image: Tatyana Kildisheva
“I am a food writer and, today, also a food editor,” shares food blogger Alessandra Gennaro, who is this month’s featured participant in The Finder’s monthly series about the women of the International Cooking Club Singapore (ICCS).
She continues, “In Italy, I ran a small boutique catering company. In Singapore, I started working as a caterer, and now work as GM at Camden Hill Restaurant & Bar at the Hollandse Club. In between, I promote cheese culture.”
While Alessandra has considerable F&B experience, and may not fit the typical idea of a home cook, she contends, “My cuisine remains basically the same – an honest, genuine, real home cooking, comfortable and good.”
image: Martina Calabresi
This last statement is a reference to her upbringing in Italy. And, this time of year, she admits she gets quite homesick for her homeland.
“An Italian Christmas is an experience everyone should have, once in life. It’s a triumph of flavors impossible to describe, and a long list of recipes from a very old tradition during the most important feast of the year,” she enthuses about the holiday, which she likes to celebrate “with our family gathered around a table with plenty of food.”
Her family – which includes husband, Giulio, and their 24-year-old daughter, Carola – always makes a Christmastime pandolce, a cake rich in dried fruit associated with her Italian hometown since the Middle Ages. “It improves with time, so in the first week of December, my Singaporean kitchen smells of its flavor, sending me back to my town and my childhood.”
Mind you, Alessandra and Giulio actually go home for the holidays these days. “We celebrated Christmas in Singapore only once, but it was so different that I felt a deep homesick for home,” she confesses. “From that moment, we crawl through glass for celebrating Christmas at home.”
Read on for more insights and info from the long-time food lover…
When did you first learn to cook?
“I am Italian, so the answer is easy: in my childhood, looking at my grandma and my mother.”
What are some of your favourite dishes to cook from your home country?
“Focaccia, pizza, all pasta recipes, pesto… it is weird, when I lived in Italy, I loved cooking ‘ethnic’ food. Since I live in Singapore now, I cook basically Italian and Genoa recipes only.”
image: Tatyana Kildisheva
What do you enjoy most about being in ICCS?
“I joined ICCS 4 years ago, due to my interest to learn about gastronomic traditions different from mine, from the real kitchens of the ICCS participants: a great opportunity, for a person passionate about cooking as I am! I enjoy sharing knowledge, recipes, experience. I come back richer every time.” (Learn more about ICCS works here.)
Which of your recipes were featured in ICCC’s The Red Dot Melting Pot Cookbook?
“There are three recipes: two from my family, Italian Potato Gnocchi with Pesto Sauce (shown below) and Italian Pumpkin Sage Gnocchi (shown at top), and one from one of my own cookbooks, Italian Pear, Roquefort and Walnut Tart (shown above).
Even if I am a food writer, and am supposed to be used to publishing a book, I felt very touched and grateful to [ICCS founder] Michelle Pilarczyk for giving me the opportunity to take part of an international project.” (Read about Michelle’s own personal recos in last month’s ICCS column here.)
image: Tatyana Kildisheva
What are some of your most favourite authentic restaurants in Singapore?
“I share with my husband the passion for the food court: Every weekend we discover new stalls, new flavors, new foods. We also love to go to restaurants, not necessarily for special celebrations – any occasion is good to make new experiences, through food.” (Want to enjoy the best of both worlds? Check out these local restaurants than can beat hawkers at their own game!)
Where do you buy good-quality, authentic ingredients in SG for when you cook at home?
“It is really difficult, for me, to answer this question: The branded and processed food products are basically the same as at home. However, fresh products in Singapore are generally lacking in flavor and freshness. We struggle a lot to find a proper tomato, a proper burrata, proper bread. In these years, I found a lot of tricks to create similar flavor, but it is hard.”
How has living in SG changed your cooking style of menu repertoire?
“Well, first of all, we are only two – our daughter lives in London now – and this changed a lot our habits. In addition, in Singapore it is always hot, very hot, so we happen to eat much less. Third, maybe most importantly, my palate has gotten used to spice. That’s why I cook differently, even when I cook Italian recipes.”
When you’re not cooking, what are your favourite places in SG to dine out or grab a drink?
“Tamarind Hill for feeding the eyes also; Asia Grand for a proper dim sum. I’m a fan of kaya toast, too, and Killiney Kopitiam on Killiney Road is my favorite. I also like Konditori, the Swedish bakery on Bussorah Road, and, of course, Tiong Bahru Bakery.”
About International Cooking Club Singapore (ICCS)
International Cooking Club Singapore (ICCS) is a non-profit organisation consisting of approximately 300 participants from more than 95 countries divided into 26 cooking and baking groups. They rotate homes and teach one another culinary skills. ICCS created The Red Dot Melting Pot Cookbook, a top-ranked cookbook containing 223 authentic recipes from 97 countries. Follow ICCS on Instagram at @iccs_sg as well as its cookbook page @reddotmeltingpotcookbook for a regular dose of delicious recipes!
By Sara Lyle Bow, December 2019
More on The Finder: