Winter

Ossobuco alla Milanese (à la Anna Del Conte)

ossobuco alla milanese - life love foodossobuco alla milanese - life love food ossobuco alla milanese - life love foodossobuco alla milanese - life love food

“The main lesson you have to learn is simplicity,” is Anna del Conte’s warning to whoever wants to approach Italian food. “For what you leave out is just as important as what you put in”.

These few words have been resounding in my head for days. I have surprised myself thinking about them a lot. Not just in relation to food, mind, but to other aspects of living, too. What we leave out of our kitchen, of our home, of our lives matters as much as what we put in. Aren’t we who ultimately decide what to include and what to leave out, just like in a recipe? We choose which flavour our life is going to have at any given time. Except, perhaps starting over isn’t as easy as a round of washing up. Or is it?

Anyway, my cooking (and, consequently, this blog) went through a similar scrutiny lately. Some things went in, many others were stripped back. It’s now clear to me, at the dawn of my thirties, what it is that I just don’t care to eat, cook, or write about. Likewise, I’ve finally learnt what keeps me inspired, happily glued to the stove, and, well, hungry. This ossobuco alla milanese from Anna del Conte is one of these things. Not just because I love to eat it, but because it envelopes many of the traits that I find attractive in a recipe: culture-richness, humbleness, sustainability and straightforwardness. It just makes sense.

Yes, this ossobuco is here to stay, at least for as long as winter lasts. And I’m thinking now, as I type, as I spy a shy spring-like sun shining through my windowpane, that I better drop the chatter and tell you more about it, for winter doesn’t have much time left under its belt. So let’s.

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Bergamot Polenta Cake

bergamot polenta cake

The glycemic index of this blog has increased exponentially lately. I’ve been baking a lot, I realise – to relax, to energise, for fun.  I promise I’ll move to savoury next, but for now, let me tell you about this bergamot polenta cake, for it’s sure worth a mention.

The paradigm from which this cake originates is not dissimilar from this other cake recipe I’ve shared a while ago. This, too, is a flourless cake (if we don’t count polenta as flour), and it has citrus as the primary accent within the flavour spectrum. And yet, the result is completely different, for no other reason than this cake uses the fruit in its entirety (as opposed to just zest and juice), which, of course, changes everything. Add this to the fact that the citrus in question is bergamot  (easily one of the most aromatic fruits ever known to men), and you’ll have a cake that is at once seductive and surprisingly simple.

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Venetian Frittelle for Carnival

Venetian Frittelle - Life Love Food


 For the first time this year, nonna decided not to whip up the traditional Carnival fry up. The daughters and sons, nieces and nephews and the whole extended family were left without her signature frittelle, favette and crostoli. Empty handed, they were all forced to buy them from the bakery instead.

The news popped up on my phone screen like breaking news. Outrage! How could this ever happen? I was told that, at the young age of 95, she was feeling too tired to roll doughs and stand in front of the frying pan for long hours. To make up for the loss, Aunt, who lives with her, picked up on the duty of making a small batch of fried tortelli stuffed with pumpkin and amaretti – another classic concoction in my family – in the attempt to still celebrate Carnival. This, of course, not without nonna’s vigilant surveillance. It was reported that she did very well indeed.

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Venetian Favette for Carnival

Venetian Favette for Carnival - Life Love Food

Carnival is to a Venetian what Halloween is to most people: the perfect occasion to wear fancy dresses, party all night, and eat a pile of sweet treats.

Many identify the Carnevale di Venezia with folks dressed in 18th-century masks who peacocking around St Mark’s Square. But that’s not all: there are parties for the youth of Veneto to let its hair down; all sorts of activities for children and families organised all over the city; and, most importantly, there is food.

At the core of the Venetian Carnival is a spirit of excess – of enjoyment of all sorts of mundane, sensual pleasures. Because it occurs right before Lent (the time of the year when Catholics are meant to give up all carnal temptations), Carnival is the perfect excuse to live life to the fullest before reverting to a more moderate lifestyle. Fasting and virtuous abstinence are just around the corner, so one might as well make the most of life before then.

Following the same spirit of excess, the traditional foods of the carnevale are some of the most decadent and scrumptious out there. Often sweet, coated in sugar, at times stuffed with custard and cream, they are almost always unmistakenly fried.

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Squash Cannellini Rosemary Soup

In these quiet days after Christmas and New Year, after the excitement of the holidays has subdued, after the feasts and the family, the chatter and the clinking of chalices, I revert to soup – my safe harbour, my antidote against excess. Soup seems like a good metaphor for these first days of 2017: unshouty, unshowy, soothing. The same could be said for my kitchen windows, which, like my thoughts, have often been fogged, steamy, and heavy with condensation. Perhaps because of this, soup is all I want to eat. And, consequently, it’s all I want to talk about. So there, let’s talk about it.

‘There should be soup all the time, but especially in the winter.’

So writes the wonderful Molly O’Neill in one of her most touching pieces of prose. It’s almost as if she was spying on me; as if she’d drawn a circle on that fogged up window to peek inside my kitchen, and inside my head. Because, you see, I happen to be of Molly’s advice. In January, especially in January, when days are still so dreadfully short, soup should be set on the table often, if not daily, to soothe and comfort. It should preferably be very hot, with vapours coming up in swirls, steaming your face, unplugging your nose and fizzing up your hair. It should, therefore, demand patience. Yes, patience is key: it makes the first spoonful all the more enjoyable.

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