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.

Monday, 10 October 2011

HAM AND CHEESE MUFFINS



Last friday we had a party for Sebastian's birthday; I made a few things, but the most successful have been the focaccia and these muffins. Ok, they are not properly italian but...they disapperead in no time, so this means they're good! My friend Zaira asked me for the recipe..and here it is!!! Muffins are really great for parties. Quick and easy. And soooo good!!!!

Ingredients for 10 muffins:

250 gr self raising flour
200 ml milk
2 eggs
50 gr butter (melted)
100 gr honey roast ham
150 gr Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (to sprinkle on top)


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Lightly grease a muffin tin ( or use muffin cups like I do!- it's quicker).

Cut the ham into 1cm chunks, and grate the Cheddar (or chop it roughly).

Now divide the dry ingredients from the wet ones.

In a bowl mix the beaten eggs, milk and melted butter ( remember to add it only when cold, otherwise it cooks the eggs!).
Sieve the flour, salt, ham and chees into a large bowl and mix well.

Now pour in the egg and milk mixture in the large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Spoon into the muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with Parmesan cheese .

Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Place on a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!!!!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

PIZZA BIANCA or FOCACCIA





There are a few "secrets" for making a good pizza.

1. use lukewarm bottle water (tap water is too hard);
2. avoid the contact between salt and yeast as the first prevents the second to serve its function.
3. the best place for the dough to rise is the oven (switched off!)


Remember that you can make the dough the day before, it will save you time, especially if you make it for lunch. Or you can make it in the morning for the evening.

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


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

10 gr salt 
250 mls water 
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


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 brush it with some olive oil and sprinkle the pizza with some rosemary (the quantity depends on how much you like it!) and some salt.

Put your pizza in the oven, cook for 10 minutes and then....enjoy!!!! It is good with some salami, ham, cheese, salad...or just by its own.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

COURGETTE RISOTTO



Today, we have been to Chelsea for some shopping, as we do almost every week-end. We love sitting at the cafe' in Duke of York Square while Niki rides his scooter and Sebastian eats all my Pain au Chocolat and drinks all my Chai Latte. And then after going for a stroll along King's Road we often end up in Rosso Pomodoro in Fulham Road for a pizza. Then another stroll... and we're back home at 5.30 pm. It's already time to cook dinner for the kids ... but I have no ideas...and the fridge is almost empty...I found a courgette, so I decided to make Courgette risotto. As Niki doesn't like it very much (he's in the phase NO VEGETABLES FOR ME pls!) I decided to use the Ikea cookie cutters to make the risotto more appetizing. And...surprise surprise...it worked!Finished in no time!!!

Recipe for 4:

12 spoons of Carnaroli rice
2 courgettes
Some chopped onion (the quantity depends on how much you like it!)
1 liter vegetable stock
Fresh chopped parsley and some chopped mint (optional)
Olive oil
Grated parmesan


Place the stock into a large pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down as low as it will go, to keep the stock hot but without letting it reduce too much. Otherwise, if you are in a hurry, just bring some water to the boil and when the rice is in the pan just pour it in the pan (a bit at a time) adding half a stock-cube (or a couple of teaspoons of the granulated one).

Heat some olive oil in a wide pan over a low to moderate heat. When hot, add the onion. Using a grater, coarsely grate the courgettes. Add them to the pan with the onion and fry gently, without browning, until both are tender. Add the rice and stir for 30-60 seconds to mix well. The rice should become translucent. Season the risotto with salt (if it is for the kids I avoid using pepper). Keep adding the stock/water in the same way, stirring as frequently as you can, until the rice is cooked al dente (that is, tender but still with a slight resistance to the bite). This will take 20 minutes or more. At this point, the risotto should still be fairly wet; when the rice is cooked, stir the the chopped herbs (keeping aside a sprinkling for serving the final dish) into the risotto and cook for a further 1-2 minutes to heat through. Finally, stir in a bit of butter and some grated parmesan.

To create the animal shapes (or any other shape) just place the cookie cutter on the plate and pour the risotto inside. Take it carefully away ... and dinner is served!!!!!

Friday, 7 October 2011

MASCARPONE CREAM CAKE



Today we have celebrated Sebastian's first birthday. Last night before falling asleep I have been overwhelmed by memories. The pain , the race by cab to the hospital in the middle of the night, the worry for having left Niki with friends ... but with my husband by my side everything seemed bearable,easier, special. And then after many hours Sebi came to the  world and changed our lives. Thank you my angel for being with us. This is my present for you. Happy birthday.
Ingredients for 8/10 people:
For the cake base
6 eggs
180 g sugar
75 g flour
75 g cornflour
A pinch of salt

For the mascarpone cream

2 yolks
1 egg white
250 gr mascarpone
70 gr sugar
60 gr dark chocolate chunks
70 gr white chocolate curls ( I purchased them on Amazon, but you can simply grate some white chocolate)
Ahead of time, take out from the fridge the six eggs.
Whip the whole eggs mixed with the sugar and a pinch of salt with an egg beater for about 20 minutes until stiff peaks. The volume of the preparation should rise about 4 times the starting ingredients. The colour of the whipped eggs should be pale yellow.
Slowly add the strained flour mixing constantly from the bottom upwards.
Transfer the dough in a greased and floured baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes at 150 degrees or until ready. A well cooked sponge cake usually detaches easily from the walls of the baking pan.
In the meantime (I actually made the base yesterday and the cream and decoration today), you can make the cream:
Whip the yolks and the egg white mixed with the sugar for about 10 minutes; then add the mascarpone and the chocolate chunks and mix gently with a wooden spoon.
At this point you need some syrup to spread on the base of the cake, that has to be cut in half.
Just put 100 ml of water in a pan with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a piece of lemon peel. Bring to the boil and after a few minutes turn off the heath. When cold or lukewarm pour onto he two halves of the cake. Than spread 2/3 of the mascarpone cream and "close"the cake.  Spread the rest of the cream on top, then add the chocolate curls. Put in the fridge at least two hours before serving.
Enjoy!!!


Thursday, 6 October 2011

AUBERGINE CASSEROLE - MELANZANE ALLA PARMIGIANA




Ok, now the summer has really gone. It's another windy and grey day. The good thing is that at least, from now on, I'll be able to wear all the wintery stuff I bought a couple of weeks ago in Oxford st.!

Yesterday, as I had a couple of aubergines in the fridge, I've decided to make the last "Melanzane alla Parmigiana" of the season.This is my favourite dish, and this is my granny's recipe. She usually added also some cooked ham between the layers.
This is my personal version of the dish, it's lighter than the classic one, as the aubergines are usually fried; instead, I grill them.

Ingredients for 4/6 people

2 big aubergines
1/2 onion
1/2 carrot
1/2 celery
800 gr tin chopped tomatoes
2 mozzarellas
Some basil leaves
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil


Slice the aubergines in the length sense. Put the slices in a colander and cover every layer with salt and let them rest for about 1 hour. Then wash them. You’ll see that they release a dark liquid, that’s very bitter and it has to be discarded.
Brush two big saucepans with olive oil and cook the aubergine slices on both sides (or you can grill them using a grilling machine).
Meanwhile cook some soffritto (chopped onion,carrot and celery) in another saucepan and add the chopped tomatoes, some salt and the chopped basil leaves. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Slice the mozzarella into thin slices. Arrange a layer of aubergine slices in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, spread the tomato sauce over the top and add the mozzarella slices. Then cover with another layer of aubergine slices then tomato sauce, then mozzarella, then parmesan and a bit of olive oil. Put in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes or until the mozzarella is golden brown.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

TOMATO AND BASIL PASTA




This is the simplest sauce in the world, but in my opinion, if the ingredients are fresh, the best one.
This is something I'm sure my children always like, there are never leftovers! I started to cook it for them from weaning, from the tenth month or earlier (it depends on what your health visitor tells you about the introduction of tomato in the baby's menu).
If you are cooking for your baby only, you'll need  300 gr of tomatoes (you'll get two or three portions but I usually freeze them) , two or three spoons of baby pasta and a few basil leaves. As you surely already know, until they reach the age of 12 months it is better not to use any salt.
For my children I often use the De Cecco Chifferi rigati, as it takes only seven minutes for them to cook as they're quite small. 

Ingredients for four:

600 gr tomatoes (I usually buy the Red Choice ones in Waitrose, they're very sweet )
10 basil leaves or more
A slice of onion
A small piece of carrot
A small part of celery
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Grated parmesan

Fry lightly some onion, carrot and celery (finely chopped - I use the food processor) in olive oil. This is what is called "soffritto". I usually freeze the rest of it, that's very handy when you're in a hurry!. Be careful it doesn't burn. In the meantime, take off the skin and the seeds of tomatoes (the quickest way to peel them  is to put them in boiling water for a minute, you’ll see the skin will break ). Cut them into pieces then put them in the pan. Add some chopped basil, salt and pepper . After 10 minutes or so, the tomatoes will melt and the sauce will be ready. Don't forget to put some grated parmesan on top of your pasta dish! Enjoy!!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

ALMOND AND BANANA MUFFINS



Unfortunately the weather forecast in this country is seldom wrong...so today we are back to the usual London weather. Grey sky and low temperatures. Sebastian has a cold so better to stay home this morning. Niki will come back from nursery hungry as usual so...why not cooking a snack for him? I check what I have left in the cupboard....ground almonds...mmmhhh...maybe I can make some muffins?Almond and banana? Let's try this combination that usually children like. They are not very sweet, so if you prefer them sweeter, just add some sugar.

The ingredients are for 12 small muffins.

180 gr self-raising flour
120 gr ground almonds
2 ripe bananas
70 gr sugar
50 ml milk
30 gr butter, left at room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 pinch of salt
some icing sugar to put on top


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
When you make muffins, you always divide the dry ingredients from the wet ones; so put in one bowl the flour, the ground almonds, the sugar and the pinch of salt. Mix well. In another bowl put the mashed bananas (you can mash them using a fork), the milk, the butter, the vanilla essence and the egg. Mix until smooth, then add to the dry ingredients. Mix well using a wooden spoon,then spoon the mixture into muffin cups until 2/3. Bake until golden brown for about 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before turning on a wire rack. Sprinkle on icing sugar when cold.

Monday, 3 October 2011

SEAFOOD RISOTTO

And for the adults, yesterday I made seafood risotto as a main dish. Actually Niccolo' loves seafood, so he enjoyed it too. Please remember that children under three are not supposed to eat shellfish, as it is extremely allergenic. If you have time you can use fresh seafood (mussels and clams with shells require a long time to be cleaned), otherwise you can buy a mixture of cooked seafood at the fish counter in your supermarket - Waitrose for me is the best!. You need clams, prawns, mussels and squid. Cod or monkfish have to be purchased separately as they are not usually included in the mixture.


Here is the recipe that serves about 4 people:

12 tablespoons Carnaroli rice (I usually calculate 3 tablespoons for an adult and 2 tablespoons for a child)
1 small piece of cod (or monkfish, more expensive but much tastier)
1 package of  prepared and cooked seafood cocktail (much easier than fresh fish!!!!!)
Parsley (also for decoration)
1 clove of garlic
Olive oil


First of all, cook the cod or monkfish in a bain marie for 15 or 20 minutes.
Put some olive oil in a large pan. Heat the oil and then add the garlic. Sweat it over a gentle heat until the garlic becomes golden in colour, then quickly remove it from the pan and discard it. Now, turn the heat to medium and add the seafood into the pan. After a few minutes add the rice; when the sauce is drying, cover with the water you have used for the bain-marie- adding some salt- (or fish-stock) and let it simmer. Check every few minutes and add water/stock if needed. From the moment in which you put the rice in the pan, it takes 20 minutes for it to be ready. Towards the end, when it is almost ready, add some fresh parsley, black pepper, and a bit (but only a bit, like 1 teaspoon!) of  butter. Taste it and add salt if necessary. To serve it nicely, I usually put every portion in a small bowl then I turn it upside down on the plate. I add a sprig of parsley in the middle...and that's it!!!!!Ready in 30 minutes with no effort at all!You can drink your aperitif while it's cooking!!!

TUNA POLPETTONE



Yesterday the weather was so incredibly nice that we decided to stay home and enjoy a lunch with friends outside in the balcony. The menu was based on fish, but the kids usually don't like it very much so... I needed something special for them. And as a starter, I made this quick and easy tuna polpettone that they enjoyed very much (and we too!). This is a good idea for a pic-nic or for a party, if you decorate it nicely. I didn't have much time, but with capers, tomatoes, cucumbers and mayonnaise you can make a work of art!!! Here is the recipe who serves about 4 or 5 people.

2 tins of 160 gr tuna
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 egg

Mince the tuna using the food processor, then add the egg, the Parmesan and the bread crumbs. Mix all together and give it the shape of a small cylinder. Wrap it in cling film fastening the ends and put it in boiling water for 20 minutes. Then take it out and when it's cold put it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. When it is almost time for the guests to arrive, cut it into slices and serve them on a bed of lettuce or rocket. Decorate as you like. Believe me, it is always a success!!!Buon appetito!!!