26 September 2023

A House Party In Tuscany

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By Christine Salins.


If your idea of heaven is sitting around a table sharing a meal in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, here’s a book that will whet your appetite.

A House Party In Tuscany (Thames & Hudson Australia, $65) is like a love letter to this gorgeous part of Italy, written by Amber Guinness, who was born in London but raised in a 19th century Tuscan villa.

Villa Arniano was the scene of parties that were a feast for the eye as well as the palate, and Guinness grew up learning to cook seasonal dishes alongside her mother.

The joy of entertaining is at the heart of her book, along with recipes collected over 30 years at Arniano. But as well as the pleasures of food and wine, there’s much about art, landscapes and even travel recommendations.

In 2014, after her father’s death, Guinness turned Arniano into an artists’ retreat, providing magical escapes centred around creativity and food.

In A House Party In Tuscany, she brings the conviviality of Arniano to the table with recipes for classic dishes and cocktails, curated feasts, seasonal menu suggestions, notes on an Italian pantry, and a guide to her favourite wine pairings (prosciutto and figs, she says, are best washed down with Prosecco).

Guinness says the beauty of Italian cooking is not about fancy sauces or preparation techniques, but rather about “bringing out the best in what you are cooking, through patience, constant tasting and the development of flavour – sometimes using nothing but some olive oil and salt”.

Lush photography of Villa Arniano’s interiors and exteriors feature alongside mouthwatering images of simple, beautiful dishes like Linguine with lemon, ricotta and basil; Roast chicken with grapes; and Flourless chocolate, almond and chilli cake.

The frittata recipe here was one taught to Guinness by her mother as an early introduction to cooking. More akin to a Spanish tortilla than a traditional Italian frittata, it is delicious at room temperature but can easily be reheated. Guinness serves it with lemony aioli, slow-roasted tomatoes, and peppery green salad.

Frittata di patate e cipolle (Potato and onion frittata)

Serves 4 to 6

500 g waxy potatoes, peeled

1 large white onion


100 ml olive oil

6 eggs

Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the potatoes in half lengthways, then cut into half-rounds, each about 3 mm thick, making sure all your slices are of a consistent thickness. Set the potato aside in a bowl large enough to hold the onion slices in the next step.

Cut the onion in half lengthways, then cut into slices about 3 mm thick (basically, the same thickness as the potato slices). Add the onion slices to the potato and toss with a generous pinch of salt.

Pour the olive oil into a wide (20 cm or 24 cm) frying pan and set over a medium heat. Check that the oil is hot enough by putting a piece of onion in the pan – when this starts sizzling, carefully add all the onion and potato. Fry for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring two or three times to make sure everything is cooking evenly.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked potato and onion to a colander set over a bowl, to collect the oil. (Leave any remaining oil in the frying pan, and set the pan to one side, as it will be used later in the cooking process.) Once drained, put the potato and onion in a bowl to cool a little. Pour the oil collected from the cooked vegetables back into the frying pan and keep to hand.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and gently whisk to break up the yolks. Season generously with salt and pepper, then pour the beaten egg over the potato and onion, gently mixing with a wooden spoon so that the egg completely coats the vegetables. Set aside and allow the flavours to develop for 10 minutes.

Bring the frying pan containing the oil back up to a medium heat. When the oil starts to gently sizzle, add the egg, potato and onion mixture, making sure the sliced vegetables are fully submerged. Leave to cook for 5 minutes, occasionally running a spatula around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the frittata. For the next part of the process, you will need a flat plate that is wider than the frying pan. Remove the pan from the heat and take it over to the sink, in case of any spillage. Place the plate over the top of the pan.

Holding the pan by the handle with one hand, apply pressure to the plate with your other hand, and flip the pan over to invert the frittata onto the plate. You should have a lovely, golden frittata. Push the frittata to one edge of the plate and gently slide it back into the pan. Cook over a medium heat for a further 5 minutes. When it is ready, invert the frittata back onto the plate, and leave it to rest for 10 minutes before serving. This dish is equally delicious served either piping hot or at room temperature.

Recipe and image from A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness, published by Thames & Hudson Australia, $65.

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