Roasted Cauliflower Salad

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Is the humble cauliflower enjoying a new renaissance? Whether you work in food or simply enjoy your home-cooking time, it appears that this pearly white cluster of florets is now proudly sitting at the forefront of the pantry. We have devised creative ways to turn it into cous cous and have compounded it into pizza bases (although the jury is still out on that one…), we are using it as a potato substitute in thick, wintery soups and enjoy it raw, thinly sliced like a carpaccio. Is there anything cauliflower can’t do? It turns out, you can also roast it until deliciously caramelized and crunchy, but still tender to the bite. With the added nutritional boost provided by vitamin C, K, B6 and folate, I am pretty much convinced that cauliflower wears the crown as the healthiest cruciferous!

INGREDIENTS, SERVES 4

1 cauliflower heard, cut into florets

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of baby capers, roughly chopped

2 anchovy fillets, thinly chopped

1-2 French shallots, finely chopped

1 small chillie, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

2 more tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper for seasoning

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METHOD

1. Pre-heat you oven to 200 C (395 F)

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil  and cook the cauliflower florets for 5-8 minutes, or until soft but still retaining some firmness. Drain well then tumble onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Season with oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes or until golden.

3. Make the dressing by mixing together baby capers, anchovies, chillies, vinegar and oil. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

4. Pour the dressing over the roasted cauliflower florets and scatter fresh herbs on top. Enjoy warm or at room temperature as a light lunch or a side dish.

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Almond, Pear and Olive Oil Cake

The seasonal change has hit our southern shores, swapping the warm breeze for a crisp chill. I have packed away my summer dresses and sandals to wrap myself in wooly layers, scarves and boots. To accompany the cooler weather, the stalls now abound with glorious winter produce, whose main purpose is to nourish and comfort. As I type this I’m embracing this sunny yet cool day, sipping tea and indulging in my second slice of this incredibly moist pear and almond cake, lightly scented by cinnamon and mandarine. Cold months to come, I fear you not! INGREDIENTS, makes1

3 small pears

3 eggs

1 cup of brown sugar (plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle over the pears)

Cinnamon

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup of buttermilk

juice of 1 mandarine

1 cup of almond flour (almond meal)

1-1/2 cup of self-raising flour (gluten free flour will also work)

METHOD

1. Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 F)

2. Line a round cake tin with baking paper. Sprinkle the base with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a little cinnamon

3. Cut the pears into two, scoop out the core, then cut each half into two, lenghtways. Line the base of the cake tin with the pears.

4. Beat the eggs with sugar until fluffy, add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, oil, buttermilk and mandarine juice and whisk well. Add the almond flour and the sifted self-raising flour and gently incorporate them into the batter without over mixing. Pour the batter over the pears and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

5. Turn up side down and leave to cool on a rack for 30-45 minutes before serving. Enjoy as it is or with vanilla gelato, cream or thick Greek yoghurt.

Watch Made in Italy with Silvia Collocaon DVD 9781921383977

Silvia’s Cucina the cookbook is available in stores and online!

Silvia’s new book Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca is on sale now!

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Overnight Healthy Rye and Spelt Loaf

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I would love to make you believe that I spent days elaborating a new recipe for a healthy and delicious bread. That I experienced, tried and tested various formulas until one day, exhausted but elated, I triumphed…Alas, the truth about how this bread came to be is that a few weeks ago, as I was setting up to mix a loaf, I realized I only had near-empty packets or various flours! Then epiphany hit me: mix them together and hope for the best! My, was I happy with the result! A crusty, dense and flavorsome loaf, perfect for sandwiches, divine with jam!

INGREDIENTS, makes 1 loaf

300 gr of spelt flour (2-1/4 cup)

200 gr of rye flour (1- 1/4 cup)

70 gr of wholemeal spelt flour (1/3 cup +2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon of dry yeast

1 pinch of sugar or 1 teaspoon of honey

370 ml (1-1/2 cup) of water, at room temperature

2 teaspoons of salt flakes

HOW TO

1. Start this recipe a day ahead.

2. Mix the three flours together in a large bowl, add the dry yeast and sugar (or honey) and gradually add the water, mixing with a spoon until a soft dough forms. Try not to add all the water at once. As flours always vary, it is better to start with 2/3 of the water and only then you can decide if you need the extra liquid. You are after a rather sticky dough, but not a wet one. If your dough feels too dry after you have used all the liquid, add 1-2 extra table spoons.

3. Once the dough has been mixed (you can easily do this by hand as it requires no kneading, just mixing until combined), add the salt and mix until well incorporated.

4. Cover the bowl with plastic film and leave at room temperature for 6-8 hours, then move to the fridge to rest overnight.

5. The next morning, take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours.

6. Heat up your oven to 220 C (430 F)

7. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and very gently shape the dough into a loaf, being mindful not to knock out the air. Prove at room temperature for 40 minutes, then score the top with a sharp knife, sprinkle the loaf with a little water and place the tray into the oven.

8. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is crusty and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool at room temperature on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

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9781921383977

Paste di Mandorle (X’mas Almond Pastries)

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And so, the long-awaited jolly season officially begins at my house, with a tray full of these colourful, soft almond cookies, heralding the impending gluttonous days that this time of the year invariably brings. And although it only feels it’s been a couple of months since my last Christmas, which I spent back home in Milan with my folks, I cannot help feeling comforted by the glorious festive spirit that my children and I exude as we set off to the kitchen to shape these traditional Italian cookies. Some call them Paste di Mandorle, others call them Amaretti, but Raffi and Miro have duly renamed them Rudolph’s nose cookies!

INGREDIENTS, makes 18-20 cookies

275 gr (1 – 1/3 cup)of caster sugar

300 gr (2- 1/2 cups) of almond meal

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

1/4 teaspoon of almond extract

glaceè cherries

 HOW TO

1. Place sugar, almond meal, egg whites, vanilla and almond extract in a standing mixer and beat together for 2-3 minutes or until a sticky dough is formed.

2. Roll bits of dough the size of a large walnut and place them onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.

3. Make an indent in each ball of dough with your index finger, then sit a cherry onto each dimple. Shape the rest of the dough into small rectangles (this is the typical Ricciarelli shape), cover them liberally in icing sugar and place them onto the oven tray with the rest of the cookies.

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4. Bake at 180 C, 350 F for 18-20 minutes of until the bottom is firm, but the cookies are still pale in colour

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5. Allow to cool and further firm up at room temperature before serving

They will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container

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Easter Dolls (Pupe di Pasqua)

My fondest Easter morning memory takes me back to Italy, to being a child, to being with Nonna Irene. Every Easter she used to make Pupe di Pasqua (traditional Abruzzese Easter Dolls) out of pastry, for us children to dunk in our bowl of milk on Easter morning. Me, my sister Ale and my cousin Elena would be the lucky recipients of lovely peasant girl-like dolls while my brother Giammarco and my cousin Giorgio would devour their horse-shaped dolls in no more than a few bites. As if part of some gruesome tribal ritual, the heads would be the first to go, leaving our dolls bearing a vivid resemblance to Anne Boleyn! And so, it is now my pleasure to pass on such precious legacy and make dolls for my children. Following the family tradition, the doll received the Henry the VIII treatment…

INGREDIENTS

3 eggs

3 tablespoons of olive oil (or EVOO)

4 tablespoons of sugar

75 gr (2/3 cups) almond flour

finely grated lemon zest

150 gr (1-1/3 cups)  flour, well sifted

100 gr (3/4 cup)  of self-raising flour, well sifted

1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or extract

1 egg+2 tablespoons of milk for the glaze

HOW TO

1. Whisk the eggs with sugar until pale and fluffy. Pour in the oil, add the zest and mix well with a wooden spoon.

2. Slowly add the almond flour and the self-raising flour to obtain a dough that is just slightly softer than short pastry. Wrap it in plastic film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Turn the oven on to 170 C (340 F)

4. Line an oven tray with baking paper. Craft the doll according to your esthetics straight onto the tray. Glaze it with the egg and milk wash and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua!

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Almond, Orange and Blackberry Cakes

As I opened my freezer a few days ago, I noticed a couple of punnets of blackberries I had been keeping for a rainy day.

Rainy it was indeed. In fact it had been so wet in Sydney that I was starting to wonder whether we’d have any dry days at all this year!

The decision of devouring those dark, gleaming gems had been promptly made, but how to turn them into a heart-warming, scrumptious delight?

With the aid of a few usual suspects, flour, sugar, almonds and perhaps the citrusy kick provided by a splash of Cointreau, I felt sure I could give it my best shot.

INGREDIENTS

(this will yield 8 cakes baked in large muffin tins and there with some left over batter for mini cakes)

190 gr (just under 1 cup) of castor sugar

1/8 teaspoon  of salt

200 gr (just under 2 cups) of self-raising flour, sifted

50 gr (just under 1/2 cup) of almond meal

3 eggs

70 ml (1/3 cup) of grape seed oil

4 tablespoons of Greek yogurt

3/4 cup of blackberries

3 tablespoons of icing sugar

juice and zest of 1 orange

1 tablespoon of Cointreau (or any other orange flavored liquor)

HOW TO

Put the berries in bowl and dress with the juice of 1 orange, the Cointreau and the icing sugar. Macerate for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, cream the eggs with the sugar and the salt until they are pale and fluffy.

Add the yogurt and the oil and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Gently incorporate the sifted flour and the almond meal.

Add the berries and their juices, pour batter into a greased and floured 8-hole muffin tin and bake at 180 C (340 F) for 20/25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Take the tin out of the oven and cool for 30 minutes before taking the cakes out.

Dust with icing sugar and serve with fresh berries and a flute of Moscato, for extreme pleasure!

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Spiced Angel Cookies

150 gr (1 and 1/3 cup) sifted flour

50 gr (1/4 a cup) almond meal

1 egg yolk

95 gr (3/4 cup) of icing sugar

100 gr (a little less than 1/2 cup) of soft butter

2 tablespoons of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or extract or scraped seeds.

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

Plus ground cinnamon and icing sugar for dusting.

As I often do with cookie dough, I chucked all the ingredients in my Kitchen Aid and let the machine turn the messy assembly into a slightly sticky paste.

Naturally, you can do this by hand, and rather quickly too. Put your flours and spices into a bowl, then add your soft butter and quickly work it into the flour until it all looks crumbly and  wrong…Don’t panic! Simply add your yolk and milk and knead with the palm of your hands to release the gluten in the flour that will magically turn this goop into perfect cookie dough.

Add the vanilla, then roll into a ball, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out your dough onto a floured surface. Cut out your angels and place them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Rest in the fridge for 10 minutes while you bring your oven to 170 Celsius (340 Farenheit).

Bake for 10/12 minutes. They will still feel quite soft, but keep in mind that they will firm up during the cooling time.

Dust the angles with ground cinnamon and icing sugar while they are still hot from the oven and surrender to the  X’mas Spirit!

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Italian Apple and Cinammon cake

My two months in Italy already seem so far away in the past. It has only been two weeks since I’ve been back, but, as it always is, all the things you put on hold and stop worrying about when you are on holiday, come back to haunt you and to kick you in the rear as soon as you return. If, on top of that, you add meetings for a new job within hours of arriving in Sydney after an excruciatingly long flight, a family reunion in Adelaide two days later (mind you, this was great fun and we could count on an endless supply of babysitters…), two -boring- visits to the Mac Genius Bar hoping to get my laptop fixed, and two children under five both sick with colds and sore throats, then you get a the pretty picture.
This morning I decided to wake up early and start the day the right way around.  Everybody  is still asleep as I type this, and I’ve already fed my baby and put him back to sleep, had a hot bath in a quiet and calm environment, with no rubber ducks or squirting toys of any sort floating around me, and, most importantly, the cake is already in the oven and I can smell the lemon and the cinnamon impregnating the house with their sweet and intoxicating aromas.

Today is going to be a great day!

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs, separated

200 gr (1 cup) of brown sugar

130 gr (1/2 cup) of Greek yogurt

75 ml (1/3 cup)of grape seed oil (or light olive oil, non extra-virgin)

1 teaspoon of vanilla paste (or extract)

220 gr (2 cups) of sifted self-raising flour

50 gr (1/3 cup)of Almond meal

3 table spoons of sultanas soaked for 30 minutes (or 1 minute in the microwave) in Marsala wine (or Rum)

1 table-spoon of cinnamon powder

1 grated apple

zest of 1 lemon

2 apples cut in quarters, 2 table-spoons of butter, 1 table-spoon of castor sugar

How To

1. In a frying pan, caramelize the apple quarters with sugar, lemon zest and butter for 10 minutes.

2. Whisk the sugar with the yolks until pale and creamy. Pour in the yogurt, oil, the grated apple and vanilla and mix well then add your flours, cinnamon and the pre-soaked sultanas with two table spoons of the soaking liquid.

3. Whisk 3 egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold them into the cake batter.

4. Pour cake mix into a cake tin lined with baking paper and top with the caramelized apples and almond flakes.

5. Bake at 170 Celsius (350 Farenheit) for around 35/40 minutes

As tough as it is, allow to cool before you cut yourself a large slice…


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Biscottini agli agrumi (Citrus cookies)

I can’t seem to keep up with my crop of lemons this year.

Every time I think I have picked the last two ripe jewels, three more appear from nowhere, begging me to be used in some sort of baking.

I can only oblige and obey the call of nature.

Today I was very keen to make lemon and almond Cantuccini, but I realized I didn’t have any eggs in the fridge.

Too cold to go out and fetch more, I quickly changed my recipe from Cantuccini to Biscottini , an egg-free, melt-in-the-mouth, Italian short-bread.

Today I felt lazy and I let my Kitchen Aid do all the mixing, even tough it is just as quick to do it by hand.

How to

Mix together 100 gr  (3/4 cup)of icing sugar with 150 gr (2/3 cups) of soft butter.

When the mixture is creamy, add 200 (1 1/2 cups) gr of self-raising flour, 50 gr (1/2 cup) of almond meal, 1 table-spoon of corn starch, a teaspoon of vanilla paste, the zest of 2 lemons and the zest and the juice of 1 mandarin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cookie dough will look and feel sticky. Use a spatula to scrape it onto a sheet of baking paper. Roll it up in the shape of a sausage and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight.

Once it’s rested and feels firm, slice it up and place the biscuits on an oven tray and then back in the fridge for 10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bake at 170 C, 340 F,  for about 15 minutes, or until the edges start to color. Cool at room temperature.

Dust with icing sugar and dunk into Grappa…

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