Sunday, 18 December 2011

MY CHRISTMAS BISCUITS



This is another of my own creations, so they've become MY Christmas cookies!. I've made these plain pastry biscuits and I needed an idea, something to make them special. So I decided to dip them into melted dark chocolate... and this is the result. They are now my favourite!!!

Ingredients for about 60 biscuits:

400 g of plain flour
200 g of butter
180 g of sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teapoons vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
100 g of dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 

Cream the butter and the sugar, then add the egg and the vanilla extract; mix well then add the flour, the baking powder and the pinch of salt.

On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough to a 3 mm thickness.Cut the biscuits with cookie cutters and put them properly spaced on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes - edges should just be golden brown when done.

While the cookies are in the oven, put the chocolate in a bowl and put on top of a pan with some boiling water. When the chocolate has melted, dip the cold biscuits, then let the chocolate dry for a couple of hours. I've added a picture to show you how I've managed to do it.
And now...enjoy them!!!







Friday, 16 December 2011

CINNAMON BISCUITS



Sorry for my absence, but I've been vey busy...baking!!! In the past days I've made quite a lot of Christmas cookies as I wanted to give  little gifts  to my friends. These kind of present is very cheap but...it took me ages to make them all and to decorate these ones in particular!So I really made them with my heart. The icing requires a lot, but really a lot of patience, so don't do it if you're in a hurry. And it takes several hours (a night) to set.
So this is the recipe. On half of them I've just sprinkled some icing sugar on the top and they were equally good. I love cinnamon and its scent and after I've baked these biscuits you could smell them from outside the building!

Ingredients for about 60 biscuits

400 g plain flour
200 g softened butter
200 g sugar
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons of  cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of baking powder
4 tablespoons of milk

For the Icing:

80 g icing sugar
2 tablespoons of water

In a bowl mix the softened butter with the sugar. Add the egg yolks, the milk, the flour, the baking powder, the cocoa powder and the cinnamon. Work the dough until it just holds together. Wrap it in cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.

On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough to a 3 mm thickness.Cut the biscuits with cookie cutters and put them properly spaced on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 ° for about 10 minutes, or until golden; do not overcook, as they will become too hard, it’s better to take them out of the oven when they are still soft.

At this point, when cold, sprinkle some icing sugar on the top.

Otherwise, if you want to decorate with the icing, just mix well icing sugar and water, pour the mixture on the top of the biscuits and spread it helping yourself with a teaspoon and a toothpick. If you like, you can add some sugar balls on the wet icing. Let the biscuits to cool for a few hours before serving.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

RICOTTA CAKE



I made this cake because I had a Ricotta in the fridge that was about to expire...but I think I'll make it again, because the result was really outstanding! The ricotta gives the cake an exceptional softness. I added raisins and candied fruit, but if you prefer you can add dark chocolate chunks.


250 g Ricotta cheese
250 g sugar
300 g self-raising flour
3 eggs
100 g candied fruit
100 g raisins
50 gr butter
100 ml milk

Turn on the oven to 180 degrees.

Mix well the Ricotta cheese with the sugar, then add the eggs (one at a time), the flour, the milk and the softened butter.
Mix well then add the raisins and the candied fruit (remember to flour them a bit, so that they don't sink to the bottom). Grease and flour a baking tin, pour the mixture in it and cook for about 40 minutes.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

SALTY PLUM CAKE




Today we decided to have a brunch with some friends, so I cooked a mix of salty and sweet stuff: croissants filled with Nutella, jam or Frankfurters and cheese; an apple cake, courgettes muffins and other little things. I start posting the recipe of this plum cake, a very nice surprise. Quick and easy to make and very, very tasty. Perfect for a buffet, an aperitif or a brunch.

Ingredients for a 20 cm baking-tin

2 eggs
70 ml milk  
70 ml olive oil
200 g self raising flour 
100 g pitted green olives
70 g honey-roasted ham  
70 g cheese ( I've used goat's cheese, but you can use Emmenthal, Edamer, Gruyere or Cheddar)
10 g grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper


Turn on the oven to 180 degrees.
Chop the cheese, ham and olives.
Beat the eggs with salt and pepper in a bowl. When frothy, add the milk and the oil; then the flour.
Mix well, then add the cheese, the ham, the olives and the Parmesan and mix again. Grease the tin with butter, then cover with flour ( to be quick I use baking paper!). Now pour the mixture in it and put in the oven for about 30-35 minutes. When cold cut into slices and serve.



Thursday, 1 December 2011

CHICKEN TATTERS WITH VEGETABLES



This is a great idea for dinner: you cook the meat and the side at the same time. Quick and tasty, my children love it. And we do too!


Ingredients for 4 :

 600 g chicken breast fillets
1 small onion, chopped
1 large carrot, cut into small ppieces like matches
2 courgettes, cut into small pieces like matches
100 g frozen peas
 olive oil
salt
pepper
flour


In a large pan fry lightly the onion in some olive oil, then add the vegetables. Add a glass of water, salt and pepper (optional) , then cover and cook until the water has evaporated.

In the meantime slice the meat diagonally very thinly to obtain small meat tatters; flour them and add some salt.

Put the chicken in a wok pan and cook until golden, then add the vegetables. Mix well and then serve.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

FILLO PASTRY NESTS WITH PRAWNS AND AVOCADO


A very nice starter that is very easy to make and that is perfect for a fish menu.

Ingredients for 4 people:

3 fillo pastry sheets
250 gr king prawns
1 large avocado
lemon
salt
pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Cut 3 fillo pastry sheets (they're usually one upon the other)into four squares. Then cover a small cup with baking paper and place the fillo pastry in the cup. Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees. In the meantime cut the avocado into small pieces and rinse the prawns. Put in a bowl and add salt, pepper, a bit of lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well.
Take out the nests from the oven and when cold fill them with the mixture of prawns and avocado.


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

BRIE AND WALNUTS GNOCCHI



I made this gnocchi last sunday for lunch. I was in a hurry and my fridge was half empty...I found Brie, I always keep walnuts for cakes...and I always keep Gnocchi for my children, who love them. I usually buy the De Cecco ones, that for me are the best you can find here. If you want, you can use Gongorzola cheese instead of Brie; it tastes even better!
So...this is the recipe. QUICK AND EASY!



Ingredients for 4 people:

500 g Gnocchi
200 g Brie
50 g  organic walnuts (buy the most expensive, as the cheap ones usually have a very bitter taste)
3 tablespoons of milk
salt
nutmeg


Place the walnuts in a bowl of boiling water for a few minutes.

In the meantime cut the Brie into pieces and put them in a saucepan adding the milk . Make it melt on a low heat. Chop the walnuts and add them to the sauce (but keep some of them for the decoration). In the meantime cook the Gnocchi (or the pasta if you prefer) in salty boiling water, then drain them and put them in the saucepan. Add some grated nutmeg and mix well. Serve decorating with some walnut pieces.

Monday, 28 November 2011

WHAT YOU CAN DO WHEN A CAKE DOESN'T RISE



Let's confess: it happens to everyone sometimes! To me it happens everytime I try a variation to the Pan di Spagna. Less eggs and more ingredients.... maybe I mix them in the wrong way, maybe it's the baking powder or the oven's fault (the most common excuse!) ... or maybe there's a mistake in the recipe....by the way, it happens and when it does you never know what to do with the poor outcome. This is what I made the last two times it happened. 

The first time, it was a simple cake, just flour, eggs, butter, the usual stuff.  I cut the cake in two halves, then, using cutters of different shapes I cut hearts, stars, moons etc. Then I filled the little cakes with Nutella, sprinkled some Icing sugar on the top...and this was the result! It was for a children party and they disapperead in no time!




Second time...last Saturday. We had guests for dinner and I wanted to make orange cake filled with orange cream and covered with dark chocolate (maybe too ambitious?).So I did like the previous time, cut the cake into two halves, made an orange cream (same procedure as Custard, but with orange juice instead of milk), filled the little cakes with it and covered them with melted chocolate. They were actually quite good.



Thursday, 24 November 2011

POTATO GNOCCHI WITH BUTTER AND SAGE



Potato gnocchi are very simple to make, but there are some fundamental rules to follow in order to avoid a disaster.

- Potatoes with red skin are the best for this recipe; I use Red King Edward potatoes;

- cook the whole potatoes, don't chop them, otherwise they'll absorbe too much water;

- they have to cook slowly, on low heat, 20/30 minutes from the moment in which the water starts to  boil;

- you have to work the potatoes while still hot;

-the flour quantity is approximate; it depends of how much of it the potatoes absorb, so start with half of the dose, then add it if needed.

Ingredients:

800 g red skin potatoes
400 g plain flour
salt
30 g butter
some sage leaves
grated Parmesan

Scrub the potatoes clean and put them in a large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.
Cook, uncovered, until potatoes are tender all the way through, about 20 minutes after the water has come to a boil.
Drain potatoes and once they are cool enough to handle but still warm, use a paring knife to scrape off and discard the skins. Push the potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a large bowl or mash with a large fork or potato masher thoroughly.
Stir in 250 g flour - it will seem like it won't combine at first, but keep working it - eventually it will become a smooth dough.Then, if needed add more flour ( you realise you need more flour when the dough is sticky). You can tell the dough is ready when it doesn't have any holes or tears and when it is porous.









Divide the dough into four parts and work with one section at a time. Roll a section of dough into a long, inch-thick snake on a well floured surface. Cut this thin log into bite-size (1.5 cm) pieces.
If you like, you can take each gnocco and push it down the tines of a fork with your thumb, letting it drop onto a floured surface at the end. It should have tine marks on one side and a thumbprint on the other. Arrange gnocchi on a very well floured baking sheet or tray. Repeat with remaining dough.









Gnocchi can stay, covered loosely, at room temperature for several hours.
When ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add only as many gnocchi as can comfortably cover the surface of the water. They will sink immediately.Within about a couple of minutes they will float to the surface; remove them with a slotted spoon. Place gnocchi on a warm serving platter and repeat with remaining gnocchi. Toss with melted butter and sage and a generous amount of grated Parmesan.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

MONKFISH WRAPPED IN PARMA HAM



This is an easy and classy recipe, maybe a bit expensive, but perfect if you want to impress someone.
2 monkfish fillets (about 150g each)
8 Parma ham ( or Speck or Pancetta) slices 
1 teaspoon chopped basil
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 head of Iceberg lettuce
For the lettuce dressing:
2 tablespoond lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard (Grey Poupon)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons olive oil


Mix well the herbs and add salt and pepper. Put the monkfish fillets on a dish and cover them with the mixture. Arrange 4 Parma ham slices on a baking paper placing them side by side. Now put a fillet on the slices and wrap it; then do the same with the remaining slices and fillet. Put in the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes at 200 degrees.

Chop the lettuce finely, add the dressing and place on the dishes. Cut the fillets into slices and serve.

Monday, 21 November 2011

FRUIT CUSTARD TART



Sorry for my long absence, but I had relatives staying with us for 10 days, so I enjoyed my freedom (I had 10 childless beautiful mornings!!!) and did all I had been postponing for months.
Now I'm back and this is my last recipe! This cake is great for birthdays and special occasions. It looks and tastes great! To save time, you can make the tart the day before and leave the custard and the decoration for the last minute.


Ingredients for the tart:
300 gr plain flour
125 g unsalted butter, diced
125 gr sugar
1 medium egg
2 yolks
Lemon zest

Ingredients for the custard:
1/2 liter whole milk
3 yolks
5 tablespoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of plain flour
1/2 lemon zest
1 vanilla pod
30 gr butter
1 pinch of salt
Fruit for decoration

Mix flour, lemon zest and sugar, then work the butter in with the tip of your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the egg and yolks and work briefly until the dough just holds together.
It is important not to overwork the dough or it will harden when baked.
Wrap it in cling film and let it rest in a cool place for at least 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured board roll 2/3 of the pastry dough to a 1 cm thickness, and line with it the bottom and sides of a 23 cm spring form cake tin. The sides should be lined with a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom. Using a fork or a toothpick make small holes on the base.

Preheat the oven to 175°C and bake the tart until golden, about 20-25 minutes.

While it's cooking, make the custard.

Bring the milk, lemon zest and vanilla pod to simmering point slowly over a low heat. Remove the vanilla pod and the lemon zest.Whisk the yolk and sugar together in a pan until well blended then add the flour. Pour the hot milk on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time with a balloon whisk. Return to the hob and over a medium/high heat gently stir with a wooden spatula until thickened. When boiling take it off the heat, stir well and bring it back again on the heat. Do this two or three times. When ready pour the custard into the tart.
When cold, decorate with your favourite fruit and sprinkle some icing sugar on the top.






Wednesday, 9 November 2011

SAUSAGE AND BROCCOLI PASTA


Sausage + broccoli is a very good combination, you should try it. You can make pizza, calzone or risotto with these ingredients.They're all very nice.

500 g broccoli
3 Italian sausages
1 clove of garlic
20 gr grated Parmesan
Extra virgin olive oil

Wash and cut the broccoli and put them in a pot covering them with water; cook them for 10 minutes starting from the moment in which the water boils.
Put some olive oil in a saucepan and add the clove of garlic. Then add the broccoli and the sausage cut into small pieces. Add salt and pepper and some white wine (optional) and cook for a few minutes on low heat. In the meantime cook the pasta, then drain it and put it into the saucepan. Mix well and when on the dish, sprinkle with some grated Parmesan.

Friday, 4 November 2011

APPLE AND RICOTTA CAKE



Ingredients:

200 g self-raising flour  
250 g Ricotta cheese
180 g sugar
3 eggs
600 g apples  ( I used Royal Gala apples)
50 g butter
1/2 glass milk


Preheat the oven to 180C.
Peel the apples, remove the core and cut them into small pieces; one and a half apple have to be cut into thin slices as they will be put on top of the cake.

Melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Beat together the egg yolks and sugar for about three minutes until thick and pale, then add the melted butter.

Add the Ricotta cheese and the milk and mix gently, then add the flour.

Add the apple pieces and mix with a wooden spoon. Finally add the egg whites. Mix well again.

Spoon the cake mixture into a 26cm spring-form cake tin and put the apple slices on the top. Sprinkle some Demerara sugar and a bit of melted butter on the top and bake  in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when pushed into the centre of the cake.



Monday, 31 October 2011

SPINACH AND MOZZARELLA POLPETTONE



Ingredients for 4/6 people:


200 g minced pork
200 g minced chicken or veal
(but if you prefer, you can use just 400 gr of minced pork)
4 slices of bread
1/2 glass milk
1 medium egg
20 gr grated parmesan
a small bunch of flat leaf parsley , finely chopped
100 gr spinach
1 small mozzarella (125 g)
20 g butter
salt
pepper

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Cook the spinach in a pan with 1 teaspoon of butter. Add salt and pepper.

Soak the bread in the milk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the parsley, the minced meat, and the Parmesan.

Break in the egg and mix in. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drain the soaked bread and mix into the mixture.

Place the mixture in a roasting tray lined with baking parchment.

Flatten out the meat over the tray and place on it the spinach and the mozzarella cut into slices.











Close the polpettone helping yourself with the baking parchment, paying attention not to pull out the stuffing. Shape it into an oval-shaped meatloaf.












You can add some potatoes cut into small chunks and season them with some olive oil, salt and rosemary (better to boil them first for a few minutes-already cut- otherwise they won't be ready in 30 minutes).

Bake for 30/35 minutes.

Once the polpettone has completed cooking let it cool down slightly. Slice it and serve it with the potatoes and, if you like, some salad leaves.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

CHICKEN BREAST IN ORANGE JUICE



Yesterday evening I had my Yoga class so I had to cook something quick and easy. This is a different way to cook chicken breast, the taste is very delicate and it smells great!

Ingredients for 4 people:

4 med. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
30 g plain flour
30 g butter
1/2 glass white wine (optional- I don't use it because I cook for the children)
2 oranges
salt and pepper


Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place boneless chicken breasts between two pieces of baking paper or plastic wrap, or in a resealable plastic bag. Starting in the center and working out to the edges, pound lightly with the flat side of a meat mallet until the chicken is even in thickness.

Cover with flour. 

Cook it in the butter turning it so that it cooks brown on both sides. Now, if you are using it, stir in the white wine. Grate the outside of one orange and squeeze both of them. Stir in the orange juice in the pan. After a while turn the chicken, then add the orange zest, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Place the chicken in the dish, spoon the sauce over it and decorate with some orange slices.

Friday, 28 October 2011

SALMON AND COURGETTES PASTA


This recipe is very quick and easy and tastes really good. It could be a great main for a fish lunch/dinner. I thought my children wouldn't appreciate, but they ate it all. I didn't ave any lemons, so I used orange peel, which gives the pasta a lovely scent.


Ingredients for 4 people:

350 g pasta (I used Fusilli)
2 courgettes
150 g smoked salmon (I used pre-packed salmon flakes)
1 small onion (I used a tsp of chopped onion as I don't like it too much!)
1 tbs of grated lemon peel
4 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper

Wash the courgettes and cut them into small stripes. Do the same with the salmon. Chop finely the onion and fry it lightly in the olive oil; after a while add the courgettes, half a glass of water and cook for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, cook the pasta. Now put the salmon in the pan with the courgettes, add salt and pepper. and mix gently.
Drain the pasta and put it in the saucepan, mixing well. Serve with some grated lemon peel on top.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

RICOTTA BISCUITS FILLED WITH JAM



Yesterday we (I say we because now me and Niki work as a team!) tried to make this Ricotta biscuits for the first time. I was a bit sceptic, but I have to say that they taste incredibly good. The Ricotta gives them a special taste, different from the usual pastry and makes them much softer. The recipe doesn't contemplate eggs, so it is perfect for who is allergic/intolerant to them.

Ingredients for about 18-20 biscuits:

200 g self-raising flour
200 g Ricotta cheese
100 g butter
2 tbs sugar (optional as the jam is very sweet)
100 g peach jam
Icing sugar for decoration

Put the butter, the Ricotta, the sugar and the flour in a bowl and mix well, then work the dough until it just holds together. Wrap it in cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (when I'm in a hurry I put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes).

On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough to a 5 mm thickness. Cut the biscuits with a knife in rectangles and pour a teaspoon of jam in the middle, then fold them and press on the edges to seal them. Do this on a baking tray lined with baking paper and be careful that they're properly spaced. Do not exceed with the amount of jam, otherwise it will come out and the biscuits will be sticked on the baking paper.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 ° for about 18-20 minutes, or until golden.

Sprinkle the cookies with icing sugar and serve them when cold.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

PARMESAN NESTS


This can be a very nice starter or it can contain your main. Some of the fillings are salmon and rocket or rocket gongorzola cheese pears and walnuts, or shrimps and mayo, or whatever you like.....if it is a main you can fill them with risotto,  pasta or gnocchi (but the portions will be quite small!).

Ingredients for 5 or 6 nests:

150 g grated Parmesan cheese or Grana Padano cheese (cheaper)


I have used two small glass cups
















and I have covered them with baking parchment





then I put some of the Parmesan in a frying pan at medium heat





after a few minutes, when the cheese was melted I took it out of the pan using a paddle and I put it on the cup tring to shape it (but be careful, it is very hot!!!)














I continued and when the third nest was ready, I moved the one that had already cooled in a tray, (they need just a few minutes to harden). Pick them up very gently as they can easily break.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

STUFFED ROLLS OF CHICKEN BREAST



This is a quick and easy recipe, great for finishing the Philadelphia that you have in the fridge ( I always have some, the packages are too big and I never know how to use it!). You can use speck instead of bacon or chives instead of rosemary and sage. 

Ingredients for 8 rolls:


160 g Philadelphia cheese
400 g chicken breasts
50 gr walnuts
8 bacon slices
1 tbs sage and rosemary
salt
pepper


Chop the walnuts with the herbs in a food processor and mix with the Philadelphia cheese. Place one tbs of the mixture in the middle of the chicken breast slices and fold them. Wrap all rolls in bacon slices and fix with cotton string so that they cannot open while cooking. Put some olive oil in a pan and brown the rolls on all sides, then cook for other ten minutes at low heat. Add salt and pepper and serve.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

TORTA GRECA



This is the Italian version of a Greek cake. It’s an almond cake, so if you like almonds, this is for you! 



100 gr soft butter (20 seconds in the microwave)
100 gr amaretti biscuits
100 gr ground almonds
7 tablespoons of sugar
7 tablespoons spelt or kamut flour
3 free range eggs
1 pinch of salt
A few drops of essence of almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 roll of puff pastry
300 gr apricot jam


Preheat the oven to 180C. Crush the amaretti in the food processor and put the butter in the microwave for 20 seconds to soften.

Put a puff pastry roll in a springform cake tin and make some holes with a fork, then spread the jam all over it.

Whisk the egg whites with the salt until they stand in soft peaks and continue whisking until the mixture is firm, shiny and very thick.

In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks with the sugar, then fold in the butter, the ground almonds, the amaretti, the flour, the essence of almonds, the egg whites and the baking powder with a metal spoon. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

PASTA WITH CHERRY TOMATOES, PEAS, HAM AND MUSHROOMS




Ingredients for 4 people:

350 g short pasta (like penne or fusilli)
150 g honey roasted ham
150 g mushrooms
100 g peas
200 g cherry tomatoes
30 g grated Parmesan
1 slice of onion
Olive oil
Parsley
Salt and pepper


Heat the oven to 200°C.

While the pasta is cooking, fry lightly some finely chopped onion in olive oil and add the mushrooms that you have previously washed and cleaned. Cook for five minutes. In another saucepan fry the rest of the onion in olive oil adding the peas and the cherry tomatoes cut in halves. Add salt and pepper and cook for about 15 minutes.  As soon as the peas are cooked, add the mushrooms and the chopped parsley to the sauce. Let it simmer for other 5 minutes. In the meantime cut the ham into small pieces. 
Cook the pasta 1 minute less than what advised on the package; drain it and put it in an oven dish. Add 2/3 of the sauce, mix well and  add the rest of the sauce and the grated Parmesan on top. Drizzle with some olive oil and put in the oven for15 minutes.

Friday, 21 October 2011

BACI DI DAMA





These cookies are called  Baci di Dama, literally 'Lady's Kisses', as they are paired together to resemble a kiss. They date back to 1893, when they have been made for the first time  in a bakery in Tortona (near Alessandria, Piedmont) and since then they're a tradition.
If the Nutella biscuits were yummy, let me tell you, this is Heaven. Just try and let me know. They literally melt in you mouth. And the good thing is, they are very very easy to make. It won't take you more than half an hour. I had some problem with the shape (they are supposed to be like small balls, but mine are a bit flat.. it happens!). The important thing is that they taste good.. and they do!
There are some variations.  If you want them less "buttery" you can use 50 g of butter instead of 100 g and add an egg yolk. Or if you prefer almonds, you can use those instead of hazelnuts.


Ingredients for 15-17 cookies

100 g. toasted hazelnut
100 g sugar
100 g. unsalted butter, softened
100 g. plain flour
50 g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 170°C.


Grind the nuts with the sugar in a food processor until powdery (be careful not to process to a paste). Add the flour and the softened butter and work with your hands until the mixture forms a stiff dough.

Break off 30 pieces the size of nuts and form into balls. Don't worry if it is a bit wet, it is normal. Arrange on a baking sheet, leaving a little room between each.

Bake for about 15- 20 minutes or until golden then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Be careful not to touch them when still hot, as they are very soft and need to cool down before you can take them off the baking tray.

Meanwhile melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (or microwave on full power for 1-2 mins, stirring halfway through).

Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

When the biscuits are cold, use the chocolate to sandwich them together.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

TUNA MEATBALLS



Yesterday I went to pick up Niccolo' from nursery half an hour earlier, convinced it would have been a nice surprise. But when he saw me he said: "Oh, no mummy, I don't want to go home, I want to play more!". I was obviously happy, because this means he likes the nursery (I was so worried he didn't!). But at the same time it made me sad, because I realized how much he's grown, he's not my little baby anymore. But what can you do? That's  life!!!
Now, to change the subject: these meatballs have been a real surprise. Easy to make and very very tasty. They disappeared in a few minutes. My children loved them.

Ingredients for about 10 tuna meatballs:

200 g tuna ( I prefer to use fresh tuna but you can use the tinned one)
3 slices of bread
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 free-range egg
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Breadcrumbs (to coat)


Soak the bread in water. Set aside.

Cook the fish in a bain-marie and when cooked , flake the fish into small chunks.

In a bowl, mix together the parsley, the minced fish, and the Parmesan.

Break in the egg and mix in. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drain the soaked bread and mix into the mixture.

Shape the mixture into 8-10 patties, depending on how large you want them to be; heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan and heat the fish meatballs until golden brown on each side and heated right through.

Serve with a mixed salad.






Wednesday, 19 October 2011

PASTA WITH TOMATO,MOZZARELLA,OLIVES AND CAPERS SAUCE


This is my husband's favourite pasta dish and I'm quite lucky, 'cause it is very easy and quick to prepare! I usually find most of the Italian ingredients I need in Waitrose, but special pasta like Paccheri is not easy to find. You can try Harrods, Partrige (Duke of York sq) or another Italian Delicatessen shop. Otherwise I order online.  


Ingredients for 4 people:

320 g pasta (my favourite for this dish is Paccheri, but also Penne or Fusilli are fine)
300 g Tomato Passata
2 or 3 tbs Black olives (I always use Kalamata olives)
2 or 3 tbs Capers
400 g Mozzarella (for me the best is Santa Lucia Galbani)
Basil
For the soffritto: a slice of onion and a small piece of carrot and celery (but you can use only the onion)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chilli (optional)
2 tbs grated Parmesan

Heat the oven to 170°C.
While the pasta is cooking, fry lightly some onion, carrot,celery (finely chopped - I use the food processor) and chilli (optional) in olive oil. Add the passata, salt, pepper, basil, olives and capers. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Cut the mozzarella into small pieces. Cook the pasta 3 minutes less than what advised on the package; drain it and put it in the sauce pan. Mix well, adding half of the mozzarella, then put in an oven dish. Add the remaining mozzarella on top and sprinkle generously with parmesan. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the mozzarella is golden.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

NUTELLA BISCUITS




I love Nutella ( who doesn't?) and for me, this is something to die for. Yesterday I had dinner with Nutella biscuits. And today breakfast and ... oops, I think I have to make them again soon. Enjoy!



Ingredients for about 25 biscuits:

170 g self-raising flour
50 g ground hazelnut (I used almond); you can buy whole hazelnuts/almonds and then grind them using the food processor
85 g sugar
90 g butter
1 large egg
100 gr di Nutella
Icing sugar for decoration


In a bowl mix the flour and the ground hazelnuts/almonds with the sugar. Add the egg, the softened butter and work the dough until it just holds together. Wrap it in cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (when I'm in a hurry I put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes).

On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough to a 3 mm thickness. Cut the biscuits with a rounded cookie cutter and put them properly spaced on a baking try lined with baking paper. Now use a smaller rounded cutter ( I used the nozzle of the  pastry bag!) to make a small indentation in the middle of half of the biscuits.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 ° for about 10 minutes, or until golden; do not overcook, as they will become too hard, it’s better to take them out of the oven when they are still soft. Sprinkle the holed cookies with icing sugar. Drop a generous amount of Nutella on the un-holed ones and spread it. Basically, the two biscuits form a 'sandwich', with the holed biscuit on top. And now.... enjoy them!

Monday, 17 October 2011

BEEF WITH MILK SAUCE


Good Monday morning to everyone. After a coffee and a chat with a friend @ Starbucks the week starts nicely. Niki is at the nursery and Sebastian is sleeping, so I can have some ( always so longed for!!) ME time.
Today I'm still a bit shocked after watching yesterday's episode of "Jamie's American Food Revolution". 6 years old kids that cannot distinguish a potato from a tomato. But as soon as they're shown French fries or Hamburgers, they know exactly what they are and how they're called. Teenagers diagnosed with diabetes.... and I've realized how different our eating habits are from theirs. When I cook I use olive oil rather than butter, and I usually grill food rather than deep-fry it. Or maybe, the big and only difference is that I COOK instead of buying take-away or frozen food.  I think that the only frozen food in my kitchen are peas. Now I wish I could go and help Jamie to show these people how easy it can be to eat healthily.

Ingredients:

1 kg beef silverside
600 ml milk
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp whole green/pink peppercorns
Rosemary
Sage
Flour
Salt
Olive oil



Chop finely the rosemary and the sage and rub them in on the joint with some salt.

Sprinkle the flour over the beef  and pat it with your hands. This will crisp up the fat when it's cooked.

Pour two tbs of olive oil in a large and high pan, add a clove of garlic and fry the meat until gold on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Now take out the garlic and pour in the milk adding some salt and the peppercorns. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Let it simmer on a very low temperature without bubbling for 1 hour with the lid and 1/2 hour without.

Check the meat with a fork - it should be butter soft. You can tell if the joint is cooked to your liking by sticking a skewer into the middle of the joint. If the juices are clear it's well done. Pink shows it's medium, and red shows it's rare.
When  cooked take the meat out and cut it into thin slices. Blend the sauce in the food processor and then pour it on the beef slices. Serve with potatoes or salad.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

WEANING RECIPES (to be continued ... )









From 6 months (on the advice of a health visitor/pediatrician) you can begin the weaning.
It starts with preparing a simple soup at noon.
In the afternoon you can give the baby some fruit puree.
I refer to Baby rice, but it could be tapioca, semolina, multigrain, etc. whatever you and your little one prefer.
Remember to buy always ORGANIC food for your children.
My recipes are for 3 or 4 portions of food, but I used to freeze what remained and this came very handy when I had no time or simply didn't feel like cooking (again!).

VEGETABLE STOCK


Boil 1 potato and 2 carrots cut in half in a liter of water (without salt); reduce it to half, filter it (at
the beginning you offer the baby only the soup without adding the vegetables) and add:


2 tablespoons of cereals (baby rice, tapioca, semolina, multigrain)

1 tsp grated Parmesan
1 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil


After a week, add 1 tablespoon of potato and carrot puree.

CARROT POTATO AND COURGETTE PUREE


1 Potato
1 Carrot
1 Courgette
1 tbs Baby Rice
1 tsp grated Parmesan
1 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Wash the vegetables. Peel and cut them into small pieces. Bring the water to the boil, add the vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes. Filter the stock and blend the vegetables using a mouli/sieve/food processor. Now pour in a bowl 150 ml of the vegetable stock, blend with  two tablespoons of vegetables, the Baby rice, the Parmesan and the  oil.

SWEET POTATO AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE
Ricotta cheese contains calcium, which is good for the growth of bones and teeth.
1 sweet potato
1/2 butternut squash o ¼ small pumpkin
2 tbs Ricotta cheese
1 tbs Baby rice
1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil


Peel, wash and cut the sweet potato and the butternut squash into small pieces. Bring the water to the boil, add the vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes. Blend the vegetables using a mouli/sieve/food processor.
Now, the quantity of vegetables you use for a portion, depends on how much your baby eats;  it can be two or three spoons of pureed potato and butternut squash; add to it the Baby rice, some water (the same in which you cooked the vegetables), the Ricotta cheese , the Parmesan and the extra virgin olive oil.

HAM AND VEGETABLES PUREE
In Italy, the first kind of meat you give your children, is honey roasted ham (without polyphosphate).


1 potato
1 carrot
1 courgette
1 or two slices of honey roasted ham (without polyphosphate)
1 tbs Baby rice
1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil


Wash the vegetables. Peel and cut them into small pieces. Bring the water to the boil, add the vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes. In the meantime chop very finely the ham using a food processor. Filter the stock and blend the vegetables using a mouli/sieve/food processor. Now pour in a bowl the ham, two tablespoons of vegetables, some vegetable stock (the quantity depends on how thick you want the mixture to be), the Parmesan and the oil.

FENNEL PUREE

For this recipe you can use either the cheese or the meat, or none of them, it depends on which phase of the weaning you are.


1 fennel
2 tbs of Baby rice
40 gr Ricotta cheese/ Cottage cheese or 40 gr beef/veal escalope
1 tsp grated Parmesan
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Take out the outer and harder leaves of the fennel then cut it into wedges. Wash them and steam them until tender. If you are adding the meat, cook it in a bain-marie as well and when cooked, mince it finely in a food processor. Mince also the fennel, add 150- 200 ml of hot vegetable stock (or water). Pour in a tablespoon of instant porridge or Baby rice. Mix well. Combine with the meat or Ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese), Parmesan and oil.

CARROT AND POTATO PUREE WITH RICOTTA CHEESE


1 potato
1 carrot
40 g Ricotta cheese / Cottage cheese
1 tbs Baby rice
1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Wash the vegetables. Peel and cut them into small pieces. Bring the water to the boil, add the vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes. Filter the stock and blend the vegetables using a mouli/sieve/food processor. Now pour in a bowl the Ricotta cheese/Cottage cheese, two tablespoons of vegetables, some vegetable stock (the quantity depends on how thick you want the mixture to be), the Parmesan and the oil.


CHICKEN AND CARROT PUREE
This was my children's favourite.

2 carrots
1/2 organic chicken breast or 1/2 veal escalope or a small piece of beef fillet
1 tbs Baby rice
1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Wash the vegetables. Peel and cut them into small pieces. Bring the water to the boil, add the carrots and simmer for 30 minutes. Cover the pot with a dish and on top put the chicken breast/veal/beef and cover it with another dish, so it will cook in a baine-marie. When ready chop it finely using a food processor. Filter the stock and blend the carrots using a mouli/sieve/food processor. Now pour in a bowl the meat, two tablespoons of carrots, some vegetable stock (the quantity depends on how thick you want the mixture to be), the Parmesan and the oil.



COURGETTE OR PEAS AND POTATO WITH TURKEY
1 potato
1 courgette (or the equivalent in weight of peas)
1/2 turkey breast

1 tbs Baby rice
1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Wash the vegetables. Peel and cut them into small pieces. Bring the water to the boil, add the courgette/peas/potato and simmer for 30 minutes. Cover the pot with a dish and on top put the turkey breast and cover it with another dish, so it will cook in a baine-marie. When ready chop it finely using a food processor. Filter the stock and blend the carrots using a mouli/sieve/food processor. Now pour in a bowl the meat, two tablespoons of carrots, some vegetable stock (the quantity depends on how thick you want the mixture to be), the Baby rice, the Parmesan and the oil.

LENTIL PUREE

1 potato
1 carrot
1 courgette
2 tsp lentils



1 tbs Baby rice
1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Wash the vegetables. Peel and cut them into small pieces. Bring the water to the boil, add the vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes. Rinse the lentils and cook them following the instructions on the package. Filter the stock and blend the vegetables (also the lentils) using a mouli/sieve/food processor. Now pour in a bowl three tablespoons of vegetables, some vegetable stock (the quantity depends on how thick you want the mixture to be), the Baby rice, the Parmesan and the oil.

JAM FILLED BISCUITS





I tried to make these biscuits yesterday afternoon for the first time with Niki's help and the result has been amazing!!!!!!! We have used our home-made peach jam...but this is another recipe!
Great for tea time, especially when you have visitors. They'll love them!


Ingredients for about 20 biscuits:

100 g butter
100 g sugar
220 g self-raising flour
1 medium egg
100 g jam ( the sweeter it is, the better they will taste)
Icing sugar for decoration

Heat oven to 180C.
Put the butter in the microwave for 20 seconds to soften. Mix the butter with the sugar and when creamy, add the egg and the flour, then mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Alternatively, you can do this in the food processor. When the dough is compact, put in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough to a 5 mm thickness.Cut the biscuits with 2 round shaped cookie cutters, one slightly smaller than the other (I used one that was 4 cm and the other one 5 cm); on the smaller circles pour half a spoon of jam, then cover with the bigger circles pressing on the edges to seal. Do this on a baking tray lined with baking paper and be careful that they're properly spaced.
Bake for 12-15 mins until risen and just golden. Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with icing sugar.



Saturday, 15 October 2011

SALMON MEATBALLS



I usually make these fish cakes for my children, but we love them as well!!

Ingredients for 8/10 meatballs:

1 big salmon fillet (450g) or mixed fish such as cod or sea bass or haddock
450g  potatoes
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 free-range egg
salt and pepper
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Breadcrumbs (to coat)

Cook the fish in a bain-marie while the potatoes are boiling ; when cooked , take away the fish and place it on a dish. When it is cool enough to handle, take off the skin, remove any bones and flake the fish into small chunks. Peel the potatoes and mash them using a fork.

Mix the fish, mashed potato, parsley, Parmesan and egg together until well combined. If too wet, add some breadcrumbs. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Shape the mixture into 8-12 patties, depending on how large you want them to be; heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan and heat the fish cakes until golden brown on each side and heated right through.

Serve with a simple lettuce and tomato salad.

Friday, 14 October 2011

MEDITERRANEAN SEA BASS FILLET



This recipe is always a winner. I actually prefer whole sea-bass (you need two for four people and the cooking time is longer) but if you haven't got much time fillets work perfectly. Moreover, if you have a little child, they are safer, as they have no no bones. It is a great main dish for every occasion, and children (at least mine!) eat it with pleasure. And it doesn't require more than 10 minutes of your precious time!


Ingredients for 4 people:

4 fillets of sea bass
15-20 cherry tomatoes
15-20 Kalamata olives
1-2 tablespoons of capers
2 potatoes
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Set the oven to 150 degrees. Line a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray.
Wash the tomatoes and the parsley, rinse the olives and the capers, chop the parsley.
Peel and wash the potatoes, then slice them very thinly (I use the grater).
Place the sea bass fillets in the middle of the tray. Mix in a bowl the tomatoes, the olives the capers and the parsley, then place them on the tray. Place the potatoes on the other side of the tray. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle wih some olive oil.
Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes, then serve each fillet with some potatoes and some of the mixture of tomatoes, olives and capers.
If the fillets are too dry, drizzle with some more olive oil when on the dish.
Enjoy!!!

This is the grater I use for the potatoes.
 This is how I arrange the ingredients on the tray.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

PIZZA GRECA


This is my favourite pizza. Ever. There was a pizzeria in my home-town that used to have it on the menu, but it is now closed and I've never found it anywhere else. So when I'm craving for Pizza Greca...it's me who has to make it!!!! The procedure is the same of that for the Pizza Bianca, with the addition of some fresh ingredients on the top.

Ingredients for a 32*40 baking tray (enough for 3/4 people)

500 grams plain flour  or strong white bread flour if you prefer a softer base
1 sachet dried yeast (7 gr) or 2 teaspoons dried yeast
2 teaspoons sugar

10 gr salt
250 mls water
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + a couple of spoons for drizzling on the top
15-20 cherry-tomatoes
15-20 Kalamata olives
100 gr Feta cheese
1 mozzarella
Some basil leaves

 
Pour half of the water in a bowl with the yeast and the sugar and stir to dissolve, then leave to rest in a warm place for ten minutes. Pour the other half of the water in a second bowl with the salt and stir to dissolve.

Sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the water with the yeast and that with the salt. Add also the olive oil.

Mix to form a soft and slightly sticky dough. Add some water or some flour if you need it, until you have achieved the correct consistency.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and lightly flour your hands. Knead the dough for ten minutes until it is smooth and pliable.

When finished, put the dough inside the bowl dusted with flour (remember that it has to be large, as the dough will double in size) and cover with a dishtowel. Set aside in a warm place (20 degrees) for 2-3 hours. (I usually put it inside the -turned off!- oven.)

Now turn on the oven to 250 degrees and cut a piece of baking paper the size of the tray.
When the dough has doubled in size, remove the towel and punch the dough down. Remove from the bowl and knead again until smooth. Roll down the dough onto the baking paper, then put it on the tray. Adjust the shape with your fingers.

Now put the pizza in the oven for about 3/4 minutes. In the meantime wash the tomatoes, the basil leaves, rinse out the olives and cut into small chunks the mozzarella and the Feta cheese. Cut the tomatoes in halves.

Take out the pizza from the oven and add all the ingredients on the top. Drizzle with olive oil and season.

Put your pizza back in the oven and cook for another 8-10 minutes, until the mozzarella is golden, be careful not to burn the other ingredients.

Now enjoy this amazing dish with a beer!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

STUFFED POLPETTONE



Yesterday Niki was still at home, not feeling well yet. So I decided to spoil him with this stuffed polpettone, that he really enjoyed. Actually, we all did!! It's very quick to make, but if you want to save time, you can make it the day before and put in the fridge overnight, so on the day you just have to cook it. Buon appetito!

Ingredients for 4/5 people:

200 gr minced pork
200 gr minced chicken or veal
(but if you prefer, you can use just 400 gr of minced pork)
4 slices of bread
1/2 glass milk
1 medium egg
20 gr grated parmesan
a small bunch of flat leaf parsley , finely chopped
100 gr honey roasted ham
100 gr cheese (italian fontina works vey well)
20 gr butter
salt
pepper

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Soak the bread in the milk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the parsley, the minced meat, and the Parmesan.

Break in the egg and mix in. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drain the soaked bread and mix into the mixture.

Place the mixture in a roasting tray lined with baking parchment.

Flatten out the meat over the tray and place on it the cheese cut into pieces or slices and the slices of ham. Close the polpettone paying attention not to pull out the stuffing and shape it into an oval-shaped meatloaf.

You can add some potatoes cut into small chunks and season them with some olive oil, salt and rosemary (better to boil them first for a few minutes-already cut- otherwise they won't be ready in 30 minutes).

Bake for 30/35 minutes.

Once the polpettone has completed cooking let it cool down slightly. Slice it and serve it with the potatoes and, if you like, some salad leaves.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

HAZELNUT BISCUITS



Niki in these days is not well, he has flu and he's not much into food. So yesterday I decided to make his favourite biscuits to cheer him up. As children under three are not supposed to eat hazelnuts, I used one third of the dough to make coconut biscuits for Sebastian. Same procedure but instead of the hazelnuts I added some dessicated coconut.

Ingredients for about 35 cookies:

250 g self-raising flour
125 g soft butter
125 g caster sugar
100 g huzelnuts
1 pinch grated lemon zest
1 large egg
1 pinch of salt
Sugar balls (optional)
1 egg yolk (optional)

Grind the hazelnuts using the food processor.

In a bowl mix the butter with the sugar. Add the egg, the flour ,the chopped hazelnuts, the lemon zest and a pinch of salt and work the dough until it just holds together. Wrap it in cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.

On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough to a 5 mm thickness.Cut the biscuits with cookie cutters and put them properly spaced on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Now beat the egg yolk and brush the top of the cookies. Then sprinkle some sugar balls on them.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 ° for about 10-12 minutes, or until golden; do not overcook, as they will become too hard, it’s better to take them out of the oven when they are still soft. If you put them in a tin, they will last for about one week, maybe more.