Monthly Archives: May 2013

Quick, Take a picture before they grow up!

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Here is my confession: I am obsessed with my camera and I am even more obsessed with taking pictures of my kids. Brad puts on an expression of slight annoyance whenever I point my lens at him but I don’t mind-if anything it makes him look even hotter-but the kids run away and hide. I just got a Canon 5D. It’s not new but it’s new to me and I can barely contain my excitement. Every time I take a shot I think, “I wonder what this camera can do?” I’ve taken pictures of flowers, food, inanimate objects in my house and outside but…come on… I want to take pictures of people! My family is not moved by my plea. So I bribed my children to pose for me. And I paid them with a cup of cocoa. Yes, you heard me right. If only all models were this affordable. Here I present to you Mitchell and Vika. They are growing up so quickly!

Mitchell Vika

My little Amazon.
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And a little helper.
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She is a sweet little thing.
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And he is the coolest guy around. It’s impossible to take a bad picture of him-as gorgeous as his dad!
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Lime Tequila Chicken Wings

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Lime Tequila Chicken WingsNothing screams “summer is here” louder than a gloriously sunny 3-day weekend and a fired up barbecue. Will you agree with me if I say that absolutely everything taste better when it’s cooked outside? Suddenly simple and everyday foods get transformed into heavenly bites. The images of happy childhood camping days start flashing in front of your eyes as soon as you smell a bit of smoke coming from your barbecue, only now you can also indulge in a margarita. I love a quality margarita, only not the sweet and slushy kind you get in a pseudo-Mexican restaurant but “the real deal-squeezing your own lime juice-on the rocks margarita”. There is something magical in the combination of sour and refreshing lime juice and tequila that goes further than just making a drink great. No surprise, it also works wonders as a marinade for chicken.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Wings (split in half)- 2lbs
  • Fresh Green Chilli Peppers-2
  • Lime Juice-1/2 cup
  • Lemon Juice- from 1 lemon
  • Lime Zest- from 1 lime
  • Tequila- 1/2 cup
  • Garlic- 3 cloves
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Chili Powder- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients except for the chicken wings in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Put the chicken wings in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over them, cover with a cling film and let the marinade work its magic for at least 5 hours. Grill on the barbecue until a golden crust develops and the juices run clear or cook them in the oven at 450F/250C for approximately 20 minutes.

Serve with grilled corn, Pico de Gallo and corn chips and, of course, don’t forget to toast the arrival of the barbecue season with a homemade margarita. Cheers!

Lime Tequila Chicken Wings
Lime Tequila Chicken Wings
Lime Tequila Chicken Wings

Banoffee Tartlets

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Banoffee Tartlets
If you are not from England chances are you’ve never heard of Banoffee Pie before and it’s a real shame. I reckon the invention of Banoffee Pie should stand on equal footing with industrialisation and discovering of DNA and other great things that came out of England. Well, maybe not quite as equal, maybe just a teensy bit lower. Banoffee Pie is the magic combination of everything that is good and true. Sweet and silky Banana plus rich and indulgent Toffee equals Ban+offee. Throw in some chocolate and you get the picture. Pure bliss.
Banoffee Tartlets
The best thing is they are EASY to make and even easier to enjoy. I served them for dessert last weekend for my giant dinner party because when you cook a big meal the last thing you want is to fuss over a dessert as well. A snap to make but do they ever look impressive! Here is my version of the  famous Banoffee Pie. I made a couple of changes but nothing major that would alter the taste. I filled the tarts with dulce de leche instead of toffee and added mascarpone to the cream in order to create a more stable frosting that could be piped.Banoffee Tartlets

Ingredients:  {for 8 Tartlets}

  • 8 all-butter pre-made tartlet cases (You can of course make your own)
  • Sweet and condensed Milk- 1 can
  • Banana, sliced-2
  • Mascarpone- 1/2 cup/ 100gr
  • Whipping Cream/Double Cream- 1 cup/ 250 ml
  • Icing Sugar- 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla-1 tsp.
  • Rum-1tbsp. (optional)
  • Chocolate for chocolate curls or cocoa for dusting-50 gr or 1tbsp of cocoa

Banoffee Tartlets

Method:

Remove the label from the can of sweet and condensed milk and put it in the pot completely submerged in water.  Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 1.5-2 hours. Make sure your can is completely covered in water through the duration of cooking or it will explode.  Cool until it’s ready to use. When you open it you will discover that your “ole” plain can of sweet and condensed milk got transformed into glamourous and silky dulce de leche.

This step could be done well in advance. I had mine stored for a couple of weeks before I got around to use it. On a side note,  I have to brag about the fact that Russian babushkas have been making dulce de leche for years before it became trendy all over North America, so the taste of “sgushenka” is the taste of childhood for every Russian child.

Whip mascarpone with double cream, icing sugar, vanilla and rum until it’s the right consistency for piping roses.

Spread your dulce de leche equally among 8 tartlets, top with sliced bananas. Pipe the mascarpone cream frosting on top and dust with cocoa or decorate with chocolate curls.

For Chocolate Curls:

Melt the chocolate in the microwave and spread it thinly on a baking tray, pop it in the fridge for 3 minutes to set. Take it out and let it stand for a couple of minutes to soften a bit. Drag a knife or a cheese slicer like I did  along the surface of the chocolate to make the curls. When you have enough curls, put them back in the fridge for a couple of minutes to harden.

Banoffee Tartlets
Leave one or two of your tartlets curl-free to show off that gorgeous rose, just a little of cocoa dusting will do.

Banoffee Tartlets
Banoffee TartletsBanoffee Tartlets

Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes

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Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes Have you just come home with a load of reasonably priced zucchini and now wonder what to make out of it besides zucchini bread? Zucchini must be one of my favourite vegetables, it’s so versatile! It often appears on our dinner table and I always look for new ways to cook it.

Last Saturday I hosted a giant dinner party-Roasted Gammon with all the trimmings and now it’s time to clean up all the leftovers from the fridge. I stumbled upon this recipe while leafing through the June edition of Olive Magazine on the way home from work and knew immediately I would be eating it for dinner. Hash is usually a breakfast choice but Brad is away this week and I thought it would be perfect time for a lighter meal. The recipe incorporated all the bits of the weekend feast I was determined to get rid of.  To my utter delight, it was ready in minutes and the taste didn’t disappoint- the comfort of hash browns lightened up by loads of healthy, delicious zucchini and topped with a poached egg. Yum!Zucchini Hash with Poached Egg and Grilled Tomatoes

Ingredients: Serves 2

  • Red Onion- 1 small
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Fresh Thyme- a couple of sprigs (leaves only)
  • Potatoes , boiled (I used new potatoes)-2 medium
  • Zucchini, grated-2
  • Smoked Ham, chopped- 100-150 gr
  • Cherry Vine Tomatoes- 2 sprigs
  • Poached Eggs-2 (optional)

Method:

Turn your oven to 200C/400F and grill your tomatoes for 10 minutes until the skins blister a bit. Take them out and set aside.

Grate your zucchini and squeeze out the excess liquid. Slice the onion and saute with some olive oil in a very large pan over medium- low heat, when the onions are soft and lightly browned add sliced garlic and thyme leaves, add cubed potatoes and cook them until a golden crust develops. If your onions are burning at this point remove them to a small bowl.

Turn the heat up and add grated zucchini, continue cooking stirring everything. Zucchini will throw off liquid so cook until the pan is dry again and everything is cooked though, add ham and put your onions back in if you removed them earlier. Cook for a minute longer until everything is brought to the same temperature.

While you are cooking potatoes and zucchini bring water to a boil in a small pot and drop two eggs in boiling water 3-5 minutes before hash is done cooking, so everything is ready at the same time.

Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes
Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes
Zucchini and Ham Hash with Grilled Tomatoes

Spring fresh or a Bruschetta Trio

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Bruschetta party
We’ve been hit by some amazingly beautiful weather lately. We are approaching our third summer in London and boy did we learn fast! Sunny and warm days are so rare and far in between that you gotta grab them as soon as you see a small clearing in the sky. You know you’ve met a true Londoner if he is sporting shorts, flip flops and pale legs in 17C weather. I believe we are quickly moving in that direction.

Balmy days call for picnics and fresh food. Nothing could be better than stretching out on a blanket  in the Greenwich park after the empty picnic basket has been tossed aside and enjoy watching your little ones run wild. That’s exactly what we did this past bank holiday Monday. And the food was definitely worth writing about. Fresh, simple, quick and delicious.

My picnic menu was inspired by these things: a baby olive tree growing in my front yard and a bowl of ripe red tomatoes.

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A Bruschetta Trio was born. Eggplant and Mint.  Artichoke, Lemon and Mint.  Tomato and Basil.
Brad and I really enjoy a meal of little bites, one that could be thrown together within minutes but lingers in your memory for days. This is one of those meals! Colours, smells, textures will send all of your senses into overdrive.

A Bruschetta Trio
Ingredients for Eggplant and Mint Bruschetta:

  • Eggplant-2 medium
  • Olive Oil-2 tbsp.
  • Balsamic Vinegar (or any other vinegar)- 1 tbsp.
  • Fresh Flat leaf Parsley- 4 sprigs (leaves only)
  • Fresh Mint- 6 sprigs (leaves only)
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

Slice eggplant 1/8″ thick and grill on a hot grill or griddle about 3-5 minutes on each side or until cooked and not spongy anymore. While eggplant is getting grilled. Mixed together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped parsley and mint, finely chopped garlic. Add the cooked eggplant to the bowl, mix with a pinch of salt and pepper. Done.Grilled Eggplant Mint Bruschetta

Ingredients for Artichoke, Lemon and Mint Bruschetta:

  • Artichokes- 1 jar 
  • Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Mint- 2 sprigs
  • Olive Oil (optional)
  • Salt

Method: 

If your prepared artichokes were packed in oil like mine skip adding oil to your bruschetta. Chop up artichokes in bite sized chunks and add the rest of the ingredients. Voila your Artichoke and Mint Bruschetta is ready. I told you it was easy. It should also be noted that although it doesn’t look as appealing as eggplant and tomato it can definitely rival them in taste.

A Bruschetta Trio
Ingredients for Tomato and Basil Bruschetta:

  • Ripe Tomatoes (deseeded)- 5 medium 
  • Fresh Basil- a handful
  • Garlic- 1-2 cloves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze the seeds out, chop them finely or chunky-your choice, put them a bowl. Tear basil leaves into the same bowl, add garlic, olive oil and season with salt and pepper. It’s very important you only use very ripe tomatoes and good quality olive oil because that’s where your flavour is going to come from.

Finally, slice a loaf of crusty bread (ciabatta is my favourite) and grill the slices until a bit crispy. Load up your bread right before serving, otherwise it will get soggy very quickly or let your guests do the work themselves. They will love it!
To round up the meal serve with some olives, salami and cheese or use the Bruschetta Trio as a lovely starter.

Bruschetta party

Garden Pizza Party all’Italiana

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Proscuitto di Parma Pizza
Who likes pizza? Who doesn’t! I have a confession to make. I didn’t like pizza for many years. I could eat pizza but it was never my number one choice if I had one. That until Brad and I went to Italy and had pizza the way God intended it to be. Thin yet satisfying crust crowned with a flavour galore of completely different toppings than we were used to…better toppings! The best part about Italian pizza is that flavour combinations are endless depending on the region of Italy you are visiting. With the variety you are facing one is guaranteed to find a favourite. Another great thing about Italian pizza is its simplicity. Is your mouth watering yet? Can’t make it to Italy by the next weekend or no authentic Italian restaurant in your area? No problem. This post is all about the homemade pizza that tastes even better. In order to achieve that authenticity I asked my great friend Angela to join me. Angela is 100 % Italian who happens to be one of my best friends and since two months ago is my “next door neighbour”. Alright, take that “next door neighbour” thing with a grain of salt, we do live in London after all but Angela and Tano and their two adorable girls live a stone throw away from us. That’s better:-).
One beautiful Sunday afternoon we decided to get together for lunch in our garden and pizza seemed like a good idea. Needless to mention a good time was had by all.

Adorable child “numero uno” Signorina Gloria sporting “pizza face” 🙂

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Adorable child “numero due” Signorina Sofia looking mischievous as usual.
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The usual suspects (minus me hiding behind the camera lens).
the usual suspects
My children are taking a break from modelling this time and running wild in the garden while Sofia and Gloria are taking their place.
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Here is a list of pizzas we made:
Prosciutto di Parma e Rucola Pizza
Proscuitto di Parma Pizza
Salami and Mozzarella Pizza
Salami and Mozzarella Pizza
Ham, Artichoke and Moroccan Black Olive Pizza
Ham, Artichoke and Moroccan Black Olive Pizza
And here is how we made them. Ready?
Ingredients(for pizza dough): Makes 6 medium pizzas

  • Flour- 1 kg
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Active Dry Yeast- 14 gr (2×7 gr packets)
  • Sugar- 1 tbsp.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 4 tbsp.
  • Lukewarm Water- 650 ml.

Method:

In a bowl mix sugar, yeast, olive oil  and lukewarm water and let the yeast work its magic for about 5 minutes.  Sift together flour and salt and empty the mixture  in the food processor or a stand mixer, add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and pulse it until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the food processor into a large bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let it rise somewhere warm  for 2 hours. (You can easily make it by hand if you don’t own the machines but they make this task a snap.)

Once the dough is doubled in size remove the bowl on a flour dusted surface and knead it a lit bit. Divide the dough into 6 equal sized balls. Now Angela tells me that a real Italian never rolls out their pizza dough but works it by hand that is why their pizza is never perfectly round. I trust her wholeheartedly when it comes to Italian food. The girl can cook!

The picture below demonstrates 4 main steps in pizza making. (It’s there just scroll down a teensy bit :-))

Ingredients for pizza sauce:

  • Tomato Passata (for non UK readers-passata is a smooth tomato puree)-1 tall jar
  • Olive Oil-1 tbsp.
  • Basil and Oregano-fresh or dried (I used fresh basil and dried oregano)

Ingredients for toppings:

  • Salami slices- 10
  • Fresh Mozzarella- 6×125/4 oz gr balls
  • Artichokes (from your local deli or tinned)- 4 0z/ 125 gr
  • Fresh basil – a handful
  • Black Olives ( we used Moroccan dry black olives from Sainsbury’s)- 5-7
  • Prosciutto di Parma- 6 slices
  • Ham- 2-3 slices
  • Arugula/Rocket- a handful
  • Parmesan cheese- a few shavings

Method: 

As you can see the quantities are hardly exact because it all depends on your taste. The main difference between American pizza and Italian pizza is that Italians don’t overload it, instead they use a few really good quality ingredients that deliver that flavour punch. Usually there is only 1 or 2 toppings besides mozzarella. Also, Italian pizza crust is really thin. Pizza often gets a bad rep for being unhealthy but if you make it at home the Italian way it’s not unhealthy at all!!!

Stretch out your pizza dough just like Angela is showing in the picture and let it sit for 10 minutes to allow it to rise again just a little bit. (However, if you like a very thin, I mean a paperthin pizza crust like Angela does, don’t allow the second rise and top it right away.) Use 2 tbsp. of pizza sauce and 1 mozzarella ball per pizza, improvise with the rest! If you decided to make Prosciutto Di Parma e Rucola Pizza, place prosciutto slices and arugula on pizza after it’s already baked with mozzarella and add a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano or any other good Parmesan cheese on top for the authentic touch.

Place your topped pizza on a parchment paper brushed with oil,( otherwise it will stick really badly as I learned the hard way) and bake at 350F/180C for 10 minutes or until the crust is baked all the way through and mozzarella is melted and bubbly.

The last and the main step is to enjoy it with your friends and family!


pizza steps

Salami Pizza
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