A Food & Travel Blog

An Interview with a Cook as Delightful as Her Books – Tessa Kiros & Her Torta Tartufata

26/10/2012 | By

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.

Print Recipe
4 from 1 vote

Torta Tartufata

The recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I used almonds which are much more prevalent here in Australia.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 -10
Author: Tessa Kiros


  • 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.



Subscribe to Lambs' Ears and Honey

Enter your Email
  1. Jane @ Shady Baker

    Lovely Amanda! I love Tessa too…I have Apples for Jam. I read it often just for the beautiful photos and inspiration. I cook from it too, but it just has such a special ‘feel’.


  2. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    What a lovely sounding book…though I’m so in love with Limoncello anything that includes it has a tendency to sound lovely to me!

  3. Kate

    You lucky girl meeting Tessa !!

  4. Hotly Spiced

    I’ve seen both books you’ve featured but I’ve never known anything about Tessa. You are right, the books are very beautiful and the photos are amazing but I did think a pair of red shoes was a strange choice for the cover of a cookbook xx

  5. Lizzy (Good Things)

    Wonderful snippet Amanda. I love the latest book. It’s the only one I’ve actually seen. Apples for Jam sounds like my kind of book! Must investigate.

  6. My Kitchen Stories

    How lucky are you…..I think she is such an amazing author and I love the simplicity of her books. The recipes are great

  7. celia

    You lucky thing Amanda, Tessa’s books are gorgeous, how fun to meet up with her in person! The chocolate cake looks and sounds gorgeous!

  8. Jennifer @ Delicieux

    Wonderful interview Amanda!!! You’re so lucky to meet Tessa, she sounds like a truly wonderful person. I had a look at Tessa’s new book the other day at the shops and have to say it’s shot to the top of my Christmas wish list. It’s not only beautiful, but the recipes look delicious and achievable too, which I think is one of the reasons why Tessa is perhaps so successful. Love the Torta too. When can I come around for a cup of tea? 🙂

  9. Rosa

    Unfortunately I don’t possess any of her publications, but would love to own her cookbooks…

    That torta is magnificent! An addictive treat.



  10. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef

    Beautiful books and you brought her to life in a very human way. I think I’d like spending time with her too. Now I want to make this cake!

  11. InTolerant Chef

    What a lovely chance to catch up with such a lovely person too! I’ve always loved the names of her cookbooks, they just seem to be full of lovely memories and images somehow that she’s trying to share.

  12. abby @ teawiththemoon

    It’s great to know more about such a lovely person 🙂 I just recently heard about her and bought her newest cookbook and I’m smitten. It’s gorgeous from start to finish. Thanks for sharing your interview with Tessa!

  13. Tom

    4 stars
    Many thanks for the torta recipe. I’ve been buying Tessa’s books since Twelve and my only criticism is that the typeface is often difficult to read in kitchen conditions because of lack of contrast. Not her fault but the graphic design often seems to be more to look at than to use. The real reason for this post is a bit of information. Hazelnuts are readily available from Woolworth’s baking section, probably Coles too. It’s well worth using them rather than almonds – they have a lot more character and are less ubiquitous.