Tag Archives: Italian

Image: San Marino in Brixton

Espresso at San Marino in Brixton (9414)

Anything Eurovision related is bound to be news. Imagine the fits of laughter when I read in my Twitter feed that apparently people confused San Marino, as in the Republic of San Marino, with the coffee place in Brixton. Don’t ask me how or why that came about, or who said that. I have no idea how anyone would think that in the first place. I mean San Marino, the coffee place is great, but representation at the song contest…I mean…speak about being far-fetched. Anyone feeling confused? Me?

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Amaretto Pancakes

Amaretto Pancakes (7657)

I can still remember writing last year’s pancake recipe. Seems like yesterday. Making pancakes is one of my weekend highlights; in my books it’s not right to leave them until Shrove Tuesday. And what a beautiful thing it is when I find time to make them during the week. A rare occurrence I admit, but it happens.

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Spiced Lasagna with Spinach and Ricotta

Lasagna-(6411)

I love a good lasagna. To eat that is. Well, let’s say that unless J is at home and can help me with lifting the heavy pans I don’t enjoy it. What I also don’t enjoy is the washing up of all those pots and pans. Even now as I’m writing this, my wrists are not happy and every time I write one word I have to stop and wish my carpal tunnel away. My frustration could also be a result of taking loads of pictures with this one and in my kitchen cooking and carrying a heavy-ish camera don’t always go together.

Look, not all cooking is a breeze and sometimes a challenge is good for the soul. Not to sound too dramatic, this is an easy dish, but it takes some time to prepare. You might be asking me “is there anything you like here?” Of course there is. I have extra portions for the next day, and it will taste even better tomorrow. Just give yourself a couple of hours for prep time and assembly and you’ll be OK. I admit I don’t make this as often as I would like, but when I do I remind myself that I should, and what better way to welcome the winter months! And the kitchen is smelling lovely! I also have a vegetarian one lurking in my files which I must not forget…

Please be aware there are quite a few photos in this post. I just thought they would be of help. Thank you for being ever so patient with me as always.

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala or mixed spice
  • ¼ chilli flakes (optional)
  • ¼ curry powder (optional)
  • 250g bacon, chopped
  • 2 shots red vermouth
  • 500g minced beef, preferably lean
  • 500g passata di pomodoro
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • around 250ml water

For the ricotta mixture:

  • 500g ricotta
  • 500g frozen spinach, thawed; you could also steam fresh baby spinach, and set it aside to cool
  • 100g fresh parsley or basil, roughly chopped
  • around 6 tablespoons milk, or enough just to thin the mixture a little bit
  • salt and pepper, to taste*
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 25g butter
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 litre semi-skimmed milk

You also need around 700g to 900g lasagna sheets (around 30 sheets), depending on the size of the dish you want to use.

To prepare the sauce place a large pan preferably with a heavy base on medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Chop the onion, crush the garlic and tip in the pan, together with the spices, and stir occasionally. Once the onions have softened and turned opaque add the bacon and the vermouth and let it cook through.

Add the lean minced beef and cook until brown. Pour the passata and sugar in with the beef mixture, stir, add the water, give everything a good stir once more, cover and let it simmer for around 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8639)

For the ricotta mixture, I would advise you to remove as much of the spinach water as you can. To do this, simply thaw on a sieve on top of a bowl and squash the spinach downwards with your hands or a spoon.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8643)

Place the spinach in a medium mixing bowl, together with the ricotta, fresh parsley, milk, add salt and pepper, give everything a good mix and now is the time to taste. When you’re happy with the seasoning, add the beaten eggs, stir and set aside.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8646)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8673)

To assemble the lasagne, pour a thin layer of sauce, enough to cover the bottom of the dish. Then build the lasagna alternating as many lasagna sheets as you can fit in one layer (I can fit 6 in mine), then a layer of sauce, another layer of lasagna sheets, a layer of ricotta mixture, a layer of lasagna sheets and start the process again, until you get almost to the top.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8674)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8676)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8679)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8680)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8683)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8685)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and set everything aside to prepare the bechamel. In a small heavy-based saucepan make a roux, by melting the butter, adding the flour and stir vigorously until you get a golden paste, around 6 minutes will do the trick. As you whisk, gradually add the milk, a little at a time. Whisk to avoid any lumps and once in a while scrape the bottom sides of the pan so that nothing sticks to it. Whisk in all the milk until you get a nice velvety sauce. Add salt and pepper and some grated nutmeg.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8652)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8655)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8656)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8657)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8661)

Pour over the top of the assembled lasagna and bake for 1 hour.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8691)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8698)

Leave to stand for 15 minutes and serve to 6-8 hungry people! Enjoy with a glass of red.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8700)

I hope you enjoyed the recipe and the photos. If you decide to try this over the holidays let me know! I always appreciate feedback.

Happy Holidays!

Rob x

Linguine with prawns

Linguine-with-Prawns-(6656)

As I look out the window this afternoon, the sky is grey and so gloomy. Unbelievable. I won’t complain but boy we need the Sun, and soon! (Hopefully the weather will give us a break by the time this is published.) What do I do then to bring some sunshine in? I cook. This.

Linguine-with-Prawns-(6646)

It’s very very easy. To me pasta is a healthier version of fast food. Did you know that four portions of sweet and sour pork from a takeaway have around 36g of salt? So why not make this instead? It’s really child’s play. You can even throw in some spring greens or some young baby spinach instead of the courgette, and some honey for extra sweetness.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 courgette, cut into cubes
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • shot of white vermouth
  • 200g large frozen prawns
  • 1 large tomato, cut into cubes
  • juice of half a lemon
  • pepper
  • 250g dried linguine

Fill a pasta pan with water and wait for it to boil.

In the meantime, place a large shallow pan on the heat and leave it to heat up properly. Pour in the olive oil (not extra virgin – it would be a waste) and on a gentle heat add the garlic, onion, chilli flakes, salt and stir.

Add the courgette, red pepper, give everything a stir or two and wait till the veggies are softened but still have a bite to them. If you prefer cook them for a few more minutes. Pour in a shot of white vermouth and let it bubble away.

Cook the linguine according to packet instructions; they usually take 7-9 minutes to cook through.

Now it’s time to add the prawns to the sauce. When these are done add the lemon juice and the tomato. Add a little pepper.

When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain and tip it into the sauce (that’s why you need a large pan), and mix everything well.

Serve immediately into 2-3 serving bowls and eat away.

Linguine-with-Prawns-(6652)

A fresh weekday dinner great for Spring, preferably eaten in a garden or terrace. Enjoy!

Rob x

Yogurt Pot Cake

Lemon and Yoghurt Cake (6556)

During a recent visit to Malta, I went through an old recipe file, still in storage. I wanted to find the very first cake I have ever baked. I flipped through the many sheets of neatly printed papers and there it was. Found it. You see, back in the days when I started to feel at home in the kitchen I was extremely methodical about keeping notes, writing and printing almost every recipe I tried. I had so much time on my hands, enough to feel really lonely…it was unbelievable. (My only regret is that I had no interest in blogging back then.) Alas, things have changed during the past few years and I have not been that good about organizing my notebooks. J came up with a strategy: there is a simple solution to all this, but to me it’s sounding more of a battle plan. So I am postponing what I should have done ages ago. Not good.

I digress so back to the cake. The precious paper (no rings here) contains a recipe for a “Yoghurt Cake”.  It has been ages since I made it so I won’t include it here; I might try it next week and take some pics. Right now I want to tell you about a similar bake, found in Nigellissima for another yogurt cake. Now I don’t know about you, but more often than not I tend to have a big pot of plain yogurt on the go in my fridge. I always get a 500g pot at the start of the week with the most basic, or rather, idealistic premise of a healthy breakfast. Of course, this plan goes completely awry by Wednesday, but not to worry: what remains of the pot goes into this cake. Well, 150 grams of it anyway!

When I bought Nigellissima, this was one of the recipes that caught my eye, and admittedly I thought that the savarin mould was irreplaceable. So this recipe was confined more towards the end of my list. However Nigella suggests using a 22/23cm springform pan, which I have; I just don’t like using it. So I used a normal non-stick round tin instead, which I still greased, and it worked well. (I always butter and flour non-stick pans when not using parchment paper.) A couple of weeks ago, I did get a savarin mould and I cannot wait to try it. I definitely will…very very soon…before my Maltese lemons run out. I’d better hurry! (If the lemons you have are not unwaxed, then don’t fret. Just rinse them with cold water, scrubbing them lightly as you go.*)

  • 150g plain yogurt
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 250 golden caster sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest of ½ an unwaxed lemon*
  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g cornflour (or cornstarch)
  • 1 teaspoon icing sugar, for sprinkling on top of the cake before serving

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4 and grease the savarin mould or the tin of your choosing.

Whisk the egg whites till you get firm peaks and set aside.

In another bowl, tip in the egg yolks and add the yogurt and sugar, and whisk these well until airy.

Now, slowly add the vegetable oil while mixing the yogurt mixture; then add the lemon zest and vanilla extract.

Fold in the flour and the cornstarch in two or three batches, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. When you have no lumps, stop mixing.

Gently fold the egg whites into the flour mixture. Keep it light. (It’s a bit like flicking and swishing a wand, if you’re a lovable show-off like Hermione.)

Tip the mixture into the greased cake tin or mould and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Place it on a rack to cool. I would wait for another 15 to 20 minutes to remove it from the mould. Serve after sprinkling it with the icing sugar.

Enjoy! R xx

(This recipe is adapted from Nigellissima, Chatto & Windus, London, 2012.)