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.