Oysters alla Tarantina

As the end of November approaches at lightning speed, I am suddenly reminded of next month’s big event – Christmas.

It’s a busy time in normal circumstances, but I’ve just moved from the Italy to far flung Australia. We’re not only busy setting up a new life in Melbourne, but also – we’re hosting Christmas. Missing furniture aside, Christmas for my family in Australia is really all about the food and a fitting excuse to get everyone together from different cities.

The thing I love about Christmas in Australia is undoubtedly the weather – it’s early summer, which calls for an outdoor lunch and plenty of seafood, quite different from our usual Christmases rugged up in Florence with a bistecca grilling on the open fireplace!

Pretty much every summer Christmas involves procuring some incredibly fresh oysters for my mother who manages to eat at least three dozen on her own. The oysters in Australia are so good and so cheap that it’s hard to pass up the simplicity of freshly shucked oysters served only with a bit of lemon, but this year I was thinking of changing things up a bit and throwing in something we saw in Puglia last summer – oysters baked quickly and simply with breadcrumbs, olive oil and parsley.

I’ve also decided this year’s Christmas presents are going to be all handmade (sorry to ruin the surprise!). It wasn’t exactly my idea. I read somewhere recently about someone [could it have been beautiful Sunday Reed? I couldn’t put her cookbook, Sunday’s Kitchen, down the other day while walking through her old homestead at Melbourne’s Heide Museum. The pages are full of the art collector’s handwritten recipes and notes and black and white photographs of her famous artist friends, it is absolutely on my Christmas wish list!] used to give her friends handwritten recipes as gifts, so I thought it would be nice thing to do, but illustrated in watercolour and ink as well.

Here is a peek at one of the handwritten and illustrated recipes I’ll be giving dishing out to loved ones – one for each part of the menu! You can check out some of the others on etsy.

Ostriche Tarantine in Tiella

This dish comes from Taranto, the rather rundown, unglamorous, industrial but beautifully characteristic port city of Puglia’s west coast, where the Adriatic oysters and mussels are plentiful. One of my favourite local dishes is the tiella, a layered and baked dish of mussels, rice, tomatoes, cheese and potatoes. This oyster recipe is a little like it and is known as Ostriche Tarantine in Tiella (the tiella is the name of the baking dish traditionally used for these recipes). It couldn’t be simpler.

For 4 people

  • 1 kg of freshly shucked oysters
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • a handful of breadcrumbs
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • plenty of black pepper

Sprinkle some chopped parsley, breadcrumbs, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil on each oyster. Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes and serve immediately.


  1. This is how my uncle convinced me to eat oysters for the first time on a Christmas years ago, it was love at first bite.
    The next Christmas he challenged me to have them raw, and again, I fell in love with the sea taste and smell!

    • Emiko says:

      Juls, I love this story! And I love oysters, I’m glad you became a convert. It means we will have LOTS of fun trying super fresh oysters when you come to visit 😉

  2. Love the illustration! I think many of us are turning to handmade gifts this year, and I think it’s a great idea to give recipes from the Christmas meal as a souvenir.

  3. Jen Laceda says:

    YUM-mo…I love oysters!

    Also, this year, I’ve decided to give handcrafted gifts to my friends as well! I’m super broke this year. Hahaha….we have baby no.3 coming up! LOL.

  4. fabulous- I just returned from Puglia and am making a tiella with artichokes and potatoes this week. I have been asked to be a guest chef for a culinary week so am practicing! Happy Holidays!

  5. Angie says:

    Hi Emiko! Kelly told me about your new project, with the illustated recipes… and now I see one here. They look super cute!

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