Wednesday, December 10, 2014

bianchini alle mandorle

bianchini di mandorle
While I was driving to work this morning, the radio was playing, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas ... that voice, oh that voice was so warm and engaging! My Christmas mood was switched right on at 7:00 am and I’ve been humming that song all day long, but the climate in Rome is moderate, birds seem to be undecided whether to migrate or not and we still have leaves on trees. There’s a chill out today, enough to have me wear my leather gloves, but snow? I don’t see that happening and I doubt I’ll be seeing a white Christmas around here. 

For now, the closest I can get to white may be these clouds of goodness.  Which, by the way, are perfect for an edible Christmas gift.  

bianchini di mandorle

6 egg whites
pinch of salt
350gr raw sugar
200g rtoasted almonds roughly chopped
lemon zest 

In a stand mixer, whisk egg whites and salt, slowly add the sugar one spoonful at a time until stiff peaks form.  Fold in the the lemon zest and roughly chopped almonds.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper and with the help of two spoons, scoop some of the mixture and let it fall on the tray.  Leave some space between each meringue. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 100°C for 2 hours.  They store well up to two weeks in a tin.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

discovering how to make steamed pudding

chocolate pudding
Thank you Emy for the pretty plate!
The pudding I’m used to making is the one that requires a spoon, the creamy texture type. Let’s call it the custard/mousse type

The one I never made in my whole entire life - and, to say it all, I don’t even think I’ve ever tasted one - is the cake type. I’m still asking myself why.  

Making pudding of this sort is all new to me.  For some reason I never paid too much attention to cake puddings, at least not until I flipped through a Food & Travel magazine.

OK…let me read through the recipe. 

Butter, check; flour, check; eggs, check; chocolate, sugar, vanilla and so on … check. Shift, mix, whisk, check.  Spoon the batter in a pudding basin, check.

Wait a minute,

“cover the top of the pudding with pleated sheets of buttered baking parchment and then foil.  Tie the foil and paper securely under the lip on the pudding basin and trim off any excess paper leaving a frill of 2 cm.  Fold this frill back on itself so that it sits on top of the covered pudding and won’t hang in the pan of water”.

???? Uh?

Bring a large saucepan or pot of water to a simmer and lower the pudding into it.  Cover with a lid and steam.

Uh?? Uh??

Pleated? Foil paper? Steam?

Well, thank you Food & Travel! As the last person on this earth to know, I just discovered that puddings, the cake type, the ones I’m not familiar with at all, are STEAMED!  Yes, steamed, boiled.  Ding dong!

Now that I’ve learned how to pleat, foil, wrap and tie, I just can’t stop making puddings, the cake type of course.  

So if there are any other ding dongs like me out there, doing this for the very first time, no worries, it’s easier than you think.  I’ve got it all straightened out for you! 
chocolate pudding
The Food & Travel issue tops the pudding with a decadent chocolate custard, needless to say that it is to drool for.  My only adaption to this pudding was the topping. I made it with this (click here) pomegranate syrup which was delightful, it soaks through the pudding and gives it a fruity tasty which I adore.  I also once made it with a crème anglaise served warm, which was also very good. 

As you can see, I've made a few since my "pudding discovery" and now, I just can't stop.

Adapted from Food & Travel issue 171 page 137

175g unsalted butter, softened
Plus extra for greasing
100g soft light-brown sugar
75g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1tsp pure vanilla extract
150g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
3tbsp milk

For the pomegranate sauce click here
a handful of seeds to decorate

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter together with both sugars until pale and light, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.  Gradually add the eggs, mixing well between each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix again.

Shift the flour, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt into the bowl, add the milk and mix until smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepared pudding basin and level with the spatula.  Cover the top of the with pleated sheets of buttered baking parchment and then foil.  Tie the foil and the paper securely under the lip of the pudding basin and trim off any excess paper leaving a frill of 2cm. Fold this frill back on itself so that it sits on top of the covered pudding and won't hang in the pan water.

Bring a large saucepan or pot of water to a simmer over medium heat and lower the pudding into it. The water should come halfway up the side of the basin.  Cover with a lid and steam for 1 hour and a half.  You may need to top up the water after 1 hour.  Remove the steamed pudding from the pan and set aside to cool slightly.

Here's a video that explains how to pleat, wrap and tie a pudding.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

potato and pumpkin tortelli


It’s Friday and I took a day off from work.  I’m home, alone, and I feel in complete freedom. There’s a pleasant atmosphere in the house that I’ve strived for throughout the busy weeks that have gone by.  The moment is all mine and there’s nothing else I want to do than be in my kitchen.  I’m in the mood to cook something good that requires some time, the time I usually don’t have.  The tranquil moment makes it all possible and here I am with a pumpkin in my hands.  Flour and eggs are on the counter and I’m already kneading before I can even realize it.  A pot of water and potatoes are on the stove and an indecent amount of butter is taken out of the fridge.   All the ingredients slowly come together with one that complements the other. 
Fast forward. 

It's Tuesday today.  I’m at work and it’s time for lunch. There’s nothing else I want more than these potato and pumpkin tortelli with butter and sage.  The ones I made that Friday in a tranquil moment of solitude in my kitchen.
tortelli di zucca e patate
Potato and Pumpkin Tortelli with Butter and Sage

For the filling 
The amount of each ingredient depends on the portions.  I used a quarter of a medium sized pumpkin and 4 medium size starchy potatoes, which was enough for three portions of pasta. Remove the hard skin from the pumpkin and reduce in cubes. Toss the pumpkin cubes in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some salt. Place the cubes on a tray and bake in a prepheated oven at 200°C for 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and mash the pumpkin with a fork.  Put aside. 

Meanwhile, rinse 4 medium sized potatoes under cold water and with the skin still on, place them in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Once the potatoes are tender, check with the tip of a knife, and remove them from the pot.  Remove the skin from the potatoes and mash with a fork or potato masher.  Put aside.  

Put the mashed potatoes and pumpkin in a bowl. Add some salt, freshly ground nutmeg, freshly ground tumeric and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Taste and adjust if necessary.  If fresh tumeric is not available use the dried powder version or do not use at all. 

For the pasta 
Prepare the fresh egg pasta.  See how to make pasta through the pretty video below.  

The ration for pasta is 100gr : 1 egg.  For 3 people, you'll need 300gr flour and 3 eggs. Once the dough is ready, let it rest covered under a kitchen towel or bowl for 30 minutes. 
The Making of fresh Pasta from Nicola JC Valletti on Vimeo.
To assemble 
Roll out the pasta with a pasta machine.  Place small balls of the filling on the sheet of pasta with a distance of 1 cm between each other. Dip you fingertips in a bowl of cold water and wet the surface of the pasta sheet right around the filling, so that the pasta sheets can adhere nicely when you shape out the tortelli.  Place another sheet of pasta over to cover the filling.  

Press against the pasta sheets with for fingers, so that they stick to each other.  

Remove any the air that may form between the two sheets.  Now, shape the tortelli with a round pasta cutter. Bring a pot of cold water to a boil, add some salt and gently place the tortelli in the pot. Remove when they float on the surface and place in a large pan where you have previously melted some butter with sage. I used 100gr of butter. Gently swirl the tortelli in the pan so that they are evenly coated with butter, if necessary add some of the pasta's cooking water. Serve hot with butter and sage and a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Monday, November 17, 2014

who says pork chops are boring?

A heat wave floats above the cast iron pan placed on the stove a few minutes earlier, this tells me it's ready for the pork chop I've planned for dinner.  The hot pan sears the meat releasing a hissing sound, the fat melts and sizzles, and a cloud of caramelised smoke spreads over the cooking area.  It's a matter of seconds and flavour becomes tangible.  An exceeding amount of saliva builds in my mouth making its way towards the corners, the drooling becomes uncontainable.  An insignificant, boring pork chop puts me on my knees.  I'm almost embarrassed this weakness has overcome me all at once, but I let go to what has conquered all my five senses, in five seconds.
pork chop
I try to prolong the pleasure of this moment so that fumes, scents and desire linger a few more minutes before fork and knife ends it all dramatically.  Some sauce - a green peppercorn cream sauce - multiplies succulence and decadence leaving any thoughts of pork-chop-boredom behind.  The meat is now sitting on a warm plate.  The cast iron pan is still on the stove, heat on.  A half glass of port wine is gently poured in the pan, over the meat's remains and juices.  The liquids thicken and encapsulate all the taste left back and almost gone to waste in the sink. Pickled green peppercorns are added, just a few, maybe a spoonful. They're left to mingle with the port as it simmers. Finally, a scant glass of heavy cream brings consistency and silkiness to the sauce, it wraps the flavours in and around, and brings more of that drooling effect. A pinch of salt will finish finely. Some more port wine is on the table. It's time.
pork chop