From my kitchen window I can see the large and scratched wooden door of my parents’ studios. If the doors are open, through the big window pane, I can see my father’s silhouette working on some of his new works. Beyond that, there is my mother’s. It’s hidden a little and overlooks the back of our garden.
Both of them have their own space where they spend time and find inspiration to create something from a mere thought. Spending long hours deeply occupied in their own works is part of my family’s way of life.
I’ve got my own space where I can easily spend most of my days. I’ve got a small kitchen and a small room where, among old wooden tables and all my antiques well displayed in the early 1900s cherry-wood cupboard, perhaps one of my best vintage bargains, I prepare the settings and styled most of the photos I take. I spend long hours alone, completely taken by my work that I hardly realize the passing of the time which can be so slow and yet so fast.
I experiment with the sunlight, trying to find new ways to make it harder or softer, according to how I think it’s best to use it in the photo I’m working on.I think about how the three of us, each in their own space, are deeply taken by what we are doing, trying to bring out the best of ourselves, either by using colours or the light.
In moments like these, I follow my inner flow which is instinctive and less rational and I feel so different from how I would normally react with any life situation. I like to discover this aspect of myself. It comes out only when I feel totally free from expecting great results. Usually, the best things happen when we stop wishing to achieve something great and we immerse ourselves deeply in what we are doing. I often get so deep into my work that only the fading light reminds me of the passing of time.
Other times, the magic link between being willing and the possibility to create something exactly as I had imagined is very delicate and difficult to get. The more I try to find it, the more it slips away. In those moments I feel so discouraged that I can’t even describe it in words. The best thing to do is to stop and do something completely different.
A few days ago, after having spent several hours looking, without success, for the correct light to take some photos, I felt really down so I walked across the frosted garden looking for my mum who always knows how to take me out of this sort of discouragement, which is so typical of me when I’m facing some obstacles in life. Like every winter, the garden seemed completely dead but passing by the greenhouse where we keep the lemon trees, I noticed the generosity of these Mediterranean plants able to produce a great amount of incredible scented fruits, even in the wintry weather of the North of Italy.
I took a small lemon and put it in the poket of my wollen jumper. In smelling its scent from my fingers I thought of preparing something with those wonderful lemons. Lemon curd! I said to myself.
Entering my parents’ home, I was welcomed with the scent of the wood stove and the always encoraging smile of my mum. “I’ve prepared some tea of the poets. Let’s have a cup” she said. It was a spicy mixture that she’d been given recently as a gift. We drank our tea in front of the stove and then she showed me her last paintings made on some small wooden boards and still slighty wet, then she said: “Thank you for coming. I really needed a break!” – I hugged her and felt something hard and round in my pocket, the lemon!
“Have you seen how many lemons, mum? Tomorrow I’d like to use some to make something…” and my mother with her grey eyes wide open: “I, too, wanted to use some. I wanted to make some lemon curd!”. Unbelievable that so far, nobody had ever thought of using the lemons before that day in winter and for making the lemon curd, which is not a recipe one would make very often. Actually, it’s my very first time! Mum and I smiled about the wavelenght that we have, even in the kitchen.
The following morning we picked some of the lemons from the greenhouse and put them in a small straw basket handmade by my granddad and we filled some jars with the lemon curd.
The lemons rind had such a strong fragrance that the scent stayed on my hands for a long time. I could smell it even the following day when I found myself facing another of those gloomy moments, when it’s better to stop and take a deep breath, even better if it’s a scented one.
In Venice, during the winter evenings, when the sky is lead grey, the night is falling and the lights are on, it seems like the lights are floating, lighting up the water in the canals and often, with the fog, everything is muffled like in a dream. Even the sounds change and the steps echoing in the Calli gives the impression of being followed.
On these cold evenings, when people walk quickly just to get warmer, it seems like we are half way to somewhere, or returning from somewhere. However, no matter the seasons, we always go towards something or someone and winter always makes me long to return to a cosy home.
These biscuits are inspired by the fragrance I’d like to smell on my way home on a cold winter’s evening when outside is already dark and my own steps seem to be running after me along the way.
During the wonderful time I spent in Paris, sometimes I would return home very late at night, the boulevard almost empty. I remember that one night, for a short moment, I felt terribly disheartned and detached from everything. I remember it well because that was a really happy time, anything but melancholic. However, something had made me very sad that night.
When I arrived home, waiting for me, as usual, was my beloved Francesco who can make me forget any form of uneasiness better than anyone else. He had bought some coloureful raspberry and pistachio macarons. Because macarons were so terribly popular in Paris, especially with the tourists, we hadn’t bought any yet, but in that moment, in that small room with its squeaking wooden floor which we’d started to consider as our home, those stupidly colourful macarons gave me the comfort I needed.
And so this recipe has been created with a combination of feelings. It’s something in between the French macarons that made me feel like being at home and the lovely lemon scent that’s still filling the air in my mother’s kitchen. They aren’t posh at all but are very rustic, rough and very nutritional. They are perfect to uplift us when we need to feel at home and for when we need a friendly voice saying “Thanks for coming!”.
- 3 medium organic unwaxed lemons
- 50g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into cubes
- 2 large free-range eggs
- 225g granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp organic sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp organic pumpkin seeds
- 3 tbsp sliced almonds
- 3 tbsp oats flakes
- 1 organic unwaxed lemon
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp of brown sugar
- 4-5 tbsp cornflour starch
- 1 tsp vanilla-flavoured baking powder
- 50ml of organic sunflower oil
- Wash and grated the lemons rind. Squeeze them and put the lemon juice in a non-stick pot.
- Add the sugar and the butter and let it gently melt on low heat. Stir the mixture until it has completely melted.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl and stir them into the mixture.
- Keep the mixture on a low heat and stir until all the ingredients are well combined and start to thicken but without boiling.
- Remove from the heat and pour it still warm into the jars. Close the lid and then turn them upside down to vacuum-sealed. The lemon curd can be kept in the fridge for about 5 to 6 days.
- Mix the seeds, almonds and oats flakes together and then roast them well in a non-stick pan. When they are still hot put them in a food processor with the sugar and the grated lemon rind and blend them well until they are like a coarse flour.
- In a bowl whisk the egg with the sunflower oil until it gets frothy. In a small bowl mix together the baking powder and the cornflour starch and add little by little to the mixture stirring well until it becomes a creamy paste with no lumps. It shouldn’t be too thick.
- Add the seeds flour to the paste and knead to make a ball. If the paste is too soft, add some more cornflour starch. Leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Cover a baking tray with some parchment paper. Take the paste from the fridge. Using a spoon make some little balls without pressing too much (they will get flatter once in the oven) and put them on the baking tray. Put the macarons back in the fridge for 10 minutes. Pre-heat the ventilated oven to 180 C° / 350 F°.
- Bake the macarons for 8 minutes till they are golden brown. Leave them to cool.
- Fill with the Lemon Curd and join the two biscuits together.