Thursday, 26 March 2009

Mascarpone-ricotta Cheesecake

After trying various cheesecake recipes, I am finally settled with this one as our winning recipe. It is extra delicious served with your choice of fruit sauce and whipped cream!

500g ricotta cheese
500g mascarpone
350g sugar
4eggs (or 3 large)
fresh lemon zest from 1 lemon
Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
a few drops of vanilla essence
3tbsp corn flour
3tbsp flour
60g melted butter
200ml sour cream

Blend cheeses together. Fold in sugar. Mix in one egg at a time. Mix in the rest of ingredients and whip until smooth. Pour into greased, floured 28cm round cake form. Bake at 180C° for 1 hour. Turn off the oven, leave it for 2hours.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Potatoes, tomato and cheese casserole

This is another winning improvisation, sort of a clean out the fridge recipe :-) It is substantial enough to hold up as a main dish, or also as a side with other pasta or rice dish in smaller portion. The handy thing about this dish is all the ingredients are the items you usually have around in the kitchen. You can always experiment with different type of cheese, anything that melts well in the heat will be great in this dish!

4 onions, sliced thin
50g butter
5-6 large tomatoes, ripe yet firm enough thickly sliced
potatoes, 3 large or 5-6 medium
150g fontina cheese, chopped
100g Parmigiano reggiano or grana padano, grated
1 cup full of bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
mild paprika
200ml. sour cream or creme fraiche

Sautè the onions in butter.
Peel and slice the potatoes about 5mm thick, boil or steam to the point they are still fairly firm, just a few minutes.
Prepare a mixture of the chopped, grated cheese, sautèed onion and bread crumbs, salt, pepper and mild paprika.
Butter a baking dish (about 20X30cm, not too shallow) and put in a layer of potatoes on the bottom, then another layer of tomatoes over the potatoes. Cover the surface with the cheese/onion/bread crumb mixture.
Repeat layering til you've used all ingredients, ending with the mixture on top.
In small bowl beat the eggs and sour cream til smooth, pour over to cover the surface.
Sprinkle on a little more paprika for colour.
Cover and bake at 190° for 30 min. Uncover and bake 15 min longer so it will puff and get golden.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Lazio)

This famous, and delicious pasta dish is one of the traditional recipes to represent the Roman cuisine. It is called "coal miner's spaghetti" (alla carbonara) because the generously sprinkled black pepper reminds you of coal dusts. Very simple to make, yet it requires a few tricks to perfect the dish. The key to attain the creamy texture, instead of creating a spaghetti mixed in scrambled eggs is, to have the eggs at room temperature and prepare the well beaten mixture with the cheese before tossing into the piping hot spaghetti!!

80g-120g of spaghetti per person, depending on their appetite.
roughly 1 egg per person. (room temperature)
about 30-50g of smoked bacon or pancetta per person, chopped
half a shallot or about 1/4 small onion a head, thinly sliced
little cooking cream (optional)
generous amount of freshly grated aged pecorino romano, or parmigiano reggiano
coarsely ground black pepper

Take out the eggs from the fridge some time before starting to cook, to bring them to the room temperature.
Fry the bacon in a little olive oil. When they starts to take on colour, add shallot/onion and continue to cook, until they are thoroughly sautèed.
Beat the egg well with the cheese (to attain an extra creamy texture, mix in some drops of cooking cream).
Toss all together the bacon mixture, egg mixture with piping hot spaghetti cooked al dente.
Shower the spaghetti with black pepper at the table as it is served HOT.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Carrot salad with lemon poppyseed dressing

As I promised on the last post, here is an example of salad recipe perfect for the lemon poppyseed dressing.

This is one of the winning recipes born amidst a moment of pinch, when I was left with very limited items in the fridge. The salad itself is a nice fusion of sweet and savoury. You can substitute the speck with some leftover roasted/grilled chicken breasts (and with increased quantity if you like) that will make the dish more substantial, possibly a meal by itself with some crusty bread to acocmpany it.

600-700g carrots
100g speck, thinly sliced and then julienned*
30g sultanas
50g walnuts
*lemon poppyseed dressing

soak the sultanas in just enough water, room temperature
Peel and shred the carrots using a food processor or mandolin
In a blender crush the walnuts, but not to the point of being powdered.

Toss all the ingredients. Let it rest for about half an hour for the flavour to blend in.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

This is a very fresh tasting dressing for various salads. It has a delicate balance of light sweetness from honey and sugar, savoury touch from the pinch of salt and olive oil, and the slight tanginess from the lemon, but none of them should overpower other flavours. Carefully taste the dressing as you mix, and bring it to the taste you like.

1teaspoon black poppyseeds
2 tablespoon honey
1 lemon, zest+juice
200ml sour cream
1tablespoon sugar
30ml (or shotglass full), circa, extra virgine olive oil (or little more if necessary)
drop of milk (optional)
pinch of salt

Mix vigorously all the ingredients, adjusting the amount of honey, sugar, salt.
Add some drops of oil or milk and bring the dressing to desired consistency. (creamy but not too thick)

*I will introduce a yummy salad on the next installment which is perfect for this dressing!!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Pineapple Coconut Cream Pie

This came out as a real winning improvisation just the other day. I just love the combination of coconuts and Pineapple, perhaps the next time I will add a few drops of rum and make it into a "Pina Colada Pie"!! :-D

Ingredients: Pie shell

250g plain flour
120g butter, cubed, at room temperature
120g sugar
2 egg yolks (or 1 large egg yolk)
1 pinch of salt
(you can save some work by using a ready made puff pastry dough)

Ingredients: Coconut Custard

300ml whole milk
2 table spoon (generous heap) flour
140g sugar
4 egg yolks
300ml coconut milk
some drops of vanilla essence

half pineapple, or 1 baby pineapple

Pie shell

Work together the flour and butter, rubbing the butter into the flour until butter gets integrated to the flour. Make a well, and pour the sugar and yolks. Knead the dough, first carefully joining all the ingredients, then vigorously, until the texture becomes solid and smooth.
(Up to this part, it can be done in a electric mixer/food processor)

Wrap the dough and let it rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Roll out the dough on a flat surface, divide the dough to roughly 6-4.
Take the 60% portion and stretch it with a rolling pin to fit into a round pie form (about 28cm/11 inch)*

Poke some holes on the dough spread on the bottom of the form with a fork.

Cover the surface with a wax paper, spread over some dried beans and blind bake it at about 190°C(375°F) for 10-15 minutes.**
Let it cool a little until it becomes manageable.

Stretch out the rest of the 40% dough, into a long ribbon form (easier if you make it into a few pieces), wrap around the side of the pie form to make the border, securing the joint with the baked shell bottom.
If you like using the end of a fork or butter knife, press around the edge to make a decorative pie shell pattern.

*I am not very good at handling a fully stretched pie dough, so I press out half way and then transfer it inside the pie shell, then stretch them into the edge with my fingers.

**If you are using a ready made puff pastry dough, cover the edges with aluminum foil to keep it from burning, or cut out just enough to make the side/edges to be attached after blind baking.


Mix the flour vigorously into the milk, until the flour is dissolved.
Put all the ingredients in a double boiler, heat it up, mixing constantly, until the cream thickens.

Remove the excess (outer skin, core) from the pineapple, and roughly chop it into small pieces.

Pour the cream evenly into the pie shell, then arrange the pineapple pieces on top to almost cover the surface.

Bake the pie in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for another 20-25 minutes, until the custard is fully cooked and the edge of the shell is golden brown.

Let cool, serve with a whipped cream.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Stuffed Tomatoes alla Romana

Stuffed Tomatoes alla Romana (Lazio)

This is one of my favourite dishes of all, especially during the summer season when nice big fat tomatoes are everywhere to be found. With a hearty serving this can make a good one pot dinner, or also good as a side/first course with some other main course. Another great thing about this dish is it tastes also great at room temperature, so you can make this ahead of time when you have a company, or on a busy day.

4 large red, firm tomatoes*
160g parboiled rice
3 large cloves of garlic. minced or chopped
generous handful of chopped flat leaved parsley
salt & pepper
4-6 potatoes, depending on the size, to fill the gap of the baking tray
Extra Virgine Olive Oil
garlic powder
rosemary, either small sprigs or powdered

1. Using a fine sharp knife cut off the top of the tomatoes, cutting deeper into the centre, making a cone like / fat pencil tip shape, making an opening wide enough to insert your tool to scoop out the inside. Set the tops aside.
2. Scoop off the inside of the tomatoes to make cups, taking care not to poke or break open the surface, putting the inside of tomatoes and put into a bowl.
3. Mix the uncooked rice, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in the bowl.
4. Scoop the mixture into the tomatoes, leaving enough space to put the top back on.
5. Arrange the tomatoes in the centre of a fair sized baking dish.
6. Peel the potatoes and cut into dices.
7. Put the potato cubes in a bowl, coat the potatoes evenly with olive oil, garlic powder, rosemary and salt.
8. Arrange the potatoes around the tomatoes in the baking dish.
9. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
10. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 45-50 minutes, until tomatoes, rice and potatoes are tender.
11. Take off the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the potatoes take on a golden colour and the surface becomes crisp.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Apple Crumbles

While I am a huge fan of anything sweet, I am unfortunately not a dessert whiz when it comes to preparing them, and I have some serious limitations. However this recipe is so easy and tasty, it is one of my go to "satisfying desserts for dummies" when we have guests on short notice, or any time I have some urgent craving!! It is indeed THAT easy!! Highly reccomended to anyone! :-D

4-6 (depending on the size) firm apples
80g brown sugar
10g flour (1tbsp)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

50g flour
70g sugar
70g butter
30g walnuts or almonds

Peel the apples, remove the core and slice them. (roughly 1/4, then 1/4 each of them)
In a bowl mix brown sugar, flour and cinnamon together and thoroughly coat the apples. Spread the apples evenly in a baking dish (about 20cm diametre).
In a mixer/food processor chop (not grind) the nuts.
Soften the butter, then combine with the flour, sugar and nuts.
Spread the butter mixture over the apples, then bake at 180°C for 30minutes circa, or the topping is golden brown.

Serve at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or warm with custard.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Salsa ai quattro formaggi (4 cheese sauce)

Quattro formaggi (4 cheese sauce), a real treat for any cheeseheads, is one of our favourite condiments for pasta, gnocchi and steamed vegetables (like broccoli, brussel sprouts, potatoes etc.), also popular as a pizza topping.
Below is an example of our winning combination in our household, however you may experiment with different kind of cheeses that melt well in the heat, for example toma, casera, tilsiter, emmental, edam, gouda, maasdamer etc. Combining some of the mild cheeses and strong, tangy flavoured cheeses is the key for a rich, multi dimentioned flavour. (I particularly reccomend a touch of gorgonzola, even if you don't like the raw, plain blue cheese like myself, belive me, it really takes on a different dimention used this way!)

100g fontina
100g taleggio
100g gruyere
100g gorgonzola
100ml cooking cream (or more, or less, depending on the preference)
dash of white pepper
dash of nutmeg (optional)

cut the cheeses in small cubes
put the cheeses in double boiler and let them melt (if you don't have a double boiler, use a thick saucepan with very low heat, take care to not to burn the bottom, stirring more often.)
when the cheeses soften, add the cream and stir gently to incorporate the ingredients
add some more cream if desired, to the desired consistency
season with pepper and nutmeg
Continue to stir until the mixture becomes smooth.
Serve immediately

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto alla Genovese (Liguria)

This bright green condiment for pasta has an incomparably rich, refreshing aroma and flavour, but be sure to carefully choose the ingredients!! (good quality extra virgine olive oil, well aged hard cheese, and fresh basil leaves in season are the absolute must!) Then you will taste the EMORMOUS difference from those jars available at supermarkets!! you will need...

-a big bunch of fresh basil leaves separated from the stem and well rinsed, then well drained

-Extra virgin olive oil about 3/4 of amount (in grams/ozs) of the leaves.

(please experiment with the amount of below items, adding them gradually... to your personal taste...for a rough measure I use about 75g of cheese, 2 big cloves of garlic 75g of nuts to make about !/2 lt./1lb. of pesto)

-well seasoned parmigiano, pecorino cheese or grana padano cheese, freshly ground

-cloves of garlic

-mixture of pine nuts and cashew

First you whip the basil with oil in a blender/food processor to make a smooth goo, adding the oil gradually. Then add the next 3 items and mix further until everything is well blended.
It can be frozen in portions (using ice cube tray or small container), make sure you pack it well and it will freeze fairly quickly. To keep in the fridge you put it in a bottle, and cover the surface with extra olive oil, to avoid the contact with the air. It will last about 2 weeks.