Food

Recipes I try and love and that above all are easy and not time consuming – great for family meals.

Stracciatella ice cream

I discovered Stracciatella ice cream when I lived in Italy, an ingenious solution of getting a quick chocolate fix within a creamy white basic ice cream. It kind of made me think I was doing well by not giving into the double chocolate ice cream that was my tempting me from the corner of my eye.

Have you ever been to Italy and come across one of their massive ice cream freezers which have a range of anything from 8 – 30+ different flavours?

ice cream Italy Bardolino

When I lived in Italy we had an ice cream freezer in the bar of the hotel and we made our own ice cream. Of course, we had an industrial machine which churned the flavours to the creamiest gelato in town. My brother in law during his school summer holidays, which last 3 months on the continent, would make the ice creams needed every morning ready for the busy afternoon trade.

And busy it was. In high season he could make anything up to 10 new flavours every day.

We had half of the freezer dedicated to creamy flavours like vanilla, fior di latte, chocolate, coffee and stracciatella and the other half dedicated to fruity flavours like strawberry, raspberry, melon, kiwi and blackberry.

Can you imagine the luxury of choosing an ice cream every day?

When my younger brothers came out on a summer holiday in the early years of my time in Italy, they were both still at school. I think my youngest brother must have been about 12 and was, at the time, a huge fan of ice cream.

My ex asked him if he wanted an ice cream to which the reply was obviously, yes please. My ex asked which flavours he would like to try and my cheeky brother replied, ‘All of them please.’ with a huge smile on his face.

Not to be beaten, one ball of each flavour was carefully and beautifully served in a large glass bowl and placed in front of him. My younger brother stared in disbelief – and glee – at the amount of ice cream that was in front of him, as my ex smiled and walked away saying to me, ‘He asked for every flavour so I gave him every flavour, I want to see if he can get through that!’ The challenge was on.

He ate the lot.

He worked his way through about 20 balls of ice cream and didn’t bat an eyelid much to my ex’s disappointment.

Stracciatella ice cream

What I love about about the Stracciatella recipe is it uses ‘Fior di Latte’ as a base. Translated that’s the ‘flower of the milk’ or better known to us as the cream of the milk, so a very simple base with the addition of choc chips.

Now I didn’t have any choc chips to hand but I did have a block of the finest dark chocolate which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but tiny slithers in the midst of the creamiest ice cream could be a perfect combination right? Like a bitter sweet explosion, one after another.

I gave it a go and am happy to report it was very well accepted!

Stracciatella ice cream recipe

5.0 from 1 reviews
Stracciatella ice cream
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A basic ice cream recipe with the addition of finely chopped dark chocolate slithers
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1 litre
Ingredients
  • 250 ml whipping cream
  • 315 ml whole milk
  • 240g sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g dark chocolate finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the cream, milks and vanilla into a large jug and stir to combine.
  2. Refrigerate until cold.
  3. Pour into the ice cream bowl of the Smart Scoop, set to the desired setting and churn.
  4. When add ins beeps add the chocolate chips.
  5. Once finished transfer the mixture to a freezer safe container and freeze.

Love ice cream? Here are our recipes so far

Rose, pistacchio and mixed berry

Cadbury’s Creme Egg

Double chocolate and smarties

 

Tarallini crosta & mollica

If there’s one thing the Italians know it’s how to throw a fantastic meal which will be delicious and exciting but most of all effortless. It’s a great knack to pick up, there are always friends or family dropping in unexpectedly in Italy and whenever this happens a meal is always on the cards with cries of  ‘Sit down, sit down, you must stay, we have so much to talk about.’ It’s one of my fondest Italian memories.

Of course the Italian diet is perfect for offering up fabulous products that are so simple they are perfect for quick meals, for example breadsticks and Tarallini as shown above. These are commonly found at aperitivo time in bars too, you order your evening aperitivo and it will be served with a savoury something to munch on.

Whilst everyone is talking and enjoying this introduction to the evening a fabulous pasta can be knocked up or a risotto depending what the host/hostess has in the cupboard and the fridge. I’m sure you have seen untold recipes for pasta and risotto, that is because it is so versatile and easy, I have a wonderful collection of recipes which can be found in my Italian recipe section.

risotto primavera

The Italians will also stick to the products that are in season; around this time of year it’s common to find asparagus on the menu or spring vegetables. The closer we get to summer and it will be seafood, tomatoes and plenty of other produce and the autumn will be full of mushroom suggestions and harvest products. The Italians take great pride in producing ‘genuine’ meals, that would be as close to nature offers. They will turn their noses up at processed foods, anything in a tin or a box or pre prepared.

So what do they put on the table for a last minute dinner party?

Aperitivo – Bread sticks and tarallini along with a small bowl of olives as an aperitif. The Crosta & Mollica’s Tarallini and Grissini breads are available from Waitrose, Tesco and Ocado and cost around £1.89. They keep in the cupboard – if you can resist them – and are perfect for pulling out at the last minute.

Starter – Pasta or risotto are the main two go to ideas as they are so versatile. If you have pasta in the cupboard, one of the quickest and easiest recipes I have ever made is a Aglio, olio, peperoncino pasta which is garlic chopped finely, olive oil and chilli pepper. Cook your pasta, preferably long spaghetti as it works particularly well, in boiling salted water. Drain and add to a hot frying pan where the oil, garlic and chilli pepper or flakes have been heated, stir well and serve.

Because this is a hot dish, the breadsticks will be well received to draw out some heat ;)

Another great idea for this time of year is a risotto primavera

Main – This time of year is perfect for pulling together a mixed salad and serving it with salamis, hams, and cheeses, all placed on a platter in the middle of the table and everyone to help themselves. Two other popular quick mains are Caprese salad and Parma Ham & Melon

insalata caprese

Dessert – From fresh fruit to ice cream or if you are lucky enough to own one, a sorbet made in a Sage Smart Scoop. I can’t wait to try a Limoncello one in mine.

This is my rose, pistacchio and summer berry recipe

rose, pistachio and mixed berry ice cream

 

 

Disclosure: I have been sent the products for the purpose of this post, all opinions are my own.

Crosta & Mollica founder James Orr comments: “We’re delighted to launch these delicious new Italian snacks that offer consumers an authentic Italian experience wherever they are, without compromising on taste or ingredients. I travelled extensively through Puglia, right on the heel of Italy, to find the perfect supplier, and we’re excited to bring these Italian specialities to tables in the UK. Served with a good glass of wine they make an Altogether Italian start to any evening. Perfetto!”

Bacon and sun dried tomatoes

Did you know that Real Bread Week has just passed us by? Who doesn’t love a freshly made loaf of bread? They even tell you to make some if you’re trying to sell your house!

We have been having so much fun in the kitchen recently because, to celebrate Real Bread Week, Sage sent us a Custom Loaf Pro breadmaker to see if we could come up with a novel recipe to make in it.

Intrigued by the recipe book ‘Flour power’ that Heston has put together and is full of really cool bread ideas, I noticed we could also make pizza dough in it so I declared Saturday night Pizza Party night and rolled out a piece of dough made in our Custom Loaf Pro for each member of the family, I set out lots of bowls with different toppings and let them create their own pizzas.

It was a huge success and the pizzas were delicious too. It was such a success that we shall definitely be doing this again sometime soon.

Bacon and sun dried tomato bread

As I mentioned, Heston has come up with loads of really fantastic ideas in the Flour Power book so I needed to adapt one or come up with something entirely different. Having just returned from a quick trip to Sorrento in Italy, a country that is renowned for it’s delicious breads, I was inspired by a bread bought to our table that had tiny bits of ham and crushed walnuts in it. I also had my eye on Heston’s sun dried tomato bread. I decided to go with sun dried tomatoes, tiny cubes of bacon and some dried herbs too.

It worked really well. I am pleased with how the breadmaker adds the extras at the right time and then mixes it in such a way that the extra ingredients are well distributed amongst the dough. I chose the biggest size – 1.25k and the loaf has kept dad in sandwiches all week for work. We all had a Sunday night supper of bread with cream cheese and a platter of salamis and cheeses to choose from too.

bread dough

5.0 from 1 reviews
Bacon and sun dried tomato bread - Custom Loaf Pro by Sage
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A flavoured bread with sun dried tomatoes and bacon bites to serve with as an appetiser or as a savoury snack
Author:
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: British
Serves: 1.25k
Ingredients
  • Makes a 1.25k loaf
  • Water 420ml
  • Oil from the sun dried tomatoes - 3 tbs
  • Salt 2 tsp
  • Sugar 2 tbs
  • Bread Flour 750g
  • Bread improver (optional) 1 tsp
  • Milk powder 3 tbs
  • Dried mixed herbs 3 tsp
  • Yeast: dry active 1+ ¾ tsp
  • Sun dried tomatoes and bacon lardons 75g to be added to the automatic fruit and nut dispenser
Instructions
  1. It's very important to add the ingredients in the order they are written above.
  2. Make sure the paddle is in the upright position to start.
  3. Add all of the ingredients to the removable bread pan.
  4. Place the bread pan in the Custom Loaf Pro and shut the lid.
  5. Add the sun dried tomatoes to the automatic draw.
  6. Set to Basic setting.
  7. Choose your colour of crust
  8. Start
 

 

 

double chocolate ice creamSo the scary birthday came and went in a blink of an eye but not so fast that I didn’t put on half a stone in the process of celebrating! There was cake, dinners out and prosecco, lots of prosecco. I can truly say I smashed 50 and the hangover I had on Bank Holiday Monday was proof of the pudding.

Talking about puddings, it was high time to get my lovely Smart Scoop back in to action and with all my indulgence recently I decided to top the lot and go for a double chocolate ice cream this time. In all honesty I would have gone for a triple chocolate but I forgot to buy white chocolate chips to add! What I did find was a tube of smarties and so I added all of those, needless to say I should have kept a few back for decorating the top but what the heck, it was hot, the sun was shining properly for the first time this year and decorating my ice cream slipped my mind in all the excitement.

Sage smart scoop

I followed Heston’s chocolate ice cream recipe which comes in the book that comes with the Smart Scoop and I pimped it a bit to include a second chocolate. I like his custard mixture, the only difference is I used semi skimmed milk as someone had finished off the whole milk!

I must admit the Saturday I made my double chocolate ice cream with smarties was the perfect day as the sun was shining brightly, we were in shorts for the first time this year, all the windows were open and everyone was hot but not complaining. Thank goodness I had made the mixture the day before as all I had to do was pop it into the Smart Scoop and wait for the churning to be complete.

I made my mixture the day before as it requires simmering to melt the chocolate and again to thicken the mixture ready for use. The Smart Scoop has to work doubly hard with hot mixtures so it pays to put them in the fridge to cool down and use them fridge cold for the best outcome.

double chocolate ice cream

Double chocolate ice cream with smarties
 
A double chocolate ice cream recipe that has been pimped with smarties.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Ingredients
  • 500 ml whipping cream
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 90g dark chocolate
  • 90g milk chocolate
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tube of smarties
Instructions
  1. Place the cream, milk and chocolate into a heavy based saucepan, cook stirring until the mixture starts to simmer.
  2. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and thick.Add the chocolate mixture slowly and whisk the two together.
  3. Return to the saucepan over a low heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of the spoon.
  4. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cover. Refrigerate until well chilled.
  5. Once chilled pour into the ice cream maker and set to desired setting to churn.
  6. On hearing the beep for the mix-ins, add the Smarties.
  7. Once the mixture is frozen transfer to a suitable container to freeze. Keeps for up to 1 week.
 

Macaroni cheese recipe

Growing up in our house focused heavily around meal times and when mum replied to the daily, ‘What’s for tea, mum?’ with ‘Macaroni Cheese’ I’m sure the whole street could hear the cheers that went up. It was the 80’s and pasta was already a family favourite, I can remember sitting at the table in the kitchen waiting for mum to finish grilling the top to a crispy cheesy for us and wishing she would hurry up.

Once on the table I would happily squirt some tomato ketchup on top because that’s what we did back then. If any Italians are reading this I can feel your shock and only after spending years in your country and learning how you cook and eat can I see now the error of my ways, however, it was so good!

Funnily enough when I lived in Italy no one had heard of Macaroni Cheese, they had Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi which everyone agreed was most likely where our Macaroni Cheese came from. A quick check on Wikipedia has it that Macaroni Cheese is an English dish made of short pasta and a cheese sauce.

I wanted to make it for the girls and see if they had the same reaction to me all those years ago. They did. The success of macaroni cheese continues!

If you are introducing no meat nights into the family diet then this one is very popular and will fill them up. It’s a very simple recipe that requires baking in the oven and of course, it can be pimped in so many ways. You could add fried bacon lardons, or a mixture of vegetables cut up small.

I served it up in it’s 1980’s glory but I did not offer the squirt of ketchup on top even if dad and I did have a good sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper though ;)

Macaroni Cheese | a family favourite revisited
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A quick and easy pasta to make that is perfect for lunches or evening meals.
Author:
Recipe type: pasta
Cuisine: British
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 300g macaroni
  • 25g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 600 full fat milk
  • 1 tbsp English mustard (optional)
  • 225g Cheddar cheese grated
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 200C Gas mark 6
  2. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water.
  3. Melt 25g of the butter in a pan and add the flour, stir for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk whisk gently to remove any lumps that may form.
  4. Cook over a medium heat stirring continuously until thickened, season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mustard if using and two thirds of the grated Cheddar cheese, mix well together.
  5. Add the pasta and combine well, pour into a baking dish and scatter the remaining cheese on top.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden
  7. Spice it up with chopped chilli peppers added to the mix.
  8. Mix up the cheeses and go for a quattro (4) formaggi (cheese)
Please also see my Macaroni cheese with bacon and chives recipe

macaroni cheese recipe