Purslane Salad

“The battle of being mortal is the battle to maintain the integrity of one’s life—to avoid becoming so diminished or dissipated or subjugated that who you are becomes disconnected from who you were or who you want to be.”
― Atul GawandeBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

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Being Mortal is a wonderful book that focuses on the end of life and the dilemma of modern medicine if it is better to prolong life or to try to maintain the quality of life till the end, even if this means that the end may came sooner. It is not a happy book, it tells stories of people whose end is close but it introduce to what it is important when the last day is approaching.

So… honestly after this book I feel that I have to keep the quality of my life as high as possible and food take a very important role indeed.

The recipe of today is a very simple, quick, healthy and very tasty vegetarian recipe inspired by Atul Gawande’s book. Atul Gawande has Indian origins and purslane, the main ingredient of this salad, has its origins in the Indian subcontinent too even thought it can be found also in the Mediterranean area.

Purslane is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, C, and some vitamins of the B- Complex. In this traditional Turkish recipe is associated with Turkish yogurt, which is packed with vitamin B12, calcium and Vitamin D, garlic (which has powerful medicinal properties powers) and olive oil that does not need any introduction.

The recipe is easy, all you need is Greek or Turkish yogurt, mix it in a bowl with grated or mashed fresh garlic, pour it on the well washed purslane and dress it with olive oil and salt.

In the hot weather it can be a perfect quick and healthy lunch, usually is very welcomed also by the children that are not salad fans.

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Cinnamon Rolls

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”― Friedrich Nietzsche

This could be the motto of Kurt Wallander, the best seller Swedish detective created by Henning Mankel in the early ’90 and soon became a world best seller. In each of the twelve novels Mankel published in the Wallander series, he tried to enlighten the contradictions inside men and between men and society. I am a real fan of Kurt Wallander, he helped me to understand the contradictions of a society that is apparently perfect like the Swedish one (to be honest, living there I came to understand that Swedish society may not be perfect but it is nearly there). Wallander is not a gourmet as other detectives like my Montalbano, he is easy to please, very often we find him in Fridolfs Konditori to buy Swedish Cinnamon rolls. Fridolfs Konditori actually is in Ystad city center and I can assure that they prepare not only lovely cinnamon buns but also wonderful smorgasbord, the Swedish sandwiches.

So thinking of Kurt Wallander I prepared cinnamon buns but I rolled them in the way Cardamom buns (another Swedish specialty) are usually rolled.

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Courtesy for http://mapio.net/pic/p-57785562/

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Ingredients

10 gr. dry yeast
100 gr. sugar
250 ml milk
1 egg
100 gr. butter
1 tsp salt
1 tbs ground cardemom
700 gr. flour

Filling:
100 gr. butter
50 gr. brown sugar
2 tbs cinnamon

Glaze:
1 egg

Directions

Stir the yeast in a few tablespoons of milk.

Melt the butter put in the bowl of a stand mixer and pour the milk on it. Add the rest of the ingredients and knead the dough for 10–15 minutes.

Let the dough rise while covered at room temperature until it double.

Divide in small part of about 50 gr. each and let it rise again for half an hour.

Roll out each piece of dough so it is about 3 mm.

Prepare a mixture with cinnamon, butter and sugar and spread each rolled piece with it. Roll the dough the long way and cut the roll in the middle and then roll around itself (follow the slide show). Place them with the cut edge upward in paper molds. Place on a baking sheet and let rise under a towel for about 60 minutes or until the buns have doubled in size.

Beat the egg, brush the mixture carefully on the buns. Bake in the oven (200°C) for 20 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack.

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cinnamon rolls
Coffee and cinnamon rolls: the perfect “pika” (coffee break in Swedish)

A Soup for Nazim

I don’t want to present the famous Turkish Poet Nazim Hikmet,

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Better to introduce him in his poetic words:

 

Autobiography (1962)

by Nâzım Hikmet

I was born in 1902

I never once went back to my birthplace

I don’t like to turn back

at three I served as a pasha’s grandson in Aleppo

at nineteen as a student at Moscow Communist University

at forty-nine I was back in Moscow as the Tcheka Party’s guest

and I’ve been a poet since I was fourteen

some people know all about plants some about fish

I know separation

some people know the names of the stars by heart

I recite absences

I’ve slept in prisons and in grand hotels

I’ve known hunger even a hunger strike and there’s almost no food

I haven’t tasted

at thirty they wanted to hang me

at forty-eight to give me the Peace Prize

which they did

at thirty-six I covered four square meters of concrete in half a year

at fifty-nine I flew from Prague to Havana in eighteen hours

I never saw Lenin I stood watch at his coffin in ’24

in ’61 the tomb I visit is his books

they tried to tear me away from my party

it didn’t work

nor was I crushed under the falling idols

in ’51 I sailed with a young friend into the teeth of death

in ’52 I spent four months flat on my back with a broken heart

waiting to die

I was jealous of the women I loved

I didn’t envy Charlie Chaplin one bit

I deceived my women

I never talked my friends’ backs

I drank but not every day

I earned my bread money honestly what happiness

out of embarrassment for others I lied

I lied so as not to hurt someone else

but I also lied for no reason at all

I’ve ridden in trains planes and cars

most people don’t get the chance

I went to opera

most people haven’t even heard of the opera

and since ’21 I haven’t gone to the places most people visit

mosques churches temples synagogues sorcerers

but I’ve had my coffee grounds read

my writings are published in thirty or forty languages

in my Turkey in my Turkish they’re banned

cancer hasn’t caught up with me yet

and nothing says it will

I’ll never be a prime minister or anything like that

and I wouldn’t want such a life

nor did I go to war

or burrow in bomb shelters in the bottom of the night

and I never had to take to the road under diving planes

but I fell in love at almost sixty

in short comrades

even if today in Berlin I’m croaking of grief

I can say I’ve lived like a human being

and who knows

how much longer I’ll live

what else will happen to me

Soup for Nazim Hikmet
Turkish red lentil soup

As Nazim himself says in this poem, he tasted any kind of food but I was lucky enough to get acquainted with his Italian translator and friend, the late Joyce Lussu and in one of our conversations she told me of the preference of Nazim for the simple and humble of country.

So here the recipe for the Turkish red lentil soup: 5 minutes to prepare, low in calories, healthy, full of good nutrients a real food for the soul…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils
    1  onion, finely diced
    1  carrot, diced
  • 1 small potato, diced
    ½ teaspoon dried mint
    ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    6 cups of homemade broth

Directions

  1. Rinse the lentils 2 or 3 times
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, put he lentils, potato, carrot, onion, broth, and salt. Bring the soup to a boil.
  3. After it has come to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot until the lentils have fallen apart and the carrots are completely cooked.
  4. After the soup has cooked and the lentils are tender, blend the soup and add more salt if necessary.
  5. Serve the soup with a sprinkle of mint and red pepper flakes, wedges of lemon, and toasted bread.

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Elven Bread 2

Ok, I confess it, I have a thing for bake with yeast, any kind of yeast, dry, fresh, wild, sourdough… So when  a friend of mine presented me those pretty rolls I couldn’t avoid to think: “that is, that is exactly what an elven bread should look like“. Those rolls are absolutely superior in savor and shape to any other bread I have seen or taste before. So I took the recipe and I made some adjustament that suit my taste better, and here it is the prettiest bread roll I have ever done…

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Ingredients

For the dough:

20 gr. of active dry yeast

800 gr. of strong flour

2 cups of full-fat milk

1 cup of oil

3 tbs of sugar

1 tea spoonful of sea salt

1 egg yolk and two whites

For the wash:

100 gr of room temperature butter

1 egg yolk

For the glaze:

1 egg

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Directions

Prepare the sponge:

  • Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 100ml of warm milk in the  bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve (if you have a kneading machine you will save a lot of work).
  • Set it  to rise in a warm place for about one hour.

Prepare the dough:

  • Mix the  flour with salt and add it with the remaining milk to the sponge.
  • Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (about 20 minutes at medium speed)
  • Work it a bit on a floured surface, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise another hour (but it depends on room temperature, less if it is a hot summer day).
  • Knock back and divide the dough in eight small ball of 150 gr each Let it rise for another hour.
  • Prepare the wash, with the whip mix together the egg yolk and the butter until creamy
  • Knock back the first ball and roll with a pin until 3 mm high, spread the wash uniformly and cover with another rolled dough like in the photos. When you have 4 layer, cut the dough in eight triangles and roll it as in the photo (you will get the shape of a leave). Let it rise for another half an hour.

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  • Make an egg glaze by lightly beating the egg
  • Brush the top of the loaf with the glaze. Bake it in a preheated oven at 200°C for 2* minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. If you have a steam oven like me, then just use the bread program.
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The butter add an incredible flavor and it is a treat also eaten without any filling
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The texture is amazing but the taste is even better!

Milk Bread Rolls for Beth

 

A few days ago I received a very encouraging letters from Trix Wilkins, I went to her blog  and I discovered that she wrote a novel,  The Courtship of Jo March: a variation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women , that of course I am dying to read,  meanwhile to thanks Trix of her kind words, I prepared milk bread rolls, soft and fluffy, the kind of bread that Beth, Jo March’s fragile little sister, would have like to have with her tea. Those bread rolls are not the Japanese bread rolls that are very fashionable on food blogs on those days. They are actually small bread rolls that are used in Italy, but I would dare to say in the all Mediterranean area, to prepare savoury or sweet snacks as the taste is pretty neutral.

Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
Hear how they look like, I made 12 of 60 gr each

Ingredients:

  • 400 gr flour
  • 200 gr milk
  • 50 gr butter
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • 10 gr dry yeast
  • 5 gr salt
  • 1 egg for the wash
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Still warm…

Instructions

  1. Warm the milk (35 C.) and combine in the bowl of a stand mixer with the honey, yeast and a tsp of flour. After about 10 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients, attach the dough hook and run the mixer, starting on low to wet the dry ingredients.
  2. Turn speed to medium and run the mixer for 15 minutes. The dough is ready when it came together and gather in the centre of the bowl attaching itself to the hook.
  3. Divide the dough in small pieces of 60-70 gr each, set them in an oven pan covered with baking paper, cover with plastic wrap and set the pan in a warm place for about 90 minutes until more than doubled
  4. Roll each portion into a log and flat it gently and roll it (like the snail shell). Place each piece of dough inside the oven pan, giving some space between each roll. Cover the roll with plastic wrap and let rise again until double in size, about an hour or so.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 C’. Make the egg wash by lightly beating the egg. Brush the surface of the rolls with the egg wash without letting the fluid drip to the sides
  6. Bake in 180 C’ oven for 20-25 minutes or until rolls are deeply golden on top.
  7. Serve them with warm or cold with savoury or sweet fillings
Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
Ready for a savory snack with Italian Prosciutto
Milk Bread Rolls for Beth
And for a spring snack with pink lemonade and orange jelly

 

Cottage Pie (The Jane Austen Challenge)

I haven’t post in my Jane Austen Challenge for a while. Spring is a very busy moment for my family and me. It is mid-term exams period for my students and my kids. Kids have to practice intensively because the regatta season starts, and I have to balance between job, home and shuttle the kids to the practice spot nearly every day. I felt I need some comfort food, and my mind went back to my early teens, when I first went to UK to improve my English. I discovered there the Cottage Pie, a very humble pie, when compared to others but tasty and very easy. You would say that there is no mention of Cottage Pies in Jane Austen’s work, and you would be right, but that very summer, our English teachers gave us “Emma” as one of our summer readings and it was love at first sight both with Jane Austen and UK.

I have travelled extensively in my life and lived in different country, but whenever I go to UK I have the same sensation than I get in Italy: “home”.

The recipe I suggest you, is my own recipe, the one that I developed in the years. The topping is prepared with the same procedure my mom was using to prepare her “potato pure” and enriched with cottage cheese. I hope you will enjoy this small Italian contamination of a traditional English recipe. Let me know.

 Cottage Pie 2

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 chopped stalk of celery
  • 700 gr beef mince
  • 300 ml homemade beef stock
  • 1 tbs white flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of thyme
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil

 

For the topping

  • 750gr potatoes, boiled or steamed and peeled
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 150 ml milk
  • 100 gr. of grated cheddar cheese

 

 

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Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 190’ C
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, the celery and carrot and cook over a medium heat until soft (the onion should be translucent).
  3. Add the minced beef and cook very well until is brown.
  4. Dissolve the flour in the warm beef stock and add it to the mince along with bay leaf and thyme.
  5. Cover and let it simmer for 30 minutes, it will be ready when the gravy has a creamy consistency.
  6. Meanwhile, to make the topping, mash the potato in a pan heat the butter over low heat
  7. Add the mashed potato to the butter, mix well and add the milk.
  8. When the milk is absorbed add the cheddar and stir until completely dissolved in the mash. season with salt and pepper.
  9. Spoon the meat into an ovenproof dish (I used single-serve oven proof cups). Top with the mash and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.
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Golden Brown topping that melt in your mouth
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The spoonful of flour in the mince adds texture to the gravy