My maternal grandparents came from northern Italy, but settled in New Zealand, where my mother was born. My father, who was in the US military, hails from Kansas. They met and married in Rome, Italy, where I was born. My early years were spent travelling to different postings around the world, mostly in Italy, USA and NZ. I now live in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, with my partner, a local boy, and sing in the Catholic Cathedral Choir here.
My favorite things to cook
I'm especially fond of baked pasta dishes, such as cannelloni, and have made this for special meals such as Christmas and family occasions. My recipe for ragu' bolognese has been handed down from a great aunt in Tuscany. After living a while in New Orleans, I got a tast for Cajun cooking, and regularly make Jambalaya. I like "one-pot-meals", such as stews and soups, and Lancashire Hotpot, which makes great use of our NZ lamb. My partner loves steak, which I cook very simply, seasoned with salt and pepper, and panfried or grilled in olive oil, with a little white wine added. I also make a great Italian chicken dish with an egg-yolk and lemon sauce, which is a big favourite with family and guests. I love to bake, and my favourite "wow" dessert is a dark chocolate tart, served with creme fraiche and fresh berries - this is also a Christmas tradition in our household! My father also likes when I make chocolate chip cookies, and pineapple upside-down cake!
My favorite family cooking traditions
There is a strong Italian influence to my cooking, handed down from my mother's mother, and our years abroad. (I get twitchy if there isn't a healthy stock of dried pasta and tins of Italian tomatoes in the cupboard!) I'm also partial to experimenting with new flavours, and the "Pacific fusion" influences in NZ have informed my cooking repertoire. This includes some traditional English fare, such as roasts and baking, but also Asian cuisine, and seafood with a Mediterranean twist.
My cooking triumphs
Cooking 3 Christmas lunches for various groups of friends within a fortnight. I spent a whole weekend preparing the filling for cannelloni stuffed with a meat and spinach filling, seasoned with herbs and parmesan. The day before each party, I made thin crepes and stuffed them with the filling. On the day, these were covered with sauce, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and baked. I served an antipasto platter with breads, then came the cannelloni with green salad, and, for dessert, chocolate tart served with creme fraiche and fresh berries. All of this was washed down with lovely NZ and Italian wines, and desert was served with espresso coffee and liqueur. All three of the parties were a huge success! The best thing about it was that most of the food was able to be prepared beforehand, and I didn't need to exhaust myself on the day.
My cooking tragedies
I once tried to make a traditional NZ pavlova, which came out chewy and flat. I think I'll leave that one to the experts in future! I also once burnt the bottom of my jambalaya, which stunk the house out with the smell of burnt rice, and I had to throw away the pot! But I think the worst one was when I mistook the salt for sugar, and made the most revolting chocolate cake you've ever tasted! It smelt horrible too, so at least I was warned before I served it to my guests! They got vanilla icecream and fruit for dessert that night.