Florence: Lunchtime in the jewel box

I miss Italy. I've been toying with the idea of revisiting if only just to stuff my face. (It's a two hour train ride to San Remo from here.) I had to cook my own lunch today and I couldn't stop thinking about some of my lovely light lunches in Florence, enough to write about them. The love child of the Renaissance, Firenze is a perfect little jewel box spilling over with great places to eat. I feel for the solo traveller at lunchtime, I really do. But you don't have to look far nor do you need a whole lot of cash to eat well in Florence - the city is full of great fornos, bakeries where you can grab a slice of pizza by weight and enotecas, wine bars with great antipasti, and osterias and trattorias, informal restaurants that serve traditional, made-with-love local favourites. Between Uffizi visits, hiking to Piazzale Michelangelo for the incredible views, falling in love with the Ponte Vecchio and marvelling at the Duomo, I was grabbing a quick bite at these five memorable spots.

 

I due frattelini

This is a tiny paninoteca run by two brothers just off the main strip that doles out delightful sandwiches brimming with local Tuscan ingredients. They also sell a range of local wines for incredibly cheap and you’ll find glasses stacked on little shelves on the street while patrons demolish their panini - the bread they use is exceptionally fresh and there are some interesting pairings on the menu. I loved the spicy salami and soft goat cheese.

Trattoria frattelini

You’ll find no fuss Tuscan cuisine that will warm the cockles of your heart at Trattoria Frattelini. The lasagne is so fantastic, it would have you going back for seconds if the portions weren’t so damn generous. Try the baccala alla Livornese, salted cod prepared in a tomato sauce and served with sticks of fried polenta. Everything on offer is delicious.

Gusta pizza

It’s really convenient that the pizzeria closest to Piazza di Spirito Santo, the hippest place to sneak wine and people watch makes some of the best looking and best tasting pizza I tried in Italy. Queue out the door if you have to, even the margherita is ridiculously good.

Nerbone

You have to visit the wonderful Mercato Centrale while in Florence at least once. Make your way past stalls selling cheese, meats, olives and deli fare and find Da Nerbone, perhaps the most popular stall of all. This is the place that offal fans can taste the Florentine specialty, lampredotto but for the faint of heart, there's panino con bollito, a tender stewed beef sandwich.

Gelateria dei Neri 

You'll find gelaterias at every corner in Florence but make the effort to seek out this one for its creamy, freshly made gelato in a huge assortment of interesting flavours. If their experimental flavours - gorgonzola and walnut, or chilli chocolate don't win you over perhaps some of the classics will.

 

Olive oil sponge cake

When I wrote about my time in Italy learning organic farming, I was asked repeatedly to post recipes from my time there. So here I go, I learnt to make this cake from Suzanne, another volunteer like me. During our time there, our farm hosted an organic dinner and movie night for some of the locals in Palombara Sabina. We served four simple courses - antipasti that included fresh ricotta with arugula and grilled zucchini, legume soup with rosemary crostini, a mixed greens salad and this olive oil sponge cake topped with juicy golden plums and bottomless pitchers of the farm's delicious organic red wine. We screened the Paul Newman and Robert Redford film The Sting but in Italian so La Stangata and by the end of it, every single slice of the cake was demolished. Make this once and you'll know why.

You can top the sponge with any fruit or ice it any way you like. The trees at the farm were heaving with sweet plums so Suzanne used them and made a syrup using sugar, vanilla beans, sweet white wine and lemon. She generously drizzled the syrup on top and halfway through and topped the cake with fresh plum slices.


Ingredients:

5 eggs
150g sugar
3.5 tbsp olive oil
150g flour
A pinch of salt

Method:

Using an electric beater, whisk the eggs until pale and fluffy, about three minutes.
Add sugar slowly and whisk for five-six minutes until you can draw an eight in it.
Whisk in olive oil in a gentle steady stream until mixed in.
Sift the flour with a pinch of salt in and fold it into the mixture gently until no streaks remain.
Pour into pans and bake in a preheated over at 180 degrees celsius for 25-30 minutes. 
Cool before turning it out onto a wire rack.

Recipe from here. Photos by me.

A week in the life and some link love #1

I'm living the dream life in Cannes at the moment.

It's spring and the flowers on our street, the Boulevard de la Croisette, are all in bloom. I stay a mere elevator ride from the beach, I buy gorgeous seasonal produce and fresh chèvre at the Marche Forville, I cook most days and on weekends, I explore small, pretty towns across the riviera with my favourite person in the universe. This Sunday we walked around cap d'Antibes, ogling incredible houses and finding cute pebbled coves. We chanced upon a small trail that led to these beautiful cliffs and witnessed a little old lady climb the rocks, strip down to her birthday suit and dive into the cold Mediterranean. Of course a French grandma had to be the baddest bitch in the world. Dying to be besties with her.


Here are some things on the internet I loved this week:

- Speaking of grandmas, this little film made my day.

- Marseille is just an hour away but you can go on a nightwalk with Google.

- My birthday falls on a long weekend in the not too distant future and maybe we'll go to Menton

- If you don't read First We Feast, you're missing the most entertaining food blog in the world.

- French photographer Jolipunk travels the world photographing people flipping the bird. Here are his shots from India.

- Design meets travel in this pretty piece about the aesthetes of Tangier.

- My friend Alex launched her girl-centric magazine Glucose today and I really enjoyed this piece about beauty.

- This video makes me reflect on the most important question: WHY AM I NOT A DANCER?

- My friend Caleb has one of the best instagram feeds I've seen. He has one of the most interesting visual perspectives on New Zealand. (I miss his blog dearly.)

Alleppey: A new collection by Safomasi

I'm a huge fan of illustrator and art director Sarah Fotheringham's work (you're sure to have seen some of it if you've flown Indigo) and no less a fan of her lifestyle label Safomasi that she runs with her partner Maninder Singh. Based in New Delhi, the pair draw inspiration from India and travel to create inspired, delectable soft furnishings. And my favourite thing about the label? Grandmas are involved.

Their latest collection is Alleppey and I guess it's no surprise that a textile loving Keralaphile like myself would adore it so. The range of cushions and quilts features playful hand screenprinted (get a glimpse of the process here and here) motifs of coconut pickers climbing palms, boats on the backwaters, a fisherman casting his net, birds flying overhead, woven palm leaves and more in a fresh palette of hues that includes mint, lime, teal blue and coral. Too nice.