Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Ale, Cheddar and Chives Cake for the Daring bakers

To the question of Life, the Universe and Everything Celestial Dragon once answered "me". Records that survive from earlier eras even corroborate this. After all, how many cultures have dragons roaming their skies? How many great people, thinking themselves the epicentre of their empire, have adopted the dragon as their symbol? How many warriors, cowering in a ditch and hoping to be the last one standing on the battlefield while arrows, axes and frankly astonished pigs flew over their heads have called themselves sons of dragon? How many cooks, after having accidentally dropped an entire jar of chillies in the soup, have dubbed it dragon's broth (this last claim may be pure conjecture)? All the dragons invoked were in fact merely aspects of Celestial Dragon; and they all stem from that primeval "me" uttered so long ago.
Now, however, Celestial Dragon is fishing. He is resting his old bones in a modest boat, sailing along the Milky Way as time drives by in its Wingèd Chariot, saluting cordially. His golden angle is listlessly tucking at the stars, encroaching its hook in a solitary solar system that -silly system- had the unfortunate curiosity to poke its nose out of the whirling galaxy. Yet, upon closer inspection, one discovers that Celestial Dragon is in fact not really fishing: he is treasure hunting. For in his osier basket, propped up against the inner side of the boat, that is to say within reach of his agile claws, one can discover the incredible: a bottle of golden liquid, a lump of soft and mellow gold, and a few shoots of the greenest plant of all.
Some say that history has a tendency of being given to a certain amount of hyperboles, and that in fact Celestial Dragon had in his basket a bottle of ale, a piece of cheddar and some chives. Only he knows where he fished those from. Nevertheless, upon his return to the palace, he presented Divine Cherry with his treasure. But she, instead of being impressed, impatiently shook her head and grabbed them from him. Celestial Dragon was helplessly forced to observe as his most treasured possessions were being used as the involuntary special ingredients that would complete Divine Cherry's experiment: an Ale, Cheddar and Chives Cake. The coincidence was astonishing indeed.
Notwithstanding the improbable origins of that cake, it must in all fairness be said that it was delicious. So if you happen to chance upon a bottle of ale, a piece of cheddar and some chives while innocently fishing the day away on the Milky Way, make sure to follow this recipe – you shall not regret it!

Blog-checking lines: The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

Ale, cheddar and chives loaf Adapted from Recipe Girl’s Cheddar Chive Beer Batter Bread
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 handful chives, finely chopped
- 420 gm all-purpose (plain) flour
- 45 gm granulated sugar
- 10 gm baking powder
- 6 gm salt
- 240 g grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 330 ml bottle dark ale (brew dog)
- 55 gm butter, melted and divided

Preheat oven to moderately hot 190°C. Grease a loaf pan with butter. Cut the chives thinely. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl; make a well in the center of the mixture. Add onion, cheeses, and beer. Stir just until moist. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake for 35 minutes; brush with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake an additional 23 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Cake salato all'ale, cheddar e erba cipollina  ricetta adattata da Recipe Girl’s Cheddar Chive Beer Batter Bread
- 1 cucchiao di olio
- 1 manciata abbondante di erba cipollina sminuzzata
- 420 g farina
- 45 g zucchero
- 10 g lievito in polvere
- 6 g sale
- 240 g cheddar grattugiato
- una bottilia da 330 ml di ale scuro
- 55 g burro, sciolto e diviso in 2 ciotoline

Riscaldare il forno a 190 C. Imburrare una teglia da plum cake. In una ciotola mescolare farina, lievito, sale e zucchero. Fare un buco al centro e versare, il cheddar, l'erba cipollina e la birra. Mescolare velocemante solo per amalgamare il tutto. Versare il composto nella teglia e versare sulla superficie il burro sciolto. Cuocere in forno per 35 minuti. Versare il burro restante e finire di cuocere in forno per altri 23 minuti o fino a che il cake è cotto, verificare facendo la prova stecchino. Lasciare raffreddare per 5 minuti prima di sformare e lasciar raffreddare completamente.

 Enjoy And Spred The Mess

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Smoked haddock paté with wasabi butter and oatcakes

Tick-tock, cried the grandfather clock, tick-tock.
Divine Cherry was sitting in her favourite armchair. She was looking morose. Small Perfect Cloud was on her lap, desperately waiting to be given some attention. But Divine Cherry had even forgotten that it was there. She was looking straight ahead. The gaping void before her was filled with the passing of time only. There was no escape. There was no other way. Think as she might about it, there was nothing else she could do. She had to. She knew that, but still she resisted it.
Tick-tock, pondered grandfather Time, tock-tick.
On the table in front of her was a plate. It was as empty as the moon – in fact, it was the moon. Divine Cherry was observing it. She knew she didn't have much time left. With a great effort of will, she pushed off a sleeping Small Perfect Cloud (who was quite distressed indeed at the sudden change of spatial location) and got up. "I've got to decorate that moon! It's just too white: it'll never look good in the sky like this!" On the table, next to the moon, lay the latest copy of Domestic Decorations - How a House becomes a Home. Divine Cherry had been reading again, cheeky cherry that she was. She took the moon (which wasn't full that day), and decided to fill it so as it give it more shine and sheen. So she brought it to the kitchen and started rummaging in her divine fridge in search of something worth filling the moon with. It had to be something light, smooth, yet with bite; and with a distinct quality of deliciousness and subtlety. First of all, in order to fill the moon, Divine Cherry made oatcakes, for they had the perfect shape – the moon was different back then. Then she decided to prepare some smokingly smoky smoked fish pâté. She put the pâté on the oatcakes and started filling up the moon, creating a perfect circle again. Once satisfied, she hung it on her wall (the sky for you). That is why the moon has those dark smudges when seen form afar: it's simply the spread of the pâté!
However, unbeknownst to her, a resentful Small Perfect Cloud was plotting a revenge. And so it was that as soon as Divine Cherry had turned her back, Small Perfect Cloud jumped up at the moon (lured by the irresistible smell of fish) and bit off a bit of the new decoration.
And so it is that the moon, today, waxes and wanes periodically: in remembrance of its filling and emptying by Divine Cherry and Small Perfect Cloud.

Smoked Haddock pate'
- 100 g smoked haddock, clean and deboned
- 1 table spoon milk
- zest of half lemon, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1/2 garlic clove
- 40-50 g unsalted butter
- salt

Wasabi butter
- 1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder
- 10-15 g unsalted butter

Cook the fish fillets with a little milk. Let them cool and put them in a blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until mixture is smooth and creamy, add more butter if necessary to get more creaminess. Pour into a bowl and smooth the surface. In the meanwhile, melt the remaining butter with a pinch of wasabi powder, mix well. Pour the melted butter over the surface of the paté, cover with cling film and leave to solidify in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. Serve with oatcakes.

Oatcakes - Recipe adapted from " The Glasgow Cookery Book"
- 100 g of oatmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 5-7 grams of dripping or cooking fat (I used butter)
- Hot water (about 1 cup)

In a large bowl mix the oatmeal, salt and bicarbonate of sodaPour in the melted butter, stir and add enough hot water to make a soft consistencyKnead wellOn a work surface covered with parchment paper, roll out the dough as thinly as possible with a rolling pinIf the dough results sticky sprinkle some oatmeal on the surface. Cut the oatcakes with a cookie cutter. Cook them on a hot griddleWhen they are cooked on one side, dry off in a cool oven or under grill.

Smoked Haddock pate'
- 100 g haddock affumicato, pulito e spinato
- 1 cucchiaio di latte
- la buccia di mezzo limone grattata
- 1/2 cucchiaino di peperoncino in polvere
- mezzo spicchio d'aglio
- 40-50 g burro
- sale

Burro al wasabi
- 1/2 cucchiano di wasabi in polvere
- 10-15 g burro

Cuocere i filetti di pesce con poco latte. Farli raffreddare e metterli nel mixer con gli altri ingredienti. Mixare fino ad ottenere un composto liscio e cremoso, se necessario aggiungere altro burro per ottenere un composto ancora più cremoso. Versare in una ciotolina e lisciare la superficie. A parte sciogliere il resto del burro e metterci un pizzico di wasabi in polvere, mescolare bene. Versare il burro sciolto sulla superficie del pate' e far solidificare il tutto in frigo per un paio d'ore o anche tutta la notte. Servire con degli oatcakes.

Note: L'haddock e' un pesce simile al merluzzo. Si trova al naturale o spesso affumicato. E' abbastanza salato e non ha niente a che vedere con il salmone affumicato. In caso la ricetta si puo' fare con dei filetti di merluzzo freschi o con del baccala'.

Oatcakes - Ricetta adattata da " The Glasgow Cookery Book"
- 100 g fiocchi d'avena
- 1/2 cucchiaino di sale
- 1/4 cucchiaino di bicarbonato di soda
- 5-7 g di lardo (io ho usato burro, dal momento che il lardo non staziona nel mio frigo abitualmente...;) )
-  acqua calda (1 bicchiere scarso circa)

In una ciotola capiente mescolare l'avena, il sale e il bicarbonato. Aggiungere il burro fuso, mescolare e versare sufficiente acqua calda a ottenere consistenza morbida. Impastare bene. Sulla superficie di lavoro coperta da carta forno, stendere l'impasto il più sottilmente possibile con il mattarello. Se l'impasto dovesse risultare appiccicoso spargere dei fiocchi d'avena in superficie. Formare gli oatcakes con dei tagliabiscotti. Cuocere gli oatcakes su una bistecchiera rovente. Quando sono cotti da un lato metterli sotto il grill tiepido (o forno a 50 C) ad asciugare.

Anche questa ricetta partecipa al MT Challenge di Febbraio, il cui tema è il paté.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Mushroom and chilli patè - patè di funghi al peperoncino

…Mr Sandman! Bring me a dream…
For once, Mr Sandman (or Sandy) did listen. He decided to bring a dream indeed, although he was unsure as to what to bring yet. So he went off to his largest depot which was located beneath an old army airbase in a hot country; the one he had subtly named "Desert Wind". Or "Kamikaze", as he also liked to call it. He solved the Sphinx-riddle that secured the heavy door and stepped inside. Once there, Sandy took out from his dark, long pockets two halves of a golden scarab and tossed them in the sand where they started glowing, united, and opened the last door to the Chamber of Dreams, like so. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, Mr Sandman thought, and entered his depot after he having replied "me" to the sand-proof voice recognition software. In there he found everything everyone had ever dreamed of. But he didn't care about that, for he knew all of that already. So he went forth into his gallery to the section called "Divination". This was a pun he was particularly fond of. You see, in this section were not only all the dreams the divine beings dreamt, but also those that were yet to be dreamt. Incidentally, only the divines had undreamt dreams left. And so it was that he leisurely walked in his sandy halls. In front of a quite interesting future-dream, Sandy stopped short. This is it, he thought. This is exactly what I shall send to Celestial Dragon. Then Mr Sandman looked closer at who was actually dreaming it. It was thus that he realised that it was Divine Cherry, and that she was dreaming it for Celestial Dragon. Sandy smiled, took the dream and left "Kamikaze" by the security exit.
This is the dream he brought.

Mushroom and chilli  paté 
- 80 g chestnut mushroom
- olive oil
- 1/4 onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 garlic clove
- a pinch of chiili powder
- a pinch of numeg
- 40 g unsalted butter
- salt

Soften the onion with the oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms and cook them. Cool the mushrooms and put them in a mixer with the rest of the ingredients. Blend it thoroughly until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Put the paté in a bowl or a jar, cover with cling film and leave it in the fridge for several hours (or one night). Serve with wholemeal homemade bread

Paté di funghi al peperoncino

- 80 g funghi champignon
- olio evo
- 1/4 cipolla, tritata finemente
- mezzo spicchio d'aglio
- una punta di peperoncino
- una punta di noce moscata
- 40 g burro

Saltare in padella i funghi con la cipolla. Farli raffreddare e metterli in un mixer con il peperoncino e la noce moscata, salare. Aggiungere il burro e azionare il mixer fino ad ottenere un composto liscio. Versare in un vasetto o una ciotolina, coprire con pellicola e lasciare in frigo per alcune ore. Servire con pane casereccio.

Queste ricetta partecipa all'MT Challenge di Febbraio! La sfida è stata lanciata da Bucci.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Torta d'Ispirazione Greca Biete e Feta - Spring Green and Feta Cake

It is a cold and dreary winter evening. Divine Cherry and Celestial Dragon are sitting in the regal lounge of their winter residence. They are looking at the roaring fire, doing nothing, each holding a cat in their arms. Why? Only they know. Suddenly, however, Divine Cherry looks away and stares out of the window. Condensation has formed strange patterns on the ancient glass. One could read the history of the world in those patterns, and it would be just as accurate and correct as a reading of the future from tealeaves left in a cup. Divine Cherry (or DC to her friends) turns to Celestial Dragon (or CD to his play-us-something-friends) and, without speaking, communicates to him that she wants warmth. Celestial Dragon, ever alert, jumps up, shakes off the cat (much to Small Perfect Cloud's satisfaction) and approaches the fireplace. There he plunges one claw into the blazing flames and extracts a burning log. He walks back to Divine Cherry. Holding the hard, flaming wood before him, he blows on it. The glowing ashes spread across the entire room, painting everything in grey darkness. Divine Cherry closes her eyes, slightly worried as to what is going to happen next.
When she opens them again, she is sitting at a white-clothed table. Surveying her surroundings, she realises that they're now in a tavern somewhere in Greece. The sun is sinking behind the horizon, there, above the sea, over yonder hill. In front of her is a glass filled with delicious retsina, and the table is decked with one of her favourite dishes. The other side of the table, facing her, Celestial Dragon smiles. "You wanted warmth", he says.

Spring Green and Feta Cake

- 500 g spring greens
- 250 g feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 large egg or 2 medium
- 2 table spoons milk
- 100 g melted butter
- 4 spring onions, finely chopped
- half an onion, finely chopped
- 1 packet of phillo pastry (6 sheets in mine)
- 50 g of butter or half a glass of olive oil for brushing
- black seeds to decorate

Preheat the oven at 180 C. Cut in thin stripes the spring greens and steam them (or cook in a no-stick pan with salt and a little olive oil) until just tender. Squeeze the vegetables to release the excess of liquid and put them in a large bowl. Add the feta, onion, spring onions, melted butter, milk, the egg. Season with salt and  pepper and stir all the ingredients until well combined. Grease a baking tray with olive oil or butter, lie down the first phillo sheet, brush with some oil or butter, cover with the second sheet and brush again. Go on like that until you use half the phillo pastry sheets you have. Pour the filling mixture and cover with the remaining phillo sheets, brushing each one with butter. Brush the last sheet with butter and scatter some black seeds on top. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Notes: - Phillo pastry tends to dry out quickly, so open the paket at the very last moment. If some sheets break, it is not a big deal, you can use anyway the pieces of sheets.
- Usally this cake is made with spinach and it is known as Spanakopita in Greece, but is common also in Turkey.

Torta Greca di Feta e Biete
- 500 g biete
- 250 g feta
- 1 uovo grande o 2 medio-piccoli
- 2 cucchiai di latte
- 100 g burro fuso
- 4 cipollotti giovani e piccoli, tritati finemente
- mezza cipolla tritata finemente
- una confezione da 270 g di pasta phillo (la mia conteneva sei fogli di pasta)
- 50g burro fuso o mezzo bicchiere di olio di oliva per spennallare i fogli di pasta phillo
- semi neri di basilico per decorare (ma anche semi di sesamo o senza semini del tutto se non li avete)

Tagliare a striscioline le biete e farle appassire in padella con un filo d'olio per far perdere loro la maggior parte dell'acqua. Non stracuocerle, quando sono pronte, strizzarle e metterle in una ciotola capiente. Aggiungere alle biete la feta sbriciolata, la cipolla e i cipollotti tritati, 2 cucchiai di latte, il burro fuso e un uovo grande precedentemente sbattuto in una ciotolina. Salare e pepare e mescolare bene tutti gli ingredienti.
Imburrare una teglia da forno, adagiare il primo foglio di pasta phillo, spennellarlo bene con burro fuso o olio evo, adagiare sopra il secondo foglio e spennellare di nuovo, procedere cosi' fino ad usare meta' dei fogli di pasta che avete a disposizione. Disporre uniformemente il ripieno di biete, coprire con l'altra meta' di fogli di pasta che vi rimangono, adagiandoli uno alla volta e spennellando ciascuno con l'olio. Oliare anche l'ultimo foglio, spargere qualche semino nero e infornare in forno gia' caldo a 180 C per 40 minuti circa.

Note: La pasta fillo secca velocemente, quindi aprite la confezione solo all'ultimo minuto. Se qualche foglio si dovesse rompre, non e' grave: metteli a pezzetti comunque e spennellate sempre abbondantemente con l'olio.
- Se sotituite gli spinaci alle biete avrete la tradizionale Spanakopita greca.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Bombay Aloo

Once upon a time Celestial Dragon sneezed. He sneezed so hard that his dragon-snout actually grew longer by several inches. He sneezed so hard that the fire he breathed out Kamehameha'd an entire continent. In fact, it burnt the continent so badly that for a number of millennia nothing ever grew on it. Then, one day, Celestial Dragon felt sorry for what had happened and took pity. Especially on himself. That is why he decided to shorten his snout. Also, he thought he would make amends for the involuntary destruction of an entire section of the world by bringing about the glory it would have evolved into had he not burned it in the first place. And so it was that an entire subcontinent was reborn in a single second, without anyone anywhere being aware it had never existed in the first place. That is the power of dragon magic.
It was such an explosion of colours smells perfumes thoughts laughter tears music life and joy that Celestial Dragon was completely overwhelmed by it. He staggered a few steps backwards, so (literally) taken aback was he. Divine Cherry, in her eager curiosity, then proposed they visited the new continent. And what a surprise it was! The people; the flowers; the cities; the food. Especially the food. Divine Cherry was surrounded by myriads of new recipes. In her frenzy to get a taste of them she ate everything she could find. She tasted every single dish this new world was offering. And among all of those news flavours, this one stood out in particular:

Bombay Aloo - Recipe adapted form "Delicious.- Mar 2012 "

- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 50g butter
- 2 chillies
- 20 curry leaves
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 taspoons black mustard seeds
- 1 taspoon fenugreek seeds,
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 kg potatoes, cut in 2-3cm cubes
- 1 table spoon lemon juice
- sea salt and fresh coriander

In a heavy-bottom pan put the oil, butter, chillies, curry leaves and the chopped onion, cook until tender (3-4 minutes). Add all the spices, stir well, cover and let to cook for a minute or two. Add the potatoes, stir to coat all the pieces and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Cover the potatoes with boiling water until just covered (it should be 600 ml of water more or less), add the lemon juice and salt and let it cook for 15-20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Serve with some fresh coriander.

This recipe partecipates to a "celebration of indian Food" on Lisa's kitchen
Bombay Aloo - ricetta adattata da "Delicious.- Mar 2012"

- 3 cucchiai di olio vegetale dal sapore neutro
- 50 g burro
- 2 peperoncini
- una ventina di foglie di curry
- 1 grossa cipolla finemente tritata
- 1/2 cucchiaino di semi di cumino
- 2 cucchiaini semi di senape neri
- 1 cucchiaino di semi di fieno greco
- 1/2 cucchiaino di curcuma
- 1 cucchiaino di garam masala
- 2 peperoncini, verdi e freschi se si trovano (io ho usato 2 peperoncini secchi rossi)
- 1 cucchiao di succo di limone
- acqua bollente.

In una pentola dal fondo spesso, mettere la cipolla ad apassire per 3-4 minuti con l'olio, il burro, i peperoncini e le foglie di curry. Aggiungere tutte le spezie e far insaporire per un paio di minuti. Aggiungere le patate a tocchetti, e farle insaporire nelle spezie, girarle qualche volta in modo da coprirle bene con le spezie. Coprire le patate con acqua bollete: le patate devono essere appena coperta, versare il succo di limone e il sale. Portare a cottura e far assorbire tutta l'acqua. Servire con del coriandolo fresco.

Saturday, 11 February 2012


Legend, perhaps for the first time, doesn't remember something. It doesn't recall how a particular part of the world came to be. Of course, sitting in a cave all day doesn't help, and Legend knows it, but what is it to do? Go out and have a walk? Where's the age-old dignity in that? Nowadays Legend only lives in books, its presence is not needed under the sun anymore. The good old Memories are dwindling, and the few that remain more often than not don't have the strength to perpetuate a story. And so it is that Legend spends its days sitting morosely on the stony floor, picking listlessly at a fire with an ancient bolt of lightning, and wondering whatever happened to the past.
There's a knock on the cavern door (Legend's cavern has a door). Wondering who it is, and perhaps a little worried also, Legend gets up, shakes the dust off its clothes, spits in its hands and smoothes back its slick, still-black hair, casts a glance in the future, and opens the door. In front of it stand Divine Cherry and Celestial Dragon. They bring an offering: an electric torch and a nose trimmer. Legend is delighted, it has never seen a nose trimmer before! But Legend isn't stupid. After all, it was there before anybody else. It was there before life began, and it will be the last to leave and lock the universe behind it. It knows that Celestial Dragon and Divine Cherry want something, and it also knows what it is.
Legend walks back deep inside the cave, rummages beneath old stones and brittle bones and comes back with a piece of papyrus – the object of the pair's desire.
Legend has it that this is what the papyrus contained: the legendary recipe for Taramosalata.

Taramosalata - Adapted from "Vefa's kitchen"
- 200g cured cod's roe
- 200g mashed potatoes
- 2 tablespoons of choppend onions
- 300ml olive oil
- 5 tablespoons of lemon juice

Put the cod's roe, onion, and a third of the olive oil in a food processor and blend everything for some seconds. Add the mashed potatoes a little at a time and blend everything together. Add olive oil while the motor is still on, and blend until the mixture is smooth and combined. Add the lemon juice and stir well. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water (or soda water) and stir. Serve with olives and crisp bread or pita bread.

Taramosalata, insalata di uova di pesce - Ricetta adattata da "Vefa's kitchen"
- 200 g uova di pesce in scatola, tipo uova di merluzzo
- 200g patate bollite e schiacciate
- 2 cucchiai di cipolla finemente tritata
- 300ml di olio evo
- 5 cucchiai di succo di limone

Mettere, le uova di pesce, la cipolla e un terzo dell'olio in un mixer e frullare tutto per alcuni secondi. Aggiungere le patate lesse schiacciate e frullare. Con il motore del mixer acceso versare a filo l'olio d'oliva, finchè la crema diventa liscia e ben amalgamata. agiungere il succo di limone e mescolare bene. Se la crema dovesse risultare troppo densa, aggiungere u po' di acua (o ancora meglio acqua gasata) e mescolare.
Servire con olive nere (kalamata) e crostini di pane o pane pita (tipo piadina).

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Crostoli di Carnevale

To some, carnival is but a fancy and chronologically misplaced way of celebrating halloween. Wrong. To others, it's nothing but silly people dressing up in silly costumes. Wrong. To some folks, carnival is the celebration of freedom. Wrong. To others still, it is a social vent that prevents society from imploding by granting the unprivileged privileges they would normally not possess, thus giving them an opportunity to ridicule their perceived oppressors. Wrong again. To some other people, it's a just a holiday. Wrong still. What all these people have in common is that they fail to see the true purpose of carnival: crostoli. In truth, when crostoli were invented, people deemed them too good to be eaten every day. They simply couldn't cope with their deliciousness. They were overwhelmed, their palates rebelled and their minds went numb. And so it was that Divine Cherry and Celestial Dragon intervened. They gave the people an idea. How about you invent a holiday just for this occasion and decree that crostoli are to be eaten during that time of the year only, they suggested. The people thought that this was a marvellous idea! They spent an entire year so eagerly looking forward to the newly created holiday that when the day arrived, they exploded in a firework of joy and music and dance and colours and costumes. Needless to say, they then immediately stuffed their faces with crostoli.

Crostoli - Tipical  italian carnival sweet. They are known by different names in every Italian region: Crostoli (Wide Veneto) Galani (Venice), Frappe, Chiacchere, Bugie. This recipe is taken from Divine Cherry's grandma's recipe book.

- 400 g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 40 g butter, softened
- 40 g sugar
- 1egg and 2 yolks
- lemon zest

- 1 glass or white wine or marsala
- vegetable oil to deep fry
- icing sugar

In a large bowl put the flour mixed with baking powder, salt, sugar, lemon zest, the softened butter, egg and yolks. Stir and add as much wine as needed to get a dough a little softer that the tagliatelle dough. Place the dough on the working surface and knead until smooth and elastic (5-10 minutes). Roll out the pastry and cut 3 cm wide strips with a serrated wheel. Deep fry a few at a time in hot oil. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with plenty of icing sugar.

Notes: - Roll out the pastry as thinly as possible:  the thinner, the better the crostoli. If you have a pasta maker, use it to strech the dough as thin as possible. I used a rolling pin: good workout!
- Cover the cut strips of dough with cling film when waiting to fry them, so that they will not dry out.
- There is no need to make precise shapes, irregular crostoli are beautiful ... I made rectangles with two central cuts.
- The oil should stay between 160 C and 180 C. If you have a thermometer, better use it. Otherwise check the temperature by dipping a toothpick in the hot oil (or throw in a small piece of dough): if bubbles form around it, the oil has the right temperature. Be careful not to get the oil too hot: if you see smoke, you need to throw the oil away, it is toxic!

Crostoli - ricetta della nonna di Divine Cherry che qui trascrivo pari pari come dal suo prezioso quaderno,

- 400 g farina
- 40 g burro morbido
- 40 g zucchero
- 1uovo e 2 tuorli
- 1 cucchiaino di lievito
- un pizzico di sale
- buccia grattata di un limone
- q.b. vino bianco o marsala
- abbondante olio per friggere
- zucchero a velo

In una ciotola capiente mettere la farina mescolata al lievito, il sale, la raschiatura del limone e il burro ammorbidito, l'uovo, i tuorli e tanto vino quanto serve per avere una pasta un po' piu' morbida di quella delle tagliatelle. Mettere l'impasto sulla spianatoia e lavorarlo finche' sara' liscio ed elastico. Stendere la sfoglia sottile e tagliare delle strisce con la rotella dentellata. Friggerle poche alla volta in abbodante olio bollente. Scolarle su carta assorbente e cospargerle di zucchero a velo.

Note:  - Tirare la sfoglia il piu' sottile possibile: piu' e' sottile, piu' buoni sono i crostoli. Se avete una macchinetta per tirare la pasta usatela e impostate la tacca piu' stretta. Io ho usato il mattarello: faticosetto!
- Coprire le strisce di pasta tagliata con della pellicola in attesa di friggerle, in modo che non si secchino.
- Non occorre fare delle forme precise...i crostoli sono belli irregolari! Io ho fatto dei rettangoli con due tagli in mezzo, anche questa e' una foma piuttosto tipica.
- L'olio dovrebbe stare tra 160 C e 180 C, se avete un termometro usatelo altrimenti per vedere se e' caldo abbastanza immergete uno stuzzicadente (o buttate un micro pezzetto d'impasto): se si formano le bollicine intorno, l'olio e' alla temperatura giusta. Attenzione a non scaldarlo troppo, se fuma va buttato perche'diventa tossico.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Torta al mandarino di soli albumi

There are a number of ways in which a morning might begin. It may for example begin with an alarm clock that sounds to your sleeping ears like the mighty blow of a Viking's horn; or with the ever-so-tender touch of your dog who, meaning well, erroneously assumes that licking you first thing in the morning makes you happy. Then there is the possibility that you wake up spontaneously - just to discover that you've been without cover for a while, judging from the popsicle-like quality of your body. You could also wake up with a kiss, but fairytales are démodés. There are also mornings when you don't wake up. You lie there, consciously asleep, and pretend that the world thinks that you're still sleeping even though everyone can tell that you're not. So you ignore the world and continue sleeping - awake.
And then there's what happened to Celestial Dragon. He was having the most beautiful dream: he dreamt of round fruits and sweet fruit juices, he dreamt of fruits with cream and fruits coated in chocolate, he dreamt of tutti frutti, and fruit cakes. At that precise moment, just as his divine brain was processing the very complex interplay between the image of a 'fruit cake' and the smell emanating thereof, translating everything into an extraordinarily vivid sensation akin to reality only, he woke up.
Just imagine the dismay. The disappointment. The desperation.
Yet some parts of that dream seemed to linger still. Something tangible, something important. But Celestial Dragon couldn't really put his finger on it. Or his paws. Or head. And then the blow – satori-style. Divine Cherry, gifted with divine premonition and thoughtful thoughts, had actually prepared a fruit cake. But not just any fruit cake. It was the best fruit cake in the world.
And so it was that what for Celestial Dragon had begun as a disappointingly disastrous morning, came in fact to be one of the most enjoyable of them all.

Clementine Cake
-180g of soft butter
-275g of sugar
-375g of flour
-1 tsp of baking powder
-230g of egg whites
-1 glass of milk
-the grated skins & the juice of 3 clementines

Clementine marmelade
-140g of clementines
-350g of water (= x2.5 the weight of the clementines)
-140g of sugar

The cake
Whisk the butter and the flower in a large bowl until it gets light and pale. Sift the flour and the baking powder and add it to the bowl, add the glass of milk, the clementine juice and the grated zests as well. Mix well in order to amalgamate the ingredients. Meanwhile, in another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Add it to the mix, a third at a time, delicately. Pour the mixture in a previously buttered and floured loaf mould. Put in the preheated oven at 180°C for 40mins.
The marmelade
While the cake is in the oven, put in a heavy bottom pan what is left of the clementines after you've squeezed them, plus a couple of fresh clementines cut into pieces (skin on). Weigh the fruits and cover with water (water weight = 2.5 times fruit weight). Cook for 30-40 minutes or until the fruits start to flake. Add the sugar (sugar weight = fruit weight) and stir to dissolve. Cook at medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the marmelade has the right consistency. Do not hesitate to taste. To check the consistency: put one teaspoon of marmelade on a cold plate, tilt the plate and if the marmelade doesn't run down easily, you know it is ready. If it is too runny, on the other hand, be a dear and cook it a while longer.

Spread the surface of the cake with some warm marmelade. It's ready!

Torta al mandarino
- 180 g burro morbido
- 275 g zucchero
- 375g farina
- 1 cucchiaino lievito
- 230 g albumi
- 1 bicchiere di latte
- buccia grattuggiata e il succo di 3 mandarini

Marmellata di mandarini    per un vasetto e un bicchierino

- 140 g mandarini (bucce avanzate e mandarini interi)
- 350 g acqua (= x2.5 il peso dei mandarini)
-140 g zucchero

La torta:
In una ciotola capiente montare con le fruste elettriche il burro con lo zucchero fino ad ottenere un composto chiaro e spumoso. Aggiungere la farina settacciata con lievito, il bicchiere di latte, il succo di 3 mandarini e la buccia grattuggiata degli stessi. Mescolare bene per amalgamare gli ingredienti. A parte in una ciotola asciutta e pulita montare a neve fermissima gli albumi. Aggiungere gli albumi al composto un terzo alla volta, delicatamente. Versare il composto in uno stampo rettangolare imburrato e infarinato. Infornare in forno gia' caldo a 180°C per 40 minuti.

La marmellata:
Mentre la torta e' nel forno, mettere in un pentolino dal fondo spesso gli avanzi dei mandari spremuti insieme ad un mandarino intero  tagliato a pezzetti (compresa la buccia). Pesare la frutta e coprirla con acqua fredda. Il peso dell'acqua dev'essere 2 volte e mezzo quello della frutta. Far cuocere finche la frutta non si sfalda. A questo punto aggiungere lo zucchero (pari peso al peso della frutta). Mescolare per scioglierlo. Dopo 10 minuti, frullare una parte della frutta con il frullatore ad immersione. Contiunuare a cuocere a fuoco medio fino ad ottenere una densita' marmellatosa (circa 20 minuti).
Per verificare la densita' della marmellata, prelevare un cucchiaino dal pentolino e poggiarlo su un piattino freddo, se inclinando il piattino la marmellata scende lentamente e' pronta. Se risulta ancora liquida, proseguire la cottura.

Spalmare la superficie della torta appena sfornata con un po' della marmellata preparata.

And Spread the Mess

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Sweet Potato and Chestnut Soup - Zuppa di Castagne e Patata Dolce

Winter still walks among us. You can see him whichever way you look. You'll spot him hiding in a dark corner, all stiff and icy, like a fairytale beggar. You'll see his long, white beard hanging down to the floor, brushing the concrete walls and freezing the tiny particles of water that were crying off it. Winter is in the air: he flies with the witches, and while they pour but laughter and scorn on the land, he drops hail and snow. Boreas, that old bagpipe, still likes to accompany him and lets him ride on his back like a great beast of cold and air. Celestial Dragon admires Winter. He's always regarded him as a beautiful buffoon. Unpleasant, certainly, but strikingly beautiful in its own way. Celestial Dragon has always loved the glistening and sparkling of thin ice on the roads, the diamond-like ice crystals that coagulate in the clouds, the infinite multitudes of shapes the snow flakes assume - all perfect in their unique symmetries, and the vital steam that comes out of your mouth when you breath, reminding you every instant that is your breath you're seeing, your vital force, your life. Winter has always had a penchant for pensiveness and meditation. In fact, if you asked him, he'd tell you that his favourite holiday destination is Tibet.
But Divine Cherry would have none of this. Divine Cherry needs warmth and sun. She needs for her cherry cheeks to flush in the morning heat. That is why she has always tolerated, but deep down disliked Winter. Lately, however, her adamant position has softened a bit (to Celestial Dragon's delight). And so it was that one day, instead of arming herself with fire and pitchfork, Divine Cherry armed herself with soup and spoon. It was her most successful crusade yet: Celestial Dragon melted away as though he were a popsicle basking in sunlight. Divine Cherry was as happy as can be. The only problem now was the mopping up.

Sweet potato and chestnut soup

-2 sweet potatoes
-300g of chestnuts
-half an onion
-half a glass of milk
-olive oil (extra virgin, what else?)
-salt & pepper

Carve a cross in the chestnuts with a small knife and boil them for 20-30mins in unsalted water. As they have to be soft, check thoroughly before taking them out (in case they're not ready yet, add more boiling water and let it boil a while longer). When they're ready, peel them one by one, making sure to remove the "inner skin" as well. Cut the onion and sauté it in a pan with the olive oil. Add the peeled sweet potatoes cut in cubes. Add the chestnuts and let it all absorb the flavour for a couple of minutes. Cover everything with boiling water (or, preferably, stock) without pouring in too much. Bring to boil. When they're done, blend everything until it becomes creamy. Add the salt and dilute with the warm milk (add as mush as you like). Sprinkle with pepper and serve warm.

Zuppa di castagne e patata dolce

- 2 patate dolci arancioni (credo siano diverse dalle patate americane che si trovano da noi, in alternativa potete usare un pezzo di zucca)
- 300 g di castagne
- mezza cipolla
- mezzo bicchiere di latte
- olio evo, sale e pepe

Incidere la buccia delle castagne con un coltellino ben affilato e farle bollire per 20-30 min in acqua. Le castagne devono risultare morbide, quindi per verificare la cottura affondare il coltello nella polpa attraverso il taglietto sulla buccia. Scolarle poche alla volta e sbucciarle, rimuovendo anche la pellicina interna.
Tritare la cipolla e farla apassire nella pentola con un filo d'olio. Aggiungere le patate dolci sbucciate e tagliate a tocchetti, aggiungere le castagne e far insaporire it tutto per qualche minuto. Coprire le verdure con acqua bollente (o brodo), in modo che le verdure siano appena sommerse. Portare a cottura. Con il frullatore ad immersione rendere il tutto a crema, salare e diluire con mezzo bicchiere di latte caldo (o anche di piu' a seconda dei gusti). Servire con una buona spolverata di pepe.

And Spread the Mess