Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Creamy Pumpkin Risotto

Whenever we buy and crack a whole pumpkin this dish is a must along with cream of pumpkin, ravioli, and of course, a pie. It's a bit of a pain to dissect a pumpkin, but once done it is good for several great dishes, and steamed and mashed pumpkin can be frozen as well for future use. Hack the pumpkin in half, empty the inside (seeds & stringy stuff) and slice into wedges, about 4-5 cm at the widest, steam them in a large pot, 15-20 minutes counting from the boiling point should be enough.

Creamy Pumpkin Risotto

for 4 people
320g carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
100g speck (or English style bacon), finely julienned
30g butter
360g cooked pumpkin, roughly mashed or diced
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
500ml boiling hot vegetable broth
100g soft-semi soft cheese, recommended: robiola for mild flavour, smoked provola (diced) for more piquant flavour
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano

-sautè the onion and speck in butter in a medium sauce pan.
-when the onions are soft, add the rice, continue to sautè, tossing frequently, until the rice grains become partially transparent.
-Add the pumpkin pulp and nutmeg, turn up the heat and cook on the high heat, stirring frequently and thoroughly, until the pumpkin reaches the boiling point.
-start adding the broth, 1 ladle at a time. When the broth is mostly absorbed, add another ladle. Stir frequently.
-continuè to cook in this fashion for about 20 minutes, until the rice becomes al dente. the broth need to be hot, so reheat the remaining broth as you cook, as needed.
-When the rice attains the desirable texture, slightly al dente, melt the cheese into the risotto and blend it in thoroughly.

Serve immediately with generous serving of parmigiano/grana padano.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Mango Colada

Here is another new idea for a refreshing festive beverage for the festive season. We had some extra mango perfectly ripe to be enjoyed, as mango being just as tropical and delicious as pineapple, I thought why not pairing it with pineapple's best friend coconut and voila, here it is... I invented this recipe without crushed ice, as we have lost our ice crusher, and it works perfectly as long as you think ahead by a couple of hours!
Also I have no doubt it will be just as delicious on a beachside on a hot summer day! :-)

Mango Colada (for about 3 servings)

1 large ripe mango, peeled, deseeded
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange
200ml coconut milk
70-80ml rum
2 tbsp sugar
water to bring the amount to 750ml

Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix until it attains a smooth texture.
Let it rest in the freezer for a couple of hours until it becomes dense and slushy (but not solid... if you are tend to be distracted may be an idea to set a timer to check!)
Give it another quick buzz on the blender before serving to even out the texture.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Cottage Pie

This is a lovely comfort food for a wintry evening, a classic dinner number from Great Britain. It is almost identical to the famous Shepards pie but beef mince is used instead of lamb here, thus it turns into "Cottage" Pie. Make sure to use a lean mince, as the fatty one will make the dish look and taste too greasy. As usual I couldn't help but doctoring the traditional recipe just a wee little bit and adding a little sultanas and pine nuts, which gives a subtle but particular Mediterranean touch, which would be an optional addition. Below is a dose for about 5-6 with regular appetite(though 3 of us easily finished it off in one go.. :-p).

Cottage Pie

800g lean beef mince
800g potatoes
2 tbsp butter
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano, as needed
little milk
1 tsp nutmeg
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
100g green peas (fresh or frozen)
1 tsp powdered vegetable bouillon
extra virgine olive oil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
25g sultanas(optional)
20g pine nuts(optional)
worcestershire sauce
1 egg

-soak the sultanas in just enough water.
-lightly toast/dry roast the pine nuts.
-peel the potatoes, boil or steam them until they are fork tender.
-Mash the potatoes, mix the butter and parmigiano (you can as cheesy or less cheesy as you prefer) while hot, adding a small amount of milk to smoothen the texture. Set it aside.
-Saute the onion and carrot in just enough olive oil. When they are tender add the mince, peas, bouillon and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper, cook until the mince are thoroughly browned.
-Add the sultanas, pine nuts, pepper and splash (not pour) the worcestershire sauce to your taste, add a little more bouillon powder or salt if needed.
-Let the ingredients blend well, cook for another 3-4 minutes.
-Pour the mixture into a baking dish, even out the surface.
-Add a generous layer of the mashed potato mixture on top, smooth out the surface.
-Using a tip of fork, draw ridges across the surface.
-Beat the egg, and brush lightly and evenly the entire surface.
-Bake the cottage pie at 180°C for about 30 minutes, or until the surface takes on a golden colour.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Ricotta Pumpkin Pie

Here is another seasonal, festive dessert, pumpkin pie :-) I added a wee bit of Italian touch using the ricotta instead of more traditional condensed milk, which also gives a distinct, rich flavour!! Nice choice for a dessert at a holiday gathering, as the touch of spice will also appeal to some of those people who are usually not particularly keen on sweets. Happy holidays everyone!!

Ricotta Pumpkin Pie

pasta frolla
2 cups pumpkin, cooked, well drained and mashed
150g dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
50ml pure maple syrup, corn syrup or light treacle
250g ricotta
3 eggs (or 2 large), beaten
several drops of vanilla essence

Prepare the pasta frolla as described.
Line it over a 25cm diametre pie form.

Cook the pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, spices, and syrup in a saucepan over moderate heat until thick, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the ricotta, eggs and vanilla essence, and cook over low heat for another 5 minutes, mixing/whipping vigorously at the same time. Let it cool down to lukewarm-room temp.
Pour into the pie form, and bake for 10 minutes at 200°C, and then at 175C° for 40-45 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean.
Serve with generous heaping of whipped cream.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Kiwi daiquiri

Occasionally we run into certain problems with kiwi, we would buy them while they are pretty hard, assuming they would ripen in some days. Well some kiwis are pretty stubborn, they would remain like rocks and go straight into a shrivelled up state instead of ripening. The last time this happened, we found a great solution. A delicious, refreshing dose of kiwi daiquiri!! Of course more reasonable, ripened kiwi can be used as well, just adjust the amount of the sugar. This recipe will be a welcome idea for the upcoming merry season!

Kiwi Daiquiri
(for 3-4 portions)

-6-7 tough kiwis, peeled and cut into a few chunks
(if the whitish centre part is very hard, cut it away)
-half cup of sugar (or adjust the amount as needed. if you use mature kiwis obviously much less sugar is needed)
-80-90ml rum
-juice from 2 limes
-a little water to make it to about 750-800ml

place all the ingredients in a blender, buzz them until the mixture becomes smooth.
Place it in a freezer for about 2 hours, or until the mixture attains a slushy texture.
Put it back on the blender and give it a quick whip for a couple of seconds

Enjoy, slurrrrp

Thursday, 3 December 2009


As the Christmas season is getting into its full swing, I would like to introduce a special Chrissy treat from Siena, Ricciarelli. It's a melt in your mouth, delicate, rich and soft "marzipan biscuit", for a slight modification you can use the orange zest instead of lemon. Do not try with the juice as it severely interferes with the delicate texture!! Every year we triple or quadruple this recipe and pump them out, it's always a surefire huge hit for the merry season!!

Ricciarelli (Siena, Tuscany)

1 egg white
250g (8,5oz) peeled almonds*
300g (10,5oz) sugar
a few drops of vanilla essence
a pinch of salt
20g (1 tbsp) honey
grated lemon zest from 1/2 of lemon
powdered sugar, as needed

*Almonds need to be peeled in order to obtain the very light colour. You may be able to find ground almonds at a specialty store or large supermarket, to skip the first process.

- In a food processor finely grind the almonds to fine granules (almost powder).
- In a bowl mix sugar and the almonds together.
- Beat eggwhite with vanilla and a pinch of salt to soft peaks, then pour it into the sugar/almond mixture, delicately blend them in with the rest of ingredients.
- Dust a flat working surface with plenty of powdered sugar, then roll out evenly the almond mixture upon to about 1-1,5cm (half inch) thickness.
with a sharp knife also dusted with powdered sugar, slice the dough into small diamond(or oval)shapes (about 6 x 3,5cm, or 2,5 inch x 1,5 inch more or less).

- Lay out a baking paper on the flat baking sheet/pan, place the ricciarelli and bake at 140°C/280°F for about 15 minutes, or take them out of the oven as soon as they take on a golden colour just slightly. This is crucial, watch them carefully as they need to remain very light in the colour and tender inside.
- Let it cool completely without touching. (while warm they are still very very soft, only when they are cool they would attain the right firmness.)

- Cover each ricciarelli generously with powdered sugar.