Friday, March 31, 2006

Ginger Tea

Springtime has arrived in many countries, except here, in Devon where it's still cold and windy and too cloudy to be true. This is the perfect drink for those, who like me, are not only in the cold, but have a cold. Wheter the ginger, wheter the weather, the cold has gone after drinking it. Give it a try!

Ingredients: 2 cm fresh ginger, 1 tsp brown sugar, 250ml water

Bring the water to a boil. Add greated ginger and let it stand for 3 minutes. Add sugar and drink when it's still very warm. If you don't like how ginger tastes, filter the tea before drinking it

Monday, March 27, 2006

Rice biscuit with cocoa and cardamom

These lovely biscuits have been made by using a biscuit maker, one of those thing similar to a gun, but more useful and less destructive. Making biscuits has never been so easy! The trick is in the dough. It requires a bit of more butter, as it has to slide perfectly in the machine, in order to allow the "gun" to "shoot" the biscuit perfectly. First time for me with it. Sometimes the shape isn't exactly how it looks on the box but it doesn't really matter! Rice flour makes them even more crumbly, perferct with tea.

Ingredients: 300gr rice flour, 170gr butter, 70gr sugar, 1 egg, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp powdered cardamom, 1 pinch salt

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and the sugar together until you get a soft cream. Add the egg and keep mixing. Then add the flour 1 Tbsp at the time, and finally the cocoa and cardamom or another spice of your choice. Take the dough out and work it in your hands quickly to remove the air so when you push the dough in the biscuit maker, it doesn't creat empty spaces. Cook the biscuits in a pre-heated oven at 180 C for 15 minutes or until golden. Let them cool well before serving.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Clams and potatoes soup

This is my personal variation of the famous New England Clam Chowder. What I have done differently is basically removing the bacon and adding the pancetta instead, removed the cream and only used milk, so that the soup it's lighter. I have also added a bit of white wine, which always goes well when it comes to fish and seafood.

Ingredients: 500gr clams, 2 medium potatoes, 1 celery stalk, 50gr pancetta, 1 glass white wine, 2 Tbsp flour, 500ml milk, 500ml fish stock, olive oil, salt, pepper

Let the clams open in a saucepan with a couple of Tbsp of water. Remove the shell, filter the water and set aside. In another pan, fry the pancetta with 1 Tbsp of olive oil, add the chopped potatoes, celery and clams with their own filtered water. Mix well with a spoon, pour the glass of white wine and let it cook for a few minutes until the alcohol has evaporated. Add fish stock, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Wisk flour and milk in another pan until no lumps are formed. Add it to the other pan with clams and potatoes and keep mixing until the soup has reached a good consistency. If you want it more dense, add more flour or else, more milk. Serve hot.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pan fried scallops with traditional balsamic vinegar

Scallops aren't certainly the cheapest of the seafood, but they are so gorgeous that you can indulge sometimes. The best way to eat them I think, it's always the simpliest. Lightly coat with flour, lightly fried with butter and guarnished with balsamic vinegar, better if it's The traditional balsamic vinegar.

scallops, flour, butter, aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena, a few leaf of salad or baby spinach

Lightly coat the scallops with flour. Melt a bit of butter into a frying pan. Fry the scallops lightly about 2 minuts each side or until golden, not brown. Arrange them on a plate or in their shells, where you previously put some fresh salad leaves or baby spinach leaves. Guarnish with some drops of balsamic vinegar and serve immediately while still warm.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Hazelnut and white chocolate cake

This is a very simple but effective cake. It can be made with white chocolate or if you want a richer taste, with dark chocolate. The chocolate metls in the middle of the cake, so when you cut it, it's like a surprise. A sweet one! I dedicate this cake to my friend Frank, who celebrates his birthday today! Happy birthday Frank!

Ingredients: 200gr flour, 175gr sugar, 175gr butter, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 1 egg, 200ml milk, 100gr white chocolate, 2 tsp cinnamon, 50gr hazelnuts

Beat all ingredients together except chocolate and hazelnuts. You can use an electric beater or a manual wisk. Beat well until no lumps are formed. Pour half of the mixture into a greased cake tin. Break the white chocolate into pieces and put them on top of the mixture. Pour the other half of it and spread well with a spatula. Sprinkle with roughly chopped nuts. Bake for 1 hour or until well cooked inside and brown on the outside in a preheated oven at 180 C (Gas 4, 350 F). If the top starts to get too dark cover it with foil and continue baking. You can also use a thootpick to make sure it's cooked inside before removing it from the oven. Once is ready, switch the oven off and let it cool inside the oven with it's door open.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena - Taste the difference

A while ago I had a post about the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena thanks to Omar which sent to me a little home made sample, made by him and his family in Modena.

Some of you have wished to have the same opportunity of tasting such a unique product. Omar is now giving you the chance! He has prepared 5 little 50 ml bottles of ABTM, such as the one you see in the picture above.

This specific ABTM has been tasted and appreciated by a local expert, who is in charge of tasting all the ABTM samples of the "San Giovanni Palio" and is becoming a "certified taster" of the ABTM consortium which requires a few years of classes kept by the consortium.

Omar is now proposing a "tasting the difference", giving you the chance to buy a 50 ml bottle for just 20 Euro. This is a very "friendly" price which also includes shipping fees (within Europe), well below the market price. You can pay online by using Paypal. The ABTM will be shipped by Omar once the payment is received.

The first five persons who book through the link in the comments window will receive in the same window Omar's address so you will contact him directly to agree about payment and delivery details.

If you want to know more about ABTM you can read the previous post. If you are still not sure I can tell you that this, is completely different form the commercial balsamic vinegar you buy. It is a unique product that is difficult to describe, you have to try it!

The same opportunity is given in my Italian blog. If some sample will not be sold there will be moved here and viceversa. Happy ABTM!

(photo ABTM by Omar)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Spiced lentil soup

Spring seems to have changed completely it's direction this year. I don't know where it is at. It's freezing cold out there, much worse than it was in January. So while we wait for the spring time, and even better summer time, we cuddle ourselves with hot soups, good for the health and for the heart.

Ingredients: 150gr lentils, 2 medium onions, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tomatoes can, 2lt chicken or vegetable stock, 2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp hot paprika, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp cumin, olive oil, salt, fresh coriander leaves

Chop onions and crushed garlic, fry them in a big saucepan with some oil. Add lentils, tomatoes, stock, spices. Adjust with salt. Bring to boil and simmer for about 1 hour or until lentils are tender. Reduce the time and the stock, accordingly to the type of lentils you are using. Some don't require such a huge amount of cooking, so refeer to the instructions you have on your packet of lentils.
Transfer some of the lentils in a blender and process until smooth. Return to the pan, warm it up again with the remaining lentils and serve hot guarnished with fresh coriander.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Steamed tuna dressed with soy and chilli sauce

This is one my favourite dressing to go with fish. It can be used with tuna or other fish. Simple and easy to make, perfect if you are on a diet as it doesn't require much effort and does not contain many calories. If your diet is really strict, you can easily remove the oil, it will taste delicious any way.

Ingredients: 4 pieces of tuna, 2 Tbsp oyster sauce, 2 Tbsp sesame oil, 1 Tbsp and a half rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 small red chilli

Line steamer with baking paper or with some cabbage, whatever you like or prefer, so to avoid that the bamboo steamer gets dirty afterwards, it will be difficult to remove traces of fish. Although you can clean the bamboo steamer, it will be more hygenic to put something in between fish and steamer.
Cook covered for about 5 minutes or until tuna is just cooked.
Put all other ingredients in a bowl and mix well, cut the red chilli in small pieces and add to the sauce.
Serve tuna drizzled with chilli dressing and if you like with with steamed vegetables.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Lime and dried Figs Marmalade

I really like limes, not just for the color, but also for the fact that you can use them in a variety of dishes, raw or cooked. I had some organic figs I had bought a while ago, so I thought that one of the best way to eat them would be converting into a marmalade. The taste of this is slightly bitter which goes very well with the sweetness of figs. Excellent spread on bread and butter or even with cheese.

Ingredients: 1kg lime, 250gr dried figs, 1.5kg sugar, 2lt water

Remove rind from limes cutting them into stripes and put them in a pan. Cut limes in half, remove the flesh. Put the flash in the pan as well and tie pith and seeds in the musling bag. Combine rind, lime, flash and muslin bag and the water in the pan. Bring to boil and cook slowly for 1 hour.
Discard musling bag. Add sugar and figs sliced thinly, and stir well until dissolved. Bring to boil again and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency. Pour hot marmalade into hot sterilised jars. Put them upside down and cover with a blanket until almost cold. Turn them again to prevent the marmalade stick on the wrong side!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sweet potatoes Focaccia with cherry tomatoes and oregano

This is what Italians call focaccia. It's similar to pizza but as you can see much thick and softer. Like pizza, there are many different ways to make focaccia and many different toppings and filling. Infact you can find plain focaccia, focaccia with toppings like this one, or stuffed focaccia. This is just one of them. I have used sweet potatoes although the "original" recipes requires white potatoes, but I do like the orange color so I used them. This kind of focaccia it's typical in the south region of Puglia (Apulia) in Italy, which is where I come from originally, but you can find it all over Italy nowdays. You can make this thicker or slightly thinner and you can fill it with mortadella or Parma ham as I have done, or just eat it as it is. The potatoes make the dough softern than usual and of course also reacher than a normal dough, although you won't taste potatoes.

Ingredients: 250gr durum weath flour, 250gr white flour, 400gr sweet potatoes, 4 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp dry yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 100gr cherry tomatoes, oregano

Prepare the yeast accordingly to your favourite brand. I usually diluite 1 Tbsp of dry yeast into 600ml of warm water, add 1 tsp sugar, mix well and leave in a warm place until it forms bubbles. Boil potatoes and mash them well. Sift flour, add salt, 2 Tbsp olive oil and mashed potatoes. Work it well for about 10 minutes or until you get a soft and smooth dough, adding only as much water (with yeast) as you need. Leave it to leaven in a warm place for 1 hour. Work it again on your work surface for a couple of minutes, put it into an oven well oiled pan. I used a 24cm squared pan but you could use a round one. Shape the dough in the pan very well with your hands, pour 2 Tbsp olive oil and spread it on the surface. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and arrange them over the focaccia pushing them in slightly. Sprinkle with salt and oregano. Leave it in a warm place to leaven for another 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven at 220 C. Cook the focaccia for 30 minutes or until golden, making sure the tomatoes don't burn. Serve warm or cold and if you like, filled with ham or mortadella (if you can find it!).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Stew of new potatoes in white wine, with mortadella and mozzarella

Mortadella is a finely hashed/ground heat-cured pork sausage with lard pieces, delicately flavored with garlic and anise seed and optionally with broken pieces of pistachio. Traditionally the pork filling was ground to a paste using a large mortar (mortaio) and pestle. Mortadella originated in Bologna la Grassa, the "fat" city overflowing with bounty, though it is made elsewhere in Italy, and a similar commercial product, called "bologna" often omitting the lard.
Of course it has been impossible for me to find mortadella in Devon! This has been sent to me by my dearest friend Terry directly from Italy. You could substitute it with a few slices of a good ham. Terry also sent me this recipe and of course I couldn't resist trying it straight away! Thank you Terry!

Ingredients: 500gr new potatoes, 70gr scallions, 2 garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 glass and a half of dry white whine, 1 small branch of rosemary (fresh or dry), 70gr mortadella, 125gr mozzarella, salt, pepper

Wash the new potatoes well without peeling them. Peel the scallions and cut a couple only, leave the others whole. Peel the garlic and cut it into small stripes. Warm up butter and oil in a large pan, add scallions and garlic and fry for a few minutes without letting the garlic burn, then add new potatoes, fry again for a few and adjust with salt and pepper. Add rosemary, mix well and pour 1 glass of white wine first. Cover and stew for about 30 minutes checking now and then that it doesn't need more wine. Cut the mozzarella into small cubes and the mortadella into stripes. Add them to the new potatoes, toss covered for about 2 minutes until the mozzarella melts. Serve warm guarnished with more rosemary.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Potato and Parsnip Puree

Parsnip is a root similar to a carrot, although brown on the outside and white on the inside. I never had this in Italy, I actually don't think I have ever seen them in Italy or tested them. That is the beauty of travelling I guess, to discover what you would never think it even exists. In Italy we have vegetables that don't grow in England as well, and although I sometimes miss them, I still like to experiment with the things I have here. This is just a simple puree with potatoes. Goes well as a side dish or by itself.

Ingredients: 250gr parsnips, 400gr patatoes, 30gr butter, 4 Tsbp grate parmesan cheese, milk, nutmeg, salt

Boil potato and parsnip separately until tender.

Mash them and add milk, butter, salt.

Add grated cheese and milk accordingly until you get a smooth puree.

You can add nutmeg at this point, or sprinkle it at the end.

Serve warm.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Rhubarb meat sauce

This is one of my first attempts with rhubarb. Probably unusual, or maybe not. I have used it as I would use celery, only added a bit more of it. While it cooks, the rhubarb melts completely and makes a nice mixture with the meat and the spices. As always it is very difficult to tell if this works as it depends on your testes. So there is only one way to know it. Try and let me know.

Ingredients: 400gr mince meat, 1 medium red onion, 4 or 5 carrots, 350gr rhubarb, 50gr sugar, 125ml water, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, olive oil, salt, pepper

Fry the sliced onion into a bit of olive oil and let it cook until it soften. Add the meat and fry until brown, then add the rhubarb cut into about 2cm pieces, sugar, spices and a bit of water. Finally add salt and pepper and let it cook for about 1 hour. You can serve it with pasta, rice or even cous cous. The choice is yours.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Pizza with Basil Pesto and Ricotta cheese

Green, green and more green! I love the color green but most of all I really like basil. I like basil so much that I even eat it raw like I would eat a salad. I am not sure it does well to me, but if I am still alive and kicking it surely can't be that bad. Home made pesto is much better than the one you buy, as most home made food. I have added some ricotta cheese to it, to give a bit of extra flavour. You could make the same pesto to eat with some pasta or for a Vegan version, use tofu instead.

Ingredients for the dough: 500gr white flour, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp dry yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt
Ingredients for the pesto: 1 big bunch of basil, 2 garlic cloves, 50gr pine nuts, 3 Tbsp parmigiano reggiano cheese, 200gr ricotta cheese, 150ml extravirgin olive oil, salt, pepper

Follow the instructions of your favourite yeast brand. I usually diluite 1 Tbsp yeast and 1 tsp sugar into 600ml warm water. Put it aside into a warm place until bubbles are formed.
Put the flour on your working surface. Make a hole in the middle and add olive oil, salt and the water with yeast. Add more warm water accordingly. Work the dough until you get an elastic one, not too dry. Let it leaven for 1 hour or until it has doubled the size.
Prepare the pesto by putting all the ingredients into a mixer or a blender. Mix them all until a smooth paste is formed, adding more or less oil accordingly to the amount of basil used. Add salt and pepper.
When the dough has leaven, put it back on your working surface and roll it into a thin sheet. With this amount of flour, you will get 1 rectangular pizza and 1 round pizza. Pour the pesto over the pizza and add a couple of Tbsp of warm water to the pesto if it's too difficult to spread. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and cook in a pre-heated ove at 220 C (425 F - Gas 7) for about 20 minutes or until gold.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Seville Orange Marmalade and chocolate Tarts

We really don't need to make tarts to eat this delicious Marmalade, but chocolate and orange it's a combination that works really well, however you put them together, you'll never go wrong. Easy to make tarts, perfect for kids and just great for adults!

Ingredients for 6 tarts: 150gr white flour, 90gr butter, 30gr sugar, 1 pinch salt, 1 egg, 2 Tbsp cold water, 300gr seville oranges marmalade, 6 small chocolate squares

Mix all the ingredients (apart from marmelade and chocolate) in a food processor. Mix until it resembles fine crumbs and the dough comes together. Wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.
Lightly coat 6 stamps or 1 big stamp, with your fingers work the dough inside towards the edges to form the borders. Fill with marmelade and put a square of chocolate in the middle.
Bake on a pre-heeated oven at 180 C (350 F - Gas 4) for about 35 minutes or until golden.