Sunday, 14 August 2011

And again, it will be about gnocchi... I can’t help it that I love them and if only the day had 50 hours I would do them every single day... I have written about them before here (click). But I will write again! So, after all my investigations trying to find out whether they are polish or italian invention, and although they are done exactly the same way, I felt that it would be fair to leave polish dumplings being dumplings and Italian gnocchi being gnocchi... The former dumplings will always remind me of home, made by my Mum, who always served it with some meat or mushroom sauce. Oh! And I can’t forget to mention that dumplings were a hit of students’ life – we used to go to these cheap milk bars where you could buy them for pennies with accompaniment of butter milk.... oh, happy student days... But gnocchi on the other hand will always be associated with my first funny trip to Italy and will remind me of something fancy, different types potatoes, fancy ingredients, cheese sauces and Italy itself of course... 

Today, we did fancy gnocchi! We combined British and Jamaican sweet potatoes together with parsnips, blue cheese and pine nuts. Check this out! It tasted absolutely gorgeous! 

500g parsnips 
500g sweet potatoes 
50g parmesan 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
175g plain flour 
1 large egg 
25 g butter 
400g fresh spinach 
125g blue cheese 

Preheat oven to 180 ° C. 
Cook the parsnips in a pan of boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes, then drain and place in a baking tray with the sweet potatoes. 
Drizzle half the olive oil, then roast for 30 minutes until tender, turning regularly. Whizz in a food processor, then push through a potato ricer into a bowl. Allow to cool. The secret of good gnocchi is that the potatoes must be completely cool before combining with flour and eggs. 
Stir the parmesan into cooled mash, along with the flour and egg yolk. Season well, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Roll both halves out into 2.5 cm diameters logs, then cut into 3cm pieces and place on a floured plate. 
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the gnocchi in batches for about 2-3 minutes until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Melt half the butter in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the spinach. Fry for a few minutes, until wilted. Season with nutmeg to bring out its flavour and a hint of chilli. Melt the remaining butter and fry the gnocchi for a few minutes until lightly golden. Serve on a bed of wilted spinach with the blue cheese and pine nuts sprinkled over.


Friday, 12 August 2011

Well, there are as many types of tomato soup as many people on Earth. 'You like tomato and I like tomahto ...' I don’t know the person who doesn’t like tomatoes, not to mention tomato soup, on which most of us probably grew up. From childhood, I remember the one with sour cream and rice or pasta made with chicken broth made on previous day. Then, in busy student days, when there was no time to cook proper food, there was a trend for a readymade hot cup of Knorr tomato soup and I wasn’t that bad, I have to admit! Later, after the first visit to Italy, we tended to prepare this lovely tomato, basil and parmesan cheese with garlic croutons. Since we have an access to a variety of spices and products of the world, our famous tomato soup transformed with each cooking - once delicate in flavour and creamy and spicy with a hint of the smoked paprika, and another time with plenty of rosemary and yoghurt ... I could go on and on about it... After all these experiments, it was time for something more traditional with a hint of something new... While searching for inspiration, we combined a few different recipes we’ve known already and in this way we came up with the best tomato soup we’ve ever eaten. 

Our tomato soup 

1kg San Marzano tomatoes 
2 large carrots 
4 garlic cloves 
1 large onion 
½ l vegetable stock 
sea ​​salt 
Freshly ground pepper 
Pinch of smoked paprika powder 
Olive oil with white truffles 
A few tablespoons of Greek yoghurt 
Pasta 'Stellette Stars' (small, in the shape of stars) 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Wash the tomatoes, peel them and cut crosswise. Peel the carrots, onions and garlic. Arrange all the vegetables in a baking dish, sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for approx. 1 hour. Remove from the oven and peel off the skin from the tomatoes. Using a blender, puree all the vegatables until you’ve reached the desired consistency. We like more lumpy consistency rather than completely purred. Add your vegetable broth and smoked paprika powder and season with salt and pepper as you like. Lastly, stir in two or three tablespoons of Greek yoghurt. Serve with the pasta stars previously cooked. And sprinkle the soup with some truffle oil as you serve. 

There are few versions of the Gershwins’ ‘Let's Call The Whole Thing Off' song... however, our favourite one is that sung by Elle Fitzgerald and Luisa Armstronga, which you can listen here as you eat your favourite tomato soup :)


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Oh Dear... it’s one of those days that you've got no appetite and most of all I can't eat anything. But the dinner with friends is set for 2pm... Mamma mia! What am I going to do now? I flip through the culinary books and magazines nervously but none of the recipes satisfy my capricious taste today...I look at photos of beautiful dishes and they do not move me somehow... After half an hour of browsing through I find it... Yes yes, I got it!!! I yell at the entire kitchen... and at that moment the phone rang - 'Beloved, we just left the house, and will see you in an hour...' - announced friends. OMG, and I haven’t even started... oh well, I have to quickly think of something to impress them before the main course and even stimulate the appetite for what is about to begin. And once again, I realized why I love the Italian way of eating, relaxing and indulgence in the kitchen... They are the ones who invented antipasti, appertizers... or whatever you wanna call it... 
The history of antipasto traces back to the ancient Romans who featured antipasto as a stimulant before the main meal. It evolved from two very different cultural conditions – extreme wealth and the poverty of necessity. The wealthy used the antipasto as a prelude to a multi-coursed banquet. For the poor, antipasto was a street food eaten while working or shopping. 
Like the opening credits for a film, the appearance of the antipasto announces to the crowd that something special is about to begin. Even the sight of small appetizers beautifully prepared can change the mood of gathering, luring guests to the table... And their main purpose is to stimulate the appetite (which I need today) and the taste buds without a sense of fullness. It is served cold or at room temperature, its components as colourful as possible. But most of all, they need to encourage your guests to start the meal... even if your appetite is not agreeing with you today... 
A good antipasto plate will always have some combination of fresh melon or tomatoes, thinly sliced cured meats like prosciutto, marinated olives or mushrooms, vegetables, cheese, and seafood. Look what we did...

Rocket Salas
Serrano Ham thinly sliced 
Honeydew Melon bites
Thin flakes of Parmiggiano Reggiano
A pinch of freshly ground pepper
A few drops of raspberry-blasamic glaze

Recipe for Raspberry -Balsamic Glaze
2 cups fresh raspberries
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar 
2 tablespoons sugar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 cup raspberries, the balsamic vinegar, and the sugar to a simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes. The balsamic glaze is done cooking when it has reduced in volume and thickened.

All components of your antipasto arrange on the plates, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and drizzle with rasberry-blasamic glaze. Serve before main meal and you'll see the faces of your guests! They will be delighted!


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

It happened… I decided to learn to bake cakes... I have to admit that I never had a particular spirit either a will for baking. And the first and the only attempt to bake a Brownie was a total failure. My Brownie had a rather runny consistency and we could easily sip it from the cup.... heheheheh 

In this way, I gave up all the baking attempts for years. However, since I’ve managed to bake some beautiful loaves of bread, I thought why would fail to bake some simple cakes... and succeeded!!! A few days ago, we enjoyed our scrumptious, homemade banana bread. The reason I chose this for my big baking return is that the recipe is so easy to make and obviously because of bananas.... who doesn’t like bananas? It's one of those fruits that you can do absolutely everything - from the cocktails and cold and warming desserts to cakes and muffins... And I even noticed that lots of my British friends enjoy their double toasts with slices of banana in the morning.... to one's heart content!!! 

As always before the great kitchen challenges I searched the Internet totally and I found this great recipe, the effects of which can be seen below. This bread is perfect for breakfast or unexpected Sunday visit of your friends... Literally super fast....

Banana Bread 

Makes 1 full-sized loaf or 2 small loaves 
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 
In one bowl, combine: 
1/2 stick (4-5 tablespoons) butter, softened 
2 eggs 
2 or 3 very ripe bananas 
2/3 cup sugar 

Use a potato masher, fork, or spoon to squish the banana and mix the ingredients together. It is alright for there to be small (1 centimeter) chunks of banana in the batter, but you want most of the banana to be reduced to mush. 

In another bowl, combine: 
1 1/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional) 

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until the ingredients are blended together. 

If you like, stir in additional ingredients here, such as chopped walnuts or pecans, dried cherries or apricots, or chocolate chips. A handful (about a half a cup) is about right. 
Pour the dough into greased baking pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Small loaves take around 30 minutes, a normal-sized loaf takes around 50 minutes. 
Remove from the oven. This bread is great warm, but it is excellent cold too. 
After they have cooled for 5 or 10 minutes the loaves can be removed from the pan to cool. Once they are cool they can be individually wrapped and frozen. 

Enjoy and have a lovely evening! 

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