apricot crostata

One of my favourite memories of Italy is called merenda.

Merenda is an afternoon snack, nothing as fussy as afternoon tea, just a simple, sweet snack to tide you over to dinner time. The time for merenda is usually about 4 ish and you can eat anything from fresh bread with jam, biscuits, budino or crostata if you are lucky enough that someone had the thought to make one. Normally washed down with a fruit tea, juice or espresso.

Crostata is basically a tart, a big tart.

apricot crostata

Made with a base of pasta frolla and covered with your favourite jam, in this case I used the Apricot jam we bought back from France last week.

The quantity of pastry given here is enough for two crostata so I have frozen the other half for next week’s dopo scuola merenda.

The beauty of a crostata in the house is it’s good for merenda, as already mentioned but also good for a slice with a cup of tea whilst watching tv in the evening like husband and I did last night. It’s good for breakfast instead of toast and it’s good for elevenses too.

apricot crostata

Make one and tell me when you enjoyed a slice, here’s the simple recipe which I am also submitting to Mummy Mishaps Great Bloggers Bake Off Week 5 which follows the GBBO on the TV, this week was pies and tarts so Apricot Crostata here you go. Head over to her blog for lots of other fantastic ideas.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Apricot crostata - or massive apricot jam tart
 
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A simple and delicious idea for dessert or merenda or even a snack.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 300 g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g butter
  • 130g sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 800g apricot jam
  • egg to brush the pastry with
Instructions
  1. Place the flour, salt and butter in a mixer and whizz until it's like a breadcrumb mixture.
  2. Turn into a bowl and add the sugar, lemon zest and eggs.
  3. Mix well together with your hands until a pastry is formed.
  4. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  5. Take your pie dish (I have a removable bottom one) and coat the insides with butter and then flour to prevent the pastry sticking.
  6. Roll out the pastry until ¾ mm thick, roll it around your rolling pin and transfer over the pie dish.
  7. Push gently into place making sure it's not stretched and trim the edges for a neat finish.
  8. Prick the bottom a few times with a fork and then cover with the jam spreading evenly over the base.
  9. With the remaining pastry cut long strips about 1cm thick to make the lattice pattern on top.
  10. Place your strips about 3cms apart first one way and then go over the top in the other direction.
  11. Trim the edges and push to the top of the jam for a neat edge.
  12. Brush with eggwash and place in a preheated oven at 180C for about 45 minutes
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peperonata side dish

Another delicious recipe I learnt in Italy is peperonata, a popular side dish served with meats and in my humble opinion perfect for barbecues. 

My Italian mother in law would serve peperonata alongside nodini di vitello (veal chops) or pork chops. This saucy accompaniment is a staple recipe in any Italian cookbook as it is simple, quick and tasty PLUS it will do as the main side needing no other food to go with it.

The slow cooking of the peppers softens them and draws out their taste which can be subtly tasted in the sauce and the original recipe can be added to or spiced up as you please.

Peperonata can be served hot or cold and used to accompany meats, fish or like I said at the beginning, a perfect side for a bbq. It can be prepared in advance and if there’s any leftover just add it to a casserole or freeze it.

peperonata

Peperonata
 
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A fantastic side dish served hot or cold which is great alongside fish or meat and perfect as a bbq side
Author:
Ingredients
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion red or white, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
  • 1 k assorted peppers seeded and cut into bite size chunks
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Sautè the onions in a little olive oil and once softened add the garlic and cook for a minute.
  2. Add the peppers to the onion, cover and soften for 10/15 minutes.
  3. Add the tin of tomatoes and season, once simmering leave on the lowest heat to keep it ticking over slowly for about 20 minutes.
  4. So long as it doesn't dry out the recipe cannot overcook as all the goodness goes back into the sauce however 30 minutes should be perfect.
  5. Buon appetito!
Notes
Try adding chilli flakes to it if you want a bit more spice
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4 Calories: 30 Fat: 0g Saturated fat: 0g Unsaturated fat: 0g Trans fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 6g Sugar: 3g Sodium: 43mg Fiber: 2g Protein: 1g Cholesterol: 0mg
 

risotto primavera

I love risotto and have tried many many different kinds including with stinging nettles and even strawberries and gold leaf once which was a real eye opener and delicious too.

Contrary to popular belief risotto is really simple to make and the traditional Italian method needs a constant eye during the 20 minute cooking time which is why restaurants in Italy often only offer risotto for a minimum of two people.

vegetables

Risotto is also extremely versatile, you can add practically anything in and come up with an excellent tasty meal. One of my friends from Bologna taught me that with any leftover sauce and meat from the Sunday roast could be the perfect ingredients for a Monday risotto, a tip I have used many a time with leftover gravy and bits of meat chopped up fine.

vegetables diced

One of my all time favourite risottos has to be the risotto primavera which uses a collection of fresh vegetables. You will find many different recipes on the net but basically primavera means Spring so a mix of any vegetables that are in season would be perfect. For this particular risotto primavera I used onion, carrot, courgette, squash and peas but once you gain confidence you will see there are endless combinations of risottos to dream up

risotto primavera

As you know I have been sent a fabulous Sage Multi Cooker and one of the settings is for risotto, having learnt the traditional method I will admit to being sceptical as to what kind of risotto it would produce, a risotto needs to absorb the liquid slowly and it needs adding ladle by ladle to ensure the perfect ‘chicco di riso’ how could this work?

Well the only way was to try it out and I am a changed woman, it produced the fluffiest, tastiest risotto that didn’t stick to the bottom of the pan either!

There again Heston Blumenthal wouldn’t put his name to it would he unless it was a serious piece of kit.

In fact reading on the site you learn that the Sage Multi Cooker risotto setting has a unique cooking system…

It produces risotto by agitating the rice grains with bubbles to release the starch and create a creamy texture, turning itself off once ready. Simple, delicious, home made risotto, without even stirring.

As for timings I had to use the risotto setting twice to cook it to perfection but I am a learner and time will help me get the quantities and timings right I’m sure. Fact is my risotto was spot on Sage Appliances, spot on.

Risotto Primavera
 
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A quick and easy risotto to prepare that's full of vegetables
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped finely
  • 1 leek finely diced
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves chopped finely
  • 1 large carrot peeled and diced
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium sized courgette, diced
  • 350g Arborio rice
  • 100ml dry white wine - like Lindeman's Chardonnay
  • 1.3l chicken stock
  • 140g frozen peas
  • a few basil leaves for decoration
  • 100g grated Parmesan
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil and saute the onion, leek and garlic until soft and golden.
  2. Add the remaining diced vegetables and continue to saute.
  3. Add the rice and saute, mixing so all of the rice is 'toasted'.
  4. Add the wine and allow the rice to absorb the flavour.
  5. Sage Multicooker method (see below for on the gas method)
  6. Add the stock and switch the Sage Multicooker to risotto setting. The Multicooker will cook the rice, once it beeps at the end add the frozen peas and stir through. On the arm setting for a couple of minutes will be sufficient to thaw the peas to a delicious crunchy consistency.
  7. Serve into bowls and garnish with a sprig of basil, offer grated Parmesan.
  8. Risotto on the stove method
  9. Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add the stock a couple of ladles at a time and allow the rice to slowly soak it in. Risotto on the stove needs constant attention, stirring frequently to avoid it not sticking and adding ladles of stock when it gets low. Your risotto is cooked when the rice is soft but not soaked.
  10. Serve and garnish as method above.
 

spaghetti speck and radicchio

Many of you will know I had my daughter and granddaughter over from Italy last week and in their suitcases they brought over some treasures for me, all in the way of good food that I miss over here.

The first product is Speck a juniper flavoured ham originally from Tyrol, it is used in panini, antipasti – served with gherkins and other salamis. It’s also used in risottos and canederli – recipe to follow soon.

The second product is some fresh radicchio, you can find it over here but not as widely and I have only seen it here in the pre prepared salad bags and not nearly enough quantity for me to do anything with. Radicchio is a white veined red leafed chicory, it has a bitter, spicy taste and is delicious in salads or grilled as a side.

I have used the two for a pasta speck e radicchio, ideally I would have used tagliolini but they’re hard to come by in my neck of the woods too so I used spaghetti as personally I think this recipe is better on a long pasta.

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amatriciana sauce for pasta

This is a great pasta sauce for this time of year, it’s made with tomatoes so if you are harvesting this could be a perfect solution for them and it is also flavoured with chilli so has that kick that an autumn evening needs to warm up the cockles.

A little research tells me this sauce originates from the town of Amatrice in the region of Lazio and to do it properly you would use guanciale which is the cheek of the pig, I can’t find guanciale locally so substituted with pancetta instead. Bacon is also a great substitute.

The second traditional ingredient to use is pecorino a hard cheese made from goat’s milk with a lovely distinct taste, sadly I couldn’t find any of that either and so I used good old Parmesan which does just as well.

Allow about half an hour to cook your sauce and buon appetito.

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