Sunday, 31 August 2014

Let's Do The Twist!

Pani 'Nturciniatu chi Fichi, Pistacchi & Miele
Plaited Bread with Figs, Pistachios & Honey


Just 1 roll of ready-made pizza dough in the fridge, nothing else at home other than a couple of figs I was going to eat as a snack, being as I have emptied everything out before I leave the country for a week... and what's a guy to do, come suppertime?

Well- obviously, THIS! But who ever would have thunk it, eh? Suddenly filled with inspiration, I quickly rustled-up one of these twisty Sicilian loaves, threw the figs in there, added some delicious pistachios- and voila! Totally treat-a-licious!


Based on one of those twisted loaves called "'nfigghiulati", from Ragusa,which I have made a few times already, I basically plaited 2 of them together to make this... which was a lot of fun to do and completely awesome when it was finished! So worth it! The word "n'turciniatu" is Sicilian dialect for twisted btw!


To make 1 loaf you will need 1 roll of pizza dough- enough for 1 pan pizza, 2 figs, a handful of pistachios and just a drizzle of honey.

The pistachios I used were from Bronte, in Sicily. They have the reputation of being the very finest in the world. And they may well be right! But... any old pistachios will do of course!


This would make a great snack food, party food- or it would also make a great accompaniment for a cheese platter I would say- I think the fruity figs would accent the cheeses really well!


I decided to halve the pistachios- chunky is good- but I think whole pistachios would be a little too much... plus of course, this also unleashes that beautiful vibrant green color as well! Wow!


I sliced up the figs relatively thinly... being fresh, they will give off quite a lot of moisture when they get hot during baking, so large pieces of them will make for soggy dough. Thinner is better!


Cut the sheet of dough into 2 equal parts and lay out the fig slices and pistachios nice and evenly, before adding a light trickle of honey all over.


Carefully roll up each rectangle of dough and make sure that everything is neatly sealed when you get to the end.


Set the 2 rolls out side by side with the sealed edge facing down and then cut half-way into the rolls with a very sharp knife. This is going to expose the layers and the filling inside and make the bread look so wonderful!


Now plait the 2 lengths of dough together- don't fuss- as you can see- I didn't! It can be a little tricky, so just let is turn out however it does... because once you have gone over and over a couple of times and twisted both lengths of dough together, you simply gather them up like a snail into a little spiral. Tuck the ends in and pat it into shape- the whole fun of it is that each one will come out completely different.


Add any extra pistachios, pressing them into the folds of the dough and then pop the loaf- surprise-surprise, into a frying pan and let it toast from beneath for 3-4 minutes first, before popping it into a preheated oven, at 200°C, for 20-25 minutes until crusty and golden brown.


Something a little bit like this! Pretty awesome, right? Just look at those beautiful colors! And the best thing about it is- it tastes every bit as good as it looks!


Isn't that just a thing of beauty? And yes- I am bragging a little! But that's ok!


It's like a jewel-studded, golden crown of a loaf of bread! Baking royalty indeed! And that from a roll of pizza-dough! Haha!


 And plenty for all to share!


A Fruity Flash in the Pan!

Torta Semplice e Soffice in Padella con Pera, Mirtilli & Cannella
Simple Fluffy Pancake with Pear, Cranberry & Cinnamon


Sunday morning, time for breakfast and time for pancakes again- yay! And what could be yummier than that? Well... maybe one BIG pancake, to save you standing at the stove, doing all that frying... and just the the fun of trying something different once in a while!

It was also the perfect way to make good use of the last 3 eggs I had in the fridge and the gigantic pear that I still hadn't got around to eating! Haha!

The name pancake suggests a little cake, "baked" in the frying pan... but sometimes it is nice to make what would normally be a few little cakes, make them into one larger cake, and finish it off by actually baking it in the oven... like this!

3 eggs, 1 large (or 2 small) pear(s), 1-2 tablespoons of cranberry preserves, 1 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, a half teaspoon of baking soda and a half cup of milk is all you will need... and awaaay you go!


This is a supper fluffy and light affair- perfect for breakfast or even an afternoon tea... or in my case today- both!

As usual, my little creation here uses a whole lot less fat or sugar and relies on the flavors of the ingredients to really shine... and it does!


Start off by turning on your oven to get it hot and ready and peel and dice that pear (or pears)...


In a frying pan, heat the diced pears through for 3-4 minutes, with plenty of cinnamon. Hold back on the sugar and taste the pears first before adding any- sometimes, as in this case, where the pear was well-ripened, there is more sweetness in the fruit itself than you may expect. I only added a teaspoon to mine... but I will leave that decision up to you! I am generous that way! Haha!


Next, whisk up the egg whites with a pinch of salt to help them say nice and firm and whisk together the 3 yolks with the flour, milk, baking powder and a little vanilla essence. I added a tablespoon of Stevia to mine for sweetening- I like to keep sugar to a minimum wherever possible, as I like to try to make recipes that would be more suitable for diabetics as I have family members that would benefit from that. So it is a personal choice for me- feel free to add sugar or honey to yours- I would say that 1-2 tablespoons would be more than enough though!


Pour the simple batter into the egg-whites and fold them both together- be gentle, but not excessively so- you do want to have a nice blend!


When your batter is nice and fluffy-looking like this... you are ready to go!


Gently rub your frying pan with a little butter and then add half of the batter. Smooth it out a little, let is cook on the stove top for 3-4 minutes, so that the base begins to get nice and firm and then pop it into the oven, at 180°C to bake for 3-4 minutes, so that the top begins to get firm too. Why? All will be revealed in the next picture!


The reason to let the base bake a little in the oven, is obviously so that when you now carefully spoon the pears on top, that they will not sink right down to the bottom, as they would have if you had dropped them straight into the batter. Make sure to drain the pears thoroughly before adding them too- there will be a lot of juice there! Add a few cranberry preserves here and there, but don't overdo it- you do not want to have that much filling that the cake becomes soggy.

Pop back into the oven for a couple of minutes, just to get the top surface beginning to dry again and then remove one last time to add the remaining batter on top and to cover the whole thing completely.


Continue baking for 15-20 minutes or so at 180°C until the cake is golden and brown... let it sit and rest for 4-5 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving... if you can resist temptation for that long, that is!

Lots of fluffiness, just enough sweetness, juicy fruit and a light sugar coating- that's the way I like it! I hope that maybe you do too!


Looks a little bit lonely, doesn't it? That's why I had a second piece as soon as this one had disappeared!


Friday, 29 August 2014

Stirring Stuff!

Risoni con Pomodorini, Basilico & Zenzero
Risoni with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil & Ginger


This evening it was time to make some of those slinky, delicious Risoni noodles again. Once in a while I love to cook them up with something nice and tasty and this evening I decided to keep things simple but flavorful with ginger, basil and juicy cherry tomatoes...

Quick, easy, healthy and perfect for a tasty, no-stress meal- the kind you can whip together out of nowhere even when you think you have nothing there to eat ...


As opposed to boiling the risoni andd then adding other ingredients, flavors and aromas later, I decided to cook the risoni in a similar way to a risotto. By adding liquid little-by-little as they cooked and by adding the noodles to the other ingredients, right from the beginning, all of the flavors cooked right into the risoni and the result was sooo yummy! 'Twas a good idea, I'd say!


You will need next-to-nothing to make this... obviously, the risoni, then cherry tomatoes, Spring onion, fresh ginger and plenty of basil. Oh- and around 20 minutes, with a bit of stirring added-in. You can do it!


With a yummy bowl of pasta like this as your reward- what is a little stirring in exchange? Fear not- this is less labor-intensive than a risotto, much less fattening as it has no butter or cheese- but so, so tasty with the ginger and basil! It's absolutely worth its while- and then some!


Whilst you boil yourself a kettle of water and turn on the heat under a saucepan to which you have added a splash of olive oil, quickly slice-up the onion, cut the cherry tomatoes in quarters and finely chop the ginger.


Fry the onion and ginger together for a couple of minutes first and then add the tomatoes and season with salt and plenty of pepper.


Add the risoni and the basil and stir together until everything is coated in the oil and juices, then add a little nutmeg and a tad more olive oil. Stir for 1-2 minutes and then add enough boiling water to cover everything, reduce the heat to a low simmer and allow to boil for 4-5 minutes.


You may need to stir it occasionally, but it should not be as labor-intensive affair as with a risotto... just every now and then will do. The risoni will absorb quite a bit of water (and all of the flavors boiling into it of course), so keep adding just enough to cover it, stir it through and then allow it to simmer and cook-in all of that great aroma- and yes! It will be smelling terrific!


I topped up mine 4 times in all until the risoni were soft and delicious and the broth had become slightly thickened by the starch from the risoni and the continual stirring... who needs more in the way of butter and cheese when you have the great flavor of the basil and ginger? Not I!


And around 20-25 minutes later you will have a wonderful, hot, tasty bowl of pasta, ready to be served with plenty of freshly ground pepper and a hearty, "buon appetito!"


I'd say that is plenty "unctuous" and delicious without any extra added fat! And I am betting you will agree if you give it a try... so do so! 


And despite being such a simple bowl of food, this still looks mighty fine- don't you think?


The ginger gives a touch of extra spice than makes this really come to life- just a little bit different and a whole lot more special than a plain old classic tomato sauce... but it's the little things that matter after all! Enjoy!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Have You Bean to Mexico?

Frijoles & Berenjena Pibil
Kidney Bean & Eggplant Pibil


No, it doesn't always have to be a "chili con carne"- at least that's what I decided this evening, when I came up with the idea for this dish. It seems that the only thing that kidney beans are ever used for is for that yummy... but lets face it, done-to-death dish.

So I decided to do something a little different and combine it with succulent eggplant and season it with Achiote powder, fresh chili and lime. Yup- that worked just fine! I think I have a new favorite dish on my hands here!


Achiote is another ingredient that I love and that I have experimented with... but still associate mostly with delicious "puerco pibil"- a slow-roasted, stewed or bake pork dish, seasoned with the deep orange-red powder or paste made from Annato seeds- rich, mild and delicious. Made firery-hot with jalapenos and tangy with lime and tequila, it is a bona-fide Mexican classic. This is not! it is not at all Mexican... this-here gringo invented it! But I raise my sombrero to Robert Rodriguez, who inspired this dish after immortalizing puerco pibil in his movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico- and I wish you all a lot of fun in trying out my dish if you please!


To make this great bowl of food, you will need 1 medium eggplant, 1 can of kidney beans, 1 lime, 1 Spring onion, 1 tablespoon Achiote powder- or paste, some fresh parsley and some tortillas as an accompaniment.


There is no meat missing and you will not feel disappointed when you try this out- trust me! This is not a chili con carne, it is a whole different thing, tangy with lime juice and oregano, but every bit as spicy and satisfying! Try it- you'll like it!


Cut the eggplant and the onion into a fine dice and fry together in a little olive oil for 3-4 minutes, then add the achiote powder, or paste, whichever you happen to be using, some finely chopped chili pepper- as much as you dare, and continue frying for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and keep stirring until everything is nicely coated and beginning to turn nice and brown.


Next, squeeze in the juice of half a lime, add the kidney beans, including the juices from the can and continue stirring for 4-5 minutes.


Add enough boiling water to cover the eggplant and beans, sprinkle generously with dried oregano and allow to boil away for a further 4-5 minutes until the water has cooked-down into the eggplant and beans and spices and has begun to thicken into a nice sauce.


And after around 25 minutes, your eggplant and beans will look a little something like this and taste absolutely wonderful! And maybe even a little better than that!


Serve piping hot with some extra slices of chili for the brave, a couple of slices of lime as a garnish and plenty of toasted tortillas on the side- and you have a meal and a half right there! Inexpensive, quick and delicious!


 Absolutely all you need- and as much flavor as you can handle! Es verdad amigos! Enjoy!