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Mains

Sweet Easter Bread

Baking your own sweet Easter bread is not for the faint hearted, but for the ones committed to patience, sensitivity and lightness of touch. Once the dough has been mastered, the rest of the preparation is simply a piece of cake. I could describe in full detail each step of the process, but the easiest way of learning is simply trying until it works. In my experience, learning the theory is indeed very helpful, but nothing really works better than rolling one’s sleeves and getting the job done. And here is my family’s generations of wisdom on the “how”!

How to transform a Sweet Easter Bread recipe into a recipe for an Italian Panettone?

The Italian Panettone and the Bulgarian Sweet Easter Bread have a lot in common. In essence, the Italian Panettone does not have any turkish delights inside only sultanas and sweetened orange peel. You may follow all recipe steps up to step 7 and then instead of the Bulgarian egg yoke, sugar and nuts topping use the Italian almond paste topping. Then bake as instructed in the recipe below.

 

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1kg plain flour
  • 300ml milk
  • 350g sugar
  • 30g yeast
  • 100g butter or fat
  • Vanilla
  • 1tsp of salt
  • Zest of one lemon and one orange
  • 1tsp of lemon juice
  • 100g Candied Orange Peel or Turkish delights (chopped in small peices)
  • 100g Marzipan (chopped in small peices)
  • 100g sultanas (optionally soak in amaretto for at least two hours before use)
  • 100g almands or walnuts
Italian Almond Paste Panettone Topping
  • 55 g granulated sugar
  • 3 g ground almonds (or almond flour)
  • 4 g vegetable oil
  • 4 g corn flour
  • 4 g cocoa powder
  • 30 g egg whites
  • scraped seeds from 1/5 of a vanilla bean

 

Method

1. Sift the plain flour into a large bowl.

2. Warm the milk (it should not be hot to a touch), pour in a deep bowl and crumble inside the yeast, adding one spoon of sugar and mixing well until the sugar and the yeast have been dissolved. Add two spoons of flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Let the yeast rise for at least 15-20 min.

3. In another bowl whisk with a mixer the remaining sugar, the vanilla and the 5 eggs and one egg white, leaving the egg yoke aside. Beat the mixture until light and fluffy. Add the lemon and orange zest and the lemon juice into the egg mixture.

4. In the meantime, the yeast mixture should have risen. It not visibly enlarged, wait a few more minutes until the yeast have had sufficient time to activate. Add the salt into the flour bowl. Add the egg mixture into the flour bowl mixing with a wooden spoon the liquids and the flour. Add the yeast mixture into the flour bowl and continue to mix with a wooden spoon. Add the melted butter or fat into the bowl and continue mixing. When all liquids have been absorbed into the flour, take away the wooden spoon and start folding the dough within the bowl with your hands until all the flour has been absorbed.

5. Lightly cover a table surface with flour and take the sweet easter bread dough out of the bowl and start kneading the dough with a strong but light touch. Knead for 2-3 minutes than stop, take the dough into your heads, raise it high and slam it into the surface with force several times. This will enable air to get into the dough and let it rise even more. Repeat this process for at least 15 minutes.

6. Grease the inside of a large bowl and let the dough rest inside until it has doubled its size (at least one hour). Let the dough rest somewhere at a warm place as the warmth will help it rise.

7. When risen, take the dough out of the bowl and place it on a lightly greased surface. Cut it into three equal parts. Spread each part open by stretching the dough aside and fill the inside with sultanas, nuts, turkish delights, marzipan and candied Orange Peal. Roll the surface of the dough until all the inside filling has been covered. Twist the dough ribbons and bind in a braid.

8. Grease the surface of a deep baking tin where the sweet bread will be baked. Place the sweet bread dough inside and let it rest for at least one hour until doubling its size. When risen, cover the surface with beaten egg yoke, sprinkle with sugar and whole almonds of walnuts. If there is there is a preference for Italian Panettone topping, make a paste using the recipe ingredients mentioned above and spread generously over the bread.

9. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the sweet bread inside and let it bake for 10 min then decrease the oven temperature to 160C. Bake for additional 20 minutes until golden brown on top and baked inside (a tooth pic should come out clean when inserted inside the pastry).

10. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 2 min in the baking tin, then take it out of the tin and let it cool.

11. Keep in dry place and the sweet easter bread could last for a week.

 

Mains

Baked Carp & Potato Salad

Spring terrace lunch under blue sky, warm sunny weather surrounded by the cheer of family and friends. Could life be more perfect?

I grew up in my grandparent’s house sampling dishes like this one. The taste of home, the taste of my childhood. I have watched my grandfather clean and cut the carp fish, freshly caught from the river Danube, and then my grandmother preparing it using the same old recipe untouched, unchanged from the ages. I have witnessed my mother and my aunt cooking the fish in exactly the same way… The power and the pleasure of tradition.

And now twenty years later, travelling the whole world, accustomed and delighted by so many other world cuisines, nothing seem to taste better than this childhood family dish. Or is it the flavour of the company, the sweetness of home, the love and the ever welcoming embrace of family?

Ingredients

For the Carp Fish
  • Carp fish, cut into round thick pieces
  • 200g plain flour
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Sunflower oil for backing
For the Potato Salad
  • 1kg potatoes
  • 2 spring onions cut into round pieces
  • Parsley
  • 1tbs of vinegar
  • 1tbs sunflower oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Black pepper

 

Method

1. Baking the Fish: Cut the carp fish into thick round pieces. Dip every piece from both sides into a bowl with full with flour. Lay the floured pieces on a tray letting the flour be absorbed in the fish for no longer than five minutes. Sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Heat the sunflower oil in a deep frying pan. Dust the excess flour from the fish and let it bake into the pan until golden brown from both sides.  Serve with freshly cut pieces of lemon.

2. Potato Salad: Peel and boil the potatoes until slightly hard but ready. Pour off the warm water and let the potatoes cool completely. Cut into smaller pieces into a salad bowl. Cut the spring onions into small rings and add into the salad bowl with the potatoes. Sprinkle over with fresh parsley, pinch of salt and black pepper and season with sunflower oil and vinegar. Mix well and serve.

 

Mains

Scampis & cabillaud in coconut milk

Inspiration…

It is amazing where it may take you when the right moment arrives?

Like this simple, but incredibly delicious and impressive asian inspired dish.

Who would have thought that scampis and cabillaud, brought to life by sweet Spanish paprikas and a magic touch of garlic would fit so nicely with coconut milk?

 

Ingredients

  • 500g scampis
  • 250g cabillaud
  • 2 red paprikas
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 spring onions, sliced to garnish
  • 500ml coconut milk
  • 1tbsp of Golden Syrup
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1tbsp of olive oil

 

Method

1. Prepare the scampis by cleaning them up and removing their hard skin. Heat a pan and place the scampis inside letting them cook for 5 minutes. Add the cabillaud and cook for additional 5 minutes, stirring gently and seasoning them with sea salt and black pepper. When ready, caramelize the scampis and fish with a table spoon of Golden Syrup.

2. Meanwhile, cut two large red paprikas in small pieces. Cut the garlic cloves in small pieces as well. Preheat a pan with a table spoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and let it cook for a few minutes. Add the red paprika and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Add the paprika and garlic to the scampis and fish mixing well. Pour in the coconut milk and let all flavours be absorbed together.

4. Serve with rise garnishing the dish with fresh rolls of thinly cut spring onions.

 

Mains

Parmezan Gnocchi

Isn’t she lovely? I am always easily warmed to people with beauty and passion and Lorriane Pascale has plenty of both. I have glimpsed the touch of her creations a year ago and have instantly fallen in love with her cooking. It is phenomenal to watch her prepare so many variety of meals with flare and ease. It is simply engaging and inviting making me crave to try her recipes on my own. This is exactly what I have done last weekend, following her recipe, preparing for a first time ever home made Italian gnocchi in basil pesto sauce. They turned out delicious, easer than expected, taster looking that the ones on the TV show, becoming a definite family favourite to be attempted and enjoyed over and over again. Thank you, Lorriane!

 

Ingredients

For the gnocchi
  • 100g grated parmesan
  • 350g mascarpone
  • 300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 medium eggs
  • olive oil
  • 50g butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
For the pesto
  • 25g parmesan
  • 60g fresh basil leaves
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 50g pine nuts
  • Salt
  • Pepper
For serving
  • Rocket salad
  • 20g roasted pine nuts

 

Method

1. For the pesto: Cut the parmesan into small pieces and put into a blender or food processor. Add the basil leaves, the oil and pine nuts and blitz to a paste, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. For the gnocchi: Grate the parmesan and put into a large bowl. Add the mascarpone, plain flour, eggs and salt and pepper, to taste. Mix together to give a soft dough. Then tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead together to form a smooth ball.

3. Divide the mixture in three and roll each one out into a long sausage about 60cm in long. Cut each ‘sausage’ into small 20cm gnocchi. Halfway through, put a large frying pan on a medium to high heat with a drizzle of oil. The excess dough can be refrigerated for a few days and used for additional fresh backing.

4. Add the gnocchi into the oiled pan and leave them to cook on one side for 2-5 minutes, before carefully turning them over with a fish slice. Cook for a further four minutes, continuing to gently turn them every so often until they are crisp and golden all over and warmed through. Finish them off adding a little butter.

5. Once all the gnocchi are cooked, stir the pesto through until evenly coated. Add in the rocket leaves and mix together. Then, divide between four serving plates and scatter the pine nuts over. Give a good grind of black pepper and serve.

Mains

French Galette

Making my own crust pastry has always been a dream. Ever since the first time I came to Belgium and discovered these amazing French biscuit crust cakes filled with fresh cream or vanilla pudding, graced on top with colorful summer fruits. The moment to master this art will come, I can feel it. But before I attempt a real cake, I have decided to start with a simpler version and try a French galette instead. Helene Dujardin has been inspiring me for an year already with her beautiful and simplistic admiration for food. Her styling technics open the gates to the French country-side living and make you dream and remember that life is all about the little things and the precious moments we share with the ones we love.

My silent inspiration has been transformed this weekend into a confident attempt of trying one of Helene’s recipes and what a triumph. Not only have I managed for a first time ever to make a herb crust pastry, but the entire tartelette looked and tasted amazing. A very good reason to be proud.

I have slightly adapted her recipe, giving it a little bit more depth of flavour.

 

Ingredients

For the crust:
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 110 gr cold butter
  • 1/4 cup icy cold water
For the ricotta filling:
  • 250g ricotta
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tbsp of rasped parmesan cheese
Topping:
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil + ground pepper

 

Method

1. Prepare the crust: In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt and oregano until incorporated. Add the butter and mix by hand until the butter resembles small peas. Gradually, stream in the cold water until the flour just comes together. Turn the mixture out onto your work surface and form into a 2-inch thick, round disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before rolling out.

2. Preheat the oven to 175c.

3. Prepare the filling:In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Slice the tomatoes and spread them out on layers of paper towels to drain some of their moisture out while you roll out the pastry.

4. On a large surface area, well floured, roll out the pastry dough to a 10-inch circle, spread the ricotta filling but not all the way to the edge. Leave a 2-inch border of pastry all around. Layer the tomatoes on top. Gather the edges of the pastry dough, pleating as you go with your fingertips. Sprinkle the tomatoes with parmesan and pepper. Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly, drizzle with the olive oil, some more fresh oregano and serve.

 

Mains

Chestnut Mushroom Tagliatelle

Spring is a special season. Its tender freshness carries all the promises of a new beginning. The light, the first green leaves, the first delicate flowers, the first bird songs, all reach out to the summer celebrating the new life, the new day, the new season. Yet, while all creation longs for the coming spring, winter lingers in releasing its commanding grip and for a while we enjoy the two. Spring gently pulls the sleeves of our winter jackets and whispers in youthful cheerfulness “I am here”, while Winter proudly walks on the earth with her hand tugged underneath one of our arms whispering “I will never leave you”. And we smile at one and we bow to the other, walking together with the two, thankful for their beautify and presence in our lives.

This mushroom tagliatelle dish is a celebration of the crossing over from winter to spring. The depth and the earthiness of the mushrooms and the comforting richness of the pork, contrasted with the delicate flavour of the fresh thyme leafs tastes like the blissful caress of two kisses, one from winter and one from spring, both placed at the same time on each cheek.

 

Ingredients

  • Tagliatelle
  • 10g cooking butter
  • 250g chesnut mushrooms (cut into pieces)
  • 250g speck
  • a handful of fresh thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 150g cream cheese (like Philadelphia, for example)
  • 50g cream

 

Method

1. Heat plenty of water adding a pintch of salt and a few droplets of olive oil. Once the water is boling add the tagliatelle and let them boil. Usually, depending on the description on the package, they should be ready between 12-15 minutes.

2. On a medium heat, melt the butter in a  pan and add the muchtooms. Let them soften for 5-6 minutes and when ready take them out, preserving all the liquid the mushrooms have released and set them aside in a separate dish.

3. In the same pan add the speck and let it gradually become golden brown. Should any fat be released, take it out of the pan. Whinin 6-10 minutes the speck should be ready.  Add the mushrooms together with their liquid in the pan together with the speck and mix well. Add the cream cheese and the fresh cream until a smoth sauce has been formed absorbing all the flavours. Season with salt and pepper and add the fresh thyme leafs.

4. Ones the tagliatelle has boild, drain the water and add the tagliatelle to the pan containing the muchroom, speck and cream sauce. Season each plate with addtional fresh thyme leaves.

Mains

Quiche with leek and ham

Crusty underneath, soft and flavorsome in-between and bitty and cheesy on top – that’s a Sunday lunch.

Baking pearls, make an incredible difference in baking crusty pastry or quiches. Yes, it maybe a luxury, but I enjoy using them in making the perfect base for sweet and salty pastries.

 

Ingredients

  • 350g puff pastry
  • 1 leek
  • 200g ham
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g cream
  • pinch of salt
  • pepper
  • 100g rasped cheese
  • 1 tbsp plain flour

 

Method

1. Take the puff pastry out of the fridge, roll it out and let it rest for 20 minutes.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Carefully take the pastry and lay it together with the baking paper underneath over into the baking form. If possible cover the base of the pastry with baking pearls to keep the pastry down from raising. Before putting the baking pearls over the pastry, cut a round disk of baking paper in the size of the base of the pastry form. Put the paper on top of the pastry and add the pearls. In this way, when the pastry bottom is baked, you can easily take away the baking paper disk and the pearls. Put the pastry into the oven and let it bake for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cut the leek into small pieces and let it soften in a pan over medium heat for no more then 10 minutes. Cut the ham into small pieces and when the leek has softened mixed the two together.

4. Whisk the two eggs, the cream and the flour into a smooth mixture and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

5. Once the pastry has firmed take it our of the oven and remove the baking pearls. Pour the leek and ham mixture over the pastry, scatter randomly half of the rasped cheese, pour the egg mixture and cover generously with the remaining rasped cheese. Put the quiche back into the oven and let it bake for additional 20 minutes until golden.