I've followed Skye McAlpine for a while on Instagram as I love her beautiful food photography. She seems to really capture the energy of the Italian dining table in her images and many are interspersed with scenes of Venice, which is always going to be a good thing!
Not being a born and bred Venetian like Stefano myself, I also really identify with the way her love of the cuisine and traditional Italian kitchen has grown nonetheless, as a result of being so totally immersed in life there.
I love this quote from her blog:
''I grew up with the belief – and more than ever, I live by it now – that there are few greater pleasures in life than to invite people into your home and share a meal with them. Where friends and food gather around a table, a certain indescribable magic occurs... Food is more than just sustenance, it is love and memories and much more in between.''
A Table in Venice was published this year, back in March. The fact that it is a new book not strictly true, I've had it a for a month or so just poring over the typically gorgeous photography but just recently attempted to put it to the test .
The book begins with a lovely introduction on how Venice came to be home and childhood memories around food.
It is well divided into chapters inspired by the rhythm and activity of a Venetian day starting with recipes to complement a morning coffee, for using the produce from a trip to the market and later in the day to accompany a spritz for Aperitivo.
My initial flick through the pages had me briefly worried that I would be disappointed, as I like cookery books to have an image of the food as inspiration. However if you are similar do not despair, I soon discovered that images of every dish are referenced and located on nearby pages. On reflection, I found this a good thing as there is something very lovely about an uninterupted double page spread of delicious looking foods and a Venetian backdrop...
Picking out a few recipes, I really liked that the author was not afraid to suggest a shortcut when it came to pre-made pastry. We all know that the beauty of great Italian food is the passion and attention that goes into it, the slow pace in order to extract exquisite flavour from simple ingredients but this need not necessarily entail faffing about with pastry! Of course, this depends on the dish but where the pastry element is playing more of a supporting role, we can focus instead on getting straight to the heart of the Venetian flavours and ingredients. I particularly liked the breakfast dishes Kranz (Apricot and Raisin Pastries) and Kiefer (Almond Paste Croissants).
For the keen baker she includes several recipes which do involve starting from scratch, such as Apricot Croissants or a Pine Nut and Custard tart.
For my first test I decided to make Pesche all' Amaretto - Peaches poached in Amaretto syrup and Crema al Cioccolato con Amaretti - Chocolate and Amaretti Custard. Both were simple to make together in an afternoon whilst being accompanied by an energetic toddler - definitely a big plus for me at the moment!
Pesche all' Amaretto
650 ml water
100g caster sugar
6 firm/slightly underipe peaches, halved and pitted
1. Pour the water into a large saucepan with the Amaretto and sugar. Heat and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
2. Set to simmer and snugly fit the peaches into the pan. This will probably need to be done in two batches.
3. Poach for 5 minutes or to preference, turning midway.
4. Leave to cool in syrup then remove skins.
5. Arrange, cut side down and cover with syrup.
6. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
7. Serve with mascarpone or ice cream.