Interview: Giulia Scarpaleggia
Giulia has written five cookbooks and has an acclaimed blog featuring delicious, faithful Tuscan recipes. She also runs cookery classes from her countryside kitchen.
What made you realize that food was at the centre of your world?
I’ve always loved food, since I was a child. Cooking with grandma and with mum was fun, one of my favourite activities on a sunday morning. But I really realised that food was at the centre of my world when I was working in an office, in a communication job I really did not like.
I would come back home and cook: fresh pasta, risotto, a cake. Anything that I could improvise with a bunch of random ingredients from my mum’s pantry and fridge. This is when I started my food blog, in 2009, and slowly my passion for food and cooking took over every single spare moment.
I like to think that it is my honesty and authenticity. I am a Tuscan born and bred food lover, and all my recipes are usually related to memories or family stories. I like simple, seasonal food, and I share recipes that are easy and fun to make.
What is your favourite month of the year in the kitchen and why?
I love seasonal produce, so I am usually excited when the months pass as new ingredients are introduced into my cooking routines. But if I have to choose one month, it would probably be October. After the summer heat, it is finally time for squash, mushrooms, soups, stews and bruschetta with new olive oil.
2018 was an incredible year for you personally and professionally – would you like to share a couple of highlights?
Well, first and foremost my wedding in late September. We had a homemade country wedding, we prepared fresh ravioli for all our guests, liqueurs and jams for the cheeses, we held the ceremony in our tiny country church and we gathered with family and friends after the wedding in the nearby agriturismo. It was exactly what we had hoped for: simple honest food and the people we love around us.
Your speciality is Tuscan food. How do you suggest people living abroad source the best ingredients to recreate your recipes?
I think farmers’ markets are always a good place to start. And speciality stores, off line and on line, now are definitely supplying everything you might need. Oh, yes, a trip to Tuscany might also be a good idea!
This said, I think that when you share a recipe you should also give the instruments to guide your readers to be able to replicate it with what they have.
What is your greatest extravagance in the kitchen?
I like quality, so I prefer to buy local meat at the butcher, seasonal vegetables at the market, local stone ground flours from farmers. So probably my greatest extravagance it the time I spend sourcing for the ingredients I like, and the bucket of Maldon salt I buy every year to sprinkle over tomato salads, fish, meat and chocolate cakes!
You undoubtedly use Extra Virgin Olive Oil in almost all of your dishes… can you think of a recipe that is suitable for January that you would share with us that includes EVOO?
After the first frost cavolo nero is at its best, so in January cavolo nero is tender, sweeter, less fibrous. A bruschetta with cannellini beans and boiled cavolo nero, sprinkled with salt and black pepper and finished with a generous drizzle of EVOO is my idea of winter comfort food.
Do you use a variety of different olive oils in your kitchen? Can you talk me through this?
Oh yes! I have a good quality 100% Italian EVOO oil that I use for cooking, including frying. Then I have a local Tuscan EVOO and a Sicilian EVOO – from Nocellara del Belice olives – that I use to drizzle over salads, soups, grilled meats and fishes, or simply toasted bread.
I like the Nocellara EVOO in summer over tomatoes, and I prefer the Tuscan over my grilled meat.
I also bake with EVOO, in this case I am happy when I can use a lighter EVOO, a Leccino monocultivar from Tuscany, or a Ligurian EVOO.
What are your kitchen new year’s resolutions for 2019?
I want to eat simple honest food, and I want to get better at baking with my sourdough starter!
To discover some of Julia’s brilliant recipes, visit her blog: https://en.julskitchen.com/blog or follow her on Instagram @julskitchen