Avocado and asparagus roast

That is a super healthy and tasty dish I prepared to treat myself during a relaxing night in.


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Ingredients for one person

1 avocado

4 asparagus

150g circa of small plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes

bread crumbs

garlic clove, finely chopped

1 table spoon of dried oregano

the juice of one lime

salt, pepper and dried chillies

2 dollops of Greek yoghurt

Method

Cut the tomatoes and tossed them with half spoon of oil.

Cut the avocado in half and peel it.

Boiled the asparagus for just 2 minutes, drain them and set aside.

Mix breadcrumbs, garlic and oregano.

In an oven tray fit avocado, tomato salad and the asparagus. Drizzle avocado and asparagus with some oil, cover tomato salad with the breadcrumbs mixture and put in the hot oven for about 10-12 minutes or until the breadcrumbs start to golden.

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Take the tray out of the oven and plate the dish: first a bed of tomato gratin then add asparagus and finally place on top the avocado. Fill the avocado with some Greek yoghurt and finally sprinkle with black pepper and chillies. Ready to eat! Serve it with rye bread or corn cakes for a super healthy meal.

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Pasta cacio e pepe, cheese and black pepper pasta

That’s my choice for the first meal of the year 2015: PASTA CACIO E PEPE (pasta with cheese and black pepper). It’s a classic Roman recipe prepared with pecorino romano cheese but this is my version. A while ago I was a girl visiting Rome and willing to cook a traditional local recipe and after having looked up for some tips that’s the recipe I came up with and that I have been following since then. It’s a super quick and easy recipe, delicious and hearty.

I will write the recipe for 500g of pasta… whatever you reckon is enough for 2 or 4 it’s up to you and your stomachs!

Ingredients

5 liters water

3 table spoons of salt

5 spoons of extra virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves finely chopped

2 large table spoons of freshly ground black pepper

250g grated PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE: it’s a hard and salty cheese , ideal for grating like the parmesan, made out of sheep’s milk. I just brought back some from Italy but I normally find it in small blocks at Sainsbury’s.

500g of long shaped pasta (I used “spaghetti alla chitarra” that I bought in Italy but normal spaghetti would do)

Method

Fill up a large pot with 5 liters water and bring to boil then add the salt.

In between put in a cold pan the oil, the garlic and the black pepper and heat up on a very slow fire: the garlic has to cooked and become slightly transparent and soft but doesn’t have to fry or toast. Let cool down.

In a bowl mix the grated cheese with some of the cooking water for the pasta. Add a ladle per time and mix well to obtain a kind of creamy mixture (2 ladles of water should be enough).

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook “al dente” following the instructions on the pasta package. Keep on the side a half cup of the cooking water.

Toss the drained pasta in the pan with the oil, garlic and black pepper and mix well, off the stove. Keeping the pan off the stove add the cheese mixture and mix very well using 2 forks and breaking the eventual clots of cheese until you obtain a creamy texture (add some of the cooking water you left behind if the result is too dry). You need to act quickly while the pasta is hot!

The pasta is ready and has to be served immediately.

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Kale orecchiette

The traditional Italian recipe is “orecchiette alle cime di rapa” and the main ingredients is/are RAPINI (!!!) This veg is not at all easy to find and I guess it is more associates with Mediterranean cooking… but the recipe is amazing and I wanted to be able to prepare it often and cheaply so I found out that with kale it works just as good!

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Ingredients (serve 3-4 people)

6 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

8 anchovies fillet

4 liters of water

2 table spoons of salt

400g of orecchiette pasta (or penne pasta if you don’t find orecchiette)

200g of kale roughly chopped

freshly ground black pepper and dry ground chillies for topping

Method

Place oil, garlic and anchovies in a large saucepan (able to contain all the cooked pasta) and put on a very very slow heath, the lowest you can. Ingredients have to warm up together and ideally oil doesn’t really have to bubble. In this way anchovies will melt down and garlic will become soft and transparent. Stir with a wooden spoon and let cook for about 10 min.

In a large pot bring the water and salt to boil and cook the pasta following the instructions on the package. Circa 7 minutes before the pasta is ready add the kale to the pot, stir well and drain all together when pasta is cooked (save a half cup of the cooking water). Toss pasta and kale in the saucepan where the anchovies and garlic sauce is. Add some of the cooking water if the result is too dry.

Serve immediately in hot plates and top with freshly ground black pepper and some chillies.

It’s damn good.

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Ale and leek risotto

1200upload-10Amazing British produces in the most magical Italian dish.
I am amazed by the way my Italian cooking and eating habits are mixing with English ones. I love risotto and it is so versatile that has been the perfect ground for my culinary “melting pot”.

Today I am trying with Whitstable Bay Organic Ale, memory of a recent week-end spent in Canterbury with friends, and leeks… totally and obviously British!

I will try to put in words the method my grand mother taught me when I was a little girl… probably the time when all my passion for cooking started!

1200upload-99Ingredients

serve 2

1.5 liter of water

4 table spoon of granulated vegetable stock (you can do your own obviously, I will publish also my best veggie stock recipe, but using ready stock really speed up everything)

4 tablespoon of oil

300g of sliced leeks (circa half centimetre thickness)

half pint of Ale beer, choose a citrusy one

300g of small grain rice: I used vialone nano that I brought back from my last visit to Italy but in England you can easily find arborio rice in the supermarkets now.(Sainsbury’s or Tesco)

30g of grated mature cheddar

30g of butter

freshly ground black pepper, salt

Method

1.In a big pot bring the water to boil and add the granulated stock. The stock has to be hot all the way to the end, so keep it bubbling on the stove on low eat.

2.Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, add the leeks and cook them on low heat for 5 minutes until soften.

3.Now the most important part of it all! Add the rice and let it fry slightly on medium heat until the rice grains become translucent, circa couple of minutes. Constantly stir not to burn or toast too much the rice.

4.Turn the heat up, add the half pint of beer and continue to stir. That’s the best part, when the beer is sizzling in the hot pan and the smell of it is filling the kitchen!

5.When the beer is quite absorbed add a ladle of stock and bubble over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid is just about been absorbed. Add another ladle of stock and keep cooking this way until the rice is cooked, circa 20 minutes. Don’t forget to stir and do not add to much stock at once! The result has to be creamy. I always prefer to add a ladle less than one more to avoid overcooking the rice.

A note on seasoning: if your stock is salted enough you won’t need to add salt during the cooking. I don’t anyway add it till the last ladle of stock, when I can try the rice and have a clear idea how salty the dish is.

A note on the cooking: I like the risotto al dente, very creamy and a bit runny, in Italy we call it all’onda, but you can cook your rice to a driest point and decide to add less stock. The final result should be anyway a bit creamy and the grains should preserve the original shape and should be separated, not sticking together in lumps.

6.Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and the cheddar and let rest for 2-3 mins before serving.  Dish the risotto and serve it with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and pair it with the same beer you used for cooking.

The risotto should be eaten immediately because it loses very quickly its texture, so if you are having guests it is not at all the dish to prepare in advance. I do actually like to prepare it for my guests, while they are around the kitchen and we are all having a nice glass of wine!

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Sugar and flour free oats biscuits

Banana based baking with no sugar and no flour… couldn’t resist to try something. Read a few recipes on Pinterest and here my version. Didn’t want any sweetener at all.

Oats and banana biscuitsIngredients

Prepare 15 biscuits circa

3 large very ripe bananas

2 cups of rolled oats

1 tablespoon of cinnamon

1 handful of walnuts in pieces

1 handful of blueberries

Baking tray and parchment to line it

Method

Pre-heath the oven at 180°C.

Put the oats in a bowl and then add the bananas roughly cut in big chunks and with the help of a fork (or with your hands) smash everything together and mix well. The result will be fairly runny and sticky. Add cinnamon and walnuts and mix again.

With 2 table spoon prepare rough quenelles with the compound and place them on the baking tray previously lined with parchment. The biscuits won’t enlarge during the cooking time so you can arrange them just couple of centimeters one from each other.

I did try some of them with blueberries, just add them before cooking on top of the formed biscuits pressing gently.

Put in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.

The result is not bad at all, for sure these biscuits are really healthy and filling and they make a perfect morning or afternoon snack. They stay soft inside and definitely remind of some energy raw bar. Never baked something easier in my life.

Oats and banana biscuits

Oats and banana biscuits

Roman cauliflower

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No, I didn’t just take pictures, I did actually cook it. The whole cauliflower, without leaves, rubbed in oil, garlic and chillies put in a clay pot full of vegetable stock and then covered with foil. In the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 1 hour, checking from time to time, and then half hour under the grill. It’s like cooking a big joint of meat! Served with cous cous and Greek yogurt. Just amazing.

I know its a long way to cook, but the preparation is super quick and once in the oven you can forget about it and spend your home-time as usual, like drinking while dealing with your n+1 social media accounts.

The cauliflower comes from Queen’s park farmers’ market, one of my favourite source of good food.