Antipasti are one of the best starters to serve and it takes the least time to prepare. All you need to do is buy some good-quality ingredients and arrange them on a large communal plate, or individual ones, and serve with some good sourdough bread.
Mixed olives, semi-sundried tomatoes, cured meats such as Parma ham, bresaola or finocchiona, salad leaves and this gorgeous marinated mozzarella make for a great start to any meal.
Serves 10 as part of an antipasti platter.
you will need
1 tsp fennel seeds
Â½ tsp chilli flakes
100ml olive oil
A few basil or marjoram leaves, torn
2 x 150g balls mozzarella
Lightly toast the fennel seeds in a small saucepan over a medium heat. After two minutes add the chilli flakes and olive oil. Leave on the heat for a minute to warm through.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the torn herbs. Leave to cool.
Half an hour before serving drizzle the torn mozzarella with the flavoured oil and leave at room temperature to marinade.
Pollo al Burro (Buttered Chicken)
A restaurant in Florence called Trattoria Sostanza is famous for this dish. I ate it several times there and tried to figure out what exactly made it taste so amazing. Brilliantly, the answer is simply lots of butter.
Serve with salad, or herby tabbouleh and lemon wedges.
This isn't an everyday dish, but it's a real winner and great for a special occasion. Serves 10.
you will need
10 free-range chicken breasts
150g plain flour
Salt and pepper
40ml olive oil, for frying
50g butter, for frying
An additional 100g butter for cooking
Preheat the oven to 200Â°C. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.
Evenly coat the chicken breasts in the flour.
Melt half the oil and butter in a large frying pan. Fry the chicken breasts over a high heat five at a time. After five minutes on each side, they turn a golden colour.
Transfer to an ovenproof dish while you colour the rest of the chicken with the remaining butter and oil.
Arrange all 10 chicken breasts snugly in the dish and dot evenly with the remaining 100g butter. Cover with butter paper or foil and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the butter paper; turn the chicken and spoon over some of the melted butter. Cook for a further five to 10 minutes until golden.
Italian Wedding Cake
Last year, we went to a lovely wedding in Tuscany. After the meal, the chef brought out a huge silver tray with a circular biscuit base. He then brought out several bowls with different berries and a big bowl of creamy ricotta. We all gathered around in awe as he lavishly decorated the cake with masses of ruby redcurrants and blueberries. The cake was heaving with fruit and tasted amazing.
As soon as I came home, I set about recreating the cake and this is the closest I've come to it so far. Serves 10.
you will need
500g digestive biscuits, crushed
3 tsps vanilla essence
3 tbsps icing sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Approx 900g mixed berries
Start by drawing a large 32in circle out on to a piece of greaseproof paper. Turn the paper over so you can barely see the pencil marks. Lay it flat on a serving plate.
Melt the butter and fold into the crushed digestives.
Tip the biscuit mixture into the middle of the circle. Spread out the mix and compress it as you go until it fills in the shape perfectly. It's just like making a sand castle! Leave the base to set.
Beat the ricotta, vanilla essence, icing sugar and zest together.
Whip the cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually fold in the ricotta mixture until everything is evenly combined. You can keep this in the fridge until ready to serve.
Wash all the fruit and slice the strawberries. Put each fruit into its own little serving bowl.
After dinner, simply bring out your biscuit base and spread the ricotta mixture evenly on top. Scatter the berries in generous layers and dust with icing sugar.