You’re a famous foodie, can you tell us a bit about food in Lombardy (where you grew up). We’re pining for foreign flavours at this home bound time.
Lombardy is an unknown foodie paradise really, and of the 20 provinces of Italy probably one of the least discovered gastronomically. To put that right I think everyone should read the books of my great friend, the food writer Anna del Conte who also lives in Dorset – her book The Classic Food of Northern Italy is my bible really. It helps foreigners understand that Italian food is not all tomato sauce, basil, pasta and tiramisu. There’s Bresaola from the Valtellina valley, Breme onions from Pavia, Ossobuco from Milan and Torrone di Cremona. Visitors always associate Italian cookery with the Mediterranean, but Lombard cookery is almost alpine or Tirolean. We originate from a Germanic-Scandinavian tribe, the long beards or Longobardi, and our food, particularly the patisserie side of our food, is quite Austrian. When I was growing up we travelled a lot through Africa because of my father’s job, but my mother still cooked breaded Milanese veal cutlets, cotolette, like Wiener schnitzel. We had risotto with vegetables (as we grow rice in Lombardi) and polenta with ragu (polenta is a special corn meal). Lombardy is the dairy farm of Italy, so we are very famous for milk, cream, yoghurt and cheeses, like mascarpone, taleggio, gorgonzola and dolcelatte. We drink really strong coffee and eat delicious pastries with it – the Viennoiserie tradition of brioches, croissants and jam tarts (crostata) is strong. At Christmas you will see Milanese panettone, sachertorte, strudel and Stollen.