Today, in the early morning, I was at the gym, on a treadmill. I was listening to my favourite podcast, working out yesterday’s pizza, and I was brainstorming new ideas with my dear friend Regula, who was at home in Belgium, in her PJ’s, with a cup of tea. We are connected and on the same wavelength, we are closest friends, we met through the blog. That’s something I wouldn’t have imagined seven years ago.
Today Juls’ Kitchen is 7 years old. Tommaso and my dad are working in a garage to turn it into a kitchen, Juls’ Kitchen studio, with real tiles and cupboards, a big oven, a fridge, loads of cookbooks, a white ceramic sink, a bunch of shelves and countless chairs for guests and friends. Well, this is our project, as for the moment we have just piles of debris and a wall carved with conduit and marked with drawings. I smell dust, but as soon as I close my eyes the dry smell turns into the warming aroma of bread baking in the oven. While I am here at my desk writing this post I can hear the drill downstairs. In the past this would have made me mad, but today it is the most harmonic sound as it will be soon replaced by pots muttering on the stove or people chatting and laughing over a dish of genuine food.
Was I thinking about it since the beginning? When I wrote my first blog post in a winter night, was I imagining all of this now? Not at all. I didn’t have a clue, or long term project, I was just searching for something worthy of my total commitment.
This is a difficult post to write. It’s not time to make a balance, I learnt the hard way it’s not even healthy to make comparisons, as every one is destined to follow her own path, with a different rhythm, speed, itinerary. I am proud of how my palate expanded over the years, as when I started I was just a novice in the kitchen, never made a real polenta, never shelled fresh peas, never baked with chestnut flour, never carved a pumpkin, never ever catered forty people with an excited smile.
Today I want to celebrate my stubbornness. I am putting aside for a moment my modesty, and I want to say that if I am here it’s not luck, it’s because I believed every single moment that I could make a difference. I didn’t lose my hope when I was jobless, when I was fighting my fear to be alone, when I was cooking till my back hurt.
I’ve been disappointed, I failed, I cried, I learnt. But today I celebrate my blog which just turned seven, a project of one person which became the life project of a couple, our life together, the upcoming Juls’ Kitchen Studio.
And I celebrate with chocolate.
This is probably the easiest chocolate cake I have ever made. It can be easily turned gluten free and dairy free if you skip the butter and breadcrumbs on the baking tin and substitute them with parchment paper.
It is a century old recipe, found in the loyal Pellegrino Artusi’s cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. It is made with just five ingredients: walnuts, dark chocolate, sugar, eggs and candied citrus peel. It has a brownie texture, but it’s a hundred percent Italian.
Will you join me in this celebration?
Torta di noci e cioccolato – Walnut and chocolate cake
- 140 g of shelled walnuts
- 140 g caster sugar
- 140 g of dark chocolate
- 4 eggs
- 20 g of candied citrus
- Pellegrino Artusi suggests to paste walnuts and sugar in a mortar until fine. I took the short cut and added walnuts and sugar in a blender to obtain finely chopped walnuts, resembling a coarse flour. You don't want to have a smooth paste.
- Scoop walnut and sugar in a bowl and add the finely grated chocolate.
- Crack the eggs open and add the yolks to the bowl, stirring to combine.
- Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold them into the walnuts. Add the finely chopped citrus.
- Butter a 26 cm round baking tin and sprinkle with breadcrumbs, then scrape the batter into the tin.
- Bake at 180°C for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and set.
- Let it cool down completely before slicing. If you are strong enough to wait to the next day, it will be even better.