Mamma knows best

Author Tessa Kiros describes her new book, Limoncello and Linen Water, as ''a trousseau'', filled with Italian recipes inspired by her mother-in-law, Wilma, and dedicated ''to all the wonderful matriarchs I have been lucky to meet''.

Chapters cover pickling and preserving; making bread (ciabatta, pizza and Polish puff pastry); the vegetable patch; pasta (including making green tagliatelle and ''Barbara's asparagus and ham lasagne''); hearty, meaty mains; and ''the sugar bin'', from Granny Joy's marmalade cake to radicchio cake with white-chocolate icing.

Limoncello and Linen Water is the eighth book by Kiros, whose previous titles include Apples for Jam and Falling Cloudberries. It's a charming, whimsical read, with more than 100 practical recipes, as well as household tips.

Stovetop pork in balsamic vinegar

This is my friend Lisa's recipe. Everybody loves it when she makes it and they always say, ''There's hardly enough left for panini tomorrow!'' And it's true, the leftovers and sauce stuffed into a panino the next day are exceptional. After the long cooking, the pork is so tender that it's served more in pieces than slices.

1.2kg boneless and rindless pork loin

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed coarsely

A clump of sage leaves (about 6 leaves)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly squashed with the flat of a knife

185ml balsamic vinegar (a regular one will do)

Tie up the pork or ask your butcher to tie it for you so it holds its shape neatly. Choose a pot that is not much larger than the pork so the sauce is not too shallow. Pour the oil in and heat well, then brown the pork on all sides, including each end. Salt the browned sides well and turn the pork around in the pot to seal in the salt. Sprinkle the pepper over all the sides of the pork. Add the sage and garlic to the bottom of the pot and let them fizzle up and give out their flavours. Then, add the balsamic vinegar and let it bubble up. Cover with the lid and turn the heat down to an absolute minimum, hardly bubbling. Use a simmer mat if you have one. Simmer for 3½-4 hours, turning the pork over with tongs every half hour or so and adding just a little water if it looks too dry. The meat is ready when it comes away easily when you pull at it, and when the sauce is glossy and reduced. Remove the pork to a chopping board. If the sauce is not abundant, add a little water to the pot and return it to the heat for it to bubble up. Remove the string from the meat, cut it up and serve with a good amount of sauce.

Serves 6

Fish in a bottle

This is unbelievable. There is no smell of fish in the kitchen or lingering in the house. I imagine a good housewife making this at the same time as she boils other preserves in a water bath. That way she would have jams preserved for months ahead and, what's more, lunch ready. The house would be smelling of washed sheets and fresh flowers, and she'd be looking like she's come from the day spa.

4 firm white fish fillets (such as perch or cod), about 150g each

2 small bunches thyme

2 small bunches parsley, with stalks

10 black peppercorns

2 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed with the flat of a knife

Dressing

4 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 garlic clove, peeled and squashed with the flat of a knife

You will need two low and wide preserving jars that have good watertight lids. Into each, put two fish fillets, a bunch of thyme and parsley in between and over, some salt, peppercorns, a tablespoon of olive oil and a garlic clove. Close and seal the jars well. Place the jars in a wide pot and add enough water to cover at least the necks of the jars (make sure the water won't be able to enter the jars). Take the jars out and bring the water to the boil. Lower the jars carefully into the boiling water, so they're not touching, and return to the boil. Simmer until the fish turns white, 20-30 minutes. Remove the jars from the bath and cool a little before opening. While the fish is cooking, make the dressing. Put the olive oil and lemon juice with some salt and pepper in a small bowl and whip until it has thickened a bit. Add the garlic clove and leave for the flavours to mingle. Serve a fillet per plate with some dressing spooned over. This is so simple, it doesn't need anything else. The broth collected in the bottles after steaming can be used to dress rice as a first course.

Serves 4

Spaghetti with garlic, oil, chilli and avocado

People are often surprised when I serve this twist on a traditional pasta. It is simple, yet rich and delicious. The avocado has to be a beauty, otherwise forget it. You should be generous with the salt and pepper to bring out its flavour.

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large garlic clove, chopped

1 small semi-dried red chilli, chopped

1 ripe avocado, not too big

Juice of ½ small lemon

160g spaghetti

Grated parmesan, to serve

Heat the oil and garlic over a gentle heat in a small frying pan to draw out the flavour. Take care not to burn the garlic as you can ruin its flavour. When it smells good add the chilli and heat for a moment more. Remove from heat. Halve the avocado and scoop out chunks into a wide serving bowl. Add the lemon juice and season well. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Pour the cooled garlic and chilli oil over the avocado and gently mix through. Scoop out the pasta into the bowl. Add a little of the cooking water and turn through gently, trying to keep the avocado in chunks. Serve immediately with lots of grated parmesan and a nice extra grind of black pepper.

Serves 2

Limoncello and Linen Water, Murdoch, $59.99.

Catching Kiros

Tessa Kiros appears at the World Chef Showcase at the Crave Sydney International Food Festival on October 6 and 7 and at a literary lunch on October 9 at Balla restaurant, Pyrmont. See cravesydney.com.

Next week Karen Martini shares her recipes.

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