Steak pie / The Jane Austen Challenge

I wasn’t able to write anythingin my blog for weeks. I am still cooking of course, but I am in such a rush that I end up preparing dinner when the light has gone and it is not possible to take good photos. I will try to restart a routine; it is my therapy at the end of the day !!!

I decided to try something that had to be quick and to make me happy it should be something a bit “Regency”. So I went for a steak pie but instead of hot water pastry dough that is the more correct choice if you want to have a real “Regency” pie, I used deep frozen puff pastry. The result was anyway delicious and even my daughter that is not a meat-lover eat a nice portion of it.

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INGREDIENTS

900 g steak, cut into cubes (I was very careful in trimming all the fat parts)

White flour, for dusting

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

salt and (better if freshly) ground black pepper

500ml hot beef stock

225g puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

DIRECTIONS

Dust the cubedsteak with the flour

Heat the oilin a large pan and fry the meat, until browned on all sides.

Add the sliced onion, parsley and thyme, salt and black pepper and the stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heatand simmer gently for an hour and a half.

Preheat the ovento 180.

Transfer the filling mixtureto an ovenproof dish. Cut a piece of pastry to fit across the top of the dish and place on top of the dish (I used a cutting tool to make it look like a net); then brush with more beaten egg.

Transfer to the oven and cookfor about 1 hour or until the pastry get nicely brown, it is nice both serve hot or cold.

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The Art of Eating Well’s Fricassée

I am sure that fews of my English speaking friends has heard of Pellegrino Artusi and his “The Art of Eating Well”, but for as Italians is a classic as for the Americans is “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. Pellegrino Artusi was a wealthy Italian business man, born near Bologna in 1820 and died in Florence in 1911.  Believe or not it is the first cookbook written in Italian, using metric measures understandable by all the inhabitants of Italy. Before him, cookbook writers used to express quantities with non metric measures and not to explain step by step the procedures. If you try one of the recipes in Artusi’s book you are certain of attaining the expected, yummy result. He doesn’t only give the recipe but also explain the necessary tips to obtain a professional-like result.

Artusi’s fricassés is a light one, do not make milk or cream like other recipes I sow, instead he uses the binding property of the yolk to add creamy consistency to the sauce adding a slight citrous flavor without overriding the natural taste of the meat.

Ingredients:

  • 500 gr. of veal breast, cut in to pieces
  • 50 gr. butter
  • 1 tb. of flour
  • a  bouquet  garni made of slices of onion and carrot; parsley, basil and celery sticks all tied together so that they will not melt in the fricassee.
  • 2 egg’s yolks
  • juice of half a lemon

Directions:

Melt half of the butter in a casserole and add 1 tablespoon of flour, mix it with a wooden spoon until the flour take a hazelnut color.

Slowly add some hot water (not boiling), the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper

When the sauce starts boiling, add the left butter and the meat, cover the casserole and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes until the veal is tender.

Discharge the bouquet garni and beat the yolks with the lemon juice.

Turn off the heat and pour the yolk mixture in the casserole, gently mixing with the spoon until it is very creamy.

Put the fricassee in a hot platter along with toasted bread.

Easy Panna Cotta

panna cottaPanna Cotta is probably the easiest dessert in the Italian gastronomical tradition. 3 basic ingredients (cream, milk, sugar) combined in different ratio, give birth to one of most delicious treat ever. The origin of Panna Cotta is obscure, there are rumors that Panna Cotta, is just the easy copy of the French of Bavarois (obviously French started the rumor!), other claims that it was invented in the Langhe area, by a lady of Hungarian origins, and many others believe that is the Northern version of the Sicilian “Biancomangiare” a dessert of Arabic origins.   Be that as it may, the fact is that Panna Cotta is easy, can be done with what you have in the fridge and with the help of the right mold you will get a spectacular result. Panna Cotta is such a star that deserved a book of its own.

My recipe is not from this book, it is mine. I use organic Agar Agar power instead of gelatin, because I read things about gelatin that made me feel uncomfortable.  It is not always possible to control the origins of the gelatin. Moreover with agar agar, Panna Cotta can be enjoyed also by my vegetarian friends.

Ingredients:

For the panna cotta

250 gr. of cream

250 gr. of milk

4 spoonful of sugar

1 vanilla pod or half a teaspoon of extract

1 and ½ teaspoon of Agar Agar powder

For the sauce:

200 gr. of raspberry

1 spoonful of powder sugar

Some drop of lemon

Directions

In a saucepan, heat cream, sugar, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds and agar on medium heat and bring just to a boil until sugar and agar dissolves. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla pod.

Pour cream into individual serving molds. Refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours, until completely set.

Prepare a sauce, processing the raspberry with sugar and some drop of lemon

Gently remove the panna cotta from the molds and serve it with the raspberry sauce.

Pesto alla Genovese

Eugenio Montale became a Nobel laureate poet in 1975, the Swedish Academy awarded him despite his modest poetic production (5 books in 50 years of work), declaring that Montale was ”one of the most important poets of the contemporary West”.

montaleGlory of expanded noon
when the trees give up no shade,
and more and more the look of things
is turning bronze, from excess light.

Above, the sun—and a dry shore;
so my day is not yet done:
the finest hour is over the low wall,
closed off by a pale setting sun.

Drought all around: kingfisher hovers
over something life has left.
The good rain is beyond the barrenness,
but there’s greater joy in waiting

translated by Jonathan Galassi (forpoetry.com)

Montale was born in Genoa, in 1896 and died in 1981 in Milan. In his poems the focus is on the landscape, sunny and desolate, stone walls surronding vegetable gardens and cultivation of olive trees. In the inclement sun everything appears hard and cruel. Those poetic descriptions are very far from the turistic leaflets of Portofino or Cinque Terre. True is that Liguria used to be an hard and poor area and many it inhabitants migrated before and soon after II World War.

Pesto alla Genovese is a very tasty sauce, you can use for your pasta, on toasted bread as a snack, is wonderful with boiled potatoes. But mind the ingredients, they have to be fresh (sometimes I found basil that went to seed in the supermarket and it is too hard to get a real nice pesto), prefer pine nuts produced in the Mediterranean area (they are long and thin) rather the Chinese variety that is cheaper but they don’t taste the same (they are bitter). The original recipe traditionally,  is made in the mortar.  You can do pesto in the food processor, but with mortar the green essential oils contained in the basil leaves come off and  the marble of the mortar that is cold and prevents the oxidation of basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • 1 cup of leaves of fresh basil
  • a pinch of rock salt
  • 2 tablespoon of parmesan cheese, grated.
  • 1 tablespoon of pecorino cheese, grated.
  • 5 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Wash the basil leaves in cold water and put them on a canvas to dry . They must be perfectly dry before starting the preparation of the pesto.
  2. Put a clove of garlic in the mortar,  Add 1 tablespoon of pine nuts and  crush until cream. Scoop out the garlic cream from the mortar and put aside. You will add it later.
  3. Put the remaining pine nuts in the mortar, half a cup of the basil leaves and few grains of rock salt.
  4. Smash the basil leaves with a rotating movement along the interior walls of the mortar. Add the remaining leaves, some more rock salt grains  and continue smashing.
  5. Then add cheeses. Amalgamate and taste. Adjust with salt if necessary.
  6. Finally, add the oil and stirr gently. Keep the pesto under a light layer of oil to prevent oxidation.

The Mediterranean Waltz Bulgur Pilaf

The Mediterranean Waltz is an almost prophetic novel written by Buket Uzuner a powerful Turkish writer not only very talented but with the gift of foresight. Why do I use big words like “prophecy” and “foresight”?51Av2aohV6L._SL500_SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

It is because in the mid-nineties, in a period of relative peace and prosperity for Turkey and the global world, Buket Uzuner wrote a novel about a civil war in Turkey where all the terrorist movements (Islamic, Kurdish etc.) joint together to attack Turkey. The novel ends with a general saying that next global war will not be fight only with guns but through the internet… Fitted in the framework of this civil war there is Duna, an Istanbulite high school teacher (and mind that the civil war thing maybe only his own delusion) and his impossible love for Ada. The other main characters of the novel are Turkey and Istanbul.

To honour this novel that I really love, I decided to prepare a classic Turkish food, Bulgur pilav, but instead of using wheat bulgur, I used spelt bulgur. If you can’t find spelt bulgur in your area, traditional bulgur will give similar results.

This recipe, as all traditional foods, is very healthy and provides all the nutrients to make it the perfect one-course meal.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup of spelt bulgur
  • 150 gr. of chopped beef
  • half a cup of cooked green lentils
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Tbs of olive oil
  • 2 cups of broth or water
  • Turkish red pepper flakes

Directions:

  • Sauté the garlic lightly in the olive oil for a couple of minutes and the add the meat and keep on sautéing for about 15 mins then cover and cook on low heat till the meat releases its moisture and reabsorbs it and becomes tender.
  • Add the diced tomato and when the moisture is reabsorbed add the bulgur and mix it for 5 minutes
  • Add the green lentils, mix and cover with broth or water. Keep on stewing at low heath until all the broth have been reabsorbed.
  • Dress it according to your taste with red pepper flakes.

 Enjoy!

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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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