Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category


Two Giana’s sans photos

July 16, 2010

I’ve been a-hunting but do you think for the life of me I can find the photo’s for these two recipes? I’ve been searching and searching, and I know I would’ve taken them! Bit sad that I don’t have them too because both of these dishes were amazing in flavour. I could’ve devoured every single tiny morsel to myself!

I of course did not, I shared with the Husband, who also appreciated them as well. He loves pork in all its forms so the chops were always going to be a hit. I have a habit of always preparing the amounts the recipe asks for. It provides for leftovers – which isn’t always good as some foods just don’t taste better next time around. But, I don’t think these even made it to the next day. The Husband was making sneaky trips to the fridge through the night, so when I got up in the morning there was almost nothing left! not even enough for a full lunch. I shouldn’t complain though it means he enjoyed it, yes?

As for the veal….well it was me doing sneaky in the fridge visits, I love all good tomato based sauces. And this tomato based sauce packed a good punch in terms of flavour! I loved it, and it was fairly easy to make, didn’t take that long for me to whip it up, and it has featured on our menu a couple of times since I originally made it. Very happy!

Giada’s Kitchen – New Italian Favourites provides you two great recipes…again I really love this cookbook!

Pork Chops with Fennel & Caper Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
4 boneless pork chops
Salt and pepper
2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 large shallots thinly sliced
2/3 cup parsley
½ cup dry white wine
1 can of diced tomatoes
½ lemon, zested
2 T drained capers

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Then brown for about 4 minutes per side. Set aside and cover loosely. Add the fennel, shallots and 1/3 cup of parsley to the pan cooking over a medium heat until the fennel is browning. Add wine and stir in the tomatoes. Then return the pork to the pan, making sure the pork is nestled and mostly submerged. Cook until the fennel is tender – about 15 minutes. Take out the pork and place on a plate, add in the last of the parsley, the lemon zest and capers to the sauce. Stir and combine all of this before spooning over the pork to serve.

Veal Saltimbocca
4 boneless veal cutlets
Salt and pepper, to season
4 thin slices of lemon
4 sage leaves
4 large slices of prosciutto
3T olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup low sodium chicken broth
1 can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
½ cup heavy cream

Season the veal. Place a slice of lemon on each piece and then top with sage and wrap in prosciutto. Warm a large pan with olive oil and place the meat lemon side up and cook for about 6 minutes. Turn this over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until the prosciutto is beginning to caramelise. Remove from the pan and tent with foil. Add the white wine to the pan to deglaze over a high heat. Add the broth and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, cream and some more salt and pepper. Stirring until it is all combined and hot. Pour some of the sauce over meat and serve the tomato mixture next too.


Lamb Ragu Suet Crust Pie

July 15, 2010

I have been cooking up a bit of a storm lately I think, and will be popping it all up over the next few days if I can find the time of course! Not all from Giada though but that’s ok, it is the cooking that I am enjoying I am still working through the cookbook slowly though. This entry is from Giada’s Kitchen – New Italian Favourites though.

I did a bit of an adaptation thing with the recipe though. What I went with was the Lamb Ragu with Mint. Only mine was sans the mint! Let me explain. I had an urge of late, to be making some pastry I like pastry. It may not be my friend so to speak when it comes to the weight loss that I may be wishing to achieve, however I am pretty happy with a small sample. But to make a small sample, it requires me too make pastry and you can’t really do it in small amounts can you? So I decided to make a pie with the ragu as filling.

Now I didn’t make any old pastry, I wanted to do something a little different for me, a different kind of pastry one I’d not done ever. Come to think of it I’m not really good at pastry which is why I’m trying! So I “stole” this recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess from Nigella’s Steak and Kidney Pudding – the suet crust in fact. And for something a little more different, I steamed it in the slow cooker!

So in terms of what I think about the recipes…..I really liked the suet crust. I could have rolled it out a little thinner; I must admit that in fairness. I didn’t have a large enough pudding basin for my pastry and I just wanted to do it! Plus since I like pastry? The Husband even enjoyed it, just did say that it would’ve been greater if it had been thinner.

The Lamb Ragu….I was really excited about the recipe to begin with. But, once it was completed whilst it was tasty. And I enjoyed it, it seemed to lack the punch I was expecting from it in terms of flavour. I’d want to add some more herbs to it I think. Give it a bit more flavour. But, it’s definitely a good base! Maybe it was just because I was putting it with pastry – it wasn’t a strong enough flavour to cut through the pastry. Maybe if the pastry had been thinner? Who knows…….but I will give it another burl as a ragu sometime.

Lamb Ragu

2T olive oil
2 shallots
1 minced garlic clove
680g lamb mince
½ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1 cup red wine
2 cups Marina Sauce

Marina Sauce

½ cup olive oil
2 small onions
2 minced garlic cloves
2 celery sticks
2 carrots
½ t salt
½ t black pepper
2 cans of crushed tomato
2 bay leaves

Suet Crust

350g SR Flour
½ t salt
175g suet
½ t English mustard powder

Make the Marina Sauce. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the celery, carrots, and salt and pepper. Sauté until all are soft. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over a low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove the bay leaves and discard.

Warm the olive oil in a large pan. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until tender. Add the lamb, salt and pepper. Cook until the meat breaks down and is browned and all the juice is evaporated. Add the wine, scraping up any brown bits from the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Then add the marina sauce and simmer over a low heat until the flavours blend and the sauce reduces slightly. Recipe suggested 10 minutes, but I did mine for a bit longer.

Remove from heat and cool whilst making the Suet Crust.

Mix the flour, salt, suet and powder in a large bowl. Then stirring with a wooden spoon, add enough cold water to make a firm dough. Roll out on a floured surface into a large circle about 5mm thick and cut away a ¼ segment from the circle to use for the lid. Ease the circle into a world buttered pudding basin with about a 3cm over hang.

Spoon the cold lamb ragu into the bowl, not letting it come up to higher then 2cm from the rim. Roll out the other segment into a small circle to fit the top and seal it with the overhanging edges. Clip on the lid, and place in the slow cooker. Cook for 3 hours on high, or 5 hours on low.


Salmon with Puff Pastry & Pesto

July 12, 2010

Next on the list from Giada’s Kitchen – New Italian Favourites was Salmon with Puff Pastry and Pesto. There are no photos of this dish though, bad me!

This was for the Husband only, not for me – I try I really do, I want to give fish a go. But, I can’t I don’t like it, it doesn’t like me … we have a mutual dislike for each other that works well. Unfortunately for the Husband this is, for he would eat fish each and every day if I would just make it for him. But, when you won’t eat it, and when you’re only cooking for 2 – it does seem silly to be making 2 meals in that amount of regularity. If it happens, it’s usually because I have a craving for some soup – since the Husband and soup have the same mutual dislike for each other that I have with fish.

Due to the fact that I was going to be preparing two meals I was drawn to this recipe as my first fish based recipe, simply because despite involving pastry it didn’t require you to make the pastry. You could of course, and perhaps one day I would – especially knowing that my own puff pastry tastes so much better than that store purchased variety but….not this time.

Problem encountered though – was I failed to read the recipe in its entirety in my multi-tasking haste. Darn it! So this dish ended up a bit reminiscent of my Salmon en Croute Daring Cook Challenge. With the pesto nestled delightfully inside the pastry instead of dolloped on the top. Thankfully the Husband didn’t seem to mind – and I’d probably go that route again, but for those wanting to be a bit truer to the recipe, this is not a closed dish, pastry and salmon cooked separately and then everything is stacked on each other.

Salmon with Puff Pastry & Pesto
(for 4)

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
2 centre cut salmon fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup pesto
2 tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 200C
Unfold the pastry and cut into 4 equal squares. Prick each square all over and arrange the pastry on a baking tray. Cut the salmon into 4 pieces. Season with salt and pepper and place on the pastry. Sprinkle each piece of salmon with some almonds and pesto and fold pastry up. Bake in the over for about 15 minutes.



May 16, 2010

The latest in my delving into Giada’s Kitchen – New Italian Favourites was the Crostata with Mushrooms and Pancetta.

A Crostata is a free-form pie or tart that can be served as either a savoury or a sweet, and since I’m trying to branch out into more savoury cooking this seemed to fit the bill!

The mushrooms I used were Shiitake & Buna Shimeji two varieties I’d seen and heard about but never eaten. So I thought since the recipe called for an assortment of mushrooms without being specific I’d do something a bit different. It was interesting to note that the Buna-Shimeji had a slightly bitter taste when it was raw that completely disappeared when it was cooked.

I also couldn’t get my hands on any Fontina cheese, which is a semi-soft cow’s milk Italian cheese. It comes only from the Valle d’Aosta in Italy, and a true fontina has an orange-brown rind. It’s meant to be a quite creamy cheese and very mild and smooth. I’m keeping my eyes out for one now to try, not having had any when in Italy and wanting to give it a go. I jumped onto trusty Google and looked for substitutes, and the suggestion was a Gruyere, which is also a semi-soft cheese, though with a texture that is a bit grainy – so not as smooth as the Fontina sounds. Though both are described as having a slightly nutty flavour, which I can attest to in the Gruyere finding that a lot easier to locate!

Crostata with Mushrooms & Pancetta

Pastry crust

1.5 cups all purpose flour
½ t salt
3 T cold unsalted butter cut into chunks
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1.5 T lemon juice
3 T ice water

Mushroom Filling

4 T olive oil
57g diced pancetta (I used bacon as its all I had on hand)
2 shallots, minced
450g assorted mushrooms
1 T chopped thyme
½ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1/3 cup grated smoked, mozzarella
1/3 cup grated fontina cheese
2 T fresh grated Parmesan
1 large egg for glaze

For crust
In a food processor combine the flour and salt, and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely chopped and the mix looks like coarse meal. Add the mascarpone and lemon juice and pulse a few more times & then pulse in the ice water until the mix is moist and crumbly but not a ball of dough. Turn it out onto some cling wrap and press into a disk. Wrap it up and put in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

For Filling
Heat 2 T of olive oil in a large pan and add the pancetta cooking until crisp. Transfer this to a small bowl and set aside. Add the rest of the olive oil and cook the shallots for about 30 seconds and then add the mushrooms. Keep them cooking over a medium heat until all the moisture evaporates (about 12 minutes). Remove from the pan and add the pancetta along with the herbs. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to about 200C and unwrap the chilled dough and place it on some baking paper. Roll out the dough to an 11 inch circle and place this on a baking tray (on the baking paper, or another baking sheet). Stir the cheeses into the cooled mushrooms mixture. Place this on the centre of the dough, spreading out to about 2 inches from the edges. Fold the dough border up and glaze with egg. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes – or until golden. Slice and serve.


Olive Oil Muffin

May 1, 2010

The latest in my delving into Giada’s Kitchen – New Italian Favourites I am going a bit “gung-ho” at the moment.

Only problem….well it speaks for itself, I’m not really sure what happened with the picture! I could have sworn that it was all good. But apparently not so good hey – which is a shame because it’s got a nice flavour.

It was an Olive Oil Muffin. Which is interesting because I expected there to be more of an underlying flavour of the olive oil, however, the overpowering flavour was that of the citrus zests and the almonds. There was only a very subtle aftertaste of olive oil, which just hit the back of your palette as you swallowed.

The muffin itself was basically a bit cake like in consistency and it was deliciously moist and delicate. I loved it! I think I could have eaten the entire batch to myself. It didn’t go down so well with everyone, my SIL wasn’t a fan it’s hard to tell with MIL & FIL who will eat things they don’t like just to be polite. The Husband? Well he said that he’d prefer it if I made a small change.

That change is that I would make to the whole thing would be I would definitely use the slivered almonds that the original recipe called for. The whole ones were a bit too much – but I went with what was on hand because I was having people over and wanted to try something from the book to do it. So it was a quick case of toasting whole ones and making do!

Olive Oil Muffins

1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
2t baking powder
½ t salt
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2t grated orange zest
2t grated lemon zest
2T balsamic vinegar
2T whole milk
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 180C
In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder and salt. Use a mixer to beat the sugar, eggs and zests until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vinegar and milk then gradually beat in the oil. Add the flour mix and stir by hand until just blended.
Add the almonds, then stir until just combined.
Fill the the muffin tin almost to the top. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Transfer to a rack and cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then take out and cool for another 5 minutes. Then serve warm.



May 1, 2010

It has been awhile, it really has and yet it’s not one of those things that you forget about. It’s not like some things, where the memory seems to be so much better than the reality when you finally experience it again. The simple enjoyment that you get from heading into the kitchen grabbing the kitchen aid, tying on an apron and getting started. That enjoyment remains the same no matter how long you stay away.

I have fallen back into old habits, after a long hard day at work, when I’m so tired all I seem to be able to manage is to snap at the Husband (poor man) I head into the kitchen and after half an hour I’m “normal”. My method of communication reverts back to the way it should be and I feel I can be nice to the man who’s boundless patience puts up with my tired grumpiness all of the time (bless his cotton socks).

I have decided to take a bit of a different approach to my kitchen experiences though, I was doing Flavour of the Month and I probably will do it again sometime. But looking back I noticed a pattern forming. A sweet pattern! And I really am trying to be a bit more health conscious since returning from my travels, and unfortunately for me that means a lot less sugar in my diet – if I want to function without migraines at the very least. So I thought I’d try to do a bit more of the savoury side of cooking.

I love to bake (ergo – grabbing kitchen aid) but I do like to cook as well. It’s the art of creating something in the kitchen that soothes me. In mind with that I decided to delve into Giada’s Kitchen – New Italian Favourites as my muse so to speak.

There are 106 recipes, and I plan to do them all. I have no time limit on this I have time I am more than certain that I will have the inclination to bake/cook the lovely things found within. And, I will admit that yes, the reason I chose it simply was because I had such fun eating in Italy I didn’t want it to stop completely. I’ve never been shy in saying that Italian food is my favourite cuisine in the entire world!

So – first cab off the rank was actually first recipe in the book. Fresh Tomato & Goat Cheese Strata with Herb Oil. It’s a simple dish really, with a strong flavour that I quite enjoyed. I hoped fervently that the husband would enjoy it just as much as I, since he has been regaling everyone with tales of the cheese delights he experienced overseas, alas, Goat Cheese doesn’t seem to do it for him. Strong in a bad way were his words. I’m sure I could sub in a soft feta or even a ricotta and he’d enjoy it so perhaps next time?

Fresh Tomato & Goat Cheese Strata with Herb Oil

Goat Cheese Filling

(half-ish recipe)
125g goat cheese, at room temperature
1/8 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt and pepper
½ cup walnut pieces
2 ripe tomatoes cored and sliced

Herb Oil

(full recipe – the leftovers can keep for a day or two and drizzled on a variety of things)
¾ cup fresh mint leaves
¾ cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

To make the filling, combine the goat cheese and cream in a medium bowl and beat together using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Season with salt & pepper.
To make the herb oil, combine the herbs in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop them. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow stream and process until very smooth visible flecks of herbs remaining and season.
Toast the walnuts and then allow too cool slightly.
Get yourself a slice of good crusty bread; place some of the goat cheese filling on this, topped with a slice of tomato, then a bit more of the goat cheese. Drizzle with the herb oil and sprinkle walnuts over the top.
<br /



April 26, 2010

I have been neglecting my blog and my cooking since I got back. It’s terrible of me. Mostly because I needed to avoid baking after all the eating I did whilst I was away. But I can’t really stay out of my kitchen forever, it calls me. Especially when you have stressful moments at work, not stressful I hate my job moments, but stressful sad moments that require moments of self-care when you return home.

Whilst in Florence we were conned into buying some biscotti in the market place, we were given some Vin Santo to go with it as we were told this was the traditional way of eating the biscotti. We did not mind being conned because it was delicious and we couldn’t stop eating it! Once we headed down to Rome, we thought we’d be able to easily replace it. We found a great bakery just around the corner from where we were staying and got our hands on some biscotti.

Only of course it wasn’t the same! It was different! We were reminded that biscotti is just biscuit and can be anything really! We enjoyed the biscuits we got but they weren’t what we were looking for. So we got our hands on some Cantuccio! And there we go. We got it right! It wasn’t as sweet as the biscotti we got, and not as moist – must drier, and great to go with cups of coffee or hot chocolate.
It was all over when we got back to Australia, there is “biscotti” around the place, but I’d never liked it prior to going to Italy. We held out for awhile, before my husband started to ask about it again, missing it and wanting it again. So I had to go and find a recipe, I couldn’t resist it, I had to have it as well. Soon enough I found a recipe and it was perfect!

I’ve made 4 batches since finding this recipe, with a couple of adaptations (such as replacing almonds with macadamia and introducing almond meal) and whilst we have enjoyed them all the pure remains our favourite!


• 2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 t baking powder
• 1/2 t cinnamon
• 1/4 t salt
• 1-1/2 cup whole, blanched almonds
• 3 large eggs
• 1 T vanilla extract
• 1.2 t almond extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir. Add the almonds and mix well.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. The dough will be dry.
5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and begin gathering it together. Knead it for a few minutes and you will see that it will slowly come together into a firm dough. Keep some flour handy in case it sticks.
6. Divide the dough in half and shape it into two 12-inch logs. Transfer the logs to a baking sheet lined with parchment.
7. Bake for 30 minutes. The logs will rise a bit and will be golden and lightly brown on the bottom.
8. Transfer the logs to a wire rack and let cool completely.
9. Once cool, slice the logs, on the diagonal, into quarter-inch slices. Lay the slices, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
10. Bake for an additional 10 or 15 minutes, or until the cantuccini are dry and lightly golden.
11. Let cool completely. Cantuccini can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
12. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Cream Puffs in Venice.