Sunday, 31 March 2013

Italian Easter Pie - Torta Pasqualina

Easter festivity cannot be celebrated without eggs. So the recipe of this pie also include whole eggs. Besides being a religious holiday Easter is also the symbol of the forthcoming spring. And so we add spinach to the pie.  
The original recipe is prepared with the chards, instead of spinach and the pie is completely covered with the brisèe dough. But I like it the way I suggest.  

Servings: 8

500g spinach or chard (better)
350g ricotta cheese
4+1 eggs
250g Brisèe dough
pinch of salt

1. Sautèe the spinach with some oil and salt.
2. Chop the sauteed spinach into small pieces.


3. Mix the spinach with 100g of ricotta.

4. Mix 250g of ricotta cheese with 1 egg, add a pinch of salt.

5. Dress a mould with the Brisèe dough covering the borders as well. Cut the excess of the dough, we'll need it for decoration.

6. Pour the spinach-ricotta mix into the mould.
7. Make some "holes" in the spinach mix.

8. Pour an egg into a "hole". Repeat with other 3 eggs

9. Cover spinach with ricotta mix.
10. Pull the cut off excess of the dough to create thinner stripes.
11. Place the stripes as a grate, that is crisscross.

12. Turn the borders of the dough inside and pinch them each and every 2 cm.
13. Bake the pie in the preheated oven at 200C for 20-25 minutes till it has a nice golden colour of the crust.

Serve warm or cold as an appetizer or snack.
Note: To make 8 servings, try to find where the eggs are: you will find the 4 bumps. Cut the pie between the eggs into 4 parts and again cut over the eggs to half them.  

Happy Easter!!! 


Saturday, 30 March 2013

Apple Roses

 Nice transformation of a usual Apple Strudel... Almost all the ingredients are the same but the shape is quite sophisticated. Make a floral and honey-sweet gift to your sweetheart!!!
I found this idea one day in Internet, having changed some ingredients I kept the idea of the decoration.

Servings: 7-8 roses

250-275g puff dough
2 apples
1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoon honey
25-30g butter

1. Peel the apples and cut it into slices.
2. Sprinkle some lemon juice over the apple slices to prevent them from getting dark.

3. Melt butter in a frying pan and add some cinnamon and 3-4 teaspoons of honey.

4. Cook the apple slices with the butter till they are soft but not falling apart, the sauce will thicken.
5. Cool the apples down. 

Note: You are to keep the puff dough in the fridge till the very moment you need to use it.

6. Unroll the puff dough and cut it into stripes 6cm wide.
7. Put the apple slices in a row covering one half of the puff dough stripe.
8. Cover with the other half of the dough.

9. Roll the stripe in a spiral to create a rose.
10. Bake the roses on a tray covered with oven paper at 200C for 15 minutes.

11. Use the leftover sauce to add a teaspoon over the each rose. Serve with some icing sugar sifted all over...



Friday, 29 March 2013

Easter Eggs Coloured with Onion Skin

Easter is on the threshold...The best Easter decoration and an absolute must of the event is Painted Eggs!!! 
The tradition of the egg colouring has very antique routes and goes back to the Antient Egypt. They used to offer the coloured egg to their pagan gods... then as it usually turned out, the pagan customs were transformed into the ones of such a monotheistic religion as Christianity. But I wouldn't like to enter this very delicate subject of theology... I just want to specify that for the Christians the Red coloured eggs symbolize the Christ's blood shed when he was crucified and, as an egg itself has always meant the fertility and rebirth, for Christians the Easter egg symbolizes the rebirth of Christ after his death on the cross.... 
The eggs are usually painted red in the Eastern Christians' tradition even nowadays, the Catholic Christians though still have a tradition of eating boiled eggs for Easter but use the Chocolate ones as a gift!
As for my own tradition, I combine both: my good old family tradition and my being an eternal child somewhere in my heart... 
So, I paint my Easter eggs in RED and expect a chocolate one with a surprise inside from my husband. 

Servings: -

~ 5-6 onions
2 tbs salt
1.5 lt water
vegetable oil

First we prepare the onion dye:

1. Peel the skin of the onion, just the dry part.
Note: I usually start collecting the onion skin a month before Easter comes.
Note: Keep the peeled onions in fridge.

2. Use an old pan (it may get painted)
3. Pour 1.5 lt of water into the pan and add the onions skin and 2tbs of salt.

4. Simmer for about 45 minutes, the dye will get a nice dark red colour by the end.
5. Cool the dye with the onion skin.

When the dye is cold we may proceed to boiling the eggs.

6. Choose the eggs that don't have any cracks.

7. As the water is already salted the egg won't break while boiling, so just place the eggs into the pan with the cold dye and cover with the onion skin. The water should cover the eggs completely. 
8. Boil the eggs for 15-20 minutes.
9. Pour some oil on a paper towel and rub it over each egg, they will become very glossy and attractive! This is my great grand mother's secret!!!
Note: The onion skin has an antiseptic property so the boiled eggs will last for many days. You may keep them refrigerated ....
 Happy Easter !!!



Thursday, 28 March 2013

RAGU alla Bolognese - Italian Meat and Tomato Sauce

One of the most famous Italian sauces is RAGU. It's also known as Ragu alla Bolognese or sometimes even just Bolognese (abroad and not in Italy).
In Italy every dish has it's own regional origin, Ragu comes from the Italian region called Emilia-Romagna with it's main city - Bologna, from which Ragu takes it's name: Ragu alla Bolognese.
Ragu is a meat-base sauce with the add of tomato and not vice versa as it's cooked in other countries. So there's more meat then tomato in this sauce. The other difference is that the original Ragu is simmered for many hours and believe me you will feel the difference.... They used to cook Ragu on a wood stove even for 6 hours! 
Ragu traditionally dresses the wide long formats of pasta as Tagliatelle, Fettuccine, Pappardelle. It is also very popular as an ingredient of Lasagna. Sometimes you may find the short pasta like Rigatoni, Penne or Paccheri (on the photo) with Ragu. And as a very special way of using ragu is to stuff the big formats of pasta like Lumaconi (snails) and cook them in the oven with mozzarella and Parmigiano cheese....
Two more things to let you know:
1. Some people think that Ragu is a kind of meat stew... it's not! It's a sauce.
2. Ragu is never served with Spaghetti in Italy as the meat pieces will not stick to this kind of pasta
Be patient with this sauce and the taste will be rewarding!!!
Servings: 1.8-2l of sauce
800-900g minced mixed meat (beef-pork)
4 sausages (400g)
700ml tomato puree
2 carrots
1 big onion
2 celery stalks
1 bay leaf
1 rosemary sprig
200ml red wine
veg. stock cube 
pinch of sugar 
100ml EVO oil

The quantity I prepare is very generous, but as this sauce is very laborious to prepare I prefer to cook a bit more and then store it...

Note: Before you start cooking, as for the pan, use a thick bottom one, as the cooking process is long and we don't want the sauce to stick to the bottom of the pan....

1. Chop onion and celery finely.
2. Grate the carrot. Or as an option you may chop everything with an electric chopper.
3. Pour some EVO oil into a big sauce pan and add carrots, onion, celery and simmer till the vegetables are golden brown.

 4. Peel the sausage and break it into tiny pieces, add it to the meat that you put in a bowl and mix well.
5. Add the minced meat to the veges, stir vigorously to have a homogeneous mixture.

6. Splash with some red wine and let the alcohol evaporate, smell it to feel if there's still some alcohol.

7. Cook till the meat will become lighter in colour, for about 15 minutes at a medium heat.
8. Prepare vegetable broth (use a stock cube).  
7. Add tomato puree and half a glass of vegetable broth to the meat mix and stir. Add a pinch of sugar together with tomato puree to neutralize the acidity of tomato.
8. Add a bay leaf, rosemary sprig and vegetable stock.

 9. Cover the sauce with a lid and cook at a low heat stirring from time to time (every 10-15 minutes). When you notice that the sauce becomes too thick, add half a glass of broth (better unsalted veg. broth) and stir.

10. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and try if you feel the sauce needs more.
11. From the moment you added tomato puree, cook for at least 2 hours, constantly stirring and adding broth to dilute.
Note: I usually cook this sauce for 2-3 hours but traditionally it was cooked for 6-8 hours.

Note: The secrets of this sauce are:
- using mixed mince,
- stirring constantly, about every 10 minutes,
- cooking at a low heat,
- adding some water or better vegetable broth (unsalted) when needed,
- cooking from two to three hours

12.  When the sauce is ready it will have a thick and granular consistency, reddish brown colour and a rich flavour that will fill in the whole your house....

Note: You may divide the sauce into portions and freeze them, then you will have a ready sauce when you need it!