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There is nothing quite like a lockdown to get me back into the kitchen and cooking lunch each day. After spending most of last winter locked down at home, when we shared ample sit-down lunches each day, we maintained the routine. This meant that lunch was still the main meal and dinner was often just fruit. We agreed that this was a healthier way to live and it is actually nice to not roll into bed with a full belly. But once Mark went back to work in the office, it meant that we only enjoyed sit down proper meals (lunch) together on weekends or the occasional restaurant dinner. Proper meals for me mean being seated at the dining table, with food that has taken some time to prepare, and a post meal cake or biscuit to have with coffee. As much as I disliked being locked down (again!) for a few weeks in May/June, and then again in July 2021, I revelled in having the opportunity to make pasta or pastry for lunch every day with both of us working from home (and my part time job giving me the luxury of the time to cook and no young children requiring home schooling).


Most meals consist of pasta, rice or pastry; we eat meat occasionally as an accompaniment rather than it being the main part of the meal. There is usually a salad and sometimes a glass of wine. These are some of the meals we have been eating:

  • hand rolled orecchiette pasta with polpettine/meatballs; the recipe for the meatballs is in “Istria”
  • hand rolled maccheroni al ferro with green beans and tomatoes; the green bean recipe is based on one by Tessa Kiros (recipe below)
  • risotto made with the leftover polpettine/meatballs
  • hand rolled and cut egg fettuccine with pork sausage and broccoli
  • cauliflower and silverbeet pie; the recipe is in “Istria”
  • strudel with greens; the recipe is in “Istria”
  • nonna Onorina’s krafi – type of ravioli with a rather intriguing ricotta filling (recipe in Istria”)
  • salad with ingredients including radicchio, cos lettuce, avocado, fennel, cucumber, red onion, sliced apple, walnuts, shaved parmesan, crumbled feta cheese
  • jam crostata – link to the recipe is here
  • walnut and orange cake – link to the recipe is here
  • jam chifel (mini crescents with jam) – from Irina Georgescu’s fabulous book Carpathia. I will be posting the recipe for this one in the next few weeks

So as much as it has been difficult being at home, cooking lunches have brought me great joy. In other times they might have been dinners, but then the photos (full of natural light) would have had those shadows that you get when your ceiling has those pesky down lights!

The exciting news for me is that the publication date for “Istria – recipes and stories from the hidden heart of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia” is drawing closer! I am arranging launch events including a sit down 4 or 5 course dinner with recipes from the book on Thursday 7 October here in Melbourne. So pencil in the date if that is something that interests you and you are local. Here is the link to my cookbook page with details on buying the book on pre-order. I am so excited for this book, its recipes and stories, which are so close to my heart.

While things are thankfully looking good in Melbourne, my friends in Sydney are sadly in lockdown for the rest of the month. And the south-east corner of Queensland as well. Hopefully things improve, not only in Sydney, but in so many other countries. I am thankfully now fully vaccinated and so looking forward to eventually travelling again, in particular to Europe to see my daughter who I have not seen since January 2020. So many people are doing it hard at the moment. Hopefully the joys of cooking can bring a little happiness into your homes.

Paola X

green beans and tomatoes

800g green beans, topped and tailed
1 red onion, peeled and cut into thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tin San Marzano or plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
good pinch chilli
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Place the onion and olive oil in a large frypan with a pin of salt. Cook at low heat for about 20 minutes until soft, adding a bit of water if needed and making sure the onion stays soft and does not burn. It should be pale golden when ready. Add the garlic, half the parsley and the chilli flakes cook for a few minutes until fragrant, then add the tomato. Rinse the tin with 1/4 cup of water and toss that in the pan and raise the heat to medium. When it starts bubbling, add the beans and sprinkle on the cinnamon and a good amount of salt. Once everything starts bubbling, reduce the heat and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the beans are cooked to your liking, stirring occasionally and adding water if needed. Adjust salt to taste, scatter on the rest of the parsley. Enjoy on its own or as a sauce with your favourite pasta.

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