Blueberry, Chia and Olive Oil Cakes

When spring lures us with its sweet promise of long, sun-drenched days, but instead delivers endless weeks of gray skies and relentless rain, I find myself itching to get in the kitchen, turn the oven on and whip up a quick, yet satisfactory fix to perk up my mood.

These muffins are my ideal solution to the wet and blistery day ahead of me, a perfect mixture of moist, diary free cake enhanced by precious blueberries and chia seeds, my go-to health boosters. You can use gluten free flour if you are so inclined and reduce the, already low, quantity of sugar of swap it altogether with honey or other natural sweeteners, although I wouldn’t recommend stevia or natvia as they can leave a strange aftertaste. Over to you and your need to lift up your mood!

INGREDIENTS, makes 12 regular sized muffins of 6 Jumbo ones

3 eggs

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, paste or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean

1/2 cup almond milk

2-1/4 cup of  self-raising flour

1/2 cup of blueberries

chia seeds to sprinkle on top

HOW TO

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

2. Line a medium sized muffin tin with wrappers

3. Beat the eggs with sugar for 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy and the sugar crystals have dissolved

4. Add oil, vanilla, and lemon zest and mix well.

5. Add the almond milk and gradually incorporate the flour, beating gently, until a wet batter is formed. Add the blueberries and fold them in gently

6. Pour the batter into the muffin tin making sure not to fill to the rim as the cakes with grow a lot whilst baking. Top each cake with chia seeds

7. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through if tested with a skewer

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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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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! Silvia’s Cucina is on  Facebook Twitter and Instagram

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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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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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Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca, the book and the show (and a recipe for you!)

6929132Yes, I do have a big grin on my face these days… And with good reason! My brand new TV show, Made In Italy with Silvia Colloca, premiers tonight at 8 pm on SBS 1 (Australia) and the tie-in book I wrote in conjunction with the show was released last week! Oh, what a week this has been. I’m happy. I am grateful I get to share this special moment with my friends and family. And I am most appreciative of you all, my readers. I am well aware that without your unwavering support and exceptional enthusiasm for my cooking, this would not be happening today. The last 12 months have been nothing short of adventurous and Made In Italy, the book and the show, are the culmination of such inspired time. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart! I would like to share with you a recipe from both the book and the show, in the hope that it will make your mouths salivate.

Buon Appetito!

Love

Silvia

APRICOT AND OLIVE OIL CAKE

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Olive oil is commonly used instead of butter in central and southern Italy, even in the baking of cakes and sweet pastries. It imparts a subtle touch of savoury, but also adds lightness to cake batters. However, the real secret to the ineffable fluffiness of this cake is that the sugar is first dissolved in warm milk and infused with lemon and vanilla. The apricots add a welcome touch of tangy tartness, making this cake impossible to resist for morning or afternoon tea.

Serves 8

170 g caster sugar
230 ml milk
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons mistrà or sambuca (optional; see Note)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3cups (200 g) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
7–8 apricots, cut into quarters
flaked almonds, for sprinkling
fresh ricotta and honey, to serve (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease and flour a 27 cm x 21 cm rectangular or 21 cm square cake tin (or line it with baking paper).
  2. Place the sugar, milk and lemon zest in a medium saucepan over low heat and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sugar has dissolved. Do not let the milk come to the boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla seeds, olive oil and liqueur (if using), then let the mixture cool for 5–10 minutes.
  3. Add the beaten egg, flour and bicarbonate of soda and whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and arrange the apricot quarters on top any way you like. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake for 30–35 minutes or until pale golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool at room temperature for 1 hour before cutting. Serve just as it is or with honeydrizzled ricotta.

  • Mistrà is an aniseed-scented liqueur often enjoyed in Marche. For an alcohol-free version, replace the liqueur with milk.
  • If you are using very small apricots, they may plummet to the bottom of the tin during baking. To avoid this, make a double layer of apricot quarters.

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

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

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!

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

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

9781921383977

Almond and Pomegranate swirl Meringues

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My undeniable attraction for whipped egg whites has struck again! Yes, I am not new to posts dedicated to the ineffable and weightless world of meringues. The truth is that I can barely contain my excitement when recipes call for egg yolks only because I know I can turn the leftover whites into whimsical, frothy creations, so irresistible in their snow white perfection, or eager to be enriched by a vibrant touch of pink. And if you don’t feel confident whipping a batch of these, here are my top tips on meringue making:

1. Make sure your egg whites are at room temperature

2. Mix them in a clean and dry bowl

3. Add a pinch of salt to encourage the frothing action

4. Don’t over whip

5. Weigh the egg whites (I know, a little bit of a pain in the neck, but well worth it)

6. Be patient, bake them in a really slow oven to keep their pristine white shells

7. Store your cooked meringues in an airtight container for up to 3 days (less in very hot and humid weather)

Off you go!

INGREDIENTS, makes 10-12 medium sized meringues

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

2 tablespoons of flaked almonds + more for sprinkling on top

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice (you can either squeeze it yourself or buy it in conveniently packaged bottles!)

HOW TO

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 have, and will also keep them stable and preserve their crisp whiteness.

4. Add the almonds and mix gently. Swirl the juice in. Don’t over mix!

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.

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Cool at room temperature and enjoy as they are or accompanied by whipped cream, sweetened mascarpone, gelato…I could go on and on…

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X’mas Hazelnut Cookies (Dolcetti alle Nocciole)

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The Christmas season is heralded in my house with the inebriating smell of sweet treats baking in the oven, may they be my almond pastries, favoured by my boys for their resemblance with Rudolph’s red, shiny nose, or my dad’s morsel of choice, soft hazelnut cookies. These rustic looking nuggets are simply irresistible and they can happily carry you throughout your busy festive day: perfectly dunked in your morning coffee, afternoon tea or after dinner digestivo, they are sure to become your new best friend. The fact that they are rolled and baked in under 30 minutes will make them highly addictive…You are warned!

INGREDIENTS, makes 20

2 egg whites

1 cup of hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)

1-1/2 cup of icing sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies in

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, or the seeds from half vanilla bean

HOW TO

1. Heat up your oven to 180 C (350 F)

2. Mix egg whites, gournd hazelnut, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl until a thick paste forms.

3. Pinch off small bits of paste to shape balls the size of a large walnut.

4. Generously roll the balls in plenty of icing sugar.

5. Place the cookies, well distanced apart, onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.

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6. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cracked and beautifully puffed up.

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Cool at room temperature and merrily consume with glee.

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

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Pasta with Oven Roasted Vegetables

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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)

basil leaves

percorino cheese (omit for a vegan, dairy-free option)

How to

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.

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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.

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6. Top with freshly grated pecorino cheese and a few basil leaves. Serve hot, or at room temperature as a summer pasta salad.

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Pumpkin Seed Wholemeal Bread Rolls

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I was overjoyed when my friend Alessandra, the talented woman behind Dinner in Venice, asked me if I could write a guest post on her blog. I had been inspired by her writing, her photography and her honest quest for the authenticity of Italian food since I started my own blog back in 2011. Like Ale, I am an italian-born woman, recently migrated in an English speaking country (Australia) and, just like Ale, I have been fascinated and enamoured with the bounty of local produce and diverse cuisine my new home-land had to offer. But, after migrating, I could not help missing my Bella Italia, the very scent of it, it’s flavor. My most unsatisfied carving was bread, real bread,  Il pane. Fragrant, crunchy and bronzed, with its inviting crackly crust and a moist and airy crumb. I have learnt to make it at home, from slow-prooving sourdoughs to yeast-risen ones, for more immediate gratification. And everytime a loaf is baking in my oven, I can simply close my eyes and smell my beloved Italy from my sunny Sydney kitchen.

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

HOW TO

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.

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