Monday, 21 September 2009

Stuffed Zucchini (Courgette) Flowers

This is a very popular antipasto (especially at a pizzerias) or tapa, delicate yet flavourful. Traditional recipes come with a piece of anchovy fillet along with mozzarella, I personally like it just with the cheese. Courgette flowers are sometimes sold with a baby courgette intact, in this case you can leave the courgette attached to the flower and cook altogether, just make sure to remove the stamen inside the flower.

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers (Campania, Lazio)

15 courgette flowers
100g, or as needed 50/50 flour/corn flour(maizena) mixture
2 eggs
cold water, as needed
200g fresh mozzarella
15 anchovy fillets (optional)
frying oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Carefully eliminate the stamen from inside the courgette flowers and gently rinse the flowers, being careful not to break them.
Heat the oil* in a large frying pan (deep enough to let the flowers "swim") or an electric fryer to about 175°C.
*If you don't use a fryer or a thermometre, drop a small piece of bread in the pan to check the hotness of the oil. It should sizzle and turn golden within 40 seconds.

In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs with a little salt and pepper. Add the flower mixture and little by little, cold water. Mixing well and bring the batter to a smooth consistency, something like a crepe batter.
Slice the mozzarella into thin strips and pat dry the anchovy fillets to eliminate excess oil.
Fill each courgette flower with a strip of mozzarella, 1 anchovy fillet and mozzarella. Make sure the mozzarella will stay within the flower petal, not sticking outside. This way the petals will close themselves while being cooked, preventing mozzarella from oozing out.

Dip the stuffed flowers into the batter, coat thinly and evenly.
Gently slip the courgette flower into the oil, cook about 3 at a time. If you are using a fryer, do not place them in the raised basket as the batter will stick, drop the flowers directly in the oil and let it swim.
Fry for a couple of minutes on each side, until they turn golden.
Gently remove each flower with a slotted spoon and let them rest on an absorbent paper.
Serve immediately.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Caramelized Apple cake

There are many variations of apple cakes, this is one of our favourites!! Sort of an apple upside down cake, but the melt in your mouth buttery richness, and the hint of orange liqueur gives the extra classy touch to this memorable dessert!!

60g+100g butter
100g+160g sugar
60ml water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large firm apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
150g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 shot glass of Grand Marnier or similar orange liqueur + a bit more for brushing
some drops of vanilla

Butter a round non stick cake form about 22-24cm diametre. Lightly coat the form with sugar. (or silicon form, no coating necessary in this case)
Arrange the sliced apple pieces to cover the bottom of the cake form. (can be slightly overlapped)
Melt 60g butter in a skillet. Stir in 100g of sugar, 60ml water and cinnamon and bring to boil.
Beat together 160g sugar, egg yolks, eggs, Grand Marnier and vanilla in a bowl to blend. Gently stir in sifted dry ingredients.
Fold in 1/2 cup melted butter.
Pour the syrup over apples in pan, then the batter. Bake at 175°, about 40 minutes (do a toothpick check for doneness).
Cool the cake for some minutes. Brush bottom of cake with a bit of Grand Marnier.
Turn over the cake out onto a platter.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Melanzane (aubergine) alla Parmigiana

Melanzane (Aubergine) alla parmigiana (Sicilia-Campania)

Another well known classic favourite. Apart from the parmigiano as a topping, you can also use different type of cheese to insert in the middle, such as firm sliced mozzarella, provola or fontina. Also as a short cut you can use a good quality readymade pasta sauce, however don't shortcut on preparation of the aubergine in order to maximize the flavour and the texture. For the amount stated below it should feed about 6 "average" people served with some garden salad and fresh baked bread, however in our household we are easily capable of gobbling it all down in one go between the 3 of us! When you are making a sauce, prepare a generous amount, if there will be an extra left, it will always be handy for another day for some other recipes!

1kg-1,2kg Aubergine, sliced in circles slightly less than 1cm thickness
oil for frying
2 onions
2 large cloves of garlic
2 carrot
2 bayleaves
olive oil
1 tsp. herb mix provençal
salt, pepper
1-1,5 lt. passata (or 1/2-1/2 of tomato puree & diced tomatoes from tin)
about 100g parmigiano reggiano or grana padano, freshly grated
some bread crumbs

Soak the aubergine slices in a cold, salted water in a large bowl, let them rest for at least 30min.
Rinse the aubergine slices under running water in a sieve, then pat dry.
Deep fry the slices in hot oil (about 175°C), a little at a time so the temperature will stay high, cook each slices until they are golden brown. Let them dry on an absorbent paper.
Finely chop the onions, garlic and carrots (or smash them together in a food processor), sautè them in sufficient amount of olive oil in a large skillet.
Season the mixture with salt and pepper as needed.
When they are completely soft, add the herbs and tomatoes, bring it to boil and let it simmer on a low heat for 15-20 minutes, or the sauce somewhat thickens.
Generously coat the bottom of a baking dish (about 30x40cm) with the tomato sauce.
Arrange a layer of aubergine slices closely lined together to cover the bottom.
Add another thin layer of tomato sauce over the aubergine slices.
sprinkle generously and evenly a mixture of bread crumbs and cheese on the surface.
Repeat the procedure until you run out of the aubergine (usually about 3 layers), ending with a layer of tomato sauce. (at this point you should have enough bread crumbs/grated cheese left to make one more layer)
Cover the dish with an aluminum foil, secure the edges well if the oven is ventilated, so the foil will not fly open.
Bake for 20 minutes at 175°C.
Take out the tray from the oven, turn up the temperature to 200°C, take off the foil and arrange the final top layer of bread crumbs and grated cheese over the surface.
Put the tray back uncovered, continue to cook for about 10 minutes or until the topping is golden grown.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Herb Ricotta Bites

This is a very easy and simple snack/antipasto for an impressive result. A well esteemed friend of ours passed on this recipe to us, according to her this is a very antique Roman recipe, she translated it from a Latin text!
The dose of course can be multiplied as this would also make a great party nibble!!

fresh bayleaves (10-12 circa) or sage leaves (20 + or -)
1 tub (250g/8 oz) ricotta
about 50-60g freshly ground parmigiano, pecorino or grana padano
1 large tablespoon (heaped) of flour
1 tsp baking powder
dash of pepper

Rinse clean the herbs, pat dry.

Mix well the rest of ingredients in a bowl.

Arrange the leaves on a baking tray, and on each leaf drop a spoonful of the mixture, roughly making the shape to match the form of the leaves, in about 1cm thickness. Bake at 180°C about 12-15 minutes, or until golden.

Note: leaves are to be peeled off when they are eaten. In case of sage leaves though (which are much more tender than bayleaves), some people would happily eat them without any harm!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Pan fried Catfish fillet alla mimosa

A spur of the moment improvisation turned out so very well! The name is given because the bright yellow coconut/lemon/saffran condiment reminds me of the glorious spring flower, which also gives this dish a nice choreographic effect, thus a dish delicious both to your appetite to your eyes. Catfish can be substituted with any firm white-fleshed fish like haddock or ocean perch.

2 catfish fillet (200-250g a piece)
60-80g fresh coconut flesh chopped in small pieces
2tbsp liquid from coconut
1 lemon
1 packet of saffran

Carefully peel the lemon.
In a food processor or hand mixer grate the coconut and lemon zest with the coconut liquid and the juice of the lemon, until they are small flakes.
Pat dry the fillets, and coat them with the flour.
Heat about 2tbsp of butter in a large skillet (enough to generously cover the surface)
lightly sprinkle a little salt over the butter (not necessary if the butter is already salted)
Fry the fillets in the butter until thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes turning them over about half way.
Scoop out the fillet, let them dry on an absorbent paper and keep warm.
Add another 2tbsp of butter in the skillet and lightly sautè the coconut/lemon zest mixture for a few minutes.
Add a packet of saffran and distribute well in the mixture, continuing to cook for about another minute.
Return the fillets in the Skillet and gently coat them with the condiment.
Serve hot with the extra condiment heaped onto the fillets.