Leek and pumpking soup

Happy 2017 everyone. Now that the winter has started nothing can beat a warm soup. . Pumpkin is probably the most popular winter veggie and it is associated with Halloween and it is thought to keep sinister spirits and ghosts away. Leek belong to the “Allium ampeloprasum” family and contains the flavonoid kaempferol, which helps us in protecting our heart from cardiovascular diseases. Last but not least this recipe is dairy and fat free therefore if you are on a diet it’s just the perfect meal.

I hope you will enjoy it.

What you need:

  • 1 leek
  • 500 g pumpkin, peeled and roughly cut
  • 0.5 l vegetable stock
  • 1 garlic clove
  • parsley to garnish
  • salt and pepper

How to make it:

Bring stock to the boil, in the meanwhile halve the leek length ways and wash it to remove any dirt. Wash the pumpkin and add it to the stock together with the leek and the garlic. Cook the soup for 15 mins or until the pumpkin has softened. Add salt and pepper and let the soup cool down for few minutes. With a blender or food processor cream the soup.

Serve it piping hot and add some parsley to your dish before eating it.

Chocolate cake – Christmas version

With a bit of delay, here is the first Christmas recipe for 2017. This Christmas tree chocolate cake is very easy to bake and it is made to impress.

What you need:

  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 50 g self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 75 g cocoa powder
  • 15 g corn flour
  • almond essence
  • salt

How to make it:

In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until you have a creamy mixture. Sift in the flour, the corn flour, the cocoa powder and incorporate well until smooth. Add the almond essence and stir once more.

Beat the egg whites with the salt until peaks form and add them to the batter with smooth movements, mixing from the center of the bowl.

Add the batter to a Christmas tree shaped mold and bake in the oven at 190 C for 35 mins.

When the cake is completely cooled down use your fantasy to decorate it. In this cake I just used sugar ribbons and snowflakes and icing sugar.

Blueberries and almond cake

This is the right season for berries and this is a perfect recipe to use them. It is a delicious and moist cake that combines the nice flavour of the berries with the crunchy taste of the almonds.
The recipe below is for a square tin of 15 cms – baking a regular sized cake would be too much for the 2 of us but if you need to make a bigger cake (ie 20 cm square or round tin) you will need to double the ingredients below.

What you need:

  • 75g unsalted butter, softned
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • 125 g self raising flour
  • 7 g baking powder (1/2 tsp)
  • 80 g blanched almonds, halved
  • 200 g blueberries
  • 1 large egg
  • 75 ml milk

How to make it:
Preheat the oven at 180C° and grease and line your cake tin. Gently wash the blueberries and let them dry before using them.

Cream the sugar with the butter until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Add the egg and work well until all ingredients are combined.

Add the flour and the baking powder (sifted), the almonds and the milk and whisk well. Once you have a nice mixture you need to incorporate the mjority of the blueberries. Spoon the mixture in the tin and add the remaining bluberries at the top.

Bake your cake in the oven for 35 mins approx – check your cake while baking as if it begins to brown you would need to cover it with some baking paper or foil so it will cook evenly.

Test with a toothpick if your cake is ready and if it comes out clean you can remove the cake from the oven and let it cool down.

Enjoy your cake when completely cooled down with some fresh blueberries or if you want indulge with some fresh cream.

Cranberries and pistacchio oat cookies

These cookies are Amazing: I baked them for my husband who is back to school again. He needed a little help with sugars so I decided to bake these beautiful treats.

What you need:

  • 100g pistacchio nuts
  • 100 g unsalted butter,softened
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1tbsp honey;
  • 125 g self raising flour, sifted
  • 125 g oats
  • pinch of salt

 

How to make it:

Pre-heat the oven at 190° and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Mix together the butter and the sugar unitl smooth (better to use an electric whisk). Add the egg, the vanilla extract, the honey and whisk again. Add the flour, the oats, the salt, the pistacchio nuts and the cranberries. Mix well until combined.

You need now to divide the dough in small little pieces (like a walnut), place them on a baking sheet leaving enough space for the cookies to cook. Flatten the cookies slightly and bake them for 10 minutes. Leave the cookies to cool down.

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Tips:

  • if the dough is too stiff you can add little water or milk;
  • cookies need to be flatten before baking them so they cook evenly;
  • if the cookies look soft after 10 mins remove them from the oven: they will get the cookie consistency once they are completely cooled down. I learnt this after several burnt batches.

 

 

 

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

The perfect dish for those summer BBQ’s or outside lunches or pic nics! The secret for a perfect pasta salad is cook the pasta few minutes less than the cooking time. Pasta keeps cooking after it has been drained so if you wish a nice and crunchy pasta you need to drain it before it is fully cooked. Another advise I feel to give is to use best quality ingredients. This is an extremely simple recipe for pasta so it is important you use the best of the best: fresh and ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh prawns and good quality black olives. Last but not least use a good brand of pasta: they are not all the same!

 

What you need :

  • 320 g pasta
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 200 g prawns
  • 50 g dried black olives
  • 1 small shallot
  • basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil

How to make it:

Cook the pasta as instructed in the package and remember to drain it 3 minutes before the cooking time. Place the pasta in bowl, season with some extra virgin olive oil and leave it aside. While the pasta is cooling down prepare the sauce.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan, slice the shallots and cook them  until brown. Add the prawns and cook for 2 minutes or until tender. Remove the pan from the heat and let the prawns cool down.

Chop the tomatoes, remove the seeds and the liquid and put them in antoher bowl. Season them with some sea salt and extra virigin olive oil: I like to toss the tomatoes with my hands in this case.

At this stage toss all the ingredients together: the pasta, the tomatoes and the prawns in a serving bowl. Add the black olives and the fresh basil,

Cover with some film and refrigerate the pasta for 1 hour: remove from the fridge 15 mins before serving.

Some tips:

  • if you over cook the pasta you can stop the cooking process by rinsing the pasta with fresh water (under the tap while draining it);
  • feel free to add some chillies at the end to give it a more spicy taste;
  • I do not recommend to add parmesan cheese (or any kind of cheese here) as it will cover the taste of the prawns.

 

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Naked fancies

I received an amazing recipes book about naked cakes (“naked cakes” by Hannah Miles) so I decided to try one called Naked fancies: I hope you enjoy this super natural recipe. I believe if you have a bit of practice this can be used for Weddings, b-days and any other occasion you have to celebrate.

What you need:

  • 115 g butter, softened
  • 115 g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 115 g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tbsp buttermilk or sour cream
  • 4o ml rose or violet liqueur

For the buttercream:

  • 300 g icing sugar
  • 30 g softened butter
  • 1 tbsp milk

For the glaze:

  • 280 g icing sugar
  • 50 ml rose or violet liqueur

How to make it
Mix the butter and the sugar with an electric whisk. Add the eggs to the mixture and continue to whisk. Sift in the flour and the baking powder, add the sour cream and work all the ingredients until incorporated.

Spoon the cake batter into a cake pan and bake for 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven (180°C). Once the caked is ready let it cool down and start preparing the icing.

Mix the icing sugar and the butter adding little milk if the mixture is too stiff.

Cut the cake in half horizzontaly, drizzle in some liqueur (the original recipe says violet liqueur: I used rose liqueur) and spread a layer of buttercream. Top the cake with the second half of the cake and let refrigerate for 2 hours.

Cut the cake in 16 mini cakes.

Make the glaze by heating the icing sugar in a saucepan with some liqueur and about 100 ml water until you obtain a translucent liquid. Spoon the icing over the cakes and decorate with some edible flower or anything your fantasy suggests.

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Panzanella

I love this recipe with all its freshness. The secret for a perfect result is the quality of the ingredients you will use: you don’t need many so make sure they are excellent. This is perfect for a spring pic-nic or it can also be an idea for your Easter vegetarian meal.

What you need:

  • ciabatta bread (250g)
  • 6 skimmed tomatoes (500g)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 25 g of capers
  • extra virgin olive oil (as needed)
  • basil Leaves (as desired)

Optional:

  • anchovies fillets
  • 1 cucumber

How to make it:
Cut the bread in small pieces and place them in a lined baking tray. Grill the bred until lightly browned and cut into chunks (to make it quicker you can use sliced bread and use a toaster; the flavour won’t be the same but it will work well)Cut into chunks). Drizzle with olive oil.
Chop the tomatoes, slice the onion (and if you want the cucumber!), then place them in a serving bowl.
Add the bread to the veggies and mix well with some extra virgin olive oil. At this stage you can add the basil, the capers and the anchovies, if you decide to use them.

Panzanella

TIP: you can prepare a small dressing with a garlic clove, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For more taste you can prepare a small cup with the olive oil and let the garlic clove infuse all night.

Chocolate cookies

An evergreen: chocolate chips cookies!

What you need:

  • 420 g flour;
  • 250g butter;
  • 200 sugar;
  • 200 cane sugar;
  • 2 eggs;
  • vanilla extract;
  • chocolate chips (as much as desired);
  • 1 tsp of salt;
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda;

How to make it:

Pre-heat the oven to 190C°. Soften the butter to room temperature, when softened beat it with the sugar (both sugars) until you get a light creamy result. Add the eggs, one at the time and then the vanilla extract. Add the sifted flour until all the ingredients are well combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir them quickly. You should have now a quite thick dough.

Line a baking tray and distribute the dough by using a spoon: make sure to leave a bit of space between the cookies as they will grow while cooking. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Make sure you do not over bake them (as I did with the first batch) as the cookies will burn!! Remove the tray from the oven and let the cookies rest for few minutes. Enjoy your amazing cookies!

 

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Blueberries and red wine risotto

As promised, a recipe for your St Valentine’s day. I hope you like it: lots of love eveyone.

What you need:

  • 120 g risotto (Vialone style)
  • 2 glasses of red wine (I used Refosco dal Peduncolo rosso)
  • 100 g blueberries
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 dl vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 g fresh cream
  • parseley

How to make it:

In a medium pan over medium heat, brown the chopped red onion in the oil until tender. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes, then add the wine and when all absorbed decrease the heating. Start adding the broth and the blueberries and keep stirring so the rice does not stick.
Keep adding the broth, a cup at a time, until the rice is tender: it should have an “al dente” look . At the very last minute add the fresh cream and the parseley so the risotto gets quite smooth and all the ingredients are melted together. Serve hot and if you like you can add some fresh parseley leaves. Enjoy!