Monday, 10 November 2014

The Porcini Season is almost over

I have just realised that I forgot to blog about the mushroom season. I think that it was because the season started so late this year and we had almost given up on being able to find any. We missed them in the middle of September as they grew before we came back from Italy. So we had to wait until the next growing cycle and from that time on we have been lucky.

I wish that I could say that we were lucky enough to have picked these beautiful fungi porcini in Italy, but we didn't instead we were lucky enough to find them right here in Wales.

These two little beauties were growing together and refused to become detatched from each other. I love it when the mushrooms grow like this it's so very fairy tale. I left them until last to cut up as I didn't want to destroy the close relationship. I really do think that I'm getting sadder and sadder.

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Today we have a guset post from Ferdinando Guade. He is contributing a sweet that is typical of his region in southern Italy. It's not something that I have ever eaten but now is the time to give something new a try.

 SANNACCHIUDERE (porcidduzzi)
This is an unusual name for a dessert but all is explained below.
There are two legends associated with this name: one is that a poor mother, as Christmas approached, wanted to prepare some sweets for her children, but she had at home a few ingredients. She only had flour, oil and honey. So she kneaded the flour with water and a little oil, then cut the dough into very small pieces, fried them and then dipped them in honey. The children were attracted by the sweets and they began to eat them all. The mother, fearing that there would be none left for the husband when he returned from work, locked the children in the cupboard, saying, “Chiste s’hanne a cchiudere pe le fa acchià à attanete” (These should be closed so that there will be some left for your father can eat.)
The other legend only changes the ending: the mother, to stop children from eating the candy, told them that the cakes were a 'bit open' and the had to wait until Christmas because  so that they would close.
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 packets of baking powder
2 packets of vanilla
150 gr. seed oil
white wine to taste slightly warmed

How to make them
Put the flour on the work surface. Make a well in the centre and in it put  the oil, salt, baking powder and begin to knead, slowly adding the warm white wine, until the dough is elastic and no longer sticky. 
Take a little dough and make the thin sausages with a diameter of 2 cm.
Then cut them into pieces and press with your finger on a gnocchi ridger or the back of a fork or a grater. This is to create ridges on the surface so that more honey will stick to the little balls.
Fry these pieces (sanacchiudere) in hot oil until golden brown, Remove from the oil, and allow them cool. 
Heat the honey.  If it is too thick, add some water. Pour over the little cakes and mix. 
Once cool, sprinkle with colored vermicelli if you have them (anesine) .
This recipe is a modern version, because once there was no baking powder, and then they were a bit 'hard.SANNACCHIUDERE (porcidduzzi) 

Italian version.

Per l’origine del nome si conoscono due leggende:la prima  racconta  che una mamma molto povera, avvicinandosi il Natale,voleva preparare dei dolcetti per i suoi bambini, ma aveva in casa pochi ingredienti, molto semplici: farina, olio, miele. Impastò la farina con l’acqua e un po’ di olio, poi tagliò l’impasto a pezzi molto piccoli, li mise a friggere e infine li immerse nel miele. I bambini, attratti dai dolcetti, cominciarono a mangiarli uno dopo l’altro ma la mamma, temendo che non ne sarebbero rimasti per il marito che doveva tornare dal lavoro, li chiuse a chiave nella credenza dicendo: “Chiste s’hanne a cchiudere pe le fa acchià à attanete” (Questi si devono chiudere per farli mangiare a vostro padre).
L’altra leggenda modifica soltanto il finale: la mamma, per frenare i bambini che volevano mangiare i dolcetti, disse loro che i dolci,  erano un po’ aperti e bisognava aspettare fino a Natale perché… s’hanne a cchiudere!
 HYPERLINK "" Kg. Di farina 00
4 cucchiai di zucchero
1 pizzico di sale
2 bustine di lievito per dolci
2 bustine di vanillina
 HYPERLINK ""100 gr. di olio Extra vergine di oliva
150 gr. di olio di semi
 HYPERLINK ""vino bianco quanto basta
Sul piano da lavoro mettere la farina a fontana, al centro  l’olio, il sale, il lievito e cominciare ad impastare, aggiungendo pian piano il vino bianco tiepido, fino ad ottenere un impasto elastico e non appiccicoso. Quindi prendere un pò di impasto e  fare dei bastoncini del diametro di cm.2 i, tagliarli quindi a  tocchetti, che verranno passati, facendo pressione con un dito,sullo strumento che si usa per rigare gli gnocchi o sul retro di una forchetta o di una grattugia.Friggere questi tocchetti (sanacchiudere), in abbondante olio caldo e lasciarli raffreddare. Riscaldare il miele, se troppo denso, con mezzo bicchiere di acqua, immergere i dolcetti e mescolare. Una volta freddi, cospargere con palline colorate (anesine). Questa ricetta è una versione moderna, perché una volta non esisteva il lievito per dolci e quindi non si metteva, ma venivano un po’ duri.


Saturday, 8 February 2014

Marmalade Time

The arrival of Seville oranges must be one of the few seasonal food events left to us who live in the world of strawberries in December.  I couldn't wait for them to arrive this year as my supply was well and truly depleted.  Not a spoonful left to glorify my morning toast or add to my favourite fruit cake. That said they did sit in my fridge for a few days as you really need time to make marmalade.  It can't be thrown together in minutes. Marmalade requires time to prep all of the ingredients but once that is done it can be switched on and left to its own devices for a couple of hours.

I coerced my husband to help me get the fruit ready. Out came the fruit juicer and we were away.

To make a lip puckering marmalade and why make anything else, you will need:

1kg of Seville oranges. Make sure that they are fresh as the fresher the oranges the easier it is to get the marmalade to set.

1.9kg sugar.

The juice of 1 lemon

2 Lt water.

You will need at least 6 jam jars. If they are small you will need more. They should be sterilised. I do mine by washing them in the dishwasher just before I need them.

Now comes the fun and this is why help is appreciated.

Cut the oranges in half and juice. Remove the pips and pith and pour into a bowl. The rinds should be sliced thinly, only you will know how thick you like your rind. This will take a while, but while one person juices the other can slice. Add the rind to the water along with the juice of the fruits and bring gently to the boil. This will simmer for 2 hours. It really does need this as it takes that long for the rind to soften.

Now, convention would have it that the pith and pips should be put into a cheese cloth tied with string and then added to the boiling marmalade. When this is cooked the bag is squeezed to get out the pectin which is a thick gel that oozes out of the bag. Well blow that. I put my pips and pith together with about half a pint of the water from the 2lt into a microwave bowl and cooked until mushy. This may take a few minutes. It depends on your machine. Put the resulting mush into a fine sieve and, using a large spoon, push as much as you can through the sieve. You will see the pectin coming out with ease. Scrape the pectin off the bottom of the sieve. If it gets to be too thick, take a ladle of the hot liquid from the pot, avoid the rind, and pour onto the sieve. Stir and push again. You get the idea I'm, sure. When you have removed as much pectin as possible give it  a good stir and whisk into the boiling marmalade. Allow it to finish its 2 hour simmer.

Put a side plate in the fridge to cool.

Now add the sugar and mix to dissolve. Bring the marmalade up to the boil and, if you can do it, a good rolling boil. No namby pamby simmering needed here. You really need to get up to a temperature of about 105C. This is the setting point of most jams. However, any time from 99C on you can test for setting. Do this by putting a spoonful on a cold plate, put the plate in the fridge and when cool the jam is ready if the jam on the plate wrinkles when pushed with your finger. It is a good idea to switch the jam off while you do this other wise it may over cook.

Ladle the marmalade into the jars. Screw the tops on firmly and turn upside down. this will help prevent the jam from going off. Leave to cool and when cool get out the toaster and enjoy.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Crumbly Ginger Shortbreads

Who doesn't like biscuits?  Crumbly ginger biscuits are my current favourite especially when they are made with preserved stem ginger. These aren't the traditional gingernuts but something different as they arfe light and buttery with a hint of ginger in the shortbread and a punch of it in the chunks of stem ginger.

You will have all of the ingredients in your store cupboard so let's get on.

To make approx 12 biscuits.

110g butter
70g castor sugar
1 large egg yolk
200g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp ginger powder
80g chunked preserved stem ginger

Heat the oven to 180C.

Cream the butter and sugar. Doesn't need to be too light. Beat in the egg yolk.
Mix in the chopped stem ginger.
Gradually add the flour, salt and ginger powder and mix until the mixture all comes together in a firm lump.
Roll into a log shape about the size that you want your finished biscuits. About 6cm is good. Wrap and chill in the fridge for about half an hour.
Remove from the fridge and slice into medallion shaped biscuits. They should be about 1 cm thick.
Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes. Check on the cooking as not every oven is the same. You will want them a light golden brown.
Cool until they become crisp and enjoy with a nice cup of tea. What else?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Lasagne al Forno

Yesterday my brother phoned me and asked me where he could find my recipe for lasagne. He pointed out that there wasn't one on my blog. A big omission in hie eyes. Thinking about it, I suppose that lasagne has been done so much that I didn't feel the need to add a recipe here. However, to keep my brother happy, here's a recipe for lasagne with a few tips from a Bolognese lady that I used to work with.

I'll start with the Ragu alla Bolognese.

For the sugo or ragu as it is called in Bologna.

500g of mince meat. A mixture of pork and beef mince is the best option and the one most used in Italy.  Keep it as one lump. You'll see why later. The meat should not be too lean or it will be dry.
100 g pancetta, or failing that, chopped bacon.
1 large onion, finely diced
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 tablespoon of butter
1 clove or garlic
1 glass of red wine
1 stock cube
1 - 2 tablespoons of tomato puree this will depend on how red you like your sauce.
A bouquet garni. Make sure that it is tied up so that the rosemary does not come apart and end up in the sauce. You only want the flavour.
Either water or milk to add to the mixture
a good glug of oil for frying

What you do

Put the oil in a heavy pan and heat up until just beginning to smoke. Add the meat in one flattish lump. Do not break up or move around. Allow it to brown on one side and when it has done this, use a meat slice to flip it over so that it can brown on the other side. The browning of the meat in this way stops the eventual sugo from being un unappetising grey.

While the meat is browning, you can heat the butter and fry the diced veg, except the garlic in a separate pan. Cook until soft and put aside until you need it. Add the diced garlic now.

Add the tomato puree to the meat and begin to break it up. Fry until it is all brown. Cooking the concentrate this way sweetens it and makes the sauce taste better. The pan should be fairly hot at this point so now add the wine to the meat and bring it back to the boil so that the alcohol boils off and you are left with the flavour of the wine rather than the raw taste of the alcohol.

Add the cooked veg to the pan and top up with water or milk. The liquid should cover the meat by about an inch. It will probablt be about 1 litre. It may seem like a lot, but this should cook long and slow and much of the liquid will boil off. Put on a low heat for about an hour and a half. Check from lime to time to give it a stir and to make sure that the liquid has not boiled away. Do not cover as you want the liquid to evaporate.

If you want a good sauce, then it needs to cook for at least and hour and a half. After that you cana decide if it is dense enough or if it needs to have a little stock added to it.

When you are happy with your sauce add the stock cube and salt and pepper as necessary.