Monday, 30 July 2012
Red, white and green, the Italian flag (and coincidentally, the colours of Y Ddraig Goch, the Welsh Dragon) on a plate. Yes, it's another dish based on my favourite Italian trinity of mozzarella, tomato and basil (for other recipes featuring these flavours have a look at Insalata Caprese and Baked pasta with mozzarella and tomatoes). I make no apology for this, I happen to think that the combination is simply perfect for the warmer summer weather.
350g pasta (any 'short' kind, I used fusilli)
7-8 large tomatoes
125g ball mozzarella
half a small onion or 1 shallot
extra virgin olive oil
handful fresh basil
Chop the onion or shallot very finely. In a frying pan, heat enough olive oil to cover the base and add the onion/shallot. Cook gently until very soft, about 10-15 minutes.
While the onion is sweating, prepare the tomatoes. First, you have to peel them, not a particularly pleasant job but worth doing for this dish. The easiest way is to score a small cross in the skin of the base of the tomatoes. Place in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for a minute, then place the tomatoes in cold water and peel off the skin. After peeling, roughly chop.
Chop the mozzarella into small dice.
Monday, 23 July 2012
These were a constant feature of family gatherings when I was growing up. I loved everything about them, but particularly the name. I have no idea where it comes from but that's what they were known as in our family and that's what I will continue to call them.
I've already written about my Aunt's seemingly unending recipe range for little cakes, bars and slices (see here for another of her delicious bakes) and sure enough, Sydney Specials originated with her although they were made by all branches of our family.
There are a number of reasons why you should try these: they are ridiculously easy to make, they taste really good, somewhere between a cake and a biscuit, and everybody loves them, young and old alike. Please don't be put off by the fact that cornflakes are one of the ingredients - you can't taste them or see them really, they just add a pleasing crunch.
1 tablespoon cocoa
150g self raising flour
200g milk chocolate for the top
A baking tin, 17 x 26cm approx, greased and base lined with greaseproof paper
Preheat oven to 160°C
Melt the butter and sugar together over a low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Pour and press evenly into the prepared tin.
Bake for 20-25 mins. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
Melt the chocolate and pour over the top.
When cold, cut into squares or rectangles as you prefer.
Friday, 13 July 2012
Aubergines just shout summer to me. I know you can get them all year round but they're at their best from July to September, and seem to typify mediterranean cuisine. These little aubergine involtini are common throughout southern Italy. Most versions include mozzarella and ham although GL's mum uses mortadella in hers, saying that it adds a certain aromatic dimension. My rendition though comes via Nigella. There's no meat in it but the combination of salty, sharp feta with milky, melting mozzarella works perfectly. The added crunch of pinenuts that she suggests are a perfect contrast to the softness of the cheese. I don't however use the raisins that she includes in her recipe - even though they are used quite extensively in Sicilian savoury cooking, I personally only like them in sweet dishes. I add fresh mint and oregano rather than parsley and dried mint and dispense with the melted mozzarella topping, preferring just to use a small amount of passata with a few fresh basil leaves thrown over after I've taken it out of the oven.
I'm entering this into the fabulous Forever Nigella challenge started by Sarah at http://blog.maisoncupcake.com/forever-nigella and hosted this month by Amy from Cooking, Cakes and Children http://www.cookingcakesandchildren.com/2012/07/forever-nigella-17-sizzling-summer/. Let's hope that the Sizzling Summer will have arrived by the closing date at the end of July!
As it includes lovely fresh mint, basil and oregano, I'm also sending this over to Herbs on Saturday, thought up by Karen from the wonderful Lavender and Lovage http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/herbs-on-saturday, with guest host this month Vanesther of Bangers and Mash http://bangermashchat.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/july-herbs-on-saturday/
RECIPE (adapted from Nigella's recipe in her fantastic book Feast)
2 large aubergines
100g feta cheese, crumbled
125g ball mozzarella, finely chopped
25g parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, crushed
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
about 400g passata
extra oil for grilling the aubergine slices
Cut the aubergines into thinnish slices and brush with oil. Cook on a very hot griddle until soft and striped. Remove to a plate as you go.
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
Mix all the other ingredients together (except the passata).
Put a small amount of filling on each aubergine slice and roll it up, making sure the filling won't fall out. Place them into a lightly greased gratin dish, pour over the passata, a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Bake for about 25-30 mins.
As Nigella states, this is better if you can leave it to cool slightly once it's come out of the oven - 10 mins should probably be enough.
Tuesday, 10 July 2012
The atmosphere in our house has been somewhat subdued lately. It started with Italy's humiliating defeat in Euro 2012 and the constantly leaden skies and autumnal climate are certainly not helping to lift our spirits. GL, who finds it hard to believe that it is actually summertime, is suffering from a lack of warmth and sunshine. Phone calls to Italy don't really help matters as everyone there complains about how unbearably hot it is and how they simply have to go to the lake or seaside in order to cool off a little in the water. When we mention the rain and the temperatures we've been getting here, they say they envy us and how they would do anything to have some cooler conditions. They don't fool us though, we know they don't really mean it...