Mamma Rosa’s amaretti

Mamma Rosa is one of the queens of Italian biscuit making – her range is quite diverse and they are all pretty sensational and outdo a lot of pasticcerie.  This one is a classic she’s been making for years and while she’d written down the recipe for me in a book, nothing better than having a first hand lesson.


8 egg whites at room temperature
500g caster sugar
2 tbps. baking powder
2 tbsp. almond extract
1kg almond meal
250g flaked almonds
Icing sugar for dusting

Making them
1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius fan forced
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites, gradually adding caster sugar until well combined and thick and fluffy
3. Add the baking powder, almond extract and almond meal and fold together with a wooden spoon until combined
4. Place the flaked almonds into a bowl or tray. Using a dinner sized spoon, scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture into the flaked almonds, roll, very gently shape and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. You need a very light hand for this, you don’t want the flaked almonds pressed into the mixture, they are more like an outside coating. Dust liberally with icing sugar

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until very lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Fourth Fish, Lane Cove

We’d had a manic day and no cooking was going to go on in the Napoli household that night.  So we headed up to Lane Cove to check out a recently opened seafood café in the plaza.   It’s got cute nautical theming (I like the blue chairs outside) and the staff were friendly and efficient.

There’s some good value, straight forward food going on in a casual setting.  The grilled fish and chips – take your pick of barramundi, salmon or swordfish – is a good choice at $18 and comes with a refreshing crisp salad.

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So too is the fisherman’s basket, for $26 which has a tasty fish fillet, crumbed prawn, calamari, chips, a couple of oysters and some olives.

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The chargrilled octopus was a little disappointing, a little chewy, and it was cold (I asked if was meant to be, the waiter wasn’t sure) but I did like the salad underneath.

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On the off chance you’re going to a seafood restaurant but don’t actually want seafood, there’s a steak option as well. In addition to the normal menu, there’s a selection of specials.  The lunch menu varies slightly and has a fish burger.
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Fourth Fish Café & Restaurant, 12-16 Burns Bay Road Lane Cove, ph 02 9427 4896

Fourth Fish Cafe and Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pasta Sundays


Growing up, every Sunday was pasta Sunday.   We did have pasta dishes other nights too, but Sunday was the day of the traditional, slow cooked tomato sauce. Mamma Rosa would always get up early to start it, so that the meat, usually pork and beef, would gently braise for four or so hours, falling off the bone and luscious to eat. If I were to drop in on any cousin, Zia, Comare or other close family friend on a Sunday before lunch, I would find the same slow cooking sauce going on, it was like there was a code.

These days there is also a vegetarian sauce bubbling away on the stove for my Marito. Mamma Rosa took the non meat eating quite well when I first bought him home for Sunday lunch during the dating phase. My relatives in Italy, not so much. You know that scene from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where there is stunned silence when she tells them all her boyfriend does not eat meat? We had that exact moment with my Zia in Calabria. She had prepared some melanzane ripieni – stuffed eggplant – for our arrival. After a moment of looking at us incredulously, and asking “what do you mean” three or four times, she insisted that he could eat them anyway, because the amount of meat in them was “ ‘na fesseria “, trifling, so it didn’t really count.

But regardless of the sauce, Mamma Rosa’s silky strands of homemade tagliatelle are an absolute treat. Eggs, flour and a little salt. The ingredients seem so simple, but the art is in the lightness of touch, getting the amount of folding and rolling right, and knowing when the sheets are ready to become the pasta. Today we got together for Mamma Rosa’s birthday. When it’s all of us, and our children, its quite a group and the giant oversize pasta pot comes out. It is cooked in a few minutes, drained, the hearty sauce is added, and we sit around the table and the sounds of contentment and slurping of tagliatelle follow.

Finocchio e patate al forno (fennel and potato bake)

This simple side dish, from the lovely book Sharing Puglia, goes very well with a nice piece of fish.  Serves 6 and very easy to make.


60ml olive oil
Olive oil, extra, for drizzling
1/2 cup rosemary leaves
1/2 cup fennel fronds
4 large all purpose potatoes, peeled
4 large bulbs fennel, sliced 1cm thick
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
salt and freshly ground pepper

Making it
1. Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a simmer and cook till potatoes are par boiled. Drain, allow to cool, then cut into 1cm thick slices
2. Meanwhile, bring a separate saucepan of water to the simmer, add the fennel slices and simmer for 5-6 minutes, strain into a colander and allow to cool slightly
3. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Put the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a roasting dish, add the rosemary, and allow to heat a little so that the rosemary flavours the oil. Remove from oven and take out about three quarters of the rosemary leaves, put them in a bowl and combine with the fennel fronds
4. Layer the potatoes and fennel in alternating rows in the roasting dish, seasoning well with salt and pepper as you go, drizzling with a little oil, and sprinkling through the rosemary and fennel frond mixture
5. Top with the breadcrumbs and cheese, give a final drizzle of olive oil and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden.

Spinach hotcakes and greens with almonds

This is another Good Food recipe that I tried out by Neil Perry.  He originally used feta in it, but I swapped it for ricotta wanting that creaminess of texture to contrast the almonds (and also because I’ll use any excuse to introduce ricotta); there was also originally a mixture of silverbeet and kale (I used all silverbeet), as well as some chopped olives which I skipped.  If you don’t want the hotcakes, the greens mixture itself is great with a fried egg or on a nice chunky piece of sourdough, or as Neil suggested, with some smoked salmon. You’ll get 8-10 hotcakes from the recipe.



250g baby spinach leaves
3/4 cup self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 whole egg, whisked
50g unsalted butter, melted; plus extra for frying
3/4 cup milk
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 egg white
1/4 cup ricotta, to serve
lemon wedges, to serve

For the greens
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small leek, sliced
1 tsp sea salt
1 red capsicum, small dice
2 cups shredded silverbeet leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped dill
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped

Making them
1. For the hotcakes, wilt the spinach in a hot pan. Place in a colander to drain and squeeze out any excess liquid. Allow to cool and coarsely chop.

2. Place flour, baking powder, pepper and salt into bowl, then add the whole egg, melted butter and milk. Whisk until smooth. Add spinach and spring onions. Gently stir through.

3. Whisk the egg white until soft peaks form, then fold into the batter with a large metal spoon.

4. For the greens, heat 3 tbsp oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add leek and 1/2 tsp salt, then sweat for about 8 minutes. Add capsicum and cook for 2 minutes, then add greens with remaining salt. Increase heat and sauté for about 4 minutes until greens are starting to wilt. Remove from heat, add pepper, then stir through the dill and almonds. Cover and keep warm.

5. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat, brush with remaining oil and melt a small amount of butter. Drop about 1/4 cup of batter to form round hot cakes with a diameter of about 10cm. Cook for 2-3 minutes until coloured underneath and bubbles form on top. Turn and cook for 1-2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.

6. Serve hotcakes topped with greens, dollops of ricotta and a wedge of lemon.

Missy French, Potts Point

A friend from Melbourne is in town and we’re catching up to discuss various First World Problems (what size handbag she should buy, where to find camisoles for suits, when am I ever going to buy an iPhone and the like) and a few more serious ones (food security, educating our children about good health, how to get our husbands to do more housework). And Josephine Perry’s recently opened Missy French is the right place for a girly meet, sophisticated with a decidedly feminine touch. There is no sign of the building’s colourful former occupants, among them a Japanese brothel and an illegal gambling house.

A real live Missy French is at the door to greet me – “alors, I ‘ave a lovely banquette for you” – and it is indeed lovely and the perfect spot to see what is going on in the rest of the pretty room. The Perry commitment to good service is obvious – when water is bought to the table, I ask for some ice which is bought promptly. But another staff member whisks it away, saying “we should put it in a prettier glass than that”, and returns with some gorgeous cut crystal.

The menu has a good mix – I’d be quite content with any of the dishes on it in the unlikely event I’d actually allow someone to order for me – and we are given a debrief and presented with a short but well considered wine list. So here is where we end up

Chicken liver parfait with brioche and cornichons. Classic and rich, I’m glad I decided to walk the two kilometres here from the office.missyfrench (4)

Prawn bisque with corn custard. Perfectly cooked prawns, silky custard but alas the bisque is underseasonedmissyfrench (3)

Parisienne gnocchi with pumpkin and sage. These are different to your Italian version, creamier is the best way to describe them, and they are damn deliciousmissyfrench (6)

So too is the pithivier – which I completely mispronounce, but it’s essentially a very fancy French pie – with succulent pork, peas, a very tasty jus and flaky pastry.missyfrench (5)missyfrench (7)

We are quite full by now and decide to share a dessert, the Lemon and Lime Eaton Mess – a chilled and refreshing combination of sweet and sour.missyfrench (8)

We leave content, First World Problems largely resolved; the husbands and housework issue may however need a follow up session. “Bonsoir” says the live Missy French, “see you again”.  She may well.

Missy French, Rothwell Crescent, Potts Point

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Missy French Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kingsley’s Steak & Crabhouse, Woolloomooloo

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Genetics is a funny thing. As regular readers would know, the Marito is a vegacquarian. I’ve never been a big meat eater, and even less so since we’ve been married. Yet our progeny are two of the biggest carnivores I’ve ever come across. A slab of expertly cooked meat and a side of green beans is one of their ideal meals. So it was no surprise when I asked where they wanted to go for lunch for their birthday that they suggested a steakhouse. Being spring, I thought Woolloomoloo would be very pleasant for an outdoor waterside meal, and Kingsley’s it was. I thought then, it was only fair, that they write up their thoughts on our experience. I would only add that the service was excellent, with extremely attentive and friendly staff.


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Now before you think we are mean by not letting them have any more, they were keen on ordering another 250g steak a piece…..half a kilo of meat each for 25kg kids…hmmm….maybe not.

We also sampled a refreshing tomato and burrata salad

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And some tasty dressed king crab with avocado (though average brioche on the side)

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Kingsleys Woolloomooloo Wharf, Cowper Wharf Road

Kingsleys Steak & Crabhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato