Monday, 30 December 2013

Traditional Italian New Year Lentils

First of all, Happy New Year to everybody!!! Many things happened in 2013, good and bad, we all laughed and cried, we all had our highs and lows. So, let me wish you that the sorrows would stay in 2013 and the happy moments would follow you into the 2014. Good luck to all of those who read these lines!!!

What to prepare for the New Fear feast? I will stick to the tradition and besides other treats my festive table will host a dish that no Italian house won't miss: Lentils.
Lentils are usually served with a tipical New Year sausage called Cotechino or another treat called Zampone that is a stuffed pork leg. Both of them are boiled before serving. It's a simple dish that everybody will like. You may also eat lentils cold as a starter but they are best served hot.
According to the tradition, they say, you need to eat as many lentils as you can during the New Year dinner as they look like tiny coins and bring fortune and money for those who eat them. Let's have them galore!!!


500g lentils
1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
1 onion
1-2 bay leaves
200ml sieved tomatoes
1 tea spoon of salt
70-100 ml Extra Vergin Olive Oil
1L water

1. First of all chop carrot, celery and onion either with a knife or with a use of a chopper.
2. Using a  saucepan brown vegetables with the oil.

3. Add lentils to the pan with the vegetables, pour water and add 1 ore 2 bay leaves.
NOTE: Don't salt the dish as the salt renders the lentils' peel harder and you will need to cook them for longer.

4. Boil lentils for about 30-35 minutes stirring from time to time.
NOTE: You may need more water, so add little by little hot water. Never use cold water for to cook both cereals and legumes.
5. Add sieved tomatoes and salt, stir well and cook for 10-15 minutes more.
NOTE: Add more or less salt to your taste.

Buon Appetito and Loads of Money!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Cous cous with Vegetables

Couscous is a North African dish, usually offered with stewed meat or vegetables. There also are versions of Fish couscous or a very delicate one just with herbs.... This dish is very versatile! Play around and you will find your favourite one.
Today I prepared my couscous with vegetables and spices to create a perfect Arabic taste... 

Servings: 4

1 glass instant couscous
1 small eggplant
2-3 small zucchini
2 handful fresh fava beans
1 medium tomato
1 carrot
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
3cm ginger root
fresh parsley
fresh basil
chilli powder
1.5tbs curcuma
1/3tbs cumin seeds
EVO oil
1 1/3 glass water + 1/4 glass 

1. Cut eggplants into 1.5-2cm cubes, salt them and let them release their water in a bowl.
Usually it takes about half an hour to have the eggplant quite wet.

2. Slice carrots into wheels or half wheels if the carrot is too thick.
3. Cut zucchini into wheels.
4. Cut onion into 4 parts and then slice it finely.

5. Heat 5-6 tbs of EVO oil in a frying pan with a squeezed garlic cloves and grated ginger.
6. Add 1tbs of curcuma, cumin seeds and stir well. 
7. When you start filling a nice smell, add carrots and onion, cook at a low heat till the onion starts getting transparent.

 8. Squeeze eggplants to remove their water and add them and zucchini to the pan, continue cooking at low heat covered with a lid till they become coloured.
9. You may salt veges now or any time you want, but not at the very end. 

10.  Clean fava beans and remove them from the pods and peel the skin.
Note: Some people don't bother peeling fava beans, I personally don't like it, as I found the skin a bit hard.
11. Add fava beans to the pan and cook for some more minutes. 
Note: You may add 1/4 of water to cook the veges better. 

12. At the end add tomato cut into small cubes, stir the veges well and cook till all of them are completely ready.

13. Chop fresh parsley and basil finely.
14. Mix couscous with chopped herbs and 0.5tbs of curcuma, some chilli to your taste.
15. Boil a bit less than 1.5 glass of water, melt some salt in it, add 1 tbs of oil and pour it over the couscous.
16. Cover the bowl with couscous with a lid and let it sit for 10 minutes.

17. Using a fork stir couscous in order to separate the graines of it.  
Note: The grains of couscous tend to stick one to another during the cooking process so you need to fluff them carefully.

18. Arrange cooked couscous over a presentation dish as a doughnut and add stewed vegetables inside the ring. 

bil-hanā' wa ash-shifā'     بالهنا والشفا 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Lemon Mousse Cake

This cake looks like a cheesecake but it is not!!! It's a fluffy lemon mousse cake. And this time it is My Birthday Cake!!! Happy birthday to me....
This cake is really light and is not very sweet. It is a great dessert after a sumptuous meal, it is also very good in summer time because of it's fresh and a bit soury taste. 
The preparation may seem  complicates but the only difficulty you may encounter is to whip different ingredients apart and mix them together afterwards.     


Servings: 8

3 eggs
90g sugar
90g flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
100g sugar
1.5 lemons
5g gelatin (2.5 sheets)
250g whipping cream

1. Whip 3 eggs with 90g of sugar (6tbs) for 10 minutes: 3-4 minutes at high speed to create the volume and 6-7 minutes more at a very low speed to fix the bubbles. 

2. Sift the flour together with baking powder.
3. Mix the flour into the egg with a hand whisk paying attention to make the movements from the bottom to the top. 
Note: Be careful not to mix for too long as it will break the bubbles and the cake won't come out soft and airy.
4. Pour the cake carefully into a 22-23 cm mould and bake the cake at 180C for 20 minutes.
5. Switch the oven off and keep the cake for about 10-15 minutes in the oven with the door slightly open.
6. Take the cake out of the mould and and let it cool down completely over the cake rack.
7. Cut the cake with the steel ring to about 21cm in diametre.  
8. Prepare the syrup with 50ml of water, 1tbs of sugar and some liqueur, better Limoncello or at least Rum. 
Note: You may melt the sugar in hot water or just heat it in the microwave oven.
9. Using a special cake squeeze bottle, pour the syrup over the cake to moist it.
10. In a small bowl soak the gelatin for about 10 minutes.   

11. Divide eggs into yolks and whites.

12. Whip the whites with half of the sugar (50g) and the yolks with the rest of it in separate bowls.


13. Whip the cream to thick foam.

14. Grate the yellow part of 2 lemons' peel.
Note:The white part of the lemon skin is bitter, don't use it.
15. Squeeze the juice of 2 lemons.

16. Add lemon peel and lemon juice to the yolks.

17. Mix the three whipped ingredients together using a hand whisk, try to do it very carefully not to break the bubbles.

18. Squeeze gelatin to remove the excess of water and melt it in the microwave oven for about 20 seconds.
Note: You may also melt gelatin in a double boiler.  

19. Add gelatin to the mousse and stir well.

20. Insert the cake into the cake ring over a nice dish and pour the foamy mousse over it.

21. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or better overnight.

22. Make a neat cut round the ring and open the ring.
23. Decorate the cake as you like it, better with some lemon slices to recall to the taste of the dessert.
Note: You may use the borders of the cake that you cut off: crumble them and decorate the cake's border.


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Hamburger with Bacon

Easy dish for a lazy meal! Sometimes there is nothing better than a hamburger with some fresh veges or salad and a slice of fresh bread! Ah... I have nearly forgotten: and a glass of cold bear!
A good hamburger is not only minced meat: this time try it with some bacon... next time add some cheese instead... whatever you have in the fridge, as cold cuts or cheese, may do.


Servings: 2

300g minced beef
50g bacon (guanciale)
1/2 medium onion
black pepper
EVO oil

1. Chop onion and cut bacon into thin stripes. 
2. Pour some oil into a frying pan and cook onion and bacon till they become nicely golden.  

3. Season minced meat with some salt and pepper and add fried bacon. Mix well.

4. Form 4 hamburgers and pour some more oil in the same pan you have used before for bacon frying.

5. Fry hamburgers on one side then after about 5 minutes turn them over and cook over the other side.  


Monday, 20 May 2013

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a Thai rice noodles dish that became quite famous worldwide. Usually it's the only dish people know from Thai cuisine... 
Pad Thai is prepared with a special Pad Thai sauce which combines opposite tastes like sour and sweet and salty, but the combination is absolutely perfect: after you've prepared this delicious sauce I would like to see if you won't lick the spoon.... 


Servings: 2

150-180g wide rice noodles
50g firm tofu
10-12 medium fresh shrimps
1 egg
handful of soy bean sprouts
cashew nuts
1 garlic clove 
3cm cube of ginger
1/2 lime
4-5tbs vegetable oil
fresh coriander leaves

For Pad Thai Sauce:
2tbs fish sauce
2tbs oyster sauce
3tbs tamarind juice
1/3 palm sugar round brick  

One of the most important ingredients for the Pad Thai Noodles is obviously the Pad Thai Sauce.
1. If you have dry tamarind, soak 2tbs of tamarind paste in 1/3 glass of water for a half an hour, then pass it through a stainer to get the juice.
2. Chop palm sugar in small pieces as it comes in dry round bricks.

3. Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small sauce pan and bring it to boiling over medium heat, then boil for a couple of minutes.
Note: Pad Thai Sauce is a perfect mix of saltiness, sweetness and sourness   
4. Peel the shrimps and devein them.

5. Cut tofu into thin match-sticks.

6. Soak rice noodles in warm water for 5 minutes and then drain them. 
Note: The noodles should be still a bit firm.

7. Pour vegetable oil in a wok pan and put the wok over high heat.
8. Add squeezed garlic and grated ginger. 
9. Add tofu and fry it for a couple of minutes.

10. Add an egg and scramble it.
Note: I usually use tongs to mix the ingredients in my wok pan.
11. Add shrimps...

 12. Add rice noodles and the sauce. Stir well!!!

 12. At the end add soy sprouts, stir well and switch off the heat.
Note: As the dish is cooked over high heat, so you need to add all the ingredients one after the other with just a quick stirring.

13. Crush some peanuts or cashew nuts (I prefer these) and chop some fresh coriander.
14. Serve your Pad Thai noodles sprinkled with some chilli, crushed peanuts, chopped coriander and a slice of lime aside, you will squeeze it over the dish just before eating.  

      ขอให้เจริญอาหาร! (kŏr hâi jà-rern aa-hăan!)