Saturday, 29 August 2009


Flaky, sinfully rich treat are widely enjoyed from the mediterranean to the mid-eastern countries, they are deeply integrated part of the culinary tradition equally in Greece, Lebanon and Turkey, with slight variations. One of the yummy options that are practised in some of the regions is to use pistacchio instead of walnuts, which is equally worthy to be experimented!

500 gr. walnuts, or almond, or mixture of the two, coarsely chopped
60 gr. sugar
dash of cinnamon

1package Phyllo pastry (about 500g)
180g (or as needed butter) melted

100 gr. sugar
300 ml water
2 cinnamon sticks
juice from 1/2 lemon, or a few dashes of orange flower water
100g honey

Butter the base and sides of a large, relatively shallow baking dish, rectangular or round.
Brush each layer of phyllo with melted butter and spread over the base of the baking dish. Carefully stack 4 layers.

Sprinkle evenly a thin layer of filling all over the surface.
Carefully stack 3 more layer of phyllo, then the filling, repeat the procedure until you finish with the ingredients, take care to finish with 2 layers of the phyllo.
Fold any excess pastry on either of the sides over the filling and brush it with butter, especially very generous at the top.

Trim any excess pastry with a small sharp knife, keeping in mind that it will also shrink.
Slit just the top layers of Phyllo carefully to make diamond shapes (or square).
At this point do not cut right down to the bottom.
This procedure will make cutting and lifting the pieces out, once it is cooked, much easier and efficient.
Lightly sprinkle a little water all over the surface and bake at 180°C for about 30minutes or the surface is evenly golden.

Meanwhile place the ingredients for syrup except the honey, in a saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Let it immer for 6-8 minutes, add the honey and simmer for additional 5 minutes until it thickens slightly.
When the baklava is chilled carefully drizzle the hot (not boiling) syrup evenly over the surface.
Let it stand and absorb the syrup.

Important note!

If you have purchased a frozen package of the phyllo, it is essential on your part to think ahead, take the package out of the freezer the night before cooking and let it defrost gently and gradually in the fridge. If they get defrosted too quickly the texture will get sticky and too limp, and becomes unmanageable for the delicate treatment required for this recipe.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Pan fried potato wedges Calabrese

This is a very tasty alternative to regular chips or french fried potatoes to accompany your main plate or burgers. A litte touch of balsamic vinegar gives a distinct flavour twist. It's important not to overcrowd the skillet in order to cook the potatoes correctly, with the amount stated below I use 2 skillets together so I can cook them in one go!

400g Red Onions (Tropea if can be found), thinly sliced
600g Potatoes, skinned and cut into wedges
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Fry the potatoes, not too many at a time, should be loosely one layer with some room to be shifted. When the potatoes are halfway done, just lightly coloured, add some onions (amount proportionate considering the remaining potatoes). Salt to taste, continue to cook until the potatoes are thoroughly golden brown and the onions are lightly caramelized. Scoop out the potatoes and onions, let them rest on a absorbent paper. Keep warm (for example inside lightly heated oven about 150°C) and repeat the procedure with the remaining potatoes and onions.
In a serving tray or bowl drizzle about 1tbsp of balsamic vinegar and toss thoroughly, serve hot.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Pasta Salad alla Caprese

This is a lovely fresh tasting pasta dish for a hot evening, easy to prepare and you use the heat only to boil the pasta. The idea is taken from the classic Italian dish Insalata Caprese, I tossed in the pasta to make more substantial for a first course. Not only it tastes great, its red, white and green colour looks so typically Italian as well!! As with any simple recipes , the quality of each ingredients is the key. Make sure to use a good quality olive oil and fresh mozzarella, and the perfect tomatoes plump, red and firm, and oh, a fresh batch of basil leaves. This is a perfect example why it is so handy to grow a small shrub of basil at home during the warm months, even if you don't have a garden it grows very well on your balcony or window sill!!

Ingredients for about 2-3 people

200g dry pasta (short versions, like fusilli, orecchiette, farfalle etc.)
3-4 tomatoes
250g mozzarella, preferably of buffalo milk (di bufala)
generous handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Extra Virgine Olive Oil
salt, pepper

Cook the pasta as indicated on the package, drain and rinse under the cold water. Drain
Eliminate the stem and core from the tomatoes, then roughly chop them
Chop the mozzarella into bite sizes. (Or you can use the "bocconcini" version, which come in small balls)
Toss the pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella, add salt and pepper to your liking, sprinkle with the basil leaves then drizzle the olive oil.
Preferably let the salad rest for at least half an hour, as the flavours blend together better while resting.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Paella Portuguese

The original recipe was taken from my favourite magazine La Cucina Italiana, it was introduced by a guest author from Portugal, it was simply called "seafood rice", however I found a striking similarity to a paella from the neighbouring Spain, so I took the liberty to call it Paella Portuguese... I use frozen prawns but if you can find a fresh batch I am sure it will be even better, in any case make sure to use a good sized plump variations, not the tiny popcorn shrimps!

1-2 onion (depending on the size), chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 med. red or yellow bell pepper, julienned
olive oil
2 tsp. powdered vegetable bouillon
1-2 bayleaves
3-4 tomatoes, peeled and diced
100g frozen green peas
200ml. dry white wine
240g basmati rice, uncooked
400g prawns (more if they are whole)
pepper, salt
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped.

Sautè the onion, garlic and bell pepper in plenty of olive oil using a large sauce pan and they are completely softened.
Add the bouillon powder, bayleaves, tomatoes and wine, bring it to boil and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile quickly boil the prawns, drain, saving about a cup of cooking water, and clean off the excesses of prawns, set them aside.
Add the cooking water to the veg. mixture and continue to cook for another few minutes.
Add the frozen green peas, mix well and bring it back to boil.
Add the rice, let it simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often and adding a little hot water as needed to give the mixture the wet consistency (but NOT swimming like "soup"), until rice attains a pleasant texture. (firm but not tough or crunchy)
Adjust the flavour with salt (optional) and pepper as needed.
At the last stage add the prawns, mix them well and heat them through.
Serve with a generous sprinkling of chopped coriander leaves.

P.S. fresh coriander adds a lovely, unique fresh flavour, however it is not shown in the above picture, our poor batch on our balcony just died, and it was made during the national holiday so all the shops were closed so we had to make do without it :-(

Friday, 14 August 2009


This is a classic outdoor favourite, particularly in North America, when they gather around a campfire. I suddenly thought of this when Cristiano found a bag of marshmallows in a supermarket and bought it out of curiosity. We have an indoor gas grill, so that was a perfect tool to toast the marshmallow after we had our grilled dinner, it turned out so well we ate 3 portions each :-p You can also use any gas burner if there is no campfire available!! It may take a few marshmallows for you to practise on to get the hang of roasting them evenly, but it's actually quite simple and easy, so don't panic if the first marshmallow doesn't roast well, uneven, or drop, you will get it quickly enough!

What you need

-twice the number of crunchy thin type biscuits* for the number of smores to be made.
*The original recipe calls for graham crackers, but since they are rarely found here in Italy I used the round oatmeal crisps from IkeaFood (Kakor Havreflarn).

-not too thick chocolate slabs, milk or semi-sweet depending on your preference.


-wooden skewers

What you do

Break up the chocolate slabs, lay the pieces in the middle of half of the biscuits.
Secure a marshmallow at the tip of the wooden skewer, insert it fully so there will be less risk of dropping while you are roasting them.
Hold the marshmallow just above the open fire, turning frequently until the surface turns golden.
Place the hot, coloured marshmallow on top of the chocolate/biscuit, place another biscuit on top and lightly press on it, carefully remove the skewer.
Give it some seconds and let the chocolate soften with the heat from the marshmallow.
Enjoy :-)

Curiosity about its name
Smores, or S'mores, is said to be a shortened form of "some more", as they were always enjoyed so enthusiastically and everyone would ask for "some more" --- becoming "s'more" while it is spoken hastily full mouthed with this sticky gooey treat. ;-)

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Nasi Goreng al Curry

This is one of my few variations of nasi goreng (fried rice) inspired by the famous Indonesian dish. I also like it with prawns in place of chicken, which I toss in directly towards the end of sautèing just until they become opaque, or vegetarian version is nice as well, in which case fried potato cubes will give an added flavour and texture. Other selections of vegetables can be added/substituted as well, such as green peas, chopped broccoli or cauliflower.
Also if you don't have all these different spices, you can just use 50/50 of galam masala and ready made curry powder.

300g boneless chicken breasts sliced in strips
(for marinade)
1tbsp ketjap(indonesian sweet soy sauce) or teriyaki sauce
1tbsp olive oil
1tsp freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, smashed

1 large onion, or 3-4 shallots, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
2 clove garlic, smashed
(I usually zap together these 4 ingredients in a food processor)
Olive oil
1,5 tsp coriander seeds
1,5 tsp fenugreek
*1,5 tsp bouillon base in powder, or more or less as needed
1,5 tsp galam masala
1 tsp turmeric
0,5 tsp cumin
0,5 tsp cinnamon
0,5 tsp clove
2 eggs
1 courgette, finely julienned
about 3 cups of cooked basmati rice, completely chilled
0,5 tsp cardamom powder
drizzle of sesami oil
(optional) chopped fresh coriander leaves

-marinate the chicken strips in the following 4 ingredients, let it rest for a few hours, turning occasionally.
-dry roast the coriander seeds and fenugreek in a skillet (ideally SS or cast iron), taking care not to burn them. Grind the toasted spices well in a pestle.
-Sautè the onion, carrot, bell pepper and garlic in generous amount of olive oil on high heat in a large wok or skillet, tossing vigorously. Add the bouillon powder and spices (except cardamom) halfway.
-Prepare a batch of scrumbled eggs in a separate skillet.
-When the vegetables are completely well cooked and soft, add the chicken and courgette, continue to cook until chicken strips are cooked through, still tossing regularly.
-Add the rice, scrambled eggs, dash of cardamom and drizzle of sesami oil, toss all together thoroughly, breaking any lumps of rice and blending the flavour well.

Sprinkle the coriander leaves (if desired) and serve.