Tag Archives: Italian

Italian-Inspired Yogurt Pot Cake

Italian-inspired, this unassuming, delicately flavoured cake is, at first glance, quite plain. But the gentle combination of vanilla and lemon, the moistness of the sponge and the enticing sweetness combine to create something quite lovely and quite frankly, rather addictive! Its perfect partner is strong coffee, preferably espresso, with which it is transformed into a fabulous treat – the combination is simply fabulous! I’m going to take coffee breaks much more seriously now!!! (By the way, it’s called Yogurt Pot Cake because you are supposed to measure out the ingredients just using yogurt pots, but I couldn’t get on with that!)

Makes around 16 slices

What you need…

1 x 22cm savarin or ring tin, greased with rapeseed oil

3 eggs, separated

150g pot plain yogurt

250g caster sugar

150ml rapeseed oil

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Zest of ½ lemon, finely grated

175g plain flour

75g cornflour

Icing sugar, for dusting

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites to form firm peaks. Set aside.

Into your food processor, tip the egg yolks and yogurt. Whizz to mix together. Add the sugar and whizz until light and airy.

Whilst the processor is still whizzing, slowly pour in the oil. Then, add the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whizz again to thoroughly incorporate. Tip in the flour and cornflour and whizz again to mix together.

Tip the mixture into the egg whites and use a balloon whisk to gently fold the mixture in.

Tip the whole lot into your savarin mould and pop in the oven to bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until the sides are coming away from the mould, the cake is a lovely light golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the mould. Then, invert and turn out onto a cooling rack.

You can eat it cold but if you get the chance, serve it whilst it’s still warm. Choose a pretty serving plate and dust with icing sugar. Arm yourself  with a knife and an espresso. Cut several slices, sit back and indulge in the simple joy that it is warm, gently flavoured moist cake with great coffee. Lovelllley!

Tip…

The idea, clearly, is that you just use the yogurt pot to measure most of the ingredients out but it was very messy so I reverted to my usual methods of weighing stuff out – I liked the simplicity of the concept but it didn’t really work for me. The cake however, did!!!

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

So easy that this cake was knocked up on a Sunday morning whilst I was still in my PJs. Breakfast on this happy day was warm cake (several slices) and espresso – not a bad start, I must say!!!

 

Hunter’s Chicken

A real homely, rustic Italian-inspired casserole, this is perfect for these lovely crisp Autumnal days. Hearty and flavoursome, the dish really benefits from the addition of anchovies, which just add a real depth of flavour rather than anything fishy and there is something gloriously comforting about the aroma of garlic filling the kitchen as this recipe for Hunter’s Chicken cooks itself: a regular in our house.

What you need…

2kg chicken thigh fillets

Sea salt and black pepper

8 bay leaves

4 sprigs of rosemary

4 fat garlic cloves, chopped

¾ bottle Chianti red wine

Plain flour, for dusting

Rapeseed oil

6 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped

A handful of pitted black olives

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

What to do…

The evening before you want to eat it, tip the rosemary, bay leaves, 2 cloves of the garlic, chicken and Chianti into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, cover and pop into the fridge over night, allowing the flavours to develop.

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F / gas 4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the marinade. Set the marinade aside and then pat dry the chicken pieces on kitchen paper.

In a carrier bag, chuck in flour, salt and pepper and then the chicken thighs. Twist the top of the carrier bag tight and shake the contents, ensuring that flour and seasoning dust all of each of the chicken pieces.

Heat a big frying pan, add a splash of oil and fry the chicken pieces until browned lightly all over. Put into an ovenproof casserole together with the rosemary and bay leaves from the marinade and set side.

Using the same frying pan, add another splash of oil and gently fry the remaining garlic cloves with the anchovies until the garlic is just turning golden and the anchovies are starting to break up. Add the tomatoes, olives and marinade. Bring to the boil and transfer to your casserole dish, submerging the chicken pieces in this lovely sauce.

Cover with a double thickness of foil or a lid and pop in the oven for 1 hour.

Serve with some form of greenery and perhaps potato. We however, like great doorstops of fresh, warm bread to mop up the delicious sauce. Oh, and don’t forget more Chianti to accompany this fine rustic dish! Very yummy.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

Really easy and absolutely delicious,

 

 

Pasta Puttanesca

 

I haven’t made this for years (pre-kids!) and I don’t know why – just forgotten about the recipe I suppose. I make lots of pasta dishes – some follow recipes, some are made-up favourites and some depend on what’s languishing in the bottom of the fridge. But this one stands apart from the crowd – it’s gutsy with intense flavours – tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, capers and olives all party together against the backdrop of tomatoes and basil – a great pick-me-up of a lunch or supper. Really yummy.

Serves 4

What you need…

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 fresh chillis, de-seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, plus extra for garnishing

Black pepper

100g anchovies (bought in jars in olive oil)

300g black olives, pitted

2 tablespoons capers, drained

2 x 400g tins good quality Italian chopped tomatoes

1 x 142g tin tomato purée

Sea salt

Spaghetti! (How much is dependent on how hungry you are! I use gluten-free, just because it doesn’t sit so heavily on my stomach)

What to do…

Heat the oil over a moderate heat and add the garlic cloves, chillis and basil. Cook briefly until the garlic is pale gold. Then tip in all the other sauce ingredients except the salt (anchovies are salty so leave the addition of salt until the end).

Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer very gently without a lid for 40 minutes – the smell will be amazing and at the end, the sauce will be lovely, thick and bursting with flavour. Taste and add salt, if required.

Meanwhile, cook your spaghetti according to the packet instructions – mine takes about 12 minutes, so I put the water on to heat up about 20 minutes before the sauce is ready.

Drain the pasta pour over your gutsy sauce and mix together. Serve garnished with basil and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. A glass or two of a robust Italian red wouldn’t go amiss either!

Puttanesca close up w

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

So very easy. It also has the added benefit of comprising store cupboard ingredients so it’s a great mid-week special when your scouring the kitchen for inspiration!

 

Focaccia Sharing Bread with Rosemary

 

This lovely bread is an ideal accompaniment to garlicky starters like Gambas Pil Pil (already blogged), as part of an Italian-inspired antipasti lunch or simply to dip into olive oil with balsamic vinegar. However you choose to enjoy it, Focaccia is just lovely….and so simply to make, especially if you have a food processor or electric stand mixer.

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x shallow baking tray (26 x 36cms or larger) lightly oiled

500g strong white bread flour

7g fast action dried yeast

10g fine salt

325ml warm water

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for coating and then drizzling

A sprinkle of sea salt

2 – 3 rosemary sprigs, cut to create around 12 little sprigs!

What you do…

If you have a mixer, fit it with the dough hook and then tip into the bowl the flour, yeast, salt, water and the tablespoon of oil. Mix on a low speed for 10 minutes until smooth and silky. If you don’t have a mixer, it’s the same process but by hand – somewhat more tiring and intensive (you can’t just walk away leaving it to do its own thing!)

Shape the dough into a ball and coat with a little olive oil. Pop into a clean bowl (I wash out the one I’ve just used to make the dough), cover with cling film and leave to rise to double its size (45-60 minutes depending on the warmth of the room).

Tip the dough out onto a work surface and press into a rough rectangle. Place on your baking tray and press the dough outwards with your fingers, right into the corners. Leave to rise again, loosely covered (with a plastic bag for instance) for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 250˚c / 480 ˚f / gas 10.

Using your fingertips to poke deep holes across the whole surface, almost to the bottom. Drizzle the tope generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Poke the rosemary sprigs into the holes and then pop into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 200˚c / 400˚f/ gas 6 for a further 10 minutes.

Leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes whilst you enjoy the wonderful rosemary-infused aroma. Tear, share and enjoy…..simply yummy and nothing quite like it!

Inspired by…

River Cottage

How easy…

Very, very easy, especially if you have a mixer! Great to knock up to make a relaxed lunch or supper just a little more special.

 

 

 

Chocolate Amaretti Cake

A scrumptious moist cake that combines the sweetness of chocolate with the texture and bite of Amaretti biscuits and almonds and then delivers a hint of orange, delighting the taste buds! It keeps for days (in the unlikely event that every last divine morsel isn’t devoured in minutes) and is a cinch to make – created this morning in just a few minutes whilst still in PJs! Give it a whirl!

Serves 8 – 12

What you need…

1 x 20cm round spring-form cake tin, lightly buttered and the base lined with parchment paper

150g 70% dark chocolate

50g Amaretti biscuits

100g ground almonds

175g caster sugar

Zest of 1 orange, finely grated

100g room temperature butter, cut into cubes

4 eggs, beaten

Icing sugar for dusting

What to do…

Preheat oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set in a steamer over simmering water.

Pop the Amaretti biscuits in a zip-lock food bag, seal and then crush the biscuits evenly using a rolling pin.

In a food processor, tip in the biscuits, ground almonds, caster sugar and orange zest and whizz until evenly blended. Add the butter and whizz to blend. Add the eggs gradually, processing the whole time. Then, add the melted chocolate and briefly whizz again until blended.

Tip the mixture into your cake tin and pop your chocolate Amaretti cake mixture into the oven, baking for 35 minutes or until the cake is puffed up and slightly cracked around the edges.

Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 15 minutes before carefully transferring to plate/cake stand. Dust the crisp top with icing sugar and serve, with an espresso, a glass of Disaronno liqueur or just on its own. Divine, but I might have already mentioned that!

 Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

 How easy…

Ever so!

Lovely, Comforting Lasagne

Sooooo lovely and comforting, both to make and to eat – this is such a lovely family supper dish

Serves 6

What you need…

Ovenproof dish (mine is 20cm x 30cm)

Splash of olive oil

1 kg minced beef

500g minced lamb

150g mozzarella, torn up

A handful of fresh sage leaves

Lasagne sheets, fresh or dried (enough to cover your ovenproof dish three times)

for the tomato sauce

Splash of olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 bay leaves

2 x 400g tins of chopped Italian tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato puree

for the white sauce

1 litre milk

Pinch nutmeg

½ onion, peeled and sliced

Small handful black peppercorns

80g butter

60g plain flour, sieved

120g – 150g grated fresh Parmesan

Sea salt & black pepper

What to do…

Heat a large, deep frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Slowly fry the garlic until lightly coloured, then add the rosemary, bay leaves, tomatoes and tomato puree. Cook gently for 45 minutes with the lid on.

Add the meat to your tomato mixture and simmer for 20 minutes, creating a tomato and meat ragu.

Meanwhile, put the milk, nutmeg, onion and black peppercorns into a medium sized saucepan and bring gently to the boil. Melt the butter in a third saucepan (large) and tip in the flour. Mix well to form the beginning of a roux sauce (it will look like a glossy ball). Gradually add the flavoured milk – one ladle at a time and through a sieve (you don’t want all the peppercorns and onions in there), stirring it well until you have a thick, smooth white sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat and add Parmesan and seasoning.

Remove the rosemary and bay leaves from the tomato and meat ragu.

Preheat the oven to 180c / 350 f / gas 4 and butter a large baking dish.

Cover the bottom of the dish with lasagne sheets. Then cover with a thin layer of your ragu. Then cover with a thin layer of the white sauce. Repeat with a further two sets of layers – pasta, ragu and white sauce – ending with white sauce. Scatter over the torn mozzarella and sage leaves.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and let your lovely, comforting lasagne settle for maybe 10 minutes. Serve with a fabulous, robust bottle of Italian wine.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

It is easy but does take time: you need to be in the right mood. Choose your music, open a nice bottle of red and enjoy the process. The cooking smells are wonderful and definitely contribute to the enjoyment of this dish. There are however loads of pans to wash up but….it’s worth it! I wash them whilst the lasagne is in the oven so that when I sit down, I’m totally relaxed.

 

Scrumptious Risotto

There is something wonderfully satisfying and calming about making risotto – it needs time to do it properly but isn’t complicated. And then there’s the sheer pleasure of eating it – it definitely fits into the ‘comfort food’ category.

 

Risotto Bianco -the basis for all my risottos

Serves 6

What you need…

1.1 litres stock (chicken, fish or veg, as appropriate)

2 tablesp. olive oil

a knob of butter

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped

400g risotto rice

300ml dry white wine

Sea salt & black pepper, to taste

What to do…

Heat the stock. Put the olive oil and butter into a separate pan and add the onion, garlic and celery. Cook on a low heat for 15 minutes without colouring. This is called a ‘soffrito’. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute, it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring – it will smell fabulous!

Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat and simmer so that the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take about 15 minutes. Taste the rice to check that it is cooked. If not, carry on adding stock (or boiling water if you’ve run out) until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Check seasoning.

Remove from the heat. For a basic risotto, add 70g butter and 115g freshly grated Parmesan. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to stand for 2-5 minutes. This is one of the most important elements of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it comes amazingly oozy, like it should be. Serve and enjoy that beautiful creamy texture.

Variations…

Seafood Risotto

Use fish stock. When you have just two final ladlefuls of stock to go, add in four scallops, sliced horizontally, and 2 fillets of salmon, skinned and chopped into cm-sized chunks plus, a handful of clams and/or mussels if you fancy.

Once you have removed the risotto from the heat, squeeze in half a lemon’s juice and 250g raw prawns, stir well to make sure all the prawns are totally covered by the hot rice. As per Risotto Bianco, place a lid on the pan for 2 – 5 mins before serving. Bellissimo!

Mint, Asparagus, Peas & Lemon Risotto (pictured)

Use vegetable stock. Trim and cook 400g asparagus in boiling, salted water until al dente. Chop 1 tablesp. mint.

When you have just two final ladlefuls of stock to go, add in the al dente asparagus, chopped mint and a couple of handfuls of frozen petit pois. Squeeze in juice from half a lemon and stir well.

As per Risotto Bianco, place a lid on the pan for 2 – 5 minutes before serving. Delish!

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Use vegetable stock. Fry 200g wild mushrooms (cleaned and torn up) in a splash of hot oil for a minute or two until they begin to colour. Season with salt and pepper. Add 4-5 cloves chopped garlic, a small bunch thyme leaves and 1 tablesp. butter and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes.

Once you have removed the risotto from the heat, add the Parmesan and butter as per Risotto Bianco and stir in 1 small bunch finely chopped flat-leaf parsley. Add the mushroom mixture, squeeze in juice from half a lemon and stir well. As per Risotto Bianco, place a lid on the pan for 2 – 5 mins before serving. Divine!

Tip…

Dried porcini work fabulously in this risotto. You just need to remember pop them in boiling water for 20 minutes before cooking with them.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

Really, really easy as long as you have the time to let the rice become oozy and the flavours develop.