Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Stewpendous Supper!

Stufato Semplice di Carne Macinata & Verdure con Gnocchi di Semolina, Ricotta Salata & Prezzemolo
Simple Ground Meat & Vegetable Stew with Semolina, Salted Ricotta & Parsley Gnocchi


Ok, that's or-it's Autumn! The temperatures have dropped and there's no two ways about it... It's time to start making those comfort food dishes again! Which is in itself not a bad thing...

So this evening, with a quarter pound of ground meat to be used, (mixed beef and pork), I decided to do something a tad more time consuming but a lot more satisfying than just making a big burger. I made this lovely, seasonal dish instead!


 

The stew itself was super simple, but combined with the equally simple and totally improvised little gnocchi on top, the combination was absolutely my idea of a great comfort food dish... So warming and satisfying, with traditional, down to earth flavors to just make you feel...mmmmh!


So, along with my couple of handfuls of ground meat, I needed just 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, 1 shallot, 1 handful of fresh peas, 10 cherry tomatoes, 1 cup of semolina, a little fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, some salted ricotta, salt, pepper and nutmeg to season and a little olive oil. Simple stuff, not too much, all healthy and inexpensive... Sensible food for serious good eating!

 

There is a lot of flavor in this dish and it is all thanks to the ingredients themselves with very little added. In fact, there is not even any fat added in the preparation of this dish than a light drizzle of olive oil that goes into the gnocchi- the ground meat has more than enough to make this whole thing taste delicious and work perfectly. Less is more! It always is!

 

Start off by getting the meat frying in its own fat and juices for 3-4 minutes, before adding the relatively finely diced carrot, celery and shallot, so that everything fries together nicely. Add the fennel seeds at this point too, so that as they cook, their flavor will be absorbed into the fat and that will in turn infuse into everything else... In a very good way!

 

Get everything nicely incorporated and keep frying for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, add about 2 1/2 times the amount of boiling water to the amount of semolina that you have, stir it together well and let it sit and "cook" and absorb and expand for a good 10 minutes.


 

After 5-6 minutes of the meat sizzling away, add the chopped cherry tomatoes and peas and season with salt and pepper. Stir through and let these fry together with the meat for a good 4-5 minutes too.

 

In the meantime, the semolina will have cooled down and is ready to be transformed into gnocchi. To do this, add about 1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon of grated salted ricotta, plenty of pepper and nutmeg and a tablespoon of olive oil or so.

 

Stir these together well until thoroughly mixed-through and of roughly the consistency of firm mashed potatoes. If your mixture is too soft, add a little semolina- if it is too firm, a little more boiling water.

 

And now you are ready to shape your little gnocchi, using two teaspoons to make little quenelles like this. It takes just a little practice and is much easier than you might think! Have fun and practice a little... It will all be alright!

 

Top up the stew with a little more water as necessary and then spoon the gnocchi on top.

Pop onto the stove top with the lid on for a further 5-6 minutes, so that the gnocchi cook in the broth and then transfer to the oven and finish off by baking under the grill for 5-6 minutes until the gnocchi become lightly golden.



See how everything has reduced down nicely and how th gnocchi have soaked up the juices from below but become crispy from above? Yes of course you can see it! And of course you love it!

 

Sure, this is simple stuff... But that is what I do best! You should all know that by now! And hopefully... You are going to be doing the same thing too! And enjoying every bit as much as I do! Buon Appetito!

A Work of Figtion!

Tortilla con Fichi Fresche, Gorgonzola, Pinoli & Crescione
Tortilla with Fresh Figs, Gorgonzola, Pine Nuts & Cress

 

Making delicious food is time-consuming, difficult and expensive, right? Wrong! If that's the way you think about cooking, then you are doing it all wrong. Making delicious food is all about combining good flavors and textures, it is about balance and it is about ingenuity.

Anyone with more money and time on their hands than is good for them, can follow a pretentious recipe using pretentious ingredients and slave away for hours in their home kitchen, striving to recreate restaurant standard meals at home. If you are one of those people... Please leave this page now!

If you are like me, get ready to improvise these delicious tortillas from just a few simple ingredients, and enjoy something simple and new and FUN!


 

Sweet, savory, fresh, peppery, smooth and crispy are all words, flavors and textures that describe this lovely looking snack...

From the tangy Gorgonzola to the sweet and fragrant figs, the peppery note of the cress and the tasty crunch of the pine nuts... These are the kinds of tortillas you've never tried before, but you will be wanting to make again and again!


 

A couple of tortillas, a couple of figs, a few blobs of Gorgonzola, a scattering of pine nuts and sprinkle of watercress... That's what my supper was made from!

No need for a strict recipe here... Just have these ingredients at hand and follow the instructions and the pictures and you will be just fine! Word!


 

Either open-topped or folded-up, this is a delicious and delightful snack which satisfies with complex flavors, whilst being as simple as can be... And it can be made from start to finish in around 10 minutes... I kid you not!

 

Simply add a few small blobs of Gorgonzola to your tortilla, here and there, then add thinly sliced figs on top, with again, a few more tiny blobs of Gorgonzola on top of them.

Try to keep the Gorgonzola to a minimum if you can, as it does melt very quickly and easily and it will otherwise all ooze out of the tortilla whilst it is baking and make it turn soft.

Add the pine nuts and make sure they are set out near to some of the cheese, so that they will be held into place during baking. Season with pepper and pop into a hot oven for 3-4 minutes at 180 C and then for another 2-3 minutes under the grill.


 

As I mentioned earlier... It is all about balance. The Gorgonzola is very salty and intense flavor, so hold back on it a little, or it runs risk of overpowering the other more subtle flavors of the sweet figs and crispy pine nuts.

 

It doesn't even take 10 minutes of your time from start to finish to bake these... And it definitely takes less time to eat them!  

 

See how easily the Gorgonzola melts and how much it spreads out? Good! Then take heed and make sure to try to get the balance right!

 

Add a generous scattering of freshly cut cress and prepare to enjoy an intensely flavorful snack!

 

Rich, lush and delicious... I promise!

 

Alternatively, if you catch them whist they are still hot and pliable, you can also fold them over and brown them from both sides...

 

And cut them into more convenient-sizes snacks that make them much more easy and fun to eat!

 

All of those great flavors, wrapped up into an intense and delicious combination... This is for me what good food is all about!

All Choked-Up!

Spaghettini con Topinambur, Piselli, Menta & Ricotta Salata
Spaghettini with Jerusalem Artichokes, Peas, Mint & Salted Ricotta


You can't beat a good plate of spaghetti... That much is a sure thing! There is hardly a foodstuff in the world more popular and well loved!

Whether you serve spaghetti with sauce, with a cream sauce, with crispy breadcrumbs or in any other of the myriad of ways to enjoy Italy's number one food!


 

This dish and the ingredients it uses are based loosely on the classic combination of artichoke, mint, potato and peas... Only this time I decided to use Jerusalem artichokes instead, and to grate with salted ricotta... What a great simple meal!

 

This is a dish that lives from its simplicity and it's really as basic as can be to recreate.

To make it, you will need your handful of pasta per person, about 1 teacup full of diced Jerusalem artichoke, 1 teacup full of fresh peas, 1 shallot, 2 sprigs of mint, some set, pepper and nutmeg as seasoning, some good olive oil for dressing and if possible... Someone to share the simple joy when you sit down to eat!


 

Simple food, great flavors, nothing more! That's my secret!

 

Start off by finely dicing and frying the shallot and the Jerusalem artichokes in just a little olive oil, until golden brown.

 

Whilst you are stir-frying the shallot and artichokes together, bring your water to the boil and begin to cook the pasta. After 4 minutes or so, transfer it to the frying pan along with plenty of the water, for it to continue cooking with all of the other ingredients.

 

Keep stirring and boiling the pasta until almost all of the water has been absorbed and all of th flavors have been soaked up, then grate generously with nutmeg and add a good, generous pinch of finely chopped mint. Add a drizzle of olive oil and toss through thoroughly before serving... Because right now, you ARE indeed ready to serve!

Easy-peasy... Wasn't it?  


 

Grate with a little salted ricotta, add plenty of freshly ground pepper and garnish decoratively with th remaining mint.nbe generous with it... You are going to be plucking it apart and stirring it in after all! All part of the fun!

 

Once you have plucked apart the mint at the table, you are ready to give it one final stir-through... And to finally sit down and enjoy!

 

What a combination of flavors and how wonderful the weather combine together... These are the joys of good home cooking!

Plum Pan-Caked!

Frittelle al Forno di Polenta & Cocco con Prugne Fresche, Pistacchi รจ Miele
Polenta & Coconut Oven Pancakes with Fresh Plums, Honey & Pistachio


Pretty little pancakes for a sunny Sunday morning... What better way to get into the swing of the beginning of Autumn? Especially with the first of the new plumbs coming in... I just couldn't resist when I saw them at the market!

I decided to make slightly more substantial pancakes by using polenta rather than flour and then made them even more different from the regular old pancakes by adding plenty of delicious coconut... You can say that I ever get boring in the kitchen!


 

I decided to add the plums fanned-out this way, the way you would do for a tradition France of German plum cake... It's a lot more fun and much prettier! And by adding some chopped pistachios, I added color and crunch as well as more great flavor... And what's not to like about that?

 

To make 4 nice little pancakes, needed just 1 egg, a little milk, 1 heaped cupful of polenta, a half cupful of coconut, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, a little cinnamon, salt, sugar, a pat of butter or two, a little honey and some chopped pistachios and coconut to sprinkle on top... Frugal and sensible as ever!

 

I love making these breakfasts that need hardly any ingredients and then end up being substantial and scrumptious at the same time!

Does it look like anyone is doing without from the Pictures? No... I don't think so!


 

Begin by stirring the polenta, coconut, baking powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt together and then add milk little by little to make the batter, which should have the consistency of a light porridge (yes, it will look a little lumpy because of the polenta!).

Allow the batter to sit for 10 minutes at least whilst you turn on the oven and get busy with the plums and the egg whites...


 
Cut the plums in half, remove the stones and slice them almost all the way through, thinly, as you can see here, so that they fan out but still hold together. It's easy... Don't worry!

 

Beat the egg whites into nice, stiff peaks and then add the batter, little by little, stirring it in gently until it is well mixed.


Brush your pan with butter, get it nice and hot and spoon out the batter- 2 tablespoons was all I needed for each pancake. Set the plums on top and let the pancake base fry and become firm for 1-2 minutes, then carefully remove them and make the other 2 pancakes.

I preferred to do it this way, rather than to crowd the pan... Just a little tip! I didn't want them sticking together... And I don't want yours too either!



Once they are all ready, pop all 4 back into the frying pan and pop it into a hot oven, 180 C, for 10 minutes to finish.

 

After 10 minutes, add a drizzle of honey and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios... Not too much honey mind you, or you run the risk of it burning and turning bitter!

Back in they go for a final 2 minutes under the broiler... And then your done!


 

Who knew it would be so easy, right?
 
 

Serve with an extra sprinkle of coconut, just because it looks pretty, and more honey if desired.

 

Fruity, crunchy, not to sweet and oh so good!

Steam Team!

Calamari in Umido con Verdure Miste
Steamed Squid with Mixed Vegetables

 

Yummy calamari! Must it always be breaded or battered and deep fried? Ok, please!!! By Neptune himself I say thee, "nay!" Whilst it way be ok to deep-fry seafood on occasion, it is by no means my favorite way to enjoy it.

What I much prefer to do is to steam it, let the flavors come into their own and retain their strength and diversity and make for an infinitely more satisfying meal in every way!

And of course... So much healthier!

 

With such simple and yet flavorful ingredients, it is quite easy to create a dish that tastes intensely flavorful... And so much more interesting than the taste of oil or breadcrumbs!

To prepare my single persons supper, I needed just 2 medium sized calamari, 1 small carrot, 1 stalk of celery, 1 shallot, 1 small red pepper, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, a little fresh ginger, parsley, 1 lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper... That's all!
Except for the optional white wine and sambuca that is...

 

It's colorful, it's fun, it's healthy and it's delicious! And it may take about an hour in all to prepare... But it's worth it... I promise you that!

This was just a spur of the moment dish, with no huge master plan involved... I just happened to have the ingredients... And the inclination... And it just happened!

 

I cooked mine in a clay pot/tajine, with a little white wine and sambuca, which ensured a most tender and delicious result... Especially after almost an hour of bubbling away!

 

Basically, the prep worked that is involved here consists of chopping and chopping and chopping again!

Finely dice all of the vegetables, including about 2" of ginger... You can be sure that this soffritto will add more than enough flavor to the mix!

 

Begin by frying the soffritto for 4-5 minutes at a relatively high heat- pop on the lid and makes sure to get your mixture nicely sweated down.

 

After 4-5 minutes, add a small splash of sambuca and a half glass of white wine to deglaze the base of the pan or tajine.


 

Next, add the calamari, cut into slices and the cherry tomatoes which were cut into quarters.

 

With the lid down, let the squid steam and the juices be soaked up... Absorbing all of the vegetable flavor and goodness! Give them a good 45 minutes with the lid down, steaming and bubbling away, until the calamari is al-dente and tender with just a little bite, but otherwise juicy and tender... And delicious!

 

Add the juice of half a lemon and toss through thoroughly before serving, with a nice sprinkle of freshly, finely chopped parsley and a hint of olive oil before serving.

 

Toss through thoroughly and enjoy with a hunk of bread or a little rice on the side... Perfect, light, delicious food to mark the end of summer!