Mini bundt cakes with chocolate drizzle

Mini bundt cakes with chocolate drizzle

Yes, I’m playing the chocolate card, guilty as charged! As if mini, individual bundt cakes weren’t adorable enough, I had to go and drizzle a sticky, luscious dark lacquer all over them, thus rendering them utterly irresistible. These cakes incapsulate … Continue reading

Linguine risottate con Vongole e Zucchine (Linguine with clams and zucchini cooked risotto style)

Well, that’s some title! Don’t be alarmed by the lengthy description though, this lip-smackingly luscious bowl of perfectly al dente linguine will be yours in no time at all. Your sauce with be ready by the time the water has … Continue reading

Mezzi Rigatoni with Smoked Salmon and cherry tomatoes (or, what happens when your husband returns from a fishing trip with 70 tins of smoked salmon…)

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Yes, I actually do happen to have 70 (70!) tins of privately caught, hot smoked Canadian salmon: bear with me this year, I can anticipate this is the first of very many  -let’s say…70!- posts on what to do with smoked salmon… This is what happens when my lovely husband Richard goes on a fishing trip to Canada with his older brothers, catches a salmon the size of a small whale and decides to have it smoked, canned and sent back to Australia. Lucky for me, it tastes divine. The flesh is succulent and pink and its subtle smoky flavour easily turns it into a delectable ingredient that can shine on its own, accompanied by a peppery rocket, cress and lemon salad, or can be used in innumerable dishes, from scrambled eggs, to potato salad or a main meal of mezzi rigatoni (or any short pasta you prefer) with stewed red onion, zucchini and cherry tomatoes. If you don’t happen to be married to an eccentric man who will forage his main ingredient in the Alaskan waters, don’t despair: most supermarkets and delis stock beautiful fillets of smoked Atlantic salmon or ocean trout and all it’s left for you to do it open up the package and flake away!

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INGREDIENTS

1 red onion, sliced

2 small zucchini, cut into rounds

2 garlic cloves, skin on, bashed with the back of a knife

EVOO

2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup of dry white wine

2×170 g (around 5 oz) tin of smoked salmon in brine or 1×320 gr (around 10 oz) of smoked salmon fillet

salt to taste

fresh oregano leaves for serving

320 gr (10 oz) of mezzi rigatoni or any short pasta you like

HOW TO

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

2. In the meantime, stir fry the vegetables in 2-3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat. De-glaze the pan with white wine and allow to bubble away for 1-2 minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated.

3. Add the flaked, smoked salmon and the cherry tomatoes to the pan, toss and stir gently , then turn the heat off.

4. When the water comes to a rolling boil, drop in your pasta and cook for 6-7 minutes or until it’s just before a perfect Al Dente.

5. Turn the heat back on under the salmon and vegetable pan, add the strained pasta along with 3-4 tablespoons of pasta cooking water and cook together with the sauce for 1-2 minutes or until well coated. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly, keeping in mind that the smoked salmon is indeed quite sapid.

6. Serve hot with a drizzle of EVOO and fresh oregano leaves.

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Chillie Mussles in White Wine Broth (Cozze in bianco alla Marinara)

Finding myself going through the chills of winter in Melbourne, knowing that the northern hemisphere  is now enjoying a hot, steamy summer, doesn’t always come easy.

For a European girl like me the months of June, July and August are instantly associated with hot weather, drinks by the beach, seafood eaten with bare, sandy hands.

So, as I share this recipe for one of my summertime favorite dishes, please spare a thought for me, bundled up in coat, hat and scarf, sipping hot soup and secretly longing for a glass of chilled white wine, a bowl of chillie mussles and summer on a sardinian beach.

Ingredients, serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

200 ml of white wine

2 garlic cloves, 1 whole, 1 finely chopped

4 spring onions (shallots), roughly chopped

two handfuls of parsley, leaves roughly chopped, stalks finely chopped

1 red chillie, finely chopped (de-seed if you don’t like it too hot)

1 kg of Mussles

Toasted sourdough for serving

How to

Clean the mussles by pulling out the beards and by scrubbing the shells to get rid of any grit. Place them in a bowl and set aside.

Discard any mussles that are already open or that have a broken shell.

Heat up the oil in a large heavy-sided frying pan. Fry the spring onion, whole garlic clove, parsley stalks and chillie for 1 minute, than add the chopped garlic and cook together for a further minute or until the garlic turns blond and smells fragrant. Pour in the wine and continue sizzling over high heat for 1-2 minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated.

Drop the shells in and cover with a fitted lid.

The steam will start opening the mussles in 2-3 minutes.

Lift them out with a slotted spoon and set them aside in a bowl as they open, to avoid overcooking. Discard any that refuse to open. Taste for salt and add some if you feel so inclined. I hardly ever do as the muscles and the liquor they release when cooking are pure sea-water nectar.

Pour the stewing liquid on top of the mussles, serve with toasted bread (crusty loaf, ciabatta or baguette) and consume while still hot.

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Crispy Calamari with Peroni-battered Zucchini Fries

It’s the first day of Summer in the Southern hemisphere!

What better way to celebrate than a platter of golden calamari rings and crunchy zucchini fries? And Peroni, of course!

As it happens most years, it’s a cloudy, windy and slightly chilly day today, nevertheless it is summer indeed and I can see that in the abundance of berry-red hibiscus and creamy frangipani flowers, blooming and claiming their spot in the (pale!) sun.

So, slap on your sun-block, your designer shades and your bikini or budgie-smugglers*(..on second thoughts, better with board-shorts) and enjoy the long-awaited summer season!

INGREDIENTS , for the Calamari

3 medium, fresh, squids (thawed squid will yield a rubbery calamari ring, don’t go there)

1 cup of plain flour well seasoned with salt and black pepper

2 cups of sunflower oil for deep-frying.

Get your fish-monger to clean the squid for you, if you can. All you need for this recipe are the tentacles and the tubes.

If your fish-monger can’t be asked (this is the case if you live in Sydney…), follow these simple steps here to D.I.Y (do it yourself!).

Rinse your tubes and tentacles, dry them in kitchen paper and, using a very sharp knife, cut the tubes into rings. Toss the rings and the tentacles into the seasoned flour.

Heat up the oil and gently toss in the squid. Cook for about 2 minutes, then drain on kitchen paper.

Season with salt and a squeeze of lemon and serve with a caper and garlic Aioli.

INGREDIENTS for the zucchini fries

3 medium-sized zucchini

1 330ml bottle/can of beer (I used Peroni, but you can use whatever blond beer you get your hands on)

1 cup of self-raising flour

Oil for deep-frying

Cut the zucchini into strips and dry with kitchen paper.

In a large bowl mix the flour and the beer, leaving some lumps and making sure to have a “pancake batter” consistency, not too liquid, not too stiff.

Drop your zucchini strips in the batter and then in the hot oil, deep-fry until golden, drain on kitchen paper and serve while still hot.

*Term used to describe the very brief swimming brieves worn by male swimming athletes, but, alas, unfortunately, also occasionally employed by all male shapes and sizes at Australian surf beaches…

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Rigatoni with Ocean Trout, Broad beans and Mint

Whoever said that pasta is fattening ought to look at this and think again…

This dish could not be healthier if it tried… concentrated onto one plate you have the goodness of vibrant green broad beans, the Omega 3 provided by a flaky, succulent ocean trout fillet, the zing of lemon zest, the fragrance of freshly chopped mint and chives, all married with al dente cooked rigatoni, tossed with EVOO.

I dare any health freak with a fear of carbohydrates, to say that this is not good for you….

It s also spectacularly easy to make, this alone is a good thing.

INGREDIENTS FOR TWO PEOPLE

1 150 gr (1/3 pound) fillet of boneless and skinless ocean trout

180 gr (6.5 oz) of short pasta

The zest of 1 lemon

a handful of chopped up mint and chives

freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons of EVOO

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

In the meantime, cook your fish.

You can either steam it of pan fry it. Either way, keep it a little under as, when you toss it with the cooked pasta, the residual heat will cook it further.

When you water is boiling, drop a cup of podded broad beans and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water to arrest the cooking process.

Drop your pasta in the same *boiling water and cook until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, shell (take the skin off) your cooked broad beans, and mix them in a large bowl with the flaked up trout, the herbs, the oil and salt to taste.

Drain the pasta and reserve 1/4 of a cup of cooking liquor.

Toss the pasta with the other ingredients and mix well. If it’s looking to dry, add a tablespoon or two of pasta water. Sprinkle with lemon zest and freshly ground pepper.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature as a nice pasta salad.

* Boiling your pasta in the same pot you have cooked your vegetables is a cooking technique often employed in Italy. The pasta will retain the goodness and the flavor of your greens and you don’t have to wash two pots. It’s a win-win!

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Farfalle with Tiger Prawns, oven-roasted Breadcrumbs and Parsley

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A few days ago I took a trip to Sydney fish market. On my way back to the car I passed a stall overflowing with beautiful, fresh tiger prawns and, despite holding my 4 year-old boy’s hand, carrying a large male snapper in the other, and baby Miro in a sling, I couldn’t resist the temptation to grab some of those glistening creatures of the ocean. Although a bit tricky managing the boys, the bags and the apparent disappearance of my car keys, once I was home, the fish safely tucked in the fridge, the kids chucked over to their papà, it was all worthwhile.

Ingredients for 4 people

16 King Prawns, peeled, de-veined and cut into two or three

1 cup of breadcrumbs toasted in the oven for 10 minutes with 2 tablespoons of  Extra Virgin Olive oil and a small handful of chopped parsley leaves

350 gr (3/4 packet) of  Farfalle (bow-tie pasta) or Orecchiette

4 tablespoons of Extra-Virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/3 cup of parsley stalks, finely chopped

1 red chillie, thinly sliced

1/4 cup of dry white wine

salt flakes to taste

chillie oil to drizzle on top (optional)

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How to

1. Fill a large pot with salted water. While the water heats up, toast the breadcrumbs and set aside.  DSC_1061

2. Heat the Extra-virgin olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan, stir-fry garlic, parsley stalks and chillie over medium heat, being mindful not to burn the garlic or it will turn acrid. Pour in the wine, allow to bubble for a few minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated. Drop in the prawns and cook for 2-3 minutes or until 3-4 done. They will continue cooking once to toss them with the cooked pasta. Turn off the heat.

3. Boil the pasta until nicely Al Dente, turn the heat back on under the prawn sauce, strain the pasta straight into the prawn pan adding a little of the pasta cooking liquor (aqua di cottura) to help bind the sauce. Toss well, then turn off the heat and and serve dusted with toasted breadcrumbs, parsley leaves and a drizzle of chillie oil, if liked (a grating of lemon zest is a great alternative to the kick of chillie)

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Don’t expect to make any conversation at the dinner table. The only sound you will hear is that of jaws chomping…

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Spaghetti Vongole (Spaghetti with Clams and White Wine)

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Spaghetti vongole is one on the most popular Italian classics. I can recall countless summers spent in the Adriatic coast, having a bowl of this wonderful pasta most days, without ever getting bored with it. This is my brother’s Gianmarco’s recipe for Spaghetti Vongole and it really sets the standard for me. The sauce will cook while the pasta is boiling and they all end up in the same pot at the end. It couldn’t be easier. Or quicker. So, as you bring the water to the boil, get chopping! This nutritious and flavousome meal can be yours in under 12 minutes.

INGREDIENTS, serves 4 

350 gr (3/4 packet) of Spaghetti or Linguine

2 Garlic cloves

1 red chilie (or half, according to what heat intensity you can handle)

Parsley (leaves and the tender bits of the stalks), about 1/3 cup

1 kg (2 lb) of Vongole *

Good quality extra Virgin Olive Oil, about 4 tablespoons

Good quality dry white wine**, about 1/3 cup

Chopped parsley to serve

HOW TO

1. Fill a large pot of salted water and bring to a fierce boil.

2. Take your spaghetti or linguine, drop it the pot, stir through so that they don’t get stuck to the bottom and let it bubble away for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. While the pasta is boiling, put a large frying pan on the stove with a little extra-virgin olive oil. Heat it up and drop in garlic, chilly and parsley mix and let sizzle for about 15 seconds, then add a good splash of white wine and let the alcohol evaporate. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly, keeping in mind that vongole will add their sapid kick to the dish.

4. Drop your clams in, cover with a lid. They will take about 2 to 3 minutes to open up and release their beautiful juices. Once opened, lift them out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

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5. Drop your 3/4 cooked pasta in the vongole and wine juice adding some of the pasta cooking water***, enough so the spaghetti can finish to cook until al dente and the sauce creamy in texture.

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Turn off the heat and add your cooked vongole, chopped up parsley leaves and extra chillie, if you like it.

Serve immediately!

Buon Appetito!

TIPS:

* Vongole are alive when you buy them and you want to make sure they are still alive before you cook them!

Soak them in cold, salted water as soon as you bring them home from the shop and keep them in the fridge. Discard any ones that come to the surface, or have broken shells at this point. They are dead. Trust me, you don’t want to cook with a dead clam!

Change the water once or twice. This way they will release the sand they have trapped inside

**Don’t skimp on the quality of your wine. As a rule, if it’s not good enough to drink, don’t use it for cooking.

***We call it “acqua di cottura”. It is full of starch and it will help bind the sauce together without having to add extra ingredients. This is a clever little secret in Italian cooking.

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