An Interview with a Cook as Delightful as Her Books – Tessa Kiros & Her Torta Tartufata
Have I mentioned how much I enjoy writing a food blog? I get to utterly indulge my personal interests, appetite and the nosey part of my nature, I’ve been the guest of some remarkable food and wine producing businesses, groups and organisations and I’ve had the opportunity to met more talented, passionate and inspiring people than I’d have ever imagined possible. A couple of weeks ago I added another notch in my belt when I was able to spend some time with much-loved author Tessa Kiros.
Tessa is the author of seven bestselling titles (at least 5 of which are on my shelves) and was in Australia for her first ever promotional trip here, headlining the Crave Sydney International Food Festival before touring nationally to share her newest book, Limoncello and Linenwater (Murdock Books). Although Adelaide was her last stop on the gruelling two week tour, with no days off in that time, Tessa still found the grace to be charming, engaging, interesting and interested. I’d had a tricky afternoon before I was due to meet her and arrived slightly discombobulated, but she has a happy knack of setting people at their ease and within minutes I was relaxed and completely smitten with her as she agreeably answered my questions.
With food which is informed by many different cultures – Finnish, Greek, Italian, South African – I couldn’t help but wonder who are the people who Tessa looks up to and respects? While she credits the current craze for food-based television shows with the growth in interest in seasonal and sustainable eating, Tessa doesn’t watch them. Her food clearly has it’s feet firmly planted in her family, her background and her travel, but her first influencers outside of that, and those she still counts as among the most important, date from her early working days – first as a waitress in a restaurant with Angela Dwyer as head chef, next working under restauranteur and chef Corrine Young and thirdly Ketty Koufonicola-Touros, the Greek mother of her childhood friend (and long-time food stylist). Given that her new book is a tribute to her Italian mother-in-law – and all the women in her (and our) lives – I was beginning to sense a strong matriarchal theme.
Tessa’s books are – without exception – beautiful. They are lavishly photographed with images of the food and it’s inspirations, but they all also have a very strong personal touch and the latest is no exception with it’s photographs of Italian women and their household tips and hints, reminding me of a treasured family album. This is no accident and Tessa always has a very firm visual concept in mind for each of her books which is consistently carried through each publication and always with the help of her stylist whom she has known since birth and her photographer who is a long-time friend.
During our chat we each talked of our children, with me lamenting the fact I am now paying the price for my control issues in the kitchen with children who are reluctant to cook (with the exception of my cupcake-baking eldest who was herself inspired by Tessa’s book Apples for Jam). Tessa’s children are 12 and 14 years old respectively and while she encourages them, they are not yet overly keen. They are just beginning to show some interest and she is determined to get them to competency with 15 basic recipes before they fly the nest, giving them a fundamental repertoire on which to build.
I was keen to find find out what foods Tessa herself is interested in eating when she goes out or what she loves to prepare at home. She lives in Tuscany – a glorious part of the world, but one that can be a little homogenous when it comes to food so when she is away from home she loves to take the opportunity to indulge in a fondness for Vietnamese or Indian food. I was thrilled to discover that her favourite cuisine to prepare herself is, in fact, mine too – Middle Eastern. Finally, I had to know what she considers to be her absolutely sure-fire, drop-dead gorgeous, never-fail-to-impress dishes and she has three – her Shrimp with lemon, peri peri, garlic and feta, Gravalax with dill cucumbers and Finish mustard and her Cinnamon and Cardamom buns – all from her book Falling Cloudberries, and all soon to feature on my table!
I’ve chosen a delicious but dead simple recipe from her new book, Limoncello and Linenwater, to share with you today. It’s a cake and it’s chocolate and knocks up very quickly – and will impress at any table on which you choose to share it.
- 40 gms skinned hazelnuts
- 100 gms butter
- 120 gms dark chocolate chopped
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 3 eggs separated
- 100 gms sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 20 gms plain flour
- Icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Butter and flour 28cm spring form pan.
- Carefully toast nuts in a dry frypan over moderate heat, then roughly chop.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan, add chocolate and cocoa. Stir until smooth, remove from heat and cool.
- Using electric beaters, whip egg whites to snowy peaks & set aside.
- Use beaters to whip egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a wide bowl until creamy.
- Stir in flour, nuts and a pinch of salt.
- Very gently fold in egg whites with a metal spoon.
- Scrape into tin, bake for about 20-30 minutes until top is dry, but middle is still moist and soft.
- Dust with icing sugar to serve.