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Crostata – a Taste of Italy

On a recent visit to Italy we explored the countryside of Umbria with it’s authentic renaissance towns in perfect condition still occupied by locals with hardly a tourist in site. We stayed at a romantic AirBNB, Magic Winds, with welcoming hosts who produced the best peaches I have ever tasted from their parent’s farm, heavenly jam made according to Papa’s secret recipe and, for breakfast, Bernadetta and Sylvio produced this delicious Crostata. It’s not particularly sweet and the pastry is bread-like and keeps a few days. We love it for breakfast, afternoon tea or even dessert. We don’t have homemade jam but it’s important to use a quality product like Hanks Apricot Jam or perhaps the Harris Farm Market Blueberry Jam. I also think it would be delicious using a good marmelade.

3 eggs
200g butter
150g white sugar
475g flour
1/2 cake fresh yeast or 1.5x7g sachet dry yeast (you need 10g)
2 cups jam(Hanks apricot or Harris Farm Blueberry) or marmelade.

  1. Break eggs and mix yolk and egg whites lightly with a fork in a mixing bowl. Add sugar and beat in Kenwood Mixer until mixture forms a thick white cream.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes. Add to egg mixture a cube at a time whilst continuing to mix.
  3. Add flour and yeast slowly, mixing all the time. Now knead until you reach a homogenous mixture. I use the kneading hook on the Kenwood mixer for a while then finish off by hand.
  4. Place dough in the Fridge at least 30 minutes.
  5. Pull and stretch the dough then place 80% of it in 28cm round baking tin or a 24x34cm rectangualr tin. Retain the rest of the dough to make strips for the top.
  6. Spread the jam on the dough in the tin leaving a ½ cm border around the edge free.
  7. Now make strips with remaining dough and layer across in a criss cross fashion.
  8. Bake at 170 degrees C for approximately 30-35 minutes.Buoni appetito!!!
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Fresh Fig and Cardamom Chutney

In autumn when figs are in season it’s time to indulge and make this all natural delicious chutney. You can serve it with anything – its as great with vanilla ice cream as it is with grilled chicken or fish. Do yourself a favour and try making it just once.

Makes about two 500g(1lb) Jars.

1kg (2lb) very ripe figs, stem removed
4 Tablespoons Rice Syrup
1/2 cup brown rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
1 Tablespoon mirin
seeds from 10 cardamom pods – ground in a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup raisins – optional

  1. Put all ingredients in saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Remove lid and cook on low/medium heat for 20-30 minutes until liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Check seasoning and serve or store.
  4. Delicious with EVERYTHING.

Make your own Roast Capsicum

One of those useful standbys. Make roast capsicum when the red capsicums are on special.IMG_0651

2 red capsicum
garlic, cut into slivers
olive oil

  1. Heat oven t0 200°C.
  2. Wash capsicum and remove seed and membranes.  Cut into rectangles that are as flat as possible.
  3. Lay pieces on an oven tray. Roast for 15-18 minutes until skin begins to blister and blacken. Remove.
  4. Immediately wrap roast capsicum in a single layer in foil. Place foil parcels inside a plastic bag until cool.
  5. When cool, peel skin off  off capsicum. Marinade in olive oil with a little garlic.
  6. This will keep in the fridge for some weeks.

The Definitive Barbecue Sauce – So Good you could Bottle it

Do yourself a favour and make this just once. It’s not difficult – there are just a lot of  ingredients to throw together – and it makes a whopping 750ml. Of course you will use it more generously than the bought variety because it is so good you will want to smother everything in it BUT there will be plenty leftover for future barbecues.  Refrigerate in an old jam jar or freeze in 150ml containers for up to 4 weeks.. It is best warmed up so put the jam jar in the microwave for a few mins before eating. Once you have tasted this barbecue sauce with steak and sausages, you will never use the bought variety again. It’s also great with baked potatoes or sweet potatoes for vegetarians.

Makes approx 750mlBarbeque Sauce

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1t(5ml)mustard powder
½ cup water
1 vegetable stock cube
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup soya sauce
¼ cup vinegar
2T(30ml) honey or sugar
2t(10ml) tobasco

  1. Brown onion and garlic for a few minutes in the oil over a medium heat.
  2. Add remaining ingredients.
  3. Bring to boil and simmer 12-15 minutes.
  4. Serve warm with steak, sausages or baked vegetables.

Dad’s Homemade Natural Muesli

Dad has eaten natural muesli for breakfast for the 35 years I have known him. In the late nineties natural muesli was unobtainable in New York. Dad became real moody and difficult until I found a health food shop that stocked natural ingredients and began making him this home made version.  I used Hawaiian mix to provide the dried fruit component but you can add whatever you like.Muesli

3 cups rolled oats
1½ cups oat bran
2 cups rye flakes
½ cup wheatgerm
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
75g unblanched almonds
3 cups Hawaiian mix

Mix all together and keep in an airtight container

Note: You can add linseed and/or buckwheat instead of bran if you prefer these.

Ideas for Natural Muesli

  • Use as a topping for plain yoghurt and fruit. Particularly good with sliced banana or blueberries.
  • Eat with orange juice as a change from milk the way dad does

 

Perfect the Humble Boiled Egg

boiled egg2Ever wondered how the french turn out those boiled eggs with the yolk all gooey and the whites just set?  Use refrigerated eggs, steam them, and handle with tongs. Your boiled eggs will taste so good you’ll never bother with the complication of poached eggs again. Use the best quality eggs you can find and get the timing perfect – the stopwatch on your iPad or iPhone can guarantee success. If you live at high altitude you will need to experiment with the timing as water boils at a lower temperature.

Works for up to 4 eggs – same steps will work perfectly with 1 or 2 as well

Approx 16cm diameter saucepan or pot with lid
Up to 4 refrigerated eggs – do NOT bring up to room temperature
Boiling water

  1. Fill pot with water to around 2cm depth and bring to boil. Eggs will be steamed and should not be submerged.
  2. Use a pair of tongs to lower eggs into simmering water gently, one at a time. Using tongs instead of a spoon will eliminate the hairline cracks and seepage of the white that you often get when boiling eggs. Using refrigerated eggs will mean the white will cook quicker as it is closer to the surface and the yolk will take a lot longer resulting in a soft yolk.
  3. Place lid on the pot – remember they are being steamed.
  4. If you are at sea level boil for EXACTLY  4 minutes, 30 seconds for 700g eggs; 5 minutes for 800g eggs. This will result in a set white and a soft yolk. You may need to adjust this sightly for personal taste but use 20 second increments only as 20 seconds has a significant impact.
  5. Eat with little soldiers.
  6. Better still, shell the egg. Remember to crack the top of the egg first when shelling to minimise the shell sticking when you remove it. Mash egg onto a slice of soy and linseed toast. Top with a quality salt like Maldon and black pepper. Eat immediately.
  7. It’s delicious. This will become a regular breakfast or snack.

 

Enhance Poached Fish with Lime Dill Butter to turn the Ordinary into Extraordinary

This is delicious with poached fish and can be made earlier in the day although it tastes better when freshly made. Keep at room temperature. This can also be served with baked salmon.

IMG_0492 IMG_0491

 

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 125g butter, cubed
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  1. Place egg yolk, juice and lime rind in top of a double boiler and stir over simmering water for 1 minute
  2. Whisk in small pieces of softened butter with a hand whisk until sauce thickens
  3. Remove from heat, stir in dill and cool

A Real French Dressing to Dress up any Green Salad

Jean Pierre is a family friend and a great cook. He likes to work alone so I didn’t learn much from him. This is one of the few things I picked up and always have in the cupboard.

  • 200ml Bertolli’s light olive oil
  • 100ml brown vinegar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ready made hot English mustard

Shake together in a bottle with a tight lid before using. An old salad dressing bottle works well.

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