Category Archives: Italian

Something I forgot to post before I went to France.

 

 

Montpellier is rilly fun. It’s really French, everyone walks around carrying baguettes, and the cheese and wine is really cheap. It’s been really warm and hot, but there is a chill in the air now (23 degrees) so beach trips are probably gonna have to stop taking place. This is a food blog so I should probs talk about the food and not the heat and my tan. Urm, well, in the excitement of moving I haven’t had that much time to dedicate my time to cooking. I’m very content to eat cheese, salad, lentils, cheese, bread and raped carrots. The hummus here is awful, it’s so bland and overpriced. They do sell Yarden, but it’s about 4 euros for a pot. It makes me sad. I could make my own, but the 30p chickpeas I get in Leeds are hard to come by as well. Too much hummus talk.

 

It’s a shame I didn’t write this post when I made the meal because now I have completely forgotten the method of how to make it. I remember making it, eating it and liking it, and the memory in my mind should be enough to help me recreate the recipe 3 weeks later. It’s so basic that it doesn’t matter if I go a little off course. It’s basically an aubergine parmigiana. Just aubergines, tomatoes and parmesan. Yum.

What I really hate is when people are like ‘I dislike aubergines, they’re too spongy’. It’s a common sentence I hear. Fair enough if you don’t like aubergines because of the taste (even if that’s a bit weird), but if you dislike aubergines cos they’re spongy, then it means you haven’t cooked them properly. It’s equivalent to saying ‘I hate raw eggs, they’re so gloopy’. Correctly cooked aubergine is not spongy. And I will tell you how to cooked aubergine properly here and now. Ici et maintenant.

Ingredients

-3 aubergines, sliced into medallions.

-1 tin of chopped tomatoes

-1 onion, chopped

-1 clove of garlic, crushed or chopped

-handful fresh basil and rosemary, or 2 tsp of both  dried basil and rosemary

-1 heaped tsp sugar

-100ml water

-150-200g parmesan grated

-100g of breadcrumbs

-olive oil

Method

-Preheat oven to gas mark 6, 200c  and grease the inside of a large casserole dish.

-Okay, here’s what to do with the aubergines. Sprinkle your medallions with a generous amount of salt. But not too much. Leave them for at the very least 15 minutes. I tend to do this in the morning, put them in the fridge and then come back later but that’s cos I’m lame.

-Wanna know what this does and why it’s important? Aubergines are very watery, like courgettes and strawberries. So normally what happens when you cook aubergines is that they swell with all the moisture that’s trapped inside them. They’re like a sponge, they just have so much water in them. Hence why people say they’re ‘spongy’. Salt, as you probably know, draws the moisture out of the aubergines. It basically draws out all liquid from them, leaving them with their distinctive flavour with no water masking it. This means that when you cook aubergine they have just their flavour and they also absorb the flavour of whatever they’re cooking with, making them delicious. There. Salt is important.

-While your aubergines are left to sit, make your tomato sauce. So fry up your onions and garlic in some olive oil and salt. Once the onions have softened add your chopped tomatoes, water, herbs and sugar. Give it a taste, it might need a bit more seasoning.

-Bring the sauce to the boil and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.

-While the sauce is simmering, and if the aubergines have been sitting for the correct time, it’s time to wipe down the aubergines. With a dish cloth, just wipe away the water that the aubergines have released. Don’t use a kitchen towel, other wise you’ll have bits of kitchen towel in your aubergines.

-Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start layering. Place 1/3 of the aubergines on the bottom layer of the casserole dish, top with a 1/3 or the tomato sauce, and then 1/3 of the parmesan. Do the same for the next two layers (i.e, until you’ve finished your ingredients).

-Top with the breadcrumbs, and  a bit more parmesan if you’ve got some to spare. THEN, pour olive oil liberally (I’m thinking 3-4 tbsp) over the dish. I’m not trying to be all American and make it unhealthy, but it gives that extra something the aubergines can absorb.

-Place in the oven and cook for 1hr and a half, if it looks like the top is burning, cover with foil. I cooked mine for ages just so the aubergines almost disintegrated into nothing when I prodded them. You know it’s ready when the top has browned, and when you poke a fork into the dish, it’s REALLY SOFT.

-Bon appetit.

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Filed under Italian, Vegetarian

Cooking Up My Bookmarks: Sun-blushed tomatoes

Lots of tomatoes. Beautiful beautiful tomatoes. We’ve had this enormous surplus of cherry tomatoes. On the online shop each week (not my choice, I love supermarkets), we always order more cherry tomatoes, so when the new shop arrives no one wants to eat tomatoes that are more than a week old. Fair enough. But we literally had about 3 punnets not in use. THUS we had 4 punnets of cherry tomatoes that needed eating. I happily eat them in a salad, and these cherry toms are very nice raw. But comon, everyone loves tomatoes (more?) when they’re cooked.

So while using tomatoes liberally in all types of salad, I’ve been doing various ‘roasting’ recipes. I did these Super Saver Roast Tomatoes, but I also saw this recipe from Culinary Travels and added it to my bookmarks. So when we were inundated with these cherry tomatoes, I decided to cook another bookmark.

(Halfway through cooking)

Ingredients

-500g cherry tomatoes

-2 tbsp olive oil

-1 tsp sugar

-1 tsp salt

-A few sprigs of fresh thyme and a small handful of basil leaves

Method

-Preheat oven to 140 c. and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

-Chop each tomato in half, and put in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix together.

-Take the tomatoes and place them sliced side up on the baking paper. Pour the oil etc. from the bowl over the tomatoes.

– Put in the oven for 2-3 hours, until started to shrivel but still quite plump. Leave to cool, and store in a jar. Submerge with oil.


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Filed under Italian, Mediterranean, Vegan, Vegetarian

How to be Healthy: Italian Dressing Tofu Stew

Sorry for the over-exposed and saturated photos, I was having an off day and the lighting in my bedroom is extremely bad so my editing of photos can be distorted.

So I said I would try roasting tofu, but I wanted to make a stew instead, because I’m only human and I change my mind. I’m still not so sure about tofu. I think (and let me stress that this is just an opinion) that tofu is eaten by vegetarians/pescetarians/flexitarians(those who limit meat) as a meat substitute. It certainly has that meat-like appearance and texture, and that is not what I want. I gave up meat for a reason, and the resemblance tofu has to it is slightly off-putting. Sure it acts as a good flavour enhancer, but if I had to choose between a tofu or butter bean stew? I would choose butter beans, because not only does it absorb the flavour like tofu, but has a greater distinguishable flavour and it is not detrimental to the environment. That is the the fundamental reason I don’t eat meat, so why should I eat a soy-based product which is equally as bad as meat environmentally just because it is health-giving? There are better/healthier/cheaper alternatives. It’s not that the tofu didn’t TASTE nice, it was just that it is not for me and this would have tasted just as nice with something other than tofu.

My journey with tofu has at least taught me how to use the ingredient, and more importantly made me realise that I love being a pescetarian and in no way do I miss white or red meat.

Anyway, I loves me a stew. What we have here is a stew, with the tofu, carrots, red onions and garlic cooked in a sort of Italian dressing like mixture, and then the mixture is covered with plum tomatoes and left to simmer for about an hour until the tofu is soft. I think it took about an hour? In the time it took I had a shower, put on my lenses, did my face, got changed, went to Sainsbury’s, mopped the floor, got it dirty, mopped it again and emptied the bins. HELLO MULTI-TASKER. Enjoy the recipe, because I don’t think there will be much tofu on this site again if I can help it.

Ingredient

200 g tofu

-1 red onion

-1 carrot

-1 mushroom (optional, I just had loads leftover)

-2 cloves of garlic

-2 tbsp oil

-2 tbsp vinegar

-1 tsp french mustard

-1 tbsp of lemon juice

-1 tsp of dried herbs, cumin, coriander and paprika

-1 tin of plum tomatoes

-60 ml water

Method

– Wash tofu and wrap in clean towel, put a heavy weight on top of it such as a couple of plates or heavy cookbooks. This squeezes out all of the moisture.

-Whilst you are draining your tofu, chop all your vegetables and fry in the olive oil in a saucepan on a medium heat. Add some salt so that they don’t stick to the surface. Cook and simmer until brown and soft.

-After ten minutes of soaking, unwrap the tofu and chop into cubes. Add to the vegetables.

-Add all the ingredients BAR the tinned tomatoes AND water. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring from time to time.

-Add the chopped tomatoes and cover and leave to simmer for about 40 minutes. You might need to add the water to stop the mixture from drying out. So keep on checking and stirring the mixture to check

-Serve with some rice or some bread!

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Filed under How to be Healthy, Italian, Vegan, Vegetarian

How to make Pizza Dough

Wanna make a pizza?

This is how to make pizza dough. I’ve taken photos, but bear in mind I don’t have a tripod, and it was a Sunday morning so I couldn’t get any of my housemates to help me so please excuse how awkward looking they are…

For a pizza that serves one, you need FOUR obligatory Ingredients:

-180g /1.5 cups of flour, plus extra for dusting.

-125 ml of WARM water

-1/2 7g sachet of yeast (I only use this yeast, so I can’t offer advice for the yeast that is bought in tins, which seems less refined)

-3 tbsp oil (45 ml).

AND two extra ingredients, which simply help to enhance the flavour, but they aren’t necessary:

-1 tsp dried herbs

-1/2 tsp of sugar

Okay, let’s go…Method

1. Wash hands

2. Wash and dry a surface.

3. Mix Yeast, Oil and Water(YOW) in a jar and shake up. Or just put in a beaker and mix well. Set aside.

4. Put flour in a mixing bowl.

5. Add herbs and sugar

6. Add half of the YOW, and stir with a fork, until the mixture starts to collect into clumps.

7. Add the rest of the YOW and continue to stir with fork. As you can see, your mixtuer should be starting to form into one mass. When the fork seems to prove redundant, use your hands to make sure all the flour and water are well combined. You should been able to form one dough ball that is soft and elastic.

8. However, you might have added too much YOW, and your mixture will be very runny like this(click image to enlarge), it is too sticky to touch and is more like a liquid:

9. If so, add about 3 tsp of flour, and mix with your hands until the mixture is stretchy like so. If your mixture is too dry and not elastic. Add a tsp of oil and mix with your hands.

10. Take out of bowl. Your dough should be sticky, but can pull apart from your palm without leaving crap all over it.

11. If not don’t worry just yet, dust your hands and surface with flour (very liberally if your dough is still a bit too sticky to handle) and start to knead.

12. Put the palm of your hand in the middle of the dough, pushing it away from you.

 

Imagine the dough as a clock. Bring 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, i.e fold the back of the dough back over to the front.

Schmush down and flatten with your palm. You’re trying to get as much air into the mixture as possible.

(Mole-y arms. Must learn to put on sun-cream this summer.)

Continue with the process of constantly folding the mixture.

Just fold and flatten. Do this for 3-5 minutes.

13. The dough should have a lot of elasticity and be very soft to touch.

14. Place back in the mixing bowl. Cover with cling film and place in a warm area for 2-4 hours. Alternatively you could use it straight away.  But let it rise, it’s more authentic that way.

Preferably use cling film THAT IS NOT UNDER £1. Like mine is, and evidently is not clinging at all.

USING YOUR DOUGH

-Sorry for the awful photo, just wanted to show the dough in action.

-When ready to use, preheat oven to 180 c.

-When the dough has doubled in size, tip it out onto a floured surface, and use rolling pin to roll into some sort of shape.

-Using your hands, or whatever utensils you can get your hands on, lift your rolled dough and place on a greased piece of foil or on some greaseproof paper.

-Then top with your favourite toppings. Tomato purée, mozzarella, mushrooms etc. and cook in oven for 30-40 minutes until the crusts are brown. Enjoy!

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Filed under Bread, Pastries and Pizza, Italian, Vegan, Vegetarian

Thrifty’s Courgette Risotto for One

If you enjoy, as Nigella calls it, ‘the solace of stirring’, then you’ll love making risotto. It’s salty, creamy and requires a lot of stirring. But just get a newspaper, or a JSTOR article, and just keep on going. Risotto is ridiculously maleable, so please replace courgette with whatever you want, chicken, sausage, mushroom, peas, beans. And if you don’t want to buy parmesan, just use cheddar instead.

I always was a bit daunted with making risotto, but fear not-it’s stoopid easy, just buy the right kind of rice and you’re already 3/4 the way there. I just spent a month in Italy, so making things like risotto is like eating nostalgia.

In other news, I’m having a lot of trouble with photographing my work in my new house. Bad lighting and bad lens means I can’t get what I’m looking for. I’ve been trying very hard with the post-production but’s it’s not coming out how I want. Any suggestions?

Ingredients-

-1 tbsp olive oil

-1 tbsp butter

-1 red onion

-1 clove of garlic

-1 courgette or whatever you want-see above for ideas

-1/4 cup of arborio rice

-around one litre of vegetable or chicken stock

-1 dessert spoon of parmesan, or grated cheddar, plus extra for serving.

-1 tsp salt

-2 tsp dried basil and any other green herbage you have.

-1 tsp green pesto(optional)

Method

Chop up the onion, garlic and the courgette(into coins) and fry lightly in the oil and the butter, and soften. This should take about 5 minutes.

-Add the rice, if using meat, make sure it is cooked in the oil before adding the rice and make sure the grains are covered in the oily buttery-ness. Once they are covered, start by adding a generous swig of stock, continuing to stir the mixture. You should move it to a lower heat now.

-Once the rice has absorbed that stock, add another helping of stock, and continue to stir the mixture from time to time until the rice has absorbed all the water. Don’t get the impression that you have to stand there stirring maniacally, but just make sure you keep your eye on the mixture.

-Keep on repeating the process of adding stock and stirring, until the rice has soften and is edible.The whole thing should take about 30-40 minutes. Try to not to add too much stock.

-By the time the rice is beginning to soften, add the cheese and pesto.

-Serve with more cheese.

 

 

 

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Filed under Italian, Rice and Pasta, Store Cupboard, Vegan, Vegetarian

Back-to-School Pasta and Pesto

This is such a staple, and it was done perfectly. Pasta and pesto, the posh way. After a bit of trials and tribulations with the pasta machine, and then the food processor, this came out and we were very happy. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can easily do it the manual way, but it might be a bit of an effort, and in such a case you’re probably better of just making the pesto.

In other worlds, my food processor keeps on not working, any suggestions? Also, just moved into the new house, with my camera but without my dad’s macro lenses so I feel a bit deprived but I feel the photo has turned out okay.

Ingredients

Pasta

-2 cups of plain flour

-2 eggs

-1 tsp salt

Pesto

-a lot of basil, about 2 cups

-1/2 cup of olive oil

-1/4 cup of grated parmesan

-2 tbsp pine nuts

-1 tsp salt

-1 clove of garlic

Method

-For the pasta, either mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with a fork until it forms into a ball, using your fingers to make sure the mixture is combined and the dough has turned silky and firm. If you have a food processor, process all the ingredients until one ball has formed in the food processor. Either way, leave the dough in a cool place for an hour.

-For the pesto, whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor until it looks like pesto!

-Follow the machines on your pasta machine to form tagliatelle, or if by hand, roll out the dough to about 1-2mm thickness, and cut into shreds. Cook in boiling salted water for 10 minutes, and there you go!

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Filed under Cheese, Italian, Rice and Pasta, Vegetarian

Panzanella

Damn, your bread’s gone stale. How do you redeem this? What a waste of money, I mean does the bread manufacturing company think you can eat 12 slices in 3 days? Really?  I’m a big bread fan, but not, surprisingly, of sandwiches. I like fresh loaves with hummus, or in this salad. Stale bread which has absorbed the juices of the tomatoes and the vinegar of the dressing. Mmmm.

It’s a really good recipe because you can do it with whatever you want. You can do it posh and add capers, yellow pepper and fresh basil, or you can do it to it’s bare minimum-tomatoes, onions, bread and a dressing. This was lovely, I nearly ate the whole thing, I’ve been seriously craving salt and the capers and vinegar-absorbed bread really hit the spot.

Ingredients
-4-5 Salad Tomatoes

-150g stale bread (If you don’t have stale bread, put your bread in a microwave for 1-2 minutes)

-1 yellow pepper

-1 dessert spoon of capers

-1 clove of garlic

-1 red onion

-60 ml red wine vinegar (but you can use whatever you have to hand)

-120 ml extra virgin olive oil

-handful of fresh basil leaves

Method

-Chop up your onion into crescents, and put in your salad bowl with minced garlic and the red wine vinegar whilst you chop your other ingredients.

-Chop your tomatoes, pepper and fresh  basil leaves and add to the bowl with the capers.

-Tear your bread into bitesize pieces and add to the salad bowl, followed by the olive oil. Using your hands mix the salad reallllly well, making sure the vinegar and oil have spread throughout the ingredients. Sprinkle a bit of salt on top and preferably wait half an hour before serving.

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Filed under Italian, Mediterranean, Quick, Vegan, Vegetarian