Leek, Potato and Cannellini Beans Soup (Zuppa di Porri, Patate e Cannellini)

DSC_1463

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

HOW TO

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.

DSC_1470

DSC_1467

Silvia’s Cucina is on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram

Fig and Pistachio Frangipane Tart

DSC_0595

I am a summer person. I was born in summer. My true self seems to come to life at the early signs of the warmer months approaching. I hardly ever feel the heat, in spite of being feisty and hot-blooded, I don’t tend to perspire in excess either. Alas, summer is gradually fading here in Australia, the days getting shorter and cooler and, as I prepare for the months to come with stacks of home-made tomato passata and chillie oil in the pantry, I relish the bounty of seasonal fruit this time of the year brings, saluting the summer that has been and heralding a new autumn, in the way only figs can do. Sweet consolation!

INGREDIENTS, serves 8

For the pastry

250 gr/8 oz of  flour

110 gr/ 3,6 oz butter, cold and cut into small cubes

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla paste or extract

For the Frangipane Filling

100 gr/ 1 cup of pistachio

100 gr/ 1 cup sugar

100 gr/ 3.5 oz butter, soft

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons flour

6 figs cut into thin slices

DSC_0361

HOW TO
1. To make the pastry, put all the ingredients in a food processor fitted with blades and pulse until you have moist crumbs. If the dough is too dry add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cold water and pulse again until moist. Tip the crumbs onto a floured surface, press them together with your hands to shape a ball, wrap it in plastic film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, prepare the frangipane filling. Put the pistachio in a food processor and process until they resemble coarse flour (like almond flour). Add the rest of the ingredients, process for about 20- second or until nicely combined. Put the paste onto a bowl, cover with plastic film and rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
3. Bring your oven to 170 C (340 F). Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it thinly between tow sheets of baking paper. Put the rolled pastry onto a tart dish (well greased and floured), cover with a sheet of baking paper, top with baking beans of rice and blind bake for 15 minutes. Take the tart shell out of the oven. Remove the paper with the beans (or rice) and put the tart shell back in the oven for 5 minutes until pale golden. Rest at room temperature until cold.
4. Fill with the pistachio frangipane filling, top with the sliced figs and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the frangipane has set and the sides are slightly crusty.
DSC_0476
Serve as it is or with a generous helping of vanilla ice-cream.
DSC_0652

Authentic Basil Pesto Genovese

DSCN0353

The obvious perk of having a green-thumbed husband is that, wherever I turn in the garden, I am bound to stumble upon edible goodies. Even in the busiest time, when the work load and the chores of domestic life take over, I can always count of fresh, perfumed herbs. Whatever is in season, it is likely to be growing in our sunny backyard, ready for me to pick and transform into a nutritious meal. Turning emerald-green basil leaves into Italy’s most loved pasta condiment is an easy enough task, the ingredients are few and easy to gather, the method quite straight-forward; the only extra bit that will make the difference between a pesto and a really good pesto, is love and commitment to authenticity. Pesto is an ancient Ligurian dish and its name encapsulates the method used to produced it: in the Genoese dialect the word pestâ (Italian: pestare) means to poundto crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and pestle, however it is acceptable these days to use a food processor. What has remained unaltered in times is the addition of boiled potato cubes and green beans, which elevate this humble dish to a delectable, substantial meal. Traditionally it is served with straccetti, trofie or trenette pasta, typical from the Liguria region of Italy, however spaghetti marries equally well with pesto and it is by far my dad’s desert island meal.

Papa’, this is for you!

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

2 large bunches of basil, stalks trimmed

2 ice cubes (they will help preserve the vibrant green hue of the basil)

1 garlic clove, peeled (use more if you like it very pungent)

3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of pine nuts

1/4 cup of grated parmigiano

1/4 cup of freshly grated pecorino

sea salt to taste

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small cubes

1 cup of green beans, trimmed and cut into three

320 gr  (11 oz) of dry spaghetti

HOW TO

1. If using a food processor: put the basil, garlic, nuts, cheese and ice cubes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blades and blitz until smooth.  Slowly add in the oil in a stream and process with the rest of the ingredients until dense and well emulsified. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

2. If using a pestle and mortar, add basil, garlic pine nuts, ice cubes and a pinch of salt to the mortar. Start working with the pestle, pressing and rotating it until all the ingredients are nicely ground. Add the cheese and mix well. Slowly pour in the oil and mix well until well emulsified. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Discard the ice cubes that have not melted into the pesto. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use (it will keep, well covered in oil, for over a week).

DSCN0335

3. Bring a large pot of slated water to the boil. Drop in your pasta along with the potato cubes. 4 minutes into cooking, add the beans. Cook your pasta and vegetables until nicely al dente. Drain, but be sure to reserve 3  or 4 tablespoon of pasta cooking liquor (aqua di cottura). Place the pasta, potato and beans onto a serving dish, pour over the pesto and mix well. If too dry, add a little of the reserved cooking water.

Serve piping hot!

DSCN0342
DSCN0330

Silvia’s Cucina is on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram

Panini alle Olive (Olive and Rosemary bread rolls, made in a food processor)

Happy 2012 to all!

Given my self-confessed obsession for yeasted baked goods, it only makes sense that the first post of the year is -yet another- bread recipe. I have been experimenting with doughs and flours and I really wanted to offer you an alternative to hand or machine kneading, and it turns out that some breads can be mixed in a food processor! No hard work+no floury mess= amazingly good bread rolls with a soft, moist crumb.

Ingredients

1x 7gr (0,2 oz) sachet of dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup water

1/4 extra virgin olive oil

500 gr (3-3/4 cup) all purpose flour (or Italian 00 flour)

1-2 rosemary sprig

2 teaspoons salt

2 handfuls of pitted olives

How to

1. Stir the dry yeast in lukewarm water. Stand for 10 minutes until the liquid appears slightly creamy, than add1/2 cup of water and oil

2. Place  flour, a scant handful of rosemary springs and  salt in a food processor fitted with a sharp blade, cover with the lid and pulse a few times to combine the flour with the salt. Gradually add the yeast+olive oil liquid until it starts to combine. At this stage the dough will look quite dry. Don’t be tempted to add water or oil as the olives you are about to scatter through it will add a lot of moisture.

3. Sprinkle in the olives (I used green Sicilian and black Ligurian olives) and pulse until the dough starts to gather into a slightly sticky ball. If you think your dough it too wet, you can sprinkle a little extra flour. Likewise, if your dough isn’t moist enough, add a table-spoon of water or another couple of olives.

4. When the dough easily detaches from the sides of the bowl, take it out, dust it with a little flour, shape it into a ball and leave it to rest, well covered, until it doubles in size. In warm weather this will take 1 1/2  to 2 hours, allow a little longer if  it’s cold.

5. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, shape them into balls and place them to prove on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Be sure to allow some room for the rolls to grow. You can use this dough to bake loaves as well, as pictured below.

6. Allow to rise for a further hour. In the meantime bring your oven to 200 Celsius (390 Farenheit). Bake your rolls for about 20 minutes or until they look slightly golden and sound hollow when tapped with your fingers.

Serve with pecorino and salame or simply devour them as there are…

Silvia’s Cucina is on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram