; it comes from Pellegrino Artusi’s classic cookbook from 1891) but a goodie, I’ve made a few modifications to the nineteenth century version.
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I’m back home in Australia for a couple of months, a blissfully extended holiday with the family before a busy and exciting book tour! It’s been a long time since I’ve spent Christmas and New Year’s here, let alone my mother’s January birthday, so I wanted to create a very special birthday cake for her. Around this time, the raspberry bush — taking over a large corner of the garden — flourishes and every day there is ripe, juicy fruit for the taking.
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Some of my favourite ingredients from the Maremma, in southern Tuscany, are also those flavours that I love at Christmas — I’m talking about chestnuts, dried figs, nuts and chocolate, and game like guinea fowl. They are ingredients that make this season’s table feel special yet not over the top. I’d rather be comforted by a Christmas meal than overwhelmed by one and these dishes, for me, do just that.
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It’s been over a year in the making (more if you count the ones where this idea was taking shape in my mind!) and there are still another three months to wait but I couldn’t resist giving you a peek at the behind the scenes of the making of my upcoming cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, which will be released in the UK, US and Australia in March 2019.
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Disclaimer: you shouldn’t actually cook one-handed, especially if you’ve got a baby in the other arm. But I admit, as a mother of two with a partner who works nights, that I’ve tried it. If you’ve ever been alone, trapped under a sleeping baby or limited due to holding an ‘unputdownable’ baby (I’m sure that’s a word, this is a small child who won’t sleep but you can’t put down anywhere else, such as a play mat, a high chair, a pram, a bed, a car seat, a crib, or your partner’s or other child’s arms, without screams and crying), you’ll relate to this post, I’m sure — and even if you haven’t experienced this, perhaps this will serve useful one day for a similar situation.
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Late last August we had only a handful of days to go away somewhere, to escape the heat of Florence, the crowds, the daily grind. And so we decided to treat ourselves and spent them at Pardini’s Hermitage, a secret hideaway sort of a place on an island that is a gem in itself – Giglio Island, a very special place for us.
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Ad occhio, Italian for “by eye”. It’s a very natural way to cook, measuring by eye and cooking not by the clock but by the way something looks (or smells or feels). It’s the way I first learned to cook – standing on a stool so I could look over my grandmother’s electric stove top, learning to scramble eggs.
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Most of the time I buy fresh produce based on what looks good — and then I decide what to prepare with it at home. I really do feel like it’s the best way to shop and eat because more often than not the things you come home with are the freshest, the most in season, the most delicious ingredients to start out with.
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Summer in Italy means one main thing for me — trying to keep cool, which includes staying away from the stove. Luckily, it’s also the time of year when fresh produce is so ripe and sweet, you barely need to do anything to it anyway — I practically live off tomatoes in the summer, dousing them in olive oil and eating with thickly torn pieces of buffalo mozzarella, usually.
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Honey from a Weed is one of those few cookbooks I could keep by my bedside. I like to open it at random and become absorbed by a recipe or a story, like the one about sharing a dinner with shepherds on Naxos, the differing views of a Milanese and a Salentine diver on what to do with the an octopus, or the “majestic” Catalonian feast that ended with a century old wine that tasted of chocolate syrup. 
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Surely the best thing about colomba, the Easter equivalent to panettone, is the sugared, toasted almond topping that covers the whole thing and crumbles when you cut it, so you sort of have no choice but just to pick up the crusty sugary bits and eat those on their own. I’d always thought that colomba would make a very good baking project but was somewhat intimated by getting the right shape  — it’s vaguely in the shape of a dove, if you use your imagination — and texture — wonderfully soft, fluffy, sweet yeasted bread. 
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What would you do – you’re driving past hundreds of citrus trees. With a better look, they’re mandarins, or, more precisely clementines. On the roadside is a truck selling crates of them for 1 euro a kilo. You stop, right? And buy a crate of 10 kilos. Even though you have to get on a plane the next day. I couldn’t help myself.
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Of all the vegetables, radicchio just has to be the prettiest of all, don’t you agree? I have always loved gnarly Florentine tomatoes and purple-tinged artichokes too, but they’re beautiful for their rustic, imperfect nature. Radicchio, on the other hand, looks like each leaf was painted by an artist. Have you seen the ones with watercolour-washed, pale pink leaves, the ones with almost-white leaves splattered in magenta, Jackson Pollock style, or the impossible, curly-fingered late radicchio from Treviso?
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One of the highlights of 2017 for me was hosting a food and styling workshop in late October together with two warm and talented women, Saghar Setareh of Labnoon and Alice Adams of Latteria Studio in Rome (for a group of equally wonderful women), in the most stunning location — Masseria Potenti in Puglia’s wine country of Manduria, in the province of Taranto.
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I have known, and admired, Julia Busuttil Nishimura, for many years now and always felt connected through o