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/)
Strictly speaking Madeleines are not an Italian sweet treat. So what are they doing in my Authentic Italian food blog, you may rightfully ask? It’s one of the best known, most loved French buttery delight, but the geographical vicinity with France, the French influence in Val D’Aosta and Piedmont, both in language and cuisine and the fact that Italy and France have been calling one another “cousins” for centuries makes me feel entitled to love and share this recipe with you. Also, the batter itself is a Génoise cake batter …Génoise means “from Genoa”, the main city of Liguria, in Italy, another reason why Italians claim this sweet as, partially, theirs…
The recipe is fairly simple. It’s a combination of the usual suspects: self-raising flour, eggs, sugar, butter, orange and vanilla. The secret to a perfectly moist and soft Madeleine though, is in the time you allow for the batter to rest. I have had a few failures with these lovely, shell-shaped nuggets and it was only after reading the Roux bothers cook-book, the bible of French dessert, that I realized that even cakes need their beauty sleep! And I’m not talking about a power-nap. The batter needs to rest for a minimum of 6 hours, up to 24. So, if you have an instant craving for Madeleines, think again. But if you are prepared to make this batter today and bake your sweets in the morning, by the time you’ve had a shower, you’ll be able to dunk a few warm ones into your morning coffee.
INGREDIENTS, makes 24 small cakes
3 whole eggs at room temperature
100 gr sugar (half a cup)
2 tbsp honey
120 gr of butter (3/4 of a cup)
175 gr (1 1/2 cups) of sieved self-raising flour
Grated rind of one large orange, or two small ones
Vanilla paste or essence (or seeds, if you have them)
1. Melt the butter over low heat and add the grated orange zest. Turn off the heat and set aside.
2.Whisk the eggs with the sugar and the honey until pale and creamy. Sift over the sieved flour and fold gently. Don’t over work the flour or the gluten with make the batter too dense. Fold in the orange butter and a teaspoon of vanilla paste.
3. Cover with cling wrap and rest for up to 24 hours in the fridge.
4. The next day, bring your oven to 180 Celsius (390 Farenheit). Spoon the batter onto a greased and floured madeleine mould. The cakes will rise in the oven, so only fill the mould to 3/4 full.
5. Bake 5-10 minutes or until golden and cooked-thourgh.
Dunk in your coffee and have a très magnifique day!
This is a reblog of my original post on Madeleines from 2011. I have since altered the recipe slightly, hence the need to update it and provide better quality images.
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)
Bruschetta (pronouced brus’ketta) is to an Italian as vital as a peanut butter sandwich is to an American. We may have it most days during summer, as a way to celebrate the most awaited season of tomatoes at their ripest and to use up stale bread that simply cannot be thrown out and wasted. It is a combination of simple and humble ingredients and for that it perfectly encapsulate Italian cooking at its best. In Italy we hardly ever stray from the classic combination of bread rubbed with garlic and seasoned with EVOO and salt, grilled on both sides and topped with the juiciest tomatoes you can get your hands on: San Marzano, Pachino, heirloom cherry tomatoes or the glorious oxheart variety. With their ruby-red flesh and the shape of a love heart, they turn my breakfast table into an instant feast for the eyes and the palate. Sweet consolation to the idea that the end of summer in nigh…
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
4 slices of 1 day-old sourdough
1 garlic clove, cut in half
2-3 oxheart tomatoes (depending on the size)
4 tablespoons of EVOO (or home-made basil oil)
salt to taste
basil leaves to serve
1. Place a griddle pan on the stove over high heat. You can also grill your bread on a BBQ or using the grill function in your oven.
2. Rub the bread with the cut size of the garlic.
3. Place the tomatoes on their side and slice them to your desired thickness. Season them with salt and EVOO.
4. Dip the bread slices, on both sides, in the tomato dish to soak up some of the juices. This will turn your stale slice of bread in a delightful, savory morsel once grilled.
5. Grill the bread on both sides, top with the tomatoes and basil leaves and serve as a healthy breakfast or a light lunch.
I was driving around Sydney a few weeks ago, distractedly listening to the local Italian radio station, when a very animated conversation caught my attention.
The radio host and an elderly Southern Italian lady on the phone were engaged in a feisty discussion about one of everybody’s favorite Italian side dish, crocchette di palate, potato croquettes.
The dear lady truly sounded in despair over the failure of the recipe given to her by her neighbor’s sister-in-law: the croquettes broke down in the frying pan and her so did her spirit.
After a detailed sequence of questions, the host, a self-proclaimed food expert, gave his verdict:
the neighbor’s sister-in-law never mentioned resting the uncooked, shaped croquettes in the fridge before frying them. That apparently, is the secret to a perfectly crunchy morsel that holds its shape in the hot oil.
The lady’s spirit was quickly resorted and new confidence was instilled into her heart. And into mine, for that matter. I had never attempted to make croquettes, but now that, yet another secret of Italian home-cooking had been bestowed upon me, I could not give it a miss.
Ingredients, makes 12-16 croquettes
2 large red potatoes
4-5 tablespoons of plain flour
1 tablespoon or potato starch (or corn flour)
2 eggs (one for potato mix, one for the batter)
salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
a little freshly ground black pepper
1 handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 small handful of chives, finely chopped
2 cups of breadcrumbs (home-made or store-bought panko crumbs)
Wash the potatoes, place them in a pot of cold water, skin on and simmer for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
Drain the water, allow for the potatoes to cool for 5 minutes then peel them.
Mash the potatoes with a masher or using a potato ricer.
Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, add the egg and the herbs.
Add the flour and potato starch (or corn flour) and mix it through to obtain a firm yet pliable dough. Depending on the size of your potatoes you may need less flour or add a little more if the dough is too sticky.
Place the crumbs onto a plate.
Crack the egg into a bowl and whisk it with a fork.
Using wet hands, shape the dough into little sausages the size of your thumb (or bigger if you so prefer), dip them into the egg and the coat them with the crumbs. Set aside onto a plate and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Heat up the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Test the oil by dropping in a cube of bread. If it sizzles at the sides and turns golden in 15 seconds, the oil is ready to go.
Drop in the croquettes, 4 0r 5 at a time and deep fry on both sides for 2-3 minutes or until golden.
Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt flakes and eat while still hot.
- Gnocchi di Patate (stefanoberuschi.wordpress.com)
- Crispy outside and soft inside: Parmesan potato croquettes! (mylittleitaliankitchen.wordpress.com)
If you have not heard yet of ‘kale chips’, then, quite frankly, where have you been? The ‘blogsphere’ has gone bonkers over this new healthy fad, and if it weren’t for the fact that I love -LOVE- kale, I probably would have never had a go at making kale chips just to prove to myself I don’t follow the latest food trends…But the temptation was too high and, here I am, tail between my legs and sticky fingers in my mouth ready to be licked clean, as I gulp down another crunchy mouthful of this new foodie delight. The benefits of keel consumption are beyond good. Not only you will boost your immune system, give your blood a good clean and your insides a beauty treatments, your skin will get a rosy glow, your hair will shine and your DNA will be encouraged to repair damaged cells and block the growth of cancer cells. So, add this little magic green to your shopping list, please! As much as kale chips have become one of my favorite nibbles to simply serve with a drink before dinner, I have also learnt that they marry happily with roasted root vegetables. Choose you favorite, although I will admit I can’t go past the beauty of the Dutch carrot; its block orange tone and mellow sweetness combined with the dark green and savoury robustness of kale turns this salad into a joy for the eyes, as well as the palate.
Ingredients for 4 people
10-12 medium carrots or 20 baby carrots
6-8 kale leaves, stalk removed, chopped
4-5 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar (if unavailable, use white wine vinegar mixed with 1 teaspoon of sugar)
1-2 good pinches of salt
freshly gourd white pepper (to taste)
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 C, 390 F
2. Scrub the carrots clean with a pairing knife or a vegetable peeler. Cut them in half lengthways, place them in a large mixing bowl and season them with the vinegar.
3. Add the chopped kale to the bowl and season with oil, salt and pepper.
4. Put the vegetables onto an oven tray lined with baking paper and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the carrots are soft and slightly sunburnt and the kale is crispy.
Serve as a side dish, with cheese or however you prefer.
Have you ever been tempted to make your own tomato pasta sauce, but got put off by the daunting thought that this is a complicated job, best left to the expert, wrinkled hands of a good-old Italian Nonna? Think again! Home-made passata is within everybody’s reach. All you need is a food miller, some empty glass jars and, naturally, the ripest, juiciest tomatoes you can fetch. For those of you frolicking in the heat of high summer, this is a reasonably easy feat. We, antipodean dwellers must be patient and wait a few more months before we can get our hands on the ruby-red jewels!
As a child growing up in Italy, I was exposed from a very early age to the delicate sweetness of my Mamma and Nonna’s passata. Every August, we children were assigned the task of washing tons of plump tomatoes, so ripe they almost burst in our tiny and clumsy hands. Mamma and Nonna would then put them all in a cauldron accompanied by other essentials herbs to stew gently, the sweet fumes impregnating the kitchen wall, our clothes, our hair. They would then mill them vigorously to obtain a thick and peel-free, crimson nectar, read to be bottled. The prospect of winter seemed to be more endurable, all of a sudden!
Ingredients (makes 3×450 gr jar)
2 kg (4 pounds) of ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 stick of celery
2 spring onions, cut into chunks
1 chillie (chilli pepper), leave out if you don’t like the heat
2-3 handfuls of fresh basil
a few sprigs of fresh oregano
salt to taste
1. Put the prepared vegetables in a large saucepan over medium heat, bring to a gentle simmer, turn the heat to low and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and the scent of Italy has invaded your home. Taste for salt and adjust to your liking,
2. Allow to cool in the spot for 10 minutes, then, working in batches, pass the vegetables through a food miller. You can choose to also pass the nectar through a sieve to get rid of seeds, but I personally like it rustic and a bit chunky.
3. Now all is left for you to do it is to put the passata back in the saucepan to heat up for a few minutes, ready to be poured hot into freshly sterilized glass jars and lids.
If you are not familiar with the process, this is how I do it:
- Always use new lids. Old lids will fail to seal the jar safely.
- To sterilize jars and lids, simply put them in the dish water and run a hot temperature cycle. Allow to dry in the machine, then fill the hot jars with hot liquid until 3/4 full. Seal with the lid securely. Turn the jars upside down to facilitate the creation of the vacuum, and allow to cool at room temperature.
- You can also sterilize them in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes. LIft them out with tongs, allow them to dry, upside down, on a clean tea towel, then proceed as above.
Keep the jars in a dark cupboard and consume within 6 months.
Summer in a bottle!
- Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes (farmtek.wordpress.com)
- From Farm to Table: Tomatoes in every possible way! Conserva from Day 1 (foodmeditations.typepad.com)
- The Creation of a Nostalgic Aroma (littlemissbitchin.wordpress.com)
- My new kitchen! (aroundthemulberrytree.wordpress.com)
- Tomatoes. Everywhere. (milkwood.net)
Happy 2012 to all!
Given my self-confessed obsession for yeasted baked goods, it only makes sense that the first post of the year is -yet another- bread recipe. I have been experimenting with doughs and flours and I really wanted to offer you an alternative to hand or machine kneading, and it turns out that some breads can be mixed in a food processor! No hard work+no floury mess= amazingly good bread rolls with a soft, moist crumb.
1x 7gr (0,2 oz) sachet of dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup water
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
500 gr (3-3/4 cup) all purpose flour (or Italian 00 flour)
1-2 rosemary sprig
2 teaspoons salt
2 handfuls of pitted olives
1. Stir the dry yeast in lukewarm water. Stand for 10 minutes until the liquid appears slightly creamy, than add1/2 cup of water and oil
2. Place flour, a scant handful of rosemary springs and salt in a food processor fitted with a sharp blade, cover with the lid and pulse a few times to combine the flour with the salt. Gradually add the yeast+olive oil liquid until it starts to combine. At this stage the dough will look quite dry. Don’t be tempted to add water or oil as the olives you are about to scatter through it will add a lot of moisture.
3. Sprinkle in the olives (I used green Sicilian and black Ligurian olives) and pulse until the dough starts to gather into a slightly sticky ball. If you think your dough it too wet, you can sprinkle a little extra flour. Likewise, if your dough isn’t moist enough, add a table-spoon of water or another couple of olives.
4. When the dough easily detaches from the sides of the bowl, take it out, dust it with a little flour, shape it into a ball and leave it to rest, well covered, until it doubles in size. In warm weather this will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours, allow a little longer if it’s cold.
5. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, shape them into balls and place them to prove on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Be sure to allow some room for the rolls to grow. You can use this dough to bake loaves as well, as pictured below.
6. Allow to rise for a further hour. In the meantime bring your oven to 200 Celsius (390 Farenheit). Bake your rolls for about 20 minutes or until they look slightly golden and sound hollow when tapped with your fingers.
Serve with pecorino and salame or simply devour them as there are…
Combine the creaminess of Carnaroli short grain rice with the perfume of red wine and the savoury deliciuosness of pork and fennel sausages, with stewed sweet leeks and a generous amount of butter and Parmigiano and you have got yourself joy on a plate. Risotto is the ultimate comfort food and it is really quite straight forward to make. Having said that, I have to be pedantic and fastidious and insist you only make it if you have a great stock to cook in with. Cubes won’t cut it, I’m afraid…
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
2 sausages, sliced
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter +1 extra at the end
2 cups of Carnaroli or Arborio rice
half a glass of red wine
4 cups of good stock
2/3 cup of frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated parmigiano
1. Pan fry the sausage with oil until browned and almost cooked through. Remove and set aside.
2. Slice two leeks and wash throughly to remove any grit. Stew over a low flame in the same pan with the sausage juices adding a tablespoon and butter a Cover with a lid and stir occasionally. They should turn soft and creamy in about 20 minutes.
3. Add the rice and toast in the pan with the leaks until the grains turn translucent, pour in the wine and allow for the alcohol to evaporate. Stir a little to make sure no grains are sticking to the pan, being mindful not to distress the rice too much. You want to make sure the grains keep their shape and texture.
4. As the wine dries out, turn the flame down and start adding the stock, a few ladles at a time, stirring gently. Repeat for about 16/17 minutes,until the rice is almost cooked. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly. Add a cup of frozen peas and your slices of sausage.
5. Turn off the flame , add a ladleful of stock, a generous grating of Parmigiano and 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir vigorously to release the starch. Cover with a lid and rest for 3 minutes. This process is called mantecatura and it is essential in order to obtain a creamy risotto with its characteristic all’onda* texture .
Serve with lots of Barbera and enjoy!
* The way of the waves.