italian food

All posts tagged italian food

Fishy Business: Two Inventive Dishes from the Sea

Published August 24, 2014 by The Feminist

fish

Contrary to what the first part of the above title may suggest, this post is actually a celebration of all the wonderful things that can be found under the Sea, and has nothing to do with rather suspicious or shady affairs with handsome Italian business men in Armani suits. (Sorry to disappoint you)

Although I will always attempt to eat vegetarian, there are days when I simply cannot resist the enticing call of a wonderful fish dish. (After all, I am a Pieces.)

The following dishes are true showstoppers that will make for a perfect Sunday meal with the family. They are full with bold flavours, colours and textures and will satisfy your fishy cravings in a heartbeat.

DSCN4133

Oriental Fish Fingers with a Thai-inspired Warm Noodle Salad

These fish fingers are without a doubt the best on the entire planet. Yes, I repeat: the best. You can also use this method to make crispy prawns, scallops, salmon and vegetarian alternatives such as tofu.

For the Fish fingers:

  • 600gr of strong white fish, cut into thick strips
  • Flour
  • 100gr desiccated coconut
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • Salt and pepper

For the sweet-and-spicy dip:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

For the warm noodle salad:

  • 300gr soba noodles, cooked according to the instructions on the package
  • 2 red chilies, finely sliced
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pak choi, cut into chunks
  • 1 red pepper, cut into strips
  • 200gr bean sprouts
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • Lots of fresh coriander
  • Handful of sesame seeds
  • Juice one 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Method:

  1. Season the chunks of fish with salt and pepper and a tiny bit of chili powder. Place the flour onto a plate. Place the beaten eggs into a wide bowl and place the desiccated coconut on another plate. Take a piece of fish and dust it in the flour, next dip it in the egg (allowing any excess to drip off) and finally into the coconut. Put the fish fingers on a large plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (This is an essential step in creating the perfect fish fingers, so do not be tempted to skip it!)
  2. Meanwhile, make your dipping sauce by mixing everything together and pouring the sauce into individual serving jars.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large wok and add the pak choi, ginger, chili, garlic, and red pepper and fry 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked noodles and beans sprouts and add all the other sauces and lime juice. Stir in the sesame seeds and season to taste. Finish with lots of coriander and spring onion.
  4. Deep-fry the fish fingers for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Serve with a wedge of lime, the sweet and spicy dip and the fragrant noodles.

DSCN4145

Red Bream and Pesto lasagna

What makes this lasagna truly stand out is the home-made basil and almond pesto. Sure, you can just use store-bought pesto if you want, to save yourself the time and effort, but trust me: this pesto will transform an already great lasagna into an I-can’t-stop-eating-this-is-sooo-good lasagna.

Ingredients

For the basil and almond pesto:

  • 2 huge bushes of fresh basil
  • 50gr parmesan cheese
  • One clove of garlic
  • Handful of white almonds
  • Salt and pepper
  • Good quality olive oil

For the lasagna

  • Sheets of dried lasagna (no-precooking necessary)
  • 2 large courgettes, cut into 0,5cm slices
  • 1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 500ml tomato passata
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp harissa
  • 500-600 gr red bream filet, cut into strips
  • Home-made pesto
  • 200gr mozzarella, cut into thin slices

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grill the courgette slices for a couple of minutes on each side until you get a lovely griddle effect. Set aside.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, add the garlic, onion and pepper and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato passata, oregano, balsamic vinegar and harissa. Season with salt and pepper and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Make the pesto by blending all the ingredients together. The pesto should have a rather thick consistency and look more like a tapenade rather than a pesto.
  4. Grease individual baking dishes with butter and start assembling the lasagna. First a layer of lasagna sheets, then the courgette slices topped with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Then another layer of lasagna sheets, followed by the fish topped with a generous layer of that home-made pesto. Now another layer of lasagna sheets and another of the courgettes and tomato sauce. Finish with a final layer of lasagna sheets and spread some remaining pesto over the top. Put the mozzarella cheese on top of the lasagna and put in the oven for 30 minutes.
Advertisements

Simplicity At Its Best: Mediterranean Dinner in France

Published July 28, 2014 by The Feminist

france

When I was on holiday in the South of France (I don’t mean to rub it in) I discovered one simple truth: simplicity is the key to good Mediterranean cooking. With ingredients that you can count on just one hand, you can conjure up the most delicious dish imaginable.

So there I was…in my (temporarily rented) garden… watching how the boats sailed into the harbor… and I just knew that I had to attempt one of those classic, simple dishes myself.

So meet this delicious Coeur de Boeuf and Burrata mozzarella starter. In my homecountry  Belgium, I would never have voluntarily opted for a tomato and mozzarella salad at a restaurant. The tomatoes taste like water, the mozzarella tastes like water… I just found it really bland and boring most of the time. Until the French Riviera made me realize that a simple plate of tomato-mozzarella can be truly magical if you have the best products on the planet to work with. These Coeur de boeuf tomatoes were juicy, succulent and bursting with flavour and the burrata mozzarella… by golly, don’t get me started on the mozzarella! Burrata is the creamy King of mozzarella cheese: a texture that almost resembles thick yoghurt and a lovely rich flavour that almost does not require any additional seasoning. To make my version of this Italian classic dish extra special, I used some extraordinary olive oil I bought in Nice in the restaurant Oliviera (which I already blabbed on about in my previous post). It has a lovely sweet and nutty, almondy flavour and gives a peppery finish at the back of your tongue.

DSCN4066

Ingredients:

  • Burrata mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Coeur de boeuf tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Fresh basil

Following  the rules of simplicity, I also made this lovely fish dish: locally sourced fish topped with an almond and red pepper tapenade on a bed of courgette and fresh flageolet beans. Served with some homemade garlic bread (really really garlicy!)

DSCN4068

Just spread some good quality, store-bought almond and pepper tapenade (preferably bought at a local market, of course) on top of your fish. Put in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200°C until tender and juicy. Cut the courgettes into thick slices and take the beans out of the pods. Blanche the beans al dente. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a huge pot, add the courgettes and salt and pepper and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the blanched flageolets and let it simmer for a further 10 minutes. Right before serving stir in some fresh basil leaves and sprinkle on some lemon juice.

Now pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the sun!

 

 

Fusion Fever: Coconut and Lime Risotto with Peach and Pepper Salsa and Tandoori Prawns

Published June 23, 2014 by The Feminist

Image

There are days when I know exactly what I want to eat. Pizza. Tagine. Noodles.

I have cheese days. Chocolate days. Add-chili-to-everything days.

But sometimes my cravings aren’t so specific. The only thing I then know for sure is that I am hungry (very very hungry!) and want something comforting (very very comforting!). Now, when I am craving something comforting, I always choose either something Italian (risotto is on top of my list) or something Indian with lots of spice and coconut.

Yesterday, however, I simply could not choose. Italian or Indian? Indian or Italian? It was literally driving me mad.

So in a total act of desperation, I decided to do both. Mix Italian with Indian. I probably pissed off both the Italians and Indians by doing so, but at least it filled my stomach. Although “filling my stomach” does not exactly do this dish justice, because this insanely yummy dish was a lot more than filling; it was an entirely new, hallucinatory delicious experience! The coconut milk in the risotto made the rice extra smooth and creamy and the combination with the lime lifted the Italian classic to a very delicious Indian level. Furthermore, the creaminess of the risotto was in perfect harmony with the sweet-spicy-zingy salsa with peach and peppers and sits happily married with the ultra-spicy tandoori prawns.

This is fusion food at its best! So who cares if it pisses off the whole Indian and Italian population, when something is this sensational I don’t really mind stepping onto a few food-patriotic toes 😉

Ingredients:

For the risotto:

  • 320gr Arborio rice
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • ½ tbsp. nigella seeds
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • Vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • Fresh basil (you could use Thai basil, but since we’re doing Italian and Indian together, you can use the Italian as well!)
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced

For the salsa:

  • 2 long, sweet peppers, finely diced
  • 1 chili pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 peaches, finely diced
  • 1 granny smith apple, finely diced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh Thai basil
  • Juice of 1 lime

For the prawns

  • 30 prawns, peeled and cleaned
  • Tandoori powder

Method:

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the shallot with the nigella seeds and chili flakes for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and fry until the grains become slightly translucent. Add 200 ml of coconut milk and let it simmer until absorbed. Now add the stock, one ladleful at a time until al dente. Now stir in the remaining coconut milk to make sure the risotto is oozing creaminess. Stir in the lime juice and fish sauce and scatter some basil and spring onions over the top.
  • Meanwhile, make the salsa by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and seasoning with lime, salt and pepper. Voila!
  • Completely dust the prawns in tandoori powder and skewer them onto large sticks. Now you have a couple of options. Fry them in a large pan, barbeque them or –like I did- put them under a hot griddle for a couple of minutes.
  • Dig in!

Pizza Lovers, Be Warned: Pizza with Strawberries, Goat’s Cheese and Pink Peppercorn

Published June 15, 2014 by The Feminist

DSCN3937

Forget all the pizza knowledge you have acquired throughout your pizza-adoring life, because it is time for a reset!

A pizza is not just a brilliant edible plate to help you transport tomato sauce smothered with mozzarella into your mouth, it is also –and more importantly- a white canvas that you can paint with all the yummiest flavour combos on the planet. And when I’m talking about flavour combos, I don’t mean the usual peperoni-cheese/ tuna-olive / ham-pineapple (oh horror!)/ …

Oh no. What I mean by yummy flavour combos are those bonkers, stylish, avant-garde flavours you would normally never put on a pizza. Not in a million years. And yet you do it, because you’re the Queen of Flavour Bombs and trust your own foodie instincts.

A couple of days ago, I (the one and only Queen of Flavour Bombs) had a pizza epiphany:

I.Put. Strawberries. On. My. Pizza.

I put strawberries on my pizza.

Iputstrawberriesonmypizza.

Merely saying it, makes my mind boggle with foodie lust.

Seriously, dear readers and fellow pizza aficionados. This pizza is in every possible way the best thing on this whole damn planet (and far far beyond!).

It’s the classic, posh combination of strawberries, pink peppercorn and balsamic vinegar.

Put on pizza dough.

Together with goat’s cheese.

Some extra juicy nectarine.

And to finish some fragrant basil.

51584-Sheldon-breathing-in-a-paper-b-TQ3Z

I’m in heaven.

And if you would like to join me – there is plenty of room on my cloud – here is the recipe:

DSCN3940

Ingredients:

  • One pizza sheet
  • 1 nectarine, cut into slices
  • 2 handfuls of strawberries, sliced
  • 100gr mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 100gr goats cheese, crumbled
  • Basil (lots and lots of it)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Pink peppercorns, crushed

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°C.
  2. Roll out your pizza dough and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle on some salt, pink peppercorn and basil leaves.
  3. Layer the pizza with thin mozzarella sliced. Season with salt and pink pepper.
  4. Now put on the fruit. Season with pink pepper.
  5. Crumble on the goats cheese.
  6. Put in the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. Before serving, drizzle on some balsamic vinegar and sprinkle lots of basil leaves over the top.

Perfect Primavera: Spring In My Step, Spring In My Risotto

Published March 28, 2014 by The Feminist

Image

By golly, don’t you just love it when the sun shines? I mean, what’s not to love? Those sunbeams shining through branches of trees and the first spring warmth in beautiful harmony with a refreshing breeze…

Sigh. The sunny start of spring is making me very optimistic! I almost feel the urge to touch the flowers, dance in the grass and sing with the birds! (If only I could do that without people looking at me as if I were completely bonkers.)

However, to spare you all some traumatized ears, I won’t be bursting into song. Instead, I will cook something delicious; something reminiscent of this beautiful sunny day.  Sounds good, huh? 😉

This risotto primavera is what spring is all about: fresh, tasty and vibrant. It’s a classic combination of green asparagus and peas, a flavour combination that always sweeps me of my feet in all its simplicity and freshness. The creamy and unctuous texture of the rice balances so well with these tender yet crunchy veg and the basil highlights the green colour palette oh so beautifully. It’s almost like a Van Gogh painting, ready to be eaten…

Risotto with Green Asparagus, Leek, peas and Basil

Ingredients (serves 3)

  • 250gr Arborio rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • Vegetable stock
  • 9 large green asparagus
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 200gr frozen peas
  • 100gr parmesan cheese
  • Lots of fresh basil

Method:

  1. Clean the green asparagus and steam them until just al dente. Cut them into approx. 2cm chunks. Set aside.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the garlic and onion until soft. Add the rice and let it fry for a couple of minutes.
  3. Pour in the white wine and let it simmer until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid.
  4. Stir in the leeks and add a ladleful of stock. Stir frequently until the stock is fully absorbed. Continue this process, adding the stock one ladleful at a time.
  5. Once your risotto rice is almost tender, stir in the frozen peas and the al dente asparagus and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Season to taste with pepper and parmesan cheese and finally stir in lots of fresh basil.

 

The Farewell Meal: Saying Goodbye To Meat With a Roman Veal Stew & Risotto A La Milanese

Published February 28, 2014 by The Feminist

DSCN3657

You all know by now that I prefer to stick to a vegetarian way of living. Not just for my own health, but for the health of our planet as well. However, it is not always that easy to adopt a 100% meat-free diet when everyone around me seems to be having an inexplicable love affair with all things animal. My brother loves his steak, my dad adores his honey glazed ribs and my mom devours everything that sounds even remotely Italian (From prosciutto di Parma to  Mortadella di Bologna).

Which leads me to the following confession: I still eat meat sometimes. (Feel free to drop your jaw or gasp for air) Once every ten days I am seduced by the heavenly sent of Ossobuco or lamb Jalfrezi and succumb to family pressure to cook one of my world famous succulent stews.

This Roman veal stew was one of those moments. The tender meat was soft and juicy and the sauce elevated the stew to unseen levels of spice perfection. Add to that a creamy risotto with saffron and dots of pretty courgette and you have a meal you will never forget.

A true farewell meal.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. I’m saying goodbye.

no gif

No, not to you. Don’t panic.

I’m saying goodbye to meat. Finally.

And I am not the only one, because in just a couple of days me and thousands of other fellow Belgians will try to make our country more vegetarian friendly by reducing our meat-consumption. This event is called “Dagen Zonder Vlees”, which means “Days Without Meat”. I’m sure the title is pretty self-explanatory?

Anyway, since I’m planning on dropping meat altogether, I thought it would be somewhat symbolic to end my days of eating meat with a yummy and super delicious meat dish. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but who the hell cares.

Roman veal stew with Risotto a la Milanese

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the stew:

  • 800gr veal, cut into chunks
  • Juice of an orange
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • ½ red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Heaped tbsp. flour
  • 1 can/ 400gr tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp honey

For the risotto:

  • 300gr Arborio rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp saffron powder or saffron threads
  • 1 courgette, finely chopped
  • Glass of Marsala
  • Parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. For the stew: heat a knob of butter in a large pot and fry the veal chunks until they have a nice brown colour. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. In that same pan, fry the onion, garlic, carrots and pepper for a couple of minutes and add the meat back to the pan. Add the flour to the pot and stir until everything is nicely coated with a thin layer of flour. Fry for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in the orange juice, balsamic vinegar and add the tinned tomatoes. Once you’ve emptied the can of tomatoes, use it as a measuring cup for vegetable stock. Add just enough vegetable stock so that the meat is just covered with liquid. Add the spices, herbs and honey and let it simmer for 1-2 hours on a low heat.
  4. For the risotto: heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes. Stir in the rice and fry for a further couple of minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat half a litre of vegetable stock with the saffron.
  6. Add a glass of Marsala to the rice and stir until the wine has evaporated. Stir in the finely chopped courgette and season with salt and pepper. Now add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring until each addition is almost completely absorbed. Once all the stock has been added, the rice should be tender and creamy.
  7. Finally stir in some grated parmesan to taste.

The Italian Bombshell: Baileys Zuccotto with Nutella and Raspberry Filling

Published January 17, 2014 by The Feminist

zuccotto

A couple of days ago, I had massive amounts of lady finger biscuits lying around in my kitchen. At first, I thought what any other dessert guru would think –Make tiramisu!- but then I started wondering whether there might be something more dangerous I could do with lady fingers. Something more challenging than a tiramisu…

So I ended up calling my best friend, who is an expert on everything Italian: from the language, to the food, to the very yummy men. (You can see why she is my best friend 😉 ) I asked her if she knew any cool and impressive desserts with lady fingers and she immediately exclaimed: “Zuccotto! You have to make Zuccotto!”

So I did. And it was amazing…

DSCN3555

For those of you who aren’t an expert in Italian food like my BFF: a Zuccotto is an Italian dessert originating from Florence. It is a dome-shaped flavour bomb made with cake or lady fingers and is traditionally filled with whipped cream, chocolate chips, nuts, candied fruits and all different types of yumminess.

Although a traditional Zuccotto certainly looks impressive, I was still in doubt about the “ordinary” whipped cream filling. There just had to be a more thrilling alternative!( I know, I know, I’m a bit of a snob. )

So then I started thinking: what if I put one of my favourite types of tiramisu inside the Zuccotto???

Long story short, I made a Nutella and raspberry tiramisu but in the shape of a Zuccotto.

OMG

I have my moments of pure genius.

Not only did it look absolutely delightful and really impressive, this Italian bombshell is a pure explosion of flavours as well! First, there is the sharpness of the raspberry, then in comes the sweet and comforting creaminess of the nutella and mascarpone filling and to top it all off, the boozy lady fingers drenched in Baileys Coffee turn your throat into a love nest of warm and deep flavours…

DSCN3569

Oh yes, if you want to end your meal with a bang, this is definitely the way to go!

PS: I made a somewhat smaller dome, since I knew it would just be me eating it. (Guilty) But if you are expecting friends and family, just double the quantities and you can at least get 9 large portions out of it.

Zuccotto with Nutella and raspberry filling

Ingredients:

  • Lady fingers
  • 150ml Baileys
  • 200ml coffee
  • Cocoa powder

For the Nutella filling:

  • 200gr mascarpone cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 50gr Nutella
  • 50gr caster sugar

For the Raspberry filling:

  • 200gr raspberries
  • 100gr mascarpone cheese
  • 25gr caster sugar

Method:

  1. Line a bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Mix the coffee with the baileys and dip each lady finger in the mixture. Line the inside of your bowl with the fingers and make sure they are all snugly side by side to prevent the filling from seeping out.
  3. For the Nutella mixture, mix the sugar, egg and egg yolk together in a bowl until you get a pale mixture. Stir in the mascarpone and nutella and mix until you get a smooth consistency. Spoon the batter into your dome of lady fingers. The mixture will fill up to three quarters of the dome.
  4. Put a layer of raspberries on top of the nutella mixture. This will keep both fillings separated.
  5. Make the raspberry mascarpone filling by mixing the leftover raspberries with the mascarpone and sugar. Spread the mixture on top of the layer of raspberries.
  6. Now finish the dome by putting a layer of lady fingers dipped in coffee on top.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Invert the Zuccotto onto a plate and remove the plastic wrap. Dust generously with cocoa powder and dig in!