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Perfect Roast Potatoes

Perfect Roast Potatoes

Nothing makes my heart (and belly) sing more than a perfect roast potato. Crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside with a light sprinkling of good quality salt flakes, these definitely belong to the Royal Family of ‘comfort foods’.   It’s not really hard to achieve […]

Coda alla Vaccinara – Roman Oxtail Stew

Coda alla Vaccinara – Roman Oxtail Stew

While you may have had Oxtail Stew before, if you haven’t tried this classic Roman recipe you really are missing out.  I love slow cooked meats and this is one recipe that is well worth the wait.  You will either buy beef or veal ‘tails’, and the butcher will cut […]

Brutti ma Buoni

Brutti ma Buoni

 

Brutti ma Buoni are a chewy and crunchy biscuit or ‘cookie’, consisting basically of meringue and hazlenuts.  Their origin is from Gavirate (province of Varese) in Lombardia, dating back to 1878.  Their name comes from the way they look, and it literally translates to ‘Ugly but Good’.  You will actually find these in bakeries throughout Italy and often Brutti ma Buoni are their best sellers!  There is actually no precise form to these, and you will see they vary a little in appearance from bakery to bakery.  They usually only have four ingredients, and to me are similar in consistency to a coconut macaroon, crunchy on the outside, chewy inside.  The main ingredient is egg white, and then hazlenuts are used, sometimes also with almonds.  Although the recipe is easy, if you don’t have enough nuts in proportion to the egg whites, your ‘brutti ma buoni’ won’t be little mountains but will resemble flat pancakes. (Trust me, I speak from experience)! 

Some recipes ask you to stir the egg white and nuts on a low heat before spooning the mixture onto a baking tray and putting them in the oven.  I find it easier to make a sugar syrup and ‘cook’ the egg whites by adding the sugar syrup to the egg whites while they are being whisked to form stiff peaks.  These are quite addictive, and as the Italians say, ‘una tira l’altro’ – one leads to another!

 

Brutti ma Buoni

  • 180g egg whites (about 5 egg whites)
  • 70ml water
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 600g hazlenuts, lightly toasted (or half hazlenuts, half almonds)

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, and spread the hazelnuts on a  baking sheet and toast for about 12 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and the skins blister.  Put aside and allow to cool.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the hazlenuts until they are roughly chopped.  You don’t want them finely ground.
  3. Add the water and caster sugar to a small saucepan, and bring to a boil, to form a sugar syrup.
  4. Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, begin whisking the egg whites until they form stiff, foamy peaks.  With the mixer on, slowly add the sugar syrup to the mixture in a steady stream.
  5. Add the icing sugar and continue mixing until the eggs are white and glossy.
  6. Use a spatula and gently fold the hazlenuts into the meringue.
  7. Line a baking tray with baking paper and either spoon mounds of the mixture onto the tray or use a piping bag.
  8. Bake at 150°C for about 35 minutes or until they are lightly golden.  (Watch the first batch carefully to regulate cooking times as ovens vary from home to home.)
  9. Allow to cool a little before transferring them to a wire cake rack to cool completely. Keep in an air-tight container.

Brutti ma Buoni

  • 180g albume
  • 70ml acqua
  • 80g zucchero semolato
  • 250g zucchero a velo
  • 600g nocciole  (o metà nocciole e metà mandorle)
  1. Preriscaldare il forno a 200°C, e diffondere le nocciole su una teglia e fatele tostare per circa 12 minuti.  Mettere da parte e lasciarle raffreddare.
  2. In un robot da cucina, pulsare le nocciole finché non vengono tritati grossolanamente.
  3. Aggiungere l’acqua e lo zucchero semolato in una piccola pentola e portate ad ebollizione, in modo da formare uno sciroppo di zucchero.
  4. Utilizzando una planetaria dotata di una frusta, iniziare a montare a neve gli albumi.  Aggiungere lentamente lo sciroppo di zucchero alla miscela in un flusso costante.  Montate e poi incorporate lo zucchero a velo.  Continuate a montare fino a quando non otterrete una meringa soda, bianca e lucida.
  5. Utilizzando un mestolo,  delicatamente incorporare le nocciole nella meringa.
  6. Rivestite una teglia da forno di carta forno e disponetevi sopra delle palline irregolari di impasto aiutandovi con un cucchiaio, o utilizzare una sac a poche.
  7. Cuocere in forno a 150 ° C per circa 35 minuti o fino a quando sono leggermente dorate.  (Guarda i primi biscotti in forno con attenzione per regolare il tempo di cottura, perchè i forni variano da casa a casa.)
  8. Sfornateli e lasciateli raffreddare.

 

 

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

If you love Chocolate Mousse, but feel guilty consuming loads of cream, you will love this less guilt-ridden version.  It isn’t low calorie, and avocados are high in fat, but they are not high in saturated fat. Instead providing a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat, which […]

Budini di Riso

Budini di Riso

These delicious rice pudding tarts, known as ‘Budini di Riso’ are a traditional Tuscan pastry and are usually eaten for breakfast. (Budini is plural, you may see them named Budino di Riso).   They can be found in most bars, (and by ‘bar’ I mean ‘cafe’) in Tuscany and […]

Eggs Benedict – Italian Style!

Eggs Benedict – Italian Style!

I love eggs for breakfast, and if I’m out, there is one dish I will always choose for a satisfying breakfast and that’s Eggs Benedict.  I would usually have this as ‘Brunch’, because I would rarely want lunch after a plate of these.  So, let’s agree that it’s a decadent brunch option.  Eggs Benedict is actually a traditional American breakfast or brunch dish that consists of two halves of an English muffin, each topped with bacon, a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.   I sadly can’t get English muffins here, and I did contemplate making them, but once I dismissed that idea I decided I could still make a version of Eggs Benedict, but make it and Italian version. As long as there is a poached egg and hollandaise sauce… I’m happy.  Many serve Eggs Benedict with baby spinach, but I thought I’d add a favourite vegetable that I discovered living in Italy and that’s agretti.  Agretti in English is Salsola soda and if you’d like to know exactly what it is you can read about it here.  I have allowed one egg per person, but obviously you can add another!   Timing is important when it comes to making eggs benedict… just make sure you know exactly what you’re going to do and in what order before you start, and you’ll find that in little time, you’ll be presenting a restaurant worthy breakfast that will definitely impress whoever the lucky recipient is… even if that’s yourself!

Eggs Benedict Italian Style –  recipe for two people

  • 2 eggs (as fresh as possible)
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • Italian focaccia, pizza bianca or rustic Tuscan bread
  • 100g cooked agretti or baby spinach
  • olive oil
  • 4 slices prosciutto crudo or bacon
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, (to taste)
  • 140g melted unsalted butter
  • Maldon salt flakes

 

  1. If you are using bacon, cook it first and let rest on kitchen paper to absorb excess fat.  If using prosciutto crudo, use it as is.
  2. Boil water in a small saucpean, add a little salt and boil agretti for 5 minutes. Remove, add a teaspoon of olive oil, stir and put aside.
  3. Bring a large saucepan two-thirds-filled with water to a boil, then add the vinegar.  Bring the water to a boil again, then lower the heat to a bare simmer.
  4. Put focaccia, pizza bianca or crusty bread slices in the oven at 180°C or put under the grill. Pay attention it doesn’t burn.
  5. While you can make hollandaise sauce a bain marie and whisk it by hand, I find it much easier to to make it in a blender. Melt butter.  Put 3 egg yolks,  lemon juice, and salt in a blender,  blend on medium to medium high speed for about 30 seconds, until eggs lighten in color.   Turn blender down to lowest setting and slowly pour in the hot melted butter, while continuing to blend.  Add more salt or lemon juice to taste if necessary.
  6. To poach the eggs, break the eggs into a small bowl, one at a time.   Make sure water is just at a very light simmer, and with a spoon, stir the water to create a ‘whirlpool’.  Gently drop the egg into the centre and allow to cook.  (You can pour more eggs in, one at a time, although I honestly like to do them one at a time.) To achieve a soft poached egg, it should take between 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the size of the egg.  When ready, remove gently with a slotted spoon and allow to rest on a clean tea towell or kitchen paper.
  7. Assemble your Eggs Benedict. Place toasted bread on plate.  Add agretti or spinach, top with prosciutto and then gently lay the poached egg on top.  Spoon a generous dollop of hollandaise sauce on top, crack some black pepper on top and sprinkle with Maldon salt flakes.  You could also garnish with freshly chopped chives if you like.
  8. Eat as soon as possible!

    Uova alla Benedict

  • 2 uova (il più fresco possibile)
  • 2 cucchiaini di aceto bianco
  • focaccia, pizza bianca o il pane casalingo
  • 100g agretti o spinaci
  • olio d’oliva
  • 4 fette di prosciutto crudo
  • 3 tuorli d’uovo
  • 1 cucchiaio di succo di limone
  • 1/2 cucchiaino di sale, (a piacere)
  • 140g di burro fuso salato
  • scaglie di sale Maldon
  1. Far bollire l’acqua in una piccola pentola, aggiungere un po’ di sale e far bollire per 5 minuti gli agretti. Scolare, aggiungere un cucchiaino di olio d’oliva, mescolare e metterli da parte.
  2. Portare una grande pentola rimpieta per due terzi di acqua ad ebollizione, quindi aggiungere l’aceto. Portare l’acqua ad ebollizione ancora una volta, poi abbassare la fiamma e lasciare l’acqua a sobbillire lentamente.
  3. Mettere focaccia, pizza bianca o fette di pane in forno a 180 ° C o mettere sotto il grill. Prestare attenzione che non bruci.
  4. La salsa olandese può essere fatta a bagnomaria con una frusta a mano, ma trovo molto più facile utilizzare un frullatore. Fate sciogliere il burro. Mettere 3 tuorli d’uovo, succo di limone e il sale in un frullatore, frullare a media e medio alta velocità per circa 30 secondi, fino a quando il colore delle uova sarà più chiaro. Frullare a velocità più bassa e versare lentamente il burro fuso caldo, pur continuando a mescolare. Aggiungere più sale o succo di limone a piacere, se necessario.
  5. Per cuocere le uova in camicia, rompere le uova in una ciotola, una alla volta.  Porre l’acqua a sobbollire molto lentamente e con un cucchiaio mescolare l’acqua per creare un ‘vortice’.  Adaggiare delicatamente l’uovo in centro e lasciare cuocere. (È possibile versare più uova, anche se mi piace onestamente farne uno alla volta.) Per ottenere un uovo in camicia morbido servono tra 2 o 3 minuti, a seconda della dimensione dell’uovo. Quando si è pronti, rimuovere delicatamente con un mestolo forato e lasciare riposare su la carta da cucina.
  6. Per finire le Uova alla Benedict, mettere il pane tostato su un piatto.  Aggiungere gli agretti o spinaci, aggiungere il prosciutto e poi posare delicatamente l’uovo in camicia in cima.  Mettere una generosa cucchiaiata di salsa olandese in cima, un po ‘di pepe nero e cospargere con scaglie di sale Maldon. Si può anche guarnire con erba cipollina fresca tritata, se volete.
  7. Mangiare il più presto possibile!
Wholemeal Pancakes with Banana & Walnuts

Wholemeal Pancakes with Banana & Walnuts

Pancakes are always a favourite breakfast choice in my house, especially with my son Joseph.  It isn’t strange for him the request pancakes at any time of the day actually, and has a habit of requesting them late at night after dinner too.  Pancake batter […]

Sarde a Beccafico

Sarde a Beccafico

Although this recipe is traditionally made with sardines, I used fresh anchovies.  I visited my fish monger and he didn’t have sardines, but he had a beautiful tray of anchovies already cleaned & filetted… so I decided I’d just make the same recipe with a smaller fish.  The combination of ingredients in this dish are a marriage of wonderful flavours that I sincerely love.  Sarde a Beccafico is a recipe from Sicily, and I don’t think there’s anything that comes out of Sicily’s kitchen that I don’t love, savoury or sweet!  These can be eaten as an Appetiser, an accompaniment to a summer Aperitivo or as a Main Course.

Sarde a Beccafico

  • 500g fresh sardines (or anchovies)
  • 100g breadcrumbs (preferably homemade)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons currants
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • salt & pepper
  • Bay leaves
  • zest of 1 orange
  1. Clean fish carefully, remove scales and gently flatten the sardine skin side down. Starting at the head end, carefully lift up the backbone and pull it away from the fillet; discard the backbone. (Or ask your friendly fish monger to do this for you). It is traditional to leave the tails attached, but you can remove them if you prefer.
  2. Toast the breadcrumbs gently in a frying pan, stirring and moving them around the pan.  When they are golden, place breadcrumbs into a bowl.  Don’t just remove the frying pan from the heat, because the breadcrumbs will continue cooking and could burn.
  3. To the breadcrumbs, add the garlic, currants, pinenuts and a little olive oil. Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
  4. Lay your sardines flat (skin side down) and using a teaspoon, spoon a little of the breadcrumb mixture on top.  Starting at the head end, roll up the sardine and place it in a shallow baking dish, lightly oiled with olive oil.  The tails should be sticking up. (my anchovies were without tails). Alternate the rows of sardines with bay leaves and keep everything tight and snug to prevent the fish opening while in the oven.
  5. In a small bowl, add lemon juice, a little olive oil, salt, pepper and orange zest. Pour this evenly over the sardines.
  6. Place in a preheated oven at 180°C for 15 minutes.
  7. These are delicious eaten hot, luke warm, or even cold!

  • Like many recipes throughout Italy, even in a small province, or island like Sicily, recipes can vary depending where you live.  This is another recipe I found, which has a few more ingredients added to the filling.  The procedure is the same….. so… the choice is yours which sounds more appealing…
ingredients for 6 serves
  • 900g fresh sardines
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup currants, plumped in water
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 6 black olives, pitted and slivered
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 dozen bay leaves
The sugar is used with the lemon & orange juice poured over the sardines before they go into the oven.

ITALIANO: Sarde a Beccafico

Anche se questa ricetta è tradizionalmente fatta con le sarde, io ho usato alici.  Ho visitato il mio pescivendolo e non aveva le sarde ma aveva un bel vassoio di alici già puliti e sfilettati … quindi ho deciso che avrei comunque fatta la stessa ricetta, ma con un pesce più piccolo.  La combinazione di ingredienti di questo piatto sono un connubio di sapori meravigliosi che io sinceramente amo.  Sarde a Beccafico è una ricetta dalla Sicilia, e non credo che ci sia niente che esce dalla cucina Siciliana che io non amo, dolce o salato! Questi possono essere consumati come Antipasto, accompagnamento ad un Aperitivo estivo o come piatto principale.
  • 500g di sarde
  • 100g di pangrattato
  • 2 cucchiai di pinoli
  • 2 cucchiai di uvetta passolina
  • 1 spicchio di aglio, tritato
  • succo di 1 limone
  • olio extravergine di oliva
  • sale e pepe
  • foglie di alloro
  • scorza di arancia
  1. Pulite con pazienza le sarde, togliendo la lisca centrale e la testa. Apritele a libro. (Puoi anche chiedere il tuo pescevendolo di fare il lavoro di pulizia per te).
  2. Tostate il pangrattato in una padella mescolando con attenzione finchè non sarà dorato.  Togliete dalla padella altrimenti continua a tostare, e metterlo in una ciotola.
  3. Al pangrattato, aggiungere l’aglio, olio, i pinoli e l’uvetta (fatta rinvenire in acqua tiepida). Mescolare tutto finchè il composto sarà omogeneo.
  4. Distribuitene un cucchiaino su ogni sarda (dal lato interno) e arrotolatela su se stessa.  Disponete i rotolini di sarde in una teglia unta di olio altertnandoli con le foglie di alloro e stringendoli bene in modo che si sostengano tra loro.
  5. Spremete il succo di limone, e unite il sale, pepe, olio extravergine e la scorza di arancia. Bagnare le sarde, e infornate per 15 minuti a 180°C.  Si mangiano caldi o freddi.

Granita di Caffè

Granita di Caffè

I LOVE Coffee….. although once apon a time I would only drink tea.  The first time I had a good Italian coffee was the first time I visited Florence where my sister Lisa was living at the time, over 20 years ago.  We were at the […]