2 minutes with Tessa Kiros
Occupation: Cookbook author
Latest release: Provence to Pondicherry
Lives: Siena, Italy
Tell us the story of your new book, Provence to Pondicherry?
I was interested to follow a French thread across the map, where French explorers had been long ago. I visited the two regions of Provence & Normandy in mainland France. And continued my journey to Guadeloupe in the West Indies & the island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean - both of which are today French overseas departments. I travelled to the former French colonies of Vietnam & Pondicherry in Southern India. I was fascinated to explore this assemblage, a mixing of cultures in some of the places that the French had been.
You went to Vietnam as part of your research for the book. Did you discover any local ingredients there you hadn't cooked with before?
There were so many incredible things going on in Vietnam. I think the approach to food in Vietnam is a very unique element that will always stay with me. The small & regular snacks of such variety & goodness - so easily available on the street was something new to me. Vietnam really got me to think outside of my norm - I loved the small kumquats & calamansi that were often given as the sour note to squeeze over your meal. There were things like young rice ice cream & grass jelly in dessert that I hadn't ever had before. I truly loved the special & abundant green leaves & herbs served with broths & noodles the most I think. Some I had never tasted before. And the beautifully aromatic Vietnamese peppercorns that I hope never to be without.
When you wrote your first book Twelve, which you originally self-published, did you ever imagine you would go on to author 10 books?
It is incredible when you look at it like that. No - really, I never imagined it. It was such a challenge to get Twelve published! It was my journal of my time so far in Tuscany & I really wanted to have it in a book. Just shows you what you can accomplish when you are clear in your mind about something. I am very grateful for the road I have had & the chance I have had to publish all of my books. Each of them has been a wonderful journey.
How do you start the creative process of writing a new book?
The process for me starts with an instinctual feeling. An idea or subject I want to explore. Something I will want to learn & keep for always. Each book has always had its own process. I trust it. I follow it.
For our gourmet travellers out there - tell us your favourite villages in Italy to visit?
I love the Amalfi Coast, not too in season though. Positano & some villages around. Atrani, Cetara, Praiano - I will never forget the bag of lemons from the tree in the garden that we left with. Locorotondo near Alberobello in Puglia. I love the stretch of places on the Riviera. Portofino. Santa Margarita. I love to go to Alassio to get baci d'Alassio. Vernazza in Cinque Terre. And I cannot leave Alba out. Maybe a small village nearby in October for truffles and Barolo.
Which recipe from the book would you recommend to cook for an Australian summer Christmas lunch?
Maybe langouste flambee au vieux rhum. Duck with vanilla & green mango rougaille (& a huge green salad on side). Ti Punch. And iced coconut coffee.
You can follow Tessa’s travels on Instagram @tessakiros