The Essential Oil Chef's Fig Tart

The Essential Oil Chef's Fig Tart

Carlo and I recently returned home from a holiday in Cambodia. I loved the heat and the beautiful fruit - it was all so bountiful and inexpensive, too.

My dear friend Andrea taught me this wonderful raw recipe, which you can top with tropical fruit or figs, depending what is in season. She's a chef too, and a dedicated doTerra oil fan, and uses them in the most wonderful way in her recipes.

This tart is raw, and super simple to make. It requires just a little patience - waiting for the tart base to chill, and delicate handling, but you'll be richly rewarded by the luscious clean flavours.

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Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Gin and Blueberry Soup Recipe

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Gin and Blueberry Soup Recipe

Hands up gin lovers? I have an amazing fact for you - 90% of the worlds gin is made from juniper berries grown within 100km of Cortona, Tuscany. Wild juniper berries literally cover the paddocks around our home town.

So I'll soon be making my own gin, with neighbour Tina who has a still, which I can use in this panna cotta recipe as well as the odd gin and tonic (yum!)

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Canape Recipe: Crostini with a Peperonata Salsa

Canape Recipe: Crostini with a Peperonata Salsa

We arrived home in Tuscany after spending the Australian summer in our Yallingup home, Wildwood Valley.

With so many friends to catch up with, I've been making little nibbles and canapes each day. This recipe is a winner - it's easy, everyone loves it and you can make it ahead. Enjoy!

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Ciambellone (Italian Olive oil cake)

Ciambellone (Italian Olive oil cake)

You can always depend on this cake - it always turns out just right, with a zesty lemon flavour to boot. Olive oil gives it a marvellous moist texture, and it stays fresh even a day or two after cooking.

We recently harvested over 700kg of olives from Carlo's family property and they have been cold pressed into a peppery olive oil. So it's the perfect time to make the luscious Tuscan ciambellone to eat with our coffee.

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Cantucci di Noce (Hazelnut Biscotti)

Cantucci di Noce (Hazelnut Biscotti)

I'll always remember it fondly - finishing my first meal in Florence with a plate of biscotti and Vin Santo. It was utterly delicious and felt so authentic. I was travelling with Mum and a week later I met Carlo.

Vin Santo is a traditional Tuscan sticky (dessert wine) and I'm sure you'll be able to find a bottle in your local liquor store. You could always swap it for your favourite dessert wine - perhaps a Juniper Estate Cane Cut Riesling or Vasse Felix Cane Cut Semillon.

Many cantucci recipes use almonds but I particularly love hazelnuts in this recipe.

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Making Olive Oil in Tuscany

Making Olive Oil in Tuscany

Our Italian tour season ended a few weeks ago so we've been spending time with family and friends. We spent the last weekend of October picking olives with Carlo’s family, and the glorious sunshine has made the olive picking season an absolute pleasure.

It was a generous harvest this year - we picked 700kg of olives. Carlo’s dad took them to the local pressing factory and it produced 110 litres of superb olive oil.

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Potato and Ricotta Tortelli with Ragu

Potato and Ricotta Tortelli with Ragu

A rainy day is the perfect time to get out the pasta machine and your biggest Le Creuset pot and make a beautiful batch of fresh pasta and ragu. I'll often make a double batch of ragu and freeze some to pull out as dinner after a busy day. Italian "fast food"!

This ragu has a 50/50 mix of beef and pork mince for ultimate flavour. You could skip the tortelli filling and make wide strips of pasta instead, but this is worth investing the extra time and the kids are fantastic and creating the little tortelli. Teach your children to make pasta too - they can turn the handle from the age of about 2, and will graduate to eventually make you dinner!

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Our plentiful potato and onion harvest

Our plentiful potato and onion harvest

The kids and I have had a busy day in the vegetable garden just recently with Nonno digging up all the potatoes and red onions. I am inspired by how much I am learning from Carlo’s father and the neighbours about the vegetable garden. Growing your own is par for the course here, and there's a wealth of heirloom herbs, vegetables and fruit to choose from. These old, original varieties have incredible flavour.

Here are 2 recipes that bring out the best in homegrown potatoes or onions. Enjoy!

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Holiday snaps from Mad About Tuscany, Cortona

I just had a lovely email from Scott Ledger and his wife Julie who have arrived home safely in Queensland from their Italian holiday. They found us on Google when searching for Tuscan holidays and we're so glad they did - it was a delight to have their company. Their tour group comprised of 4 separate couples, none of whom had previously met. They formed fantastic friendships and have planned not only to keep in touch, but to have a reunion in 2017.

Scott and Julie have shared with us some fabulous photos of his week in Cortona on the Mad About Tuscany Tour.

Great photos of lunch under the trees and also at Matteo's restaurant!

Thanks for sharing, Scott and Julie. It was our pleasure to show you around Tuscany.