Monday, February 27, 2006


We call them "Chiacchiere", literally translate it into "Chats". In Italy we made them for the Carnival feast, which is celebrated all over Italy before Easter.

Ingredients: 250gr white flour, 50gr butter, 4 Tbsp white dry wine, 1 egg, 1 tsp salt, 1gr vanilla powder, 1 pinch salt, frying oil, icing sugar to decorate

Sift the flour on your working surface, work it with the egg, butter, vanilla and sugar.
Pour the wine slowly and add more if necessary until you get a soft and round ball.
Divide the dough into 4 and work it with your pasta machine to obtain rectangular sheets. Work it until smooth using the number 5 thikness.
Cut them into rectangular stripes with a wheel cutter such as one you see on the left.
Fry them in hot oil, about 10 seconds each side, or until golden and lay them on a plate covered with absorbent paper. Let them cool completely and serve sprinkled with icing sugar. Only put the icing sugar when it's time to serve them.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Cacao and vanilla Cream

There is always a good excuse to drink, better if what you drink tastes of chocolate. This is a cream you can make with a few ingredients and can be drunk soon after. The problem is that it is so good you drink one, then another, then another and forget that this contains alcohol. So better be careful!

Ingredients: 250ml vodka, 500ml water, 500gr sugar, 100gr cocoa powder, 1/2gr vanilla powder

Pour the water in a small saucepan. Sift in the cocoa powder and mix well with a wooden spoon until completely dissolved and without lumps. Stir in the sugar slowly until dissolved. Let it cool. Mix the vodka with the vanilla. When the cream is completely cold, pour in the alcohol and mix well. Pour everything into your favourite glass bottle. This is also good mixed with milk. If you like you could also keep it into the fridge. Shake well before use.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Delicious Potatoes Pizza

Delicious because it is delicious and with potatoes yes, self explanatory. Some might argue this is a bit too dry and the combination doesn't really work well together but as usual it's all about tastes. I have also added some sweet potatoes as they give a bit of color. You could also add tomatoes and mozzarella so that it's reacher and less dry. Up to you!

Ingredients : 300gr semolina flour, 100gr white flour, 1 Tbsp dry yeast, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 Tbsp olive oil, rosemary or oregano, 2 big potatoes, warm water as needed

Make the dough by mixing the yeast directly with the flour. Add sugar, salt and olive oil and work the dough adding as much water as needed to get a soft and round ball. Put the ball into a big container and let it leaven for at least 1 hour or until it has doubled the size. Then re-work the dough on a floured surface and make it the shape of your oven griddle. Cut the potatoes very thin and put them on the pizza one by one. Salt and drizzle with oil each of them. At this stage you could also add tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Guarnish with oregano or rosemary and cook in hot oven for 15 minutes at 250 C (480 F). It really depends on your oven how long it needs to stay in. Make sure the potatoes don't burn by checking the pizza now and then.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Seville Orange Marmalade

As every week, also last week I received my box of organic vegetables and fruit from Riverford Organic. Each week I choose if I want a small or big box, accordingly to what I have left in my fridge. Last week I also ordered an extra product called "Marmalade kit" which I though it would give me a kit to make marmalade, but I didn't think I would get fruit! So that is what it was. A bag of beautiful Seville's Oranges with the recipe to make this delicious marmalade. It was a great surprise for me because this, is the only marmalade I really like to eat, the others are always too sweet for my tastes. This kind of oranges are only to be found in January and February, so this is the best time to look for them. Unlike other oranges, a true Seville has a very rough skin and has a beautiful deep orange color. These are impossible to eat as they are very bitter, so Marmalade is the best way to make use of them.

Ingredients: 1.5kg (3lbs) Seville oranges, 2.8 litres (5 pints) water, juice of 2 lemons, 2.7kg (6lbs) sugar

Scrub the oranges and cut them in half. Squeeze the juice and pips into a basin. Cut up the peel into thin strips or chunks, as preferred.
Put the peel, any soft pulp and the water in a large heavy-based pan. Strain in the juice. Put the pips in a muslin bag and tie it to the pan handle so that it hangs well down in the water. Cook the fruit gently for 2 hours, or until the peel is tender.
Lift out the bag of pips and squeeze it between two spoons over the pan before discarding. Add the lemon juice andsugar, and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Bring to the boil, and boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Remove from the heat and skim the scum, cool for 5-8 minutes and then stir well to distribute the peel.
Pot and seal as you would with any jam or fruit jelly. I personally fill the jars, previously sterilized in hot water, seal them well and put them upside down. Cover with a blanket until the marmalade is cold.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Orecchiette with pumpkin and vodka sauce and turnips

Another personal experiment. While I was making the sauce I realized I had no more white wine, which I would have liked to use. There was a bottle of vodka in my kitchen, which I use for making liqueurs, not for drinking. So I thought "Why not?". And that is how it went really. The vodka doesn't give a big flavour to the dish but the pumpkin cooks really well in it and it doesn't taste bad at all. Finally, I had some small turnips in the fridge so I roasted them and used to decorate the whole dish.

Ingredients: 350gr orecchiette, 400gr pumpkin, 1 glass of vodka, 1 glass of water, 1 medium onion, 1/2 tsp red dried chilli peppers, 200gr small turnips, 1 Tbsp extravirgin olive oil

Fry the onion with a bit of oil for a few minutes until it softs. Add the flesh of the pumpkin cut into cubes. Mix well then add the vodka and the water. Cook for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft and well cooked. Add the dried chilly and mash the pumpkin as you would do with potatoes. Clean the turnips, put them on a baking dish, dress with a bit of oil and salt and cook in hot oven (240 C - 450 F - 8 G) for about 30 minutes.
Cook the pasta in salted water. Drain it leaving just a little water in the pan. Pour it into the saucepan where the pumpkin is and toss it until all the ingredients are mixed well. Sprinkle with dried hot chilli pepper and guarnish with roasted turnips.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cream of roasted peppers with ginger and wild fennel

The weekend is usually the best time to stay in the kitchen without being worried about this and that and experiment with new recipes, only using what the fridge is offering. Which usually it's not that much at the end of the week. When I really don't know what to do with peppers, I simply roast them on the barbecue if the weather allows, or in the oven, most often. I dress them with olive oil, garlic, anchovies and cappers and serve them as appetizer. This time I have wanted to do something different and I came up with this idea of adding a bit of ginger and the wild fennel I had picked and dried from last summer. I have used double the amount of ginger you will find in this recipe, but that is why I really love ginger. Change the amount accordingly to your taste.

Ingredients: 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 1 yellow pepper, 250ml vegetable stock, 1 clove garlic, 1 small onion, 1 piece of ginger about 2cm, 1 Tbsp tomato purée, 2 Tbsp olive oil, dry wild fennel to decorate, a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven at 250 C (480 F - Gas mark 8). Roast the peppers for about 25 minutes. Leave them to cool then peel them removing the internal seeds. In a small saucepan, fry the garlic, onion and grated ginger for a few minutes until the onion softs. Don't let it burn. Add the roasted peppers, tomato purée, the vegetable stock and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes. Transfer everything into a blender and mix until smooth. Reheat the cream if necessary and serve sprinkled with whild fennel or any other herb of your choice.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

Omar is an Italian guy who comments now and then on my Italian blog and knows everything about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (ABTM). I had never tried the real ABTM before and I now understand that what I usually buy as Aceto Balsamico is just little more than brown water compared to the real one. He kindly volunteered to send to me a sample of the ABTM that he and his family make in Modena.
As he suggested we tried it with Parmigiano Reggiano, although the 12 years old that he was suggesting couldn't be found in Devon so we had to have it with the commercial version of Parmigiano Reggiano.
The ABTM is very thick, full-bodied and dark. It tastes completely different from the "standard" version. It has a fantastic flavour which is so unique that it's even difficult to explain. So, I leave space to Omar to explain how his family makes the ABTM and the differences with the standard Aceto Balsamico.

The Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is made by acetificaition of boiled grape 'must' (unfermented juice). Cold winters and hot summers, typical of the Po valley, are very important factors which make the acetification process possible. The base material is the white "Trebbiana" grape, although Lambrusco grape is sometime used. As soon as the fermentation begins the must is filtered and boiled over open fire. The must is concentrated from 30 to 70 % depending on the sugar content. Stronger flavours are obtained by higher concentration.
The boiled must is then filtered and put to rest in barrel batteries. A barrel battery is made by 6 barrels of different woods: 1. Mulberry 20 lt - 2. Ash tree 30lt - 3. Cherry tree 40 lt - 4. Chestnut tree 50 lt - 6. Oak tree 60lt. The biggest barrel contains the youngest vinegar. The oldest is kept into the smallest barrels. Each barrel has an inspection hole covered with a cotton patch kept in position by a river stone which is corroded with time by the vinegar vapours. With time vinegar concentrate even more and each barrel is topped with younger vinegar from the next bigger barrel. This is usually
done in springtime whereas during the rest of the year the vinegar rests and is inspected regularly. It is experience and time which brings this product to the right equilibrium and flavour. The ABTM must be aged for at least 12 years to be called Balsamico Tradizione di Modean. Before it can only be called semi-balsamico. Because of the long time it takes to make the ABTM it is traditional to start a new battery for every new born in the family. After 25 years ageing the ABTM is called "Extra-Vecchio" (extra old). The 12 years old ABTM is perfect with cooked vegetables and the Extra-Vecchio for cheese and cooked meat.
For all these reasons ABTM experts often say that the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena can be made but can't be produced. Just like Parmigiano Reggiano.

As a last curiosity, Omar real name initials are A.B. as all the rest of his family.

A big thank you to Omar for this precious gift. I'll find it really hard from now on to buy Aceto Balsamico! (barrels's photo by Omar)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Beetroot and cocoa cake

Ok maybe I should have said this was also the beetroot week. I didn't know what else to do with my left over beetroot, so I remembered I had this recipe and I guess this was the time to try it. I wasn't sure at first, the idea of beetroot cake didn't sound very appealing to me. But, I have to say this is probably the softest chocolate cake I have ever had. I think the softness is given by the beetroot although if you are afraid that you'll taste beetroot in this cake, don't! The cocoa really does it all and you won't taste any beetroot at all. So what is the point of making a beetroot cake if you are not going to taste any? I don't know! I guess it's different and you can still enjoy a wonderful vegetable in sweet cake like this. So with this cake, I officially close my pink week and I open the brown week.

Ingredients: 200gr flour, 300gr cooked beetroot, 50gr cocoa powder, 2 eggs, 150gr sugar, 125ml olive oil, 2 Tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven at 180 C (350 F). Cook the beetroot in water or use already cooked ones which are available at most food store. Put them in a mixer and reduce in puree. Add a couple of Tbsp of water to allow the mixer to work properly. Add the eggs and beat in the mixer as well. Finally add the olive oil and vanilla extract.
Into a large bowl sift the flour and the cocoa powder and mix well. Add sugar and baking powder. Add the beetroot mix to the dry ingredients and mix well with a woodeen spoon until there are no lumps. Lightly butter a 20cm cake pan. Pour the mixture and cook for about 40 minutes or until well cooked inside. Use a toothpick to check if it's well cooked inside. Switch off the oven and let the cake cool inside with the door open.

Go Vegan: For a vegan version, just substitute the eggs with 40gr of egg replacer and 160ml of water adding the dry ingredients to the dry ingredients and the water to the liquid ingredients.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Strawberry and raspberry mousse in Chocolate glasses

Since Valentine's day comes only once a year I think it's best if it lasts longer than a day only. So here is another sweet sweet to celebrate the week of love.

Ingredients for the chocolate glasses: 150gr fondant chocolate
Ingredients for the mousse: 300gr mixed strawberry and raspberry, 120gr sugar, 2 Tbsp orange liqueur, 250ml whipping cream, 2 egg whites

To make the chocolate glasses wrap some kitchen foil around a glass. Deep the glass with the kithen foil in melted fondant chocolate. Make the excess of chocolate leak from the glass then put the glass on a serving plate. Remove the glass carefully and leave the foil to stand on the plate with the chocolate. Put it in the fridge for 1 hour and let it solidify. Remove then the kitchen foil carefully and you will get the chocolate glass. Its best to give it a few try perhaps with different glasses sizes as well. Also remember that once the chocolate is set, it will be impossibile to remove it from the plate. If you want to use another plate for serving the chococlate glass, put a layer of kitchen foil between the plate and the chocolate glass.
To make the mousse beat the egg whites with an electric mixer. Sprinkle in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time while continuing to whip to stiff peaks. Wash the fruit, blend them with the orange liqueur or other liqueur at your choice. Whip the double cream until soft and add the fruit to the cream. Then add this to the white eggs and incorporate it slowly. When the chocolate glasse are ready, fill them with the mousse and decorate with strawberry or raspberry.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Beetroot Dip

The pink week continues with this beetroot dip which is pink, of course. If you dont like the taste of beetroot stay away from this, as their flavour doesn't change even though there is tahini. But if you like beetroot like me, then go for it! This is good eaten with bread, crackers or raw vegetables.

Ingredients: 400gr beetroot, 2 Tbsp tahini, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 200gr soft cheese

Boil the beetroot until they are soft. That will take about 30 minutes. Let them cool, put them in a blender and mix them with all other ingredients until reduced to a smooth and creamy paste. If you want to save time, use already cooked beetroot, available in many supermarkets.

Go Vegan: for a vegan version you could substitute cheese with tofu

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Love's meringue

The first time I made meringue in my life was a few months ago. I had in mind to do some little mushrooms meringue, with chococlate. Something really nice and cosy that I had had in mind for a long time. So the day arrives and I set everything up, put it in the oven and switch it on. After about 10 minutes the house starts smelling like something was burning. In my oven!! I had confused centigrades with firenights and set the oven at one of the highest temperature I have ever needed! So Valentine's day has made me try again with this romantic and soft (and pink) recipe, which is very easy to make, once you know how not to confuse F with C! Happy Valentine everybody!

Ingredients: 120gr icing sugar, 2 egg whites, 4 drops red colouring (optional), mixed berries such as strawberry, raspberry and blackberry, orange liqueur, sugar

Preheat the oven to 100 C (200 F). Beat egg whites with an electric mixer, add the colouring at this stage. Sprinkle in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time while continuing to whip to stiff peaks. Cover a baking tin with parchment paper. Use a heart shaped mould if you have one or use a pipe to shape it the way you like. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes without opening the oven.
Wash the berries, mix them with orange liqueur and sugar, let it stand in the fridge for a few hours (or less if you are in a hurry) and pour it over the meringue adding more liequeur accordingly to your taste.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pink Tagliatelle with courgette pesto

Love is in the air... la la la la la la laaaaaa! This is the week of Love, the week of lovers! Valentine's day has always represented for me the day of love, not only love for your loved one, but a more universal one. Love for the nature, love for friend and family, love for live and why not, love for food!

This week goes pink! After the success with the Green Matcha Tagliatelle which surprisingly Rob really liked, I said why not going pink? I have always loved betroot, most times I have them boiled and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (better if is Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, which I'll tell you about in a few posts), but betroot aren't just good boiled, so here is one idea on how to use them. The pesto I made is simple and greenish. That is to contrast with the pink and also because I wanted something simple to enhance better the home made pasta flavour. As usual, you can try with different sauces, choosing between many kind of, along with your personal tastes.

Ingredients for the tagliatelle: 500gr durum weath flour, 100gr cooked and pureed betroot, 2 glasses of water
Ingredients for the courgette pesto: 3 medium courgettes, 50gr parmigiano reggiano, 60ml extravirgin olive oil, 5 basil leaves or more, 1 garlic clove, 1 tsp salt, a pinch of pepper

Use cooked betroot or buy raw ones and cook them. Put them in the mixer and reduce them finely. Sift the flour and add the pureed betroot. Add water bit by bit and make a round soft ball. Divide the dough into 4 and work it on the pasta machine into layers of pasta first. I start with number 3 and then go to 4. If you like it thinner than go up until 5, but its best if tagliatelle remain thicker so when you cook them they don't stick. Let the tagliatelle dry on a clean table cloth or on a pasta dryer.
To make the pest I have put all the ingredients into a blender and mixed until smooth. Add more or less oil according to the size of your courgettes and your taste.
Boil some water in a big saucepan, add some salt then add the pasta and let it cook for 3 minutes starting counting from when the water starts boiling again. Drain but save some water (about 6 Tbsp). Return the pasta on the gas, mix it with the pesto and toss well to blend all the ingredients and to make a nice sauce. This is very important in order to avoid sticky pasta. Add a drizzle of oil if the pasta sticks.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Hope's Nose Sunday Meeting

Rob, my husband, has finally decided that "It's no fair to live at the sea side if you can't go fishing!" It was about time he realised it! We have been living in Devon for 2 years now, but moved in the Torbay area only a month ago. Today we decided to go for a walk, just across the road where we live and here is what we found at Hope's Nose. One of the best place to go fishing in the Torbay area, favoured by many local fishermen. In fact we found many of them, young and older, all happily fishing!
But what we really enjoyed was the unusual encounter with this beautiful seal. She came on the surface all of a sudden, I was so excited I couldn't believe it, I kept pressing on my camera but couldn't really take nicer pictures than these. She was moving too quickly and I was shaking!
A fisherman fed her with a squid to attract her attention, she ate it, then went fishing for something bigger than that! This picture on the left shows Hope's Nose from the top of the hill. The place is also known as the Cardiac Hill as its really easy to go down but very steep to come back! Luckily we are fit enough for that, nevertheless it was quite tiring.
So thinking of having a place like this so close to us, has also made Rob finally realise that this is a beautiful place to live in and he will have to stop nagging about "going back to Milan". It has also made me realize that its about time I learnt to swim. The plan for now is to buy a good rod and that we keep on trying. Well, Rob will, perhaps. I vision myself in a couple of weeks on the small bay, setting up the fire for a nice barbecue, wearing only a shell's skirt while Rob is on the other side fishing patiently. As if we were Adam and Eve. To complete the vision, I can only think of having some good friends around and a few bottles of white wine. Anyone?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Minervinian Lampasciones

This is a gift from my mother who leaves in the south of Italy, now dated a couple of weeks back. Fortunately, these can last long by storing them in a dry and cold place, maybe on the terrace, considering these days’ temperatures. The Lampascioni are for all Apulian a delicious treat. The scientific name of this flower bulb, because this is what it is, is Muscari comosum, a wild flower which grows all over Italy. I am not sure if this bulb is used for cooking in other Italian regions but in Apulia they are never missed on the table, particularly during winter time. The Lampascione looks a bit like a little onions or shallots. They can be cooked in a few different ways, the most common being: boiled and served with olive oil, fried, with tomatoes, with dry salted cod (Baccalá) or preserved in oil. They must be cleaned as an onion and left in cold water for some time to remove all the remaining soil. In the Murgia, the wildest Apulian region, they are often cooked under hot wooden ashes then dressed with olive oil and salt. That’s the best way to maintain their wild taste. If you know where to find these in England, please let me know!

Ingredients : Lampascioni, extravirgin olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper

Peel the lampascioni as you would peel an onion, removing the external side covered by earth. Soak them in water and leave it overnight. Boil them in hot water from 20 to 30 minutes, until they are soft.Drain them, put it in a dish and crash them with a fork one by one. Drizzle with lots of extravirgin olive oil, a bit of vinegar, salt and pepper.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Matcha Tagliatelle with tomatoes, tofu and soy sauce

Est meets West! Its been a long time since I wanted to try making some pasta with green tea Matcha! So here it is, the time has come, and what best dish to start my new english blog! The pasta has a slightly bitter taste, typical taste of green tea Matcha, but it goes really well with the sauce which is sweet. Definitely a dish to try again perhaps with different shapes of pasta and different sauces...maybe even sweet ones!

Ingredients for the dough: 300gr durum wheat flour, 1 Tbsp green tea Matcha (抹茶) , 1 glass of water
Ingredients for the sauce: 1 small red onion, 200gr canned diced tomatoes, 80gr silk tofu, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 piece of ginger, about 2cm

Make the tagliatelle with your pasta machine as you would make normal ones. Sift the flour and the green tea on your working surface. Add water bit by bit and make a round soft ball. Divide the dough into 4 and work it on the pasta machine into layers of pasta first. I start with number 3 and then go to 4. If you like it thinner than go up until 5, but its best if tagliatelle remain thicker so when you cook them they don't stick. Let the tagliatelle dry on a clean table cloth.
Prepare the sauce by frying a red sliced onion into 1 Tbsp of oil. Add grated ginger and tofu, mashing it with a fork. Add canned tomatoes, soy sauce and cook for about 10 minutes. The sauce doesn't have to cook dry. Boil some water in a sauce pan, add about 1 Tbsp of salt and cook the tagliatelle for 3 minutes counting from when the water starts to boil again. Drain the tagliatelle, transfer them into the pan with the sauce, toss the pasta to mix the sauce and that's it!