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.

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Crispy Potato Skins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, you have peeled a gargantuan amount of potatoes to make your creamy Paris mash/chips/champs you name it…now what to do with the skins? The frugal Italian in me cannot bear the idea of wastage and I’m always eager to conjure up a way to give new life to left-overs and food scraps. A little research shows me that most of the nutritional virtues of potatoes (and there are very many, starch bashers out there….) are trapped in the skin. I am talking about super power boosters such as potassium and calcium, optimal for bone mineral density and protection against strokes. Match that with the everlasting benefits of every Italian’s best friend, extra-virgin olive oil, and you have got yourself a perfect, healthier alternative to potato chips that celebrates resourcefulness and flavor in one nimble move!

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INGREDIENTS, serves 6

The skin of 1 Kg (4-1/2 Lb) of potatoes

4-5 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Salt, herbs and freshly ground pepper to taste

HOW TO

1. Place the skin in a large bowl, cover them with warm water and set aside for 20 minutes. In the meantime, heat up your oven to 200 C or 400 F.

2. Drain the skins and pat dry with a tea towel. Toss them with enough oil to cover them evenly (use your hands if helpful), season with salt and herbs and arrange them onto an oven tray lined with baking paper in one layer (bake them in batches, if need be)

3. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Cool at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to crisp them up further and serve topped with freshly ground black pepper and a few rosemary springs, if liked.

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Watch Made in Italy with Silvia Collocaon DVD 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!

Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca is produced by SBS Australia and Fremantlemedia

Silvia’s Cucina is on Facebook Twitter and Instagram

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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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Watch Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca, Thursday nights, 8 pm on SBS 1!

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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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Black Plum and Chianti cake

I must apologise for my silence over the last few weeks. It turned out that being on the road with two children under 5 for over two months can tire you down to the point of catching pneumonia and forcing you to your bed whilst husband and boys happy pootle about in the crystal-clear Sardinian waters!

10 days of antibiotics and 5 days of injections later, here  I am again, claiming my spot in the kitchen, craving some home-baked goods.

And so, as I walked past the fruit basket in mum and dad’s kitchen, I noticed an abundance of  invitingly ripe black plums that screamed for my attention. I had to oblige and marry them with Chianti and spices. I just had to.

Cut 5 or 6 black plums in halves or quarters and place in a saucepan with two tablespoons of honey, 2 glasses of red wine ( I used Chianti, as I had some leftover from dinner the night before), a cinnamon quill, a split vanilla bean and a couple of cloves. Half cover with a lid and simmer for around 15 minutes. You want the plums to soften but still retain their shape and you want the juice to become slightly viscous and syrupy.

In the meantime, make the cake batter.

Whisk 3 eggs yolks with 200 of very fine sugar, until frothy and pale. Add 70 ml of olive oil, a teaspoon of vanilla paste and 120 gr of ricotta and beat well until creamy.

Gently incorporate 65 gr of almond meal and 200 gr of  sifted self-raising flour.

Whisk the 3 remaining egg whites until soft peaks appear and fold them into the cake batter.

Pour the mix into a greased and floured oven dish, top with the plums and the wine juice.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

For once, you won’t have to be patient as this cake is best eaten warm. All you need is a sprinkle of icing sugar and a large spoon…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ps For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, please feel free to substitute plums, which are not in season yet, for pears.

 

Cantuccini con Pistacchi e mandarino

Cantuccini, also known as Biscotti di Prato, are Italy’s best-loved cookies.

They serve many useful purposes.

You can dunk them in your morning coffee, in your afternoon gelato and in your evening Vin Santo.

They are also, almost fat-free. Mind you, they make up the near absence of butter with a plentiful presence of sugar…

Stefano Spilli’s recipe calls for almonds, but I didn’t have any in my kitchen yesterday when I started mixing the dough and, as it often happens in Italian kitchens, I made do with what I had and replaced almonds for Pistacchios. I wasn’t disappointed.
Ingredients:

450gr. Self raising Flour
350gr. Sugar
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon melted butter
Grated zest of two mandarins
a pinch of salt
200 gr. pistacchios
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste

I chucked all the ingredients in the kitchen Aid, starting with eggs and sugar whipped until pale and creamy. I then added the sifted flour, the butter and the mandarin zest and vanilla. I then incorporated the nuts.

I used my hands to shape the dough into three sausages and I baked them in a medium oven for around 25 minutes.


I let them cool slightly, then I sliced them using a sharp bread knife.

I put the sliced dough back on the tray and into the oven and toasted each side for about 5 minutes.

**WARNING**

At this stage the vanilla and mandarin scent is  mind-blowingly intoxicating…

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