all the articles tagged as:

tuscany

Update May 2024: 2024 workshops are sold out but 2025 have just been released. Shortly the dates for the 2025 Venetian Lagoon workshop and the Sicilian Spring Harvest workshop will be available too! Stay tuned on my newsletter for the latest workshop offerings. Culinary workshops for 2025 at Enoteca Marilu, San Miniato: Artichoke workshop 7-12 April Midsummer workshop 23-27 June Summer harvest workshop 7-12 July Wine harvest workshop 8-13 September Autumn workshop 13-17 October White Truffle workshop 18-22 November 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.
Read More
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!
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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!
Read More
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.
Read More
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).
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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).
Read More
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.
Read More
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!
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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).
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
{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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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. 
Read More
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. 
Read More
When I was writing the manuscript for Florentine, I enlisted the help of an army of recipe testers — about 80 people from all over the world — to test every recipe thoroughly. Only one came back to me consistently with problems. From Minnesota to Melbourne, three testers wrote to me that their very first attempt at making Tuscan gnudi (ricotta and spinach balls that, rather than be encased in pasta like for ravioli, are simply dusted in flour) resulted in a pot of simmering water with “dissolved” gnudi. 
Read More
Newstands this morning declared the centre of Florence “feels like” 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) and signs warned of extreme heat this week, to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activity. They say this is the last (the fifth) heatwave of the summer. Here’s how to deal with it. Under the Tuscan Sun may embody a dream for many, but Tuscan summers have always felt like an inferno to me, easily my least favourite part about living in Tuscany.
Read More
I’ve been coming to the Etruscan Coast — the stretch of Tuscan coastline from Livorno to Piombino and all the islands in between — ever since I met Marco, over ten years ago. His grandparents, like so many Tuscans, have had an apartment here since the early 60s, so it was their stomping ground; their childrens’ and their children’s children spot for their annual summer holiday.
Read More
Last month I received a beautiful magazine in the mail. It had tactile rag paper, colourful and quirky illustrations and was filled with stories about families and their food habits, children’s food drawings, what people feed their families around the world and tales of good and real food — all in Korean! I was honoured to be interviewed in a story about what goes on my family’s table and how we involve our daughter in learning good food habits.
Read More
When a friend tells you she has wild roses blooming everywhere, it’s not hard to imagine where the conversation headed to next… to turning them into rose petal jam, of course. My friend Simona Quirini and her family run the beautiful Canto del Maggio, a B&B, restaurant and garden, about one hour’s drive from Florence. We arrived to catch Simona with a wooden crate in her hands, already half full of blush pink flower heads, small and as fragrant as honey.
Read More
One of my personal favourite food memories of all time was the first time I realised the potential of shopping at my local market in Florence and being able to speak to the other shoppers as well as the stallholders — only I didn’t think to write down all the gems I collected as I took in bits and pieces on what to do with artichokes or how to tell which fennel bulbs are the best.
Read More
It’s a blustery, drizzly, foggy winter’s day. A day that might normally send you straight back to bed to take refuge under the covers, a cup of tea and a pile of good books close by. But we’ve got a lunch date. In San Gimignano. So, fuelled with coffee, we hop on a train from Florence to Poggibonsi where we meet my good friend, Sarah, a San Gimignano local.
Read More
I didn’t notice it at first, the skinny tree with dark leaves in our shared garden at our new home in Settignano, in the hills above Florence. I was too taken by the green vines hanging like a curtain over our entrance, keeping the house cool in the humid Florentine summer. But now that it’s autumn and the the leaves still left on the vines have turned a shade of rose champagne, that skinny green tree is sporting bright vermillion fruit, like fuzzy cherries or red christmas balls.
Read More
It seems like a long way to go about getting some fresh saffron to frost a birthday cake with, but it was worth it. I’ve been plotting for months with my friend, Sarah Fioroni, to let me get involved with the saffron harvest at her family’s farm in San Gimignano. It’s not the first time I’ve celebrated my birthday with a saffron theme on the farm at Fattoria Poggio Alloro — there was this pumpkin and saffron risotto too.
Read More
It was 2001. Two weeks shy of my 21st birthday, exactly 15 years ago. I arrived at the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence after flying halfway around the globe to Rome to start a semester-long etching course as part of my Fine Art degree. I had a suitcase and a few Italian lessons behind me — not enough to understand a conversation but maybe to figure out a menu, for the most part. 
Read More
About halfway through a Tuscan summer the heat begins to really take its toll. Oppressive heat, like a hair dryer pointed in your face. Stone piazzas that bake all day in the sun, trapping the heat like an oven. Crowds. Rare air-conditioning. You begin living off things that don’t need any cooking at all: paper thin slices of prosciutto from the butcher and thick slices of fragrant melon.
Read More
I had known about this place for years, heard so many good things, knew it was just the sort of place I would love. But somehow it took me years to get there — perhaps because of not being right in the centre of Florence (it’s in the neighbourhood of Peretola, very close to the airport) and having opening hours that aren’t always easy to fit in with (they’re only open for lunch during the week and Friday nights for dinner).
Read More
It’s been two months since the book has “been out there” — Two exhilarating, nerve-wracking and unbelievable months and sold out book launch dinners and workshops in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and London! To say thank you for all the wonderful support and enthusiasm for Florentine, I’m sharing one of my favourite recipes from the book — a humble but delightful apple cake — and I’m giving away a limited edition print from the book to one lucky reader!
Read More
Imagine a hill side covered with oak and olive trees that ramble down to the sea, and a 180 degree view of these rolling, lolling hills that fade into the distance to that thin, silvery sliver of water on the horizon. This is what you see when you step out of the door at Il Baciarino, a beautiful hideaway of four very private, very lovely hand-built cottages (hand-built, yes, because modern tractors and machinery have no way of getting here!) set onto the hillside.
Read More
I love to eat at a place where there’s a bit of action (and interaction) in the kitchen during service, and Teatro del Sale is just the place for it in Florence. It is part of the kingdom of Florentine chef, Fabio Picchi, who runs four fabulous eateries all on the doorstep of the Sant’Ambrogio Markets. But rather than the more formal world of Picchi’s famous Cibreo restaurant, at Teatro del Sale, you get the good, no-nonsense food, atmosphere and entertainment, at a super bargain price.
Read More
I seem to be raising a little cook — not a surprise really, as we probably spend three-quarters of our day in the kitchen. She has taken to liberally adding her touch to dishes that she can reach on the table (apple juice tipped into the marinade and half a jar of dried chilli flakes shaken over the salad were some highlights this week) or completely taking over whenever she sees any type of dough being made, rolled or cut out.
Read More
Last weekend Giulia and I hosted out first Tuscan Gathering, an excuse to cook and eat and drink for hours and wander the woods or fall asleep in front of the roaring fire, an excuse to get together with friends near and far (and to connect in person, as many ‘friends’ are those that we know only via social media, which happens so often these days).
Read More
It felt like I was mixing a magic potion. A little bit of this. A little bit of that. A crumbling of some bark, a few seeds. And then the final touch: a couple of spoonfuls of dried insects. Kermes or cochineal insects are what give this Renaissance-aged Tuscan liqueur it’s distinct colour, and its name. The dried insects infuse the liqueur with a deep, pinkish-red magenta hue and are then strained out, along with the other spices that permeate the liquid.
Read More
My recent visit to the Val d’Orcia is still heavily imprinted on my mind. The textures of the hills that look like pencil drawings, that first chill in the air and the first roaring fireplace of the season. Everything looked and tasted like autumn. Just before we left we stopped for a visit to see the sisters of Puscina, a family-run flower farm between Pienza and Montepulciano.
Read More
It’s no secret that autumn is my favourite month in Tuscany. It’s partly the relief from the relentless heat of summer, that feeling that you can finally breathe again, and partly, well, mostly, it’s the food. The cooler weather finally lets me get back into the kitchen (in particular the oven, which I usually avoid at all costs in the summer), to do the things I really love, like slow cooking and baking.
Read More
I’m still trying to gather the right words to describe the simple beauty after my first visit to this little Tuscan island last week. Some things are best left to record in images, like mental snapshots, rather than try to find the words. Giglio is like that for me. It is only a hop, skip and jump from home in Monte Argentario – a breezy one hour ferry ride from Porto Santo Stefano.
Read More
I first found crates full of these white grapes with a scribbled sign stating “local grapes, 1 euro a kilo” at the fruit and vegetable shop down the road. Cheap grapes are a sign that we are already well into the vendemmia (grape harvest) season. Being married to a sommelier I probably should have known right away what kind of grapes they were, after all, this part of Tuscany is the only place that grows these.
Read More
One of the places that I can truly call my happy place is a farm in San Gimignano. Partly it’s because of the wonderful Fioroni family who run Fattoria Poggio Alloro, who I feel are like long lost family because of the way we are embraced (literally and figuratively!) when we arrive, the way we are fed (as if we must not have eaten in weeks), and the familiar way that this place somehow feels like home (we also always stay in the same room, so that even my two year old calls it her “casa”).
Read More
Rocky cliffs, Spanish fortresses, the azure sea and pretty ports. Admittedly it’s not usually for the food that people visit Monte Argentario and its little town of Porto Ercole, where we currently live. But if you happen to be exploring this most beautiful and quite rugged part of Tuscany, here’s how you can also eat really well in the area. Everyone has been to Tuscany.
Read More
I never met Nonna Lina, my husband’s grandmother. She passed away six weeks before I met him, coincidentally on the exact same day my maternal grandfather died. But from the way my husband and my mother-in-law talk about her, the constant references to her, especially when we are in the kitchen, I feel like I know her. And I feel connected to her when I cook her recipes.
Read More
Disclosure. I’m about to tell you what it’s like to cook with one of my very dear friends, in the kitchen of her picturesque, quintessentially Tuscan home. So I am possibly a little bit biased. But when I write, I like to write about something I love and something I wholeheartedly recommend, whether it’s a recipe, a book or an experience – and this is no different.
Read More
Summer in Tuscany – it is all about not using the stove. Or using it as little as possible. Contrary to many people’s wishful thinking, there’s really nothing glamorous about being under the Tuscan sun – it’s a sweltering, all-encompassing, sticky heat, made all the worse by the fact that most towns and cities are made of heavy, medieval stones that heat up during the day like a pizza oven and retain the heat all night.
Read More
I love the five minute drive to Orbetello from our home in Porto Ercole in Monte Argentario. I look out the window, waiting for that curve after you pass the sandy stretch of Feniglia, when suddenly you hit the flat lagoon and you see the old town of Orbetello rising right out of the water, a little reminiscent of Venice. Orbetello’s lagoon characterises and in many ways defines the city.
Read More
Food brings people together, this we all know. It unites people around a table, for the everyday or the special. A meal is the reason to go out, to stay in, an excuse to get to know someone new or celebrate with those closest to your heart. It’s also the main thing two food bloggers who have never actually met in person know they have in common.
Read More
Well, we did it. We moved back to Tuscany from Australia. Something about the way of life and the role that family play here in Italy were enough to call us back to where our hearts belong – although we did leave behind a piece of our heart in Australia too. Being back in Tuscany in spring has been great. I’ve been revelling in that much too short season of ‘perfect’ weather: not too hot, not too cold, not yet too crowded to enjoy strolling through Florence to catch up with friends or walking down to the water’s edge of our new seaside home.
Read More
Although sleep is high on my list of priorities, I find it’s amazing what you can get done when you wake up before the sun does and everyone else (demanding toddler included) is still fast asleep. So I was secretly thrilled when the warm and talented (and one of my most admired photographers) Luisa Brimble suggested that we meet for a breakfast shoot and chat at sunrise the day before I flew out of Sydney to move back to Italy.
Read More
I must admit that I am one to succumb to an impulse buy every now and then. Well, actually, almost all my produce shopping at the market is an impulse, except for when I actually plan for a recipe and need certain ingredients. Whatever looks good or cheap or particularly interesting is what ends up in my basket – perhaps it’s a box of figs, jammy, over ripe and going for next to nothing or a bunch of herbs that I don’t normally see, like wild fennel tops that you can smell from a few stalls away.
Read More
This week I was given some bad news about my cookbook. It’s release will be delayed. For those who know already the process behind the making of a cookbook (or any book for that matter), it can take months and years of work but also a lot of patience and waiting around. I thought I was quite lucky that my book was going to be released just a year after being offered the deal, but the downside to that was an extremely tight deadline.
Read More
This time tomorrow I will be skipping seasons, leaving this glorious Australian spring for Tuscan autumn – my favourite time of year in my favourite place, I must admit. It’s only for a couple of weeks but I’ll relish this time and make the most of cool mornings, fresh mushrooms, grapes, new olive oil. But just before I go, is this cake.
Read More
You should probably be wary of a food that’s named after a bomb. A calorie bomb, no less. Italians like to use the phrase “bomba calorica” when it comes to describing something rich, fried and possibly cream-filled and there’s no hiding the fact that bomboloni do indeed satisfy all these requirements. These Tuscan pastries are like a doughnut, minus the hole, and usually filled with pastry cream or jam or often simply covered with a heavy-handed dusting of sugar.
Read More
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.
Read More
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 needs – I don’t, personally, I find it hard enough some days to get time to cook one meal!
Read More
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.
Read More
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 with just the right accompaniments, is a dish that I should make at home so that I can have it as often as I want when I’m not in Florence.
Read More
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”.
Read More
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.
Read More
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.
Read More
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 from the fields.
Read More
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 for any Tuscan celebration, whether it’s a birthday, a baptism or even a wedding cake.
Read More
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.
Read More
It’s been busy over here lately, with lots of researching and recipe testing going on in between nap times and the demands of a nearly eight month old (none of which I am able to do without the help of Marco, my husband and number one pasta maker), but finally I’m very excited to announce the launch of my new weekly column over at Food52, dedicated to regional Italian food traditions and recipes.
Read More
I’m very pleased to announce a new and exciting collaboration coming up in October this year – an incredible, sixday gastronomic getaway in Tuscany and the opportunity to be immersed in age-old traditions of Tuscan cuisine following the lead of the great-grandfather of Italian cuisine, Pellegrino Artusi, whose nineteenth century cookbook Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well is one you’ll still find in practically every Italian kitchen.
Read More
When I was still newly, madly in love with Florence, only four months into the relationship, I was taken around Venice for an afternoon by a friend of a friend, an American and a Venice-lover. It turned out to be Eric Denker, art historian from the Smithsonian and the National Gallery, who must have been Venetian in a former life, such is his knowledge and passion for the city.
Read More
It’s not easy saying goodbye after a wonderful month amongst friends, family and good food in Tuscany, especially when time has flown so quickly and it seems we only just got here. Even though I’m a self-confessed autumn girl, it was particularly nice being back at this time of the year, spring, to indulge in plenty of those food cravings that I have for things that just aren’t the same in Australia.
Read More
It’s been a year and a half since we left Florence ‘for good’ and settled into a new and starkly different life in Melbourne. A lot has happened in that time that probably wouldn’t have happened if we’d stayed in Florence, which is a reason why we left – so that things might happen. Marco has worked with three of Australia’s best chefs and their restaurants as a sommelier.
Read More
They have a saying that I love in Tuscany, “Fritta è bona anche una ciabatta,” which means even a slipper is good deep fried (in other words, anything is good if it’s deep fried). Fried foods are a beloved part of Tuscan cuisine, whether it’s the fritto misto of the seaside (a “mix” of calamari, baby octopus, prawns and little fish, usually), the fritto of the countryside (rabbit and seasonal vegetables like artichokes – my favourite) or traditional, festive sweets like cenci (“rags” of fried pastry) and these dangerous frittelle di riso, rice fritters.
Read More
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.
Read More
For a celebration known as Fat Tuesday, you might think that the traditional recipes would be a chance for gluttons to gleefully stuff their faces with, well, fatty things. Mid-week, no less. Well it’s sort of true. Martedì Grasso (also known as Mardi Gras in French), or Fat Tuesday, which just happens to be tomorrow, February 12, is probably the most well known day of Carnevale, Carnival.
Read More
If you’ve ever sat down to an antipasto of Tuscan salumi (the Italian word for cured meats in general; not to be confused please with salami!), you’ll know that Tuscans are serious about their cured meats. It’s the topic of this month’s Italian Table Talk, as January is popularly the month for butchering pigs and making salumi in the natural refrigeration that winter provides (if you’re interested in the how-to side of things, see this post on my first experience making salumi with my friend’s family pigs on their farm).
Read More
Christmas is a personal event that changes from household to household almost anywhere you go, but an Italian Christmas is always about being with family and keeping up age-old traditions, especially when they have to do with the food. This Christmas more than other is one where we’re thinking about being with our families, near and far, as we’re about to become new parents.
Read More