Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Gratin di patate filanti - grated potatoes cake with ham and mozzarella

This is a very easy 'experiment' I did the other day as I ran out of ingredients for my dinner, but I can guarantee the result was appreciated by Matt as all he could say while eating was: '..hmmm...delicious!' and that kept me smiling as I totally improvised this out of desperation caused by a lack of food in the fridge.
I took some inspiration to it  from the neapolitan gatto' (gateau, one of the many french influences in our neapolitan dialect), though very different as in gatto' the potatoes shoud be mashed and there's also eggs and other ingretients in it... so I named this one ' Gratin di patate filanti'. Here's what I did:

Ingredients for 2/3 persons:
4-5 medium potatoes
100 gr ham (cured)
50 gr parmesan cheese grated
bread crumbs
half glass of milk
120 gr mozzarella cheese sliced 

I boiled and peeled 5 potatoes
sliced them and placed them in a pre-greased oven tray (I used a pyrex one), and made different layers with
mozzarella slices
sprinkled parmesan
and so on until the ingredients are all in the tray

In order to make the outside of the bake crispy and nice I covered it with some bread crumbs and butter flakes  and just a little bit of milk all over the top ...bake in the oven for 30 minutes ...

and this is the result (courtesy of Matt's plate above...) you can also serve it as a side dish for some oven roasted chicken I think, but it's filling enough to be served as a main course! Buon appetito!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Risotto ai funghi con porcini - Mushroom risotto with Porcini: a perfect autumn recipe

Last night I turned on the electric fire for the first time after the sweet English summer and thought about listing this recipe that is an ideal Autumn warmer, one of my favourite main courses: mushrooms risotto!
It's a creamy (please don't do it watery! That's a soup, not a risotto!) and fragrant dish, and I love to mix fresh mushrooms and dried porcini with loads of parmesan, but you can use the ingredients up to your taste. Somebody uses parsley too, but I prefer it without, just a matter of personal preference I guess,.
Risotto for 2 -  you will need:

one medium onion
Arborio rice 150 gr  (this rice is rhe ideal one to prepare risotto because of the creamy texture it gives)
fresh mushoroom
dried mushoom ( I could not find only  porcini , so I had to use a mix of them, but nice anyway)
vegetable or chicken stock half litre
butter, pepper and olive oil
parmesan cheese grated

First of all prepare your main ingredients: chop the fresh mushrooms and place the dry ones in a bowl with hot water so that they get the right consistency.
Drain the rehidrated dry mushrooms and make sure you don't throw away the water used for the dry mushrooms, as it's now infused with flavour and will be used later on.

Chop them in fine pieces.

Now that the main ingredients are prepared you can start the base of your risotto, use a small amount of butter in some olive oil and add the chopped onion (I used a red one, but standard onions will be absolitely fine). Stir for some minutes.

Now add the rice to the onion base: it needs to 'toast' for a couple of minutes so don't add any stock yet. This way the rice will be rich of flavour.

Now it's time to add the stock (half of it, as I use it gradually as the rice cooks. And the all  mushrooms. Keep stirring...

I added some drops of black truffle infusion I got in Italy (absolutely personal taste, but wanted to share the idea in case you're fond of the peculiar taste of truffles just as I am)

When the rice is cooked and still not too dry (still has a little bit of liquid stock in it) you will need to turn off the fire and 'Mantecare' that basically means mix some butter and grated parmesan in it and keeping stirring so that the creamy texture and flavours are enhanced.

That's it! This is the basic procedure for any kind of risotto: just change the main ingredients to what you best prefer and you can have endless possibilities to try. Another of my favourite risotto recipes is 'Salsiccia e Zafferano' (Saffron and Sausages) or champaigne and smoked provola. Hmmm...I think I am going to prepare my lunch...quite hungry after this post hehe have you all a great week end!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

linguine alle verdure - ready in 10 minutes linguine with vegetables

When it comes to preparing my lunch I wish it could be ready in 10 minutes, but excluding all those microwave stuff and frozen fish fingers ...what else could be the choice to save my time but eat nice healthy stuff anyway?

Italians have the answers hehe.Here's how I made my 10 minutes ready delicious vegetables linguine. (it's just a matter personal preference to spaghetti, I like the texture of linguine pasta better):

in one pan I start boiling the water with salt

at the same time in another frying pan I use a little bit of olive oil, chopped red onion and let it cook for 3 minutes with a couple of anchovies 

roughly chop courgettes, fresh mushrooms, fresh cherry tomatoes and mix it in the pan for the sauce, add some chopped basil (always chop the fresh basil using the hands, not the knife)

when the water is boiling add the pasta until 'al dente' and drain it : I always always always use the pan where I prepared the sauce to finish the pasta for a minute with a medium fire : this way the taste will be stronger and the condiment properly spread. 

If you like, you can add some grated parmesan :) 


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Braciole napoletane al sugo (beef rolls neapolitan way)

It's amazing how food and meals names can be so different from region to region of the same country.
I have been living my first 10 years in a small village near Napoli, southern Italy, and then moved north near Milan just until before I moved to United Kingdom. I can cleary see the difference in the meaning of food names between the Italian regions: one of these examples is 'braciola'.
In napoli it actually refers to these delicious beef rolls I am going to describe in the recipe below, while in norther Italy it refers to something rather different as it's the definition of a pork chop with rib just cooked in a pan or grilled.

I am actually going to show you my procedure to prepare these mouth watering  and succulent beef rolls, typical Sunday meal in Napoli. The neapolitan tradition in fact is to cook a 'ragu' sauce for the whole family, and forget the tinned ragu sauce you're used to ...it's something completely different and it also reflects the philosophy of the neapolitan style: take it easy, be patient, and don't worry!

We can consider the neapolitan braciole as one of the several addition to the ragu : they can be part of it or they can simply be prepared in this way (you and your guests won't be disapponted!).

You will need:

fine cut beef steaks (I used about 430 grams for the picture above)
pine nuts
garlic crushed
parmesan cheese grated (if you can find pecorino cheese even better)
fresh chopped parsley (very important)
tomato passata one bottle
tomato paste
olive oil (a good Italian olive oil possibly)
a glass of white wine
salt and pepper
toothpicks  or cooking string to keep the meat in a roll shape while cooking

prepare the ingredients on a board and spread the chopped garlic, parsley, pine nuts all over each beef steak, sprinkle the grated  parmesan on top of it

form the rolls, and hold them in place with some toothpicks (or cooking string). Start 'sealing' the meat in a pan frying it first for some minutes with olive oil, then add 1/2 glass of white wine and let it dry

add the tomato passata sauce, and a couple of spoons of tomato paste (concentrated)...let it simmer for about one hour until the sauce is less liquid and has a nice brown colour to it.

Trick: you can use this as a double meal: use the sauce as condiment for some home made taglatelle and the meat as second course (this is what we do in Naples :)) 


Monday, 6 September 2010

a sweet treat: Coccole with ricotta cheese, coconut and cocoa powder super easy and yummy!

These cute yummy little fluffy snow balls are a very easy yet delicious sweet treat for your guests and family, and I tasted them first during a bbq we had last June to celebrate our house warming party.

A friend of mine prepared the 'coccole' (cuddles) and everybody absolutely loved them! The bonus is that you don't have to bake anything, so if you 're very busy and don't have so much time to spend in the kitchen, this is the ideal solution to impress your guess ...in a positive way!

The main ingredient for this recipe is ricotta cheese: this is one of my favourite ingredients as it's so versatile and light (and cheap!) and I use it for both sweet and savoury dishes.
Living in UK, I found my ricotta at asda, but this can be found in many other main supermarkets:

You will need:
250 gr of Ricotta cheese
100 gr of sugar
150 gr essicated coconut powder
50 gr of cocoa powder

food colors, and aromas (I used vanilla and almond aroma) , and if you like some rhum or brandy for the chocolate ones

Start by softening the ricotta cheese in a bowl using a fork , and then add the sugar keeping mixing.

Add  100 gr of essicated coconut and keep stirring until you have a quite firm texture

I divided the mixture in 4 different bowls, so that I could color and flavour each bowl differently using food colorants and aromas: I went for a blue-vanilla coconut flavour, a yellow -almond one and kept the white just with coconut and the coccoa ones with brandy ...just followed my personal tastes, but you can decide to have them all chocolate if you like and mix the cocoa powder without dividing the compost.

once you have mixed and you get the desired shade of colour, leave the bowls to cool in the fridge for about  20 minute, so they are firm enough tobe worked.

and with the help of a teaspoon and your scuplting skills...form some little balls

...and roll them in the remaining coconut flour you left aside, and you're done!

Store in the fridge, and serve chilled...enjoy!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Artichokes, memories, and missing holidays!

One of the main problems I have had when I moved to UK was: how I will cope with the new eating habits I will find? Where will I find my usual ingredients? How will I be able to ...survive?? :)
Well, I need to say that  my fears were fueled more by my imagination than what I would have found here: I can actually see it's so easy to find many of the ingredients I used to cook when living in Milan.
Ricotta, Mascarpone, pasta (I bought some nice De Cecco penne packets at Asda recently), cheeses and more specialties are not so hard to find. And I have to confess I do also like to put the Italian thing aside sometimes, and enjoy some proper English food :) (but don't tell my partner, he still thnks I am suffering sooo much!)
On the other hand, we recently bought a house, and as it has a quite good size garden I thought to start growing some of my favourite vegetables...like ARTICHOKES
Ohh I could write a poem about these heavenly tasty veggies: they also make wonderful flowers if you don't crop them...but  to be honest...I would prefer to eat them (sorry, flowers)!

I remember my mum had such a yummy way to cook them : she cleaned them and removed the external leaves, and cleaned them inside removing the fluffy part. Then prepared a mixture for the filling using bread (softned in water and well squeezed), grated parmesan, crushed garlic, fresh chopped parsley and extravirging olive oil. She filled the cleaned artichokes and placed them in a pan with a little bit of water (not to boil them, but sort of 'steam') and let them slow cook covering with a lid.
If I close my eyes, I can almost smell them in this moment, such strong is the memory

As soon as I will manage to grow some of my artichokes (my dear cousin sent me these 'Romanesco' artichoke seeds last spring) I will for sure share recipe and pictures of my Mum recipe described above.

I guess I am still feeling a little bit homesick after the Italian holiday, thought to share with you some of the pictures. I have been to Assisi, Perugia, Cortona, and other lovely places...will surely go back there again!

sunflowers fields everywhere

we went to a medieval banquet one night, in citta' della Pieve...fantastic meal!
We had a dinner in one of these 'Taverne Medievali' , these are special places open
just ten days per year and the food is simply amazing! We had starter (like the Tuscan antipasto in the post below), wild boar tagliatelle, charchoal cooked meat (I had spicy chicken it was amazing), dessert and red wine...all for 15 euros! 

Boar tagliatelle, sorry this picture cannot describe the taste!

And this is the little corner of paradise where we spent the week in Italy

Thursday, 2 September 2010

My first post!

I thought to give a simple kickstart to a simple blog about simple Italian food, just sharing my feelings at the moment with this short post.

I will tell you why I decided to start this blog today.

Well, I have just recently came back from a wonderful holiday in Tuscany and Umbria with my family and as I am back to Uk with all these gorgeous images in mind about all the fantastic places I have been, and how amazing was the food that I decided to share my impressions by using this blog...and why not also let you know about my everyday life and moments (hoping I won't bore you!)

The place we have been is called 'Agriturismo' and these are very popular rural accomodation in Tuscany and central Italy regions: 'rural' is actually the settings and the feeling you get from your stay even if you actually get all the comforts of a 4 star hotel :) We even had a luxourious swimming pool overlooking a splendid sunflower field! Ohhh it's almost painful thinking the holiday is now over :(

I remember one night my sister wanted to try to cook 'fiorentina' , that is actually a very thik cut of Tbone steak ...and the owner of the agriturimo kindly offered to cook it for us on his charcoal open oven ...it was so succulent and delicious, the most amazing steak I have ever had

Fancy a dinosaur rib, Wilma?

Tuscan antipasto (starter): Hams, melon and bruschetta