Saturday, 16 July 2011

You are so wrong about fast food and the BUNGA BUNGA! (Pork chops and vegetable medley wrapped in foil and baked! That's all!)

I bet you thought the Americans invented fast food and... I also bet that you thought that "Prime" Minister Berlusconi invented the BUNGA BUNGA! (If you don't know what that is... I'm not telling you, 'cause it's a bit rude and I am a LADY!)
In ancient Rome (and I know because I have been to Pompeii lots of times) people didn't really have fitted kitchens and microwaves, or fan ovens (didn't see any microwaves, but they did have central heating and double glazing... they really did!) Anyway! If you were poor (doesn't history repeat itself?)... You were done! No oven, no cooker, no microwave and maybe NO SLAVE... OR WIFE! So... where did you go if you were hungry? The Termopolium, of course (Take out restaurant to you and I!) Yes, they invented that, too! And I bet "nice" women were not allowed in!  Termopoliums are still there, in Pompeii, for everyone to see, and... round the back, a set of rooms, where you could drink wine (of course) play games and... do the BUNGA BUNGA! So there, Signor Berlusconi, you did not even "invent" the BUNGA BUNGA!
Fast food doesn't have to be unhealthy hamburger or cheese loaded pizza or rather oily ( but very nice, unfortunately) Chinese food! In Italy we are very good at fast food. Fast and quite healthy, too! (we actually do most things in record time!)

Today I cooked pork chops ( but it could be lamb- very nice! Or red mullet-extremely nice! Same recipe, BTW!) and also mixed vegetables (courgettes, peppers, garlic and parsley) al cartoccio (that means I placed each chop in foil, with other ingredients and then closed the foil to make a little parcel,) and did the same with my vegetables, too, as you may have gathered. The parcels were cooked very quickly in a hot oven... no frying, no fat, no butter, just good old, delicious Mediterranean ingredients!
And guess what? Here is the recipe!

Bistecche di maiale al cartoccio
(Pork Chops Wrapped in Foil)
3 servings:
3 pork chops,
3 cloves garlic, chopped
handful fresh parsley
some Balsamic Vinegar
some olive oil
some fresh chilli pepper, sliced
(opitional, but not for me!)

Verdure miste al cartoccio
(Vegetable Medley wrapped in Foil)
2 peppers, diced
2 courgettes (zucchine) diced
3 cloves garlic
handful parsley
 fresh basil
some Balsamic Vinegar
some olive oil
some fresh basil leaves

Cut a few squares of aluminum foil. Place each chop in the middle of it. Pour some olive oil al balsamic vinegar over the meat. Rub till the 2 ingredients are blended. Chop the garlic and parsley, spread over the chops, then add salt and pepper.
Gather the foil above the meat, then close to make a parcel. Do the same with every chop.

my chop looks happy... doesn't know it's about to be cooked!

In a large piece of foil, place all your vegetables, including garlic and parsley. Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar Mix together, wrap up. Now, you can place all your parcels on a baking tray or dish. I cooked my "Fast food" in a fan oven at a temperature of 220 C,425F, Gas 7)

I opened my parcels... 40 minutes later...

My chops were served with the vegetables, some caponata (extremely delicious!) I made yesterday, a small pot of olive oil and Balsamic,

Caponata and balsamic oil

for extra dressing or dipping, and, of course, some baguette. I actually also made a quick salad with mozzarella, black pepper and olive oil, whick was simply fantastic (but do use proper mozzarella, the real Italian stuff if you make this!) 
Everybody said it was fantastic! AND...
IT REALLY WAS.............. FAST....................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When Cher sang "You're simply the best" she was referring to Italian food, no doubt! Bet you didn't know that! Or was is Tina Turner? Not "the best"... the person who sang that song, I mean! Yes, she was! I bet you didn't know that either!


 I think it looks deliziosissimissimo!

with my caponata (that's another recipe!)... and oil and balsamic
for extra dressing and dipping.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I Was Born By the Sea (Spaghetti with King Prawns-Shrimps)

She knew she was at home, as she could almost smell the sea... On hot Summer's night, she would go outside, look at the sky... So full of stars! She could almost touch and feel the humid caress of the sea breeze... her skin went salty, as the mild hot scirocco, would always carry sand and tiny particles of salt.

I was born by the sea, and though my daughter laughs when I say this... yes... the sea is very much part of me. When I feel sad, I think blue, when I feel lonely, I smell the seaweed... when I need to feel loved, I can close my eyes and feel the touch of sun... when I feel nostalgic, my mind can still "hide" in the corner of our garden, in Italy, amongst the broken terracotta posts and listen to the waves, crashing inside a shell bigger than my head.

"I could never spend a day of my life without seeing the sea" I once said to my friend Maria, as we walked by the Lungomare, in the very beautiful city where we were born and lived.

As a matter of fact, I did move and went to live in a country where I couldn't see the sea "every day" and where Winters were very long, cold and white...

Cooking the food of my country helps my keep in touch with myself and my "story". Today I will share this "experience" with you. It's a very traditional dish from my city by the sea, known for being one of the places, in Italy, where people eat the best, healthiest and certainly the most delicious food. And we are modest!

Spaghetti ai Gamberoni (Spaghetti With King Prawns)

(2 or 3 servings)

5 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small chilli pepper, sliced
(optional- I love it!)
9-12 king prawns
350 g (12 oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
or: tinned tomatoes
2-3  tbs passata
A handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
salt, black pepper

350g (12 oz) spaghetti or linguine

 In a largish frying pan, or saucepan, place the oil. When this gets really hot, add the garlic and the chilli. Let the garlic brown, but not burn (it tastes bitter when burnt!)

Now you are ready to add your prawns. Leave the heads and the shells on, as they will give your sauce a magnificent flavour (you can use peeled prawns, but I can tell you the Earth WILL NOT move!)

Again, stir until the prawns begin to change colour (they will go bright orange!)

You can now add tomatoes and parsley (keep some parsley for garnish)

parsley growing in my garden

You need to stir this, keeping the heat high. Two or three minutes later, turn the heat down, to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes and... the sauce is ready!

The sauce is ready!

Cook your pasta al dente, in a pot of boiling water (you add your pasta when the water is boiling, not before, unless you want to make glue!) drain and reserve some of the water, in a cup. Place the drained pasta in the pan, with the prawn sauce, stir and inhale the best seafood pasta dish ever!

I served my pasta with just one or maybe two of the prawns, and garnished with parsley and lovely samphire (delicious seaweed.) The rest of the prawns were eaten as a second course, with a salad I made with baby romaine, rocket, basil and samphire. It was "Veramente molto buono!"


My prawns with salad

Saturday, 9 July 2011

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight! (Hunter Style Chicken-Pollo alla Cacciatora)

The rosemary I used didn't come from some exotic location

(In beautiful Campania, Italy. I stopped the car to take this photo!)

 ...but from my garden.
I wish I could have picked it from the side of a mountain, like I do in Italy, right outside our house, but...the "foreign" rosemary I have is green,  fragrant and I love it! It so reminds me of the smell of our kitchen, when Pollo alla Cacciatora (Hunter Style Chicken) was on the menu. I'm sure that when it came to cooking, my mother had the culinary equivalent of "green fingers"... or maybe it was the fact that what she cooked was prepared with love for her family and her home. Her chicken was amazing! I miss my mother.
Anyway! My Pollo alla Cacciatora is really very good! And the secret is... in the "burning" of the skin. Please don't use breast. Any other cut will do, skin on. The skin has to burn, to give the sauce that natural brown colour and almost smoky flavour (this was my mum's excuse, anyway! But she was right. I once made this dish and my daughter Gabriella said:" mummy, this doesn't taste right. You didn't burn the skin!" ) Well... she was right!
The one and only chicken cacciatora
(Hunter Style Chicken)
Serves 4 people
8 chicken portions
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
3-4 rosemary sprigs
5-6 cherry tomatoes tomatoes
(fresh or tinned)
a couple generous glugs olive oil
black pepper
1 glass white wine
A generous handful mushrooms, quartered
This is the easiest of dishes, as, all you do is: put all the ingredients in a largish frying pan (I have a stainless steel one I use for my Tarte Tatin) place onto a ring, full heat and cook. Stir occasionally and add a tiny drop of water if it all appears to be slightly dry.
I only cooked four portions, as you can see!
At this point I went otsude to sample the white wine I knew would be my next ingredient... beautiful, chilled white Frascati from the hills of Rome. Cin Cin!
Back to the chicken...
When the skin of your chicken has browned (like I said, don't worry if it looks slightly burnt and dark) you add your wine, stir a little bit. Let the wine reduce, so you get a quite thick dark, truly amazingly delicious sauce. Check the meat... this should be thoroughly cooked and tender. You can now add your mushrooms and cook for about ten minutes. Add salt and pepper and serve. It's delicious with crusty bread! Buon Appetito!
I served my chicken with Swiss chard, dandelion and cavolo nero, from my garden.
 Fresh and organic! and very, very green!

 I boiled the clean vegetables and drained them. In a frying pan I heated some oil and when really hot, I added some chopped garlic, some fresh chilli pepper and finally, my vegetables! Really, really good!

I think it looks pretty good!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

My Semifreddo is Hot! Semifreddo al ribes rosso ( Red Currant, Biscuit and Vanilla Flavour Semifreddo)

I come from a city on the Adriatic Coast, where, though you would be able to grow figs, dates and even bananas, it's so hot, you'd never ever would grow a red, a white or a black currant. A colder climate suits currants better.
I like the beauty of red currants: the tiny little translucent berries look as if they were made from very expensive Murano glass. Red currants are like tiny, shiny rubies. So beautiful! "Too beautiful to eat" I thought the first time I saw them...

I bought a large punnet of red currants, which someone had grown in their garden and wanted to use them to make something really pretty and Italian and... yes, I actually found a semifreddo recipe where one of the delicious ingredients was... red currants!
I love semifreddo, even just plain, vanilla flavoured semifreddo. This recipe combines the creamy sweetness of vanilla cream semifreddo with the gorgeous taste and colour of red currants.

It's easy to make and it will be the last sweet I make and post for a while, as I already have posted a lot of "sweet" recipes. The thing is: taking photos of cakes, biscuits and pastries is so much fun!

Il mio semifreddo preferito al ribes rosso
(My favourite Red Currant Semifreddo)
(Makes 5-6 slices)
4,5 dl ( just over 3/4 of a pint) fresh whipping or double cream
100g (4 oz) icing (confectioner's) sugar
50 g ( 2 oz) biscuits (any kind you like!)
few drops vanilla extract
150 g ( 5 oz) red currants
To crystallized currants for garnish:
a few small bunches of red currant 
1 tbs sugar
the white of one egg
Before you begin, you need to get rid of all the stalks on your currants. The quickest way is to run a fork through the bunchlets, as if you were "combing " them. Alternately, you can pick every berry, like you do with grapes.
Next, crumble your biscuits very roughly ( don't make it into thin crumble) next, whip your cream, then fold your icing sugar into it and add a few drops of vanilla extract.

Divide the cream between two cold bowls: pour the biscuits into one bowl and the currants into the other, to create two different textures, flavours and colours. You can puree the berries if you like. I didn't, as I didn't want to crush the pips. I still got a delicate pink mixture with a fantastic taste.

You now have two lots of cream and they both taste delicious! I know, because I tasted them!


Line a bread or plum cake tin with cling film, make sure you have some overlapping, on the outside of the tin. Make layers of pink and white cream (I made two layers) Cover with cling film and freeze for at least 4 hours.

I had a lot of berries, so I decided to make a coulis to go with my semifreddo. I put 200g of berries in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water and 3 tbsp of sugar. I cooked on a moderate heat for a few minutes, then sieved. I ended up with a silky, ruby red thick sauce, liquid enough to be poured. As this is a creamy pudding, I decided to also serve it with my home made crunchy flower biscuits. The recipe I used for these is the same as my crostata dough. If I had not forgotten them in the oven, I wouldn't have burnt half of them! Mummy's girl...

Coulis and biscuits

Semifreddo is a fantastic Summer and Winter pudding, as, at Christmas time you could use cranberries instead of red currants and then decorate your semifreddo so it looks like something that Rossetti would have painted, being as decadent as he was! I so love looking at things which look beautiful!

My Semifreddo really looks "Hot!"