Friday, 9 October 2015

Let's Twist Again... and Again...

Pane di Pizza 'Nturciniatu in Padella con Peperoni, Pomodori Secchi & Mozzarella
Plaited Pizza Bread from Pan, with Peppers, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Mozzarella


I made this for my supper this evening, by way of a special request from a reader who asked me to remind him of how I make my twisty pizza-dough loaves... And also because, conveniently as could be... It was almost the only thing I could make from the contents of my nearly empty fridge!

Which just goes to show you! It is good to have an emergency roll of pre-made pizza dough at home! Many a time have I made wonderful meals using it... And more often than not, it is something other than a pizza!


This was a beautiful and delicious snack-food, quick and easy to make and wonderfully impressive-looking at the same time... And you've got to love that! Oh, absolutely!


The simple filling for my colorful and flavorful loaf, was made from 1 ball of mozzarella, 2 small red pointy peppers (or one regular red bell pepper), a handful of mildly spicy pimientos de padron, 4-5 halves of sun-dried tomatoes, salt, dried rosemary and oregano and a little olive oil.


The resulting loaf was packed with flavor and wonderfully aromatic with the added herbs and olive oil... Everything I needed for some tasty, good eating was right there, baked inside!


I began by turning on the oven to full power to start it getting nice and hot and in the meantime, by cutting the peppers into small, bite-size pieces and sautéing them in just a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Once the little green peppers began to wrinkle and turn slightly brown, I turned off the heat and added the sun-dried tomatoes, cut into relatively small pieces.

I tossed them through in the residual heat, so that they also got lightly coated in that tiny bit of olive oil... It doesn't take much! You don't want them to fry in the oil and get greasy- keep the pan basically dry... No one wants to eat a greasy loaf of bread!


Let the peppers and tomatoes cool off. Chop up your mozzarella into small cubes and unroll your pizza dough. Cut the dough down the middle length-ways so that you have 2 long sections of dough to work with... And you are ready to get filling!


Add a generous amount of peppers and mozzarella and then sprinkle with dried rosemary and oregano. Add just a little salt and pepper and then fold each of the lengths of dough shut. Once they are sealed, gently roll the tubes of dough over, so that the overlapping sections are in the bottom.


Now, using a sharp knife, make a cut down the length of each roll of dough, so that the filling is exposed.


Now, simply proceed to overlap the rolls of dough, knee side at a time, down the whole length in a simple plait like this.


Once the two lengths of dough are plaited together down the whole length, gently gather the dough together in a spiral, making sure to pat it down flat and firmly into shape. Arrange the dough as necessary to make sure that the filling is nicely exposed and lay the formed spiral loaf back into your frying pan. Drizzle,lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea-salt and then pop onto the stovetop on a high heat for 2-3 minutes, until the base is set and beginning to bake.

Now transfer to the oven and continue baking for 20-25 minutes at the highest setting- at least 200 C until golden brown and crispy and delicious!


And isn't that just a work of art and a work of wonder!?!

Also... I suppose you are wondering if I ate it all myself?

Well of course I did!!! What did you think?


As you know, I am not one for those dainty and delicate little haute cuisine créations... But big, bold and beautiful is also fine by me! Especially when it comes to food!


It didn't take much to pack this full of color and flavor... And it didn't take long for me to cut into it and take my first bite either!


Beautiful inside and out! That's the kind of thing that I am on about!


And this my friends... Is in my opinion... Just about as good as it gets! Who ever would think that such a wonderful creation can be made from such a mundane product as a store-bought pizza dough?

Other than me and you, that is?

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Stirring Stuff!

Risotto Semplice con Pomodoro & Fagiolini
Simple Tomato & Bean Risotto

It's always going to be simple... But it's also, always going to be tasty, THAT much is for sure!

And it's not always only because I am such a cheapskate that I make this kind of meal, with so few ingredients... Its usually more of a case of me thinking, "there really isn't any need to add anything more!"- yep! That's much, much closer to the truth!


It's the Sicilian in me that knows full well how little it takes to make tasty dishes... That and the fact that I am one of 9 children and my whole upbringing was based on simple, common-sense cooking and not on exclusive and extravagant fare.

This is another of those dishes that make you say "aaahh!", that make you feel good and that will have you going back for a second helping- or simply enjoying a more substantial one from the get-go like I did!


I made this lovely risotto, which was just enough for 2 first-course servings... Or one hearty supper, using just 7-8 runner beans, 7-8 cherry tomatoes, 2 cups of rice, 1 shallot, some fresh parsley and Parmesan, a light beef broth (you can use vegetable or chicken if you have nothing else) and a little salt, pepper, butter as well as an optional splash of white wine.

It's all there, it's all good and it's alright... But best of all is really easy to make as well!

Begin by frying the finely diced shallot in a little butter and then adding and stirring-in the rice, until it is nice glossy and coated.

Next, I added the beans, which I cut into fine slices and stirred them in too, until they also got lightly coated and became a slightly deeper shade of green.

You can either deglaze the saucepan by adding a splash of white wine or of broth, but as soon as you have done that, you can add the tomatoes and start cooking and stirring in earnest!!!

Add a broth and keep stirring, a ladle at a time, in the age old way... There's no need to obsess over it mind you! It's all a lot easier than you think... But it will take around a half an hour of your attention, so don't walk to far away!

After around 30 minutes, when the rice corns are swollen up to almost twice their size and you are almost done, add a good couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan and add a last pat of butter... These are the things that are going to make your risotto so creamy and delicious!

Once all of the broth is absorbed and the rice is creamy and smooth and delicious, add plenty of black pepper and a good sprinkle of finely chopped parsley. Stir these in well, turn off the heat, pop on the lid and allow to sit and rest for 2-3 minutes, whilst you grab yourself a nice bowl and get ready to enjoy!

Enjoy your risotto piping hot and garnish with a little extra Parmesan, freshly ground pepper and parsley. Plain and simple and tasty good food!

The right consistency to aim for when making a risotto is one that when you push the rice back withy Our wooden spoon, it gently flows back like a smooth little wave, or "onda", which is the Italian word for it. So the expression to use here, is "al onda ", or "to the wave", once it is done and is rich, smooth and delicious!

Thick, creamy, flavorful and so full of comfort... Risottos are dishes that you just have to make every once in a while... Word!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Seasons Eatings

Polenta al Forno con Pastinaca, Carota, Parmigiano & Rosmarino
Baked Polenta with Parsnip, Carrot, Parmesan & Rosemary

What do you make for supper, when it is cold and rainy outside, you have nothing in the fridge and you are absolutely starving?

Why, you make something utterly fantastic of course! What else?

Using equal shares of inventiveness, creativity, near-starvation and desperation, I came up with this little idea! Amazing what you can do when you make a little effort!


The only thing I DID happen to have in the fridge, which you may not have as a staple, were the parsnips, which were also of course the stars of the show, with their intense, savory flavor...

But I DID happen to have them! Thank goodness! So there!


2 cups of polenta, 2 carrots, 2 parsnips (well, 3... of which 2 of them were rather small), 2 spring onions, a little Parmesan cheese, a little olive oil and some salt, pepper and nutmeg to season... That was all it took to make 2 nice servings.


Mild and creamy underneath but crispy and savory on top, this was perfect comfort food ... And yes indeed folks, it IS already that time of year!


This was actually very easy to make!

First of all, turn on the oven to get it nice and hot and start around 4-5 cups full of water boiling in a saucepan.

Whilst it comes up the boil, peel the carrots and parsnips and then cut them into thin strips... Not quite a "julienne"... but yeah, pretty fine! Cut the spring onions in half and then boil everything together with a good pinch of salt for 4-5 minutes.


After 4-5 minutes, remove the vegetables from the water using some tongs and set them to one side to cool. Now, stir in the polenta to soak up all of that tasty broth. Season with a little more salt, plenty of pepper, a good pinch of grated Parmesan, a good pinch of dried rosemary and plenty of freshly grated nutmeg.


Whilst the polenta gently bubbles away, drizzle the vegetables with olive oil to get them nice and glossy.


Pour out your polenta into a baking dish that has been lightly coated with a little olive oil.


Now add the onions and the vegetable julienne, do it nicely and try to make it look pretty... But also, try not to obsess! As you can see, I began with the onions and then filled-in the gaps with the carrot and parsnip.


Don't be coy- press the vegetables down into the polenta and then finish it off with a sprinkle of rosemary, nutmeg, pepper and Parmesan in top, before popping it into a hot oven, to bake at 180 C for the next 30-40 minutes.

Make sure to serve it up piping hot and delicious in all of its comforting glory! The parsnip flavor is so rich and the polenta so smooth and delicious with rosemary and Parmesan... The comfort-factor is guaranteed with this dish!


The colors and flavors of Autumn... Terrific!


And there you all were, thinking I was going to starve this evening... Ha! Oh no, not I!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Rough & Ready

Zuppa Rustica di Verdure
Rustic Vegetable Soup


Monday evening, miserable, cold and depressing Monday evening... Groan! There's only one thing for it... A nice, hot, tasty bowl of freshly prepared soup!

Soups can take ages to prepare, but if you use your smarts, you can cut some corners, save some time and STILL get some great results... Trust me! This is what I do every evening after work and I know a trick or two by now... And I am more than happy to share them!

It's nothing exciting, but it is definitely comforting in the old-fashioned way. Had I added some pasta, I could have called this a minestrone, but as it was, this was a purely vegetable based soup, made of simple ingredients, cooked in a simple manner... And tasted simply wonderful too!


I concocted my creation from the rather limited bounty of my little refrigerator... And my ingredients to make 2 nice bowls of soup were: 1 kohlrabi, 1 parsnip, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, 5-6 runner beans, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, a little fresh basil and parsley, some dried marjoram, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Oh, and around 45 minutes cooking time in all.


The result was rich, chunky, tasty and filling, though not heavy with pasta or rice, just simply from ththe vegetables themselves and the few added aromatic herbs... And if that isn't enough for ya... Then I don't know what is!!!


Start off by dicing up your vegetables and by starting thto m sizzling in a little olive oil. What you can see here is the carrot, onion, celery, and half of the kohlrabi. Stir-fry them together until the onion becomes translucent and slightly begins to brown.


Next, add the parsnip and the remaining kohlrabi, finely grated. These will practically disintegrate during the course of the soup cooking and add loads of great flavor as well as nicely thickening it up... Groovy!


Stir everything through, allow to cook for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Next, top-up generously with boiling water and add the tomatoes. Adjust the seasoning with a little more salt as necessary and reduce to a gentle simmer.

And you may as well kick off your shoes, put up your feet and enjoy a drink for the next 30 minutes or so!

After half an hour or so, add a little handful of coarsely chopped basil and a good pinch of dried marjoram. Bring back to a gentle simmer, replace the lid and allow to cook for a final 10 minutes or so before serving.

Add a good drizzle of olive oil, some more freshly ground pepper and a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley... And enjoy!

There's not much more to be said... The only thing left to do is get into the kitchen and make it for yourself!