Italian home-cooking can be explained in a simple equation: a few fresh ingredients + a bit of love = happy diners! This is always the case at my house, where we celebrate the abundance of the exquisite produce we get … Continue reading
I often find myself planning recipes that only require the use of yolks so that I can have some egg whites to play with. As I type this I will concede that this may sound odd to many, but I cannot renounce who I am, a food nerd, really! How many times have you separated eggs, promising yourselves you will give the unused whites a new, worthy life, only to find them weeks later in the back of your fridge, a scary, ectoplasmic entity begging you to be put out of its misery! Here is my favourite thing to do with the protein-packed goodness: whip it, whip it and then whip it a bit more! With sugar, that is, and a little dusting of cocoa powder to turn them into a delectable treat to accompany your coffee or afternoon tea.
INGREDIENTS, makes 12
100 g (just over 1/3 cup) egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt flakes
75 g icing sugar (1/3 cup), sifted (icing sugar is the same as confectioner sugar or powdered sugar)
75 g (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice or cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste or the seeds of half vanilla bean
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1. Preheat your oven to 100°C (212 F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
2. In a large, clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until frothy and very soft peaks start to form. I always do this do with hand-held electric beaters on low speed as it gets the job done in 90 seconds, with no sore wrist. But feel free to do it by hand if you missed a day at the gym and need to burn off some calories. Gradually increase the speed of your beaters (or your biceps) to medium and start adding the icing sugar then, slowly, the caster sugar. Keep beating for 1–2 minutes (or 5–6 minutes by hand) or until the egg whites are shiny, smooth and stiff.
3. Add the lemon juice or cream of tartar and gently fold it in with a metal spoon, taking care not to beat the air out of the meringue mixture. These few drops of acid will neutralise the eggy flavour that meringue can sometimes have, and will also keep them stable and preserve their crisp whiteness.
4. Add the vanilla and mix gently. Swirl the cocoa in.
5. Dollop teaspoons (or tablespoons, if you like them larger) of the mixture onto the baking tray, about 2 cm apart to allow for spreading. You can use a piping bag if you prefer, but I love a more whimsical, free-form meringue.
6. Gently place the tray in the oven and bake for 11/2–2 hours. If they start to colour, turn the heat down to 80°C (175 F). You know the meringues are cooked through when the base is touch-dry.
Cool at room temperature and enjoy as they are with coffee, gelato or, as my dad favours, a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream. The man is known for his sweet tooth …
Home-Made Marshmallows (http://www.theclevercarrot.com/2013/12/homemade-fluffy-marshmallows-corn-syrup-free/)
Raspberry cake with meringues (http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/05/02/raspberry-cake-with-whipped-cream-and-pink-meringues-2/)
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride and excitement that I present to you a spectacular bowl of HEALTH! The mega properties of quinoa have been unveiled by fervent nutritionists all over the globe, but for those you have missed out on the latest food craze, here is a little insight on why this seed is soon to become you new best friend: quinoa is incredibly high in protein, is rich is dietary fiber and phosphorous, and is an excellent source of iron and magnesium, as well as calcium. Good news is that it is gluten-free and suitable for vegans and those who need to keep away from wheat. But, best of all, it tastes beautiful when paired with a few fresh ingredients and gently coated with luscious extra-virgin olive oil.
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
1 cup of uncooked brown quinoa
4 skinless chicken thighs
1 cup of green beans, topped and tailed
1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley, chopped
3-4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
a squeeze of lemon
1. Rinse the quinoa under cold water, place in a pot covered with water by 2 cm (1 1/2 inch). Bring to a simmer, cover with the lid and cook over low heat for 12-14 minutes or according to packet instructions. Turn off the heat and allow to cook a bit more with the residual heat from the pot. I like quinoa to have a bit of a bite, shall we say and Al Dente personality, but feel free to cook it longer if you favour a softer texture.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, steam or blanch the green beans. I like to cook them for 3-4 minutes and then rinse them under cold water to preserve their vibrant green hue.
3. Grill the chicken thighs on the BBQ or on a griddle pan, over medium high heat, until nicely caramelized and cooked through. Rest on a plate for 5 minutes to allow the flesh to relax. For a meat-free option, you can replace the chicken with poached eggs or grilled tofu.
4. Toast the walnuts in a dry pan until they smell fragrant. Set aside.
5. To serve, mix quinoa, beans, parsley, walnuts in a bowl and season with 3-4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. Arrange on a platter, top with grilled chicken (or eggs, or tofu) and enjoy!
- Grilled Chicken with green beans and salad (bakeratheart.com)
- CSA Week 18: Butternut and Arugula Quinoa (smellslikebrownies.com)
- Warm Quinoa Shrimp Salad (ordinarydayinparadise.wordpress.com)
My dear friends, it is with great trepidation and excitement that I can finally announce to you all that my first cookbook, Silvia’s Cucina will be released in stores and online on September 25! This is just a day after the wonderful Matt Moran will host my book launch at his restaurant, Chiswick. Have I won the lottery, I wonder? I have had the honour of being hand-picked by the delightful Julie Gibbs at Penguin Australia amongst a multitude of food bloggers. To this day I can’t quite fathom why she chose my blog and my story over so many on offer to her, but, here I am, exuding pride and joy as I share with you such exciting news. One thing is for sure, I would not be writing this post hadn’t I been so lucky to gather such a generous and loyal readership, so keen to explore my recipes, try them and share them with friends and family. To you all, GRAZIE MILLE! The process of writing this book has been exceptionally creative and fulfilling and it took about 18 months to go from first day of writing, to print. But there it is, my legacy in 220 pages! Take a look at a few images (photos by Chris Chen) and let me know what you think!
My Mum’s Roasted Capsicum Salad
Il Peposo, A Feisty Tuscan Stew
Torta Gianduja, flourless dark chocolate and hazelnut cake
- La Cucina (italiancitygirleatsanddrinks.wordpress.com)
- die Italienisch Küche/la Cucina Italiana (371chorales.wordpress.com)
- Cucina Colosseo (designersarahhealy.wordpress.com)
My love affair with risotto goes deeper than a simple passion for its creamy texture and irresistible savory bite, it’s embedded in my DNA. I was born and raised in the heart of Pianura Padana in the Lombardy region of Italy, where rice grows abundant and where each lombardo d.o.c (citizen of Lombardy) takes sensational pride in cooking the humble produce of our, otherwise slightly dull, flat land. Risotto is our staple dish. We may have it simply flavored with Grana Padano cheese (similar to the more notable Parmigiano, and just as delightful), or we may turn it into a more sumptuous meal with the addition of saffron strands and slow cooked ossobuco. No matter what the add-ons, and I can’t stress this vehemently enough, there will never be a worthy risotto without a great stock. This is the one time I advocate commitment in the kitchen and ditch cubes and salty powders in flavor of a wholesome home-made stock, may it be vegetable, chicken , beef or a mix of the three. Don’t skimp here, the secret to a flavoursome risotto lies in its stock. The rest is a simple act of patience, better achieved with a glass of wine in the hand that is not busy stirring the rice…
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
For the roasted sweet potato
2-3 sweet potatoes (depending on their size), cut into chunks, skin on (well brushed)
a few springs of thyme and rosemary
1 garlic clove, skin on, bashed with the back on a knife
2 tablespoons of EVOO (Extra-virgin olive oil)
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
salt to season
For the risotto
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of EVOO
1/4 cup of dry white wine
4-5 cups of chicken, beef or vegetable stock (preferably home-made)
the roasted sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon of butter
1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
1. Mix all the ingredients for the roasted sweet potatoes in a bowl, toss well and tip onto an oven try lined with baking paper. Roast in a medium/hot oven for 35-40 minutes or until soft and slightly caramelized. Set aside to cool at room temperature
2. Bring the stock to a simmer. In the meantime, fry the onion in olive oil in a large heavy-sided frying pan. Add the rice and allow to be coated with the oil and to slightly toast over medium heat.
3. Add the white wine and allow for the alcohol to evaporate, stirring gently. Pour yourself some wine, while you are at it…
4. Turn the heat down and start adding the stock a ladleful at a time, while stirring gently. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked, this will take around 18 minutes. Add the cooked sweet potatoes.
5. Turn off the heat and add a generous dusting of parmigiano, a tablespoon of butter and one ladeful of stock. Season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, if needed. Stir vigorously to release the starch and create the classic all’onda* texture. Cover with a lid and let it rest for a few minutes to create the perfect mantecatura, creaminess.
- Tomato Soup with Roast Kipfler Potatoes + Kale Pesto (fingerforkknife.com)
- Roasted Balsamic Sweet Potatoes (courtneycammarotacreation.wordpress.com)
- Fresh Spring Salad (benourishedbyfood.wordpress.com)
- Healthy Dinner Idea… (youngmarriedreal.wordpress.com)
I have an undeniable weakness for heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. My heartbeat accelerates at the glorious sight of gnarly shaped heritage tomatoes, miniature beets specked with gold and rippled in pink patterns, or baby carrots painted in vivid yellow and purple hues. I could not resist grabbing a few bunches of these gifts of the heart during my last trip at the farmers market. A splash of oil, a gentle coating of apulian vincotto and a scattering of fresh herbs is all that’s needed to complement their natural sweetness.
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
2 bunches of baby rainbow carrots (or orange dutch carrots)
3 tablespoons of Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of Vin Cotto * (replace with balsamic vinegar if needed)
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
freshly picked thyme and marjoram leaves (or oregano)
1 garlic clove, bashed with back of a knife
1. Preheat your oven to 200 C (390 F)
2. Wash and scrub the carrots, remove the stalks and the leaves. Place carrots in a large bowl and season with oil, vin cot to, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs
3. Place the seasoned carrots onto an oven tray lined with baking paper and roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until nicely golden and slightly blistered.
4. Serve warm or cold as a side or as a salad mixed with peppery arugula leaves.
“Vincotto (translated as “cooked wine”) is a dark, sweet dense condiment produced artisanally in the Apulia region of southeastern Italy. It is made by the slow cooking and reduction over many hours of non-fermented grape must until it has been reduced to about one fifth of its original volume and the sugars present have caramelized. It can be made from a number of varieties of local red wine grapes includingPrimitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera, collected after being allowed to wither naturally on the vine for about 30 days.
Vincotto has a sweet flavor, and is not a form of vinegar, though a sweet vinegar version can be produced using a vincotto as a base. This additional product is called a Vinegar of Vincotto, Vincotto Vinegar, or Vincotto balsamic and can be used in the same way as a good mellow Balsamic vinegar.”
- Kale Avocado Salad & Roasted Rainbow Carrots (shareplatesf.wordpress.com)
- Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans Salad (silviascucina.net)
- Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Kale Pesto (lattesandleggings.com)
- Balsamic Roasted Roots (nourishtheself.wordpress.com)
Have you been looking for a super healthy recipe that combines nutritional virtues with great flavor? Look no further! In the one bowl you have the antioxidant powers of tomatoes, the good, necessary fats of extra-virgin olive oil, the antibacterial boost of garlic and the mood-elevating kick of rosemary. Add to this blissful mix the low-in-fat-high-in-iron, gluten-free, vegan-friendly and utterly delicious cannellini beans and you have granted yourself a beauty treatment for the insides that is sure to show its mighty benefits on the outside too. Whomever said that Italian food is not healthy ought to think again….
INGREDIENTS, serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main meal accompanied with bread
600 gr (1.3 lb) of cherry tomatoes (I used mixed heirloom)
4 tablespoon of EVOO
2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic vinegar or verjuice are good substitutes)
A generous handful of mixed fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)
Salt, to taste
freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tin of Cannellini beans, well drained and rinsed (if using dried-and-soaked beans, 450 gr (1 lb) will be more than enough)
1. If using dried beans, start this recipe a day ahead. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. The next day, rinse the beans, place them in a pot well covered in water, throw in some herbs and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the beans in the cooking liquid, taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Set aside until ready to use.
2. Preheat your oven to 160 C (320 F).
3. Put the washed tomatoes in a large bowl, leave some whole and cut the rest in half. Season with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Mix well.
4. Pour the tomato mix onto a large roasting tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until blistered, but still intact. Add the well-drained beans to the tomatoes while that are still warm, taste for seasoning and fix as required.
5. Serve warm as a side dish or accompanied by toasted sourdough for a more substantial meal.
- Rocket and Parmesan Plus Salad With Cannellini Bean Puree (ifib.wordpress.com)
- Budget recipe: lamb, rosemary and cannellini beans with cabbage (telegraph.co.uk)
- Balsamic-cannellini Bean Tuna Salad (tamaraleighauthor.wordpress.com)
- Cannellini Bean Soup with Sausage (thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com)
Have you been looking for a last minute Valentine’s Day treat recipe? Have you forgotten about today or have you been in denial about it, only to wake up this morning feeling a slight sense of guilt because you didn’t get your better half any tokens of your appreciation? You are not alone! Welcome to my 6 am panicking thought “OMG, it’s Valentine’s Day and I forgot about it!”. And so, while my darling man was still soundly in bed, I quietly rushed downstairs, whipped up a batter in less than 5 minutes, allowed it to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes while running on the cross-trainer (all the while wearing a face mask to make myself look pretty for our romantic date later on in the day) and by the time I had my shower and got dressed, these chewy, delectable coconut bites were out of the oven ready to be drizzled with thick, syrupy dark chocolate. Talk about multitasking… Happy Valentine’s Day!
INGREDIENTS, makes 12 large cookies
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
2/3 cup of caster sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, melted
1. Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt for a couple of minutes or until soft peaks form.
2. Add the sugar, a little at a time and keep whipping the egg whites until thick and glossy.
3. Gently fold in the coconut and vanilla.
4. Dollop 1 tablespoon of mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. MAke sure to leave them well distanced as they will grow a little whilst baking.
5. Rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. In the meantime, bring your oven temperature to 170 C (340 F).
6. Bake the macaroons for 20-25 minutes or until the bottom in dry and golden and the top is slightly browned and firm. They will feel a little soft but they will continue to firm up as they cool down, at room temperature.
7. Allow to cool for 20 minutes, then drizzle with melted chocolate. Rest until the chocolate has hardened, then surprise you beloved with your home-baked, love-filled treat.
- Recipe: Salted Dark Chocolate Popcorn – Recipes from The Kitchn (thekitchn.com)
- 10 Red And Pink Superfoods For A Healthier Valentine’s Day (huffingtonpost.com)
Ah, the joys of lazy Sunday mornings! Sleeping in, waking up rested and in a pure state of relax, indulging in a long, blissful shower, perhaps even a facial mask and a hair treatment. All followed by a generous slice of moist cake to joyfully dunk into a creamy cappuccino. Naturally, as the mother of two young boys, I can only dream of sleeping in and frolicking under the shower for more than 2 minutes. I can forget about hair and facial treatments, but one thing I am yet to surrender: the cake to dunk in my Sunday morning coffee. This batter is mixed in under 3 minutes, just perfect for the busy family life, and produces a soft, moist cake that can become the conduit for bolder flavor such as lemon and almonds, mandarin and ginger, or my children favorite, orange and chocolate chips. Happy Sunday!
INGREDIENTS (serves 8)
280 gr (2-1/2 cups) of self-raising flour, sifted
150 gr (3/4 cup) of caster sugar
finely grated rind of one orange
150 gr (3/4 cup) of dark chocolate chips
pinch of salt
200 ml (3/4 cups) of buttermilk
80 ml (1/3 cup) of olive oil
1 egg, beaten with a fork
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or extract or the seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
1. Preheat your over to 180 C (395 F).
2. Line a cake tin with baking paper.
3. Put flour, sugar, salt , 2/3 of the chocolate chips and the orange zest in a large mixing bowl.
4. Pour the buttermilk and the oil into a jug. Add the egg and vanilla and mix with a whisk for a few seconds.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the large mixing bowl, mix with a wooden spoon just so the batter come together, but don’ try to make it smooth. If the batter feel a little dry, add a couple of extra tablespoons of buttermilk. If too wet, add 1-2 tablespoons of flour. As all flours vary slightly, it is always a good idea to adapt quantities according to the ingredients you are working with.
Lumpy, sticky batter=soft moist cake!
6. Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin, scatter the remaining chocolate chips on top and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is slightly golden and, if pierced with a wooden skewer, it comes out clean.
Cool at room temperature, cut into large slices and enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk
- Buttermilk Hot Cakes (familyrecipebooks.wordpress.com)
- Chocolate Buttermilk Cake With Chocolate Buttermilk Frosting (lovelyseasonscomeandgo.wordpress.com)
- cranberry-orange buttermilk cake with orange-vanilla bean glaze and sugared cranberries (sweetbetweens.com)
My final days in Italy are, sadly, fast approaching. I have spent 6 weeks back home with my family in the company of my Italian folks, I’ve eaten more than I should, drank way too much Italian red wine, bundled myself and my boys in multiple layers of thermal clothing, scarves, hats and coats, played snow ball fights and I even skiied in the Dolomites for the first time in my life… And after such an intense winter time, I now feel an anchoring for summer, for peeling off a few layers of clothing, for walking barefoot and, more to the point, for vine-ripened tomatoes! The kind you ought to handle with care otherwise they burst in your hands, oozing out their ruby, sweet liquor, their sticky seeds landing inexorably on the front of your freshly laundered white singlet… In 10 days, back in the Northern beaches of Sydney, I will be able to hit the farmers market and select, pick and eventually turn these summer jewels into Italian’s most loved pasta dressing: Passata di Pomodoro, fresh Tomato Sauce. And as I do that, I’m sure I will be missing my Italian family and the coziness of winter…Such is life!
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
For the Ricotta Gnocchi (not to be confused with Potato Gnocchi)
450 g (2 1/2 cups) full-cream ricotta (using low-fat ricotta won’t work…Live a little!)
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt flakes
1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
100–120 (2/3 cups) g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2/3 cup (50 g) freshly grated parmigiano
5-6 leaves of basil, finely shredded
For the sauce
850 gr (2 lb) of fresh tomatoes (or 1 tin of good quality tinned tomatoes or your own Passata)
1-2 shallots (or 1 medium brown onion), finely chopped
4 tablespoons of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 garlic clove, skin on, bashed with back of a knife
1 small celery stick, finely chopped
salt flakes, to taste
a few yellow celery leaves
a handful of basil leaves
1. Start by making the sauce. Wash the tomatoes, score the top gently with a knife and blanch them in boiling water for 1 minutes. Plunge them into cold water to allow the skin to come off easily. Peel the tomatoes, chop them roughly and set aside.
2. Heat up the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Stir fry the shallots, celery and the garlic on medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the shallots turn translucent and slightly golden and the garlic smells fragrant. Drop in the chopped tomatoes (or tinned tomatoes, if using. Or, if you’ve been amazingly good, your own Passata…), season with salt and cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the celery and basil leaves. Cover with a lid and set aside.
3. In the meantime, make the gnocchi. Discard any excess liquid from the ricotta, then put it in a large mixing bowl with the egg yolks, cheese, salt and pepper. Add the flour and work with floured hands or a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, soft dough – it should be pliable, a little sticky but not too wet. Don’t be tempted to add lots of flour to make it easier to work the dough as the resulting gnocchi will almost certainly be dense and doughy. The secret to soft and pillowy gnocchi is to go easy with flour, use just enough to make the dough come together.
4. Flour your hands and cooking bench generously and divide the dough into 6 pieces. Take 1 piece, sprinkle it with flour and roll it with your hands to form a log. Cut the log into small rectangles and set them aside on a floured wooden board. Repeat with the remaining dough.
5. Turn the heat back on under the tomato sauce frying pan (on low). Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Drop the gnocchi, in two or three batches, into the pan of boiling water and stir gently. Cook for 1–2 minutes or until they come up to the surface, then fish them out with a slotted spoon and drop them straight into the pan with the tomato sauce. Repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked.
6. Turn off the heat. Serve as it is or with freshly torn basil leaves and a good grating of Parmigiano.