“A tavola non si invecchia”. - Italian proverb (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old).

Sharing authentic Italian recipes entrusted upon me through the privilege of being invited into many Italian homes and kitchen’s abroad. I travel, cook, eat, share, learn and photograph my experiences, a truly soul enriching journey. There are now over 100 recipes on this blog to search from. I am a Melbourne born girl who now resides in Pietrasanta, Italy. Sharing my love for food and all things Italian with you. I am not a professionally trained chef, just a person that really loves cooking and has made my passion my reality! Through talent and drive I now work as a private chef in some of the most prestigious private villa`s here in Versilia, Italy!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Capodanno/ New year`s Eve

 "Natale con i tuoi, capodanno con chi vuoi"

"Christmas with your family, New Years Eve with whoever you want"!
Yesturday, today and tonight and probably tomorrow we will be eating lentils in various ways. In Italy it is an ancient tradition to eat lentils at this time of years to bring prosperity. As a lentil is a symbol of a coin. The more lentils you eat the more coins you will have in the new year!
So in two shakes of a lambs tail we are heading off to rein in the New Year in Siena, with a quick lunch stop in bella Firenze!
Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous New Year, Buon Anno a tutti!!
Kara xxx

the perfect gift for our hosts, prosecco and lentils!
the main piazza in Siena

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Natale sera. Christmas night

I feel like we can still talk about Christmas as the man playing the saxophone on the street outside my window is still tuning away to jingle bells. 
Although some days have passed since Christmas and we are nearly ready to ring in the New Year, I feel like my festivities have not stopped. So I thought I would quickly take a minute before 2016 arrives to talk about my Christmas.
So as I mentioned to the lead up to Christmas I had planned to serve the perfect array of sweets and only a few savoury items at my house on Christmas night. This year I was excited about introducing some new British items to the mix. As my friends are familiar with how I host my Christmas parties they came prepared after long tummy filling lunches at home with an appetite for sweets. However this was the first year I was sharing it with my boyfriend, his friends and family.
For those who know me well, know that I like things to be perfect (although I have become much more relaxed in my ageing years). Before a party I like the house to be spick and span, the table to be set and organised and every detail catered for. I also like to have the candles lit, music playing and have myself fully ready before quests start to arrive, allowing myself to be an attentive host.
My boyfriend early evening told me to relax and invited me to cozy up on the couch for a minute, I thought even though I still have things to do I will appreciate the moment we have together and take the invitation to snuggle into his embrace in my pyjamas.
Of course, you know where this story is going. Brrring brrring, the door bell rings. It`s the brother, sister-in-law and child of Alessandro (Alewho arrived an hour earlier than the 9pm invitation time. Any-way the evening kicks off from there, I`m a little caught off guard but whip myself into a frenzy and put everything quickly into place, including dressing myself! The door bells continues to ring and a flow of guests keep arriving. Everyone is wowed by the array and presentation of food. Until one friends says....ummm but Kara I`m starving and want to eat something savoury. So I start pulling out as many things that I have to offer. 
Halfway through the evening Ale tells me he is ducking out for a second to grab a bottle of champagne he left in the car. I try to persuade him to stay as the table is already filled with magnum`s and there is no absence of wine. Time passes and I notice his disappearance.  I ask a friend about his absence and remain in shock when the answer is he has returned to his family home for food. Mostly because I feel that I have poorly catered for the party. But then I take a chill pill and remember after all that I am living in Italy, and you can never have too much food. Half and hour passes and the `hero` walks in the door with two shopping bags filled with goods. I can't rememeber if there was a round of applause, I think so. It was as if he had been to the local supermarket. The two bags were filled with salami bigger than my arms, a wheel of pecorino cheese bigger than my head,  olives and various preserves and bread (the most essential item for any Italian table). Although I nearly hit him over the head with the salami I couldn't but help see the funny side of this. Like who just has that much produce lying around at home? The answer, an Italian family!

The night proceeds with lots of laughs, singing, some latin dancing, firing opening bon bon`s, celebrating, dressing up, telling stories and eating and drinking....probably too much.

For me the most precious moment of the evening was drowning the Christmas pudding with brandy with the six year old nephew. With the lights turned off and seeing the explosion of flames as the match hit the brandy was nothing less than spectacular. Seeing the sheer look of excitement on the little boys face will be something I will always treasure. Passing on and sharing my British tradition of igniting the pudding amongst my friends made living away from home on Christmas that little more tolerable.
                   
The drunk brandy Christmas pudding aflame
Ginger biscuits with gorgonzola and walnuts 
riccarelli biscuits, a Tuscan tradition at Christmas time 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Vigilia di natale. The night before Christmas

“Happiness is  only real when shared” 
― Jon KrakauerInto the Wild

 So yet another year has rolled around and here we are getting ready to celebrate the Eve of Christmas. This time of year is always sentimental as naturally I would like to spending time with my family but obviously there are many oceans between us. Family is not just a word. It is who you are, where you came from and where you will always belong. That is why this year I have decided to be senitmental in the kitchen, bringing back many childhood recipes that my Mother and even grandmother would make.
Typically my Christmas festive season is spent celebrating with friends and I have always been lucky to have been invited into their homes. It is true that friends although you will never be connected by blood, can become an extended family. Our tradition here in Italy is that all of my close friends come to my house on Christmas evening. It spontaneously occurred my first year here in Italy, and we have kept the tradition running. For the past six years I have cooked an array of Italian treats, but this year I am going back to my British roots. Keeping the odd Italian treat aflame such as tiramisu, riccarelli biscuits and pandoro! As all of my friends arrive at my house after long lunches of extravagnce with their families, I will fill my table with various deserts. 
So I thought I would share with you some of the old school delights I have on the cards for tomorrow,

Traditional English pudding complete with creme anglaise and ice-cream
Drunken triffle made with homemade pandoro, custard, fruit and cream
A pain stakingly time consuming gingerbread house 
Home made chocolates in gift bags 
Chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate icing 
Ginger biscuits with gorgonzola and walnuts 
Mince pie eggnog milkshakes 

Then of course some of the Italian delights that I mentioned previously with some savoury items such as fegatini crostini (tuscan pate(, smoked salmon, cured meats, cheeses and dried fruits etc.

I think the longer you live away from home the more you get sentimental, or maybe that just comes with age. This year is also the first year in six that I will be celebrating with my boyfriend, so I am really excited to be sharing some of my families traditions with him, complete with bon bon`s I was able to find at a local British shop! http://www.richmonds.it

Traditionally I have always given edible gifts or have filled hampers with the years produce ranging from homemade liquors, sundries tomatoes and various pesto`s etc. This year I have kept it simple with homemade chocolates, pandoro, and `do it yourself` homemade chocolate chip muffin jars, just add milk and eggs! I am looking forward to sharing my homemade goodies with all tomorrow! 

So as we all settle into our cosy beds tonight and anticipate the magical day that is Christmas, a day typically filled with excessive gifts and indulgence. I ask you just to take a moment to think of the 100 million homeless, the 800 million people living in poverty and the 11 million children that die every year as victims of malnutrition. Then give thanks for how lucky we all are!

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!!!!
Kara xxx
My babies, homemade Pandoro 
Make at home chocolate muffins gift jars. Just add milk and eggs!!!
The before and aftermath




Tuesday, December 22, 2015

“Time flames like a paraffin stove,  and what burns are the minutes I live.” 
― Irving LaytonThe Selected Poems
Where do we start, how do I make amends, can we be friends again?  I have abandoned you, I abandoned writing. But one thing for sure is that I have certainly not abandoned my love and enthusiasm for cooking. I find it almost ridulcous that the last time I wrote on here was to wish you a happy New year for 2014, however I did not even get around to posting that. When I opened my saved draft these are the bullet points that I was going to write about summing up my year for 2014...better late than never right? 
asked to host a cooking program on Itay's TV channel Rai uno
worked a three month summer season as a private chef for a villa 
worked as the Chef for special events at the Embassy of Australia in Rome
spent six week yacht sitting
taught cooking lessons
learnt how to make pizza
traveled by car from the north to south of Italy 
spent two months on an island in Sicily, Favignana 
took latin dance classes
addicted to the gym, zumba, in great health
I guess I had writers block on where to pick up, where to start, and what to share with you. Sharing a simple recipe did not seem to cut it. During this year my heart was truly broken, which overshadowed all the great things happening. And as I associate cooking with heart, I think I just lost my heart.
              
For those who know me well know that I have a big heart with intense feelings and even though my heart has been tumbled around a thousand times since then, for the first time in my life I did not believe in love. Coming from me, a person whose primary focus is love, to lose faith in it was simply devastating to my world. Because with every brutal experience I have encountered I have always brushed myself off and put my heart back on my sleeve and continued to be a believer. I guess it was the first time that outside of business I experienced lies, deceit and outright betrayal.

Not that there is ever the right time for heart break but this happened during the first week of my working season, which was to be an intense three months of seven days a week, twenty hours a day, travelling twenty kilometres to work on my bike. Not to mention the heavy down pour of rain we experienced that summer. I arrived home most nights at 2am exhausted and soaking wet from the rain. Although at times I enjoyed many aspects of this job, such as the unlimited budget to buy magnificent produce, the extravagant parties that I catered for, the ever flowing abundance of Cristal champagne and Russian caviar, and the friendships I made with my local suppliers and staff etc. However the fatigue, pressure, arrogance and once again 'the heartbreak' took it`s toll and I think it`s fair to say I lost my soul. My world seemed black!
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.” 
― Oscar WildeA Woman of No Importance
This 'soul' that I lost was found, not quickly, but I found it again  after spending two months on an unforgettable island off the coast of Sicily, called Favignana. I decided to isolate myself and move away from any distractions, and there is no better place to do so than on an island. I found great comfort in all great things Sicilianthe hospitality, good weather, sea, sun and FOOD. It was exactly the cure that I needed. I was fortunate enough to find a little bit of work in local restaurants and pastry shops which was a priceless experience that enabled me to learn new culinary delights.  The house I rented had a magnificent rooftop terrace complete with an outdoor kitchen and barbecue overlooking thAeolian Islands and Mediterranean Sea. After no time at all I had made new friends and I spent my days exercising, swimming, working, cooking and entertaining at home.
I returned from the island to my hometown in Tuscany with a new found positivity and my usual oomph for life. As usual I was fortunate enough to find a gorgeous house and quickly set up shop and got ready to settle in to my winter routine. But things pretty quickly took a turn for the worse as my health suffered and I ended up in hospital. Christmas came and went and the New Year was here within the blink of an eye. I ended up flying back to my hometown Melbourne to have an ` emergency` operation for a fertility disease I have.  I flew in and got the job done feeling proud that I had accomplished something tough alone.

When I returned after a months visit, I ended up getting `cosy` with a long-time friend, however after some cruel manipulation on his part the story abruptly ends there and I`m left feeling like I`ve been put through the tumble dryer on turbo speed.  The year continues with other tragic events that were out of my control but none the less taken heavily to heart. My best friend committed suicide, and another tries to do the same. My much loved Nanny and my Uncle both passed away in the space of a few weeks. The summer was soon arriving and once again I found myself having to move out of my apartment and I moved between five houses in the space of six weeks. One owner actually decided not to rent the apartment to me the minute I arrived with a van ready to unload my things.

"Never make your home in a place. Make a home for you inside your own head. You'll find what you need to furnish it- memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey"
Tad Williams 
Just when I thought life had presented me with my fair share of obstacles I received a phone call from my ex-husband (who I am still legally married toinforming me that he is expecting his first child. That day was probably the darkest day of my life, and the weather seemed to emulate my turmoil.  I think that night I cried more tears than the sky itself.

However there was something glorious that happened in hearing that news. After a couple of days of crying I awoke one morning with a new found peace that I had not felt in a long time. I woke that morning and just decided not to suffer anymore. In that moment I surrendered myself to life and accepted that I can truly handle whatever life presents me, and just roll with it. I silently said to the universe, it`s ok! And as I found myself consoling the people around me, I found myself comforting and healing myself.

Within days life took a drastic change and all of a sudden work opportunities were flowing in (one of which I took), I found an apartment close to work, somewhere to temporally store all of my belongings and I randomly met a fabulous man, Alessandro (and yes, we are still together). 

It is so true that there are no guarantees in life, no certainties and so much can change literally in the blink of an eye for good or for bad. After a pretty heavy start to the year I am thankful that for me so much changed for the good in the second half. I was contracted as the chef for the private villa of Giorgio Armani and had the pleasure of cooking for the family of Andrea Bocelli. Even though the work was tough I was surrounded by good people every day. A good family and great staff, made the hard work a pleasure. There was no 20 kilometre bike ride every day and thank God, no rain. I even had the added bonus of a boyfriend who bought me ice-cream after work for my sore throat. It even made having a sore throat a pleasure! This work season seemed like a completely different life than that of last year. I am still thanking the universe for this!
So why do I associate cooking with heart? Here is what I will tell you. It is not only essential but it is necessary. Throughout all of my rollercoaster ups and down I have always had the kitchen to turn to, it has been my constant, the only thing I trust. I know what happens when I add water to flour, its reliable. So if you ask me where I get my passion for cooking, it`s not that I inherited it from anywhere, its simply where I survive. It is what saves my life.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien