The Truffle Man


The first time I heard him, he scared the living daylights out of me. There have been burglaries in recent years in Tuscany so when I was woken at 5:30 AM by heavy footsteps under my bedroom window, I was terrified. I peered out of my window and saw a man in old blue trousers held up by a rope and a weather beaten leathery face which was not exactly axe murderer material but still a little unsettling since our house is in the middle of nowhere.


My English upbringing winning out over my decade in New York, I politely asked him if I could help rather than asking him what he thought he was doing at 5:30 in the morning outside my window.


It turns out our small patch of land is laden with truffles and he maintains he sells them directly to Alice Waters among others; a story I found rather unlikely except for the fact that he had heard of Alice Waters.


We got to chatting and he seemed rather indignant that I wouldn’t fence off the property from wild boars as they were affecting his business. Given that he had no right to be there in the first place and I in no way benefited from his findings, I thought it was more than a little cheeky that he should be demanding an electrified fence. Off he and his dogs went and I returned to bed.


When I got up later that morning, I found 2 rather large truffles, waiting for me in the courtyard – an offering of peace and the main ingredient for that evening’s simple but delicious Tagliolini al Tartufo. Every year since then, I find little offerings left for me.


This year, it hadn’t rained in over 3 months and the heat had been so extreme that there were virtually no truffles to be found. By now, the truffle man and I have become friendly and he’s Giorgio even though I will always refer to him as The Truffle Man. This year, with no truffles to give me, he turned up with a different kind of gift! Little did he know it was actually my birthday and Mary, the 2 year old Eurasian Eagle Owl made my day!



Get the Recipe: Tagliolini al Tartufo

Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes


4 medium sized Idaho potatoes

2 yellow onions

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 eggs

salt and freshly cracked pepper

3/4 cup matzo meal

vegetable oil for frying



1. Peel and grate potatoes into a large bowl filled with cold water (this will prevent them from oxidizing).

2. Next grate the onion. Wring both the potatoes and the onion until dry. You can work by squeezing handfuls in batches.

3. Mix the onion and potatoes together and add the lemon juice. Mix once more then add eggs.

4. Stir until eggs are evenly dispersed and season with salt and pepper.

5. Mix in the matzo meal and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

6. Next, in a wide pan bring the vegetable oil to frying temperature. I test my oil by dipping a piece of food in. The oil is ready when the food immediately starts to fry. You want to avoid oil that is too hot or it will scorch the food. Once I’ve done one batch of latkes I usually turn my temperature down a couple of notches.

7. Take a handful of the latke mixture and press into a flat pancake (thin is best so the latkes stay nice and crunchy and potato and onion cook through).

8. Repeat, laying each latke on a baking sheet, until you have used all the potato mixture.

9. Fry in batches until latkes are a warm golden brown (roughly 4 minutes per side).

10. Transfer to a baking sheet and finish in the oven for 10 minutes.

11. Season finished latkes with salt and serve warm.

Favorite toppings include sour cream (with smoked salmon and dill) apple sauce or even an egg if you want to make a latke benedict. Enjoy!

Cooking up a Storm


Knowing that there was a strong possibility that I might lose power due to hurricane Sandy, I set about using up everything in my fridge and freezer. My misguided obsession with food had me far more worried about going hungry than I was about the practicalities of living without power.


Hoping that necessity would breed creativity, I got to work on discovering a genius new recipe that would make me my fortune. Not quite. The first ‘mash up’ was a risotto using up all the frozen stock as well as a mixture of cheeses and some leftover roasted peppers. It was fair but not good enough to be written down and shared. It did however teach me that risotto, like pasta, can really be a conduit for anything you have left in the fridge.


Next up was a pesto using up all the basil and arugula I had on hand and that was definitely a hit. I liked the mixture of the two with the arugula giving the pesto a peppery taste.


The third and slightly incongruous meal for my pre-hurricane hoarding was by far the best – a delicious and very quick Thai prawn curry with Poppadoms. We usually fuse East and West but why not Indian and Thai? The result was definitely worth sharing. I would have added a red chili pepper if I’d had one to give some heat but that is optional.


Thai Prawn Curry with Poppadoms


1 (14oz can) of unsweetened coconut milk (whisked to blend)
2 Teaspoons red Thai curry paste
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips
2 cups of sugar snap peas
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 pound King prawns (shelled and deveined)
1 ½ teaspoons of palm sugar (or brown sugar if you can’t find palm sugar)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Chopped fresh dill



1. Bring 1/4 cup coconut milk and curry paste to boil in large skillet over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. 

2. Add bell pepper, sugar snap peas and onion; sauté 5 minutes stirring frequently. 

3. Stir in prawns, remaining coconut milk and sugar. 

4. Cook until prawns are cooked through, stirring often, about 3 minutes. 

5. Stir in fish sauce and lime juice and cook for a further minute. 

5. Plate over Jasmine rice and sprinkle with fresh dill. Serve alongside warmed poppadoms.


Note: poppadoms can be brushed with oil and microwaved between paper towels for 40 seconds.