Peas and cheese please!

What! The tomato field is bare?! Usually a visit to Italy in balmy August or September means Mama Romeo’s and Uncle Mario’s tomatoes are deep red and ripe for the picking. We went in May this year and I was too busy counting nappies and packing porridge to think about the change of seasons.

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As tomatoes are the King of summer in Italy, peas are where it’s at in Spring. I would love to poetically say, we ate all the fresh flavours of Spring and nibbled on freshly podded raw peas and broad beans but the Italian’s know better than that, there was also an abundance of …. cheese, cheese, cheese and more cheese! Most likely because they think it’s bloody cold in May! (us Brits were in shorts and T-shirts – but that’s a whole other post).

So I slurped up broth-style pea soups, and gorged on omelettes – loaded with stringy mozzarella and hot deep-fried potato polpette – loaded with er… stringy mozzarella!

This was one of my favourite dishes  – so simple but oh so tasty (serve with plenty of Parmesan!)

Pasta e piselli

1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
350g fresh or frozen peas
Small bunch parsley, chopped
350g pasta shells (a few peas will fall into some of the shells – like they’re in a little pod of pasta! Little things…)
4 slices prosciutto
Grated Parmesan, to serve

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1 Heat the olive oil over a medium-low heat, add the onion and cook until softened. Stir through the peas and add 1 L of boiling water. Return to the boil, then add the pasta.

2 Simmer for 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked to your liking. Stir occasionally (add a little more boiling water and loosely cover if the liquid is evaporating too quickly). One minute before the end of cooking time, stir through most of the parsley. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3 Meanwhile, cook the prosciutto (in batches if necessary). Place a dry griddle-pan over a medium heat, add the prosciutto and cook for 3-5 minutes until darkened and crispy.

4 Ladle the pasta, peas and broth into 4 bowls, sprinkle generously with the Parmesan, top with the crispy prosciutto and garnish with the remaining parsley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 sizzlers for a British heatwave!

Hot! Hot! Hot! If you’re feeling the heat… eat, drink and get creative!

1 Affogato 

The Italians perfect it again, combining two quality ingredients for the ultimate cool down pick-me-up or super sleek cheats dessert. Pour espresso over a scoop of luxury vanilla ice-cream. Best served in a little glass with a teeny spoon.

2 Pimm’s ice-lolly

Ok I’m far too impatient to wait for my lollies to freeze and photograph a sexy, drippy shot (I want this out before the sun goes in!). So enjoy the art!

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3 Kiwifruit gets it’s summer hat on!

This blingy variety of Kiwifruit – SunGold, is the perfect snack for when you need to get out of the door – the skin is smooth enough to eat! It contains about 3 times more vitamin C than an orange, for a healthy weekend breakfast try this SunGold kiwifruit, coconut and granola breakfast pot;

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Blitz 2 peeled and chopped SunGold kiwifruit in a blender until smooth, place 30g of your favourite granola in a glass, spoon over a pot of coconut yogurt, top with the kiwifruit and decorate with toasted coconut flakes.

Available from May through to September in Waitrose,Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and M&S.

4 Aperol spritz

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Always keep a bottle of Aperol and a small bottle of soda water in the cupboard for an unexpected heat wave when, shock-horror, you haven’t chilled the Prosecco! This little cocktail, usually drank as aperitif in Italy, is mixed over ice. Gorgeous on a summer’s evening with a few nibbles! Fill a large wine glass with ice, add 75ml of Prosecco, 50ml Aperol and a dash of soda. Garnish with a slice of orange.

5 Seaside cake

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Baking may be the last thing you want to do when it’s baking! But when you’ve got a super cool design like this it might be worth taking on the extra heat. For a smaller project (great for kids in summer holidays!) simply make the ice-cream cone cupcakes. To scale down the cake mix use 175g butter, 175g caster sugar, 3 large eggs and 175g self-raising flour.  You should have enough for around 10-12 cones. For the full recipe visit Homemade with Sainsbury’s & The Huffington Post

6 New drink alert!

cranes

Cambridge twins Dan & Ben Ritsema invented this red-hot drink. Whilst at uni, they enjoyed an alchololic beverage or two (!) but wondered if it was possible to make a healthier alternative? They loved cranberry juice for its health benefits, so tried fermenting cranberries to make a cranberry ‘cider’ and that was the beginning of Cranes! Original cranberry available from Ocado  three bottles for £5. Visit drinkcranes for more info.

JUST EAT Food Fest 

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Pulled pork from Whaam Banhi

Even one of the world’s leading digital marketplaces for takeaway food is telling us to go out and eat in the sun! A celebration of world cuisine, visitors are invited to try three dishes for £8 (or £4 each) from the pop-up street food vendors. Just a handful include Italian Pizza from Sapore Vero, Jerk Chicken from Panda Berry, Caramelised Pork Belly Rice Bowl from Whaam Banh Mi and Strawberry Cheesecake flavour doughnuts from Dum Dum Donutterie. With live music and DJs. Visit www.just-eat.co.uk/london/foodfest for more info.

 

 

 

 

WWW: Wonderful world of weaning

 

We’ve gone for baby-led weaning* in a big way in our house. Good food, one meal for everyone with as little effort as possible. Yes please!

HOLIDAY FUN!

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On a recent trip to Italy Elena caused quite a stir. She became known as, ‘The baby that eats everything!’ and ‘The baby that feeds herself!’ Baby-led weaning hasn’t quite hit remote towns in Southern Italy. As she picked up strips of frittata, I was met with a few ‘Madonna! Madonna’s!’ and looks of utter horror but, to my relief, it changed throughout the two weeks to amazement, and utter pride from Nonna. Elena even started to get an audience. She didn’t seem to mind (or should I say notice – she was too busy eating!).

RECIPE

I can’t get enough of Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett’s The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook . The recipes are fantastic but it’s also great if you’re creating your own and want to check if a certain ingredient is ok.

Here’s their Simple broccoli quiche.

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1 medium head broccoli (florets only)
250g shortcrust pastry (see Cook’s Tip)/ or use a readymade pastry case
1 small onion
3 grilled rashers of bacon, chopped (optional)
50-100g grated cheese (according to taste)
3 eggs
115ml (4floz) milk
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5. Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam or boil for 2 minutes until just tender and drain.

2 To prepare your pastry case, either line a 23cm (9in) lightly greased pie/tart tin with pastry (or use a readymade pastry case). Spread the onion in the bottom of the pastry case. Add the broccoli (and bacon, if using) and sprinkle half of the cheese over it.

3 Beat together the eggs and milk and add the black pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the onion, broccoli and cheese, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. (The egg mixture should come at least 3 quarters of the way up the pastry case. If it doesn’t add another egg, beaten with 2tbsp milk)

4 Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the egg is cooked through (test with a skewer) and the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm, sliced or in fingers, with new potatoes and either salad, green beans or asparagus for a main meal, or eat it cold for a light lunch.

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Cook’s Tip

I also like to use ready-rolled pastry for this too. To make the pastry from scratch use 85g diced butter, 165g plain flour. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Using a cold blunt knife, stir in 1-2 tbsp water a few drops at a time with a criss-cross cutting motion. Stop when the mixture starts to clump together. Gather into one lump and knead it lightly for a few seconds, until it forms a dough.

*Here’s a PDF from the NHS website about weaning – it includes a small paragraph on baby-led weaning. There’s a little more detailed info about it here on the NCT website.

 

 

Pizza sweetie?

How could I walk past this ‘sweet’ pizza in Poundland? And in its own mini takeaway box!

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To make me feel better about scoffing all those sweets and to balance up the naff/cool stakes – here’s a super trendy starter just crying out to be served up in those pizza boxes.

Cauliflower crust mini pizzas

Whizz the florets (about 600g) of 1 medium cauliflower in a food processor until it is a breadcrumb consistency. Microwave, covered, on high for 7-8 mins. Cool. Mix in 125g grated mozzarella, 3tbsp grated Parmesan. Pat into 6 x 6′ rounds on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 180ºC, 160ºC fan, gas 4 for 18-22 mins until golden. Spread 1/2tbsp pasata over each base. Top with torn mozzarella and black olives. Turn up the oven to 220ºC, 200ºC, fan 6. Bake for a further 10 mins. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Leave for 10 mins to cool slightly. Use a pallet knife to remove from the sheets.

Cook’s Tip

These will last for up to 3 days in the fridge, warm through for 10 mins before serving.

Loved-up syllabubs!

Yay! Shiny chocolate hearts – nailed! Oh Mr Paul Hollywood I am in love with your method for tempering chocolate. So simple, so clear.

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Tempering chocolate

‘Break 150g/5½oz of the plain chocolate into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate reaches a melting temperature of 47C/115F (use a kitchen thermometer to check). Remove the bowl from the heat, add the remaining 50g/1¾oz of chocolate and stir until the chocolate has cooled to 31C/90F.’ From the Great British Bake Off, ‘Chocolate Creation Showstopper’ cake.

For Loved-up syllabubs:

Coat silicone heart moulds with tempered chocolate. Chill until set. Remove and fill with strawberry flavoured syllabub. Use a turkey baster to inject a little fruit coulis into the centre of each, cover with a little more strawberry syllabub. Invert and serve with a small glass of lemon syllabub and fresh strawberries. Decorate with fresh mint sprigs.

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#39 FOOD NEWS: Cup di plastica yogurt cake

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Italian houses love a bit of plastic tableware. During our recent visit-ette to Italy, my mother and sister in-law showed me the best use for it yet.

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This cake is pure genius. Simple measuring, no creaming and perfect results.

3 eggs
2 plastic cups sugar
3 plastic cups plain flour, sifted
1 plastic cup ‘seed’ oil such as sunflower, corn or maise
1 sachet Paneangeli lievito pane degli angeli (see GIVEAWAY!)
1 banana yogurt (or flavour of your choice)
Icing sugar, for dusting
Nutella/ strawberry jam, optional (see Britalian Tip)

1 Preheat the oven to 180’C, 160’C fan, gas 4. Grease and line a 23 cm loose-bottomed cake tin.

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2 Beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until well combined.

3 Add the flour and sachet of Leiveto. Whisk at a low speed until combined. Add the oil, whisk at a low speed until combined.

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4 Stir through the yogurt. Spoon into the lined cake tin.

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Bake for 20-25 mins, until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean.

5 Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins before removing and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

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Britalian Tip

Serve Romeo style, ‘as you wish’ with a jar of Nutella and a jar of strawberry jam. Guests can cut a slice and have it plain or decide how they fill it. My 9 year old nephew with an air of Italian sophistication went ‘solo torta’. I rammed mine with Nutella (it did go rather well with the banana).

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GIVEAWAY!

‘The yeast of bread angels’ I have 10 sachets to giveaway! I’ll pop a sachet in the post to the first 10 readers to email me, angela.romeo@britaliankitchen.com with the subject ‘I’m a bread Angel!’ Include address in body of email (available to UK addresses only I’m afraid).

#38 EASTER FOOD NEWS: Make, do and spend!

Make

Layer. Sandwich. Coat. Drizzle. Plonk…if you’re going to be making one thing this Easter, try my Mini Egg cake for Sainsbury’s. A guaranteed show stopper! SSSsssh it’s much easier than it looks!

mini-egg-cake-560_6bf6a12c5370bd09d16d4fc38905c324 Click here for recipe

Click here for video

Do

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Eat chocolate whilst burning off calories! What more do you want? Get yourself booked onto a Chocolate Ecstasy tour. There’s still a few places left on the Chelsea Tour on Easter Sunday – a one and half mile walk tasting the most exquisite chocolates as you go. The tour finishes with a sit-down mini chocolate tasting. HHuumm all that sitting and tasting – I’m not sure you burn off ALL those choccy calories. Oh well. Pass me a passionfruit salted caramel please. Tours from £30. www.chocolateecstasytours.com

And Spend!

choccywoccy doo dah book

For £25 you can get your hands on a copy of the gorgeous Chocolate, Cake & Curses from Choccywoccydoodah. Don’t expect recipes and secrets on how to sculpt ‘those’ gravity defying wedding cakes. This is more of an insight into the minds of those chocolate geniuses with inspiring stories and anecdotes from Christine Taylor and the team. Of course there are recipes to satisfy that need to cook up a choccy storm from Chocolate Pie to Chocolate Bread Pudding to Dripping Chocolate Millefeuille.

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Getting lost in choclate heaven. Choccywoccydoodah, Carnaby Street, book launch.

Mini egg cake photo: Charlie Richards. Chocolate tour photo: www.chocolateecstasytours.rezdy.com

#37 FOOD NEWS: Test shoot teaser

Lemoncello meringue cake

Test shoots are a great way to get experimenting! Baked alaska, come lemon meringue pie, come a cheeky dash of Italian Liqueur. This was one of those ideas that sounded great on paper but would it actually work?! The answer is thankfully, yes! The best bit is, you can prepare the sponge and lemon lemon layer way ahead. I can’t wait to see it when proper food photographer, Adrian Lawrence gets his hands on it!

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Serves: 8-10
Prep: 30 mins, plus chilling and cooling
Cook: 25 mins

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4 lemons, juice and zest
290g unsalted butter, cubed
465g caster sugar
6 large eggs, plus 3 large egg whites
6 gelatine leaves
45ml shot limoncello (optional)
1tsp vanilla extract
115g self-raising flour
3/4 tsp baking powder

1 Grease a 1L Pyrex bowl with oil, then line with cling film, so the edges hang over the sides. Squeeze the lemon juice into a small microwavable  bowl and add the lemon zest.

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Add 175g of the butter and 175g of the caster sugar. Mix well.

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2 Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 mins.

3 Meanwhile, heat the lemon mixture in the microwave on full power for 3 mins, stirring every 30 seconds, until the butter and sugar has melted.

4 Gradually add 4 beaten eggs, whisking continuously. Microwave on full power for a further 1 1/2 mins. Whisk well. Allow to cool for 1 minute, then return to the microwave and heat on full power for a further minute. Whisk well. Remove 3tbsp of the mixture, cover, and set aside.

5 Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine leaves and place in a measuring jug. Pour over 200ml of just boiled water. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Top up with 150ml cold water. Gradually pour into the lemon mix, whilst continuously stirring. Stir in the limoncello, if using. Pour into the lined Pyrex bowl. Chill for at least 4 hours, until set.

6 For the sponge base, preheat the oven to 170’C, 150’C fan, gas 3. Grease and line an 18cm loose-bottomed sandwich tin. Beat the remaining butter with 115g of the caster sugar. Add 2 eggs one at a time beating well in between each addition. Fold through the flour and baking powder. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 mins.

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Cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 mins. Remove from the tin and allow to cool completely on the wire rack. Level the surface with a serrated knife.

7 For the meringue, using an electric hand whisk, whip the egg whites until medium peaks form. Gradually trickle in the remaining sugar whilst continuing to whisk until stiff glossy peaks form.

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8 To assemble, preheat the oven to 230’C, 210’C fan, gas 8. Spread the top of the cake with the 3 tbsp of the reserved lemon curd mixture. Then invert the bowl of set lemon jelly on top of the cake.

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Transfer to a flat baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Spoon over the meringue in swirling motions ensuring the jelly and sponge is completely enclosed. Bake for 4-6 mins until golden (for maximum control use a cooks blow-torch). Remove from the oven and chill for 20  mins to firm up before serving.

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