Recipes

Puff, flaxseeds and apples

The silence of an early morning provides for an unparalleled broad sense of possibilities. It's one of those delectable moments that seem limitlessly stretched - if only for a flash of time - and freely filled with impromptu ideas, some of which you know from the start you're not likely to turn to reality because too difficult or too extravagant. But ehy, it's that daydream stream of consciousness that matters. It's a habit of calling upon opportunities. And that's the impulse of creativity, to me.

In daily life, one gets so hung up with what people think or say that I often feel the need to compensate. In that sense cooking feels like an intimate discovery. Engaging in the making allows you to grasp the moment like nothing else can.

When cooking is meditative, every step of the way is revelatory. #foodhappiness is never too far.

Here is a rhapsodic preparation made of puff pastry: I love to watch how the layers amplify when cooked, leaving generous air pockets inside. The pastry itself has such reassuring versatility, used for both sweet and savoury dishes. Yesterday I found the most delicious golden apples in an open air market; they looked, crisp, heavenly and irresistible.

Having about 1 hour before heading out to my meetings this morning, shop-bought puff pastry worked just fine.

A flaxseeds apple pie

  • 10 gr. butter to grease
  • 2 whole butter puff pastry blocks
  • 1 lemon, the juice
  • 4 golden delicious apples
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 100 ml. eau de vie/grappa/any liqueur will do

Preheat the oven at 180°. Grease a 20 cm cake tin with butter and gently line it with one of the pastry blocks, before blind-baking it for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Place the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each half into rough chunks. Toss the apples with the lemon juice. Add the sugar, cinnamon, thyme and mix with a wooden spoon to combine evenly.

Heat the liqueur in a pan for a few seconds, then add the apples mix and let simmer gently for about 15 minutes, covered.

Sprinkle the flaxseeds over the lightly blind-baked base of the pie, then smoothly envelop it with the apple mix, making sure to keep the cooking liquid aside.

Cover the apples with the second pastry block, and seal the edges manually as to not let any of the apple chunks ungracefully coming out of the pie. Finally bronze the pie with a brush of the apple's cooking liquid and bake in the oven for 35/40 minutes until crunchily brown. Enjoy at every moment of the day.

Puglia style fava beans purée

I always say that. My #foodhappiness is all about experimenting with senses and flavours, developing new, familiar habits, bringing gastronomical culture further. To participate, to share, to bring my enthusiasm on yet another level. I had been digitally acquainted with the talented Emiko Davies for a few months now. What I love about being part of this incredible global food community is its lively interaction, its exuberant mutual support and a sense of sharing that I've never seen in any other category. And that is such a blessing.

This fifty-fifty Japanese/Australian charming woman comes fully equipped with an adorable 2 years old toddler, Mariu, a camera which she masters to perfection and a strenuous dedication to the background history of Tuscan food. Just like me, Emiko will publish her debut cookbook too next year, and I cannot wait to do some promotional events together: here is her story. As I already did in the past with Rachel Roddy and Elizabeth Minnett, we decided to meet for a shared foodie experience. Here is her version of our exchange, along with a delightful recipe for Octopus and Potato Salad that we also made on our morning together.

We hugged like old friends as we met for a cappuccino and a morning pastry at Porto Ercole's local breakfast bar. This small town is located in the Argentario area, a place a little more than 100 km. north of Rome. It's a must visit if you want to get spoilt for either seaside, countryside, or thermal pleasures, you name it: the Silver Coast has it all. And that's where Emiko is currently living with her young family.

I let my dried fava beans rest in abundant water overnight. This is the classic fava bean purée of Puglia, enjoyed alongside olive oil-smothered greens.

In popular culture there are many widespread beliefs  related to the fava bean. In the lands of Gargano, in Apulia, on the night of St. John the Baptist, all girls of marriageable age put three fava beans under the pillow , one with the peel, another one without and the third slightly bitten at the top. During the night, each girl would take a random one: the first (the one with the peel), would hold the prophecy for a rich life; the second (without the skin), would destine the girl to a poor existence and finally the third (the bitten bean), would lead her to a mediocre life.

Because the fava bean has the tendency to swell during cooking, it has always evoked, in rural culture, the idea of a pompous man with an inflated self . There's a saying, still popular today, "to kill two birds with one stone", the literally translation of the stone being the fava bean, that is to say that you can get two benefits with one effort.

Try and find dried fava beans imported from either Italy or northern Africa, for the most legitimate gusto and texture. This has been sustenance food in Puglia for ages, and remains today one of the region's typical dishes.

Fava beans purée and friggitelli peppers (serves 4 people as a main course)

For the fava beans:

  • 250 gr. dried split fava beans
  • cool water to cover by 2 inches
  • 1 small Charlotte potato
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50 ml. excellent extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt flakes

For the greens:

  • 1 kg. Green Friggitelli Peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 unwaxed organic lemon
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint

Soak the beans in copious cool water and cover with a cloth overnight at room temperature. Drain and rinse them well.

On a wooden board, peel the potato and dice it in small pieces.

In a large, heavy pot, place the beans, the potatoes, fresh water to cover by 2 inches and finally the bay leaf. Set over low heat and bring to a boil.

Simmer, covered, until very tender, for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, making sure never to stir it. Using a perforated spoon, skim off any foam that rises to the surface of the water.

You'll realize your fava beans are done once the whole water has been absorbed and the texture is very much like polenta: creamy and heavy, not runny. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, control that the base of the pot is slightly burnt, then shake the casserole manually up and down. This way, the puree will detach itself from the pot. If needed, add a bit of water to thin it out. Sprinkle with salt and oil.

In the meanwhile make the friggitelli: let the oil warm up in a large frying pan, then splash in the mini green peppers, the juice of a lemon and its zest. Cover with a lid and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring continously. At half cooking, add some chopped mint.

Drizzle the fava bean puree and the peppers with some more olive oil.

Thoroughly enjoy until sated.

With love and fava beans,

Eleonora

Photo Credits © by the brilliant Emiko Davies

emikodavies6

Hellishly good puff pastries

There you have it. Here is the face of #foodhappiness. When Martini asked me to create a few recipes in order to transmit the concept of the aperitivo, I embarked on a journey throughout the entire Italian boot in order to convey the sense of warmth, precise casualness and festive improvisation that lies beneath this solemn ritual. As you may know, the Italians have a few things that they take very seriously: food and siestas are capital. I previously introduced you to the joys of both mozzarella and polenta panini making. Now I'm onto springy softness by using puff pastry as my base ingredient. Different versions of puff pastry are reknown in Italy as a form of aperitivo animation. No one in the world could dislike such a combination. The puffiness of the pastry meets the melting tastiness of the pear topped by liquefied stracchino cheese (to be found in any good Italian deli). The tinkling acidity of the lemon zest does the rest. Wanna bet? Just try this out by inviting your friends over to enjoy the cherry trees scented evenings of the upcoming weekend (28° are expected throughout Europe!)

Puff pastries with stracchino cheese and pear (serves 4 hungry for aperitivo)

  • 250 gr. puff pastry
  • 50 gr. fresh unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 ripe Conference pear
  • 100 gr. Stracchino cheese/ fresh goat cheese
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 organic unwaxed lemon

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Then, peel off the pear, cut it in half and make sure to get rid of the seed. Next, cut it in tiny dices.

Let the butter melt at low temperature in a small pan, then add the pear dices with the sugar and the rosemary. Let the whole mixture simmer for about 10 minutes.

In the meanwhile, form the individual puff pastries with a coffee cup. Distribute them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  With a teaspoon, garnish each nibble with the caramelized pear mix.

Let it cook in the oven for 15 minutes. After that time, take the tray out of the oven and gently decorate all the pieces with the cheese. Finally freshly sprinkle with a grater the lemon zest on top of each one of them. Cook for another 5 minutes . Wait a few minutes before serving these cosmicly good savoury pastries with your favourite cocktail .

With love and puff pastry,

Eleonora

Mozzarella panini

You don't really want to cook but you still feel like treating yourself to something utterly delicious? Then mozzarella panini is definitely the answer. At home, when the clock strikes 6 p.m., I can feel an almost tangible excitement inhebriating the air. It's aperitivo time! So here is what we do: we pour ourselves a drink, whatever it's available in the house, usually the wine from last night which hasn't been used to cook the lunch's risotto, and make some soul-satisfying food: little nibbles, most of the time, made of leftovers - that's when those little ingredients looking all gloomy and disoriented in the fridge come back to life and handy at last!

As part of a collaboration I have with Martini, which I've already mentioned here and here, I've developed a series of recipes to go with a well deserved drink before dinner. The mozzarella panini, a crunchy assault on your gluttony, is ready in under 10 minutes and will divert you directly into happy helplessness.

Mozzarella panini (serves 4)

Ingredients for 4 people:

• 4 bocconcini buffalo mozzarella • 1 large organic tomato • 1 bunch of fresh basil • 1/2 courgette • 1 clove of garlic • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the courgette into thin slices. In a pan, heat a tablespoon of oil with the garlic, and sauté the zucchini for 10 minutes over medium heat.

Add a sprinkle of salt and place the cooked courgettes in a small bowl.  Cut each small mozzarella in half as you would with bread to make a sandwich.

Inside, place a slice of tomato, a basil leaf, 4 courgette slices and sprinkle each mozzarella with a tablespoon of oil. Close the sandwich and add salt and pepper to taste.

With love and mozzarella,

Eleonora

Polenta panini

Cornmeal has been for generations the alternative flour option as opposed to the more refined wheat. Boil it into a porridge and you will get polenta, which has been for centuries the staple food of entire populations in north of Italy areas. A large dish of polenta accompanied by mushrooms and, in the holidays, by wonderfully sticky sausages, was very common in peasant tables. When white flour was hard to spot, for children's snacks, polenta was offered with the addition of milk and sugar. I love the idea of turning a huge traditional dish into a miniaturized heavenly version with an assured yummy effect. In this aperitivo snack that I created exclusively as part of my collaboration with Martini, which I previously talked about here, I combine the tastiness of cotechino Modena (a fresh sausage made from pork, fatback, and pork rind to be found in specialty stores) with Taleggio cheese's mountain piquancy. The mouthwatering result will be an instant success for your spring parties in #foodhappiness mode on. Want to give it a try?

Polenta Panini for Aperitivo time

Ingredients for 4 people:

• 1 Italian cotechino (500 gr.) • 350 gr. Polenta Valsugana type • 4 lt. plain water • 250 gr. taleggio cheese • 1 pinch of pink peppercorn •1 pinch of fine salt and a handful of rocky salt

In a large pot, boil 1.5 lt. of water at medium fire. When the water gets to a boiling, add  a handful of rocky salt, lower the heat and pour the polenta in. Stir carefully for about 8 minutes and always in the same direction, with a wooden spoon. Spread the polenta cooked on a large dish and let cool for about an hour.

In another saucepan, boil 2.5 lt. water. When the water gets to a boiling it's time to add the cotechino in. Let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cut the cold polenta, cotechino and cheese into rounds using a small pastry round cutter. Divide the polenta slices, 2 by 2, and fill each sandwich with a slice of cotechino and one of taleggio cheese. Heat the polenta sandwich in the oven at 180 degrees for 3 minutes (enough to melt the cheese). To serve, place a stick on each sandwich and sprinkle with pink peppercorn.

With love and polenta,

Eleonora

polenta2

Wild saithe fillet stuffed with mortadella

It's away from the church bells ringing, in the secure retreat of a kitchen in Rome that this dish was born. I got to the market late in the morning, so I could get the best bargain before the fishmonger stall would shut down. What's gratifying about this fishy creation is the nutty pistachios contrasting with the crispy mortadella filling.  They say fish is good for you, but for me, it's the indulgent accompaniment with cream and mortadella that makes it excellent. The origins of Mortadella Bologna are to be found in the territories of the ancient Etruscan area (nearby Rome), rich with oak trees that provided piquant acorns to the many local wild pigs. The Bologna Archaeological Museum houses the first evidence of what is claimed to be a producer of mortadella : on a Roman pillar are depicted on the one hand seven grazing piglets and on the other a mortar with a pestle . The mortar was used by the Romans to pound and knead the pork with salt and spices. This suggests that the name of the sausage comes from mortarium. This dish is sweet succulence perfectly combined with salty freshness.

The video below was made in collaboration with a French production. Even though the instructions are in French, it wouldn't hurt to follow the video when making this recipe, especially for the step where the mortadella filling is involved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1QGRFIribY

Wild saithe fillet stuffed with mortadella Ingredients: (serves 2 people)

  • 100 gr. creamy soft spreadable cheese
  • 30 gr. fresh whipping cream
  • 50 gr. dairy unsalted butter
  • a sprinkle of ground pepper
  • a sprinkle of fine salt
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 50 gr. mortadella Bologna
  • 50 gr. pistachio nut kernels
  • 200 gr. saithe or coley fillet
  • 50 gr. crispy babyleaf salad

In a bowl, place the creamy cheese, add the whipping cream, a hint of salt and the olive oil. Whisk until obtaining a smooth preparation.

Make an incision down the centre of the fish from the head to the tail, then make a cut in order to create a pocket for the filling. It is important that you don't break the fish, so take your time and do this process delicately.

Cut the mortadella into thin slices. Fill the fish with mortadella and cover it. Plant a pic to maintain it still. Dust with the pistachios and add the salt. In a pan, melt the butter and cook the stuffed fish 2 minutes per side. Serve it with bubbles of cream cheese and the salad.

With love and pistachios,

Eleonora

Martini, it's time for aperitivo

For me, transmitting gastronomical heritage is key to a functioning passing of the baton. To exist, tradition must evolve and trespass its own boundaries. I'm proud to annouce my partnership with Martini ® as their brand ambassador in France. For them, I'm introducing the concept of aperitivo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbbp3aOdLL4

In fact behind every dish there's a story I decode with anecdotes, the characters animating them, the art, the land. Whether in Paris, London or New York, with my friends and family we often find ourselves at dawn for a drink. In Italy we do too, but our way. We call this pre-dinner time the aperitivo time. We share a cocktail and we accompany it with very generous buffets of antipasti. Food is central.

So it's a journey to the heart of Italy that I propose to discover through four major cities: Milan, Turin, Rome and Naples. Come on I'll take you, andiamo!

With love and a cocktail,

Eleonora

Savoury cake and a cracked cup

It was mainly from the thirteenth century that bread in Italy began to be filled with all sorts of ingredients, ranging from meat, fish, vegetables, fresh herbs, eggs, cheeses. The decision on whether going for a spinach filled or a cheese flavoured savoury cake would vary according to the season, the market supply and the local traditions. For this recipe, you can use the pretty cups of teas we all have in our kitchens. I inherited mine from my nonna. As much as I try to treat them rather immaculately, these little beauties still have to withstand the stress of my multiple-cities constant moving. That's how one fine day, after having finally received a lost luggage, as I unwrapped the cups carefully, I heard the sound of a break. One of them detached itself from the rest of the group by means of a vertical crack. Change of perspective, then. So I put it to good use, at the centre of my cupboard, near the scale.  And it's now standing there with a whole new life's purpose. The reason why I sometimes like to use cups whilst cooking is that the whole idea is to enjoy the #foodhappiness process without getting stuck on analyzing measurements. This is a recipe I created for a French video production project. My other videos from this same adventure can be viewed in my videos section. I love the idea of capturing the moist of the egg with the delicious pitted olives. If you find watching the video tempting enough, then you’ll be even more thrilled at the idea of reproducing it with the instructions below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvyY7ckJ9zo

Cheesy savoury cake with salami and olives (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 3 free-range fresh large eggs
  • 2 all purpose flour cups
  • 160 gr. of Emmental cheese
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 80 gr. pitted black olives
  • 30 gr. rosemary
  • 100 gr. Italian Napoli salami
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 pinch of fine salt
  • 1 cup of fresh whole milk
  • 1 cup of fresh natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp. dried bake yeast
  • 1 cup of potato starch

First of all, preheat the oven at 180°.

Remove the salami from its skin, then cut it into thin slices and then into cubes. Cut the Swiss cheese in dices too, then set aside. Mix the Parmesan cheese with the yogurt in a big bowl. In two small bowls, separate the whites from the egg yolks, and add the yolks to the parmesan and yogurt mixture. Set the whites on the side. Add salt and oil to the main bowl and stir thoroughly. Sift the flour and the baking yeast, to then add them to the batter. Finally add the milk and mix.

Once all the liquids have been dealt with, you can now proceed onto mixing in the Swiss cheese, the salami and the final touch: the olives. Stir well. Whip the egg whites up.  Once they are nice and firm, blend them gently in the dough, putting particolar attention as to not breaking the whites. Ideally you should incorporate them working with a spatula from the bottom upwards.

Pour the batter into the mold. Finally add the rosemary on top. Bake for approximately 35 min. at 180 °.

With love and savoury cake,

Eleonora

Amaretti biscuits with candied oranges

The amaretti biscuits make for a delicious accompaniment for my morning tea or coffee (lately, I've been trying to alternate the two in order to get the best out of their opposite celebrative worlds). Whether I feel stunned by the lack of sleep given by too much overnight cookbooks reading or with so many deadlines in sight that I can hardly hold my breath, let alone my cup, this biscuit has such a personality, perfectly flavoured with crunchy almonds and, adding my own twist, some candied bloody oranges. These lovely biscuits' rounded shape remind me of a small reversed cup, but it's their cracked surface that calls for an instantaneous, indulging bite. Their crisp and rather crumbly taste can be perfectly mixed with other recipes, too. In fact this biscuit is largely used, in the Italian kitchen, for many recipes ranging from the tortelli di zucca, a special kind of pumpkin ravioli from Mantua through to the polpettone (meatloaf), a comfy food for excellence to the most delightful fruit pies and tarts. Sealed in a glass jar, they are the perfect addition to the cupboard as they can come in handy in the least expected combinations.

Amaretti with candied oranges (serves 8 people)

  • 200 gr. blanched whole almonds
  • 150 gr. caster sugar + 125 gr. for the candied orange
  • 2 large free-range egg whites
  • 1 unwaxed organic orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • 40 gr. icing sugar

First of all, follow the procedure to achieve the firmest whipped egg whites: break them, separate the yolks from the whites in two different tea-cups, and place the egg whites inside the fridge. Leave it to rest for at least half an hour.

Next, toast the almonds for 5 minutes in a preheated oven at 200°. In a blender, mix the toasted almonds with the sugar, then sift the whole mixture and put it aside in a large bowl.

To make the candied oranges, follow the method explained in my previous post here. Cut into small cubes the obtained candied oranges.

Then, to avoid splashing of eggs on the kitchen walls, place a bowl deep  in the sink. At this stage, make sure you add a tiny pinch of fine salt before whipping the egg whites until stiff. Next, incorporate little by little with a spatula the egg whites and the candied oranges into the almonds mixture in order to obtain a soft and smooth dough. Cover the mixture with a clean cloth and store it in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Once past the waiting time, preheat the oven at 170°. It's now time to resume the dough, that will be solidified by now and, with a sharp knife, cut about 50 balls. Get some icing sugar on your hands and prepare the small, rounded balls. Make sure you crush them lightly in the center with your fingers. Lay them on a baking sheet dusted with icing sugar and covered with parchment paper (you can cook in 2 batches).

Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes; once you take them out of the oven, let them cool on a wire rack before enjoying them.

With love and amaretti,

Eleonora

Rice pudding with chocolate

In my beginnings, there was the rice pudding. I must have been no more than 3 or 4 years old. The home cooks who showed it to me were absolutely portentous. Women of great size, wearing dresses with floral motifs, their hair pulled back and a predisposition to raw judgment and an excessive use of olive oil. I guess that certain characters should be preserved and protected as monuments of our collective memory. I wonder whether Unesco has ever thought about that. Paying tribute to the last Highlanders of our regional kitchens.   The most delicate and glorious rice pudding comes coated with shortbread in Rome and Tuscany. A constant presence on holiday tables, it's a big round cake, not higher than 3/4 inches and baked in the oven until you get those nice caramelising edges. We are going to go for the lighter version today. Rice cooked in milk enriched with either candied oranges, raisins soaked in Vin Santo or, for the most greedy, small pieces of bitter chocolate. That's what we are aiming for, in the recipe below. This was a video conceived as a result of a collaboration I did for a Parisian production company, hence subtitles are in French. However, images talk for themselves, so if you want to give it a try, you can find the instructions below the video. For all of you gluten-free folks out there, here is a mouthwatering recipe that will drive you crazy. Are you smiling in #foodhappiness swing? Now that's better.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hw5uuD8t-U

Rice and chocolate (serves 4 people as a snack or dessert)

Ingredients:

  • 150 gr. Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 500 ml. fresh whole milk
  • 100 gr. dark chocolate
  • 50 gr. caster sugar
  • 1 unwaxed organic lemon

Grate the lemon in order to obtain its zest. With a sharp knife, split the vanilla in two and collect the seeds. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the vanilla, the lemon zest and the sugar. Let it cook at low fire; make sure to turn off the heat before it comes to a boil.

Next, add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. When the rice is cooked and all the milk will be absorbed, remove the lemon zest and the vanilla altogether. Chop finely the dark chocolate. Place the rice in a small bowl or cup and sprinkle each serving with abundant chocolate.

With love and pudding,

Eleonora

Frittata rolls with courgettes and green sauce

"Ma parla come mangi!" In other words, speak the way you eat. Be simple. Don't be rethoric. In Italy we also use food as a cultural or social paradox. When I was a child, I would be served frittata (i.e. omelette) whenever at home everyone was too tired to cook. As simple as it is (ok, maybe harder than boiling an egg), there were few things at the time that made me happier than my grandmother calling me at the table: "The frittata is done"! Later in life I found out that, figuratively, this phrase is used when some huge mess occurs. Also, the act of "turning the omelette" (a stage of cooking) is associated with an alleged attempt to slip away from a discussion. It turns out, at home I should have watched my plate and watched my mouth, too.

But, nonetheless, a frittata can be so crunchy and delicious that I might as well just roll it. That's what I did for a French video production project. My other videos from this same adventure can be viewed here, here, or here, to name but a few. I love the idea of capturing the moist of the egg with the cirtusy green sauce. If you find watching the video tempting enough, then you'll be even more thrilled at the idea of reproducing it with the instructions below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhvSdfY4GL4

Frittata rolls with courgettes and green sauce

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 4 fresh free-range eggs
  • 1 courgette
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 50 gr. sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Pour the eggs into a bowl, add the salt, the pepper and the rosemary. Whisk them until fluffy. In a pan, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and splash the beaten eggs in. Let the egg dough curdle from 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat the operation on the other side and cook for the last 3 minutes. Place the obtained omelette on a plate.

Cut the courgette into slices. In a pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the vegetables at low heat for 15 minutes. In the meanwhile, cut the sundried tomatoes into strips.

Evenly place the slices of courgettes and tomatoes on the omelette. Roll the omelette and cut it into rolls of about 3 cm. each. Mildly prick each roller with a cocktail stick.

For the green sauce, finely chop the parsley and place it in a small bowl. Pour the remaining olive oil in and finally add the lemon juice. Mash the mixture  Add a teaspoon of green sauce on each roll before serving.

With love and eggs,

Eleonora

Healthy peas & asparagus soup

I've always been fascinated by fairytales, their moral turn being the ultimate measure of the do's and dont's in my childhood life, and later, holding the balance of power in my view of people and situations. I am one of those people who live life running through the same bewilderment I find in movies and books. Call me naive, but there's something terribly comforting in clichés. The Princess and the Pea is about a girl whose royal status is established by an assessment of her physical receptiveness by placing a pea in the bed she is offered for the night, covered by 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds. In the morning, the princess tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed.

Last night I've been kept awake too, by some love serenade under my balcony (addressed to the neighbour, of course), which kept me up and running all over the kitchen and, for courtesy reason, unable to complain: this morning I had two  bags under my eyes so big I'd go shopping with, and a brand new recipe to be conceived in my 8 m2 kitchen. Could I be considered a princess, too?

Pea and asparagus soup

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 250 gr. of split peas
  • 1 fresh carrot
  • 1 fresh celery
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 25 gr. fresh mint
  • 1 lt. vegetable broth
  • 100 gr. fresh asparagus tips
  • 50 gr. medium mature cheddar cheese/any aged cheese
  • 50 ml. of extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 gr. bacon cubes
  • a sprinkle of salt

Soak the split peas in cold water for at least 3 hours. Finely chop the carrot, the celery and the onion and put them to fry in a large saucepan with the garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Add the peas and the asparagus tips to the pan, add a sprinkle of salt, stir to flavor and then cover the vegetables with the hot vegetable stock.

Cook over low heat until the peas and asparagus tips are tender and begin to unravel, it will take about 60 minutes. As a final touch, you can sprinkle it with some grated aged cheese. Once the soup is cooked, put the bacon in a pan and cook until crisp.

Serve the pea and asparagus soup with crispy bacon on top.

With love, pillows and peas

Eleonora

Ragù and not bolognaise part 2

Talking about timing. I just got out from La Grande Epicerie, my personal little succulent Parisian corner, where I spent an entire morning raiding the shelves in order to concoct every detail of a project to be disclosed soon. As soon as I embarked on my bike, it started raining cats and dogs. Pitilessly. I needed to go bring some #foodhappiness on the other side of town, so I put on my best smile and went all the way from rive gauche to rive droite! The girls at Pittaya were waiting, and the alphabet for gourmets soon started. After much anticipation last week on this previous post, here it is, finally, his majesty the Ragù as a real nonna from Bologna would do it. It is essential for the meat to be grind twice, as it will thus be very tender, marrying pleasantly with the rest of the sauce.

Spaghetti sauce Ragù from Bologna (serves 6 persons)

  • 200 gr. of ground beef (grind twice)
  • 200 gr. of ground pork (grind twice)
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 100 ml. fresh whole milk
  • 150 gr. Italian diced pancetta/bacon
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 300 gr. tinned plum tomatoes
  • 500 gr. beef stock
  • 500 gr. spaghetti pasta
  • 40 gr. rocky salt
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • a pinch of black pepper

To start off, place the pancetta/bacon into a saucepan and cook it at low heat until it's perfectly browned. Prepare the chopped celery, carrot and onion and add them to the pan together with the oil. Once wilted, after about 10 minutes, add the meat to the pan and start cooking. Increase the heat, pour the wine and let it evaporate, while stirring gently the ingredients of the sauce.

After about 10 minutes, add the tomato puree and cook over low heat for 45 further minutes, adding the broth little by little to make the sauce thick.  At the end of cooking, fix the sauce with the milk to make the taste even more lovable.

In a big pot, let 3 lt. of water come to a boil. Subsequently, put 2 handfuls of rocky salt. Cook the pasta al dente and season with the Bolognese sauce, adding salt and pepper to taste.

pitaya10With love and tomatoes,

Eleonora

Chantilly, la crème de la crème

As my great-grandma often put it - less is more - and it does unquestionably apply to the very short train ride (23 minutes only, no joke) that painlessly got me from a Parisian cosmopolitan, hectic dimension to a secular countryside luxurious nest. The culinary most prestigious traditions embrace luxe, calme and volupté in the astounding Auberge du Jeu de Paume. Launched in 2012 in the middle of the historical domaine de Chantilly, the 5 stars retreat looked up to the Michelin sky from its very beginning, having acquired one star over the first year and a second on the next at its famed La Table du Connétable. 

As I arrived, I was welcomed to a room all Toile de Jouy and ornaments which art would resonate with Duc d'Aumale's personal collection, to be found just next door in the imposing Château de Chantilly, which picture gallery is the second most important French pinacothèque after the Louvre. The fifth son of King Louis-Philippe, Henri duc d'Aumale, became the most eligible bachelor of France at the age of 8. He did marry, but for a series of circumstances, amongst which the exhile, that left him widow and childless, this man endowed with military diposition ended up looking after the immense treasure of its domaine all alone. His art collection is today under the protection of the Institut de France (as of the Duke's last wishes) and the trust of the Aga Khan Foundation. I roamed over its corridors to find artworks by Raphael, Watteau, Poussin, Delacroix, to name but a few. The only way to visit the whole outrageous collection is to pass by Chantilly, since one of the the clauses of the legacy, still respected today, expected the artworks never to leave the property.

Chantilly does ring a bell with the most traditional of whipped creams. As reported by François Vatel, the ultimate majordomo of the seventeenth century, there was a certain lady, guest of the Duke and Duchess, who impulsively let out her enthousiasm for the flavoury cream she tasted while a guest at Chantilly. Back at the day it was customary for the aristocracy to be portrayed with monkey features as an act of self-mockery. And it's among these anthropoid cabinets that she whispered the news that would soon become a culinary tradition for the entire world.

While at the Auberge, I enjoyed a unique spa treatment called Les mille et une Chantilly where, after an exfoliating gommage applied with sugar crystals and a chestnuts oil based relaxing massage, I got wrapped in actual Chantilly cream, the epytome of skin hydration, before finishing off with a tasting of the famous cream and some hay flavoured chocolates. It was Poppaea who started the tradition of bathing in milk, Cleopatra who indulged in milk and honey baths daily and ladies of leisure of the caliber of Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of French King Henry II and Pauline, Napoleon's younger sister, who regularly took milk baths in an attempt to keep themselves looking youthful, to such an extent that the servants made a hole in the ceiling above the bath so they could pour milk directly into the tub.

jeu11And here is the original recipe for everyone to replicate at home, delicious on its own or as an accompaniment to cakes or fruits of all kinds.

Crème Chantilly (serves 6 persons)

  • 1/5 lt. double cream
  • 60 gr. caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod

Place the cream and the entire vanilla pod in a bowl, then in the fridge overnight. This way the vanilla will incorporate with the cream and the taste. Place the electronic whisk vertically in the cold bowl and play it for about 5 minutes while slowly pouring the sugar in. Once the cream becomes all flaky and fluffy, it's time to serve it.

This year will mark a series of wonderings around France in order to discover the most off the beaten track locations to truly embrace the traditions of this incredible country.

With love and cream Chantilly,

Eleonora

* Pictured above, before the post: "Le Déjeuner d'huîtres" by Jean-François de Troy, then before the recipe, a picture of actress Claudette Colbert in "Sign of the Cross" (1932)

Kluger, Fabrique des Tartes

I love to meet and greet with likeminded people in the food sector, discover and learn from the places I go to. Honestly Paris never fails to impress, its vibrant food scene being a constant inspiration for me; I recently came across the very talented Catherine Kluger. A former lawyer turned tarte guru, Catherine decides to leave her legal job, in order to totally focus on the sweet & savoury art of French pies, initially thanks to the help of pâtisserie consultant Nicolas Bernardé. Whether quiche lorraine, carotte-citron confits or courgette-feta-crumble au parmesan, these tartes are a head turner, and her factory is a step into paradise. Why pies? "Because it's easy, useful and practical. Because they are part of French culinary heritage. Because, deep in our memory and our taste buds, lies the taste of a pie. Additionally, they can be easily adapted to urban nomadic life". Mrs. Kruger signed multiple deals over these past few years with French Marabout editions, publishing four books revealing the underside of her recipes, while keeping her store open and running and keep being a busy mom of three. What's more, she's been heading pop up restaurants, collaborating at hundreds of events, and she even managed to launch a Parisian food-truck. I call that the feminine French art of martyrdom.

This lady speaks to us through food, a language that we are all willing to learn. And the Tartes Kluger are, oh, so luscious. Flavour is deep, complex and utterly compelling. What's more their taste is an incredible barometer of the ingredients' authenticity. And the fact that it doesn't take any more than buying her latest book in order to reproduce some of these beauties, makes it a joy. I'm a huge fan of quiches, and I'm always on the lookout for new ways to interpret this traditional dish. For a picnic, a quick lunch, or a earthy party, these tartes are just the perfect fix. I love to have my cake and eat it too along with a warm, comforting soup. Catherine uses organic flours for the pie base and, I must admit, the overall taste does thanks for it.

For a few weeks more, until February 8th, as a result of a collaboration with natural store Sol Semilla, Katherine is snipping in her pies all kind of seeds @ her store at 15, rue Trousseau. The whole idea is to restore vitality and energy with a great powered menu. This, for me, is the magic ingredient here. We are in total healthy territory. Even if, it would be more accurate to say, superfoods heaven. And then there's the sweet version. Yes, I know we are still in the detox month for excellence, yet...every rule gets broken when things are brilliant. On with the dance.

Flan pâtissier*

For a flexible and elastic dough:

  • 250 gr. strong white bread wheat flour
  • 185 gr. very cold dairy unsalted butter
  • 25 cl. whole milk (warmed up)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar

For the cream:

  • 225 ml of whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 45 gr. caster sugar
  • 15 gr. of cornstarch
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp Indian chai spices
  • 30 gr. dairy unsalted butter

Start with the dough: first of all, mix flour and salt, then add the vanilla sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces. With your fingertips, roll it delicately into the flour until it becomes nice and sandy. Keep your hands cool so not to heat up the butter: it should melt as little as possible. In a small bowl, mix the beaten egg and the milk with a fork. Dig a small well in the sandy mixture, pour the beaten egg in. With the flat of your hand, form a homogeneous dough by working the ingredients very cautiously.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap forming a ball and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour. After that, flatten the dough by tapping it with a rolling pin. Flour the work surface and roll out the dough until greater than the size of the mold disc. Gently pick the dough with a fork. Generously butter the mold and let the dough stick to its entire perimeter. As it is, let it rest for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven at 170°. Line the pastry with baking paper, ideally cut into circle. Place on some dry beans and precook the pie for 35 minutes at 170°. Then free the pie from its shell. Brush it with some egg wash and put it in the oven for three further minutes, in order to dry the gilding and thus make it solid before garnishing it.

Preheat the oven at 210°. Realize the custard: heat the milk, then pour a small amount of whipped eggs with sugar, spices and cornstarch. Pour this mixture into the hot milk and stir until the cream thickens. Pour the custard in the precooked pie shell. Bake it for 10 minutes at 210°, just the time for it to color nicely. Let cool completely before serving. It's better to make this dessert ideally the day before.

With love and flan,

Eleonora

* This recipe is taken from the book "La Fabrique des Tartes" by Catherine Kluger.

PORT EN BASSIN – The cradle of Normandy Impressionism PART 2

There are the seagulls, the walks along the D-day beaches, the low tide, and then there's Port-en-Bassin, where coquilles Saint-Jacques meet shabby chic. A few weeks ago, I interrupted a tale on this post with a - to be continued - tag. Because half of the pleasure lies in the procrastination. Just like the preparation of a good meal, with several of the ingredients needing to be poached, resting, and rising well ahead of time. normandia1Port-en-Bassin is a small fishermen town, counting 2000 inhabitants only, located in Normandy, precisely in the area where apples abound, leading the way to Calvados ageing. There, I stayed at charming velvety house La Maison Matelot, all sailor motif, grey floors and decorative ring-shaped life savers. As I woke up in the early morning in order to head to the local bakery for my usual breakfast ritual, I couldn't help but grin at myself as I listened to the angelic music diffused around the tiny, stoney streets. The majority of the locals are fishermen, that's probably why the service was slightly slow at the local bar, since there seemed to be a crucial backgammon match going on. So I embraced a slow paced weekend. Just like the fishermen, I waited for the tide to be high again, and waved goodbye to them before finding these Popeye-styled boats all coming back to the port around 10 p.m. That's when the show really started. Hundreds, what am I saying, thousands of kilos of pink, perfectly round coquilles Saint-Jacques waiting to be dispatched and distributed all over Europe. The lucky ones coming from this charming shore are haloed Red Label, a French official guarantee of superior quality. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to let me listen to the rustling of the waves inside sea shells. On a plate, that's the most common way they're cooked there, as told by my good friend Astrid.

Coquilles Saint Jacques, Port-en-Bassin style

  • 16 Saint-Jacques shells
  • 100 gr. unsalted dairy butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a bunch of finely chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

In a pan, melt 50 gr. of butter with the oil at medium heat; once the mixture is well cooked (that is, the butter has melted, looking all white and creamy), cook the coquilles for 2 minutes only on each side, not more, in order to still feel their melting taste. May some molluscs be very thick, cut each one of them in two in the vertical direction, then proceed onto the cooking. Before serving, sprinkle them with half a teaspoon of both salt and ground pepper. At the same time, gently melt in a small pot 50 gr. of butter and eventually add the lemon juice. Pour this mixture into a serving dish and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve it while it's hot, along with a wintery soup.

normandia3

With love and coquilles,

Eleonora

On togetherness

It's freezing cold in Paris. As I was cycling through its streets to meet with clients this afternoon, I couldn't accompany the illuminating city sight with the usual humming of "Sous le ciel de Paris", simply because my voice wouldn't come out, my face being literally masked out by the cold. The nice news is, though, that it only takes a few pieces of the loveliest brown bread, a basic flower arrangement (or a bunch of fresh parsley, in my case today) and a warm dish to make it all flawlessly cozy again. Tonight, let's make something that warms our hearts. Suppertime sacred togetherness. I'm all about pumpkin tortelli these days, which I made on one of my pop up events lately.

As to its origins , it is thought that the these particular ravioli pasta have Renaissance origins and have seemingly been designed after the European conquest of America because of the large amount of pumpkin available back then, that is the main ingredient of tortelli. Its heart is filled with this soft vegetable, spiced up with mustard and finely chopped amaretti (artisanal biscuits made with almonds and egg whites).

The, I'll allow myself to say it, utterly liberating ritual tied to the handmaking of pasta is one of a kind: it demands to be nurtured, wrapped, massaged and scented, just like our tired bodies would need at the end of a long, cold day. Italian writer Elsa Morante who, amongst many things, has been recognized for being at the forefront of  magic realism (a wave I very much embrace in my totally dreamy, Mary Poppins like existence) in the Italian literature, once said: "The truest love sentence, and the only one, is: have you been eating?".

With love and tortelli,

Eleonora

Roman style artichoke

This artichoke recipe is a typical antipasti issued from the gastronomy of  Lazio and in particular of the city of Rome. The artichoke has always been a very popular vegetable used in the Roman cuisine, which, moreover, also has a special variety, the mammola, very suitable for the production of this type of recipe. Among different dishes of artichoke,  I also love the Jewish-style artichoke, another typical dish of the Roman cuisine that has that can be enjoyed uniquely in the very heart of the Jewish ghetto. The origins of the dish once again can be found in the ancient times when, when making food, farmers used what their land made available for them: in this case, artichoke, with its body cleansing properties, soooo beneficial after Christmas blowouts, is thus suggested in drainage diets. I particularly like this recipe for the direct contact you get with the vegetable, but be aware! Its colour could easily stick on your finger, so in order to save your weekend spotless manicure please make sure you pour your fingers deep in half a lemon's pulp before getting on with the cleaning of this remarkable vegetable. Roman-style artichokes

Ingredients for 8 people:

  • 8 artichokes
  • 50gr.breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp fresh finely cut parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh finely cut mint
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fresh unwaxed lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic

First, proceed with the artichokes cleaning: remove the hardest outer leaves, with a sharp box cutter, working it down with a spiral movement going from the bottom to the top of the artichoke and finally, cut a part of the stem leaving only 4 cm of it. Spread the artichoke's leaves with your hands so you can remove the inside beard and place the artichoke, now cleaned, in a basin with acidulated water in order to prevent the formation of black parts.

Let the artichokes soak for a few minutes, while waiting chop the garlic, the mint, the parsley, then the breadcrumbs, a little olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.

Using a teaspoon, fill the artichokes, broadening their heart, with crumb stuffing. Add salt to the surface and place the artichokes in a nonstick pan bathed in oil and let it burn for two minutes, then add water to two-thirds. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.

To understand if they're well cooked, prick them with a fork to check they are ready. Sprinkle with the cooking sauce and serve them warm or room temperature.

With love and artichokes,

Eleonora

Shrimp cocktail, the spicy side

I've always been in awe for fish, first of all because it doesn't create as much of a hubbub as meat does (hence it's more convivial), and secondly because, when fresh, I'm personally on a verge of a lust for life. In range of my collaboration with DeliSnacky, which previous videos you can find here and here, I developed this shrimps cocktails recipe, which has then been turned in a video. The pitch is allusive to an antipasti which became popular in Italy over the '80s. This vintage snack is now ready for a comeback, but with a twist: avocado spicyness. The recipe video has got French subtitles, so please refer to the instructions below in order to make it at home.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFVdj8o4esQ

Spicy shrimp cocktail

  • 150 gr mayonnaise
  • 1 fresh unwaxed lemon
  • 1 perfectly ripe avocado
  • a bunch of salad leaves
  • a few drops of Tabasco sauce
  • 36 tiny shrimps

In a bowl, pour the mayonnaise, 5 or 6 Tabasco sauce drops, and the juice of one lemon. Mix well and put aside. Now prepare the avocado by cutting it in tiny dices. Mince the salad with the aid of a knife. Lay it in a big cocktail glass, starting from the salad on the bottom, then the avocado, followed by the shrimps and its sauce on top.

With love and avocado,

Eleonora

Pan di spagna with zabaglione

Zabaglione is better served warm on a cake. I remember those times long past by, when an utterly scrumptious cream would have been made possible with the aid of a big wooden spoon only ("olio di gomito", as we call the physical effort of the kitchen in days gone by). As part of my collaboration with DeliSnacky, here is my version of Pan di Spagna with Zabaglione. What is Pan di Spagna? An aerial and spongy Italian recipe. Traditionally created by an Italian marquee's chef as a twist to the Biscotto di Savoia exclusively for the Spanish King visiting, this recipe can be adapted to a number of occasions, since we can cut it with a different form (star for Christmas, egg for Easter, or heart for Saint Valentin'es, depending on the celebration). The video's subtitles are in French, please find below an English language thorough explanation of how to proceed; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODEGCuXykWk

Pan di Spagna with Zabaglione (serves 6 persons)

For the Pan di Spagna:

  • 75 gr. potato starch
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 150 gr. caster sugar
  • 5 fresh free-range eggs
  • 75 gr. all purposes flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 125 gr. fresh red currants

For the Zabaglione

  • 160 gr. caster sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 100 ml. limoncello liqueur

Preheat the oven at 180°. Open the vanilla pod, take out the seeds and leave on the side; then in a pot break the eggs, add the salt, the sugar, the vanilla and mix vigorously; finally add the flour and the starch with the aid of a sieve. Mix well. Pour into a mold. Bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.

To prepare the zabaglione, put the yolks in a pot, add the sugar and the limoncello, whisk well. Immerse the pot in a water bath and stir for 10 minutes.

Remove the pan di spagna from the oven; cut the cake in half, spread half of the zabaglione cream inside, cover it with the remaining cream.

With love and zabaglione,

Eleonora