Welcome to my bookish kitchen!

I’ve been toying around the idea of open a blog for a few months. I wanted a place where I could share my hobbies, reading, cooking and traveling, a place of my own far away from my job’s world (that I love and enjoy). So I came up with the idea that I could share with other passionate people my researches on recipes that I found mentioned in the books I read.  Cold meat pies from Emma’s picnics, Elven breads from the Lord of the rings, pilafs and pastries from Arabian Nights, Pesto alla trapanese from Commissario Montalbano.  My hope is that you will share your favourite books and recipes here so that we will have our minds full of good stories and our kitchen full of the smell of memorable food.

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Chicken under the brick and the inspiration of chef Samin Nosrat

Crispy outside and juicy tender meat inside, this Tuscany inspired chicken recipe will amaze you.

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A few years ago, at a birthday party, I was sitting with a fellow parent that is executive chef in the best Italian restaurant in the city. I remember he and I agreed on how Italian cooking is based on the quality of the ingredients . “Think about Caprese” he told me “Fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and good olive oil, and you have a wonderful dish”. How to disagree? You pour some olive oil and even mediocre dish become a masterpiece. But it was only when I read Samin Nosrat “Salt Fat Acid Heat” that I made full sense of the conversation I had with Chef Giuseppe. According chef Nosrat those four elements are the very base of every cooking and once you master them, you are a good cook. Italian cooking is probably based on fat, olive oil in central and southern Italy, butter in the North. But reading this book I made sense also of a Tuscan recipe: pollo al mattone, chicken under the brick. Where in the world could I find a brick, here in Istanbul? And more important, why? But here what chef Nosrat says: “As she drove us home, I told her we’d bone out the thighs and season them with salt. Then we’d cook them in a little olive oil, in a preheated cast iron pan over medium-low heat, skin side down, with another cast iron pan (or foil-wrapped can of tomatoes) weighing them down. Combining moderate heat with the weight encourages the fat to render, leaving behind crisp skin and tender meat. It’s dark meat that cooks up as quickly and easily as white meat.” Excerpt From: Nosrat, Samin. “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.” 

So that’s it, if you have iron cast pans and casseroles you can do the trick, and it is worthy. So here another of our family recipes

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Ingredients:

Serve 3-4 persons

Half a chicken ( I suggest you free range organic, it has better flavor and texture)

For the marinade:

The juice of a lemon

1 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Directions

Lay the chicken in a large bowl and pour the mixture over the marinade ingredients, Marinate for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.

Heat your cast iron pan until it’s hot and grease with oil. Place the chicken on the grill, skin with the skin down. Weigh the chicken down with the large lid of cast iron casserole, 

Grill the chicken until golden brown (about half an hour). 

Cut it into pieces and serve with vinegar or lemon juice dressed salad (it makes a nice contrast according chef Nosrat

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Bath Buns for a gamekeeper

Hagrid poured them tea and offered them a plate of Bath buns but they knew better than to accept; they had had too much experience with Hagrid’s cooking. (Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban, ch.14)

Hagrid, the half giant gamekeeper of Hogwarts, does not enjoy a reputation of a good cook but his treacle fudge is going to be very handy for Harry Potter in this same novel.   

But what about those buns? They are named after the town of Bath in the southwest of England and it is one of the places beloved by Jane Austen that placed many central episodes of her novels there (think about Persuasion or Northanger Abbey).

There is a large debate on the origins of those buns, they are either attributed to Sally Lunn a French Huguenot refugees during the period that bring the recipe with her, or to the physician William Oliver. I had a look to my personal bible, when we are speaking about English food, that is Lady Carlotte Campbell Bury, The Lady’s Own Cookery Book, were there are two different versions for the buns, one, it doesn’t resemble to a bun at all, rather a biscuit. The second one is the one that I present here, a bit adapted to modern taste.

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Ingredients

For the dough:

250 g. milk

10g. dried yeast

650g. white flour

3 tbs of sugar

½ teaspoon of salt

280 gr. butter

50 gr. sultanas or cranberry

For the finishing:

4 tbs sugar

2tbs water

3 tbs of sugar pearls

Directions

Warm the milk with the butter, until the butter is completely melted.

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the milk and butter, then bring together into a dough. Knead until is elastic.

Put the dough in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface add the sultana or the cranberries and work them in. 

Take small pieces of the dough a prepare the round buns.

Allow the buns to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown

Make a syrup by mixing the sugar and the water in a pot and bring it to boil. Brush the syrup over the buns as soon as they came out of the oven. Sprinkle sugar pearls on the top.

Serve with jam and whipped cream.

Finally, I don’t know if I am a good cook but, Hagrid, sorry, I am better than you!

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Simple Muggle Family Lasagna

Every Italian muggle family has it own traditional lasagna. This is my humble one.

Lasagna seems to be a muggles food, there is no mention in Harry Potters as a food in the wizarding world. The only information I could gather about lasagna and J.K. Rowling’s world is that Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone has been written in The Elephant House, downtown Edinburgh, where they serve also Italian food. Harry Potters adventures take place in the British wizarding world, I suppose in the Italian school of magic they have lasagna every Sunday. For the Italians lasagna is the traditional Sunday meal, every muggle family has its own recipe and this is my own. We like lasagna with a lot of béchamel sauce and Parmigiano but you can experiment also in the way my mum does: she melts a mozzarella in the béchamel so that the sauce is more thick with a much marked milky taste.

Ingredients:

Bolognese sauce (you can find the recipe here)

1 packet of egg lasagna (no pre cooking needed)

Parmigiano cheese at please

salt

For the Béchamel sauce

1/2 l.  whole milk

30 grams butter 

30 grams corn starch

Kosher salt, to taste

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour. Cook, stirring, with a wooden spoon, for 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture thickens. Season with salt and nutmeg. Cool before you use it.

Assemble the lasagna

 Preheath the oven at 180 C. To assemble, spread a few tablespoon of Bolognese sauce in the bottom of baking dish. Arrange the sheets of lasagna and pour over meat sauce. Spread with some spoon of béchamel sauce. Top with as much Parmigiano as you like. Repeat layers (at least 3), and top with remaining Bolognese, Béchamel and Parmesan cheese. 

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes (depends on how many layers you have). 

Is nice hot and warm!

Aunt Petunia’s Lemon Meringue Pie

In Italian here

“During the lemon meringue pie, Uncle Vernon bored them with a long talk about Grunnings, his drill-making company; then Aunt Petunia made coffee and Uncle Vernon brought out a bottle of brandy.”Can I tempt you, Marge?”Aunt Marge had already had quite a lot of wine. Her huge face was very red.”Just a small one, then,” she chuckled. “A bit more than that… and a bit more… that’s the ticket.”Dudley was eating his fourth slice of pie. Aunt Petunia was sipping coffee with her little finger sticking out. Harry really wanted to disappear into his bedroom, but he met Uncle Vernon’s angry little eyes and knew he would have to sit it out.”

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It is from the second chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban. Uncle Venon’s sister (as unpleasing as her brother) is visiting the Dursley and they are having lemon meringue pie as a dessert, it is the conclusion of the dinner, but unfortunately the start of a nasty argument for Harry Potter.

Lemon merin2sgue pie is more American than British, but the choice, I suppose, is due to aunt Petunya “wannabe” behaviors. The original recipe for the curd in this pie has a very intense lemon taste, for this reason I offer also a less intense version of the curd.

 

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Pie Crust

300 gr. flour

150 gr. cold butter

150 gr. sugar

1 teaspoon of lemon zest

½ teaspoon of raising power

Intense lemon filling

3 egg yolks

160 gr sugar

30 gr cornstarch

3 tbs water

3 lemon (juice and zest)

100 gr heavy cream

Less intense lemon filling

4 egg yolks

160 gr sugar

3 lemon (juice and zest)

400 ml water

2  tbs butter

Meringue Topping:

2 egg whites

200 gr powder sugar

a few drops of lemon juice

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For the crust, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Briefly mix with the tip of your fingers until the dough starts to clump together. Gather the dough t in a ball, , wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for a minimum of 2 hours, but better for one night.

Roll out the dough in a circle and fit a pie pan. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Spread a sheet of baking paper inside the pie crust. Fill the crust with pie weights or beans and bake until the crust is dry and set, about half an hour at 180 C. minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

For the filling, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and water in a small bowl and stir until the cornstarch is dissolved.  In saucepan put lemon juice and when it is warm add the cornstarch mix, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Whisk in the yolks and continue cooking and stirring until the mixture is thick. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir gently until fully incorporated.

For the meringue, beat the egg whites and half of sugar until soft mounds form. Add the remaining sugar gradually with the help of a spatula mixing with a top-down movement.

To assemble the pie, pour the filling into the crust. With a piping bag pipe swirls on the top of the lemon filling.

Place again in the oven, under the grill until the Meringa topping get a nice golden brown color.

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Crostata meringata al limone

In English here

La crostata meringata al limone è un dolce appariscente e patinato, la scelta perfetta per concludere una cena a casa Dursley, sarebbe bastato non tirare in ballo i genitori di Harry Potter…

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“…al momento della meringata al limone, zio Vernon li tediò tutti con un lungo discorso sulla Grunnings, la sua ditta produttrice di trapani; poi zia Petunia fece il caffè e zio Vernon tirò fuori una bottiglia di brandy.

«Un bicchierino, Marge?»
Zia Marge aveva già bevuto parecchio. Il suo faccione era molto rosso. «Ma sì, appena appena» disse ridacchiando. «Un po’ di questo, un po’ di

quello… come il ragazzo».
Dudley stava facendo sparire la quarta fetta di meringata. Zia Petunia beveva il caffè con il mignolo teso. Harry avrebbe tanto voluto eclissarsi in camera sua, ma incontrò lo sguardo furioso di zio Vernon e capì che doveva resistere.”

È il secondo capitolo di Harry Potter e il prigioniero di Azkhaban. Dai Dursley c’è ospite la sorella di zio Vernon, antipatica come il resto della famiglia e alla fine della cena viene servita una meringata che conclude dolcemente il pasto ma apre una conversazione amara.

Con meringata viene tradotto l’originale lemon meringue pie che in realtà appartiene più alla tradizione Americana che a quella inglese.

La ricetta che vi propongo ha una crema di limone molto, molto intensa, ma offrirò anche una versione meno “limonosa”

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Ingredienti

Per la pastafrolla:

300 gr. farina

150 gr. burro freddo

150 gr. zucchero

la buccia di un limone grattugiata

(io metto anche una punta di lievito in polvere che rende la pasta meno compatta, ma la versione originale non ne prevede la presenza)

Per la crema al limone (gusto intenso)

3 tuorli d’uovo

160 gr di zucchero

30 gr di maizena

3 cucchiai di acqua

3 limoni (succo e buccia grattugiata)

100 gr di panna

2 cucchiai di burro

Per la crema al limone (Gusto meno intenso)

4 tuorli d’uovo

160 gr di zucchero

il succo e la buccia di due limoni

400 ml di acqua

due cucchiai di burro

Per la Meringa:

2 bianchi d’uovo

200 gr di zucchero a velo

qualche goccia di limone

Istruzioni:

Preparate le pastafrolla mischiando insieme tutti gli ingredienti. Impastate il meno possibile, ed usando solo la punta delle dita per evitare che l’impasto si scaldi. Formate un panetto e mettetelo a riposare in frigo per almeno due ore (meglio se per tutta la notte).

Stendete la pastafrolla alta pochi millimetri e ricoprite uno stampo imburrato oppure foderato di carta da forno. Punzecchiate leggermente l’impasto, appoggiatevi sopra della carta da forno e copritelo con dei ceci secchi perché rimanga in forma. Cuocete per circa mezz’ora a 180 gr.

Preparate la crema mischiando insieme zucchero e maizena e aggiungendo l’acqua in modo che si formi un composto privo di grumi, mettere il succo e la buccia di limone a scaldare in una casseruola, quando è vicino al punto di ebollizione aggiungere la crema di zucchero e maizena e mescolando con una frusta, aspettate qualche minuto che si addensi. A questo punto abbassate leggermente il fuoco e aggiungete i tuorli, mischiando energicamente, quando la crema ha assorbito i tuorli, aggiungete la panna ed il burro, una volta che anche questi saranno assorbiti, togliete dal fuoco e aspettate che si freddi.

Preparate le meringhe montando a neve ben ferma due chiare d’uovo con meta dello zucchero. Una volta montate, aggiungere il resto dello zucchero ed incorporarlo con una spatola, dal basso verso l’alto per evitare che il composto si sgonfi.

Quando la crema ed il guscio di pastafrolla saranno ben freddi, potete passare all’assemblaggio della torta. Mettete il guscio di pastafrolla in un piatto da portata e riempitelo con la crema al limone. Con l’aiuto di una siringa o di un sac-a-poche coprite la torta con ciuffi di meringa. Mettete pochi minuti in forno con funzione grill. Quando è pronta mettete la torta a riposare in frigo per almeno un paio di ore prima di servirla.

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Chocolate and Mascarpone Raviole

Those chocolate and mascarpone raviole inspired to the original recipe in the sisters Simili’s book “Pane e Roba Dolce” are crounchy outside with a creamy filling that melt in your mouth, making the perfect treat for winter week-ends.

In Italian here

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For the dough

½  kg white flour

200 g softened butter

160 g sugar

25 g milk

5 g honey

½ teaspoon of salt

12 g rising powder

2 eggs

For the filling

Chocolate spread

50 g mascarpone cheese

Melted butter for the glaze and powdered sugar for the finishing

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Directions

Form the flour, granulated sugar into a volcano-shaped mound, put the butter, eggs, milk and honey into the crater of the volcano and use a spatula to gently mix the ingredients into a dough. Knead it gently until smooth and supple, finally add the rising powder.

Roll the dough out into a thin sheet and then cut out 10 cm diameter circles. (

Spread the chocolate cream of each of your dough rounds, then place a teaspoon of mascarpone in the centre.

Fold each circle in half over the filling to form a half-moon shape, making sure that the edges line up, and press firmly with your fingers along the edges to seal.

Brush each raviola with the butter.

Bake at 180 C. until golden brown, about 30 minutes, then lightly dust with the powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy!