Sunday, 29 January 2012

I Miei Ravioli Di Sogno (My wonderful ravioli filled with prawns and fresh basil)

Today I felt really creative! I wanted to invent, create a new pasta dish that no one had made before! Could I do that? I am not a natural pasta maker, as my pasta usually comes out of a packet and, when my mum used to make orecchiette or cavatelli, I would sit next to her and use pasta dough to make snails and crocodiles out of it! I never wanted to learn!
But the dough smelt fresh and good and I would eat it, when I thought my mum couldn't see me! She had eyes everywhere, and regularly, I got told off, but with a smile...
My recipe, you won't find in any book, as it's "MINE!" and I'm very proud of it, as the flavours are well balanced and so are the textures. The flavour of my dish is ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS and I'm very proud of it!

I Miei Ravioli Di Sogno
( My Gorgeous Prawn and Basil Filled Ravioli
with a Basil and Chilli Oil)
Serves 4

250 g plain (all purpose flour)
2 eggs
pinch of salt
warm water
16 peeled prawns (shrimps)
2 tbsp olive oil
handful fresh basil
handful fresh rocket
1 cloves garlic
few slices red chilli (optional)
Pecorino cheese
For the Chilli Oil Sauce:
4 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
some red chilli
2 handfuls mixed
rocket and basil
Generous grating of Pecorino Romano Cheese

I began my "adventure" by making my pasta dough. I made mine by hand, because I am very lazy when it comes to using machines. I made a well in my flour and added my eggs, some salt and enough water to make a firm, but soft dough.

And I almost forgot the eggs! If you have a mixer, you can just throw the ingredients in and switch on to mix till you have a soft dough.

I covered my your dough and left  it to rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime...
I took 16 prawns, a few extras, to use as garnish. I put a couple of glugs of olive oil in a frying pan. When hot, I added  1 clove of finely chopped garlic and some chilli pepper (this is optional, but I LOVE IT!)
When the garlic turned a lovely golden colour, I added my prawns (shrimps) and cooked until they turned a sort of pinky orangey colour. At this point, I added two handfuls of rocket and fresh basil. I quickly stirred and turned off.

I was now ready to make my ravioli. I rolled  out my pasta dough, making sure my pasta sheet wasas thin as paper ( it really wasn't, but don't tell anyone!)
I didn't use my Nonna Papera (pasta machine) so my dough was slightly thicker than I wanted it to be!

Anyway! I cut 16 pasta circles using a big glass (About 2 1/2'' diameter- 6 cm)
and placed one prawn and some basil, plus a small piece of chilli pepper in the middle of it. I then wet the edge of my pasta circle with water, placed another round over the top and sealed, all the way round, by pressing with a fork. They looked very pretty!

I only made eight ravioli and froze the rest of my dough, but my recipe will make 16!
As you normally do, I cooked my ravioli in boiling salted water, then drained and poured my pasta in the pan where the prawns had been cooked.

I added another very generous handful of rocket and basil, plenty of grated Pecorino cheese, pepper and more chilli pepper, as I love it so (did you know you can buy chilli pepper flavoured chocolate?) and a small cup of the water in which my pasta was cooked.

I stirred very proudly as the aroma told me I was onto a winner, then grated a lot of Pecorino over my dish (I find that it goes well with some fish dishes, as it's pungent, strange enough!)

I served my lovely dish, tasted it and felt very proud of myself!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Dolce & Gabbana Eat your Heart Out! Peperoni Ripieni Aromatici- Mozzarella Filled Peppers


Christmas seems just a distant memory. As I look out of the window,  a ray of sunshine over the frozen lawn and pond and the loud sound of birds singing, fill me with hope. Spring must be round the corner... I need light, I need colour and I need warmth and hope.
I went out and bought some "happy" food: tiny, sweet little peppers, in warm colours, ranging from bright red to yellow, a jar of big capers in vinegar and two deliciously milky white mozzarelle. I needed to fill the house with the smell of happy times, the warmth of eternal love and colour!

Colourful food to cheer me up

So, I made dish that my mother used to make, using beautiful, big, thin fleshed yellow, peppers, sweet tenders peppers which smelt of Summer and love.
I used six quite small peppers for my dish, but the recipe can be adapted ( 3 large peppers cut into halves, instead, to make six portions... nothing needs to be measured... just feel and taste the food!)
The aroma of dish dish is incredible, and so is the taste. Dolce & Gabbana, eat your heart out!

Peperoni Ripeni Aromatici
Delicious  Mozzarella Stuffed Peppers
6 small peppers
or 3 medium sized ones
1 white bread roll
1 egg
grated Pecorino Romano or
Parmigiano Cheese
small bunch of fresh Italian parsley
1 egg
1 mozzarella
2 cloves garlic
some capers in vinegar
six or seven cherry tomatoes
(can use tinned instead)
olive oil
black pepper

Preheat oven ( 200 C, 400F, Gas 6 )

Before you start, wash or wipe your peppers and cut each of then in half, lengthways. Discard stalk and seeds.
Cover the bottom of an oven proof earthenware dish with some oil, add one finely chopped clove of garlic, some grated cheese, three or four chopped cherry tomatoes, some parsley, salt and pepper, and reserve until later.
In a small bowl, soak your bread roll in water or milk. Once softened, squeeze most of the liquid out and add: 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1 egg, some grated cheese, salt, pepper and your mozzarella, cut into smallish pieces. Mix all the ingredients, add some chopped fresh parsley, and... here's your stuffing!

1) ingredients for stuffing 2) the stuffing is ready 3) olive oil at the base of my oven dish

My peppers were really quite small, so I used just one tbsp of stuffing to fill each of the halves. If you are using big peppers, you'll need more- the stuffing is so easy to make, so if you need more... make more of it! (And please... don't fill peppers with rice, it's so heavy, unrefined and just not nice!)
Once the peppers are filled, place them in the oven dish, over the olive oil, garlic, cheese and the rest of the ingredients I listed before. Now... all you need to do is place a small piece of tomato (you can use tinned) over each pepper and sprinkle a generous spoonfull of capers all over the dish, followed by an equally generous sprinkling of cheese, all over the peppers, followed by some olive oil. Add half a glass of water to the base, to make a sauce, and bake until golden.

My peppers before and after baking

I had mine with a lovely mixed peppery salad with poppy seeds and some Italian taralli.

Olive Oil Taralli are fantastic!

 But...  a bread roll or some delicious crusty bread would allow you to soak up and enjoy the delicious juices at the bottom of plate.
And "Here's one I made earlierl!"


Sunday, 8 January 2012

La Pioggia nel Pineto ( Dangerously Delicious Pine Nut Italian Biscotti and memories...)

Some of the "goodies" I made for Christmas: Cookies, English mince pies
and, bottom left: struffoli, from Campania (recipe to follow next month
when it's Carnival time in Italy, France and Spain!)

I will never forget the smell of pine trees, as I walked out school, as a little girl, in Italy. My school was opposite our Parrocchia (church) in the middle of a piazza. The only other building on the piazza (we called it "I giardini") was a little newsstands. It's  still there...
On the way home we would often stop outside and play. Inevitably, I would touch the trunk of one of the many old pine trees ( they are all still there, too...) and, inevitably, my fingers would get covered in resin... I remember it was so sticky, even more than honey, but the smell was "delicious" and I could smell it all the way home. I LOVE that smell!

Mediterranean Pine trees in Italy

I will never forget the day our mum gave us a huge pine cone and told my brother Mimmo and I, to look for the treasure inside... As we "peeled" the cone, little nuts, enclosed into a hard, powdery black case, jumped out. We cracked every single one of them, only to find precious, juicy little "pearls" that nature had made all by itself, for our delight.
I love the smell of pine! It was smell of Christmas, the smell of joy and of happiness the smell of small, precious gifts which make life so special and unique to each and every one of us.
Like my mum had done when I was little, my husband bought a gift of pine nuts... a whole huge bag of the precious pearls. I opened the bag and tasted just one: so soft, dense, nutty and enriched with memories of days past.

I won't lie: 800g was eaten by me, a little handful or two, each day. With each mouthful I would savour a taste of my childhood. The last 200 g, I used to make him his favourite cookies: Biscotti ai pinoli. And they were good!
So, here is my recipe:

Biscotti ai Pinoli
(Pine Nut Biscuits)
(about 25 biscuits)
1 egg
60 (21/2 oz) cane sugar
220 (8 oz) flour
70 ml (about 3 fl oz) olive oil
200 ( 7 oz) pinoli (pine nuts-kernels)
zest of 1 lemon
1 bag Vanillina
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbs liquor (Limoncello, Marsala, Grand Marnier or whatever you fancy!)

Preheat oven (180 C, 350 F, Gas 4)

Place your flour onto a board or clean surface, make a well in the middle, add all the other ingredients, including your lovely pine kernels, and work into a soft dough.

This is my Bertolini Vanilla I "import" from Italy

With the help of a rolling pin, roll out the dough, then, using a round 5 cm (2'') cutter, start making your biscuits, by cutting out rounds about 1 cm thick.

1) my gorgeous pine nuts 2) My biscuit dough, ready to be "cut" 3) My biscotti are ready!
Place onto a previously greased and floured baking tray and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Make sure your biscuits don't burn, as they will taste bitter if they do.

I sprinkled icing sugar and lovely tiny pink sugar cubes all over my biscotti
This quantity made about 25 truly delicious biscuits ( I think!) They were very easy to make and looked gorgeous after I sprinkled some icing sugar and tiny little pink sugar cubes all over them! And they looked really "sexy!"

 ... with a nice cup of "Caffe` corretto" (That means it has Sambuca in it!)