Category Archives: Italian

Giorgio Locatelli’s “Made in Sicily”

Penne-con-Broccoli-Acciughe-e-Pinoli-(6361)

I’ve just had a day and a half, but I still want to share this with you. Two evenings ago I was watching some telly, absent mindedly browsing through the guide as one usually does after a busy day. I totally forgot that The Great British Food Revival was on, but luckily the tv was on at the right time. First up was the adorable Giorgio Locatelli, (I think he is but opinions may vary!) championing sardines. He convinced me but that’s another matter…

That reminded me that I haven’t said anything yet about Made In Sicily, which I unfortunately don’t own, but I have managed to borrow it from the library. (His other book Made in Italy has disappeared into thin air!) I loved the book instantly, notwithstanding the fact that I was feeling particularly homesick at that moment. I’m not Sicilian of course but perhaps the affinity I felt, and still feel to it, is because Malta and Sicily are neighbours…with similar histories, though I’m not the expert on that. Apart from the size (Malta is much smaller), the temperament of the people, the produce, food and the land are similar…it’s uncanny really. I have never been there, but after watching the three episodes of Sicily Unpacked (presented by Locatelli himself and Andrew Graham-Dixon) and quite a fair amount of RAI’s wonderful productions of Il Commissario Montalbano, I was forever charmed.

Like all good cookbooks, Made in Sicily, Fourth Estate, 2011 (and Made in Italy, Fourth Estate, 2008) is both a memoir and a recipe book. As always, I went to the Dolci chapter first! It was charming but strange (magnificently so) to find pignolata, cannoli, sfinci di San Giuseppe, all kinds of sorbetto, cassata, and torrone/nougat also known as the very very familiar Arabic ‘qubhayt‘. We Maltese make prinjolata, (not exactly the same thing but the word is almost the same), kannoli, sfineċ, etc. I know, right?! You’ve got to love it!

I did not try any sweets yet, and time is running out – I have got to return the book very soon. I liked the sound of Casarecce con broccoli, acciughe e broccoli…(oh jeezzz, e pinoli I) meant though (anchovies…mmm) so for one quick lunch that’s what I tried my hand at. I found some other recipes for this on the web and found out that Italians like to make this al forno. But for Locatelli’s recipe you only need the hob, which saves time, and tastes great all the same. For the pasta, I used penne, which is allowed! I changed some stuff around out of necessity (a.k.a. an understocked pantry) – shocked? Well, so am I; that rarely happens in this house! But there you go, it happens sometimes. I also took some shortcuts, taking out some of the steps because I didn’t have time to faff about. However I must tell you that the mixture was a tad dry; had I followed the method to the letter the recipe would have turned out much much better.* You have to work fast here but don’t let this deter you in any way, unless you really hate anchovies!

So I used 45g toasted breadcrumbs, a tin of anchovies in olive oil (drained because you only need the anchovies), pepper, broccoli (I had approx. 400g), 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 crushed garlic cloves, half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes, 30g lightly toasted pine nuts, 20g sultanas, penne as required per person, and around 60g grated pecorino. (I used all the mixture for the sauce for 2 servings.)

In a large stock pot boil all the water you need for the pasta, but before cooking this, wash and chop the broccoli into florettes and cook them in this water until tender. When ready pull them out of the cooking water and let them drain. Now cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large pan heat the olive oil, add the garlic and anchovies, and stir them until the anchovies disintegrate. This will not take long so be careful not to burn them. (As I almost did!) Add the toasted breadcrumbs. (*The step that I missed is the following: Set the garlic mixture aside, then in a separate pan add these: 1 clove garlic, chopped, 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped, and it is in here that you add the broccoli. That is what you mix the pasta with. The anchovy mixture is added separately, later before serving, scattered over the pasta with the cheese.)

Add the chilli, broccoli, heat them through then add the pine nuts and sultanas.

When the pasta is cooked, tip it in the pan with the broccoli mixture and mix it well. Serve and divide the grated pecorino on each serving. Phew! Happy Weekend!

Rob x

Nigella’s chocolate and olive oil cake from “Nigellissima”

Chocolate-and-Olive-Oil-Cake-(6373)

When I purchased Nigellissima, this was the first recipe I wanted to try. I have previously come across other recipes with vegetable oil instead of butter as one of the basic elements of cake, but never olive oil. It could be that my reading isn’t extensive enough. Having said that this is somewhat of an unusual recipe. It really does work well though, and it has become very popular in this house. My lovely neighbour also told me it was “delicious” and I trust her judgement. Nigella’s recipe is great for those who are allergic to gluten, but you can also choose to replace the ground almonds with plain flour (the measurements of which she gives both in the book, and see the link below). I made it with almonds, as I always have a stash in my pantry, especially in the colder months when I make crumbles by the dozen. The almonds give extra moisture and oiliness to the cake, and by the end you should have something in between a sponge and a cake. If you want something easy but different this is the recipe you should go for, and it takes no time to prepare just before your guests arrive for lunch. Perhaps today for Halloween. All you need now is an espresso. A real one. Black and black.

Rob xx

Additional note (11.12. 2013): I have made this cake again and have posted new updated photos. Click here for the full recipe.

Instant Chocolate and Orange Mousse from “Nigellissima”

Orange-and-Chocolate-Mousse-(6353)

I wasn’t going to write about this recipe now, well at least for the coming few weeks, but yesterday I’ve noticed that some of my readers were looking for it through this blog. These days I found myself more and more drawn to Nigellissima; you see, even though it’s not my favourite book, I will always be a fan of Nigella, and I did say that the puddings and cakes in Nigellissima (or at least those that I have been making) are very very good. And I had no doubt about that. I will not be trying any more of the savoury stuff, just because in my humble opinion there are much better books out there which cater for the Italian foodie. So I don’t think you will find anything other than the puddings here, but that is not to say that I will never write about the other things, just because I cannot predict the future. You know I will always rave about the sweet stuff…

So one of my latest favourites is the Chocolate and Orange Mousse. Now don’t tell me that this is too sweet for you – the chapter is called Sweet Things so you have been warned. If you don’t want to faff about so much in the kitchen, or you just don’t have the necessary time (you really don’t need much though) to make the one in Nigella’s latest publication, you will find that the one in Express is very similar in richness, takes less time and ingredients to make, but will still give you great results. However I prefer the orange and chocolate one. Short cut ingredients may help you in the long run, but if you want to make something really really good you must take your time. I’m glad I tried this, and now I really don’t see the need for the mousse in Express anymore, just because this could just be *it*. It’s light, airy and fluffy, and the orange and chocolate combo reminds me of the festive season, so I will definitely make this again, perhaps for Christmas lunch. It just needs to sit in the fridge for a while, and you can also make it the day before so less stress. Individual portions also makes life a lot easier. Just what the doctor ordered. (It is also free of eggs, which is good to know for people with allergies.)

You can find the recipe here, on my blog. Enjoy!

Rob x

Weekend Tradition

Red-White-and-Green-Pizza-(6237)

I love a good pizza – always have and always will. It’s something that I reserve for the weekends, when time is my friend. Since moving to the UK we never found a good place where to get it, and even though I cannot replicate the ones I had in Rome, I now opt to make and eat it only at home. It takes some work but I find handling the dough most therapeutic and unlike shortcrust, pizza dough is very forgiving. My latest thing is to top it up with some fresh greens once it’s out of the oven, but I wavered that last Saturday and topped it with my trusty old chum: chorizo. There’s nothing more comforting other than a bowl of soup or minestrone in this gloomy cold weather, and the heat the oven gives off is very welcome on a Saturday night in. That, and Il Comissario Montalbano, of course! (oh my!)

Rob x

Tiramisini from “Nigellissima”

Tiramisu-(6327)A few posts back, I have shown a couple of photos from my attempts at replicating some of Nigella’s cake and pudding recipes from her new book Nigellissima. Here I will tell you how I did it and what equipment I used. It didn’t take much adjusting because I have found that Nigella’s recipes are quite adaptable, even when it comes to baking. Obviously the Tiramisini, which are really individually portioned Tiramisù, are not baked. This makes them even more appealing: not only are they very easy to make, but also they are perfect for when you have friends or family over for supper because there’s no mess when it comes to serving. Less cleaning, less stress. The photo for this recipe in Nigellissima has them in small but elegant martini glasses (serving suggestion indicates quantities for 4, volume for each glass 125ml). I’m afraid I don’t have martini glasses so I served them in ramekins. Please note that this is *not* a good idea for when taking pictures! For this disappointing result see my photo. This doesn’t say anything about the photographer though, so please J – relax.

Tiramisu-(6329)

Anyhow, you really don’t need any complicated kitchen gadget for this. A whisk and bam, job done. What I changed is the quantity of Savoiardi. (Apparently in France they are called boudoirs. In the UK you can also find them by that name, bar the s. Fascinating.) I found that one biscuit wasn’t enough for the coffee mixture to be totally absorbed, and even though the taste was great I made a note to use one and a half to two for next time. The rest is magic. What everyone will suggest here is not to give this dessert to anyone with either a weak immune system, children, or pregnant ladies because of the raw egg. However you can get pasteurised egg whites these days even from the supermarket. Trust the lovely Nigella to make the steps uncomplicated with a guarantee of good results. The chapter Sweet Things makes the book worth having. You will need:

  • 100ml espresso
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (15ml each)*
  • 4 Savoiardi biscuits (I would definitely use a bit more.)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons honey*
  • 2 tablespoons red vermouth (Nigella uses Marsala but I didn’t have any. Used vermouth instead and it worked well.)
  • 1 teaspoon good cocoa powder (*not* drinking chocolate please!!)
  1. Brew the espresso, tip it into a jug, add the coffee liqueur and set it aside to cool completely. (For hot climates plunge it into a small ice bath or else it would take forever!)
  2. Break the Savoiardi into small chunks and divide them into four ramekins or four small martini glasses. Pour the coffee mixture over them, making sure that all the liquid is absorbed into the biscuits to form a soft base.
  3. In a small bowl whisk the egg whites until you get soft peaks and set these to one side. In a medium bowl tip in the mascarpone and add the honey. Using the same whisk that you used to beat the egg whites, mix the mascarpone and honey together. Then add the vermouth or Marsala slowly.
  4. Now fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture one third at a time, and spoon this over all four of the ramekins/servings. Place in the fridge for up to 24 hours. When ready to serve sprinkle over the cocoa powder.

Yum yum. Thank you Nigella!

Rob x