A mostly Italian dinner

I wrote this post almost 2 and a half months ago and completely forgot that it was ready to post. At th time, I had just posted something and didn’t want to push it down the viewing list. I’ve since moved to a new job and that’s kept me busy but it’s time to get back on the blogging bandwagon I reckon.

2.5 months ago I was thinking….

“It has been a while since we hosted a board games night and given I have been home all week, Friday night seemed the perfect night for it. As is usual with these games nights, I gave myself a cooking theme of “Italian” and put together a menu based on my fellow bloggers’ posts with a bit of Jamie Oliver thrown in.

Now that the day has come and gone, I can tell you that it was a great success. I had a great time preparing the food during the day. We had a great time eating and playing a game called “The Resistance” which was quite entertaining – patricularly as I won twice !

The “eating” went from 7pm till nearly 11pm but that meant that none of us were stuffed despite the amount of food we consumed. As we’d taken breaks in between courses to chat, play, wash up and weren’t too full at the end, I think we all went to bed with a satisfied belly and to the sound of rain beating down on our rooves.”

I will post recipes for each of the courses in the weeks to come. Hopefully, it gives you some inspiration to put together something like this in your own home….

Goodbye long English summer!

Mostly Italian menu

Mostly Italian menu

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Tiramisu alle fragole or Tiramisu with strawberries

I have been on holiday for a whole week as a re-energiser before starting my new job. Thus, I’ve spent most of the week doing what I like best – cooking. Earlier in the week, I cooked a festive South Indian meal for some friends of ours which is still being consumed 4 days on and last night, we hosted an Italian-food themed board games night with some other friends. While I had most of the menu sorted, I was umm-ing and ah-ing on the “dolce” or dessert course.

Given my enormous free time this week, I browsing through the travel section in the local library and I chanced upon a book called “Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons : Travels in Sicily on a Vespa” by Matthew Fort. This book’s contents are pretty much as the title claims – It contains several mouth-watering (and sometimes weird) Sicilian recipes, while giving the reader a feel for Sicilian people, life and customs as the writer explores this island on his Vespa scooter.

The one thing that really irks me about this book is the unecessary overuse of flowery language to describe things that can be done equally well with more accessible vocabulary. Despite that, I’m persisting with the book and it was in one of its pages that I came across a lovely recipe for strawberry tiramisu.

I have posted two previous tiramisu recipes – one regular and one with raspberries. However, back in the day, I didn’t actually have any pictures of this delicious Italian treat.

Inspired by this verbose but informative book, and my Italian-themed games night, I present to you – Tiramisu alle fragole with pictures.

It was so good that my guests were fighting over it !

 

Tiramisu with strawberries - Just hanging onto the edge of the bowl...

Tiramisu with strawberries – Just hanging onto the edge of the bowl…

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Mangoes, ricotta and toast – a simple pleasure

I was born in the country that gave common mangoes their scientific name – Mangifera indica. Come the Indian summer (April-June), dad would ride off on his LML Vespa to the local mango market and come back with bags and bags of golden, juicy, sweet deliciousness. He would bring us many varieties and always experimenting with new ones. Of them all, my favourite was “Banginapalle” (pronounced: Bung-in-a-pulse-lee) – thin skinned, juicy and sweet as nectar.

My years in New Zealand exposed me to nothing but disappointment in the form of green, peppery tasting (and smelling) Peruvian mangoes. However, when I moved to the more tropically inclined Australia, my longing for real mangoes was finally satisfied. I discovered the local varietal “Kensington Pride” which reminded me of my childhood favourite and boy did I gorge myself on them. Sticky mango fingers with pulp stains on one’s tee-shirt and chin may not be a very attractive look but the happiness on such a person’s face is priceless !

On our Christmas vacation in Australia, we once again got to indulge our mango cravings and I chose to do it in a simple yet highly satisfying way. The pepper on honey trick is one I learnt from a French colleague of mine. I thought it was weird until I tried it.

Finally, this recipe captures the very first images of food that I took with my DSLR. I will be eternally proud of them.

Do give this recipe a go – especially if you have fresh mangoes and fresh ricotta available. It is definitely healthier than an English breakfast!

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Feta wrapped in vine leaves from the Moro Cookbook

I have posted recipes from “Moro The Cookbook” by Sam and Sam Clarke before. After Ottolenghi’s “Jerusalem”, this is one of my favourite collection of recipes from the Middle East. As the name “Moro” suggests, the recipes in this cookbook are a Spanish-Islamic fusion dating back to the Moors who came from Morocco and ruled the Iberian peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Andorra, parts of Southern France and Gibraltar) for nearly 700 years.

Given I am a vegetarian, I have probably not used this book to its full capacity but the vegetarian recipes such as Aubergine and red pepper salad with caramelised butter, Carrot and cumin salad with coriander and fatayer that I have tried so far have been spectacular. This recipe is another one of Sam & Sam’s vegetarian gems – the sweet tartness of the orange, the salty-oiliness of the olives and the crispy-gooey-saltiness of the grilled feta are a match made in heaven.

Do give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

Feta, orange salad and bread

Feta, orange salad and bread

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Semlor or awesome cardamom-spiced, almond paste and cream filled Scandanavian Lent buns

Semlor (singular : semla) is the Swedish name for these delectable little (OK my version was little) buns. I first saw them on a friend’s Fascebook page more than two years ago. Her Scandanavian partner had produced these around Easter time and from her pictures, they looked delicious. I remember reading at the time that the buns were full of cardamom and that’s all I needed to know. Buns with cardamom, almond and cream sounded like something that would be right up my alley.

All my semlor-related knowledge came from Wikipedia and from this page which is also the source of my recipe (s). Traditionally, these buns are meant to be eaten on Mardi-gras or Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday – the day before the start of Lent. Apparently, in Sweden there are long queues at bakeries that specialise in making and selling semlor on Shrove Tuesday. Having made semlor once, I reckon they should be an all-year bun, not just Mardi-gras buns. Just make sure you don’t eat them like the old Swedish King Adolf Fredrik did. Fable says that he died after eating 14 servings of semla in hot milk.

With this post, I have provided links to the recipes I used and have demonstrated the methdolofy in pictures. Hope you find it useful and give it a try!

 

Whole cardamom pods in the background. In the foreground, from left to right (1) half-open pod (2) peels (3) seeds (4) ground cardamom

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Baklava inspired cinnamon scrolls

THIS IS NOT (FULLY) MY OWN RECIPE !!!

Source: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/cinammon_rolls_/

I love baklava and its close relatives. Baklava is Turkish in origin and refers to a very particular kind of pastry – diamond shaped, layered with honey and pistachios/cashews. It’s close relatives refer to anything from finger shaped pastry, bird’s nest shaped pastry, semolina cakes etc. While it is Turkish in origin (or so says Wikipedia), you will find it regularly at Greek, Lebanese and Moroccan restaurants so I suspect it is more a regional dish than a country-specific one.  Some of the flavours I associate with these sweets are rose water, orange-blossom water, sugar/honey (lots of it) and cinnamon. These flavours are what inspired this experiment of mine.

Enough about baklava and more about the scrolls – I was chatting with a friend on Google Talk when I saw him chomping on some cinnamon scrolls that his wife had made for him. It reminded me of “Cinnabon” in American and their stonkingly sweet buns full of sugar and cinnamon. I thought that I could give them a try and actually control how sugary I make them and then thought of making them with rosewater and nuts, like a baklava.

So I went searching for a recipe and found the pioneer woman’s recipe. Ree’s words about the impact this dish would have on its consumer was so very inspirational that I set off on my own journey to conquer the hearts of all I know.Boy, was I disappointed. The rolls were too crispy, too crunchy and not at all like I’d been imagining them all day. I couldn’t really taste much of the cinnamon which was also disappointing.

I don’t think it is the recipe that was at fault – just some of the things I did that I shouldn’t have. Hope I can pass on some tips that will mean that your scrolls are a lot fluffier and tastier than mine turned out. I baked these in March this year and it has taken me this long to gather the courage to write about them. Learn from my mistakes and tell me if you make a fluffy baklava-inspired cinnamon scroll!

Baklava inspired cinnamon scrolls

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