Thursday, 28 October 2010

Bailey's Cheese Cake

I heart any sort of cheese cakes, of which there exist endless variations around the world, and this is one of the best I ever tried. Because I also heart the irish creme flavour. The topping part is really an optional (sour cream glaze and shaved white chocolate) if you are in a lazy mood, it tastes good enough without... but highly recommended!!

150g digestive biscuits
60g butter (room temperature)

500g mascarpone (room temperature)
160g sugar
2 large eggs, separated (room temperature)
50ml Baileys, or any high quality Irish Creme liqueur
a few drops of vanilla extract
1/3 cup flour
pinch of salt

200ml sour cream
powdered sugar
80g shaved white chocolate

Finely grind the biscuits in a processor. Add the butter, cut in small cubes and blend to make a bread crumb-like mixture.
Press the mixture onto the bottom of the 25-27cm spring pie form.
Chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 160°C.
In a large bowl whip together mascarpone and sugar until smooth.
Add the egg yolks and continue to whip.
Add the baileys and vanilla and whip further.
Add the flour and salt, more whipping--until the texture is completely smooth.
Whip the egg white until it peaks, then gently fold it into the mascarpone mixture.
Pour the batter into the pie form lined with the biscuit mixture.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the surface slightly colours and puffs up, and the centre is set.
Cool on a rack

whip together sour cream and powdered sugar until attain a desired consistency and smooth

When the cake is completely chilled spread the sour cream mixture on the surface.
Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Decorate the surface with shaved white chocolate.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Mango Lassi

Lassi is a traditional Indian, yogurt based, non-alcoholic beverage. It is lightly sweetened (or in some flavour variety also savoury), rich yet refreshing. It is very simple to prepare and will make a great beverage to offer to accompany your special dinner, especially for teatotalers as a substitute to wine or beer. It is also rich enough to make a light dessert option, or can be enjoyed any time when you are in the mood! :-)

Mango Lassi

300ml plain yogurt
200ml milk
2 fresh mangoes
2-3 tablespoon of sugar (to start with, add as needed.)
pinch of freshly ground cardamom

Peel, pit and slice up the mangoes
Put all the ingredients into a blender/food processor, blend thoroughly until smooth. (Check the sweetness and if needed add some more sugar to your preference)
Chill in the fridge 1-2 hour.
Give it another whip on a blender before serving.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Carrot-Nut Cake

Ever since I made a disaster with a carrot cake recipe about 6 years ago (the batter remained a complete goo with the surface burnt), I became very wary and reluctant to try and make another. No, I am not a very persistent type. However my partner accidentaly bought 2 packages of carrots and we are stuck with more carrots than we know what to do within a reasonable time frame, I finally decided to give another go at a cake. This idea is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe which has been slightly modified, and it came out perfect, to my surprise. As always, I can count on this bloke :-)

• 250g butter, softened
• 250g brown sugar
• 5 large eggs, separated
• zest and juice of 1 orange
• 200g flour, sifted
• 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 80g chopped almonds (or hazelnuts)
• 80g walnuts, chopped
• 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 250g carrots, coarsely grated
• pinch of salt

for the icing:
• 250g mascarpone
• 85g icing sugar, or as much as it needed to attain a smooth consistency
• a few drops of vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Generously butter a 22cm square or round cake form.
Beat the butter and sugar together until it becomes frothy.
Beat in the egg yolks.
Add the orange zest and juice.
Stir in the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
Add the nuts, spices and grated carrot and mix together well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, then gently fold into the cake mix.
Scoop the mixture into the prepared cake form and cook in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes until golden and risen.
(toothpick check recommended, and make sure the toothpick comes out clean)
Leave the cake to cool in the form for 10 minutes, then turn it out on to a rack and leave for at least an hour.

Mix the icing ingredients together until smooth, and spread generously over the cake.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Padella alla Licia

I invented this recipe while I was hard pressed to come up with an attractive "reduced calorie" recipe as my partner has been on a diet. It can NOT be classified either as risotto or paella, as the result is clearly different -- thus I decided to call this "padella" (which also means "skillet" in Italian). It skips the sautè process which will cut down significant amount of oil, however by toasting the garlic separately and adding it at the end with the drizzle of raw olive oil, it boosts the lively flavour to a satisfying level!

Ingredients (for 3-4)
200g basmati rice
300g-400g peeled prawns (decent sized-I used frozen), precooked
3 shallots, thinly sliced
3 spring onions, chopped
1-2 large cloves of garlic (depending on how much you love garlic :-p)
100-150g frozen green peas
2 smallish courgettes, sliced thin (about 1mm)
1/2 cup white wine
vegetable bouillon (granulated, powdered or cube)
1-2 bayleaf
1 packet of saffran
good quality extra virgine olive oil

- Chop the garlic finely, toast in a small skillet with a few drops of olive oil (just enough to cover them), until golden, taking care not to burn them.

-Place the rice, shallots, peas, rice, wine and bayleaf in a large skillet or shallow, flat based pot, add the water just enough to cover the rice, season with the bouillon (amount according to the direction--the amount of the total liquid should be slightly over 1 cup)

-Bring to boil, turn down the heat to the minimum, cover and continue to simmer for 6-7 minutes

-add the courgette, distributing evenly (not dumping all in one pile), add a small amount of hot water if needed, re-cover and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or the courgette becomes thoroughly heated. (until they take on a slightly transparentish look while maintaining the colour)

-remove the cover, add the prawns*, spring onions, saffran, the toasted garlic and the olive oil, toss thoroughly and vigorously over the heat.

Serve immediately.

*I have used frozen, precooked prawns so I first boiled them just to defrost quickly. If you use a fresh prawn add them with the courgette, after thoroughly cleaning them. It should be even better this way as the flavour of the prawn will integrate itself more to other ingredients!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Tortei di Patate

Tortei di Patate (Trentino - Alto Adige)

I became permanently addicted to tortei di patate while we were on our holiday in Trentino this summer. It is a recipe quite similar to the Jewish Latke or German Rosti, but this is prepared simply with grated potatoes and a bit of flour and salt, no other additives.
It may sound strange but this dish is delicious served with blueberry or cranberry comport. Trying is believing! Applesauce is equally good as well. To make it an all out alpine fair, serve with marinated cabbage and bean salad, sliced speck and assorted cheese, preferably on a round wooden plate cum cutting board!

for 2-4 ppl (depending on the accompaniments)
500g potatoes
about 2tbsp flour
butter or olive oil to cook

-Peel the potatoes, grate them roughly to the size of shoestring potatoes.
-Add a pinch (or as desired) of salt, mix well.
-Put the grated potatoes in a collander and place it on a bowl. Cover the surface with a plate, let it sit for about an hour to drain the excess liquid.
-Squeeze the potatoes and put in a bowl mix thoroughly with the flour.
-In a large skillet (I use two simultaneously) and heat the butter/oil thoroughly.
-Scoop out a generous table spoon full of the mixture, place it on the skillet and press it flat immediately with a spatula. Repeat the procedure, cook about 3-4 at a time in one skillet. When the bottom is nicely golden brown flip them and cook the other side, about 10 minutes.
-Place them on an absorbing paper/paper towel and repeat the procedure.
-Add some more butter/oil if needed during the procedure.
Serve immediately, hot.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Empanadas de Argentina

Empanadas are enjoyed in many countries, majority of latin america as well as Spain and Portugal where the origin of the reicpe seems to lie, and recipes vary enormously. This version of Empanadas was introduced to me by a friend who lived for some years in Buenos Aires, and typically Argentinean. There are great many Italian immigrants in Argentina, and the subtle use of sultanas and olives suggest a touch of Italian influence. You can also make a bite size empanadas for a buffet, or potluck, it will surely disappear pretty quickly!

600-700g puff pastry dough
500g pork mince
1 onion, chopped
1 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 tbsp sultanas, chopped
10-15 green olives, deseeded and chopped
1 tsp powdered cumin
1 tbsp paprika
salt and pepper
extra virgine olive oil
1 egg

Immerse the sultanas in lukewarm water, leave for about half an hour
Prepare a flat surface to work on and dust with some flour.
Roll out the pastry dough about 3mm thick, cut out discs of about 15cm.
Keep them in the fridge, with a sheet of wax paper in between layers.
In a skillet sautè the onion and mince and thoroughly brown them, in just enough olive oil.
Add the sultanas, olives, spices and just enough salt and pepper, toss well.
Remove from heat and let it cool to the room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
On the same surface where you worked the dough, assemble the empanadas.*
*you may want to take out the doughs in a few batches as you work, the dough is easier to work with when it is cold.
Place a spoonful of sautèed mixture at the centre of each discs.**
**take care NOT to overstuff it, you should be able to comfortably fold the disc in half and enough room to fold over the edge without struggle.
Fold the disc in half, and fold over the outer edge (up to 1cm) and secure it by pressing, using a fork.
Place the formed empanadas on a baking sheet (or on a few of them), bake them for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
They are equally good hot/warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Risotto with garden vegetables

This variety was invented quite nonchalantly while I was cleaning out the leftovers in the fridge. I just threw in the odd vegetables remaining in the fridge and it came out fabulously. It's highly flavourful, and also came in handy while I had to come up with some low-cal repartoire for my partner who has been on a diet, I reduced the amount of rice and loaded with the vegetables, the result was equally satisfying. I can only dream how this dish would taste if I had a garden of my own to pick the veggies from!!

For 2-3 people
-1 cup of carnaroli rice (if you can't find it arborio is fine, but carnaroli is the ideal type for making risotto)
-One big onion
-2 cloves of garlic
-1 large carrot
-1 large bell pepper (red or yellow)
-2 ripe tomatoes
-50g (or more if needed) butter
-1 bayleaf
-150ml red wine (or white, if you prefer)
-500ml of hot good quality broth
-freshly ground parmigiano

Chop the vegetables except tomatoes and garlic in a food processor. (Vegetable should be in small pieces, not "pureed")
In a large skillet sautè the vegetables with butter over middle heat, until the vegs soften. Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring thoroughly, until rice becomes semi-transparent.
In the meantime whip the tomatoes in the same food processor into a semi-liquid form.
Add the bayleaf and the tomatoes, raise the heat level and bring to boil.
Add the wine, continue to cook until boiling.
When the wine is almost absorbed, start adding the broth one ladleful at a time, adding another ladleful when the previous batch of broth is well absorbed (but the rice should still remain wet), stirring constantly to keep the bottom from burning.
Keep the broth hot by keeping it in a saucepan on a low heat, or microwaving from time to time.
Repeat the procesure until the rice are cooked "al dente" (firm, not crunchy not mushy)... it should take about somewhere between 20-25minutes more or less.
Serve hot with plenty of parmigiano to sprinkle upon.

Monday, 13 September 2010


This traditional lebanese treat is a wonderful summer fixture, no hassle, no heat recipe with ripe tomatoes in season, bursting with refreshing flavours. Also it makes a great part of a mediterranean vegetarian feast that would impress even a staunch carnivours, served along with hummus and falafel. :-) Ideally, prepare it about a couple of hours in advance and let it set for a while, for the flavours to settle and blend in. For a twist, you can use a handful of fresh coriander leaves in place of mint. In a pinch, couscous can be used in place of bulghur.


150-200g lebanese bulghur
1 bunch flat leaved parsley, washed and finely chopped
3-4 firm red tomatoes, washed and finely chopped
Small fistful of chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 red onion, or 2 spring onion, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
salt (as desired)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
a dash of black pepper
a generous dash of zatar, or mixture of thyme, majoram and oregano
1 tablespoon sesame seed
(serves 3-4)


Pour boiling water on bulghur just enough to moisten the entire surface.
Cover and let it stand for an hour.
Mix all ingredients except the sesame seed in a bowl.
Let it stand in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavour set.
Just before serving, dry roast the sesame seed and mix into the salad.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Wild Mushrooms and bechamelle sauce

This is a great way to showcase often costly, precious and gorgeous gourmet wild mushrooms, delicious on gnocchi, polenta, pasta of all sorts, mashed potatoes or just scooping it up and eating by themselves. On a pinch the regular button mushrooms (champignon) can be used, but a splurge on more exotic shrooms will be highly worth it. Frozen ones can be used too.
(Above picture shows my latest effort with chanterelle, served over strangolapreti)

About 500g of roughly shredded wild mushrooms (porcini, chanterelle, or mixture), or more as desired.
3-4 shallots, finely shredded (or 1 small onion)
2 garlic cloves, smashed or chopped
2 tbsp butter
about 10 leaves of fresh sage, chopped
dash of salt and pepper
250ml bechamelle
milk, as needed

Sautè the shrooms, shallots(onion), garlic and sage in butter on medium heat, until they are completely softened and the liquid from the veg evaporates, about 15-20 minutes.
While cooking add a dash of salt and pepper. (I go very generous on pepper)
Add the bechamelle, stir it to blend it in. If the bechamelle is too thick add a small amount of milk to thin it slightly.
Heat it through.
Enjoy with your choice of treat (pasta, polenta etc.), or without!!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Strangolapreti (Trentino-Alto Adige)

Every time we come back from our summer holiday in the Alps I get obsessed with their luscious local dishes and specialties, and it takes some time to get over. And this is another example. Tasty gnocchi based on crushed bread and spinach (or similar green leafy veg), its name "Strangolapreti" translates to "Priest Chokers". There is no known sinister/criminal background to this dish however, the origin of the name is supposed that priests in the old days, typically hearty eaters, loved this dish so much and they used to scarf it down to the point they choked themselves. Typical way to serve it is with melted butter with fresh chopped sage. However it goes well with just about any sauce or condiments, and my favourite is wild mushrooms-bechamelle sauce (as shown in the second pic), which I will post separately!

For 2-3 people
150g day old bread, semi-dry, cut in small cubes
150g frozen spinach, thawed
30g trentingrano (or grana padano, or parmigiano reggiano), freshly grated
dash of nutmeg
1 egg

-moisten the bread cubes with just enough milk (adding it little by little -- it shouldn't get too soggy), mix it well to even out the milk, let it stand for about an hour. (tossing the mixture a few times)
-microwave the spinach (the frozen spinach contain a lot of water, so no need to add any) for about 7mins, or until cooked. Let it cool.

-Squeeze the spinach very well, and add to the bread mixture, along with the rest of the ingredients.
-Buzz the entire mixture in a food processor, until it becomes a fairly consistent dough (it gets there pretty quickly, a few pulses, then 10-15 second
-roll the dough mixture onto a generously floured surface, knead briefly to give a little more consistency.
-Make several ropes of about 1,5cm thickness, then cut them into about 3cm long pieces.
-Boil a generous amount of water in a big pot, boil the gnocchi, preferably in two batches (it shouldn't be too crowded in the water, and the water temperature shouldn't drop too drastically)
scoop them out as they float into the surface.
Serve immediately with your favourite sauce/condiments.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Grilled Canaderli with Chanterelle mushroom sauce

Canaderli (also called Knodeln in German) is a traditional Tyrolian dish, very tasty dumplings based on bread chunks. Traditionally they are boiled and served in a broth, however I found this new idea in Cucina Italiana magazine a few months back, which quite appealed to me. I added a newly invented sauce with Chanterelle mushrooms, another alpine specialty, which came out a smashing success! Chanterelle mushrooms can be very hard to find, you can also substitute with Porcini (fresh, frozen or dry) or another type of aromatic mushrooms.

Grilled canaderli
for 6(super size)-8(smallish) canaderli

160g day old bread, semi dry, cut into small cubes
120ml milk
2 shallots, finely chopped
2-3 slices of speck, finely shredded
30g of grated trentingrana (or grana padano, or parmigiano reggiano)
handful of parsley
1 egg

-cook the chopped shallots in butter, until they are tender.
-soak the bread cubes in milk, mix well to coat each pieces evenly, and let it stand for half an hour, remixing occasionally.
-add everything else to the bread, mix thoroughly and knead well.
-make 6-8 patties in hamburger-like shape. (don't worry if they are quite soft, they will solidify as they are grilled)
-spread a thin layer of olive oil on a hot plate, and pre-heat.
-when the hot plate is hot, place the patties, cook until it takes on the "grilled" colour* (4-5minutes on each side)
*if they are too limp or sticky to flip, let them cook further until the bottom side is solid and

easily slide on the surface.

Mushroom sauce
500g roughly chopped/stripped chanterelle or porcini mushrooms**
1 small onion, chopped
1tbsp butter
25g powdered fondo bruno mix (msg-free version is recommended), or enough for 300ml of liquid according to the package instruction***
200ml white wine
200ml water
1 bayleaf
150ml bechamelle
**or as little or as much as you like... I can never get enough of shrooms I tend to use even more...
***if you have real fondo bruno in stock, please do use it instead of the mix, naturally...

-sautè the onion and mushrooms in butter, until onions are tender, about 10 minutes.
-stir the fondo bruno mix in the water, mix well.
-Add the fondo bruno liquid, wine and bayleaf into the onion/mushroom mixture. Bring to a boil and let it simmer, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
-Stir in the bechamelle, mix thoroughly and keep on cooking until the sauce is completely blended, another few minutes.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Apfeltaschen with walnuts

This is a quick, easy yet tasty variation from the traditional apple strudel, which requires a painstaking effort in making its proper pastry sheet. Lightly roasted walnuts gives additional flavour boost, but you can also substitute them with a handful of sultanas. This can be made in smaller sizes, bite sizes even, by cutting the pastry sheets in sections for party treats or get togethers, however I prefer making a larger log as it holds more filling this way :-) Addition of a big pile of whipped cream or ice cream will further enhance the enjoyment when serving!

Apfeltaschen with walnuts

1 sheet of puff pastry, 250-300g
2 firm fresh apples
20g butter
60g walnuts, roughly crushed
60g brown sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 beaten egg(optional)

-peel, core and slice the apples into thin wedges
-in a skillet cook the walnuts in melted butter.
-after a minute or two add the apple slices, sugar and cinnamon, continue to cook until the mixture is lightly caramelized, tossing and mixing thoroughly. Apples need NOT be fully cooked, just well coated by the butter-walnut-sugar mixture. Let it cool to the room temperature. (it will be much more manageable to handle the filled pastry when the filling is sufficiently chilled)
-roll out the puff pastry sheet on a lightly greased baking tray (or lined with silicon sheet).
-pour out the apple mixture lengthwise at the centre of the pastry sheet, leaving unfilled about 3-4cm at the end.
-fold over the top and bottom left empty from the filling (to avoid the filling from spewing out).
-then fold over the both side towards the centre, at this point filling should be completely covered with the pastry.
-press rightly to secure, then turn quickly to bring the seamside at the bottom.
-with a sharp knife make several diagonal slits on the surface.
-if desired brush the beaten egg lightly & evenly over the surface.
-bake in the oven at 200°C for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Creamy Cup o' Green Peas

This is a very nice comfort dish for wintry evening, you can serve them as a light meal, or alternative to pasta or risotto, as it is reasonably substantial. This can be modified anywhere from mashed potato like texture to a more soupy consistency, depending on the amount of broth added (or omitted). Also for a vegetarian variation, substitute the bacon with a shredded carrot, to be sauteed with shallots!

Creamy cup of green peas

For 3-4
800g frozen green peas
200g cooking cream
4 shallots, finely chopped
100g chopped smoked bacon
vegetable broth (as needed/prefered)
extra virgine olive oil
white pepper

Boil green peas in lightly salted water for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not mushy.
In a sauce pan fry the bacon and scallion in olive oil, until bacon is crisp.
Put the hot peas in a mixer until they become a puree.
Add the puree and cooking cream into the sauce pan, dash of salt and white pepper.
Stir well until they are thoroughly heated.
If you prefer thinner (soupy) texture, add some vegetable broth to bring it to preferred consistency.
Serve with fresh baked courton or toasted baguette.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Macadamia Oatmeal Crisps

Inspired by the highly addictive Havreflarn from Ikea Food section, this all butter thin crisp biscuits gear up their goodness yet another notch, with a generous addition of macadamia nuts. It's a good idea to make a multiple dose as they are sure to disappear very quickly!! However make sure to allow the room for each biscuits to spread when you bake them, as they need to be on the thin side and crunchy!

Macadamia Oatmeal Crisps

120g butter (softened at room temperature)
120g brown sugar
120g sugar
1 egg
a few drops of vanilla essence
135g all purpose flour
3g baking soda
a pinch of salt
70g rolled oat flakes
110g whole macadamia nuts, crushed

Preheat the oven to 175°C
Cream together the butter and 2 sugars.
Add the egg and vanilla, mix vigorously until smooth.
Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix in thoroughly.
Add the oat flakes and the crushed macadamia nuts, mix well to distribute them evenly.
On a lightly greased baking tray, drop small balls of the dough -- space them well and do not over crowd, as a dough ball of about the size of a wallnut will spread into about 8-9cm diametre.
Bake them for 10-12 minutes or until golden, let them cool down to the room temperature.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Risotto al Radicchio

Radicchio is a typical italian vegetable of chicory family, its spicy, tangy taste gets milder as it is cooked with wine, onion and carrot. It makes one of the classic, most loved variation of risotto. I personally like to use the red wine, instead of white to compliment the bright red-purple colour of radicchio, also it seems to bring out the tangier, deeper flavour. You can use the ready made bouillon mix to make the broth, but when it's possible do try with the "real" broth after cooking a roast etc., you will get a risotto with decidedly better flavour and texture!

Risotto al radicchio (Veneto, + northern region in general)

For 2-3 people
-1 cup of carnaroli rice (if you can't find it arborio is fine, but carnaroli is the ideal type for making risotto)
-One big onion, finely chopped*
-One carrot, finely chopped*
(I usually put these two in a food processor)
-1 small radicchio or half of one in larger size (ideally radicchio di treviso) finely shredded
-50g (or more if needed) butter
-1 bayleaf
-100ml red wine
-500-700ml of hot good quality broth
-freshly ground parmigiano (or grana padano)

In a large skillet sautè the onion, carrot and radicchio with butter over middle heat until tender.
Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring thoroughly, until rice becomes semi-transparent.
Add the bayleaf and wine, raise the heat level and bring to boil.
When the wine is almost absorbed, start adding the broth one ladleful at a time, adding another ladleful when the previous batch of broth is well absorbed (but the rice should still remain wet), stirring constantly.
Keep the broth hot by keeping it in a saucepan on a low heat, or microwaving from time to time if necessary.
Repeat the procesure until the rice are cooked "al dente" (firm, not crunchy not mushy)... it should take about somewhere between 20-25minutes more or less.
Serve hot with plenty of parmigiano to sprinkle upon.