Today I am writing to you from glorious Melbourne, where Spring is being as temperamental as we know her to be (yesterday it was almost summer, today it feels like winter). But she brings great joy as well with her beautiful produce and colours. Today is a great day; in fact all of October has been wonderful. My third cookbook “Istria” was released in Australia on 1 October, in the UK and Europe, a week later and on 18 October in the USA. And on Friday 22 October Melbourne emerged from its 6th lockdown (77 days worth)! HOORAY. Mark and I happily went to dinner at our neighbourhood restaurant, The Recreation, to celebrate that, the cookbook release and the amazing review posted by Nigella Lawson on “Cookbook Corner”. Yes, that’s right, Nigella, the Queen herself reviewed Istria! If you have not read the review, click here . Here is one line from the review that sums up her thoughts: :… what it means in terms of this glorious book, is an informative and deeply personal introduction to food that is markedly Northern Italian in influence, but equally informed by the flavours of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And it’s just the sort of food I love”. She also shared my recipe of “Pan-Cooked Cabbage with Potatoes, Speck and Sausage”. To say that I am honoured and thrilled about this is to put it mildly.
The feedback and many emails and kind words I have received about the book in the past few weeks have blown me away. Thank you, thank you. I hope I have answered all of you; there were so many, especially from people of Istrian-Italian origin. Here are a few:
“I’ve read through some of the stories with a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes and a feeling of pride in the centre of my chest. Your book is a book of nostalgia and beautiful memories. Thank you for writing this beautiful book. And the recipes! Things that my nonna cooked that I didn’t have recipes fro are in your book” L
“Your book is beautiful Paola, and I feel like my heart has grown so much it’s going to explode in my chest. Thank you for championing Istria and our ancestry. A treasured treasured book in my home” A
“I received your Istria book yesterday, I’m so delighted, thank you so much. It’s such a beautiful book in so many ways and I just love it. I find this book connects with me deeply as I have experienced similar experiences and recipes from my family who are Slovenian, There is so much common ground even though I’m not Italian. Thank you and congratulations” E
“I couldn’t put your book down and read it from cover to cover in one night. I absolutely loved it” S
“my mother’s family is from Istria, we are so proud to see that you have written a book about our heritage, may it never be lost and forever remembered” V
“Such a wonderful journey into Istria through your personal stories and of course beautiful recipes” M
“I just wanted to tell you that I just received Istria cook book in the mail. I’ve been quite emotional this afternoon going through it. So many of the recipes have been such staples in my life. The beautiful stories you share about your family are almost identical to the stories I have grown up hearing from my nonna and nonna. I just wanted to thank you for creating such a beautiful cookbook, my nonno is no longer with us and my nonna is very old and doesn’t cook any more but this book brought back special memories for me and has emphasised my connection to culture ” G
Here is a photo of the seaside town of Fasana/Fazana, in Istria.
I have held a few virtual celebrations of the book:
- LIVE launch of Istria with Tania Pietracatella from the Little Italian School in Perth
- LIVE launch of Istria and How to be Italian with Maria Pasquale from Heart Rome in Rome
And there are a few podcast recordings:
- A writer in Italy – episode 34 – Paola’s Istria (5 October 2021)
- SBS radio – IIstria, ricette di famiglia di Paola Bacchia (13 October 2021) – in Italian
I would love to have a few in-person celebrations for Istria, but I am going to take it slow for the moment. The psyche of Melbournians in particular (the most locked-down city in the world!) has been shattered over the last 20 months and it will take us some time to fully emerge from it all. In the meantime, and many of you will understand this if the queues outside the barber shops in Melbourne yesterday are anything to go by, I cannot wait for my hairdresser to call me to say there is an appointment waiting for me!!
Cooking classes and tours update:
- I am running an online cooking class with the Milk Street Cooking School in Boston. We will be making a couple of recipes from Istria on Tuesday 9 November at 6pm EST (New York time) – this is 10am AEDT Wednesday 7 November in Melbourne/Sydney. Please click here for further details and to get a 15% discount on the cost of the class. I would love to see some of you online at the class!
- I am running occasional online cooking classes. In the next few months there is a savoury strudel class, an apple strudel class plus a special Christmas sweets class where we will make a zuccotto (panettone and ricotta pudding)and panforte. Click here for details
- I will be running some in-person classes again in 2022 (in March and April). These will be for those with outstanding vouchers who have not been able to redeem them during the pandemic or for those who elected to not obtain a refund from classes cancelled in 2020/2021. If this applies to you, please have a look at what classes there are available and the dates and email me.
- PUGLIA TOUR 2022 – YES! It looks like the tour of southern Puglia will run with Southern Visions Travel 27 May – 4 June 2022. Please click here for more information
. PS I will be in Europe for three months May – July and I cannot wait!
Here is a recipe from Istria that I would like to share with you: hazelnut cheese biscuits. I made them today to take to a friend’s house tonight – we are going over to play Briscola – and the recipe also happens to be one that Nigella listed in her book review. They are savoury biscuits (or cookies) to enjoy over a glass or wine, or an aperitivo, or over a game of cards. Thank you so much to those of you who have bought Istria; your support and appreciation of the book is so important to me.
Hazelnut cheese biscuits (biscotti salati con nocciole)
Makes about 30
200g plain flour
50g spelt flour (or wholemeal flour)
80g hazelnuts, ground to a flour
¼ tsp nutmeg, ground
big pinch cayenne pepper
60g Emmenthal or Jarlsberg cheese, finely grated
90g unsalted butter, softened
1 – 2 tablespoons milk (for brushing)
¼ tsp sea salt
Place the flours, nuts and spices in a large bowl. Whisk briefly to combine. Add the finely grated cheese, the butter and the lightly beaten egg. Mix with a large spoon and then with your hands to mix and bring the dough together, adding a few teaspoons of water. Shape into two logs, each about about 12 cm in length. Wrap tightly in parchment, twisting the ends so that the dough parcel is sealed off. Place in the fridge for about an hour or even overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a couple of tray with parchment or baking paper and slice the dough log into rounds, about 5-6mm thick. I used a 6cm cookie cutter to help me make the perfect round, bashing the surface with the side of a wide knife to make the top flat. Brush on a little milk and crush a few salt flakes with your finger tips and scatter on each biscuit before placing in the oven.
Bake for about 14 minutes until the biscuits turn golden around the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for 4 or 5 days.