Keep your kitchen (and your life) healthy!

Hi all and happy 2014! Because we are at the beginning of the year I’d like to share some healthy tips with you so you can get the best from your cooking sessions! These are 3 basic RULES that everybody should follow when approaching any kitchen or any place where food is placed.

1. SHOPPING TIME –  when buying the food ALWAYS read the label: check where the products are from and which ingredients are in them.  Always prefer fresh food, which comes from local sources especially if you are fresh food. I am not saying to buy organic all the time but when possible you should go for it! Buying good quality food doesn’t mean buying the most expensive. When it comes to the stuff we are going to eat we should really not put the price at the first place!

2 THE FRIDGE – the fridge is the favourite place where bacteria can develop so it is important you keep it in order and clean. Place the vegetables and the fruits on the bottom; meat and fish should be removed from their original package and placed in a plastic box. Then they should be stored on the lower level to avoid any juice coming from your steak goes into any other food. We all know the risks of dealing with raw meat and raw fish! Wash the eggs before storing them in the fridge. To clean it, use a solution made with white vinegar and soda bicarbonate: totally natural, totally perfect and your fridge will be ready to store your foods. To prevent any bad smell put some coffee powder into a small cup and leave it in fridge: no more smells (actully a lovely perfume of coffee).

3 SPONGES AND CLOTHES – make sure all the tools to clean the kitchen ARE clean. If not you will keep spreading bacteria all over. To keep your sponges perfect leave them all night in a solution based of boiling water, little bleach (roughly 1 tbsp) and soda bicarbonate. The day after they will be brilliant!

 

Feel free to share any suggestions or tips you might have about kitchen hygiene: remeber this is the first step to stay healthy and therefore having a better life.

 

Christmas treats

This is going to be my first recipe for Christmas time.  Few words to describe it: easy, delicious and perfect.  If you don’t have time but you are having a dinner on the same night this is just perfect. Result is 100% guaranteed. Hope you enjoy it.

What you need:

  • 250g mascarpone;
  • 2 cups of espresso;
  • 250 g amaretti;
  • 20 g cocoa powder;
  • 50 g desiccated coconut;

 

How to make it:

First thing to do is to dip into espresso coffee your amaretti biscuits. Make sure they don’t become too wet otherwise they will break.

Dispose the amaretti in a dish and set aside. You need now to make the cream: whisk together the mascarpone and the cocoa powder until you have a soft light brown cream.

Once you are done with it you can compose your dessert: take one biscuit, add some cream and stick it to another biscuit. Basically one biscuit should be an half dessert. When all your little treats are ready you need to roll them into the coconut. For best results keep them in the fridge until it’s time to serve them.

 

Treats

Gnocchi alla zucca (pumpkin gnocchi)

As this is Jack O’Lantern week I  decided to post some recipes with pumpkin as main ingredient. Pumpkin is a very good friend for those who need to keep a special eye on their diet. It’s great for cholesterol and bladder stones. It was also used to treat diabetes 2 because it helps to reduce blood sugars. And last but not least it’s delicious. The first recipe is gnocchi and I really hope you enjoy it.

What you need:

  • 350g potatoes
  • 350 g pumpkin
  • 180 g unbleeched flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Parmesan or ricotta affumicata
  • black pepper

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 180ºC and in the meanwhile cut the pumpkin into pieces and dispose them on a baking tray. Bake the pumpkin for 25 minutes or until tender. Bring the unpeeled potatoes to the boil and cook them until tender. When all the ingredients are ready let them cool down before you start preparing the gnocchi dough.

With a knife peel the potatoes and mash them together with the pumpkin. You should obtain a lovely and colored purée.

  Add the egg, the salt and the flour , beating with a spoon until smooth. Dust a work surface with flour and knead the dough with your hands.

Dough 2

At this stage you need to divided into 6 pieces and roll each using the palm of your hands to obtain a long rope of about 1 cm thick. Please note that the perfect size of a gnocchi doesn’t exist; I don’t like gnocchi to be too big so I stick to the 1cm rule but you can make it thicker.

Cut each rope into small pieces and if you like you can press each gnocco (this is the Italian singular name!) on the tines of a floured fork.

Pieces1

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi in small batches. This is a VITAL part if you want a good result. If you cook the gnocchi all at the same time  they will stick together. When they rise to the surface lift them out with a slotted spoon and drain them well. You need to serve them immediately.

My favourite sauce for gnocchi is very easy. Heat some butter (or margarine, if you like) on a pan and when it’s melted add the gnocchi. Finish with some Parmesan or ricotta affumicata and some black pepper. BUON APPETITO!

DSC_5982

Basic recipe for cupcakes

Hi there! Today I will post the standard recipe to make cupcakes. You can use this one for every kind of cupcake you want as it is very easy.

What you need:

  • 125 g softened unsalted butter;
  • 125 g sugar;
  • 2 eggs;
  • 125 g white flour;
  • 1 tsp baking powder;
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract;
  • a pinch of salt;

How to make it:

Pre – heat the oven to 190°C.  Beat the softened butter and the sugar in a bowl until well combined. Gradually beat in the eggs and add the vanilla extract. Sift the flour, the baking powder and the pinch of salt in the mixture until combined to a fluffy mixture.

Dispose the mixture in your baking tray and bake the cupcakes for around 15 mins until they are golden brown. Test them with a toothpick; if it comes out clean and dry then your cupcakes are ready. Let them cool down before decorating them.

TIPS: Make sure that all the ingredients are at room temperature, butter included: you want it soft when you are beating it. Remember also to fill the cupcakes liners up to 2/3 only: you are not baking muffins!!

Maple ribs

With summer season approaching, why not trying this delicious recipe? The secret is to start marinating the meat the day before.

What you need:

  • 1kg pork ribs;
  • 1 garlic clove;
  • 100 ml maple syrup;
  • 1 tbs white vinegar;
  • 3 tbs tomato purée;
  • juice of 1 lemon;
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped;
  • 10 grams smoked paprika;
  • lemon slices;

How to make it:

First step is to prepare the sauce: beat together the maple syrup,  garlic, vinegar, tomato purée and the lemon juice. Add the paprika and the chilli. Arrange the meat in a bowl and pour the mixture over the ribs. Let marinate in the refrigeratore as much as you can (at least 5 hours).

Preheat the oven at 180°C, place the ribs on a baking tin and cover with the mixture left, if any. Bake for around 1hour and half.

Your dish is ready when the ribs are tender and sticky. Serve with some lemon slices for squeezing over.

ps: unfortunately I did not manage to take any pic for this recipe but it was so delicious that I will cook it again and this time with pics!

Choux pastry

Choux pastry is today’s recipe. This is a very good recipe, easy and quick to make and I assure you the results are great.  It can be used for both savoury or sweet recipes.

What you need:

  • 75 g plain flour;
  • 50 g unsalted butter;
  • 2 large eggs;
  • 150 ml of water;
  • pinch of salt;

How to make it:

In a bowl sift togheter the flour with the salt. Put the butter and the water in a saucepan and heat them until the butter has melted. Bring the mixture to the boil.

 

Once melted remove the pan from the heat and add the flour immediately. Mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes a ball (it will take you not more than 2 minutes). The mixture is ready when the sides of the pan are clean.

Wait 2 minutes for the mixture to cool down and then gradually add the eggs. Beat everything until the mixture is smooth; the choux pastry is ready when it gently falls form the spoon. What I suggest you is to use the mixture immediately. If you need to use it later you’d better cover it very well and keep it chilled until you need it.

Tip: Be careful not to bring to the boil the water before the butter has melted.  This is a  very important detail if you want to have a good result.

 

Spaghetti alla carbonara

I’ve been asked to post the recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara. Well, I am very proud that people are following my blog. So, my dear friend, here you have your recipe, I hope you really enjoy it. Before starting  I have to clarify few things: the typical ingredients for the original spaghetti alla carbonare are guanciale and pecorino cheese. Guanciale is an Italian cured meat but I could not find it in Dublin.  Instead I have used unsmoked bacon, it’s a very good option. Also, if you do not have pecorino cheese you can always use grated parmesan cheese. Last tip before we start: do not put any kind of cream in the pasta. I know some people add white cream or besciamella…DON’T! If you want to cook the real carbonara the below are the ingredients you need, nothing else.

What you need:

  • 200 g spaghetti;
  • 150 g guanciale or unsmoked bacon;
  • 2 eggs;
  • 80 g pecorino;
  • extra virgin olive oil;
  • black pepper;

How to make it:

Bring to the boil some water , add 2 tbs of salt and cook the spaghetti. While the pasta is cooking, dice up the guanciale (or the bacon) and add it to a non sticky pan on a warm heat. Cook the guanciale for few minutes. When the fat is melting remove the pan from the fire and in a large bowl beat the 2 eggs.  Add the pecorino to the eggs and keep aside.

Drain the spaghetti, put them to the bowl with the eggs, add the guanciale and toss. IMPORTANT: make sure you don’t put the eggs mixture on the heating otherwise you will have spaghetti with omelette.

Finish  your dish with some more cheese, extra virgin olive oil and black pepper and serve immediately.

 

 

Frittelle

Today is pancake‘s Tuesday but it is also the last day of the Carnival. One of the traditional desserts for this time of the year are Frittelle. They are sweet deep fried balls made with raisins or apples. In some parts of Italy (in Venice for instance) they are filled with cream or Nutella. Only one word to describe them..DELICIOUS (avoid them if you are on a diet!).

BEFORE YOU START you need to keep in mind few things about frittelle: first of all you will fry a lot so your kitchen will be VERY smelly after! Also don’t worry if your frittelle will look like little monsters, this is normal! You will need a lot of practice before having the “perfect frittella”

What you need:

  • 120 g plain flour;
  • 80 g self-raising flour;
  • 2 eggs ;
  • 50 g butter;
  • 60 g sugar;
  • 70 ml milk;
  • lemon essence or lemon zest;
  • 1oo grams sultans or 2 chopped apples;
  • 1 pinch of salt;
  • sunflower oil for frying;

How to make it:

Warm up the oil in a big pan. Sift together the flour, the baking powder and the sugar. Add to the “dry ingredients” the melted butter, the eggs (one at time), the milk, the lemon zest and the pinch of salt. Combine well all the ingredients until you have a smooth and fluid dough. The last step is to add the sultans or the apple.
Now comes the hardest part: with 2 teaspoons gather a small amount of dough and drop it into the boiling oil, like if you want to create small balls. IMPORTANT: do not fry too many spoons of dough at the same time or it will be a mess. Depending on the size of the pot but I suggest you not to fry more than 5 frittelle at the time. It will take you more time but you won’t waste anything.

Make sure you turn your frittelle while they are frying so they will get the same colour on all sides and you won’t burn them. Once they are golden brown drain them well and place them on a kitchen paper to absorb the extra oil.

Once all the frittelle are ready, let them cool down and only when they are completely cold sift them with icing sugar.

 

 

 

 

Christmas biscuits

Happy New Year everybody! New year has just started and this is the perfect time for cooking and experimenting new ideas. Today I’d like to share with you the recipe for some biscuits I baked for Christmas (anyway they are perfect for all occasions).

There is no need to list the ingredients cause they are made from the crostata dough – you will find the recipe here.

 

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough 1/8 inch thick,  place a stencil over the dough and cut your little men.

Dispose the biscuits in a baking tray  and bake them in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 15 minutes or until golden. Just note it will take less time for cooking than the normal crostata.

 

…and this is the final result!Feel free to add some sugar or decorate them with some icing, enjoy!:0)

Sole fillet with potatoes

Here we are with the first fish recipe, finally. It’s very healthy and tasty and if you are looking for something quick to impress your friends..well here it is. Unfortuantely I could not upload the pics, I don’t know why but I could not open the files. Anyway as soon as I mange to upload them I will post them. Enjoy!

What you need:

  • 300 g fillet of sole
  • 5 medium potatoes
  • parsely
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped parseley

How to make it:
Pre heat the oven at 200C°. Peel the potatoes and finely slice them. Put some olive oil on a baking tray and dispose the potato slices all over the surface. Cook in the oven for 10/15 minutes (just note that cooking time depends on the size of your slices).

When your potatoes are tender take them out from the oven and dispose your fillet on the tray. Add some salt, pepper , the parsley and the onion and cook for additional 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked.

In my recipe I have also added some cherry tomatoes, finely sliced, to give some additional colour to my dish. You can choose to add some rocket or every other vegetable you may like.