Sunday, 2 December 2012

Keeping the tradition alive: Pasticcio di Maccheroni Ferrara Style

This is the most traditional dish of my city that dates back to the Estense Dinasty of the 15 century. I think that this represents the most amazing food heritage  in the history of food heritage in the world. Quite a statement, but unquestionable true. If my aunt knew that I was sharing this family recipe she would probably be very upset with me but when you own something so precious, you have to share it.

You’ll need:
For the pastry:
·      250g of white flour
·      115g of butter
·      1 egg
·      100g of sugar
For the béchamel:
·      600ml of milk
·      60g of butter
·      60 g of flour
·      A pinch of salt
·      Some grated nutmeg
For the filling:
·      150g of maccheroncini cooked in milk al dente
·      300g of chicken liver and heart
·      A glass of marsala
·      Dried Porcini mushroom
·      1 glass of milk
·      Truffle
 Melt the butter into a bowl and add the sugar, if it is not too warm you can add the egg, otherwise wait a little and gradually add the flour. Make a ball and put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
The béchamel is not a very difficult sauce but you have to be careful not to create lumps once you add the flour. So start by melting the butter in a pot and gradually add the flour. You have to make what the French call “ roux blanc”. Once you are done with flour start adding the warm milk (it is important that the milk is warm to avoid lumps) help yourself by stirring repeatedly with a whisk. Once the béchamel is thick remove it from the heat and season with salt, pepper nutmeg and Parmesan cheese.  
For the white ragout, oil a pan with some chopped onions and start cooking the chicken’s liver and heart. Once they start changing color, add the Marsala. After the alcohol has evaporated add the dried porcini that have been revitalized in warm water: add a glass of milk and a teaspoon of truffle paste.
Once you have the ragout, the Maccheroni cooked in milk and the béchamel ready, you can combine the three and make the filling.
Divide the dough in 2, one bigger than the other. Take the bigger one, roll it and fold a cake tin. Add the filling and cover it with the other half. Make a hole in the center and cover it with a cute little tap made with leftover dough. It very important to do that for some physical reasons . Brush the surface with egg yok for a beautiful yellow color.
Bake it for 30 minutes at 180°C    

Sunday Obsession: Poached eggs on toast / how to make an egg look like a mozzarella

Going out for brunch during the weekend an ordering an overpriced poached egg just because it looks  like a miracle of gastronomy,  is something that i also do on a regular basis untill i discovered this morning that making poached egg is mega easy and also crazy cheap.

The process of making poached eggs might seem like a chemistry experiment but it is actually quite fun and rewarding at the end.

First of all take a deep pot, like the one you would use for making pasta and fill it with water. Put it in a stove and let it simmer till it reaches a temperature of 75 °C 85 °C. basically you want the water hot but not boiling otherwise the yoks will cook too fast.
Once you reach the temperature, splash some white wine vinegar into the water and a teaspoon of salt per liter of water. The vinegar help the coagulation of the egg whites.....i have been told :-)

Crack an egg into a small ball, making sure that the yoks doesn't break. create a whirpool of water with a straning spoon and pour the egg into the vortex. at this point i suggest to remove the pot from the heat and wait 2 minutes. The egg white will coagulate and the yok will remain runny.
After 2 minutes you can collect the poached egg and trim the excessive egg white part and dry the egg.

To serve the poached egg i have sliced some mushrooms, oil a pan with some garlic and sauted them.
Toast a slice of white bread and rub the cut edge of a garlic clove on the surface of the toast.
Place the mushrooms on top of the bread and then put the poached egg. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and grind some black pepper.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Bloody Beetroot Gazpacho

This is a bloody good starter or a main course. It’s good when it’s cold and it’s good when it’s warm. It’s basically the perfect cheap dish.

You’ll need:

·      1 red onion

·      2 carrots

·      2 potatoes

·      2 red beetroot

·      Vegetable stock enough to cover the vegetable

·      Balsamic Vinegar

·      Extra virgin olive oil, slat and pepper

·      Fresh Greek yogurt or Feta or ricotta

 How to make it:

Dice the vegetables in small pieces and add them to a pot with some extra virgin olive oil. Stir for a few minutes at medium heat and then add the stock until you cover the vegetable. After 20 or 30 minutes or until the vegetable are tender, blend the soup, season with salt and pepper to taste and the add 2 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Serve it at room temperature and add a knob of Greek yoghurt and few drops of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Clam Chowder

Best thing to do in Boston: eating New England clam chowder possibly at “Legal Sea Food Restaurant”! But if you out of town you can still make a simpler version yourself without compromising the authentic flavor.

You’ll need:
  • 500 g canned clams, minced, juices reserved
  • Half liter of vegetable stock
  • 2 bacon slices, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
  • 500 g potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 3 cups heavy cream or half and half
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce, to taste
  • Crackers

How to do it:

Start by draining the clam juice from the minced clams.  
Cook the bacon slowly in a soup pot over medium heat until lightly crisp, about 8 minutes.
Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2-3 minutes.
Whisk in the clam juice and half a liter of vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, add more clam juice or stock to adjust the consistency. Add the bay leaf and fresh thyme.
Add the potatoes and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
Then add the clams and cream to the pot and simmer together until the clams are cooked, about 5-8 minutes.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Serve in bowls with the crackers on the side and more grounded pepper!!...if you want you add some fresh parsley

Fennel and Curcuma Soup

This soup has such an exotic flavor. It is very light and smooth thanks to the delicateness of the fennel but it is the Curcuma that really brings this dish to the next level! The curcuma will also color the soup into an almost unnatural flashing bright yellow. It looks pretty cool!

You’ll need:
·      A big fennel
·      1 potato
·      Vegetable stock (enough to cover the vegetable)
·      Extra virgin olive oil (2 table spoon)
·      Half white onion
·      A glass of milk or cream  (if you want to indulge)
·      1 teaspoon of curcuma
·      Salt and pepper to taste
How to make it:
Take a big pot and oil it. At medium heat add the diced onion, fennel and potato to the pot and stir until they look shiny from the oil. After 5 minutes add the vegetable stock, enough to cover the vegetable. Let it cook for 20 minutes or until the vegetable are nicely tender (the time will depend on how you’ve diced the vegetable). Blend the soup until is smooth and then add the milk, the curcuma and season it to taste.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Christmas Present: Chilli Pepper Preserve

This is my idea for a Christmas present: homemade preserve! It is also very cheap. You can buy the jar at the supermarket for about 50 cent each. Remember to sterilize the jar in boiling water for at least 15 minutes and then to vacuum pack. To do this, you should pour the preserve into the sterilized jar when it is still hot, close it with the tap and then put it upside-down for at least 45 minutes.
I decided to go for the chilli pepper preserve because it goes really well with most of the dish that we eat during Christmas like boiled meat from the broth of the cappelletti (I’ll explain how to make cappelletti from scratch in the next post), roast meat, cheeses. But you can also add it in the pasta sauce if you want to give it a good kick.

You’ll need:
5 big apples
200 g of Red Chilli Pepper
100 g of apple vinegar
1 glass of water
100 g sugar

How to make it:

Peel, and diced the apple (remove the apple core and the seeds). Wash the red chilli pepper and remove the seeds and the green part. Put the chilli pepper and the apple with the vinegar in a blender until they form a paste.
Put the paste into a pot, add the sugar and the water and let it cook until it reaches the desired consistency.
Once it is still hot, pour the preserve into the jar and vacuum pack.