Category Archives: Italian

Tiramisu Cake

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So George’s sister introduced us to our local Clandestine Cake Club. Each month they hold themed cake making/scoffing extravaganzas based on three simple principles:

1. You make a cake big enough to share
2. You get together and eat and share your cakes (and attempt conversations between mouthfuls of yumminess)
3. You take all sorts of cake home and get fat for the next week

This month’s theme was cakes based on other puddings or in other words, puddings masquerading as cakes. There’s no judging or egotism, just friendly people filling their faces as bemused members of then general public mosey on by. This tiramisu cake is based on the Smitten Kitchen tiramisu cake recipe, whose marsala cream is to die for. In fact, even if you don’t make the cake just make the cream and let spoon meet mouth.

Ingredients

For the coffee cake:

150g butter
120g sugar
150g self raising flour
3 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp coffee essence such as camp coffee or very strong instant coffee

For the chocolate cake:

130g plain flour
40g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
100g butter
2 eggs
120g sugar
120ml buttermilk (made simply by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to milk and leaving for 10-15 minutes)
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the coffee syrup:

3 tbsp coffee essence (as above)
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp icing sugar

For the marsala cream:

250g marscapone
50g icing sugar
200ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp marsala wine

Method

Preheat the oven to 160oC/320oF/gas mark 3  as you prepare the cakes and grease two 23cm (or thereabouts) cake tins.

For each of the two types of cakes, mix the dry ingredients together in separate bowls (sieved flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cocoa). Add the butter and mix with an electric whisk until each turns to a sandy consistency. Add the respective flavourings.

In a separate bowl or mug, gently beat the eggs for one cake and add to the mixture a bit at a time, whisking until incorporated. Repeat with the eggs for the other cake. The coffee cake mixture is now ready to be poured into the cake tin and baked for 20-30 minutes. To the chocolate cake mixture, add the buttermilk and continue whisking until it becomes smooth. Pour into the second tin and bake for 20-30 minutes.

When baked, take the cakes out of the oven and mix up the coffee syrup in a small bowl. Drizzle evenly over the cakes and leave the cakes to cool fully.

To make the marsala cream, (which by the way, is extremely versatile and I challenge you not to eat any before it sees your cake) begin by beating the marscapone with the sieved icing sugar. In a second bowl, whisk the double cream until it forms stiff peaks. Add around a quarter of the cream to the marscapone mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the rest of the cream to the marscapone and fold very gently, so as not to lose the air from the mixture. When evenly mixed, store in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble your cake…if you can manage to not eat it all first.

To assemble the cake, place the chocolate cake on a plate or tray (the chocolate cake is slightly more structurally sound thus it makes sense for it to go on the bottom). Cover with a thick layer of marsala cream. Place the coffee cake on top. Spread the remaining marsala cream over the top. Dust with cocoa powder in some kind of pretty pattern. And go and join your local CCC!

Tadaaah!

Chocolate Biscotti

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These make a great biscuit to dunk in tea. Once baked, they will keep for up to a week but they also freeze well if you choose to save some for another day.

Makes approx 50-60 biscuits.

Ingredients

60g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
220g sugar
2 eggs
260g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g chocolate of your choice (if using milk chocolate, lower sugar to 200g)
optional: 100g pistachios or other nuts, chopped

Method

Beat the butter, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Add eggs, sifted flour and mix to create a smooth dough. Add in chopped chocolate and nuts. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 160*C and grease a baking tray. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth. Halve the dough and roll into a log shape of around 30 cm or the length of your baking tray. Brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm. Leave to cool completely before slicing diagonally into 1 cm slices. Heat the oven to 140*C, places sliced biscuits on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes until dry, turning half-way.

Sausage & Tomato Pasta

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I’ve been having reservations about posting this since making it the other day. You see, our “About Us” clearly states that we are “Two students, bored with student food” and this, for all intensive purposes is student food. Maybe it should read “Two students, bored with average student food” as I feel that statement is more accurate.

I guess it all depends on your definition of student food, but to me it screams: quick, bland, microwaved (*shudder*). This recipe certainly is one of those things, in fact the only one that’s never a bad thing: it’s quick, approx 30 mins from cupboard to table. And I guess this is what persuaded me to finally post it – most people, student or not, are after quick eats quite often and this is a particularly tasty one. So let’s drop the pretensions and get on with cooking some straightforward, yumm-o food.

Yumm-o.

It’s a word. Deal with it.

Serves 4 comfortably

Ingredients

4 good sausages, cut into bite-size chunks
1-2 onions, sliced into quarter rings
1 red pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed/finely chopped
2 tins chopped tomatoes
250g pasta (use more if you want to bulk it up)
few handfuls frozen green beans
good glug white wine vinegar
good glug balsamic vinegar
good glug golden syrup
couple of good squeezes of tomato purée
1 bay leaf
handful fresh rosemary, oregano & thyme, all chopped

optional extras: chilli flakes/powder, cumin, basil, peas, sweetcorn…etc!

Method

Heat oil in a large saucepan/deep frying pan over a high heat. Add the golden syrup and brown your sausages. After 5 or so minutes add the onion, then after a further 5 minutes lower the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook for a further couple of minutes.

Pour in the white wine vinegar (say 50ml) and reduce for a few minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes, purée, bay leaf, rosemary, oregano, thyme and a glug of balsamic (say 25ml). Season well. Put the kettle on (3/4 full should be ample) and when boiled add the water to another saucepan before throwing in your pasta. Add plenty of salt and a glug of oil and cook as per instructions on packet. Check hardness every so often – there’s nothing worse than mushy pasta!

Reduce the sauce for 15 minutes, tasting regularly to see if anything needs adjusting. Add the pepper and green beans and continue to cook until both tender (approx. 5 minutes). Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, give a really good stir to coat as much of the pasta as possible. I used fusili (not out of choice, just out of the fact that’s what was in the cupboard – I’m no pasta anorak!) and it works quite well as the thick sauce gets in all the spiral grooves.

Serve, topped with a little cheese, another splash of balsamic and maybe some fresh green herbs of your choosing. Just watch out for that bay leaf!

Arancini Wraps

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Following our trip to the Paralympics via The Arancini Brothers and an amazing meal at Canteen on Clifton Street we fell in love with a little-known Italian snack known as arancini. You may be thinking, like my housemate: WHO IS THIS AARON CHENEY GUY?! Well, firstly he’s not a guy. And if he was he definitely wouldn’t be called Aaron. Not exotic enough. To put you out of your misery, arancini is effectively deep-fried risotto balls, which probably isn’t the most appealing way of selling it. But trust us, it’s gurrrrrd.

This is our take on the Arancini Brothers wrap we shared in London. It also involves deep fried crispy onions so isn’t the healthiest snack around, but if you don’t make it your staple diet you’ll probably be ok! PS. You can follow the one of the Arancini Brothers on WordPress here.

Makes approx. 15 arancini

Ingredients

200g arborio risotto rice
25g butter
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1l vegetable stock
glug of white wine
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp basil
pinch salt and pepper
bowl of flour/polenta
1 egg, beaten

Crispy Onions

1 medium onion in the colour of your choice
1 cup buttermilk (milk + 1 tsp lemon juice)
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp chilli powder
pinch salt and pepper

Salad

shredded lettuce
2-3 chopped chillis
10-15 baby tomatoes
1 apple, thinly sliced

Garnish

2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 clove garlic
few shredded fresh coriander leaves

Wraps

ingredients and method here

Method

Melt butter in frying pan, add the rice and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the rice goes translucent around the edges. Add onions, a glug of wine, stir and let the rice soak up the wine (still on the heat). When it has soaked up all the liquid, add the vegetable stock a little at a time, stirring occasionally. Throw in the herbs, salt and pepper, continue until rice is cooked adding more liquid when necessary. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

While the risotto cools, chop the other onion, mix up the batter then add the chopped onion. Now is probably a good time to mix up your garlic mayo – finely chop the garlic, rip up the coriander and stir into the mayonnaise.

Put the flour and/or polenta in a bowl and beat the egg in a separate bowl. Clump the risotto into balls that fit neatly into your palms, dip them in the egg and roll them in flour so they are completely covered. Heat enough oil in a saucepan to cover the risotto balls and drop them in (use tongs to avoid getting burnt!) a few at a time. Once golden and crispy (approx. 5-7 minutes) remove and dab with kitchen roll to remove excess oil.

Once all the arancini have been fried up, fry the onions, again dabbing with kitchen roll. Stick a little bit of everything in a wrap, add a little chilli jam squash down the arancini to make it easier to fold and enjoy!

J&W

Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Tortelloni

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Today, I decided I had nothing better to do with myself than to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I won’t say exactly how long it took me, because let’s face it, I took my time, made lots of mess, drank lots of tea and had a few snacks along the way. Having just returned from a lovely trip to Sardinia, I was inspired to try cooking some pasta from scratch. Coupled with the excessive amount of vegetables we had to use up, this recipe was born! To make this recipe, you need a decent pasta maker, or a good rolling pin and a bit of an expert eye.

I was unsure whether to call these tortelloni or tortellini (the difference being tortellini are smaller – 2g instead of 5g, but both are the same shape) as I think they are somewhere in between. I went with tortelloni as I think these would be best without a sauce, as tortelloni are traditionally served, in contrast to their little brothers. I’ll leave it to the Italians to decide.

Ingredients

pasta dough
300g extra fine (“00”) pasta flour plus extra for dusting
4 eggs in total – 3 for the dough itself and 1 for the construction

filling
3 small sweet potatoes
1/3 of a cauliflower (not too much in the way of stalk)
75g Grana Padano cheese (Pecorino Romano, parmesan or “Parmigiano Reggiano” to give it its proper name would also do just fine)
2 tsp pesto
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp olive oil

Method

Begin by mixing the three eggs into the pasta flour in a large bowl to make a rough dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently (as you would pastry) to make a smooth, consistent dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for around 30 minutes or longer.

Meanwhile, finely chop the sweet potatoes and the cauliflower into roughly 5mm cubes. Add to a moderately hot pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Crush or finely chop the garlic and add it to the pan. Stir the vegetables regularly to prevent them from burning or cooking too quickly – the aim is to soften them ready to re-heat later. Add the herbs, pesto and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. If you feel the pan is getting too dry, add small amounts of water to steam the vegetables. They should be cooked for around 10-15 minutes to taste, but some of the sweet potato should be just crumbling – this helps the filling bind and stick together. I wanted to give my filling some bite to it, so mine were cooked for around 12 minutes. Some of the sharp corners of the vegetables did however make folding quite tricky later on – I suppose it’s a personal preference.

When cooked, remove the vegetables from the heat and leave to cool before mixing in the finely grated cheese. Mix well.

To make the pasta, remove the dough from the fridge and take a workable piece (I suggest an eighth). Roughly roll it out using a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to around 1 cm thick. Run it through the pasta mill on its thickest setting and repeat a few times until it is on one of the thinnest. I found the last-but-one setting worked best to make a more durable dough, but if you’re opting for a more pureed filling, then you would probably get away with the thinnest pasta.

Lightly whisk up an egg in a mug and find a pastry brush. You will need this in a minute!

Cut 8 cm rounds from the pasta sheet and make sure they are lightly floured so as not to stick to the work surface. Place a small teaspoon of filling in the centre of each circle and brush a good 1 cm around the edges with egg. Fold in half to make a semi-circle. Bring the two corners together and stick with a little bit of egg-wash to make the traditional tortelloni shape (see: http://goo.gl/Kb61Z). Neaten up the shape a little before leaving to rest and semi-dry out on a lightly floured tray before doing the rest. The first will inevitably be the worst (and take the longest) but you will get the hang of it.

Cook immediately, or store it in the fridge for a day or so – but be sure to flour the tray well, as the pasta tends to stick to it the longer it is left.

To cook: add to a large pan of boiling, slightly salted water with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Simmer for around 3-5 minutes for al-dente pasta. Served best with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated Grana Padano (or equivalent). We had ours with some grilled Mediterranean veg (courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes) and home-made (if not slightly well-done) rosemary foccacia. Enjoy!

W

Balsamic Onion & Pepper Pizza

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Friday nights are just not the same without pizza, but sometimes I like to cook pizza on other days too, such as Thursdays, or Mondays. Or, indeed Wednesdays. It doesn’t make the pizza any less enjoyable. Sometimes I like to make my own pizza and they definitely beat shop-bought simply because you can make it just the way you like it. There’s also the added bonus that, in theory, it’s healthier, so you can eat more of it. I use a standard pizza dough recipe that I copied from a recipe book before I left home. I have never experimented with other pizza dough recipes as I haven’t perfected the art of kneading just yet and I don’t think it would be a fair test of their tastiness. One day, I will find the best recipe from a nice Italian chef and I’ll make sure to write it down. Or marry him.

The best thing about making your own pizza is that you can pile on all your favourite toppings and even do half-and-half if two of you can’t quite agree. (Or you can’t quite agree with yourself). It’s the perfect recipe to use up any left-over bits and bobs in the fridge: cooked chicken, vegetables, ham, chillies, cheeses…you could even experiment with different herbs and flavours in the dough.

This is my personal favourite topping at the moment – caramelised onions and mixed peppers with a sprinkling of basil and loads of mozzarella.

Ingredients

DOUGH
225g strong white bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
1/2 tsp fast-acting dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

TOPPING
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 red onion, sliced according to preference
1 ball of mozzarella
1 tbsp olive oil
1 handful of mixed, frozen peppers (approx. one fresh pepper)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil (or chopped fresh if you have it)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (approx.)
pinch of salt and pepper

Method 

First, begin by making the dough. Weigh out and sieve the flour into a bowl, add the 1/2 tsp of salt and yeast and add the oil. Prepare 200ml of hand-hot water. Gradually add the water to a well in the centre of the flour and mix slowly. I suggest adding 50ml at a time until 150ml has been added, then slow down until you reach a firm and ever-so-slightly sticky mixture. I prefer working on the wetter side of doughy as you’re going to add a bit of flour as you knead and it is more difficult to add water as you knead.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface for around ten minutes (the idea of kneading is to gently stretch the dough in all different directions to make it easier for bubbles to form within the gluten mesh-like structure). After kneading, place the dough in an oiled bowl and ensure that all sides of the ball are covered. Cover the top of the bowl with a tea-towel or cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for around an hour or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan. Slice the onion and gently fry for around a minute. Add the peppers (frozen or otherwise) and allow them to soften slightly. Sprinkle in the sugar and basil and add a small pinch of salt and pepper to remind it that it’s dinner, not pudding.  Pour in the balsamic vinegar and allow it to reduce slightly and turn off the heat when the veg is soft and the sauce is thick.

After proving, knock back (knock back (vb.): to hit violently, smack around on the work surface, punch repeatedly whilst imagining someone you don’t like) the dough and shape your pizza. This amount of dough should make one large or two small pizzas. Place on a baking tray and spread some tomato puree on the top of each. Here you could use passata or a jar of tomatoey sauce, but I often find they make a soggy pizza, so unless you want to go all out and reduce it down to make it thicker, just use puree.

Slice the mozzarella ball and scatter around half the ball over the pizza(s). Spread the topping over the bases evenly and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake in the oven at 180° for around 15 minutes until the cheese is nicely melted and the base is slightly brown.

Best served on a Friday, in front of the television. Leftovers (should you be lucky enough to have any) make a good Saturday morning breakfast and a great pack-lunch.

W