Tomato update!

Elena crop

So back in May while Elena got more cuddles than the most cuddled person ever. I jumped to work to help Uncle Mario plant the tomato seedlings. I have no idea why, but this caused  much amusement amongst Giuseppe’s family (probably something along the lines of….’crazy English woman – she’s meant to be relaxing’).

Tomato plants

I pushed in the holes using a homemade wooden planter tool-thingy. I don’t know a lot about gardening (as you may have guessed) but he must have turned the earth religiously as it was really easy – super satisfying work.

I was thinking I was doing him a massive favour, when I was called for, ‘Latte! Latte!’ – unfortunately not as in the Costa-type but as in to feed the bambino. I told him I’d be back in 10 minutes. I came running back to find he’d finished. Not sure he really needed any of my ‘help’.

Anyway we’ve had an update! I think it means the plants are doing well!

Check out Mama Romeo’s recipe for Simple Italian tomato salad

 

 

 

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.

cheesy pics

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

FullSizeRender (14)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

P1030152

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.

unnamed-1

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.

unnamed-2

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!

pizzacrop1

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.

#39 FOOD NEWS: Cup di plastica yogurt cake

Title strip

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.

cup 2

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.

sister

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.

cake mix

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

cake tin

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.

cake 2

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).

slice

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

???????????????????????????????????????????

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.

choccywoccydoodah

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!

37overhead meringue crop

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

37Ingreds crop

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.

37squeezed lemon

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

37lemon curd design

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.

37cake in lined tin

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.

37stiff glossy peaks

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.

37lemonjelly out of mould

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.

37final - slice

#34 FOOD NEWS: Christmas Jam J-art cocktails

cocktails Set me a challenge and I’m all over it! thinkmoney.co.uk handed me some old jam jars for up-cycling and said get creative and go forth to the kitchen! As it is the season to be merry, my thoughts turned to alcohol… naturally. ‘Here’s’ to festive jam-jar cocktails!

Cherry Christmas!

Mix 1tbsp caster sugar with 2tbsp desiccated coconut. Brush the rim of a jam jar with golden syrup and dip into the coconut mix. Fill the jam jar with a shot of vodka, a squeeze of satsuma juice and cherry juice to taste.

Penguin pool

1 shot Bombay sapphire – topped up to taste with ice-cold blue WKD.

Snow waa-hey!

Pour hot milk into a jam jar, add 3-4 squares of white chocolate and a measure of brandy. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Top with marshmallows.

For more fabulous Jam J-art visit

http://www.thinkmoney.co.uk/jam-jars/default.aspx

33 FOOD NEWS: Theo Randall’s Croccante with mascarpone cream

So it’s December the 1st  – Christmas has officially started, the twinkly lights are appearing, festive food markets are popping up quicker than you can say, ‘two mulled wines and a mince pie’. And best of all, TV cookery has also been given its annual Christmassy seasoning (and by the taste of this dessert – I am most definitely not complaining!).

Delve into Theo Randall’s delicious alternative to Christmas pud from 12 Chefs of Christmas:

unnamed

200g whole blanched (skinned) almonds (See Britalian Tip)
200g caster sugar
200g mascarpone
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
50g icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp Marsala or to taste
150ml double cream
3 punnets fresh raspberries

ingred strip

1 For the Almond Croccante, preheat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan. Spread the almonds on a small baking tray and roast for 5 mins until they are a light golden colour. Leave to one side. Put the sugar in a saucepan and add 1 tbsp water.

almonds strip

2 Cook, without stirring, on a medium heat until the sugar melts and turns a light golden colour. Add the almonds and carry on cooking for 1 min. Pour on to an oiled baking sheet and leave to cool and set. Roughly break up the croquante and put into a plastic bag. Bash with a rolling pin to break up. 

almond - bash

3 To make the cream, beat the mascarpone with the vanilla seeds and icing sugar and then beat in the Marsala. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

creams crop

4 Spoon the crema di mascarpone on to a serving dish. Scatter over the raspberries and sprinkle with almond croccante. 

side croccante crop

12 Chefs of Christmas is sure to get you in the festive spirit! Everyday at 11am this December, Food Network UK (Freeview 41, Sky 248, Freesat 149/151, Virgin 287). For more Christmas recipes go to http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/

Britalian Tip 

If you haven’t got enough whole blanched almonds (as I didn’t!). After baking them, stir through the toasted nuts of your choice to make up to 200g – I used toasted flaked almonds but you could simply use your favourite type of nut.

#32 FOOD NEWS: ‘Apple’ apple pies!

Every monday

Ferrero Rocher, Kinder Bueno and nutella…. the hazelnut is somewhat of a hero in Italy, so I’ve decided to take a piece of inspiration from Mr Ferrero and hidden a fruity hazelnut filling in the centre of these pies. With honey from Pollino National Park dotted throughout, I’ve hopefully given this British fave a little kiss from Italy. AND they’re shaped like an APPLE!

apple group

300g plain flour, sifted
Pinch salt
180g butter
3tbsp caster sugar
3tbsp runny honey
6 Granny Smith apples
100g Pre-soaked mixed fruit
40g roasted chopped hazelnuts
milk, for brushing
softly whipped cream, to serve (optional)

ingreds

1 Place the flour, salt and butter in a bowl, rub between your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir through 1 tbsp of the honey, the sugar and 4-5 tbsp cold water. Turn out onto a work surface and knead quickly to form a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 mins.

pastry strip

2 Meanwhile peel the apples.

Peeled apples

3 Slice off the bottom to create a flat surface, then remove the core using an apple corer.

stuffing apples strip
4 Heat the remaining honey in the microwave for 10 seconds to loosen. Mix the dried fruit with the nuts and 1 tbsp of the honey. Set aside.

5 Divide the dough into 6 x approx 90g pieces. Roll out the first piece on a lightly floured work surface, large enough to wrap around an apple.

Stuffing apples

6 Place the apple in the centre with the top of the apple facing down. Fill with the dried fruit mix. Brush the outside of the apple with the remaining honey.

7 Pull up the sides of the pastry, folding to follow the shape of the apple. The folds will mean there will be excess pastry at the bottom of the apple, slice off the excess and reserve.

Trimming pastry
8 Turn over, so the apple is the right way up and shape in your hands, smoothing out the folds as best you can. Repeat with the remaining apples, place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

leaf trimmings

9 Roll out the reserved trimmings and use to cut out leaf shapes, brush the undersides with a little water and stick to the tops of the apples. Pierce the top with a skewer to allow the steam to escape. Chill for 10 mins.

Ready for oven
10 Preheat the oven to 200ºC, 180ºC fan, gas 6. Brush the apples with the milk and bake for 30 mins (checking after 20 mins – if they are already a nice golden colour cover with a layer of foil for the final 10 mins). Serve with softly whipped cream, if liked.