Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

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This recipe was one from my mother’s repertoire, and the page it’s written on in my recipe book is the dirtiest page in the whole book.  It shares the page with the Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding… and between the two the cocoa smudged pages are a testament to how popular both these recipes are.  This is a great chocolate cake for everyone.  It’s not heavy like a mudcake, and it also doesn’t have a ‘dark chocolate’ richness.  It’s more a classic milk chocolate cake perfect to staisfy those ‘everyday’ chocolate cake cravings.

I iced the cake with a delicious and luxurious buttercream frosting with philadelphia cream cheese, sour cream, and rich dark chocolate.  I tried to give the cake an Autumn feel on the top of the cake by decorating it with simple chocolate sugar cookies which were sprinkled with Matcha Tea and coloured petal dusts.

*My mother’s recipe doesn’t use cocoa, but I usually add about 30g which is 1/4 Cup.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

  • 125ml warm water
  • 230g sour cream (1 Cup)
  • 100g caster sugar (1/2 Cup)
  • 100g dark brown sugar  (1/2 Cup)
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 90g dark chocolate (chopped)
  • 125g butter
  • 1  1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 250g plain flour (2 Cups)
  • *30g cocoa (not in original recipe)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  1. Butter and line a 9″ (23cm) cake tin. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  2. Place chocolate and water in a glass bowl and melt together in a microwave oven, then stir in the sour cream.  Mix by hand until well combined.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until combined.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. Add sifted dry ingredients alternatively with the chocolate and cream mixture.
  6. Pour mixture into prepared cake tin, and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until an inserted cake skewer comes out clean.
  7. Remove cake from tin and allow to cool completely before icing with Chocolate Frosting.

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Luxurious Chocolate Frosting

  • 280g Icing Sugar  (confectioners sugar)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 170g cream cheese
  • 170g butter, room temperature
  • pinch salt
  • 255g dark chocolate, melted
  • 170g sour cream
  1. In an electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Sift together sugar, cocoa and salt.  Add gradually to butter and cream cheese and beat until combined.
  3. With beaters on medium speed, pour in melted chocolate.
  4. Add sour cream, beating until smooth and well combined.
  5. This may need to be refrigerated a little if making this in the summer and you wish to use it with a piping bag.

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TORTA DI CIOCCOLATO CON LA PANNA ACIDA

Questa ricetta me l’ha tramandata mia madre, e la pagina dove è scritta, nel mio libro di ricette, è la pagina più sporca in tutto il libro… Nella stessa pagina c’è un’altra ricetta cioccolatosa, e sopra le pagine il cacao sbavato è la testimonianza di quanto sia stata seguita questa ricetta. Questa è una torta al cioccolato per tutti. Non è pesante come un mudcake, e inoltre non ha un sapore pesante di ‘cioccolato fondente’. E’ perfetta per soddisfare la “vera” voglia di torta al cioccolato, o per qualsiasi merenda!
Ho glassata la torta con un deliziosa e lussuriosa glassa al burro di formaggio spalmabile ‘philadelphia’, panna acida e cioccolato fondente. Ho cercato di dare alla torta un tocco di  autunno decorandola con semplici biscotti di zucchero al cioccolato che sono stati cosparsi di Thè Matcha e polveri colorante che uso normalmente quando coloro i petali dei fiori di gumpaste.
* La ricetta di mia madre non fa uso di cacao, ma io di solito ne aggiungo circa 30g.

  • 125ml di acqua calda
  • 250ml panna acida
  • 100g di zucchero semolato
  • 90g di zucchero Muscovado
  • 1 cucchiaino di bicarbonato di soda
  • 1 / 2 cucchiaino di lievito in polvere
  • 90g di cioccolato fondente + 30g di cacao amaro*
  • 125g di burro
  • 220g di farina ’00’
  • 3 uova
  • 2 cucchiaini di estratto di vaniglia
  • pizzico di sale

 

  1. Preparare uno stampo di diametro 22cm e preriscaldare il forno a 180°C
  2. Sciogliere il cioccolato nel acqua (io lo faccio nel microonde).  Aggiungere la panna acida e mescolare a mano finchè il composto non è liscio e omogeneo.
  3. Nella planetaria, mescolare insieme il burro e gli zuccheri.
  4. Aggiungere le uova una alla volta, poi aggiungere la vaniglia
  5. Setacciare la farina insieme al sale, il cacao, bicarbonato di soda e il lievito e aggiungere tutto nella planetaria in due parti,  alternando con la miscela di cioccolato.
  6. Versare tutto dentro un stampo di diam 22cm e cuocere nel forno per 1 ora e 15min e togliere la torta dal forno quando, dopo averlo inserito, lo stecchino esce pulito e asciutto.

FROSTING AL CIOCCOLATO

  • 280g zucchero a velo
  • 30g cacao
  • 170g formaggio spalmabile (Philadelphia)
  • 170g burro, temperatura ambiente
  • pizzico di sale
  • 255g cioccolato fondente, sciolto
  • 170g panna acida

 

  1. In una planetaria, mescolare il burro e il formaggio spalmabile fino a che non sono bene amalgamati.
  2. Setacciare insieme lo zucchero, il cacao e il sale. Aggiungere lentamente al burro e formaggio e mescolare tutto bene.
  3. Con la planetaria a velocità media, aggiungere il cioccolato sciolto.
  4. Aggiungere la panna acida, continuando con la planetaria per ottenere una glassa liscia e omogeneo.
  5. Potrebbe essere necessario di refrigerare il composto se lavorate in estate e si desidera di utilizzarlo con la sac a poche.

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Rocket, Pecorino & Walnut Salad

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Offer some people a salad and many would think of a boring bowl of lettuce to be eaten as a side dish or a sign you’re on a diet.  A salad doesn’t have to be boring and the word salad for me covers  a myriad of ingredient combinations.  I love a big bowl of salad deliciousness and this recipe is one of my favourites especially during summer. Eat it alone, or serve it as a side dish with grilled chicken breasts or at your next BBQ.   Eaten in ‘moderation’, this can be included in any healthy eating plan….. depends what your idea of moderation is though!

Rocket, Pecorino & Walnut Salad

I try to have equal doses of all ingredients, especially equal amounts of the rocket and mint.  For the remaining ingredients, adjust as you please.

  • Rucola – Rocket  (rinsed well and dried)
  • Fresh Mint
  • Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Sultanas
  • Walnuts
  • Nectarine
  • 1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamic Syrup

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  1. Chop rocket and mint roughly.
  2. Cut Pecorino and nectarine in same size cubes
  3. Chop walnuts roughly
  4. Add all ingredients into a large bowl, and dress with Olive Oil and Balsamic just prior to serving, and eat immediately.

*I love to substitute the nectarine with pears or Granny Smith apples in winter but you could also use strawberries or peach.

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Spaghetti Carbonara

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When I mentioned recently that I needed to add some more savoury recipes to my blog, I thought I’d start by adding a new ‘pasta’ category.  Rome boasts some pretty amazing traditional pasta dishes, so why not start with a recipe that is part of the Royal Family of pasta dishes – Carbonara!  Apparently it was brought to Lazio from Umbria by coal men (carbonari), who came to sell charcoal to the Romans.  

For many years I was making this recipe all wrong.  While you will often hear me rave about my mother’s cooking and her wonderful recipes, I am sorry to say that her Carbonara recipe wasn’t at all traditional.  It was good (we loved it)… but it would make any Roman screw up his nose when presented with the list of ingredients.  Since I moved to Rome three years ago, I’ve been perfecting my Carbonara.  I often ask chefs, cooks, nonnas, friends (just about everyone actually) how they make their Carbonara, and everyone has their own way that they insist is the best. Some use just Pecorino Romano, some just Parmigiano, others a mixture of the two.  Some use whole eggs, some use just the yolks… etc etc…   I’ve got to the point now though, that I’d be happy to serve up a bowl of my Carbonara to any Roman without breaking out in a sweat and having an anxiety attack … and I can also say that it’ll leave you wanting to lick the bowl and break out singing, “That’s Amore”!

I have used ‘Spaghettoni’ which is a thick spaghetti.  The Spaghettoni I used is  ‘Benedetto Cavalieri’.  I suggest you read about the company on the website, as their story is one of family traditions passed on through the generations since 1918.   It is an important pasta which makes this pasta dish anything but ordinary.  It costs more than your average pasta but it’s worth paying extra to take your recipes to whole new  professional dimension.   Don’t be fooled by a small looking portion as this pasta goes a long way. 

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You can use short pasta to make Carbonara too, but Spaghetti will always be my first choice.  Please try to find some good quality Guanciale (an Italian cured meat made from pork cheeks) or Pancetta…. although failing that (if you really can’t find any),  substitute with good quality bacon.

Spaghetti Carbonara

(for 2 generous portions)

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  • 250g Spaghettoni di Benedetto Cavalieri (Durum Wheat Semolina Pasta)
  • 200g Guanciale
  • 1 egg + 2 egg yolks
  • 50g freshly & finely grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 200g freshly & finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
  • Black Pepper (choose a good quality Black Pepper) freshly cracked.
  • salt

 

 

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil, add salt and cook pasta respecting cooking times written on the packet, cooking pasta until it is ‘al dente’.
  2. Remove the thick skin from the Guanciale, and cut into cubes.  Add to a large frying pan and fry until it is crisp and golden. Turn off heat.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat egg and yolks with the grated chesses and a generous dose of cracked black pepper. It won’t be liquid, more like a egg and cheese paste.
  4. Drain pasta when ready, and add to the fry pan with the guanciale and the fat that has come from it during the cooking process, and stir well.
  5. Pour spaghetti back into large saucepan, and away from the heat add egg and cheese mixture and stir energetically.  The heat from the pasta will cook the egg, and the cheese and egg mixture should become a luxurious and creamy coating for your pasta.  *DO NOT stir in egg mix with saucepan over the heat otherwise it will result in a very ugly scrambled egg pasta.
  6. Serve immeditaly with a sprinkle of freshly grated pecorino, and a little extra cracked black pepper.

BUON APPETITO!

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Peach & Blackberry Pie

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I’m still waiting for some cooler September temperatures to arrive to Rome, but in the meantime I may as well enjoy the summer fruits that are still available at my local market. The peaches yesterday were stunning and I couldn’t help myself, so I bought a dozen!  Once home though I thought maybe I’d bought too many and was worried they’d over-ripen before we managed to eat them all. I then decided to make another comfort food favourite, and make a deep dish peach pie. I added some blackberries to add some tartness to the flavour.  I prepared too many peaches for the size of this pie, but that was OK because I used them to make a crumble!

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Peach & Blackberry Pie

PASTRY

  • 250-300g plain flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 125g butter (chilled, cut into cubes)
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

FILLING

  • 6 large ripe peaches
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 130g white sugar
  • 50g packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 punnet of blackberries
  • Pinch salt
  • 30g butter
  • 60ml milk (for brushing pastry)
  1. In a medium bowl, add 250g sifted flour, sugar and salt. Using your fingers rub in the butter until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add egg and egg yolk, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Mix well and knead until well combined. Add extra 50g flour if dough is sticky. Wrap in plastic kitchen wrap and refrigerate for at least 30min before using.  (I doubled the recipe).
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to line the inside of a pie tin or dish, diameter 22cm. Ease dough against the sides and the bottom.  Trim the edge allowing about 1cm hanging over rim. Bake in oven at 180°C  for about 20min or until pie crust is golden. peach1
  3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Score peaches lightly underneath with an ‘X’.  Add the peaches to the boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and run under cold water.  Peel peaches and cut into 12 wedges and then cut them in half across the middle, and place in a large bowl.
  4. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest. (Set aside 1 tablespoon of white sugar).  In a small bowl, combine remaining white sugar, brown sugar, cornflour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Stir well, and add to peaches.  Stir quickly and gently until peaches are covered.  Put peaches into a colander over a saucepan or bowl.  This is important to drain excess juices, and ensure that the bottom pie crust remains crunchy after pie has baked. (Save juice).  Leave peaches sitting for about 20min and then place into pre-baked pie shell. Arrange blackberries on top of peaches. s
  5. Prepare pastry for the top of the pie as you wish.  You can cover the pie with one disc, piercing pastry with a knife to allow air to escape. I covered mine with two pastry layers.  Firstly, I cut wide strips and laid them onto the peaches vertically & horizontally weaving each strip under and over the previous pastry strip.  Press strips onto the bottom crust. Brush milk over the pastry, sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  6. Bake pie in oven at 180°C for 20-30minutes.  Remove from oven and cover pastry rim with foil, return pie to oven and continue baking for another 35min, or until pastry top is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool.
  7. With remaining pastry, roll out and cut out leaf & flower shapes using plunger cutters utilised for cake decorating.  Bake as you would sugar cookies,  being careful not to burn them. Present your pie with the shapes arranged creatively on top. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with a generous scoop of good quality vanilla gelato!

** You can heat the juice drained from peaches.  Stir, bringing to boil, allow to thicken and serve over a slice of pie.

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Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Nothing screams comfort food more than a chewy, chunky chocolate chip cookie, obviously enjoyed with an icy cold glass of milk. I have made two versions, one with dark chocolate and walnuts, and the other with white chocolate and Brazil nuts.  I had planned on making the white chocolate cookies with macadamia nuts, but the food store next to me that always sells them obviously didn’t have them when I finally decided I needed them. Brazil nuts are a great substitute though and very similar to a macadamia nuts.  The great thing though about this recipe is once you’ve made the cookie dough, you can add whatever chocolate, nuts, or dried fruit you wish to personalise your cookie to your desired taste! Although I call these ‘chocolate chip’, I prefer to roughly chop good quality chocolate instead of using chocolate chips. You can even diversify the flavour of your cookies depending on the chocolate you buy.

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I made two batches of cookies, but I didn’t use all the cookie dough.  I have the remaining dough rolled up in baking paper and plastic kitchen wrap.  You can either keep this in the fridge, or you can freeze it, labelled and dated.   When someone wants cookies, you just have to unroll the cookie dough and cut off the amount of individual cookies you wish to bake.  This makes for an easy and convenient afternoon tea or after school snack , cookies straight from the oven with a glass of milk!  Italians would enjoy these for breakfast dunked into their morning coffee.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 200g butter (room temperature)
  • 150g brown sugar (I used muscovado)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g chocolate (chopped roughly)
  • 100g nuts (chopped roughly)

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  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, sugars and vanilla extract until mixture is creamy and fluffy. (2 – 3 minutes).
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. On low speed, add sifted dry ingredients until blended.
  6. Stir in chocolate and nuts.
  7. Using a teaspoon, add cookie dough at least 5cm apart onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  8. Bake for 11-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a cake/cookie rack.  Store in an air-tight container.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies  –  COOKIE AMERICANI

Niente è più ‘comfort food’ più di un grosso biscotto al cioccolato e noci, ovviamente da gustare con un bicchiere di latte freddo. Ho fatto due versioni, una con cioccolato fondente e noci e l’altra con il cioccolato bianco e noci del Brasile. Avevo in programma di fare i biscotti al cioccolato bianco con noci di macadamia, ma il negozio di alimentari vicino a me che le vende sempre, ovviamente, non le aveva nel momento del bisogno! Le noci del Brasile sono un ottimo sostituto, e sono molto simile alle noci di macadamia. La cosa buona, però, di questa ricetta è che una volta che hai preparato l’impasto per i biscotti è possibile aggiungere qualsiasi cioccolato, noci, frutta secca o altro per personalizzare il cookie al vostro gusto preferito! Preferisco tagliare grossolanamente cioccolato di buona qualità invece di utilizzare gocce di cioccolato. È anche possibile diversificare il sapore dei tuoi cookie a seconda del cioccolato che si acquista.

Ho fatto due dosi di biscotti, ma non ho usato tutto l’impasto. Con quello che è rimasto, utilizzo una tecnica divulgata da Martha Stewart.  Arrotolo l’impasto non cucinato in carta e pellicola . È possibile mantenerlo in frigo, oppure si può congelare, etichettato e datato. (vedi foto)  Quando qualcuno vuole i cookie, basta srotolare la pasta biscotto e tagliare la quantità di singoli cookie che si desidera cuocere. Questo rende la vita facile e conveniente per una veloce merenda nel pomeriggio, o quando i figli tornano da scuola affamati.  Mangiate una (o due) cookie direttamente caldi dal forno, con un bicchiere di latte oppure per la prima colazione inzuppati nel caffè del mattino.

 

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (polvere lievitante)
  • 300g farina ’00’
  • 1/2 cucchiaino di sale
  • 200g burro – temperatura ambiente
  • 150g zucchero muscovado
  • 100g zucchero semolato
  • 1 cucchiao estratto di vaniglia  vanilla extract
  • 2 uova
  • 200g cioccolato (fondente, latte o bianco) tagliate grossolanamente
  • 100g noci (tagliate grossolanamente)
  1. Preriscaldare il forno 180°C.
  2. Settacciare farina, baking powder e sale in una ciotola grande.
  3. Nella planetaria, mescolare il burro, gli zuccheri e l’estratto di vaniglia, finchè la miscela è cremosa (2 -3 minuti).
  4. Aggiungere le uova, una alla volta mescolando bene dopo ogni addizione.
  5. Con la planetaria a velocità bassa, aggiungere la farina, baking powder e sale.
  6. Aggiungere il cioccolato e le noci.
  7. Utilizzando un cucchiaino, ponete l’impasto per i cookie ‘cookie dough’ su una teglia da forno (con la carta da forno) ad una distanza di almeno 5cm tra di loro.
  8. Cuocere per 11-12 minuti, o finchè non sono dorati.  Lasciare i biscotti raffreddare completamente prima di chiuderli in un contenitore a chiusura ermetica.

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New Easy Access to Recipes!

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It’s been a little crazy busy since we came back from holidaying at Terracina, and I apologise that I am not posting a recipe today.  I am happy to say though, that I have finally organised the recipes that I’ve posted in alphabetical order in two new pages added to the blog.  At the top of the page you will see List of recipes in the Savoury Kitchen and List of recipes in the Sweet Kitchen .  This provides a quick list of contents to see more easily what recipes I have actually posted since I started my blog.  Each recipe is linked to it’s page, so once you find the recipe you are interested in, all you have to do is click directly on it and the page will open up. The difference in the number of sweet recipes as opposed to savoury is obvious, so I’ll try to balance that up a bit over the next few months paying attention to some of my favourite savoury dishes.   Please let me know if this is helpful.

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This week I also spent a couple of days in Versilia with Annabella & Joseph, we went to the beach.  I took Annabella out for a sushi dinner, and we watched Joseph during his Jujitsu class.  Versilia was beautiful, quiet and ’empty’ as the majority of holiday goers having already left..  If you’ve ever been to Forte dei Marmi or Pietrasanta in August you will know what I mean about just how chaotic it can be in summer, and the difference once the ‘season’ starts winding down is enormous.  It meant I was able to find a carpark easily, have a wander around and enjoy morning cappuccino’s at my old regular & favourite haunts.

I came back to Rome Thursday evening, and there was only time to drop my suitcase inside the door and then Alberto dragged me out the door and straight into the Piazza del Popolo.  There was a free concert hosted by Radio Capital to celebrate their 20th birthday and we danced away to Chic featuring Nile Rodgers.  Such a special location to listen to some of the most important musical hits from the days when we were a little bit ‘younger’.

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Just a few people out In Piazza del Popolo!

Spaghetti alle Vongole

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I love pasta, and one of my favourite pasta dishes that I find hard to refuse if it’s on the menu is Spaghetti alle Vongole, which is a traditional dish from Napoli!  I will often judge a restaurant on the basis of how good their spaghetti alle vongole is.   I usually only make it though when we are at the beach every summer and our friendly fish monger from Terracina hand selects each vongole for me.  Yes, he really does that for me!  I was just thinking though that as this dish is so quick and easy to make, I really should make it more often throughout the year although I suppose I associate it with summer.  The addition of tomato is a personal choice which many purists say shouldn’t be included.  I used only 5 little cherry tomatoes chopped very finely, but if you have some homemade pasta sauce in the house, I suggest you use just one tablespoon of that instead.

Spaghetti alle Vongole (quantity for 2 portions)

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  • 500g vongole (clams)
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped finely)
  • 2 -3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 60ml (generous splash) white wine
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh red chilli
  • 1 tablespoon of homemade tomato pasta sauce (optional)
  • 250g spaghetti
  1. The most important thing about cooking clams is to ensure they have ‘purged’ themselves of any sand that may be inside their shell. When we buy our clams, they are sold in a bag of filtered seawater, and I usually leave them inside there until I’m ready to use them.  While I prefer to buy clams the day I intend to cook them, if you do buy them the day before, you can store them in the fridge.  Wrap them in a damp tea-towel, and put them in a bowl for the night.  Save the water they came in though and let them sit in it again one last time as you are preparing ingredients etc. for the recipe.  Throw away any clams that have a broken shell. Wash them under running water before you put them into the pan.
  2. For the spaghetti, bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil.
  3. Using a large, deep frying pan, add a splash of olive oil (about 3-4 tablespoons), garlic, and chilli pepper.  Cook gently on a medium low heat to flavour the Olive Oil, and avoid burning the garlic.
  4. Add the clams to the frying pan and cover.  Increase flame to high and cook until they open… about 5 minutes, depending on size of the clams. Remove from the heat immediately to avoid overcooking the delicate meat of the clams. Using tongs, remove clams from the frying pan, leaving juices behind.  (Discard any clams that haven’t opened).
  5. Add spaghetti to boiling water and set timer for half of required cooking time.
  6. Bring juices from clams to the boil, add the tablespoon of pasta sauce, half the amount of parsley and a generous splash of white wine.  Combine well.
  7. Add the pasta when the timer goes off, conserving about a cup of the pasta water.  The rest of the cooking time for the pasta will be completed in the frying pan with the juices.
  8. Cook on high to cook the pasta but also to reduce juices to a ‘creamy’ sauce that will lightly coat the spaghetti. (The ‘creaminess’ comes from the starch in the pasta). If it becomes dry, add a small amount of pasta water, a little at a time (like adding stock when you make risotto), until the spaghetti is cooked.
  9. Toss through clams and remaining freshly chopped parsley.
  10. Serve immediately with some thick slices of Italian bread, heated and toasty from the oven. Bread is essential to mop up any remaining juices on your plate, to ‘fare la scarpetta’ as they say in Italy.

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Schiacciata con l’uva

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If you have visited Florence or the Chianti area of Tuscany in Autumn, you may have seen ‘Schiacciata con l’uva’ in the local bakeries – and if you were clever, you would have bought some and eaten it without sharing. The word ‘schiacciata’ usually refers to a flat focaccia bread and ‘uva’ are grapes. IMG_0038  Schiacciata con l’Uva is a wine-grape bread and is a traditionally made in Tuscany during the Autumn Vendemmia – when the grapes are being harvested.  

Although sweet, it’s not really cake, so imagine a thin Italian focaccia bread minus the salt then add black wine grapes, sugar and sometimes also fresh rosemary.   I was reminded of it recently when my friend Alice Kiandra Adams from Rustica Retro posted a picture on Instagram and as we had two large punnets of my favourite grapes in the house, I decided it was a sign and thus a little research began.  I first contacted my twin sister Lisa, because I remember a few years ago that she had written a blog post on Schiacciata con l’uva, and also posted a video of her making it on YouTube in 2010.   Lisa’s blog is no more, but luckily for me she did give me her recipe.  Lisa lives in Florence, and although I lived in Tuscany for 15 years I considered her more expert than me especially considering she’d already made the recipe.  (Not so much now though LOL).

I used a variety of black wine grapes that are called ‘uva fragola’ in Italy.  They are small black grapes and as you put them in your mouth, the skin pops open and the sweetest, most delicious pulp jumps into your mouth.  They do have pips though, so when I made this a second time (because not in love with my first attempt I made it again two days later), I cut the grapes in half and removed the pip from them all.  A little tedious, but a good job to do while waiting for the dough to rise and well worth it to avoid spitting out pips later on.  For my first attempt I used a double layer of dough and grapes (as per the recipe), but I then decided I would prefer a thinner version, and so for the second attempt I made one layer.  I also recommend to bake this on your flat oven tray and not worry about confining it into a cake tin, otherwise it really will resemble more a cake and less a schiacciata – Yummy nonetheless! Anyway, I have included photos from both attempts… I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you prefer your ‘Schiacciata con l’uva’.

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Schiacciata con l’uva

  • 400g Plain Flour
  • 21g dry yeast (brewer’s yeast)
  • 250ml warm water
  • 250g sugar (you may not use it all)
  • 1 kg black wine grapes (seedless if you can)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh Rosemary, chopped roughly (optional)

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  1. Place flour into a bowl, add yeast, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt, olive oil and about half the water.  Knead, adding water as required until dough is compact  and comes away from the edges of the bowl. Remove from bowl and continue kneading on a lightly floured board for 5-10 minutes until dough is smooth. Place into a bowl lightly greased with olive oil and cover with a clean tea-towel.  Allow it to rise for at least 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile wash grapes and remove pips if necessary. (You can cut grapes in half, and although this is a personal choice, you will see in the pictures where I did… and where the grapes were left whole.)
  3. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  4. Roll a piece of dough on top of baking paper to achieve a rectangle shape that will fir on the baking tray. Lift dough onto tray leaving baking paper underneath.
  5. Scatter grapes over dough (see photo), and cover generously with tablespoons of sugar. (Some people choose to add red wine at this stage and splash it over the grapes, but I don’t feel it necessary with this variety of grapes).
  6. Sprinkle olive oil and rosemary on top of the grapes and using a pastry brush ensure the border is also coated with olive oil.  *For a single layer the Schiacciata can go into the oven now for about 15-20min, until edges are golden. 7.jpg
  7. The traditional recipe requires you to repeat this procedure.  Roll out another piece of dough and place it over the grapes. Press down lightly so that you can hear the grapes popping a little under your hands.  Add more grapes on top, then once again cover with sugar and rosemary and sprinkle with olive oil. Use pastry brush to brush border with olive oil.
  8. Place in oven for about 25 minutes, until schiacciata is golden.

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Panzanella

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We are still at the beach and I’ve noticed that every day we have a lot of bread left over.  I hate throwing it away, and so I decided to make a very easy, ‘poor man’s dish’ that I discovered years ago when I started living in Tuscany.  Panzanella is basically a summer salad.  My kids love it and begged me to make it more than once over the last week.  It requires few ingredients, and those it does require are items that always seem to be present in the house, especially during summer.  The best bread to use though to make this recipe truly authentic is a rustic and crusty Italian loaf, best if it’s a little stale too!  Make sure your tomatoes are lovely, red, ripe and full of flavour.

Eat it on it’s own, or as a perfect side dish during summer BBQ’s.

Panzanella

  • 5 thick slices of Tuscan bread
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • cherry tomatoes or 4-5 large ripe tomatoes
  • 8 – 10 large basil leaves (torn into pieces by hand)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 250ml water
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  1. Place the chopped onion in a bowl and add water with 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar. (Ideally this should be left for a couple of hours, but I’m rarely that organised).
  2. Chop tomatoes and add them to a bowl with a generous splash of olive oil and salt to taste. Leave this at least 30min to allow the tomato juices to be released.
  3. Slice bread into squares, and place in large bowl. (Many recipes say to remove the crusts, but I like to leave them on, and have some ‘bite’ to the salad.)
  4. Using a tablespoon, sprinkle the water and vinegar from the onions over the bread until bread is wet. All liquid should be absorbed by the bread.  (The bread should be wet, but not sitting in liquid.)
  5. Remove onions from water/vinegar mixture and add to bread. Add tomatoes, cucumber, basil and stir through well.
  6. Add extra olive oil as desired, and salt and black pepper to taste.

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* Although not traditional Panzanella, you could add cannelini beans and tuna if you want to make it more interesting.

 

Jam Doughnuts

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When I think of Jam Doughnuts, I think of sitting around the kitchen table straight after school with my sister and brothers waiting for these to come out of the oven.  My mother didn’t make them, she would buy them from the local bakery and then heat them up for us.  Making these brought back those happy memories.  Inhaling the aromas with my eyes closed took me back to our kitchen in ‘The Crest’, Frankston.  I then tasted one, and when I opened my eyes I almost hoped to see my mother standing there…. well,  I can dream…

I hope you try to make these.  You can’t rush this recipe, the yeast requires time to do what it does best, but if you follow the recipe you shouldn’t have any trouble making them.  The only problem I had was while I was cooking them.  My oil became a little too hot, so a couple cooked too quickly on the outside, they didn’t puff up as they should, and they were a little raw inside. I lowered the heat, and waited a little before I continued to finish them. 

Once they had finished their obligatory photo shoot, these jam doughnuts ended up being devoured by the kids at the beach…. after I’d removed one for myself of course!

Jam Doughnuts

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  • 490g  plain flour
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons dried yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 250ml milk
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 3 egg yolks
  • oil, to deep-fry
  • Raspberry or Strawberry jam
  • sugar (to dust)
  1. In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, yeast and salt and mix well.
  2. Melt butter, heat milk until warm  (make sure it isn’t too hot) and lightly beat egg yolks. Make a well in flour mixture and mix in milk, butter & egg yolks.
  3. Stir until combined.  Dough will be sticky.  Add some flour to your hands, and turn dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Knead until smooth.
  4. Place dough into a greased bowl, and cover for 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Knead dough again on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes and dough is again smooth. Roll out dough until 1cm thick, and rest for 2 minutes.

  6. Use a 7cm round cutter to cut out discs, (kneading left over dough, rolling out and repeating). You should achieve 12 – 16. Set aside for 30 minutes to prove on baking paper.

  7. Prepare oil for frying, a plate covered in paper towel and a bowl or plate with sugar.  Spoon jam of choice into a piping bag fitted with a small 5mm nozzle.
  8. Deep-fry each disc for 1-2 minutes each side or until golden and puffed. Place on the plate lined with paper towel, then quickly toss into the sugar. Using the piping bag,  push the nozzle into the side of the doughnuts and pipe in jam.

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