Polenta and mushrooms

Another recipe for your Christmas table: polenta can be a very versatile dish and it is typical from Northern Italy. In this recipe I will explain how it is cooked in Friuli Venezia Giulia, or better how in my family used to be cooked.
Polenta is made with stone- grounded cornmeal and with a grainy texture. It can be cooked to be creamy and thick, or allowed to set and then sliced.
My grandmother takes 2 hours to cook the polenta over the fire – in this version I have used ready to use polenta and I decided to serve it with mushrooms. It is also perfect with meat, fish or poultry.

What you need:

• pack of ready to make polenta;
• water;
• salt;
• 200 g mushrooms;
• 1 medium onion,
• 1 dl vegetable stock;
• 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil;

(Optional: parsley and cheese).

 

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How to make it:

Cook the polenta following the instructions on the package. This recipe can be done with thick or liquid polenta, it really depends on the taste.
When the polenta has reached a thick structure transfer it in a dish and let it cool down. In the meanwhile cook the mushrooms: wash them thouroughly, slice them and cook them in an hot pan with the olive oil and the sliced onion. Add the stock little by little until the mushrooms are tender and have browned.

While the mushrooms are cooking on a low fire you can cut your cooled polenta as desired: as it is Christmas I have shaped it as a snowflake using a cookies cut. Just remember to wash the cutter you are using so the polenta does not stick to it.

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Serve the mushrooms on the top of the polenta and add some parseley if you like.

Tip: you can also add some Emmenthal or pecorino cheese on top of it.

Christmas chocolate mousse

Ho ho ho, Christmas time is coming so it is time to start posting some recipes for the festive season. The first one is going to be a Dark Chocolate Mousse: DELICIOUS! Not only this recipe tastes good but you don’t need eggs or flour to make it so perfect in case of allergies. Hope you enjoy it!

What you need:
•250 g dark chocolate;
•300 ml double fresh cream;
• digestive biscuits (optional);

How to make it:
Before starting with the instructions I want to give you some recommandations: nr1) use extra dark chocolate (min 75% cocoa): I know not everybody loves dark chocolate however it is important for the good result of the recipe. Using a milk chocolate or any other type will not deliver the same result. The fresh cream is sweet enough on its own; nr 2) make sure the bowl where you will whip the cream is clean and non greasy otherwise you will not get a good result.
The first thing to do in this case is whipping the fresh cream: pour the fresh cream in a mixer and mix for about 2/3 minutes or until soft peak stage. Keep your cream in the fridge.

Melt the chocolate through the bain marie technique (it basically means melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water) so you don’t burn it out. Keep mixing your chocoalte until it is completely melted. Remove the chocolate from the hob and let it cool down for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Gently add the melted chocolate to the cream and with movements from the centre to the outside of the bowl, keep mixing until you incorporate all the chocolate.

You can now serve in glasses or small cups and guarnish with biscuits and with the remained cream. This is the result:

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Few more tips:
– this mousse should be kept at room temparature. If you wish to prepare it the day before remember to take it out from the fridge at least 30 mins before eating it. If not, it will be still super tasty but a bit harder to eat;
– this mousse can be also used to cover any other dessert: cupcakes, cakes, croissants…feel free to use it as desired.

Pumpkin and mushroom soup

Now that cold weather has arrived nothing is better than a soup. This is also super easy so no excuses like “I don’t know how to cook it” 🙂

What you need:

  • 350g pumpkin or buttersquash;
  • 250g mushrooms;
  • 1 pint of water;
  • 1 onion;

How to make it:

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Heat the oven at 180C° and cook the chopped pumpkin until soft (around 25 mins). Slice the mushroom and boil them in the water together with the onion for 15 mins or until tender. Mix together all the ingredients in a food processor. You can add some fresh parsley and a pinch of salt or some paprika to spice it up. If you like it you can also add a spoon of fresh cream for an even more creamy result. I just added extra virgin olive oil.

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Homemade tortellini

Tortellini are a traditional pasta from Emilia Romagna, more specific from Emilia. I really recommend a visit to Emilia Romagna, it is a beautiful region with nice people, nice cities and landscapes. In my opinion it is also one the best regions in Italy for pasta. Making your own pasta might seem a bit daunting but I reassure you that the result is very satisfying.

Ingredients for the pasta:

  • 200g 00 flour;
  • 2 large free range eggs;

How to make it:

Tip the flour in a surface and make a well in the center, break the eggs into the the well and start mixing the flour and the eggs with a fork. Keep beating the eggs and blend the flour into them. You should obtain a crumbly mix and from now on you have to work with your hands.

When the eggs have thickened together with the flour work the mixture to a dough: work it with your hands to a smooth and yellow dough. If possible don’t push the dough against the work surface but try to pull it along the surface. When the dough is ready wrap it with film and set aside for 10 minutes.

You need now to roll out the dough. I suggest to use a pasta machine. I didn’t have it so I had to roll it by hand: that was a good workout for my arms! Run the dough through a pasta roller (or by hand) until you obtain a nice and smooth sheet of pasta.

Cut the sheet into squares, the measure here really depends on the filling. Roughly it would be 3 inches by 3 inches. Place some filling in the middle of each square, if unsure you can use a teaspoon. Dip your finger in some water and run it along the two edges of the square, then fold the square into a triangle, pressing the top together and then working your way along the sides. You need to form a kerchief shape by drawing the bottom two corners of the triangle together. Press to seal and sift with flour so they don’t stick to the working surface.

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How to cook tortellini:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon or two of salt. Add the tortellini to the water a few at a time with a slotted spoon. Stir occasionally and cook for 5 mins or until they come to the surface of the water.

You can now serve your tortellini: depending on the filling, you can decide the sauce. Below few examples:

FILLING: Ricotta and Spinach SAUCE: butter and grated parmesan

FILLING: pumpkin SAUCE: black pepper and grated smoked ricotta

FILLING: prosciutto SAUCE: mushrooms and parsley ragù.

 

 

 

 

The perfect sponge

I have just entered a competition in my company to celebrate the International Baking Day and I have to bake a cake which is representative of my country, Italy. Now I will not yet provide any information about the actual cake but I am going to post the recipe to make the perfect sponge.

The sponge is a great base for many recipes and you need to know how to do it! There are different ways of making sponge  but here I will focus on the one which I consider the quickest (not the easiest). Before starting I would like to point out one important aspect about the sponge: there are so many recipes in the web which use butter, baking powder and other ingredients. Now the typical  sponge recipe does not include any fat or any baking powder: the air incorporated while beating the eggs will work as baking powder. You can trust me that if you follow the steps below your cake will be perfect!

 

What you need:

  •  150g sugar;
  • 150g flour; (or 75g flour and 75g potato starch);
  • pinch of salt;
  • 5 eggs;

 

How to make it:

Pre-heat the oven at 180C and line a baking tray. For the ingredients above a 24 cm baking tray is ok.

With an electric whisk beat the eggs with the sugar and the pinch of salt till you obtain a nice and smooth mixture. Be careful not to over beat the eggs otherwise your sponge will be crumbly and this is not what you want.

Sift the flour in the mixture. Little by little and starting from the centre of the bowl incorporate all the flour to the mixture. You need to incorporate the flour with delicate movements to avoid destroying the air bubbles in the mixture. As pointed out earlier on there is no baking powder in your sponge: the secret of an high and nice sponge is to make sure the mixture incorporates enough air when beating the eggs.

Transfer the mixture to the baking tray and bake for 40 mins at 180 C. Let the mixture cool down and then slice it in two layers. You need to soak the internal part of the sponge with some liquid which can be any spirits (I love with Amaretto or rum) or simply lemon juice or milk, depending on the topping. This type of cake is normally dryer than other cakes so you need to fix this aspect. Buon appetito!

 

Ps: in the picture above  I used crema pasticcera for the filling and I topped the cake with kiwis, strawberries and meringues.

Yoghurt and cinnamon cake

Ingredients:

  • 200g flour;
  • 150 g sugar;
  • 300g  natural yoghurt;
  • 2 tbsp oil;
  • 15 g baking powder;
  • 1 tsp honey;
  • 1 tsp cinnamon;
  • 1 pinch of salt;
  • 1 orange: juice and grind;

How to make it: Grease a baking tin. Sift together the flour, the sugar, the baking powder and the cinnamon. In a bowl combine the yoghurt, the honey, the oil, the orange juice and orange grind. Gently add the solid ingredients to the liquid ones till everything is well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes at 180°C. Let the cake cool down and sift it with some icing sugar before serving.

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Tuna and potatoes croquettes: the healthy ones!

This is perfect for your summer lunches/dinners and also if you have kids over: it’s quick, tasty and funny. Usually croquettes are very deep fried but today I want to suggest a lighter option: I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

  • 200g potatoes;
  • 240g tuna;
  • 50g  breadcrumbs;
  • extra virgin olive oil;
  • 2 egg;
  • fresh parsley;

How to make it:

Peel and boil the potatoes until tender. Let them cool down and then mash them with a fork until you obtain a nice potato purée. Add the tuna, one egg, the olive oil and the parsley and mix well together. If you prefer you can use a food processor (as I did) so it is faster. Adjust of salt and pepper.

When your mixture is ready for the balls from it; you can try different shapes to add some fun to your dish. Place onto a lined oven tray and set them aside.

Prepare 2 shallows bowls: one with the beaten egg and the other with the other half of the breadcrumbs. Dip each croquette into the egg and then roll it into the breadcrumb: this step will guarantee a golden appearance and a crispy taste!

Cook the croquettes in a pre-heated oven for around 15 minutes or until golden.

 

Tips to improve your dish:

  • If you are not on a diet you can deep fry your croquettes;
  • You can use cornflake crumbs or flour to coat the croquettes instead of the breadcrumbs;
  • Make sure you don’t over boil the potatoes;
  • Instead of the parsley you can use fresh mint or use the 2 herbs together;
  • Don’t forget to serve them with some fresh veggies.

Summer tips!

Dear all, summer is here: the best season of the year will start next week! Make sure you are ready to welcome it. Today I would like to share with you some tips that I am following since a while but the effects are already visible!

1) Drink at least 1.5 l of water daily: I know it’s not easy but I can guarantee that the problem it’s only at the beginning. After the first days you will get used to it and you will miss water. We all know the benefit of water and in particular in summer we should drink even more;

2) Drink some bicarbonate of soda: what I do is add half tsp to 500ml of water. It is proven that bicarbonate of soda boost your body’s health by maintaining proper ph levels. It is a great help also to treat indigestion and heartburn. You can also use for many more uses (add it to your bath, scrub your feet, clean the house!). Just remember to read well any side effect it might occur and if there are any restrictions by using bicarbonate (remember it is sodium!). You can click here for more information;

3) Eat plenty of raw veggies: I would suggest green leafy and red/orange vegetables (tomatoes, carrots). The green veggies are a rich source of minerals and very low on calories; the red ones will help you with your tan;

4)Go on holidays in a sunny place and stay outdoors as much as you can to avail of the benefits of the sun;

5) Sleep as much as you can;

6) Follow Silvia and Kitchen’s receipes!

 

Happy summer!

Easy strawberries cake

With a little delay today I post this easy recipe  for a cake which is perfect for St. Valentine day. But I’d say this is perfect for any occasion.

What you need:

For the dough:

  • 150g flour;
  • 110g unsalted butter;
  • 75 g sugar;
  • 1 egg;
  • 1 pinch of salt;
  • 1 tsp baking powder;
  • grated lemon zest;
  • 1 tbsp White wine;

For the  topping:

  • 200g fresh strawberries, washed and sliced;
  • juice of 1 organic orange;
  • 250 ml fresh cream;
  • 50 g icing sugar;
  • 50g strawberry jam;

How to make it:

Pre-heat the oven at 180°C. Work together the sugar, the softened butter and the egg into a rough paste. Add the salt, the baking powder, the lemon zest and the wine. Gradually work in the flour with your fingertips to bind the ingredients into a smooth dough. Wrap the mixture in clingfilm and chill for 30 mins.

In the meanwhile add the orange juice  to the strawberries and set them aside (if you like it you can add Cointreau instead of the orange juice). Roll out the pastry in a floured surface and line a 20 cm tart tin. Prick the pastry base with a fork, cover it with some baking paper and bake for 15 mins. Remove the baking paper and keep baking for additional 10 mins,

While the base is baking you might start preparing the filling;Whisk together the double cream with the icing sugar untile nice and fluffy. This will take you around 6/7 minutes with a kitchen robot at max speed. Be careful when doing this as the cream might turn out as butter.

Once the base has cooled down you can start decorating your cake. Spread the strawberry jam over the surface of the cake and place the strawberries and the cream as desired. Below it’s my cake. Hope you enjoy it.

Strawberries cake