useful, rested and a lost knife


The useful recipe is my version of Anna del conte’s daughter’s chocolate and almond cake, which is a bit of a mouthful I know, but in my family cakes always have to have a name attached to them, which then roots that cake to a time and a person forever. I have no memory whatsoever of the neighbour Freida who gave my mum the recipe for marmalade cake, but her cake is still made and she is given credit every time, Frieda immortalised in sticky slice with swirls. Back though to my version of Anna del conte’s daughter’s chocolate and almond cake, the sort of cake that can be made without too much fuss, and then taken anywhere, hence the useful. It is also so good it may require an armed guard.

The recipe for Braised chicken really is – like me – better after a rest. I enjoyed writing that piece very much as I am very attached to my Butcher. I also enjoyed writing about My kitchen equiptment. for a special edition of Cook. I still haven’t found that knife!  I would love to know about your kitchen bits and pieces, the things that have grafted themselves onto your cooking life in an essential, almost superstitious way.

Which brings us to this week, and a recipe for baked pasta from my friend Cinzia – who you may rememeber as the owner of the generous lemon tree. It is a favourite recipe especially for summer weekends – long, slow days when windows are wide and routines go out of them, so something made earlier to bake and eat whenever is welcome.

That is it for now, but more soon. R



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sinking in


Sometimes you leave the dishes for a bit to long, other things too. Hello. I have decided that a good way of keeping up here, is to link up to my weekly column in The Guardian every Friday at this time, so 4 0′ clock Roman Time.

The column is now called A Kitchen in Rome, but my faithful sink still features from time to time. The plan is that I also include things here that I didn’t have space for in the column, a recipe I mention in the article perhaps, another picture, or something I forgot. In fact let me start straight away by noting that in today’s column I talk about Roman Misticanza, a mixed salad of wild greens and herbs. An hour or so after submitting my column, I came across a paragraph in a book from the 1970’s which suggests adding large peeled grapes to the misticanza. It find this idea thoroughly lovely. I can imagine the sweetness of the grapes – big, crisp greens one that burst between your teeth – contrasting with the bitter leaves. I also want to further mention a book I refer to in the Column, Gillian Riley’s Oxford Companion to Food. It is my constant companion, always open on my desk as a reference book and source of inspiration. Informative, illuminating and witty it is an irresistible book. If you love Italian food and culture, I highly recommend it.

More housekeeping, I now have a new website. It is very basic, bare bones really, but it is a place in which I can gather everything together, practical things about the book, events and workshops I am doing. It also means this blog, updated intermittently but faithfully, can be kept for stories and recipes. I will be writing more about Sicily in the coming months, as soon we are about to decamp to A Kitchen in Gela so I can work on my second book, the working title of which is Two kitchens. The house in Gela has a terrific sink, Vincenzo’s grandmother’s sink, which I enjoy standing at very much (even though I could do with being 6 inches shorter).


But for now, back to A kitchen in Rome. This week’s column is all about Wild greens, and not so wild greens. You can also scroll back and read some of the 26 columns of you like, my favourite of which is about lemons.


More soon.


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the language of food 2016


The best laid plans, get turned on their head. Or maybe shuffled is a better word. The timetable Luisa and I had drawn up for The first Language of Food was full but measured, and neatly punctuated with rest and free time. It was then shuffled like a pack of cards, and every gap filled when it became clear that everyone wanted to write more, see more, cook more, talk more, taste more. Not that this presented a problem. Quite the opposite in fact, having a group that was so greedy for it all was completely brilliant: enthusiasm it seems, makes time. We fitted in more hours with Fabrizia in the kitchen, more time in the olive groves and garden with Ben the gardener eating herbs and greens like rabbits, and more time writing, discussing (nattering) and reading at the library table, the white embroidered cloth covered with open books of inspiring food writing, Sicilian sun filtering through the thin curtains.

Keep expectations flexible, is one of my dad’s favorite expressions. It was how Luisa and I approached our first writing workshop together, after all we really had no idea what to expect. Of course we’d planned discussion, exercises and talks – especially Luisa who has much more experience than me – and everyone had read the chosen pieces. But we still had no idea what it would be like. Keep expectations flexible. Then in much the same way they had approached time, Anna, Gry, Susanne, Elizabeth, Gayle and Francesca approached writing, bowling us over with their enthusiasm. Of course there was inhibition and caution, but isn’t there always? Beyond that were honest, moving, funny words, and a willingness to write, and write.

Before we started, someone asked me how much you can learn from a five day food writing workshop. My answer a year later, is plenty: about your own writing habits and those of others; better understand what it is about particular pieces of writing that draws you in (and what doesn’t); how to take advice; how your writing affects others; the importance of reading the good stuff; the need to start writing regardless of a hundred doubts; the importance of editing and editing (yes I wish I had an editor for this); How to write a good, clear recipe; when to show (stories and details) and when to tell. These were some of the things we learned, most of them blindingly obvious maybe, but no less useful beacuse of it. Things we put into practice while we were together, but more importantly took away with us, hoping they would worm their way into our writing, which they did (we have all kept in touch).


Predictably the location, an extraordinary cooking school on the crest of a hill overlooking a valley in Sicily, was inspiring. Not only because it is so magnificent and atmospheric, but because you are so close to the source of so much, golden fields of wheat, orchards of citrus, vines dotted with the first signs of budding grapes, ancient olive trees with their twisted trunks and mad windswept branches that look like Einstein’s hair, six foot wild fennel plants with gangly stems and tops that look like inverted lacy umbrellas, the disconcerting tangle that is a lentil and chickpea plants (actual lentils and chickpeas on actual plants – I was stunned). I could go on. Close to the source, and also stories: thousands of years of history and tradition seem on a sort of parallel plane in Sicily, as if you can touch it all, eat it all, which of course you can. I can’t help but think of a Jane Grigson quote here, that food, its quality, its orgins, its preparation is something to be studied and thought about in the same way as any other aspect of the human existence, and then think that Sicily is a fine place to do this.

Then there was the preparation of food as a group, one of life’s great pleasures, the scents and our words fighting for airspace. The food we cooked and ate was inextricably tied with the place. It also transported us – as only food and talking about food can – from a valley in Sicily, to England in the 1970’s, Berlin in the 80’s, a supermarket in Chicago, New York restaurants, Canadian winters, Strawberry eating in Germany, a childhood in Sweden. We thought and wrote about family, traditions, etymology, fast food, slow food and everything in between, politics, life and loss. Food writing it turns out, is about everything.

All this to introduce the fact that Luisa, Fabrizia and I are thrilled to be holding the second edition of the Language of Food this June at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school. The Itinerary is below, set but flexible. Rest assured we will be writing, reading, cooking, exploring, making merry each night. I have written about the school before, so you may like to read that. Luisa has also written about last year’s LOF. Also go follow the progress of Cook the Farm, a 10 week course that is happening at the school now, it will give you a great sense of the place. Now I know it is a big commitment, but it is going to be wonderful, it would be lovely if you could come.


The Language of Food second edition, June 20 – 25 2o16.

Before the course participants will receive six pieces of writing, each one highlighting a aspect of food writing we will then discuss. This years selection include peices By Mary Taylor Simetti, Jane Grigson, Fushia Dunlop, Simon Hopkinson, Deborah Madison and M.F.K.Fisher.

The Itinerary

Day 1: Monday, June 20
Arrive in late afternoon or early evening, introductory discussion over Sicilian aperitifs and then welcome dinner at Case Vecchie.

Day 2: Tuesday, June 21
Morning introductory writing workshop in three parts, followed by lunch at Case Vecchie

Afternoon visit to local shepherd and cheesemaker Filippo Privitera, where we will watch traditional ricotta production and sample both freshly produced cheeses and the family’s aged cheeses. Post visit writing session.

Salad collecting and garden talk with Rachel, Luisa and the gardeners,.

Dinner at Case Vecchie. • Post-dinner gathering and reading.

Day 3: Wednesday, June 22
A morning trip to natural hot springs. Late morning writing session, followed by lunch.

Kitchen round table writing session about descrptive food writing, and clear recipe writing.

Cooking lesson on Sicilian classics and dinner. Film in library.

Day 4: Thursday, June 23
Morning writing workshop, bread making tutorial and lunch at Case Vecchie.

Afternoon individual writing tutorials and then group session

Evening visit to the Case Grandi winery for a tasting workshop, where we will sample a variety of Tasca d’Almerita wines and learn a little about the language of wine. Dinner at Case Grandi.

Day 5: Friday June 24
Morning cooking lesson focusing on cous cous with Fabrizia, followed by lunch

Afternoon writing workshop followed by writing tutorials and then a group discussion.

Salad collecting and garden walk with Rachel, Luisa, and the gardeners, final dinner and after dinner readings in the garden.

Day 6: sat June 25
Final group round table and discussion, sharing of work for book.

Lunch and then departure


We hope the conversation from our writing community will continue through online discussion and continued feedback.

The cost

All-inclusive: 2,500 euros per person for single-occupancy, 2,300 euros per person for double occupancy. There are a maximum of 9 places. For more imformation and booking please get in touch with or through the school website.



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I have this kitchen


The first copies have been spotted in Toronto. In a bookshop of all places! An eagle-eyed friend send me a picture of what looks like a real huddle of books, two of which are brazenly facing out to show off a picture of my table, a little Duralex glass of coffee, my much loved Moka pot, a piece of a Roman Christmas cake called pangaillo (yellow bread), a bowl of oranges and lemons, and the words My Kitchen in Rome, Rachel Roddy. The picture came through with a beep and then it glowed through the screen breaking the absolute darkness in the bedroom at my parents house deep in the Dorset countryside. I have written another book I thought! I am prolific. Then I remembered it was the same book, just with another cover and title. A book that is now in a bookshop in Toronto and soon to be in more bookshops all over Canada, and on the 2nd of February in America. My American edition! I feel so international, and proud that my book has the chance to do what I have always longed for, that is travel to the other side the Atlantic. I haven’t seen a real copy yet, so my next thought was to check they had airbrushed the dirty mark off the wall behind the table, which of course they have. Wide awake, I came downstairs to write this in the middle of the night. Now the wind is howling what sounds like congratulations outside the kitchen window, I have a celebratory coffee in my hand, and feel very happy.

The cover and name maybe be different, but inside is just the same, give or take the odd cup. Actually lots of cups, as the recipes have been patiently converted. The baking though is in both cups and metric, which is thanks to my testers and their conviction that offering both was right. I think we have also changed the words palaver and draining board. In short, little changes, but the book, whether Five Quarters with a sink, or My Kitchen in Rome with a table, remains the same.


Many of you know the story. I didn’t intend to stay in Rome. I was set on returning to Sicily to finish the clockwise journey I’d interrupted. Then I visited a part of the city called Testaccio, which tripped me up with its cocky charm. I decided to stay for a while and rented a flat above a breadshop, across a courtyard from boisterous trattoria and seconds from the burly old market. My front door opened onto a narrow balcony overlooking an internal courtyard which was sort of vortex of cooking smells and vigorous Roman life.

There is an Elizabeth Bowen quote (that we were given permission to use on page 252) pointing out the injunction to do when in Rome as the romans do is superfluous: what else is there to do?  Of course I was going to eat pizza bianca just pulled from the mouth of a baker’s oven, flowers dipped in batter and fried until golden, carbonara, spaghetti alle vongole, gnocchi with tomato sauce, whole braised artichokes, bitter greens cooked with olive oil and garlic, wobbly cream puddings, wild cherry tart. Seasonal, uncomplicated, bold, and with flavours that are undisguised and definite: Roman food was a revelation. And I didn’t just want to eat these dishes, I wanted to try to understand them, to make them. I have always cooked and written, but the two met, collided really, in a small wind ventilated kitchen on Via Mastro Giorgio.


I’d left everything behind in order to travel. I adopted a similar approach to cooking, allowing myself to watch, taste, experiment and learn things all over again, especially the blindingly obvious things. Such as how to make a soffritto, the simplest tomato sauce and bean soup, how to braise vegetables and meat in wine and their own juices, to boil pasta and soak chickpeas, all things I ostensibly knew how to do, but then again didn’t. Things that, once re-learned and better understood changed the way I cook. I cooked and kept notes, and cooked and kept notes. In 2008 my notes found a home here on this blog, and now seven years later a new home in this book.

My Kitchen in Rome: Recipes and Notes on Italian cooking is the full name of the US/Canadian edition. Nick Seaton, a photographer whose work I like very much, came and more-or-less lived with us and our chaos for a days at a time in order to capture Testaccio. His pictures, which feel like acute sideways glances at this distinct part of Rome, are honest and beautiful and add another dimension to the book. The rest of the pictures are mine, taken over the course of the year in our small kitchen as I cooked my way though the seasons and the 120 recipes.


Swelling the fact that a book is the hard, dedicated work of many, I now want to thank the team at Grand Central, especially my Editor Brittany McInerney. I would also like to thank my first editor Sara Weiss, the first person to approach me about a book, years before anyone else. Sara, you planted the seed.

Above all though, Thank you to you, for reading, cooking, commenting and for the real sense of community that exists here. Without you, this book, in two editions, would quite simply never have happened. I know some of you have bought the UK edition, but for those of you who have waited long eight months, cheering me along all the way, you can now buy a copy if you wish, from a bookshop, or here on line. Please let me know if you do, one of the joys of the glowing, beeping,web is that so many of us can keep in touch, send me a message here, or on twitter, or instagram, I want to know. I am finishing my second book now, but just as soon as that is delivered I am planning to come the US, visit some bookshops if they will have me, and hopefully meet some of you. It all feels very exciting.

Now it is light, and although a grey Dorset day, feeling very bright, and I need more coffee. More soon. R



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a true tale

DSC_4997I’d intended to post this week’s Kitchen Sink Tales yesterday, meaning Thursday, the day gnocchi is traditionally eaten in Rome. Of course you can eat them whenever the heck, or day you want. Having been the woman Artusi writes about – the one who puts her spoon in the boiling gnocchi pan to stir, only to watch them disintegrate like a soluble aspirin in a glass of water – but now having got the knack, I hope I share that. I would love to know your stories, both good and bad, also the types of potato that work best for you, wherever you are, the egg or no egg.

I cannot sigh off without a deep, loving nod to Alan Rickman. Most actors (or in my case ex actor) have a tale set during their drama school years, when they queued for returns then sat thorough the same production half a dozen times, each performance more spine tingling than the previous. For me, it was Alan Rickman’s Anthony to Helen Mirren’s Cleopatra at the National Theatre in the late 90’s. I was hypnotized by his long, expressive face and body; both with a laid back seductiveness, and rich, resonant voice, somewhere between a purr, a snarl and a song, which came from almost disconcertingly closed lips. I can hear his voice now. Again in A Winter Guest at the Almeida, then films Truly Madly Deeply and Close My Eyes, he knocked me sideways. He was an actor who made me want to be an actor. Reading the tributes that are flooding in from those who knew him, all of which confirm his hypnotic brilliance, we learn too of his extraordinary loyalty, generosity, kindness, political integrity and boundless creativity. The world is a sadder place without him. It is going to sound naff maybe, but reading them, and thinking of AR has left me wanting to be kinder, more generous, more loyal and as creative as I can be.

Back soon with a recipe.



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4 tales and 5 things



Bloody Kitchen Sink Tales, nothing for weeks, and then four of them come along at once, Cabbage, Chestnuts, Lemons, and Potatoes. Some of recipes will not be new for longtime readers here, especially Pasta e patate which I have written about several times, a reflection of how often I make it. Also in The Guardian this week was a piece from Bee Wilson’s New book, First Bite. I generally run a mile from the words diet and detox, even if they have the word No before them. My cautious self though, was glad to have read this wise, scholarly but human piece. Another piece I enjoyed very much was The smell of Loss by Julie Myerson.

I am sorry that I am not writing here more. I could (happily) try to blame The Guardian, but really it is because I am accomplished at procrastinating and then write very slowly. I am also working on my next book, the working title of which is Two Kitchens, one being here in Rome, the other the one we have partly inherited in Sicily. I will be back here soon though, I have things to tell you about.

Meanwhile, I am happy to announce that Luisa, Fabrizia and I are running the second edition of The Language of Food in June at The Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking school in Sicily. You can also look at the time-table here. You might like to read what I wrote last year, and the post Luisa wrote after our first edition, a most glorious week.  It is a big commitment I know, but I hope that some of you may be able to consider it. Please feel free to write me an email if you want to know more.

Lastly and most importantly, Happy New Year, I hope 2016 is as good as can be for you all. Thank you so much for your support this year, for reading and commenting here and over at The Guardian, for buying the book  – the US edition of which is out in less than a month – for reading it and then splattering it with tomato sauce, hot fat or pasta cooking water. I mean it when I say I feel very fortunate.


And the fifth thing, may I suggest boiling a whole orange for Claudia Roden’s Orange and almond cake. Quite aside from the cake it plays a part in, the smell as it simmers is stupendous, the truest sort of aromatherapy, just the thing for these long January days, maybe.

More soon –  Rachel


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catching up


That slightly rotten looking apple hiding in the picture, the one I nearly threw away, was such a good apple. It had that curious, sweet and musty ‘Granny’s attic’ smell, which transported me down to my parent’s cellar in winter when one wall is stacked with boxes of newspaper packed Bramleys. Two weeks in the bowl and the apple had wrinkled like fingers-in-a-bath into tight, sweetness and tasted of nuts and honey. I am not even sure what the variety was! I will have to ask the apple man at the farmers market on Sunday when I buy more. The oranges in the bowl were for Kitchen Sink Tales which you can read over at The Guardian if you would like.

I have also written about winter tomato sauce and spaghetti. Ostensibly easy things, that are – I find – difficult to make well. This provokes quite strong views, all of which I am trying to embrace as I learn how to write for a newspaper. As Vincenzo would say, Coraggio, ideally with a glass of wine. This week I also mention George Clooney. You can read the article here if you like.

More soon R




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