My ‘Cherry-Picked’ Cheesecake

This is how to whip up a yummy no-bake cheesecake. Fresh cherries, a crunchy biscuit base and smooth cream cheese filling make a delicious summer dessert.


  • 100 g digestive biscuits
  • 40 g butter, melted
  • 250 g Philadelphia cheese
  • 250 g ricotta cheese
  • 350 g cherries, pitted & split into halves (save some for decoration)
  • 100 g icing sugar (I like to use vanilla-flavoured icing sugar)
  • 16 g unflavored gelatin sheets
  • 6 tbsp cherry syrup
  • 50 g sugar
  • mint leaves, to decorate


Crush the biscuits and mix in the butter (melted at room temperature), line the base of a 18 cm round springform tin with greaseproof paper, and push the biscuit mixture into an even layer into the base of the tin. Chill for 15 min.

Soak 8 g gelatin sheets in a bowl of iced water for 10 min. In a small saucepan heat slowly 3 tbsp cherry syrup, turn the heat off, lift the gelatin sheets from the water, wring gently, and whisk in until dissolved.

In a separate bowl use an electric whisk to combine soft cheeses with icing sugar and the gelatin syrup mixture, until completely combined. Add 120 g cherries. Form a layer on top of the biscuit base and let set in the freezer for 1 hour.

Finally, place 230 g cherries into a saucepan, add sugar, 3 tbsp cherry syrup and 2 tbsp water. Stir over medium heat without bringing to boil. Remove from the heat. Add 8 g gelatin (soaked beforehand in the iced water and then wringed out), stir just until the gelatin dissolves. Let cool at room temperature. Tip the mix on top of the cake, smooth over the top, and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.

To serve, remove from tin, decorate with some cherries and mint leaves.

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Castagnaccio, My Way

I was introduced to Castagnaccio by a Tuscan friend. Like most traditional recipes, this was originally a peasant’s dish. Chestnuts (Castagne) are the main ingredient here. At the beginning of the 19th century, when Castagnaccio was exported from Tuscany to the rest of Italy, raisins, pine nuts and rosemary were added to the recipe.

It’s made from chestnut flour and olive oil and has no raising agents. It’s not one of the cakes you are probably used to, it is rather a savoury bread. The sweetness comes from the nuts and dried fruit added to it.

Here’s my own way of making Castagnaccio, replacing some traditional ingredients like walnuts and rosemary with apples, and adding some apricot jam. It has worked really well for me. But you can also try making and decorating it with marrons glacés, hazelnuts or even chocolate chips.



  • 200g chestnut flour
  • 30g sugar
  • 300g water
  • a handful of raisins
  • a handful of pine-nuts
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 250g apricot jam
  • 1 apple, cored, thinly sliced
  • 10g butter, melted
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar,
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 18-cm springform pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

Put the flour in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt, then the sugar, whisk in the water very slowly till you get a rather liquid mixture without lumps. Now add 1 tbsp of olive oil, the raisins and the pine nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes at 180°C, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. The castagnaccio is not ready if there are no cracks on the surface.

Take it out, let it cool, and cut into 2 layers. Spread the apricot jam between the layers, then stack and cover the cake, too. Arrange some apple slices on top, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon combined in a bowl. Set the oven to grill and cook the cake for 5 more minutes.

As you can see, Castagnaccio is very easy to make, and offers lots of room for experimentation. It perfectly goes with a November afternoon espresso. You can serve it with a drizzle of honey, maple syrup, cashew cream… Or with some caramel panna cotta, like I usually do.

The chestnut flour I’ve been using


Buon appetito!

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Taleggio and Mushroom Stuffed Pancakes

If you haven’t already, it is high time to get in the mood for autumn! And if you like mushrooms as much as I do, you can’t go wrong with this recipe. Serves 4.



For the pancakes

  • 250ml milk
  • 125g plain flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 30g butter
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the filling

  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 shallots
  • 500ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 50g flour
  • 100g  Taleggio DOP cheese
  • 50g  grated Parmigiano Reggiano DOP
  • 1 egg
  • grated nutmeg
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper


Place the beaten eggs and the flour into a large bowl and mix well. Gradually whisk in the milk until your batter gets the right consistency. Add 1 spoon of oil, a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper, cover and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat a frying pan, butter it a bit each time you add a ladleful of the batter, and fry until golden on both sides, turning with a fish slice.

Clean and chop the shallots, simmer for 2-3 minutes in a frying pan with 1 spoon of olive oil. Add the sliced mushrooms, then the seasoning, stir and cook slowly in a covered pan for 10 minutes.

For your besciamella sauce: melt the remaining butter, work in the flour, add milk and cook until thick, stirring briskly, season with salt and grated nutmeg. Add half of this sauce to the mushrooms, along with the diced Taleggio cheese, 1 egg, and one-third of Parmigiano.

Put a tablespoon of filling centrally on each pancake, fold into envelopes, and place in a buttered ovenproof dish, cover with remaining sauce, sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano, and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Buon appetito!

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Peposo (Peppery Tuscan Beef Stew)

recipe   recipe

Learn how to make the perfect Peposo, Brunelleschi’s favourite. Don’t be scared off by the amount of pepper in this recipe, the peppery aroma will permeate the kitchen and the diners’ soul.

Time: 1 hour 30 mins       Serves: 4


  • 600 g beef shank, cut into large chunks
  • 20 g whole black peppercorns
  • 500 ml red wine (Chianti, of course)
  • coarse sea salt, to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped


Heat 3-4 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan and saute the finely chopped carrot, celery and onion. Add the beef cubes, the peppercorns and season with salt. Cook for 20 mins. Then cover with Chianti wine, reduce the heat, put a lid on and cook for about an hour, until the meat is soft.

You can serve Il Peposo with croutons or polenta, and accompany it with a glass of Tuscan red wine. Buon appetito!

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