Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Pimped-up fettuccine alfredo! Easy.

img_4324

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast (aim for 1 per person)
  • Spanish onion
  • Garlic
  • Cream
  • Thyme
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon juice
  • Parsley
  • Seasoning

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=6ZEeFW1PG8s

Method:

1st: Chop the chicken breast into slices, or equal size pieces and fry in oil/butter.

2nd: Dice a small Spanish onion and 2 cloves of garlic.  Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.

3rd: Slice a few chestnut mushrooms and add to the pan.

4th: Return the chicken to the frying pan, and sprinkle in parsley and thyme and pour in the cream.  Squeeze the juice of a lemon into the sauce.  Season well and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

5th: Boil any pasta you are using РI made some fresh fettuccine pasta Рand once cooked mix into the creamy, chicken sauce.

6th:  Grate parmesan cheese to taste and mix well.  Serve and grate more parmesan cheese over, drizzle with truffle oil.

This dish makes a great Valentine meal if you’ve decided to wait until the weekend; it’s luxurious, creamy and delicious. ¬†Send me your Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo photos!

 

Advertisements

Start by making a mushroom risotto but make sure to ALWAYS make a little bit extra just so that you can make these easy to create, amazing arancini!

img_3146

Ingredients:

  • Leftover mushroom risotto
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • plain flour
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil for frying

Method:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1st: Take the fridge cold mushroom risotto and make teaspoon sized balls.  Roll the mixture in the palm of your hands, taking care to squish back in any pieces of mushroom that stick out.

2nd: Place all the mushroom rice balls onto a baking sheet and place back in the fridge for a few moments to firm up.  Use this time to bring out the flour, beat the egg and pour breadcrumbs onto a plate that you’ll need for the next stage.

3rd: Take the rice balls out of the fridge and dredge each one through flour ‚Äď shake off the excess ‚Äď then pass through the beaten egg, and roll in the breadcrumbs.

4th: Chill for 10mins before deep frying them until golden.

These can be eaten as they are.  I prepared a quick aioli and chilli mayo to snack on but some favour a béchamel style sauce to dip these luscious balls into.  Either way, it’s a win-win situation: delicious mushroom risotto, amazing arancini!

d8c49e29-11a8-468b-963d-7cbd7cab36a6

 

 

Salted Caramel Panna Cotta

Typing those four words has made my mouth water!

Classic panna cotta is normally served with a strawberry coulis to off-set the silky-white texture of the creamy panna cotta.¬† At the very least, slices of strawberry or other fruit will be used to finish the dish ‚Äď even if just as mere decoration.¬† And this is delicious.¬† But in can be predictable and somewhat boring.

The actual panna cotta is just vanilla-infused cream so therefore can work with other flavours.  The first time I strayed from the panna-cotta-norm I created a slightly inedible disaster which I have no desire to recreate! However, this salted caramel panna cotta could easily become one of my favourite desserts.

Salted Caramel Panna Cotta

Ingredients:

For the Panna Cotta
1 small pot* double cream
3 gelatine sheets
1 Vanilla pod / 1 tspn vanilla paste
1 tbspn caster sugar
For the Salted Caramel Sauce
250g caster sugar
142ml double cream
50g butter
Salt

*pots used to be sold in 284ml (1/2 pint) pots but are now sold in 300ml pots ‚Äď don‚Äôt worry about the difference.

Method:
1st:
Heat the double cream with either a vanilla pod sliced along its length or with a tspn, or thereabouts, of vanilla paste and the caster sugar.  Heat through until the sugar has dissolved.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

2nd: Bloom the gelatine sheets in cold water until soft.  Squeeze out the excess water and add to the warm cream.  Stir until completely dissolved.

3rd: Coat the inside of your dariole moulds/br√Ľl√©e pots with oil and pour the panna cotta cream into them.¬† Chill for a few hours or until set.

In the meantime make the caramel sauce and set this aside to cool before using.

4th: In a heavy bottom frying pan, add the sugar and 4 tablespoons of water.  Allow the sugar to dissolve over a gentle heat.  Once dissolved, turn up the heat and allow the syrup to bubble until it turns caramel in colour.

5th: Take off the heat and stir in the butter and cream.  Optional extra: add salt flakes to the mixture.  Stir the mixture making sure the butter has melted properly and everything is incorporated.  Decant the mixture into a pouring jug / bottle.

To serve the panna cotta:

Run a knife along the inside of the dariole mould and sit in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds to loosen the panna cotta from the mould.  Place a plate ontop of the mould and upturn.  The panna cotta should come easily out of the mould.  If not, place it back into the bowl of hot water.

Pour the caramel sauce over and top with grated chocolate.  Absolutely amazing!

img_1483

 

IMG_1130

Fresh Pasta – Tortellini

A couple of years ago, or was it last year? I was given a pasta machine for my birthday.  And whether this was a gift given out of love or the thought that I’d be inviting people around to eat fresh pasta on a regular basis I don’t know BUT what I do know is that it is great fun making fresh pasta from scratch.

A great activity for the weekend when you’ve got time to make some space, make a mess and clean up.

Believe it or not, fresh pasta is actually very simple to make; 100g pasta ‚Äė00‚Äô flour to one large egg.¬† Combine the dough together, let it rest for approx 20mins and then start rolling.

In the past I’ve transformed my fresh pasta into tagliatelle and spaghetti using the attachments on my pasta machine but this time I wanted a hand at stuffed fresh pasta such as ravioli or tortellini.

If you want to know about The Science Behind Fresh Pasta ‚Äď click on the hyperlink to read about the ingredients to make the best fresh pasta, an article written by Nikki Achitoff-Gray from www.seriouseats.com

Spinach and Goats Cheese Tortellini with Toasted Pine Nuts and Sage Butter

Ingredients (serves 2):
For the Pasta:
100g ‚Äė00‚Äô flour and 1 large egg¬† 

For the Butter:
Pine nuts
50g butter
Sage leaves

 

For the Filling:
100g of wilted spinach
100g of goat’s cheese
30g of grated parmesan cheese
Rasp of fresh nutmeg

 

 

Method:
IMG_2417
1st:
On a clean surface pour your flour and make a well in the centre.  Crack the egg into the well, and either using a fork or your fingers, start to mix the ingredients together.  Once the dough has come together, allow to rest for 20-30mins.  Place under a damp tea-cloth, wrap in cling film or hide under an upturned bowl.

2nd: Whilst the dough is resting make the filling.  Chop the wilted spinach and mix with the goat’s cheese and the parmesan cheese, season and add a rasp of nutmeg.  Taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly.

 

IMG_2483

fresh pasta

3rd: Once the dough has rested start rolling it out- it is much easier with a pasta machine (as you can see in the clip above) as you can get it much thinner than if rolling by hand.  Follow the directions on your machine as each will have its own instructions.

4th: To make tortellini: On a pasta sheet, place teaspoonfuls of the filling at regular intervals.  Put another pasta sheet on top and using your fingers, seal the two pasta sheets expelling any air around the filling.  Note: any trapped air may cause the tortellini to burst on cooking.  Using a circular cutter or wine glass, cut out each tortellini and sprinkle in semolina to avoid them sticking together or the surface they are on.  Repeat the process until all your tortellini are made.

IMG_2562

Fresh Pasta – Tortellini

5th: Boil the tortellini in salted water for 4 mins, this is a good time to make the butter.  In a dry frying pan toast your pine nuts.  Once they are as coloured as you dare, place the butter and the sage leaves in the frying pan.  Add a ladleful of the pasta water and mix to make a sauce.  Serve with grated parmesan and crispy sage leaves.

IMG_2574

Spinach and Goat’s Cheese tortellini with toasted pine nuts and sage butter

Buon appetito!

 

There’s always room for dessert!

You sit down at your local trattoria to stay out of the lunchtime sun knowing exactly what you’re going to have for dessert – panna cotta. ¬†More grown up than ice-cream but just as cooling and light. ¬†You plan your antipasti and primo piatto with this in mind, making sure to just leave enough room for dolce. ¬†But sadly, on many occasion, when you order panna cotta the waiter gives the same answer, “Non abbiamo pi√Ļ a sinistra.” ¬†On their recommendation another dolce is ordered. ¬†And even though delicious, it wasn’t what you originally wanted.

So having been denied the chance to have this dessert in its country of origin, once back from holiday, I set out looking for ways to create this at home.

Of course, set desserts made from milk and cream are common to many cultures, and often separated by very minor differences:

blancmange rabbit…exactly!!

Blancmange in its specifically British incarnation is typically made with milk and thickened with corn flour or more commonly a packet of strawberry jelly is dissolved in water and milk is stirred in to make it pink, and served in a rabbit mould and topped with spray-can cream!

While panna cotta, as the name suggests (cooked cream) is generally made from cream and set with gelatine.  Much more elegant and sophisticated than blancmange, served in flea market tea-cups, dariole moulds or espresso cups and served with fresh fruit, spices or nuts.  It is the perfect dinner party dessert as it can be made well in advance and always impresses.

There are several recipes to be found with varying ingredients: some use only double cream, others cream and milk, others buttermilk, some use single cream and milk.

Ultimately though, all a panna cotta really is, is a creamy dessert set with gelatine.

As David Lebovitz says, “Panna cotta¬†is incredibly easy to make, and if it takes you more than five minutes to put it together, you’re doing something wrong.”

Below is my version/amalgamation of different recipes:

Panna Cotta serves 2*IMG_35381

1st:¬†In a saucepan pour a small tub (1/2 pint) of double cream and place on a gentle heat. ¬†Some tubs are 254ml whereas others are 300ml – don’t worry about this.

2nd: Add a tablespoon of sugar and stir to dissolve.

3rd: Add a splosh of vanilla extract or cut a vanilla pod in half lengthways, scrape the seeds out and add both the seeds and pod into the warm cream to infuse.

4th: Put 2 gelatine leaves in cold water until soft.  When soft, squelch any excess water out and stir into the warm cream.

5th: Pour into lightly oiled moulds, and leave to cool.  Once cool place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

To serve: Place the moulds into hot water for 8 secs until the panna cotta comes away from the mould and turn out onto a plate (or serve in the espresso cup/tea cup).  Serve with fruit of choice.

*Doubles easily, but only use 3 gelatine sheets not 4 as you want it to be luscious and not hard like a cheese!!

As you are setting the cream with gelatine and not an egg-custard you can pretty much go crazy with whatever flavours you want to go for –¬†apparently the Nutella panna cotta with Frangelico cream is to die for! ¬†I’ll definitley be giving that one a go next.

Simple and decadent.

Buon appetito!

Having established a benchmark of food and drink at my parties a few years ago, what could I pull out of the bag to feed my 20+ guests this party round?  After all I can no longer get away with several bags of doritos and assorted dips!

Do I provide my standard party medly of spiced nuts, cranberry glazed cocktail sausages and pesto palmiers? ¬†Surely that’s a more wintry¬†repertoire. ¬†With the weather nearing the cusp of summer a lighter menu would be more appropriate.

So when thinking of summer food what do we recall to mind? ¬†For me it’s things like chilled gazpacho, salads, fruit and veg and bbq meat! ¬†How could I go about trying to incorporate these ideas into my repertoire of party food?

Summer Party Menu:

strawberry cocktail

taken from youtube.com

Strawberry Champagne Cocktail

In a blender blitz strawberries, lemon juice and icing sugar until you form a strawberry puree.  Pour this into the bottom of champagne glasses and top up with the fizzy wine of your choice.

After much deliberation the following is the menu I decided on:

Ajo Blanco (aka white gazpacho), Roast vegetable cous cous salad, Cauliflower cake and Beef carpaccio with parmesan shavings.  For dessert homemade limoncello and biscotti.

Ajo BlancoAjo blanco

I followed a Sam and Sam Clark Moro recipe (having even asked them which bread to use via Twitter!) but looking online there are several sites that have similar if identical recipes.

Literally combine almonds, garlic, stale bread, olive oil, sherry vinegar and iced water in a blender and blitz until it forms a smooth-like liquid with the consistency of cream.  Chill and serve with white grape cheeks.  This needs to be served ice cold Рso either put into the freezer for a while before serving or pour over ice.

Top Tip: beware the volume of liquid you put into your processor as you don’t want it pouring out of the central post as mine did!!

Roast Vegetable Cous Cous SaladRoasted-Veg-Couscous

This couldn’t be easier; roast the veggies you wish – peppers, red onions and courgettes give the best flavour for this but I also used some leftover asparagus. ¬†Aubergine is a great veg to use in this as it is a meaty vegetable providing texture as well as colour.

When you’re ready to assemble, pour boiling water or stock over the cous cous making sure to just cover in liquid. ¬†Cover in cling film and leave until the cous cous has absorbed all the water. ¬†Mix the veg through and add chopped herbs – parsely, corriander and mint work best.

Cauliflower CakeCauliflower Cake

A recipe from Foodat52 from my Foodie Weekend but a quick online search has given me the exact same recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi  (Follow the Yotam hyperlink to take you to the recipe) at the Guardian online.

I’ve followed this cauliflower cake recipe several times now. ¬†The 10 eggs in the batter make the cake souffl√© in the tin. ¬†It is decadent, delicious, moreish and full of flavour. ¬†Ideal as a light lunch. ¬†You could almost replace the ubiquitous lunchtime quiche with this golden cauliflower delight.

decadent, delicious, moreish

The great thing about the cauliflower cake is that it is even better the following day!

Beef CarpaccioBeef Carpaccio

As all my other dishes were unintentionally vegetarian I decided to pull out all the stops with a prime fillet of beef for the carnivores amongst us.

Make sure that the fillet is at room temperature before attempting to cook it.

Roll the prime fillet in sea salt, crushed black pepper, finely chopped rosemary and thyme (no oil).  Once the griddle is smoking hot, sear the fillet for a minute all the way round.

Then take off the heat and leave to rest.  Once the meat has rested for anything from 5 Р10mins, slice it as thinly as you can AND with the back of the knife flatten each slice as much as possible without grinding the fillet into a mush on your board.

Top Tip: Know your audience!  As there are many people attending the party who would not like to eat their meat carpaccio-style, put the end of meat into the oven.  Leave to rest and then carve this in thin slices/strips.

Lay the slices of carpaccio onto a dish and shave parmesan over.  Sprinkle with some fresh thyme and drizzle with a simple dressing of olive oil, mustard and sherry vinegar.  If serving this as a main meal accompany the carpaccio with peppery rocket leaves.

Limoncello and Biscotti

click on the hyperlink to direct you to the recipes.

If there is one recipe from the ones mentioned above that you MUST try and recreate it has to be Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower Cake. ¬†I’m off to scrounge in the fridge for leftovers!

Enjoy the summer everyone.

The recent Horsemeat scandal has left farmers incensed as meat sales have plummeted, supermarkets have lost billions in profits and governments struggle in vain to draw a line under the scandal over horsemeat being sold as beef.

horsemeat

So with consumers ditching beef for veggie ready meals it makes me question why people feel that creating vegetarian dishes can be difficult. ¬†Wouldn’t it be just as easy to buy ingredients to create a vegetarian dish than buying a microwave pre-packed one?

By creating your own dish, you control the quantities, the amount of salt, volume… So why don’t some people cook their own vegetarian dishes? ¬†Simple:

 Vegetarian = Boring!

If you try to convince a non-vegetarian that a meat free meal is delicious and exciting then you’ll just be faced with the deadpan certainty that they are awaiting the punchline in your joke. ¬†Either that or they think you’re going to resurrect the vegetable stir-fry. ¬†It is just a case of changing a mindset. ¬†Question: how can culinary giants such as Italy and Spain create amazing vegetable dishes without the ridicule of their respective nations? ¬†Answer: by never compromising on flavour.

The key to a great vegetable dish is to keep it simple.  Let the product speak for itself such as aubergines and honey; a simple Starter to any meal:

IMG_2337

Aubergine and honey

1st: Heat a griddle pan for approximately 8mins before you start cooking.

2nd: Slice the aubergine however you wish; I tend to favour cutting them in half along their length and then slicing into thin strips along the length of each half.

3rd: Pour olive oil into a dish and soak both sides of the aubergine slices in the oil.  Aubergines are like sponges and will soak up a lot of oil so try not to leave them dunked in the oil for too long.

4th: Griddle until scorch marked and softened from the griddle.

5th: Drizzle honey over just before serving.

Use ingredients to compliment your vegetable:

Mushrooms with garlic, chillies and butter IMG_23271

1st: Make the Garlic, Chillies and Parsley butter found on the recipes page.

2nd: Share between the mushrooms.

3rd:¬†Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and bake at 180¬įC for 20mins.

Disclaimer: ¬†The butter retains a lot of heat so take care when eating as you don’t want to end up with your palette blistered to shreds!

For the more adventurous cook why not try a Roast Vegetable Lasagne or an impressive melanzane alla parmigiana where instead of using lasagne sheets you use slices of aubergine with plenty of parmesan.  

Toptip:¬†When roasting vegetables don’t add salt until the end otherwise they braise in their own cooking liquid.

Or if you want to impress:

Aubergine rolls filled with spinach, ricotta and pine nuts: 

aubergine rolls

Photo taken from bbcgoodfood.com

1st: Soften the aubergine slices by either griddling or cooking them in the oven.

2nd: Mix the wilted spinach leaves with the ricotta cheese and add a good shaving of parmesan.  Season to taste.

3rd: Either use tomato passata from a jar or create your own.

Start to assemble the dish:

4th: Place a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce into the bottom of the oven dish.

5th: Add a teaspoonful of the mixture to one end of the aubergine slice and roll it.  Repeat this for the remaining aubergine slices.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.  To make this a dinner party indulgence why not cover in bechamel sauce before sprinkling with parmesan cheese.

Most of these vegetable dishes make a great accompaniment to any meal.  For example both the mushrooms and the aubergine rolls can be a side dish to meat or chicken if you so wish.  But celebrating them as a main course with some crusty bread is just as rewarding.  Remember, there are plenty of health benefits from eating more vegetables, they are tasty and good on the budget.

Buy vegetables at the height of their season as this will mean you’ll get the best quality product at the best price. ¬†Buy what you need as they have a limited longevity; buy small but buy often.

No, I am not a vegetarian, but I hope through this blog entry I may have given you some ideas as to how to take the jump and cook up simple meat-free dishes that you won’t find boring or predictable.

Give them a try!