Friday, 11 July 2014

I... I Who Have Nothing!

Patate, Carciofi, Piselli, Pomodori Secchi & Erbe Aromatiche
Potatoes, Artichokes, Peas, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Aromatic Herbs 

So it is finally my last night at home before I leave on vacation... And I have done such a brilliant job of emptying my fridge, that there is really nothing left in it that is fresh apart from a few potatoes and shallots!

Which means... It's time to pop open a jar or delve into the freezer! And what have we there? Some artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and the last few frozen peas. Hmmm... Sounds like supper to me!

Actually, this is a very typical and traditional Italian combination, and understandably very well loved as it is so incredibly delicious! These flavors were simply meant for each other!

So, what went into the frying pan? 3 small to medium sized potatoes, 1 shallot, 6 artichoke hearts, about 1 cupful of frozen peas, 4-5 sun-dried tomatoes and plenty of mint, marjoram and parsley... The most important of which is definitely the mint in this dish.

One other great thing about this dish is that it can be served hot or cold, making it a great alternative to those boring old potato salads... Know what I'm saying? 

My potatoes were small, so I cut them into nice chunky rounds, but the shape doesn't matter, what does matter is that you boil them for around 10 minutes, with around a teaspoon of fennel seeds whilst you prepare the other ingredients!

The shallot can be nicely, thinly sliced and the sun-dried tomato into similar sized strips.

Whilst the potatoes boil, without salt in this case, fry the halved artichoke hearts in just a little olive oil until they turn a nice golden brown. I prefer to use the kind that are bottled in brine rather than those in oil, but I shall leave that up to you to decide... Obviously if they are already in oil you will need no extra!

Once the artichokes are done, set them to one side and put all of the other ingredients into your pan, along with plants of freshly grated nutmeg and a grind of pepper... Still no salt! The reason being, that the sun-dried tomatoes will have almost enough seasoning of their own for the whole dish... Trust me on this! The thing is, there is no way of knowing just how salty they are until the dish is done and you taste the potatoes... So be patient, as you can always add more salt at the end! But the sweetness of the potatoes and the peas against the salty tomatoes are what make the dish so delicious! You'll see!

Stir- fry everything together for 3-4 minutes until it begins to brown and then deglaze the pan with enough water to cover the base. Sprinkle generously with the finely chopped herbs, pop on the lid and let it boil away for another 2-3 minutes, then remove the lid and add a last drizzle of olive oil and the artichoke hearts and continue to fry until all of the water has evaporated away and things begin to turn golden brown again... And you are ready to serve!

The great thing about adding that splash of water and letting everything steam for a while is that it really gets all of those great flavor right into the potatoes... The herbs, the tomatoes and the onion, all go to season the dish wonderfully... And not to forget the tender little artichokes! So divine

I would call that a rather awesome "last supper", wouldn't you? Except it won't be that's time you make it... Because you will love it! Hopefully as much as I did!

Just beautiful food! And delicious! And that's all!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Indian Summertime Special

Pasta Estiva con Sugo di Yogurt al Curry, Mela, Banana & Mandorle Tostate 
Summer Pasta with Yogurt Curry Sauce, Apple, Banana & Toasted Almonds

This is a dish that I have been making for years, but hadn't eaten in a long while and one I haven't posted on my blog yet... So here it is! The best thing about it is that it used up a whole lot of left-over nits and pieces this evening... And that's a good thing!

Left-overs of pasta, my last ripe banana, an apple, a shallot, my last few scoops of yogurt... And an absolute favorite of mine was ready and delicious in just 10-15 minutes at the most! Yay! Everybody loves a quick and tasty recipe!

This is an elaboration of mine on a recipe taught to me by an old friend... A recipe which I was very reluctant to try at first when I first heard that it was a pasta dish with bananas in it... But oh my! it was a case of love at first bite when I DID try it!

The basic ingredients for enough sauce to prepare 2 portions of pasta are easy to remember- they are: 1 small apple, 1 small banana, 1 small onion or a shallot, 1 small pot of plain yogurt and a half teaspoon each of turmeric and garam masala.

The rest are the additions that make this recipe my own... A handful of raisins, a handful of toasted almonds, 4-5 cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.

Of course the other wonderful thing about this dish, apart from the fact that it looks wonderful and tastes even better... Is that it is so healthy too! That, as well as impressing your friends with something funky, new and and delicious are more than reason enough to give this a go! And I hope you enjoy it as much as I do if you do!

First off, pop yourself a handful of slivered almonds into a dry frying pan to toast on a moderate heat whilst you finely dice the shallot or onion, along with the apple, the banana and the tomatoes.

As soon as the almonds begin to brown, remove them from the heat and let them finish browning in the residual heat of the frying pan. Once they are brown enough, pour them into a dish to cool and set them to one side.

Once you pasta is in your saucepan, bubbling away, stir- fry the onion until it becomes translucent, then addd the apple and continue until it begins to go brown, then add the yogurt, the garam masala and turmeric and that handful of raisins and give them all a good stir.

Blend everything together and reduce the heat to low, so as to not let the yogurt curdle... Not too much anyway!

Let the sauce simmer for 2-3 minutes, until,the pasta is done and then pour the pasta into the hot frying pan and stir everything together well until it is nicely coated. In this case I had just a handful each of penne rigate & fusilli and they made for a fun mix for this meal- but you can use any pasta you have handy, or that you prefer!

Sue arson with plenty of freshly grated pepper, scatter with a few cherry tomatoes for some freshness, the almonds for a bit of crunch and the basil leaves for some rich and pungent contrast... A pretty delicious combination, I'd say!

Exotic but mild, once people manage to "get their heads around" the fact that there are fruits hiding in the ingredient list for this dish... I am pretty sure they are going to like it! And you too!

And to think I doubted the wonder of this dish! Just take a look at it! I wonder if you love it too!?!

Grab a fork and join me at the table!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Rice, Rice, Baby

Riso Fritto "Tom Yum" con Verdure & Uova
Tom Yum Fried Rice with Mixed Vegetables & Egg

With nothing but the south of Italy on my mind as my vacation draws near, how did I end up making an Asian inspired supper this evening? The answer is simple really...

At this point, almost halfway through the week, it is a case of "everything must go!" as far as my fridge is concerned... and this is what happens when I get radical about things... Pretty nifty, eh?

It is amazing how easy it is to make an incredibly tasty meal from simple ingredients if you just improvise and go with the flow! Just look what you have, think what works well together and make the most of what you've got... Your food need never be boring if you keep an open mind!

I have to apologize for having forgotten one of the ingredients in my picture here, but you will have noticed there was a shallot in the mix of vegetables too from the other pictures... Please forgive me!

Along with it were, 2 small carrots, 1 stalk of celery, a handful of sugar snap peas, the remaining half each of a red, yellow and green pepper ( from last night... Waste not-want not!), a piece of galangal, 3 stalks of fresh Peppe (now black and no longer green) and 1 heaped teaspoon of Tom Yum shrimp paste. Oh... And the last egg in the house! lol!

The result was a yummy, rich and flavorful dish, with the tangy galangal, shrimp paste and peppercorns contrasting with the mild fried egg and fresh vegetables... You couldn't really want for more!

Apart for the sugar snap peas which I simply topped and tailed and the galangal which was finely chopped, the other ingredients were cut into similar bite-sized pieces. And the peppercorns were simply plucked from the stems of course 

I beat the egg, but no too thoroughly, so that there are equal amounts of egg yolk and egg white in it. I then flipped it over, fried it for a minute longer, then removed it from the pan and cut it into strips to add to the rice later.

And then of course, I set about stir-frying the vegetables, starting with the galangal and peppercorns for 2-3 minutes, before adding the rest. I stir-fried them at a moderately high heat until the shallot began to turn a little translucent.

At that point, I added the Tom Yum paste and stirred it in well... And suddenly everything started to smell even more yummy than it already was!

Next came the rice and the peas, a good splash of soy sauce, a little drizzle of sesame oil... And a lot more heat!

And after a further 3-4 minutes, the rice was lovely and gold brown, filled with flavor from the galangal, shrimp paste and soy and ready to be served up with the shredded egg roll and a nice drizzle of Hoisin sauce... Tom YUM indeed!

I would say, that considering there was hardly anything at home... This turned out to be one hell of a treat this evening! Because there is always something yummy you can make! So go ahead and do so! Like me! 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Crazy Bakin'!

Trizza Pazza
"Crazy" Braided Loaf with Tomatoes, Peppers, Ricotta, Bacon & Herbs

Look, even says in the Bible that "man shall not live by bread alone"... So I put plenty of stuff into mine this evening! I wouldn't want to upset anybody after all! Or to let anybody have to go hungry, either... Least of all, ME!

This yummy loaf was born of my wish to use up every last thing I have in my fridge before my little vacation... It's just the way I am! And there they were... a packet of pizza dough, a few tomatoes, a handful of bacon, a half-tub of ricotta and the bell-peppers that time forgot! But not for long!

Yes pizza is great, terrific even... But doesn't this look yummy too? I'll say it does! And eater piping hot it was every bit as much fun to eat... And for sure it will taste better cold than an old pizza would... If there is any left by tomorrow that is!

One packet of pizza dough on a roll, a half each of a red, yellow and green bell pepper, a Spring onion, a couple of tablespoons of ricotta, about a tablespoon of finely chopped bacon, plenty of marjoram and basil and a sprinkle of cumin seeds... All of that yummy stuff turned into this fantastic loaf... A whole meal in itself!

The best thing about this is that probably the only way you could possibly make this at home is WITH one of those store-bought doughs, as a fresh one would be too soft to roll and shape the way that this stuff allows you to... So before you start bitchin' about it- try making this with your own dough first!

Seriously though folks, this is a great, convenient thing to do and the results are well worth the pang of conscience at not having made the dough yourself... WhatEVAH!

Obviously, those veggies need to be diced. 'Nuff said.

The bacon is basically only there so that the peppers and onion will fry nicely without having to add oil... This way the filling stays nice and juicy without becoming soggy... Plus of course that yummy, salty flavor is worth it's weight in gold too!

Once the veggies and bacon are nicely fried, set them to one side to cool and cut your dough into two equal halves. Spread a heaped tablespoon of ricotta onto each piece, then sprinkle one piece with the diced cherry tomatoes and sprinkle with chopped basil leaves and coat the other with the chopped peppers and bacon and sprinkle with marjoram.

Season with a little salt and pepper and get rolling!

You will find that the roll gets wider and wider as you roll it up, but fear not! All will be well!

Carefully fold each roll of dough over the other in a simple braid.

Then roll up the braid into a spiral, as you can see in the photo.

Of course the loaf goes into my frying pan- where else would I start it baking? haha!

Before it went into the oven though, made a cut, using a sharp knife into each topmost segment of the braid, as you can see in this photo. This will a.) allow moisture to ears ape whilst the loaf is baking and b.) let some of the colors of the filling show as it bakes.

After giving the loaf a head-start in the frying pan, on the stove-top for 3-4 minutes, I popped it into a hot oven, at 180C, for 20-25 minutes, until it was large and fluffy and golden brown... And smelling wonderful!

Oh yes, I would pay money for that too! If I didn't know how easy it is to make for yourself that is! Haha! 

Simply cut the loaf into nice chunks and enjoy whilst it is hot and steaming and smelling wonderfully of rich, sweet peppers, bacon and herbs... And enjoy!

And no, I was not able to wait, either!