I have just come back from a weekend visiting one of my oldest friends from back home. Laura and I met at one of our piano teacher’s recitals after my family had just moved to a new neighbourhood. It turned out we were living on the same street and as both of us had a long commute to our respective schools and no classmates nearby our parents thought it would be a good idea for us to be friends. It was quite hilarious really as at first we hated each other with a passion. We kept on meeting up, encouraged by our mothers, but most of our play dates would end in tears as we kept on teasing each other. I have no idea exactly when, or indeed why, this stopped, but eventually it did and we became really close. And even if we don’t see each other very often (while I have been moving back and forth between London, Brussels and Rome she has spent the past few years in Berlin before moving to Zurich), besides Alessandro and my sister Helena, Laura is probably the person who knows me best.
The weekend was filled with an enormous amount of laughter, the way all good weekends should be, and lots of long conversations. There is nothing like talking to a person you have known since you were 9 years old to force you to be truly honest with yourself. We went for lots of walks, enjoying the beautiful sunshine, had a lot of coffee breaks, cooked dinner together and spent hours curled up on her sofa drinking wine and catching up on everything that has happened since we last saw each other. While we have taken very different career paths, Laura studied art and I trained as a lawyer, she has always been very supportive of my choices, above all she has always tried to ensure I am happy with where I am at in my life at any given moment. She has also always been very encouraging about this blog of mine and having far more experience with photography than I do, we spent a good amount of time discussing photography, visual story-telling, lighting, props and finding your voice in photography.
While I might still be trying to find my voice in photography and my writing, if there is such a thing as a voice in developing recipes, then I like to think I have already found my voice. I love using spices, teas and herbs to transform dishes into something else entirely, something more sophisticated, a dish that recalls a place far far away or gives an old classic a new lease for life, like panna cotta. I have been eating panna cotta paired with a berry coulis since I was a little child. It is a wonderful combination really, the tart berries cutting through some of the richness of the creamy dessert. Yet that same effect can be achieved using other tart fruits like citrus or a mango coulis brightened up with a generous squeeze of lime and a good pinch of freshly ground green peppercorns, making this classic dessert that little bit more interesting.
After developing a number of recipes for the Peppermongers more appropriate for the colder months, like mince meat or Christmas cookies, I have been working on some new recipes that can be enjoyed all year long. This recipe for a panna cotta with a mango and green peppercorn coulis is the first one. You can find the recipe here.