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Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto di Parma Ribbons

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Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto di Parma ribbons
If I was forced to choose the top three things I love about Italy I would have to say, in no particular order, my friend Angela and her crazy funny family, risotto and prosciutto di Parma.
Well, my fondness for Angela is understandable but the rest might require some explanation. Most people, you see, are pasta freaks. They will eat past in any form or shape with any sauce imaginable. Me, I love risotto. Warm, gooey and comforting risotto is all I want when I think of cooking something quick and simple, something I can eat out of a bowl while curled up on a sofa. And donʼt even get me started on Parma ham, The love affair started a few years back when we visited…you guessed it…Parma. How can one city give the world both Parmegiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma? The two are the works of a culinary genius! Or as Jane Austin put it in one of her famous books, “A happy thought indeed”. As Iʼd mentioned previously English summers can definitely work on giving us more sunshine but there are some things this climate does well and, apparently, growing asparagus is one of them. I was happy to take full advantage of fresh English asparagus that filled the shops and vegetables stands all over the city. The season is short so I was quick to think of several ways of incorporating one of my favourite vegetables into our meals.

Fresh seasonal asparagus is so flavourful on its own you don’t even need much to make this risotto work. Feel free to skip Parma ham if you are a vegetarian. This way you can enjoy the pure, unadulterated taste of asparagus.

Or you can add a prosciutto di Parma ribbon to bring out even more flavour.
Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto di Parma Ribbons
Ingredients: Serves 4

  • Arborio Rice- 1.5 cups/400 gr
  • Chicken or Vegetable Stock- 3 cups/750 ml
  • Olive Oil- 2 tbsp.
  • Onion-1
  • Celery- 2 stalks
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • White wine (optional)-1/4 cup/75ml
  • Butter- 2 tbsp.
  • Parmesan Cheese (freshly grated)- 4 oz/125 gr (or to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Asparagus- one bunch (10-12 stalks)
  • Prosciutto Di Parma- 1 or 2 ribbons per person

Asparagus Risotto with Parma Ham Ribbons

Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto RibbonsMethod:

Put the stock in a pot and heat it. Wash the asparagus and cut off the tips, cut the rest of the stalks crosswise in 1 cm pieces.  Chop up onion, celery and garlic and saute them in olive oil in a large deep pan over slow heat for 10 minutes. Then turn the heat to medium and add rice, and fry it while stirring for 2-3 minutes, add the wine and continue stirring until the wine evaporated. Add a ladle of the stock and cook over low/medium heat until the stock is absorbed by the rice, add the chopped asparagus reserving the tips to the rice, continue adding a ladle of the stock each time you see that the liquid got absorbed by the rice, keep stirring as doing so will bring out the creaminess in rice.

While your risotto is cooking, quickly cook the asparagus tips. They will take 5-7 minutes, so arrange for both asparagus and risotto be done at approximately the same time.

When all your stock is gone taste your rice to make sure it’s cooked, if it’s not add a ladleful of water.  Risotto is NOT rice pudding and shouldn’t disintegrate in your mouth. Rice just like pasta should be cooked al dente- slightly firm to the bite.

When the rice is the right texture remove it from the heat and stir freshly grated parmesan into it (not that awful pre-grated stuff), then add butter, cover with the lid and walk away for 5 minutes. I once heard that this trick is called “the risotto maker”. When you come back and take the lid off you will see the most beautiful and creamy risotto! If your risotto is cooked the right way it will ripple when you pour it into a bowl but won’t hold any shape.
Place a few asparagus spears on each plate.
Asparagus Risotto
Or add a Parma Ham ribbon.
Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto di Parma RibbonsAsparagus Risotto

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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Russian Crepes “Blini”

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Their peaceful life was firmly grounded

In the dear ways of yesteryear,

And Russian blini fair abounded

When the fat Shrovetide spread its cheer. 

                                                                                                                                -Aleksandr Pushkin Evgeni Onegin”

These lines are familiar to every Russian and come from one of the most beloved poet of the 19th century Aleksandr Pushkin, someone I was obsessed with from the age of 13 to 15. Yes, you heard me right, completely infatuated with a dead poet whose life ended in a duel, defending his wife’s honour at the same age I am now. So very romantic and tragic-absolutely perfect for an impressionable teenager.  I am sure the life and literary heritage of Pushkin will creep up in my writing again at some point but today’s post is about one of the most celebrated foods in Russian cuisine-Blini, loved enough to be immortalised in literature!

What exactly are Blini (plural)? They are thin, crepe-like pancakes, usually eaten with jam, honey, and sour cream or stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings.

Russian Crepes "Blini"

I have always thought that my mum’s blini were the best I ever tasted. That opinion is probably biased but I stick to it. However, I found the task of re-creating the taste of her blini almost unsurmountable. The main reason is the absence of the recipe. You see most of the Russian women cook without recipes, they just sort of throw things together as they call it “na glaz”, which translates as “by the eye”. There is a famous Russian saying “The first Pancake is always a lump”. You would hear it all the time if a new venture doesn’t work out, someone would look at you kindly and say, “Don’t worry, the first pancake is always a lump” meaning-“it’s still early days, you will eventually figure it out”. Well, the origin of that saying became obvious when I decided to create the recipe. I was hoping to write the recipe that would help to avoid the harsh truth of that famous proverb, the recipe my readers could use and succeed with it. Let me tell you, it was one of the hardest things I ever did. I mixed the batter and fried the first blin. Sure enough, it was a lump that I had to scrap. More flour. Second try was better but still not “it”. More flour. Third try. Sigh and close to tears. In the end, after many, many, MANY adjustments I conquered it and  came up with the version that was the closest to my mum’s.

Her two main secrets were using kefir instead of milk and always frying blini on a cast iron pan. It’s impossible to find kefir in London unless you make your own, which I don’t do so I decided to substitute it with buttermilk. Here is my recipe and I hope you will be brave and try it in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • Flour- 3 cups
  • Buttermilk-3 1/2 cups
  • Water-1/2 cup
  • Eggs-2 large
  • Baking soda-1/2 tsp.
  • Sugar-1 tbsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.

Method:

In a mixing bowl mix eggs, flour, 1 cup of buttermilk, baking soda, sugar and salt with a whisk. When the mixture is smooth and has no lumps add remaining buttermilk and water. The consistency should be the same as of heavy cream.  Let stand for 20 minutes. You should see small bubbles on the surface of your batter. Preheat your non-stick frying pan on medium heat and grease it with an odourless oil. ( I usually put some oil on a paper towel and rub the frying pan with it to ensure even coating.) With a ladle or a measuring cup pour 1/2 cup of batter in the pan and tilt the pan slightly so batter runs to the edges forming a thin and round crepe. Cook it until batter looks dry, then flip with a spatula and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Remove to a platter. Repeat with the next crepe and continue cooking until the batter is used. Stack the blini on top of each other. Serve with fresh fruit, jam, creme fraiche or sour cream. As much as I try to instil the “Russian-ness” in my children they still prefer blini with whipped cream and maple syrup! I shake my head and say to myself, “They are Canucks not Ruski.” When it comes to food, there are no hard rules. Eat blini with whatever your heart desires!

In Russia Blini are usually enjoyed with butter, jam and sour cream and sometimes caviar although the latter was not very common in my family. My mum often made blini for a late weekend breakfast. She made A LOT and there were always leftovers which she used for lunch the next day. Always wanting to serve a variety of food she would make a savoury filling and stuff blini with it. There are countless options for a filling and today I will share one of them with you.

Chicken and Mushroom Filling for Blini

Ingredients:

  • Cooked Chicken- 450 gr/ 1 lbs
  • Mushrooms-300 gr
  • Onion-2 medium
  • Flat Leaf Parsley- 10 springs
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Chicken stock-1/2 cup
  • Butter- 1 tbsp.

Method:

Melt the butter in the skillet, add the onions and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes, add chopped mushrooms, garlic and parsley and saute until mushrooms are cooked for another 8 minutes. Add cooked chicken, chicken stock and season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Your filling should be juicy but not too runny.

Once your filling is done, the blini are ready to be rolled. Use 1/2 cup of the chicken and mushroom mixture per crepe and roll in the same manner you would a burrito. Brown them on both sides in a skillet with a little bit of butter or warm them up in the oven at 350 F/180C for 10 minutes. You can have them made and stored in the refrigerator well in advance and warm them up right before serving. Try them instead of sandwiches on a side of a nice bowl of steaming soup. Ah all of this talk of blinchiki is evoking some great childhood memories for me! Enjoy!

Blini with a chicken and mushroom fillingRussian Crepes "Blini"Russian Crepes "Blini"

Coq Au Vin, the Ultimate One Pot Dinner

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Just because I like to cook it doesn’t mean I don’t love shortcuts in the kitchen. Serving delicious food to my family and friends doesn’t always equal hours spent behind the hot stove. I am usually on the lookout for the recipes that are tasty yet simple. This Coq Au Vin (French for “Chicken in Wine”) is one of those dishes that is good enough to serve for a fancy dinner yet doesn’t require much hands-on time. It could be cooked a few hours in advance and then reheated quickly right before dinner. This way you can relax and make yourself look pretty and avoid greeting your guests all red and sweaty. French cuisine is so impressive for its ability to be sophisticated and deeply satisfying and comforting at the same time. Just look at that spread. Who wouldn’t want to sit down to a bowl of flavourful chicken cooked in wine with some crusty bread!
Coq-Au-Vin
The rich taste in this wonderful dish comes from the quality ingredients and a few spices artfully put together. No chef skills required. Have no fear, it’s impossible not to ace it! I have made Coq Au Vin numerous times. It doesn’t get old and it’s always a crowd pleaser. You can guess from the name that wine is one of the main ingredients. I am sure you have heard it before but I will say it again- only use the wine that is good enough to drink. I have tried this dish with a bottle of homemade wine and it tasted good or so I thought. Good but not memorable enough to make it my “dinner special”. It took me a few years before I came back to this recipe but I tried cooking with a decent bottle of wine. That time I saw the magic of Coq Au Vin, the quality that stood the test of time and kept this dish on people’s tables for generations.
Coq-Au-Vin
Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Pancetta or Bacon lardons (cubed)- 120 gr/4 oz.
  • Chicken thighs and legs- 8-10 pieces
  • Onion- 1 large
  • Carrots- 2 medium
  • Garlic (chopped)- 1-2 cloves
  • Brandy or Whisky- 1/4 cup
  • Red Wine (your choice)-1/2 bottle
  • Chicken Stock- 1 cup
  • Thyme- 8-10 springs
  • Butter- 1 tbsp.
  • Flour- 1 1/2 tbsp for thickening (could substitute for corn starch for gluten-free version)
  • Mushrooms- 250 gr/ 1/2 pound
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 120C/250F.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven. (If you have a cast iron pot it’s perfect for it.) Fry your bacon lardons for 8-10 minutes until browned and remove them to a plate lined with paper towel.

Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them in the same pot in batches to avoid overcrowding. Remove to the same plate as bacon. You are not cooking your chicken all the way through, just browning on both sides.

Slice your onions and carrots in medium sized chunks and add them to the pot with salt and pepper, cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer stirring the whole time not allowing it to burn. Add your brandy and scrape all the burned bits to incorporate them into your sauce, now add bacon and chicken with all the juices they collected, pour in your wine, chicken stock and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover with a lid and put it in the oven for 40 minutes.

When chicken is no longer pink mix melted butter with flour and stir in the sauce. Slice mushrooms thickly and add to the pot, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.  Put back in the oven with the lid off for 10-15 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

Serve Coq Au Vin with mashed potatoes and  crusty French bread and of course, a glass of nice French wine. Bon Appetit!
Note: The recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s Coq Au Vin.French Coq au Vin. One pot dinner for busy weeknights.

Coq-Au-Vin

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie or Happy British Pie Week

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Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

It’s British Pie Week and I thought it would be only fitting to indulge ourselves in yet another pastry filled with a wonderful fusion of flavours. When people talk about “pies” here in England you never need to wonder if they mean “meat pies”, it’s assumed. The Brits eat fruit pies as well but the meat variety holds a special place in the nation’s hearts and stomachs. Works for me as I come from Russia, another pie loving nation. I didn’t need further convincing to embark on a pie making campaign. Earlier this week I blogged about Yellow Plum and Blueberry Galette and today I am sharing with you this completely unusual and utterly delicious Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie.

When I was growing up my mum used to make Rabbit and Sour Cream Stew. If you think of happy childhood memories it wasn’t one of them. My brother and I had very strong opinions about that dish and talks about the dislike for it provided for some quality bonding time between the siblings. I often wondered since then if I would think differently now that I am in possession of a very grown up taste. There are not too many foods I dislike provided they are cooked well. Alas, I had a few opportunities to test my theories. After all, where does one go to purchase a rabbit or a pheasant in North America? Now, England is a different story. Sometimes I feel like I am in a foodie heaven-so many things that I love are easily accessable and completely affordable! This was the case with rabbit and pheasant casserole mix I stumbled upon in one of the local shops. Although I had no idea what I was going to cook I knew I had to buy it.  Rabbit excited me but pheasant sent me over the top. If you are a book worm like me you’d probably also wondered what pheasants taste like after reading the descriptions of feasts in various books of old. How pleased was I when I spotted the design on one of my plates- the latest flea market find-  Asiatic Pheasants. Serendipity, indeed.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
The recipe for this pie is a mixture of things-the memories of my mum’s stew, my usual meat pie recipe and also a bit of research. Without further ado let me introduce the final result.
Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Ingredients:

  • Rabbit meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Pheasant meat (skinless and boneless)-150 gr
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-300 gr
  • Onion-1 large
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Rosemary-2 sprigs
  • Flour- 1tbsp. heaped
  • White wine, vermouth or cider (optional)- a good splash
  • Chicken stock- 2 cups
  • Carrot- 1
  • Peas-1/2 cup
  • Potato- 1 medium
  • Pre-made pie crust – 500gr
  • Creme fraiche or sour cream- 2 tbsp.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Egg (beaten)-1Rabbit and Pheasant Pie

Method:

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, dice the onion and gently cook it in a pan over low heat for 5-7 minutes without colouring it. Dice your rabbit, pheasant and chicken into 1” dice and add to the pan, brown the meat over medium heat, add rosemary and cook for 2 more minutes, then pour in the wine, let the alcohol burn off and then add your stock, bring to a boil and turn the heat down. Gently simmer the mixture for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if a bit dry. At the end of the cooking time your meat should be very soft and the whole filling look like it’s swimming in gravy but not too soupy.

Adding vegetables is entirely your choice. I like a little bit of crunch in my pies provided by the veggies not the gristle :-). Slice the carrot and potato and add to the mixture, cook for 5-7 minutes, then add frozen peas. When I added my peas I realised it was the pea and corn mix, so that’s what the yellow flecks in the pictures are. Stir in your creme fraiche for the creamy consistency and cool your mixture so it doesn’t melt the pie crust when you pour it in. I am very impatient and often pay for it! Now is the time to preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

Roll out your pie crust to fit your pie plate making sure the bottom crust goes up the sides and hangs over the edges. Fill your pie with the meat mixture and cover it with the top crust. If you feel especially creative you can cut out rounds with a pastry/cookie cutter and assemble a pie topper out of them, overlapping them slightly and brushing each circle with an eggwash to make individual circles stick to each other and to give your pie an attractive shiny and golden finish. If you opt out for the traditional top crust don’t forget to make slits so the steam can escape. Bake at 200C/400F for 30 minutes until the pie is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Wild Rabbit and Pheasant Pie
Note: I would love to point out that this recipe will work brilliantly with just chicken. I realise that rabbit and pheasant are not too common but don’t discard a great pie recipe if you don’t feel adventurous enough to try them. Substitute and enjoy!

Warm Zucchini Salad

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Warm Zucchini Salad
Do you love vegetables or do you merely tolerate them? When Brad and I met I quickly learned that one of his favourite quotes was borrowed from Homer Simpson, the infamous “you don’t make friends with salad”. I am happy to report that a few ‘properly’ cooked vegetable dishes changed his opinion, and now he happily gobbles up a plethora of salads that I make. I can eat vegetables in any form or shape, I will even eat the majority of them simply boiled with a pinch of salt and pepper or raw but if I am completely honest with you I could not be inspired to write about them. Salads are too often associated with dieting, and therefore pain, and it’s completely unfair! Vegetables could be so vibrant and lively if put together with a little bit of thought and care. This Warm Zucchini Salad shows up in our house regularly and with many variations. It could be served as a side dish to your meat for dinner or on it’s own for lunch. It could also be served warm or cold.  You can also add a few chunks of fresh mozzarella for a balanced veg + protein meal. The flavours that all the ingredients produce together is like a beautiful melody. It’s so tasty and comforting especially on a cold winter day, the type of meal that will transport you from winter in London to the seaside  by the Mediterranean. I tell you this salad is pure magic!

Ingredients:

  • Zucchini-4 small
  • Grilled Red Peppers (prepared from a jar or your own. Recipe here) 1 or 2 large
  • Tomatoes (red and yellow cherry tomatoes or regular)-1 large or 5-6 cherry tomatoes
  • Marinated mushrooms(Italian anipasti or saute your own)-1/2 jar
  • Garlic (minced)- 1 clove
  • Basil (fresh or dried)-a small bunch
  • Balsamic Vinegar- 1 tbsp.
  • Olive Oil- 1 tblsp. for cooking zucchini
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Ingredients

Method:

Slice your zucchini 1/4″ thick , sprinkle them with salt and pan fry them in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat-2-3 minutes on each side until golden.

Warm Zucchini Salad
Remove your zucchini from the pan and put them in the salad bowl, squeeze 1 garlic clove directly on them and tear a few basil leaves into the salad bowl to allow warm zucchini absorb the flavours.

Slice grilled peppers and tomatoes and add them to the bowl.

Grilled Peppers
Now throw in your mushrooms, drizzle a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, mix everything carefully taking care not to mash up your delicate vegetables. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Warm Zucchini Salad
Done! This wonderful dish is as quick and simple as it sounds but there is nothing “simple” about the taste! It’s complex and involved. The sweetness of basil and zucchini balance the tanginess of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar while a slight taste of garlic adds a refreshing zing to the whole ensemble!

Venison Steak Diane with a Facelift – Dedicated to Hunters and Gatherers

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venison steak diane
Those of you who follow my blog know that I recently acquired a rather unusual selection of meats with some of the items being entirely new to me.  Although I’ve never cooked venison before I am not a complete wild game virgin. Brad and I spent our honeymoon in a cabin in the middle of nowhere in Northern Ontario that was  graciously offered to us by my parents -in-law’s friends. When we arrived there we discovered another present inside the cabin- a freezer stocked full of meat, venison and moose, perfectly suited to the surroundings. I had no idea all kinds of delicacies like steaks, pepperoni and sausages could be made out venison. I grew up in Russia and in a very urban setting, the wildest thing I’d eaten up to that point was a stewed rabbit!

I loved the taste of venison but didn’t have a slightest idea of how to cook it, so I approached this challenge with a lot of research. I poured over hundreds of recipes on the internet to find the perfect one and get inspired until I stumbled upon Venison Steak Diane on Honest Food website. I am not going to lie to you that the main draw for the recipe was the picture! I really hope you will feel the same about mine:-).

What was keeping me from starting immediately was the name. Steak Diane had a firmly planted association in my head with an old and tired recipe from the 50s that no one would get passionate about. However, that opinion quickly changed when I learned that the name for Steak Diane didn’t come from some old lady named Diane who invented the recipe in her 1950s kitchen but Roman mythology and one of their goddesses Diana, who was a huntress. The sauce itself originated in the turn of the 20th century France and was invented for venison, not beef. It’a classic for a reason! That convinced me to give it a try. That, and the short and simple ingredient list.

Ingredients:

steak ingredients

Venison steaks-400gr/1 lbs

Onion-1 small

Garlic-2 cloves

Worcestershire Sauce-1 tbsp.

Whole Grain Mustard with chilies (chilies optional)-1tbsp.

Tomato paste-1tbsp.

Butter-2 tbsp.

Double cream/heavy cream- 1/4 c.

Beef stock-2/3 c.

Brandy (or any white wine or whiskey you have on hand)-1/4 c.

Basil for garnish- 2-3 leaves sliced

Method:

Take your venison out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature for about 20-30 min. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel. Melt the butter in the frying pan on medium heat and fry your steak until they develop a brown crust on both sides. It took me about 6-7 min. on one side and 3-4 on the other. They will be pleasantly browned on the outside but won’t cook all the way through provided your steaks are 1.25- 1.5 inches thick. Remove the steaks from pan and allow to rest on a plate, cover to keep warm.

steaks browned

While your steaks are frying, dice the onion quite finely and saute in the same pan for 2-3 min, then add minced garlic to it and continue sauteing while stirring constantly as garlic burns quickly and turns bitter for another 30 sec.

Add your brandy or whatever alcohol you are using and let it cook for 4-5 min so it’s reduced and the spoon leaves a trail on the pan when you stir. Brandy is not essential to this recipe but adds complexity to otherwise a very simple sauce. I usually never have brandy on hand but as you can see from my previous post I bought a bottle for my homemade eggnog which was another proof the recipe was meant to be!

Now add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, beef stock, a pinch of salt and pepper to the sauce and cook it until thickened and looks like this…

sauce1

Take your sauce off the heat and wait a bit until the bubbles calm down. Now add cream to the sauce until it looks pretty. Yes, that’s exactly how I decide on the amounts of cream in everything-from my coffee to apparently sauces. I like this colour…

sauce2

Stir everything together to blend but don’t put in back on the heat or it might separate and although it will still taste just as great it won’t look nearly as beautiful as this…

steak diane whole

Are you hungry enough yet? You can serve your steaks whole or your can slice them in medallions.

steak sliced
I was quite pleased with the way it turned out but I was also a bit under the weather and too busy taking pictures capitalizing on a brief moment of sunshine streaming through my kitchen window that it didn’t even occur to me to taste the meat. It’s steak, right? I’ve had steak before. The reason I went for a small mouthful is to bring variety to my shots and OH MY GOODNESS. All of a sudden, I forgot that I was sick and not hungry! The meat was so tender and flavourfulI had to immediately call for Brad, the main taste tester. Big mistake. It was gone in seconds.

steak diane 2
steak diane 3
Venison Steak Diane
One last word about the garnish. Traditionally parsley is used to adorn Steak Diane. I didn’t have any. I have a basil plant growing on my window sill, so used basil. It was outstanding. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I love intentional substitutions and unintentional mistakes! Did you know that Worcestershire sauce was one of them? I love bold and creative people!

P.S. This recipe was adapted from the one here.

P.P.S. If you buy anything similar at a restaurant it would cost your at least £20!  It cost me £2 per person!!