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/)
I often get ask the questions “why are there so many different pasta type? Isn’t pasta all the same?”. The answer is, unsurprisingly, that each pasta shape is cleverly designed to serve a specific purpose, and, no, it is not all the same. You try talk a roman into matching amatriciana sauce with farfalle? You are likely to get cursed at! How can you not know that only bucatini and rigatoni will do? By the same token, ask a genovese to replace spaghetti or trofie with orecchiette, to be lavishly coated in emerald green pesto sauce and he will tell you he’d rather set his own hair on fire than commit such blasphemy. Indeed, we do take the matter of pasta seriously in Italy. Each shape is suited for a particular type of sauce. Shellfish love spaghetti and linguine, penne is heavenly with a simple fresh tomato sauce and fusilli, the famous spiral-shaped pasta, is a perfect vehicle for chunky and rustic sauces, such as this one: oven roasted vegetables, rendered sweet by the addition of a little vincotto and the irresistible piquancy of extra-virgin olive oil.
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 celery sticks, chopped,
1 green pepper (capsicum) cut into small chunks
3/4 shallots cut into quarters
2 garlic cloves, skin off, bashed with the back of a knife
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of vincotto (replace with balsamic vinegar if hard to find)
salt to taste
1 lb of uncooked pasta (fusilli or rigatoni work well with this sauce)
percorino cheese (omit for a vegan, dairy-free option)
1. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl, add the oil, vicotto (or vinegar) and a little salt. Toss to combine and place the vegetables onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.
2. Bake in a preheated 180C (350 F) oven for 40-45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and slightly blistered. Set aside to cool at room temperature. Refrigerate if not using straight away. The vegetables will keep well in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Drop in your pasta and cook al dente, according to instructions.
4. Drain the pasta, but reserve 2-3 tablespoons of pasta cooking water.
5. Toss the pasta in the tray with the vegetables until well coated, add a little pasta cooking water if too dry. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.
6. Top with freshly grated pecorino cheese and a few basil leaves. Serve hot, or at room temperature as a summer pasta salad.
- pesto pasta salad & lemon, thyme & honey chicken (mylovelylittlelunchbox.com)
- Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe Accompanied by Basil Infused Caramelized Tomatoes (catharticgastronomy.wordpress.com)
- Pasta In A Curried Pumpkin Sauce (urbanfoodlover.wordpress.com)
Move over, white flour! The more recent diets trends have cast the spotilght on an ancient grain that has been enjoying a new-found popularity amongst home-bakers and those with a knack for healthy eating. Spelt, or dinkel wheat, contains a … Continue reading
Say hallo to the perfect winter warmer, and quite the healthy fix too, if you are watching your diet. Pulses and winter are a wonderful marriage. When you need that extra nourishment that will keep you warm and energetic without impacting on your digestive system and your waist line, you can safely turn to beans. I love all varieties, but I confess a weakness for the pearly and silky Cannellini. You can buy great tinned ones these days and you shouldn’t be made feel guilty if you’d rather quickly open a tin a of goodness now instead of soaking your beans yesterday…This is fast food at its best. In a matter of minutes you’ll feel warm and cosy again.
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
2 tins of cannellini beans, well drained (or 1- 1/2 pounds of dried beans soaked over night and simmered for 2 hours or until cooked through)
2 French shallots, thinly sliced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced, 1 garlic clove, bashed with the back of a knife
1/4 cup of diced smoked pancetta, or speck, or chorizo (omit for a vegetarian option)
1/2 chillie, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tins of tomatoes, chopped (or home-made passata)
1-2 sprigs of rosemary
a pinch of sugar
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
salt to taste
bread or soft polenta for serving
1. Heat up the oil in a large, heavy based frying pan. Add the sliced shallot, garlic, chillie and celery and stir-fry over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant and soft.
2. Add the pancetta or chorizo and cook together with the vegetables for a further 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the drained beans, combine the ingredients well with a wooden spoon, the add the tinned tomatoes (or passata), a pinch a sugar and the rosemary sprig. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.
4. Turn off the heat, drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on top, scatter a few celery leaves and serve with grilled ciabatta or soft polenta.
- How to Use Beans in Italian Cooking (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Leek, Potato and Cannellini Beans Soup (Zuppa di Porri, Patate e Cannellini) (silviascucina.net)
- Chef’s Summer Recipes: Chef Steven Gallo’s Integrale Pasta (friendseat.com)
- Chicken, Artichoke, and Cannellini Bean Stew (lattesandleggings.com)
Call them dumplings, gnudi or patties, these soft, zesty morsels will have you beam in delight at the very first bite. What could go wrong when you combine the milky richness of fresh ricotta (rigorously full cream!), with home-made breadcrumbs, zingy herbs and the warm piquancy of nutmeg? These delectable bites are delicately poached in a fresh tomato sauce ready to be devoured with a generous chunk of crusty bread or gently mixed through perfectly al dente spaghetti. Did I mention they are ridiculously easy to make?
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
For the Sugo
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 handful of basil leaves
For the dumplings
450 g (2 1/2 cups) full-cream ricotta (using low-fat ricotta won’t work…Live a little!)
1/2 teaspoon salt flakes
1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
100–120gr (2/3 cups) of fresh breadcrumbs (simply place stale bread in a food processor and blitz until you have coarse breadcrumbs)
2/3 cup (50 g) freshly grated pecorino
1 good handful of chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
semolina flour for dusting
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 with half a cup of water (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, cover with a lid and set aside. For a smoother sauce, blitz in a food processor for 4-5 seconds. Scatter some basil leaves on top and set aside.
3. Make the dumplings by mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl. The mixture needs to feel sticky, but workable. If too dry add a few tablespoons of milk. If too wet, add a little extra cheese or breadcrumbs.
4. Let the mixture sit in the fridge, covered with plastic film, to firm up for 30 minutes or overnight.
5. Shape the dumplings with wet hands, the size of a golf ball. Place them on an oven tray lined with baking paper and dusted with semolina flour until ready to cook.
6. Heat up the tomato sugo in a large pot of frying pan. Add a little water if it looks dry. When the sauce comes to a simmer, gently drop in the dumplings. Cover with a lid and let the steam cook them through, for about 5-6 minutes. Take the lid off and gently, using a wooden spoon, turn them over. They are extremely delicate, so be mindful! Cook for a further minute, uncovered then turn the heat off.
7. You can serve them immediately, although I find that they are better the next day, a little firmer in texture and all the flavours harmoniously combined.
Serve with crusty bread or freshly cooked pasta.
Here are some interesting facts I researched for you.
Brussel Sprouts: source of sulforaphane, and indole-3-carbinol, chemicals believed to promote DNA repair and block the growth of cancer cells. Radicchio: excellent source of vitamin K, potassium zinc and iron. Mung beans: high in protein, phosphorus, folate and vitamin C. Pepitas (sunflower seeds): rich in amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous as well as loaded with most of the B vitamins, and vitamins C, D, E, and K. Add to these ancient and potent ingredients the proteins of eggs and the anti-inflammatory effects of extra-virgin olive oil and you have gifted yourself and your family with the tastiest immune system booster you can dream of. Great health is just a mouthful away!
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
1 radicchio or chioggia
1 cup of brussle sprouts, raw, outer leaves removed
4 tablespoons of pepitas (sunflower seeds)
4 tablespoons of mung beans
4 soft boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tabespoons of vincotto (use balsamic vinegar if vincotto is not available)
salt for seasoning
1.Using a mandoline or a sharp knife (or a food processor fitted with the shredding blade) cut the radicchio into fine strips and the brussel sprouts into thin slices.
2. Add the mung beans and pepitas, season with oil and vincotto, add salt and mix well.
3. Top with soft boiled or poached eggs and enjoy as it is or with a slice of sourdough
Enjoy the benefits of healthy eating!
- Brussels Sprouts Chips (adeys80.wordpress.com)
- Essential luxuries for cancer (essentialluxuriesforcancer.com)
- Summer Brussel Sprout Salad! (meredithforehand.wordpress.com)
- Chicken with white wine, bacon and brussel sprouts (divineanddeliciousliving.com)
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.
As the winter season approaches here in Sydney, I feel a fervent yearning for heart-warming food, the kind that will nourish you body and will comfort your soul as you perfume the house with scented candles, dim the lights and snuggle under a blanket to catch your favourite show or, in my case, read a cookery book. I am more of a summer person, and yet I find myself happily surrendering to the inevitable winter chills and shorter days as I head to the stove to make scalding hot soups, ready to be enriched with seasonal goods.
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced and well washed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 celery stick, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 small handful of smoked speck or pancetta (or chorizo), cut into cubes, omit for a vegetarian/vegan option
1 tin of cannellini beans, well drained and rinsed
3/4 cup of baby pasta (ditalini, orzo, risoni…)
salt and pepper to taste
chillies and celery leaves to serve, optional
1. Heat up the oil in a medium saucepan, drop in the leeks and cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes or until soft.
2. Add the potatoes and celery along with the garlic and pancetta and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add the beans and cover with water. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
4. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.
5. Puree 1/3 of the soup in a food processor or blender then add it back to the pot. Add the baby pasta and cook in the soup until al dente (you may need to add a little water to the pot, just enough to make sure the pasta is well covered)
6. Serve drizzled with evoo, back pepper and celery leaves and some freshly chopped chillies for a little extra kick.
INGREDIENTS, makes 6-8 rolls
2 cups of wholemeal (wholewheat) flour
1 cup of strong baker’s flour (or plain, or 00 flour)
300 ml (1-1/4 cup) of lukewarm water mixed with 1-1/2 tablespoons of dried yeast
1 teaspoon of honey or barley malt syrup
2 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons of salt
milk for brushing
2-3 handfuls of pepitas or any seeds you prefer
1. Place the flour in a large bowl, add the water and yeast, honey (or barley malt syrup) and oil.
2. Knead onto a floured bench for 3-4 minutes, then add the salt and keep keading for 3-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and soft.
3. Rest the dough into a floured bowl and cover with a tea-towel.
4. After 30 minutes, stretch the dough to shape a rectangle, then fold it into three and onto itself. Place the dough back in the bowl. Repeat a second time after 30 minutes. Folding the dough will ensure the softest, moistest crumb.
5. Prove the dough in a warm spot until it has doubled in size.
6. Shape he dough into 6-8 rolls and place them closed together onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Brush the top with milk, or buttermilk and top them with pepita seeds. Rest the rolls covered with a tea-towel for 30-45 minutes. In the meantime bring your oven to 200 C (390 F)
7. Bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes or until crusty and bronzed and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool at room temperature before eating.