Eating locally


Local Piemonte salami and cheeses

One of the best parts about our stay in Turin was the food choices and supplies. We had decided to design our Christmas day menu around produce we could get on our arrival. I was a little nervous leaving it all to the last minute, however, it was this or carry food from Florence to Turin along with everything else and that just seemed a little ridiculous.

Like most people travelling you arrive at your destination, are usually hungry because it is lunchtime and you go in search of supplies. After finding the local ‘Express’ mart and feeling slightly sick looking at the fresh produce on hand I started to panic and thought, ‘Far out, is this going to be my first Christmas eating from an Express supermarket?’. We bought breakfast supplies and something for dinner that night and hoped we would find something more suitable and open when we went on our afternoon stroll that same evening. As it happens we stumbled on a food shoppers’ haven about two blocks away from our apartment, the panic started to subside. We planned to look that evening and buy on the 24th but I couldn’t resist and thought what the hell so we went shopping (which turned out to be the right decision). Our first stop, Primosenso, was a shop that only sold local produce and I mean local, within a 20km radius of Turin. Anyway we were so impressed with this enterprise that we bought some fantastic-looking rabbit and a delicious-looking piece of local beef for the star of our Christmas meal. 

At the same shop I was watching a couple of locals in deep discussion about which salami they were going to purchase. This was quite an ordeal for them and went on for about 5 minutes so I figured with all that talking, touching and in the end buying 6 of the one salami, I thought we should follow suit and buy one for our nibble platter too. To go with the salami we paired it with a couple of local cheeses, not leaving out the delicious gorgonzola of course! I have to say the salami was absolutely fabulous! It was flavoured with fennel seeds and chilli, fresh and extremely morish, so much so that we went back and bought some for our friends who appreciate great food. Our favourite cheese ended up being the white Toma which was a smooth goat cheese slightly aged and a perfect accompaniment to the salami.


It was decided that we would have an Italian-style Christmas lunch and that means we couldn’t go past the brodo with tortellini. I asked around the few Italian friends I have and they all told me it was a must. We actually liked it so much that we have decided to do it again next year, however, I will be making my own tortellini this time. A clean vegetable broth with meat tortellini cleanses the pallet and settles your stomach for the main meal and also allows the ceremonies to stretch out that little bit longer, which is always a good thing on Christmas day!



While the rabbit was roasting with artichokes and potatoes, I seared the beef on the grill plate before finishing it off in the oven. I wanted it to be beautifully medium rare and this is an excellent way to get best results, you just need to make sure your oven is really hot and you rest the meat for at least 10 minutes. Max came into the kitchen at some point between nibbles and tortellini for a bit of a boogie with mum, which also tells me the boys were having a great day and enjoying the festivities.


Nic was very excited with roast beef and I was so very happy with the rabbit, as were Max and Alex. A freshly steamed bowl of broccoli doused in olive oil and lemon juice sealed the deal for our Christmas feast. We went back for seconds because I made enough for eight, however, with the amount of walking we were doing a second helping was quite ok.


The idea of buying locally really appeals to me and the quality of produce was outstanding. I have never had rabbit for Christmas, yet the meat is sweet, delectable and felt like a treat. I think I will have to revisit this dish again. A feast was definitely had. Alas, I am ahead of myself and haven’t told you about the fishmonger we found packing up his stall in our square on the 24th… I’ll be back with more!



Pastry heaven


I’m actually wondering if I really need to write anything at all after the above photo? Is anyone reading or are you all like me and drooling over which one you’d like right now!?

I mean why would you bother making them when you can just pick them up from the local pasticceria? This is funny coming from me who has a business back in Sydney making High Teas for people. I would never in a million years make petite bites here in Italy……there is just no comparison and I’d be first in line to pick up my own bundle of joy!


The boys and I were around at Melanie’s last weekend, Melanie and I had been discussing food to be paired with a lovely bottle of wine she was sent from a wine company in Canada. We decided to put our creative minds together and see what we could come up with. After finalising our decisions we decided to make Sunday lunch and see if the families agreed with our food/wine pairing.

When we first tasted the wine all we thought of was chocolate. Somehow we came up with this…

IMG_0650Gorgonzola dolce whipped with truffle honey and served with a poached pear, cracked pepper and cinnamon compote. It sounds a little bizarre but the flavours complimented each other beautifully not to mention the wine. Mel and I kept on wishing we were sitting by a fire eating and drinking!

Of course we had to come up with a main dish so after a lot of ummming and arring we finally settled on this….


A very Tuscan bollito di manzo served with creamy polenta finished with pecorino cheese giving it a creamy bite.

Although many Italians would not serve the two together (Mel’s Italian husband pointed this out to me), they compliment each other very well. Once the wine opened up it complemented the dish, pulling all the flavours together leaving you hoping there were leftovers of everything!

This is when ‘working’ is the best job ever and I am always more than happy to work for wine so if there are any other wine purveyors out there who want recipes to match wines please don’t hesitate to contact me……

Anyway, after all the hard work was finished and bellies were full Melanie whips out a package of pastries to tantalize our taste buds, and if you think they look fresh and yummy you’d be 100% correct. All five boys were memorised

IMG_0670You’ve got to love the look of longing and wondering if you’ve chosen well all the while holding a plate full of delights!

My all time favourite was the one filled with crema and flavoured with orange rind……

IMG_0672After such an indulgent lunch we packed the boys into the car and took them mushroom hunting to walk off some of the delights, however, as I sit here and drool all over again I can no longer wonder why my jeans feel as tight as they do!

Pumpkin and bean agrodolce

I’m a big fan of sweet and sour flavours and I don’t just mean the Asian kind. Granted sweet and sour pork is a big family favourite and couldn’t be simpler to make, however, I am talking of the Italian variety. Mario Batali, a fantastic NY chef who lives and breathes Italian cuisine first introduced me to pumpkin agrodolce a few years ago in his book Babbo (A restaurant I am hankering to get to one of these days!!). I cannot remember exactly what his recipe state but I plucked around in my memory and worked with what I had.

My good friend Sue gave me a bag of whole dried chillies from her mother-in-laws chilli bush the other day and I was really wanting to try them out (they are delicious BTW Sue!) So I decided to make a chilli pumpkin side dish to go with the roast beef I was making for dinner. The boys swear and declare they HATE pumpkin and the only way they will eat it is in soup form and then it is declared their favourite soup, go figure!? I decided I wouldn’t waste the pumpkin on them, however, when I came to preparing dinner in my pretend kitchen I discovered I didn’t actually have enough pots and pans for my dinner proposal and needed to re-think the whole meal. In the end I came up with an agrodolce sauce that is dead simple, tastes absolutely delicious on the night, cold the next day on crunchy toast or as part of an antipasti platter so really everyone should know how to make this very easy, yet tasty sauce.

You can use any type of bean for this dish, I just happen to have these lovely big flat beans hanging around in the fridge which I top and tailed and cut in half, I then cut the skin off the pumpkin and cut it into chunky pieces because they need to hold their shape for about 30 minutes of cooking time. 


So to start, chop up an onion and about three small cloves of garlic, nice and thin. Heat up a medium saucepan on LOW-MED temp with a good glug of olive oil- the olive oil is going to help make the sauce thick and tasty so if you only put a drizzle in your saucepan then it won’t carry the flavour around as well, plus it’s not like your eating it all yourself so do not feel guilty!

When the oil is warm add onion only and saute for about 5 min on low heat, then add garlic and saute for another minute. Add a tin of whole tomatoes and chop with your spoon to break the tomatoes up then add about a teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Add cut-up pumpkin and whole chillies, stirring to combine. When the pumpkin is coated add about a tablespoon of honey and 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, stir to combine then bring to a boil (if not already).


Add your beans, coat with sauce then place a lid on top and gently simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice so it doesn’t stick to the pot. You may want to adjust your vinegar and honey depending on how you like it.

The beautiful thing about using whole dried chillies is they only flavour the dish with a hint of warmth, yet when you serve yourself the chilli for dinner you get the heat burst- perfect for a family meal!


The sweet and sour flavours meld beautifully with a traditional roast meal and I know it also works well with snapper (fish) salmon and pork. You can also use the same cooking method and add ginger with the garlic to turn it up a notch and this is especially yummy with white fish. 

The best part about this sauce is it so yummy the kids can’t resist it. Of course they rolled their eye when they saw the pumpkin but lo and behold every bit of pumpkin and bean was devoured so I think it must be a winner.

Tuscan bean soup……..or was that bean and vegetable soup?

As the temperature starts to drop gradually and the evenings are longer I am starting to want to be in the kitchen more and more, however, I am also missing all the pots, pans and tools I am so use to reaching for without a moments thought. We were at the supermarket the other day and I spotted some young cavolo nero which got me thinking of Tuscan soup, which then made me wander over to the meat section and pick out a good piece of speck. I may not have my food processors or mixers with me but I do whip up a pretty good Tuscan bean soup. 

I’m not sure if the locals would agree, so when I was asked the other day what I was making I stuck with ‘Oh just a bean and vegetable soup’- what a wimp I am! For a split second I wanted to say Tuscan bean soup but then what if they tasted it and said “This isn’t Tuscan!?” That to me would be a big ego punch and I am not quite ready for that right now, therefor, I am calling it my bean and veggie soup that just happens to taste, so, so yummy and maybe, just maybe even a little bit Tuscan?

I love the way the speck looks raw, not sure why, maybe it is the thought of those yummy sweet meat smells combined with onion and olive oil on a low heat that sends me salivating?


Whatever it is, I am a big fan. Ok, so once I have all my veggies chopped into small cubes (I mean you need to put a little bit of effort in here because you will see the end result when eating) and my beans all cooked off I then check out how the speck and onions are going before I add all the veggies and garlic.

When you’re building flavours the best thing to do is layer your cooking so you lock in every flavour to compliment all the others, there is no point throwing it all together and then waiting for something amazing to happen- it wont!

Because the onions and speck have been simmering slowly in the olive oil, the oil tastes delicious and is ready to attach itself to all the new veggies I am adding and creating a really flavoursome soup.Image

On a quick side note: I soak my cannellini beans the night before in cold water, throw out the water and then bring them to a boil with new cold water the following day and without salt because I read somewhere that salt makes the beans tough.

Right, now that all the veggies are in and starting to warm I add thinly sliced garlic, a couple pieces of parmesan rind, salt and pepper. The kitchen smells fabulous and hunger pangs kick in so then add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once it has come to the boil, simmer for about 5 minutes and then throw in the pre cooked beans, small diced potatoes and simmer again for another 5 minutes to cook the potatoes.Image

It was around this time when I decided I needed a bigger pot.Image


When everything is finished I like to leave the soup for a day so the flavours can meld together. When serving I add a few chilli flakes and a good grate of parmesan cheese for extreme yumminess and as you can see, you really do have mountains of delicious and healthy soup everyone will love.