Sustainable fish balls and the curse of Sapiens

‘After my nana passed away, a few months ago I stopped writing on this blog. I didn’t have the enthusiasm, the commitment… of course I keep on doing the two thing I love most, cooking and reading, but I didn’t feel like sharing, taking pictures, try to find  the right words to make the dishes appealing. Why shouldn’t I admit that I was going to close the blog? So, why did I change my mind? I have to thank my good friend Feride, a few days ago she came over for dinner, and she prepared Aunt Petunia’s Lemon Meringue Pie. When I share with her my idea about closing the blog, she was surprised and she told me that it was a good blog (for a beginner I added), the recipes are easy and usually quick, so she encouraged me to keep on sharing books and recipes.

Today I will propose the recipe of fish balls, easy to prepare and very tasty, I prepare them often as my daughter doesn’t like fish and this is one of the few way she eats with great pleasure. If I should match this recipe with a book, of course I would think about Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, that I mentioned before. I will go further: at the moment I am reading Yuval Harari’s recent book “21 lessons for the 21st century”,  but if you don’t yet know the work of this Israeli scholar, please read his first best seller “Sapiens”; you will understand how it happens that from eating row radishes, nuts and small animals we came to eat food that it is potentially not sustainable for the planet 🙂.

I try to be a bit more informed about the sustainability of what we eat, I ‘ve read that fish farming in Norway has become clean and sustainable, the alternative is to use wild salmon or any fish that you like and you know that is not in danger…

As for the frying oil, please remember that is very polluting, after use, pour the oil in a bottle and bring the bottle to one of the collecting point around you: there it will be recycled without causing harm to the environment…

So let’s stop talking, and start cooking….

Ingredients:

For the balls:

1 kg salmon or any other sustainable fish

2 slice of bread

3 spoonful of milk

100 gr of grated cheddar or parmesan

1 egg

salt to season

for the crust:

2 eggs

200 gr of bread crumbs

To fry:

1 lt. high quality vegetable oil (olive oil is the best of choices)

Directions

  • Boil or microwave the fish for a few minutes. Put it in a food processor and mince it. 
  • In a bowl wet the bread with the milk until soft, then add the minced fish, the egg and the cheese. Mix everything together well. Season with salt
  • Prepare the balls: . Lightly beat the eggs with salt in a deep dish, spread out the bread crumbs on a plate, take pieces of the fish dough and form into 20-25 rounds the size of ping pong balls, dip each ball first in the egg and then cover with bread crumbs, making sure that it is well coated, putting them on a tray ready to be fried.
  • Heat the oil in a deep  saucepan to 170°C
  • Add some of the balls. Cook for about 6-8 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
  • Fry the fish balls in batches, as above.
  • Remove the cooked balls with a slotted spoon and set aside on a tray lined with kitchen paper. Can be served hot or cold.
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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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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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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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