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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Easiest Than Ever Apple Cake

“Dawsey shook Sidney’s hand, but he did not come in for apple cake when we got to Juliet’s house. It was a little sunk in the middle, but tasted fine.” 

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Isola, the herbalist of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is trying to use her newly discovered detective skills to prove Dawsey affection for Remi, a French girl who has been imprisoned during the WWII with the founder of the Literary society, Elizabeth. I decide to present this super easy apple cake with the words of Isola, because they describe so well the cooking skills of Juliet, the central character of this novel. But this recipe could have been introduced by any of the Russian Classic as actually it is a Russian traditional cake, the apple charlotte and the recipe, as it is, has been given to me by my dear Russian friend, Feride.

It is not only super easy, but also moisty, fluffy and light, yes! Light, as it is fat free.

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Ingredients:

1 cup of flour

1 cup of sugar

4 eggs

the zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoonful of baking powder

3 medium apples

Directions:

Grease or cover with baking sheet a mould of 25 cm. and preheat the oven at 170 C.

Peel apples and remove the cores. Slice them into thin half-moon shapes. 

Beat eggs with hand or mixer until they’re frothy.

Add sugar gradually, mixing until the mixture is nearly white.

Add flour and the baking powder, and combine to form batter.

Arrange apples in circular layers on the bottom of the  pan.

Pour the batter over apples

Bake about 30-45 minutes (check by inserting a toothpick)

Allow to cool completely before removing the mold

Enjoy! 

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Auntie Rita’s wonderfully simple spumante risotto

I came in Italy for a few days, not a very happy occasion actually, as my beloved nana has passed away at age of 99. She was my first cook teacher, she taught me to pick wild herbs to cook and serve in salad, she even showed me how to prepare farm cheese. She was a WWII survivor, born just one year after the end of WWI. She decided to be buried in a country churchyard in Umbria, in the village she was born and she never forgot. 

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But Umbria is also the place where my untie and godmother Rita lives (not a novel character but a flesh and bone honest food lover untie). She prepared this risotto for me and I thought to share with you because it is very easy but it makes the perfect Valentine dish given the fancy presence of Spumante (you can use Champagne if you wish) that add perfume to the Risotto.

Ingredients

Serve 5/6 people

  • ½ white onion
  • 1 l of hot vegetable stock
  • 75 gr of butter
  • 2-3 spoonful of cream
  • half a litre of dry spumante
  • ½ kg carnaroli or arborio rice
  • Grated parmesan to taste
  • Ground black pepper only if you like

Directions

  • Chop the onion very finely. Melt half of the butter in a wide saucepan and cook them gently until softened. In another saucepan, pour the spumante and in another one all of the stock, and keep on a very low simmer nearby to your risotto.
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  • When the vegetables are soft, pour in the rice and turn in the butter until it is glossy. At medium heat, pour one ladle champagne and, stirring all the time, let it be absorbed.
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  • Alternate a ladle of stock and a ladle of spumante, letting one ladleful be absorbed before adding the next, keeping on stirring.
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  • Once the rice is cooked, put some butter and the Parmesan and the cream mix and cover to give time to absorb for about 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
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Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

This is lovely recipe is inspired to an autobiographical novel and it is placed not very far from my home city, Florence!

Food In Books

Though I disliked the movie, which was absolutely nothing like the book (and not in a good way,) Under the Tuscan Sun is so beautifully written that you almost feel as though you’re walking through sunlit fields of sunflowers in the countryside surrounding Cortona. Normally, I don’t go for these types of memoirs, simply because the majority of them – and I’m looking at you, Eat, Pray, Love – are such self-absorbed, whinily written, so-called journeys of discovery by wealthy, pampered, spoiled women who don’t appreciate what they have. Frances Mayes’ gorgeous tale of her life in the stunning countryside of Tuscany, however, is truly a voyage of discovery.

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The author is a teacher who, with her husband, buys a rundown villa in the town of Cortona. They fix it up when they return each summer, and it becomes not just a second home, but a true oasis for them both…

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The perfect home made Cornetto

Cornetto, the iconic Italian brioche that we eat for breakfast, softer and less crispy of a French croissant, it is served warm in the Italian bars to free the citrusy aromas of the zest and the sweetness of the vanilla, while the buttery texture melts in your mouth.

I have already written about Cornetti, the iconic Italian breakfast and how, unfortunately, most of the cornetti that you taste in the Italian bars are deep frozen, that is not a bad thing in itself, but according to this overview https://www.dionidream.com/report-ecco-quanto-fanno-male-i-cornetti-del-bar/this lovey breakfast has at least %80 of its fats from palm oil, a lot of glucose and fructose. Not very healthy!

It is absolutely worthy to prepare the at home. Double or triple your dose, deep freeze them at the end of phase 6  and you will have a delicious Italian breakfast ready for nearly a month!

For an easier recipe click here

Ingredients:

For the pastry

500 gr of flour

50 gr of sugar

50 gr of butter

pinch of salt

250 gr of water

1 teaspoon of mixed zest of lemon and orange

some drops of vanilla extract

50 gr of milk at room temperature

12 gr. dried yeast

To laminate the dough

250 gr of soft butter

For the glaze

1  beaten egg mixed with 2 tablespoons of milk

a little raw cane sugar for dusting on top

Instruction

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and stand for 5 minutes. Put the flour in the bowl of a standing mixer make an hole  pour in the yeasted water, the milk and the sugar and let it rise for about 15 minutes, the mix  with the hook on low speed for 1 minutes, add the softened butter, the orange zest, the vanilla and mix well mix at low speed for about 20 minutes, the dough should be very elastic.

2. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with streach film and rest for half an hour in a warm place. 

3. Meanwhile take the butter for the lamination, put it between two sheet of baking paper , stretch it into a rectangle of 25 X 20 cm and 3mm hight. Place it back in the refrigerator.

4. Roll the dough onto a floured surface to shape a rectangle about 50×22 and 3 mm thick. Place the square of butter in the  the rolled out dough so that it covere 2/3 of the dough, then fold into three like a business letter and roll gently, cover with strech film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. After that roll the dough into a rectangle then fold into three again, cover with strech film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat two more time.

5. After the dough has rested for the fourth time, roll it again in a 55X22 cm rectangle 3 mm thick. Cut the rectangle in triangles. Roll each triangle onto itself starting from the base and gently stretching the dough. Once they are rolled gently curve them to form a  crescent 

6. Lay them onto a tray lined with baking paper cover the tray with stretch film and let them rise in a warm place until at least doubled 

7. Preheat the oven to 200 C. glaze the cornetti, dust the with sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Note:

With the prepared dough you can prepare AMAZING cinnamon rolls, just follow the passages here

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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