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Less than one week to go until my new cookbook “Istria – recipes and stories from the hidden heart of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia”!  It has been so exciting to receive boxes of books and wrap and sign them in preparation to be be sent out to those who pre-ordered the book from me. I have almost exhausted my supply of books and when I tried to order more from my publisher Smith Street Books, I was advised that the Australian warehouse was out of stock of the first printing, and a second printing has been ordered (to arrive in mid November). Online sellers, larger bookshops and smaller bookshops who got in early bought up the first printing a few weeks back. There appears to be plenty of supply in the rest of the world and if you pre-ordered (thank you!) you should hopefully receive the book in the next couple of weeks.

Although we are in the midst of a very long lockdown in Melbourne, there will still be launch events, albeit virtually. There will be a couple of Instagram LIVE events:

  •  Book Launch with Tania Pietracatella (@the_little_italian_school in Perth, WA) – on Friday 1 October at 7pm AEST (5pm Perth time, 11am Italy, 10am London) – so join me and Tania for a Friday night aperitivo (or coffee if you live in a time zone where there is a large time difference) as we chat about the book and answer your questions. You need to have an Instagram account to watch this. It will be saved on Tania’s IGTV feed on Instagram in case you cannot watch it live.

  • LIVE with Maria Pasquale (@heartrome)  on Thursday 7 October at 8.30pm AEST (12.30pm Italy). Maria is currently in Rome (lucky her!) and we both have the same book publisher and the same publication date for her new book “How to be Italian”. We will both be chatting about our books and answering your questions.

Cooking classes:

  • Apple strudel class via Zoom on Sunday 10 October at 9am AEST (Melbourne) – we will be learning to stretch the super thin pastry that is in three of the recipes in “Istria”. The class time should suit my friends in the USA as well.

  • Tuesday 9 November at 6pm EST (New York time) I am very excited to be be running a cooking class for the Milk Street School in Boston. We will be making a couple of recipes from “Istria”: semolina gnocchi and a really delicious vegetable broth

The next few weeks I will be recording an interview with Magica Fossati at SBS radio in Melbourne and podcast with Michelle Johnston “A writer in Italy”. Stay tuned for details of when they will be broadcast or available to listen to.

There has been some media attention too:

  • a spread of 6 recipes that looks just lovely “Feast of Flavours” pg 135- 141 in October 2021 edition of Australian Home Beautiful

  • article/interview “Eating Istria” pg 56 – 58 in the September/November XXIV issue of Segmento Magazine

  • article/interview in US-based Authority Magazine “How I turned my hobby into a career”

  • An article/interview (in Slovenian) in foodie magazine “An Australian who wrote a cookbook about Istria” in Odpurta Kuhinja (Open kitchen)

Today I am sharing one of the recipes from my book with you. Those of you who have been following me for 7 or 8 years will recognise this recipe, which I posted on my blog back then. It is my mother’s delicious ricotta cake.

I have sold out of all my copies of “Istria”, but you can buy it from Booktopia (it is on sale and will be I imagine until publication day) or via your local bookshop or online book seller.

As written in my book:

I have always loved this cake – the sweet ricotta dotted with grappa-soaked sultanas and pine nuts, with a hint of citrus throughout. I still make it in mamma’s old metal rectangular cake tin with its rounded edges. Every time I bake it, I think of our times together in the kitchen. If she let me stir the ricotta filling I would sneak quite a few spoonfuls before she spread it over the base, prompting her to comment that there was always less than she thought she had prepared.

This cake tastes much better when it has cooled completely, and even better the next day, perhaps for breakfast with a cup of espresso. Some who have made this cake have substituted the sultanas for chocolate chips, which, if you love chocolate, would also work well.

I hope to see you at one of my Instagram LIVE events and perhaps at an actual event once our vaccination rates hit their targets.

Paola xx

Livia's ricotta cake

For the filling
500 g (1 lb 2 oz/2 cups) ricotta, drained
40 g (11/2 oz) self-raising flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins), soaked in grappa for at least 2 hours, drained
80 g (23/4 oz) sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
For the batter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
100 g (31/2 oz) butter, melted then cooled
100 g (31/2 oz) sugar
zest 1/2 lemon
250 g (9 oz/12/3 cups) self-raising flour
185 ml (6 fl oz/3/4 cup) milk, plus extra if needed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F) conventional. Butter the base and sides of a 24–26 cm (91/2–10 inch) square cake tin and line with baking paper.

To make the filling, place the ricotta in a large bowl and mix well with a spoon to remove all lumps. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together until homogenous. Set aside.

Place all the batter ingredients in another bowl and mix with a spoon until well combined. The batter should be easily spreadable, so add a bit more milk if needed.

Spoon just under half the batter into the cake tin, spreading it evenly. Spoon all the ricotta filling evenly over the batter, so that it almost touches the edge of the tin, then flatten it with the back of a spoon. Pour on the remaining batter so that it evenly covers the ricotta and fills in the small gap around the inner perimeter of the cake tin. Tap slightly on the bench if needed to even out the cake batter.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until golden on top and firm to touch.

Allow to cool completely in the cake tin, before inverting to remove.

The ricotta cake is lovely cold or at room temperature, and will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 days.

Extract from “Istria – recipes and stories from the hidden heart of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia” by Paola Bacchia, Publisher Smith Street Books (c) 2021, Editor Lucy Heaver; Designer Vanessa Masci

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