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Recipe – Spicy Asparagus & Tomato Spaghetti

8 May

After eating out a lot I tend to go through detox patches as I’m sure most of you do. I try to ease up on meat a lot of the time, maybe it’s because I’ll eat a lot of it in restaurants and maybe it’s because I have a really sensitive stomach. I therefore try to help myself by eating as much fresh food as I can and also making use of simple dishes. Nothing too complicated, something easy and delicious.

So here’s my recipe for spicy asparagus & tomato spaghetti. Enjoy!

Ingredients (this should serve two people):

  • 1 splash of garlic oil
  • 6-8 asparagus
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 x heaped tbsp of Light Philadelphia
  • 1/2 x small tin of tomato puree
  • 1/2 a hot chili
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 120g of wholemeal spaghetti

Method:

  • Put a pot of salted water onto the hob
  • Pop a small splash of garlic oil in a pan (I make my own my using a half plastic bottle of olive oil and getting a load of garlic bulbs from the local market, peel the cloves and pop in about twenty of them, leave it for a day or so and then it tastes perfect. Great for dipping bread too).
  • Chop the asparagus into inch long pieces and pop them into the hot pan. Let them sizzle for a couple of minutes until bright green.
  • Add in the cherry tomatoes and let them warm up until they start to burst.
  • As the cherry tomatoes are cooking, finely slice a hot half chili and add to the pan.
  • At this point you should put your spaghetti into the pot of boiling water.
  • Put a big heaped tablespoon of tomato puree, this should be about half a tin, into the pan along with the same of light Philadelphia and stir this in.
  • So it’s not too dry, add a cup of water to this and mix together, let it simmer so all the flavours combine.
  • Add a pinch of salt and black pepper.
  • When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it and throw it into the pan and mix it all in together.
  • Serve in a bowl and drizzle with a little balsamic glaze and enjoy this spicy deliciousness!

asparagus spaghetti

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Burrito Mama

12 Nov

Hot off the press is the new offshoot from the Wahaca team and it’s called Burrito Mama. Co-founder and previous Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers has created this as it appeals to the people who want a quick meal and who don’t necessarily want to take a seat. With the influx of chains like Chipotle and Benito’s Hat, to name a couple, there’s definitely been a stronger demand for the Americanised version of this Mexican favourite in recent years. That isn’t to say that Mama’s is rehashing something we’ve seen before. On the contrary. It’s opened in One New Change and so will definitely be one that the city workers frequent.

front mamaI love burritos. They’re an indulgence, a comfort and will fill you with sleepy hollow before you know it. I’ve limited myself to half of one at lunchtime, otherwise it’s as though someone has slipped a tranquiliser into my guacamole and no one wants to see that!

Burrito Mama is wonderful. There’s something quite wholesome about the experience. It’s fully decked out with  a corrugated walled, 1950s style shack and a sleek twist of self-service computers in the foreground. It’s colourful, upbeat, bright and fresh.

mama signBehind the counters I saw the open plan kitchen, where the all female preparers were making up the burritos. They were adorned in deep, red bandanas tied like a 1950s pin-up. They looked fabulous.

bandanaI chose a baby burrito (nothing small about it) with grilled chicken. Their chicken is chargrilled and described as ‘higher welfare’. A plus point for me. I ventured to ask for guacamole and was told that it comes as standard. Refreshing. There’s a choice of mild, medium or hot when it comes to picking your salsa too. Along with that I decided to try their Mexican beer – Pacifico.

downloadIt was explained to me that the difference with their burritos is they toast the tortilla first and then sprinkle the cheese in, a nice alternate as it means the cheese is melted and more of a base to the burrito, locking in the other ingredients. One thing that is definitely note worthy is everything is evenly distributed. So often you wind up with rice, rice, rice and then a big dollop of sour cream. This was well made and thoughtfully constructed. The chicken was soft and smokey; a nice, gentle taste to it. The rice was good, but the black beans were a touch undercooked. The blend of the sauces was fantastic, enough of the creamy avocado and tang of the salsa to suffice, but the real twist and the best element of all is the slaw. An unorthodox twist, but right there, in my burrito was a lightly dressed, crunchy, fresh, spicy slaw. It was the essence of this whole experience and what sets it apart. This gives it a wholesome feeling, one that doesn’t make you feel so dirty afterwards.

burrito biteThe beer was good, not as light as a Corona, but certainly not as pungent as a Peroni, it was refreshing and something different, but feel as though I’ve tried better.

beerOnto the very cheap, sweet, Mama’s Treats. I tried the Chocolate Tres Leches Cake – ‘a little pot of dense chocolate cake soaked in a mixture of three milks and topped with crunchy peanut candy’. I couldn’t have described it better myself! For only £1 this is a bite size chaser, all you should be able to handle after a burrito, and it’s the perfect amount. It’s exactly what is needed, not too rich and the milks blend with the sponge of the cake so well, with the peanut adding a little je ne sais quoi.

dessertdessert labelI also sampled the Chilli Chocolate Crunchy Cake. The base is a cross between a crunchy digestive and an oaty flapjack. The thick, hard layer of chocolate on top is fragrant and decadent. The chilli only hits you when you’ve swallowed. It’s actually not as spicy as you would think, it’s a welcome difference that’s for sure.

download-2So, all in all, a welcome treat filled with spice, warmth and good, hearty ingredients. I think it’s definitely one to keep an eye on and I bet there will be more of them opening soon and my hope…that they will branch into the street food scene next summer. Fingers crossed. Mama definitely knows best.

download-1Rate: 4.3

Burrito Mama

http://www.burritomama.co.uk/

One New Change, London, EC4M 9AF

020 3375 2374

RECIPE – Vegetable Lasagne

11 Sep

Having just been away on holiday, meaning even less home cooked food, I was dying to try my hand at something new, with no recipe to help. Just a kind of go with the flow thing. I wanted to lay off the meat a tad, so thought a veggie lasagne, my style, would go down a treat.

I served this in a small lasagne dish, that makes about 6 portions.

Ingredients:

1 x carton chopped tomatoes

balsamic glaze/balsamic vinegar

2 x tsp sugar

pinch of oregano

salt

black pepper

Philadelphia/cream cheese

olive oil

1/2 bag or 500g frozen spinach

3 x garlic cloves

1 x pot ricotta (about 2 cups)

lasagne sheets

cheddar cheese (grated)

And here’s the instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
  • Pop two small pans on the hobs, let’s call them 1 & 2.
  • In pan 1, pour the chopped tomatoes in, a tablespoon of balsamic glaze or a good lug of balsamic vinegar, the oregano, a pinch of salt & pepper and the sugar and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 10/12 minutes.
  • In pan 2, pour in some oil and then add the frozen spinach, pop a lid on top, leaving a little bit of it open and wait until the spinach defrosts (should be about 5 mins)
  • Fry the crushed garlic by making a hole in the spinach for 30 seconds or so and then mix the garlic in.
  • Add salt, a good pinch this time.
  • Stir in the ricotta until blended with the spinach.
  • In pan 1 add a tablespoon of cream cheese to thicken up the tomato mixture.
  • Prepare your dish by popping lasagne sheets at the bottom of it.
  • The layers should go as follows: Pasta, spinach, pasta, spinach, pasta, tomato, pasta, spinach, cheese.
  • When you spread the mixture on, make sure the lasagne sheets are all covered and it isn’t too thin.
  • The top layer should be grated cheddar, however much you like and then pop a few half teaspoons of cream cheese on the top (this bakes really nicely and is yummy and creamy)

before lasagne

  • Bake in the oven for 35/40 minutes

oven

cooked lasagne

  • Enjoy!

sliced lasagne

Panino Giusto

26 Apr

panino-giusto-20120509-115714

I had the good fortune to attend the launch party of the new Panino Giusto restaurant in The Royal Exchange Building. I knew to expect Italian food, but it wasn’t until I arrived that my ignorance surpassed and I was told that ‘panino’ is the singular term for ‘panini,’ which means all this time we’ve been saying it wrong…and actually asking for multiple panino. As I’ve said previously, when I reviewed the delectable Il Bambino; the British don’t understand panini, there is an instant stigma attached and you can thank the Caffe Neros and Costas for that. Rock solid bread that scrapes the roof of your mouth with a very resistable, processed slice of ham, some rubber posing as cheese and perhaps an off cut of an under ripe tomato, so that the food standards agency can classify it as a recognised savoury food.

I am for the revolution of changing this stigma as Panino Giusto has the most refreshing, beautifully formed and delicately prepared food I’ve had in England for a long, long time. We started off with a crisp prosecco, not too sweet and the perfect aperitif. The panini I had were the ‘Garibaldino,’ (Bresaola, Mozzarella, seasonal tomato, rocket, extra-virgin olive oil, black pepper) the accompaniments of oil and rocket and the incredibly sweet to perfection tomatoes were spot on. The meat sliced so utterly thin, it quite literally melts in your mouth and the bread, (oh the bread!) a slight crunch and effortless in it’s lightness, it had me craving the next dish. The following delight arrived, this time the ‘Tartufo’ (Parma Ham, Brie, seasonal tomato, rocket, Alba truffle oil). The Parma ham was stronger and saltier than the previous, in no way chewy, which is refreshing for Parma. The kicker with this one; the truffle oil. I mean real truffle oil. That garlicky influence overwhelmed my taste buds and when I thought it couldn’t get much better, the wine served with it (and I am not a wine drinker, but…when in Rome (or Naples for today)) was a sweet, thick, luxurious nectar; Infernot, Fattoria Cabanon, Lombardy, 2007/9.

Next came Mortadella with pistachio nuts, produced by the Veroni Brothers, which was was light and a nice contrast to the other hams as the nuttiness really blended well with the meat. Less salty than the others, but just as good. At this point I was bowled over by the bursts of new flavours, I had been dulled by the ‘same same’ nature of The British High Street restaurants. Then came the winner of the night. The chef, Alessandro Borghese announced it was his favourite. From Naples, with his own Sky 1 TV show and about to be a judge on the upcoming Junior Masterchef, ever the charming and lyrically sounding, I trusted his word. He was not wrong. Ridiculously thin slivers of Fassona roast beef from Piedmont lightly cooked around the edges and pink in the middle with an ambrosial lemon oil and cracked black pepper, roasted with rosemary and sage. The careful cooking process is evident and without a doubt, I have never tasted anything like it. I took a slice, then another, then another, as a joke Alessandro placed a whole plate of slices upon the table and it was polished of by me and my two fellow diners almost instantly. I’ve never had better.

roast beef

Slapping myself on the wrists for toying with the greedy notion that there might possibly be a sweet treat to follow, I was actually right! My mouth began to salivate when I heard music to my ears…’Tiramisu’…my ever faithful friend. It’s hard to go wrong with this and with the aforementioned savoury delights, this couldn’t have possibly been a disappointment. I already have a firm favourite when it comes to Tiramisu, at my darling place in NY, and when I tasted this one it was so different, it was hard to compare – but one thing’s for sure, they are definitely on a par. This was so light, the cream was like air. The incredibly professional and charming waitress said there was a trick and that was that the eggs and the mascarpone must be whisked together for no less than 7 minutes. Along with the mystical, air like quality, the taste was not too bold, it was subtle and easy to have more. It didn’t make you bloat or feel guilty, it was too elegant for that. It didn’t need to be apologetic and you didn’t feel sorry.

Tiramisu

The last surprise of the night was a very rich espresso twinned with a little gift box, Il Giustino. Inside was a miniature chocolate coated ice cream in a cone. You are supposed to dip and swirl the ice cream inside the espresso where it will ever so slightly melt the chocolate, making this whole experience complete.

Ice cream

The restaurant itself is sleek and modern and with no traffic nearby, its peaceful and wonderful. They have a takeaway menu and I suggest you get some panini (yes, multiple) as this is not to be missed!

Rate: 5

Panino Giusto

1-3 Royal Exchange Building, Bank, London, EC3V 3LR

Panino Giusto on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Recipe – Spaghetti Carbonara – ASK Cookbook

24 Jan

cookbook

I got my hands on the new ASK cookbook recently and just love it when simple recipes are executed really well. I decided to take a peruse through and cook an old favourite, carbonara. I really like the way everything is laid out, it’s easy to understand and while the recipes are easy to make, they definitely have a nice twist to them that make them a bit more special than normal.

I chose to make carbonara as it’s pure comfort food! It’s got all the ingredients for a great home-cooked meal.

Ingredients (serving for 6 people):

250g pancetta or guanciale, cubed

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

500g spaghetti

6 large egg yolks (at room temperature)

100g parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, finely grated

100g pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

50g single cream (at room temperature)

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

How to make it:

  • Pop a large pan of salted water on the cooker to boil for the spaghetti.
  • Pour a tsp of olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the pancetta slowly until it becomes golden and crispy. Turn the heat off, but leave it in the pan for now.
  • Drop the spaghetti into the boiling water. (I like to twist and drop – so it swirls and cooks evenly!)
  • When the spaghetti is almost cooked, place the egg yolks in a large warm serving bowl and stir in three quarters of both cheeses and a tbsp and a half of parsley. Grind in a little black pepper to season it.
  • Turn the heat back on under the pancetta.
  • Just before draining the spaghetti use a mug to scoop out some of the water and set it aside.
  • Drain the spaghetti and immediately add it to the bowl with the eggs & cheese and stir it altogether (YUM)
  • Add half a mugful of the hot water that you set aside earlier.
  • Sprinkle the pancetta with its oil over the mix and stir it in.
  • If you would like to add the cream…do this now.
  • Serve straight away and garnish with parsley & black pepper.
  • The remaining cheese can be on the side in case you want to add it on top.
  • VOILA!!!!

The consistency was so nice and thick, not too stodgy and you could really taste the cheeses in it which were quite strong but not overpowering. The pancetta gave it that slightly smoky taste and while I normally am not a fan of fresh parsley, it was a welcome accompaniment to the dish. I added the single cream as I thought it would make the spaghetti a little bit less sticky which it duly did, and it was absolutely delicious!

carbonara

The ASK Italian Cookbook can be purchased from ASK Italian restaurants for £10, with £4 from each sale going to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and help fund the dining rooms, play areas and kitchen within the hospital’s new Surgery Centre, due to open in 2016.

The book can also be purchased from bookshops and other retailers with a minimum of £1 going towards the charity.

It’s definitely worth it for some delicious, simple recipes and it’s all for a good cause, Great Ormond Street Hospital and your family’s tummies!

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