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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Meat Daffodils

Spring is finally here, days are longer, sky is blue, the sun is mild and a nice breeze is coming from the see. I feel like celebrate it with something cute and cheerful.

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

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Courtesy of http://blog.terminologiaetc.it

A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought. (William Wordsworth)

When I was a child, daffodils were the first flowers to blossom in spring, we lived in the Tuscan countryside there were wild daffodils near everywhere. We used to pick them up and bring them to school, our primary school was an old country school with about 20 students, that has been dismissed soon after moved to middle school.

Now I live a very different life, in a metropolis, I speak a different language and I can only travel from time to time to Tuscany. I still believe myself very lucky because my flat’ windows  (I would say my kitchen‘s) overlooks a large garden full of spring flowers and the see, but still I miss the smell of daffodils, and late in June, the smell of lime trees that grow in my parents’ garden.

So, to keep up this spring spirit, today for dinner I prepared those meet daffodils: they are very popular those days in family cooking in Tuscany and you can buy ready to put in the oven in any supermarket. But they are very easy to prepare and there is no need to buy them ready, especially because you can’t choose the meet, the cheese and the sausage you want use.

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Ingredients

500 gr. of veal medallions sliced in 12 thin slices

150 gr of fontina cheese or cheddar, thinly sliced

3 cottage sausage cut in four piece each

Olive oil, salt and pepper to season

Directions

In a 12 capacity muffin tin line paper cups and line them with the thinly sliced meat, cover with cheese slices as if they were petals and put a piece of sausage in the middle as show in the slides above.

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Gently remove from the tin, wrap the middle of the meet with a cooking twine, so that each of them will resemble a flower and place again in the paper bag in the tin.

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Tied with twine and ready for the oven

Season with salt, pepper (if you like) and a bit of olive oil, put in a 180′ C. pre heated oven for 20 minutes and serve it hot.

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In the plate, ready to be eaten

Enjoy!

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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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Salmon Skewers

For those who have seen the film “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” the book will come as a surprise, but those who love late Paul Torday will acknowledge that it is a masterpiece.

The novel is a satire on the absurdity of British foreign policy in the early years of this century and the unwitty means used by the govern press agency to diverge attention from the real problems in the Middle East.  The main character, Fred is a civil servant that is in charge of the mission of facilitate the breeding of salmons in a river in Yemen. All the characters are there, lovely Harriet, her soldier fiancée, Fred’s cold wife, but the story in the film diverges a lot from the one narrated in the novel. I stop here to avoid to became a spoiler.

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The recipe of today is very easy and it is one of my children favoured (which is a miracle if you consider that my daughter doesn’t like fish). Probably because the soya sauce and the fresh grated ginger marinade take away part of the smell of the fish, while sesame seeds add a crispy texture to the recipe.

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Ingredients:

1 kg. Skinless salmon fillet

½  glass of soya sauce

20 gr. grated fresh ginger

a few tablespoon of sesame seeds

 

Directions:

 

  1. Cut the salmon fillet in cubes as regular as possible
  2. Put the cubes in a bowl and then add soya sauce and grated ginger and let it rest for a couple of hours in the lowest part of the refrigerator
  3. Heat the oven at 180’ C.
  4. Take the bowl from the fridge, add the sesame seeds and mix well so that the cubes will be covered with sesame seeds.
  5. Tread salmon onto skewer and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes.
  6. Serve them hot on steamed rice.

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Ossobuco, Artusi and being homesick

“The preparation of this dish should be left to the Milanese, since it is a specialty of Lombardy. I will describe it in the most straightforward manner possible, lest I should be ridiculed.” Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well by Pellegrino Artusi, 1891.

Pellegrino Artusi was a business man with the passion for literature, but his really success arrived with his cookbook wrote when he was in his late sixties. This book became a viral success (as we would say today) and it is the third most read book in Italy, after The Betrothed and Pinocchio.

I have a very old copy of this book, a friend of my mom gave it to me, she had purchased it when she was young.

It has been raining heavy for two days, the wind and the sea are roaring and I feel uneasy. Homesick and uneasy. That’s why I felt the need to dust off my old “Artusi” and cook something that will pamper my soul.

And you, what do you read or cook when you feel homesick?

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Ingredients

(serves 4)

  • 4 pieces osso buco (veal shanks)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Some white flour to dust
  • 50 gr extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 120 gr. dry white wine
  • Homemadechicken broth
  • For the Gremolada:
  • Finely minced flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely minced
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
  • For the Risotto alla Milanese
  • 400 gr. risotto rice
  • 1 liter of chicken broth
  • 40 gr extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 100 gr. dry white wine
  • 0,5 gr of saffron
  • salt
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the risotto, plus more for serving

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Directions

  1. Put the saffron in 50 ml of water and let it rest for at least 5 hours
  2. Heat half olive oil over medium heat and add the onion until is softened and translucent. Pour it in a bowl.
  3. Prepare the ossobuco, do three cuts around the circumference of each shank to help to hold the shape during cooking.
  4. Flour the ossobuco, pour the remain oil in the same pan of the onion (but without the onion) and cook them until browned on both sides (roughly 5 minutes per side).
  5. Cover the ossobuco with the onion and pour the wine (it is better to warm the wine so that the alcohol evaporates as it can give a strange taste to the ossobuco). Let it evaporate.
  6. Pour the broth so that it will close to the edge of the ossobuco cover with the lid and let it simmer at low heat for about 35 minutes
  7. Turn the ossobuco and let them cook for another 35 minutes
  8. Meanwhile, for the Gremolada: in a small bowl, stir together parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. Set aside.
  9. When the ossobuco has adsorbed enough liquid. Turn the heat off, pour the Gremolada, cover with the lid and let it aside while you prepare the Risotto alla milanese
  10. Heat oil in a heavy casserole over medium heat add the onion and cook it until translucent and soft.
  11. Add rice stir it for a few minutes and then add the wine. When the rice has adsorbed all the wine, cover it with broth stirring occasionally. As the liquid evaporate, add some more broth until the rice is nearly cooked.
  12. Add the saffron and let the liquid evaporated until nearly dry
  13. Close the heat, add butter and Parmigiano, stir and cover with the lid, let the risotto rest for a few minutes.
  14. Prepare the plate: spoon some risotto alla Milanese on the plate, carefully transfer the ossobuco paying attention not to ruin the marrow.

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