Eat in

A sneak-peek of my book "As The Romans Do"

© David Loftus

© David Loftus

Dear reader, my valiant Unknown Soldier, Thank you for stopping by. If you’re reading this then chances are that you’re longing for luscious dolce vita style meals, echoing with imperial ruins and Vespa rides through the side streets of the eternal city par excellence, a panino in your bag.

Rome – a place that’s like an open air museum, disseminated with monumental masterpieces from the Colosseum through Piazza Navona to the 80 years old lady cleaning artichokes – the Holy Grail of the Roman food scene - at the food market. A slice of the historic and a wink at the contemporary gastronomic culture, that’s exactly what the book “As The Romans Do” is about. But that is not all.

This is a cookbook to butter and splatter, that will tickle and invigorate your taste buds. I hope it becomes an integral part of your kitchen and that you’ll fill it with personal notes and tomato sauce stains.

It’s been made with love and its pages spark up with food ideas that you can enjoy simply as they are or freely contaminate with your own touch.

This patchwork of recipes and anecdotes is developed much in the fashion of a day in the life of a Roman, each chapter punctuating a different time of the day. You’ll find crispy pastries to get you started, bringing you the magic of the Italian coffee-at-the-counter routine, vibrant packed snacks (merende) and lunch on the run options – a perfect fit for those busy weekdays. Then come family lunches to feed a crowd and recipes for two if you’re up for romance. I’ll explain to you all about #foodhappiness and the power of organized improvisation, and we’ll indulge in ‘midnight munchies’ with delicious dishes that take just a few minutes to make and even fewer to wipe out.

The images will catapult you right to the very heart of the Italian capital. They’ve been taken by the talented David Loftus and are evocative of an off-the-beaten-track lifestyle. The book contains tons of short stories and tips on how to live Rome like a local. You can share them with friends and family, or simply enjoy reading them while curling up on the couch. I’ll tell you how a Carbonara pasta is reminiscent of those orange splashed Roman sunsets and how Rome is the only town in the world where people of all kinds mix together in an almost contradictory way: you see the vagabond with the prince, the lawyer with the butcher, the florist with that mysterious lady always dressed in black. Just look at the way most people walk, literally trascinati, almost as if dragged by an invisible force, a form of vigorous sloth, just like my dragged savoy cabbage.

I hope to convey to you what Romanity is all about so that, from now on, when in Rome, you can’t help but do…. As The Romans Do.

Want to order your copy now? Amazon has put it at a special price and it's only a click away, if you click here.

Baci & abbracci,

Eleonora

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

My book deal

I've always been instinctively compelled to write about what, to me, is the lesser known side of my culinary immediate horizon: Rome. I'm still pinching myself at the idea that I'm currently working on something that is soon to become an entity of its own: with a cover, hundreds of idyllic scented pages (I love nothing better than smelling through the inside of a new book) and most of all, my name on it. "I mean, really really? " (that's what my supercute 6 years old stepdaughter answered me when I told her that I'm conceiving a work that might inspire moms, amongst all kind of people - potentially all over the world -  to cook & travel for/with their daughters).

However, my story doesn't sound as fairytale like as many of my colleagues', who often talk about being picked up at food events or, even better, being directly sollicited by publishers in order to write a book. Nothing of the such happened to me, at least not on an international level. In the past, I had been sollicited by an Italian publisher who pictured me the less than tempting idea of autopromoting my own book - and If you're not Dante Alighieri, that's just standard procedure here in the Bel Paese.

Since by then, I already did my own publicity & marketing and am used to barter html programming for a pan of lasagne, I figured that was not where I intended my message to be delivered. After years of cooking workshops, food festivals and collaborations with brands, I felt like I deserved a softer, editorially competent pillow to provide me with a peaceful night's sleep.

I'm Italian, and certainly the fact that the English language is not my mother tongue didn't exactly help endorsing my candidature.

I knew I had an authentic message to deliver and I also knew that, in order to do so, I needed to pass through the UK market, one of the most globally sensitive to all things foodies. So I scratched my book idea, being at the same time extremely reserved for fear of being withdrawn and terribly open in order to transmit my very own philosophy on #romanity.

So there I was, over a year ago, sitting down in my working space - the kitchen - and loading my phone with phonecalls to the most eligible literary agencies in London. After 10 failed attempts I thought that my Mary Poppins side (constantly thinking "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down") was officially out the window. Over the weeks that followed my first shots at finding an agent, and after the 35th failed attempt, I changed bed positioning as I thought that there might have been some serious feng shui turmoil going on with me. At the end I got, wretchedly, to agency pursuit n.45 and went directly in front of the mirror, my hands miming a gun ready to shoot, my intuition yet determined to keep that smile on.

Much to my surprise, I got 2 agents offering to represent my work, and from the most respected literary agencies too since, for fear of approaching too high and fall down with an unpleasantly burning bump, I left the biggest numbers at the end of my: "I want to become a food author" marathon.

This sorcerer's apprentice, by now my very lovely and charmingly tyrant agent, stood by me step by step before entering my book deal. She helped me compiling a book proposal and waited (oh, those months and my restlessness) for the right moment to introduce it to the most appropriate contending.

Then, it was a matter of a few, incredibly hectic days, where I jumped on a train to London and met with a few publishers. With all due respect to all, only one was truly extraordinaire, though. And I' a firm believer in instincts. Oddly enough, the love at first sight happened to be mutual and, after receiving a wild-eyed courtship, I decided I met my match.

While I may not be writing here as often in the next couple of months, just imagine my busy self all dedicated to test and write for my book, to be published in May 2016 by Octopus Publishing Books (part of Hachette) with the envisioned title "As The Romans Do".

So when in Rome... keep tuned.

With love and an incandescent keyboard,

Eleonora

Île de Ré Magic

ile4Leaving the hustle and bustle of the city for a peaceful retreat is one of my 1001 dreams. For those of you who know me, I'm in the constant pursuit of #foodhappiness, my personal kind of  Beaudelairish luxury calm and voluptuousness which I lately found in the magnificent frame of an island. ile6

Île de Ré is a French treasure nestled beyond La Rochelle. Its delicious oysters are bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, and so are the dogs, the blond haired kids and the surfers. Once you set foot on Île de Ré, there's a sort of predestination in the air. Yes, I was meant to be getting here.

ile7

The ideal day at Ile de Ré starts with some open air food shopping at the renown market of Ars-en-Ré. I love to go there with my bycicle, to then make a detour in order to find out about the latest aromatic combinations in a pot conceived by Francoise Héraudeau: nearby a beautifully kept church, Les Confitures du Clocher mixes authenticity and audacity in the form of scrumptious marmalades.

The natural landscape is remarkably breathtaking while bycicling among the 10 villages that, between sand dunes, forests and grey salt harvesting make this amazing island. What a pleasure it was to feast with salty oysters and fruity wine in the middle of the fields at Les Huitres de Trousse Chemise.

I stayed in a typical house at Saint Clèment des Baleines. This village is less crowded, but all the more charming: white-washed low houses, green, blue or grey shutters, red-tiled roofs, hollyhocks springing out between the stones of the pavement, narrow, winding streets. My stay at The Sweet Home in The Village was filled with joy as I discovered that the house had it all: the white linen, the summer hats, a fireplace to warm up by, and the sweetest scent of iodine. When it came to dining out, I was in awe for the view and the friendly rudeness (set your ideas clear or your foot out) at  Frères de la Cote restaurant. The most delightfully unctous crab eaten holifully with your hands in front of the most spectacular Western sunset.

With love and oysters,

Eleonora

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

Honey glazed salmon fillet

In Roman habits, friday is a non-meat day. The tradition is linked with the Bible and the general precept of the Catholic Church that imposes not to eat meat on Fridays, the day of the Passion of Christ. Green light then to all kinds of fish and vegetables. When strolling around Roman's open air markets, such as the one in Campo dei Fiori or Testaccio, any respectable fishmonger on this day would scream out loud its generous supply of blessed cod with chickpeas (baccalà co' ceci). In order to grab attention, they would accompany it with a typical Roman stornello, an often emblematic folk song containing lyrics on a romantic and mockery tone, like these ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k-S3onbVyk

Even if you're rolling on deadlines before the end of the week, believe me, this no-fuss recipe will only take 5 minutes to make. I love how the citrusy flavour tickle with the rich drops of balsamic vinegar. What's more, this sweet and sour salmon is easy & quick to perform and will give the impression of an elaborate dish. I worked on this video as a collaboration with a French production company, hence subtitles may be cryptic. However, images do speak for themselves, and if you want to give it a go, you will find below all the details.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWDd9KbkzX4

Honey glazed salmon fillet

Ingredients (serves 1 person):

  • 150 gr. salmon fillet
  • 1 lime
  • 1 orange
  • 30gr. honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 gr. of fennel seeds
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

In a bowl, first press the orange and the lime. Pour the obtained juice into a large bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, the honey and the olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Grate the fennel seeds and add them to the mix.

Place the salmon fillet in the obtained marinade. Cover with foil and let rest in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes.

Warm up a pan, then cook the fish fillet aller-retour, 1 minute each side. Next, lightly drizzle with the marinade and let the sauce reducing for a couple of minutes. Put the fish on a dish and pour the sauce on top with a brush before enjoying it with a side seasonal salad.

With love and salmon,

Eleonora

Nubio - Veggies paradise

I'm what you would call a débutante when it comes to cutting down on meals. I love the whole idea of sitting down and become conscious with my whole system of the moment I'm living, this #foodhappiness I'm proclaiming as my motto, that comes with a grin on our face once we're in front of a dish, ready to fully enjoy it. However, it's all about how we take care of ourselves to be perfectly equipped in order to face life and its beautiful challenges. And so I did it, too. Spending a day on liquids only. As the name suggests, liquid diets mean you're getting all, or at least most, of your calories from drinks. Rumour has it that the smartest way to detox in Paris comes in a box of 6 bottles a day, and it's called Nubio.

This cure, based on vegetable juices, superfoods (which I talked about earlier here) and organic cold-pressed fruits basically helps one's body to get rid of accumulated toxins. The mineral intake of juice stimulates the elimination of toxins. Indeed, the digestion of food requires considerable energy - we feel it after a huge lunch or dinner.

I tasted these juices and, surprisingly since I'm an omnivore, I found them so flavourful that not only did I not miss solid foods (the energy value of all the juices for a day is about 1250 kcal.), but I would go back for more. So I got curious. Who's behind such an enlightened project? I figured it would be a farmer or someone linked with the agricultural world. I was so wrong. This business is led by two exquisite twenty-something girls, Claire Nouy et Gabrielle Rotger, both yoga and pasta addicted,  who've taken over a workshop in the Bastille area of Paris. There, every day, they follow the production of these heavenly bottles step by step, from the selection of the organic producers to the final client delivery by the courier. An atelier located at the heart of the 11th arrondissement, is the place where fresh juices get cold pressed daily from raw ingredients issued from organic agriculture to finally obtaint inundating juices filled with nutrients and vitamins.

The ingredients are seasonal and delicious: fruits like pear, lemon, apple; vegetables such as carrot, fennel, spinach and celery get all spiced up with coconut water,  turmeric, hibiscus, parsley, rosemary, ginger, chia seed, almond, dates and vanilla.

Nothing like such a cure gives a break to the digestive system thus helping kidneys, liver and skin altogether to eliminate toxins. A must, at the turn of every season. On #foodhappiness and its many forms.

With love and cocoa beans,

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)

Ragù and not bolognaise part 1

There is no such thing as a food paradox. Eating pasta garnished with either meat or fish with grated parmesan on top, for example. There are various no-go which, however, in international revisitations of my darling Italian cuisine, are taken as matter of facts. Well, with my 100% Italian bood, I'm here to tell you that no, it's no good to drink cappuccino after midday or you'll only get weird looks since Italians never have it outside breakfast hours and no, there's no such recipe as Pasta all'Alfredo, it's actually an American invention; but most of all, the word bolognaise which, in my school memoir, sound more like a noun stolen from French expressions, is not how we name our world renown meat & tomato based sauce. In fact, this word that makes my ears creak (ouch), corresponds  more to the French way of declining the female inhabitants of a city: milanaise, irlandaise, bolognaise. To be true, though, the sound of it really does come near to the spoken accent of a true Bolognese. However, may you sit down in an off the beaten track trattoria in the heart of Bologna, asking for a Bolognaise, you'll only get the host (who would do anything to make its clients happy) to go grab one of his friends who are not working hard at siesta time in order to keep you company, which you might appreciate, if you're familiar with sign languages. Chances are, the folk can't speak a word of English.

Everyone out there: We say ragù.

The word originally comes from ragoûter, that is, awakening one's appetite in French 17th century language. Originally referring to meat stewed with plenty of seasoning which was then used to accompany other dishes : in Italy , mainly pasta .This delicious sauce has two school of thoughts: one from Bologna and one from Naples.

The girls from Pitaya Agency, with whom I'm collaborating on various projects, asked me to show them how to ragù. Delighted from their considerate approach to the dish, I spent a morning with them in full #foodhappiness mood. And the result will be posted here early next week. Stay tuned!

With love and ragù,

Eleonora

*Photo credit - Arthur Fechoz