PERSONAL, full of history and far more spice than you'd imagine, blogger-turned-recipe-book-author Skye McAlpine introduces Prudence Wade to her Venetian table.

Many of us claim Italian to be our favourite cuisine - and what's not to like, with all the pasta and red wine? However, this is a slightly one-note view of the country's food. London-born Skye McAlpine grew up in Venice, and is on a mission to introduce people to true Venetian cooking, in all its variety-filled glory.

Although she's not a professionally trained chef, McAlpine's recipes have won huge popularity as lovingly-formed slices of Italian life.

Her food journey started with a blog, From My Dining Table, which has now been transformed into a new cookbook, called A Table In Venice. Here, McAlpine talks about her love of cooking, and how we could all make our dining tables a little more Venetian...

The personal connection of food

McAlpine is obsessed with poring over cookbooks like they were novels, but it was only when she was doing her PhD that she started writing about food herself.

"I really enjoyed my PhD in 17th and 18th century English translations of Latin love poetry, but it was a real conversation killer at dinner parties," she says with a giggle. "What was so lovely about writing about food is that it's a fantastic way to connect with pretty much everyone, because everyone eats."

This "personal connection" is why McAlpine first started her blog back in 2014, and her warm writing, as well as her recipes, has won a legion of fans.

It's straight from the home

Few things could be more personal than McAlpine's recipes. She and her husband Anthony, and their toddler son Aeneas, now split their time between London, where McAlpine was born, and Venice where she grew up.

She does all her own food photography too - but this, she admits, has been a learning curve. "When I started the blog, it was so frustrating because food looked really nice on the table, but it didn't look like that in the picture," she recalls.

Ever the student, McAlpine swotted up on food photography and styling and invested in a decent camera. What makes her images even more endearing is that all the photography is done in her Venetian kitchen, which naturally has much more character than a blank studio.

"Shooting the book myself feels like a way of telling my story more personally," McAlpine explains. "It's definitely not perfect, but it feels very honest, and it's very me."

Using her own kitchen adds to the homely, welcoming feel of the book - and indeed her whole approach to food - too. "It's a big rambling house, and it's very Italian of us to have three generations living there at one time," McAlpine adds of the family's Italian home.

Why Venetian cuisine is king

Perhaps unsurprisingly from someone who did a PhD in Latin love poetry, McAlpine is preoccupied with the history of Italian food - something which is sharpened by the surroundings of Venice.

"Because it's such a crumbling and old city, it does encourage you to focus on the history," she says. "If you love history and stories like I do, Venice is like a massive toy box full of wonders to play with."

This feeds into the recipes that she has created, such as her favourite breakfast of kiefer - almond paste croissants that became part of Venetian cuisine during the early 19th century Austrian occupation.

So what sets Venetian cuisine apart from other areas in Italy? "Italian food is usually very fresh and simple flavours, so what's most interesting about Venetian food is its unusual use of spices," McAlpine explains.

"Because of Venice's history as the top of the spice route and a melting pot of cultures, there is a lot of spice - cardamom, cinnamon, pink peppercorns, bay leaves and saffron - all these flavours run through otherwise quite plain and simple dishes, which I think is really nice."

But she's not afraid of mixing things up

Having roots in two different countries has given McAlpine a fresh take on Venetian cuisine. "If you grow up in Italy, you have a very strong sense that there is a right and a wrong way to eat things. Whereas Anglo-Saxon culture is much more adventurous, and we get more excited by fusion and blurring the lines and exciting new ways of using things," she says.

This means that while McAlpine is strictly Italian in some senses (you won't in a million years find her eating pasta with chicken), she's more open to experimentation in others - she tells a hilarious story of a fruit seller's horror when he found out she was making a distinctly untraditional apple, rose and thyme tart.

"That is the weird thing when you come from one place and live in another - I'm not really British, I'm not really Italian," she says. "I've never known any different because I grew up that way, but I think it is nice to have multiple cultures, so I get to pick and choose."

As for her advice to anyone wanting to dip their toe in Venetian cooking: "Start with what you like," she says simply. "I think that's best way to get excited, because we all have different tastes.

"Because I'm a completely self-taught home cook, and these are recipes I cook at home, they're all incredibly simple and quite intuitive," McAlpine adds. "Whatever takes your fancy, really start with that with the confidence of knowing that it is easy to do, because I can do it."


Far from your bog-standard pasta dinner.

"When I was writing the book, I was really mindful that I wanted people to be able to cook it easily," says A Table In Venice author, Skye McAlpine. "I get very frustrated where there are complicated ingredients that I can't get!"

This linguine recipe is a prime example of using simple and fresh ingredients that you'll easily be able to get at your local supermarket. Not only that, but it all whips up into a dish that is way fancier than the sum of its parts.


(Serves 4)

1tbsn olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

400g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3-5cm lengths

100ml Prosecco

A handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

400g linguine

30g salted butter

30g Parmesan, grated

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, over a low-medium heat for five to 10 minutes, until the onion becomes translucent.

2. Add the asparagus and prosecco, then season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about five minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated and the asparagus is tender. If it is not quite done by the time the wine evaporates, add just enough water to cover the base of the pan and cook for a little longer. Stir in the parsley.

3. Meanwhile, cook the linguine in a large saucepan of generously salted boiling water until al dente. Just before you drain the pasta, scoop half a cup of the cooking water out of the pot and set to one side. Drain the pasta, toss it back into the saucepan and mix in the reserved cooking water, little by little, and the butter. Stir well, then add the asparagus mixture. Give everything one last good stir and top with the grated Parmesan.



(Makes 10)

2 x 320g ready-rolled puff pastry sheets

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

30g flaked almonds

2tbsp icing sugar

For the filling:

90g ground almonds

70g caster sugar

1.5tsp apricot jam

A pinch of salt

1 large egg white, lightly beaten with a fork


1. Heat the oven to 220 C/Gas Mark 7. To make the filling, put the ground almonds, sugar, jam and salt in a bowl and mix well. Add the egg white and stir until you have a thick paste, rather like marzipan.

2. Lay out the puff pastry sheets on a work surface and cut out five triangles from each one, 12-14cm wide at the base and 24cm long on the sides. Spoon a teaspoon of almond paste on to the base of each triangle, centred and about two-fingers' width away from the edge. Resist the urge to overfill here: you really just need a teaspoon, or the filling will spill out in the oven. Fold the bottom edge of the triangle over the filling, trying to tuck it under, and roll the pastry up as tightly as you can. Gently fold the tips under into the horns of a croissant, pinching where needed to seal. Repeat this with the remaining pastry triangles, then arrange them on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

3. Brush the croissants with the beaten egg yolk to glaze, then sprinkle liberally with the flaked almonds. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden all over. Remove the tray from the oven and sift the icing sugar generously over the piping-hot croissants, so that some of it melts into them. Let them cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack. Eat warm or cold.

n A Table In Venice: Recipes From My Home by Skye McAlpine, is published by Bloomsbury, priced £26. Available now.