Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Or is it Shrove Tuesday?

In other parts of the world, people are celebrating Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day) instead of Mardi Gras. If you’re like me, you celebrate both. So this morning I prepared pancakes.

Shrove Tuesday’s Pancakes and baked apples:

1 egg
100 g milk
50 g ricotta
25 g honey
100 g flour
6 g baking powder
Butter for cooking

Prepare the pancake batter: in a large bowl mix together milk, ricotta, honey, flour and baking powder. Let rest for half an hour. When ready, whip the egg white, fold into the batter and cook the pancakes. Serve with baked apples – I cut mine into pieces and put them in the microwave for a few minutes – faster than traditional baking. I like cinnamon with them.

It's Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras is the last day of Carnival. It’s a day for feast, for dressing up and masquerading. I especially this time of the year. I love to see children getting all dressed up. Carnival is also a time for eating sweets. There are numerous traditions here and everywhere you go you’ll find several different sweet treats, especially fried ones.

Every year I use this time as an excuse to try new recipes. This year it’s Carnival Fried Ricotta Tortelli – actually that’s not their proper name, but the recipe was given to me by a neighbour of mine who has Sicilian origins, and their original name is in a Sicilian dialect which I do not understand, so I renamed them.

Carnival Fried Ricotta Tortelli

For the dough:
125 g flour (all purpose will do just fine)
50 g sugar
1 large egg
Cinnamon to taste

For the filling:
200 g ricotta
50-100 g sugar
Zest of a lemon

Oil (for frying)

Prepare the dough: mix together all the ingredients and knead as for pasta dough. Wrap in cling film and let rest for at least an hour.

Prepare the filling: mix the ricotta cheese with the sugar and the lemon zest. Mix well.

Roll out the dough either with a rolling pin or with a pasta machine, just as you would do with ordinary pasta dough. Divide into two pieces.

Put little quantities of filling on top of a dough sheet, cover up with the other sheet and gently press all around the dollops of filling, making sure the two pieces of dough stick together perfectly. Using cookie cutters, cut out “tortelli” all around the filling.

Heat up a pan filled with oil and deep fry the tortelli. Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Muhallabiah - milk pudding

Muhallabiah is a milk pudding that you can find all around the Middle East. It is thickened with either cornstarch or rice flour and flavored with orange blossom water or rose water. It is normally served in a cup or a glass accompanied by a fruit gelée or simply with pistachios or walnuts. It’s quite delicate and not too sweet. I normally serve it in martini glasses, but since this month’s theme for Waiter There’s Something In My… is terrine, I thought I’d turn it into a terrine. The recipe is the same, I just let everything cook a little longer than usual, so that it would thicken a bit more and “hold its shape”. I must say I prefer the glass version, since the texture you get by longer cooking is too jelly-like for me. I prefer a smoother, more fluid texture, but if you’re a fan of Jell-O, this is the right terrine for you.


For the orange gelée:
300 g fresh orange juice, filtered (I used blood oranges, that’s why the gelée looks so red)
30 g sugar
15 g cornstarch

For the milk pudding:
450 g full fat milk
45 g cornstarch
75 g sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom water

Pistachio nuts to decorate

Normally I would start by preparing the milk pudding, since it is placed in the bottom of the cup, but in this case I started with the orange gelée.

Prepare the gelée: carefully mix together the cornstarch and 50 g orange juice. Add the sugar and the rest of the juice, mix well. Pour everything into a saucepan and place it on a very low heat until it starts to thicken, stirring constantly - in case you’re making a terrine simply let it thicken a little longer. Remove from the heat and pour everything into your terrine mould. Let cool or refrigerate.

Prepare the milk pudding: mix the cornstarch with 50 g cold milk – a whisk makes it very easy. Add the sugar and the rest of the milk, mix well. Place everything into a saucepan and place it on a very low heat until it starts to thicken, stirring constantly. Add the orange blossom water and cook a few more minutes. Again, if you’re making a terrine, cook longer – otherwise remove it from the heat when the pudding starts to thicken. Pour the pudding on top of the cold orange gelée and refrigerate.

When ready to serve, turn the terrine mould upside-down and decorate with coarsely ground pistachio nuts.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Back on line and happy birthday to me!

Happy New Year everyone! I’m finally back on line. Unfortunately my computer broke down early in December. I had to buy a brand new one and reinstall all of my stuff, especially the work-related kind and that left no time for blogging and reply to new comments. Sorry for that. I hope you all had a great time during the holidays.

Yesterday, it was my birthday! To celebrate I went on a trip with some friends and I thought I would have no cake this year, but I did! They did a great job at hiding it. Since they couldn’t hide a classic/standard size cake, they bought these “cake in a jar” things, made by a very talented pastry friend of mine. Imagine many little jars like the one in the picture all close to one another and voilà your cake! Or my cake, in this case. Thank you, guys!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Swordfish carpaccio with oranges and pistachio nuts

Fast and easy, again. This time it’s swordfish carpaccio with oranges and pistachio nuts. It really takes no time at all and it can be served either as an entrée or as a main course, just adjusting the serving sizes. It’s one of those save-the-day dishes that I often prepare.

Having fresh swordfish from the market is always best, however I sometimes buy the pre-sliced, vacuum-packed stuff they sell at the supermarket, it’s not so bad and it will keep long in your fridge, a quality which turns out to be very useful when you’re having a hectic day and have no time to go to the grocery store. Just one piece of advice if you’re getting the pre-sliced swordfish, I find that the non-smoked kind works better in this dish, it’s closer to the one prepared with fresh ingredients.

Swordfish carpaccio with oranges and pistachio nuts

150 g swordfish carpaccio – thinly sliced swordfish filet
2 oranges
Freshly squeezed juice from 1 orange
Extra virgin olive oil
Pistachio nuts – to taste, coarsely ground

These quantities can be used as an entrée for 4 people – I guess you could use 200 g swordfish carpaccio as a main dish to feed 2 people.

Arrange the slices of swordfish on a tray. Combine orange juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt in a vinaigrette-like sauce and pour over the swordfish. Cut out orange wedges and place them on top of the fish. Cover everything with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least half an hour – if you think you’ll take longer, I suggest putting everything into the fridge.

When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle coarsely ground pistachios on top of everything.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Coffee-flavored ricotta cheese and chocolate “mousse” in an espresso cup - or the 5 minute dessert

I love spending time with my friends and I love having them over for dinner, even if it’s unexpected. I’m not a big fan of ordering out, so when friends show up, I have to think of something to prepare with whatever is left in my fridge and that’s also fast. In these cases, pasta is always a winner. When it comes to dessert, however, things can be a little more challenging. This is what I came up with a couple of nights ago.

Coffee-flavored ricotta cheese and chocolate "mousse" in an espresso cup

200 g ricotta cheese
100 g dark chocolate (I used a 70% cocoa)
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon instant coffee

Please note that quantities are not exact. Chop chocolate into small pieces and melt it over a double boiler or in a microwave. Pass ricotta cheese through a fine sieve for a smooth texture. Dissolve coffee in very little water. Combine ricotta cheese with honey, then add chocolate and coffee. Mix well. Fill a pastry bag with the mixture and leave it in the fridge until ready to serve. Fill some espresso cups with the "mousse" and serve. I guess the colder the mixture, the easier it will be to pipe it out, mine was still too warm.

The espresso cups in the picture are from the 1996 Illy collection.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tarte au vin - Wine tart

Waiter, there’s something in my… is another food blogging event that I really like. The theme for this month is… topless tarts. I thought I’d give it a try both because I really like tarts and because it gives me a perfect excuse to try out a recipe I’ve had for a while.

The recipe is called Tarte au vin – Wine tart. It’s quite simple, but the wine gives it an uncommon twist.

For the crust I used a cocoa and almond pâte brisée with very little cocoa, because I didn’t want it to overpower the wine. I also added some cinnamon to complement the filling. Oh, yes, the filling. The wine I used is a Sicilian wine called Nero d’Avola, I thought it would work well with the almonds and the cocoa, but I guess other types of wine can be experimented. I did not use all of the filling that I made because when I poured it into the pastry shell it looked lie it was enough, however the filling layer turned out to be rather thin, so I think I’ll use the whole thing next time.

Tarte au vin

For the crust:
125 g butter, softened
75 g icing/confectioners’ sugar
25 g ground almonds
1 egg
200 g cake flour
5 g cocoa
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the filling:
200 ml red wine
2 eggs
20 g flour
60 g sugar
100 ml cream, 35% fat
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon

First prepare the crust: In the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter. Beat in the confectioner’s sugar sifted with the cinnamon. Add the ground almonds and beat again. Add the egg and beat until combined. Sieve together cocoa and cake flour, add to the butter, sugar and egg mixture and pulse until combined. Do not overwork it. Take the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a flat disk. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for an hour. Take out the dough and roll it out into a circle – I like a thin crust, I find that thicker crusts overpower the filling. Butter a tart pan and place the dough into it. Trim the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour – I usually make it one day ahead.

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F. Line the tart with parchment paper, fill with pie weights and prebake for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the filling: Place the eggs in bowl and whisk in the sugar and the flour. Heat the cream and pour over the egg mixture stirring constantly, much like the beginning of crème pâtissière. Add the wine and the cinnamon and combine.

Remove the weights and the paper, pour the filling mixture into the tart shell still in the oven and cook until the filling is firm to the touch. Serve cool.