A Summer Favourite…

What can I make for a family supper or a summer party this weekend?

One of our favourites at this time of the year is our version of “Chicken Shawarma”. As not the most disciplined gardener all my lettuces come at once and I am always looking for ways of using the leaves.

‘Shawarma’ means ‘turning’ in Turkish and really this is best made from fatty cuts of meat like thighs, which are constantly turned over a heat source, so the skin and fat constantly baste the lean meat. We do it our way in an oven to achieve the same effect. We serve the shawarma in baby gem lettuce leaves with lemon crème fraîche, coriander and green olives.

Alternatively do as they do in Turkish kebab shops and offer a selection of accompaniments for people to make their own choice, such as flat-leaf parsley and mint leaves, chilli sauce, pickled green chillies or the Garlic Yogurt or Tahini and Yogurt Dressing.

This recipe is from our book “Around the World in Salads” published by Kyle Books with photography by Helen Cathcart and available here.

Chicken Shawarma, Lettuce and Coriander Salad with Lemon Crème Fraîche 
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Serves 6

For the marinade
juice of 2 lemons
75ml olive oil
5 garlic cloves, grated
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons sweet (not smoked) paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼-½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes, according to taste
½ teaspoon ground turmeric

For the chicken
1kg boneless, skin on chicken thighs
2 red onions, each cut into 8 wedges 

For the lemon crème fraîche
200ml crème fraîche
finely grated zest of ½–1 lemon, according to taste
1–2 teaspoons lemon juice, according to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For serving
Baby gem lettuce leaves
Coriander or parsley sprigs
Lemon wedges
Green olives, cut in half and stoned
Green chillies, optional

 

Put all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. (If you would like to make the chicken crackling see the instructions below.) Add the chicken and onions and toss in the marinade. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Meanwhile, make the lemon crème fraîche by mixing the ingredients together, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Decant into a bowl and set aside in the fridge until needed.

When you are ready to cook preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking tray with a silicone mat or baking parchment. Lay the chicken pieces onto the prepared tray spacing them out, pour over any leftover sauce.

Roast for 30–40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. To be sure the chicken is cooked through test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer – it should be 85°C. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, pierce the thickest part of the chicken with a skewer and check that the juices are clear and not pink.

Remove the chicken from the oven and use a knife and fork to cut into shreds. If the skin is crispy we like to shred it and mix with the chicken. Put into a warm bowl.

Arrange the chicken with the lettuce leaves, coriander or parsley, lemon crème fraiche, lemon wedges, chillies and olives onto a large serving board.

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To make the chicken crackling

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Peel away the skin from the chicken thighs and lay them flat onto a baking tray. Scatter with a little salt and pepper and bake at 180oC for 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked through, golden and crisp. Crumble these over the chicken once it is served for a delicious crispy crackling over the soft chicken.

Party Nibbles Turin Style…

This is a recipe from my book ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ which I use time and time again. With the Christmas drinks party season about to fall upon us these are really easy to make and make a great pre-dinner nibble with a Christmas cocktail or two.
Torinese Breadsticks
Grissini Torinesi
These long thin breadsticks, known as grissini torinesi, hail from Turin where they have been made since the 14th century and are still made in large quantities today. They are eaten with drinks or served with soup instead of bread. This recipe is for cheese breadsticks, which for me are the most interesting but you can omit the cheese or use focaccia or pizza dough instead. These grissini make a good gift, wrapped in baking parchment and tied with rustic string. For a party make a variety and stand them in a vase as a dramatic centrepiece. My children help to make them and I let them use their imagination as to what flavourings they like to add.
Makes 80
325g ‘00’ flour
15g fresh yeast or 7g dried
200ml tepid milk
100g Parmesan
100g soft butter
5g salt
 
Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Mix the yeast with tiepid milk. Blend the remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Pour in the yeasted milk and use your fingers to incorporate everything evenly and bring to a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured board and roll out to a thickness of 0.5cm. Cut into lengths about 40cm long and 1 cm wide. Place on a greased baking sheet and cook for 25–30 minutes or until a rich golden brown. Leave to cool and store in a tall airtight jar such as a spaghetti jar. They will keep for about a month. Use them as they are or wrap each one in a thin slice of ham.
 
Variations
Sesame seeds – spread a layer of sesame seeds on a plate and roll each stick in them before cooking
Rosemary – spread a layer of finely chopped rosemary leaves on a plate and roll each stick in them before cooking
Thin grissini – you can also put the dough through a pasta machine: roll it through the widest setting a couple of times, then put it through a tagliatelle cutter. Lay the stips on a floured baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown
You can buy signed copies of ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ here, it makes a great Christmas gift.
 
 

A slow cooked sensation from our latest book…

Photo by Helen Cathcart

 
Our recently published book ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen‘ has been flying off the shelves and this is one of my favourite winter recipes from the book. We forget sometimes that the Roman empire extended far into Northern Europe, right up to North Northumberland in Britain’s case, so many of their dishes have been influenced by the produce available in both cold and warm climates. This is what I’d call a ‘rib-sticker’ the ultimate winter fuel.
Coda alla Vaccinara
Oxtail Stew
Beef stew in all its forms is essential to the average Roman kitchen. It gives nourishment, comfort and that sense of security that comes from a ritual that you perform so regularly you can’t imagine life without it. Even ragu, or meat sauce, that is made all over Italy is a form of stewed beef. Whether the meat is whole or ground, that marriage of beef and tomatoes cooked for a very long time together is hard to beat.
In Rome the Jewish have ‘stracotto’ meaning ‘overcooked’, born from a time when only the cheaper cuts were available to them. It was traditionally cooked on the ashes of a fire on a Friday so that it was still warm on the Sabbath when cooking was prohibited. Out of the many beef stew recipes, we have chosen to include Garofolato di Manzo made with a whole piece of meat pierced with spices, and Coda alla Vaccinara, which uses oxtail. You can usually order this from your butcher. It has a wonderfully rich, almost gamey flavour that after long, slow cooking produces meat that simply falls away from the bone. It is a good idea to do this dish a day before you want to eat it as the fat comes to the surface overnight and can be removed.
 
Serves 6
1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) oxtail
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
200 ml (7 oz) white wine
2 ´ 400 g (14 oz) tins tomatoes
1 heaped tablespoon tomato purée (paste)
1 small cinnamon stick
500 ml (17 fl oz) meat or vegetable stock, as necessary
 
For the soffritto
6 celery sticks with leaves, coarsely chopped into 5 mm (1/4 in) cubes
2 medium white onions, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons fine salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
 
Fill a large saucepan three quarters full with water and bring to the boil. Add the oxtail and bring the water back to the boil, then remove the oxtail from the water. Pour the water and any scum away. Boling the oxtail like this will clean it and get rid of some of the fat.
Make the soffritto in a large saucepan; gently fry the vegetables in the olive oil with the seasoning and bay leaves for around 5–10 minutes over a medium heat until tender.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan over a medium–high heat and brown the meat all over. Transfer the oxtail to the soffritto and then pour over the wine. Allow it to reduce for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, purée and cinnamon, and bring to the boil with a little water to wash out the tins. Turn down to simmer and leave to cook, covered, over a low heat for 5 hours or until the meat falls from the bones. You can also do this long cooking time in the oven: heat the oven to 160°C (320°F/Gas 4) and cook the stew in a casserole dish. During the cooking, turn the oxtails from time to time to make sure they do not stick and top up with a little stock or water, if necessary, so that they are always covered. Serve with mashed potato, soft polenta or potato gnocchi.
For more recipes from the Roman kitchen you can purchase signed copies of ‘Rome – Centuries in a Roman Kitchen’ here.

Not just for Halloween..

Pumpkins are in season, so in the spirit of making hay while the sun shines… or is that making soup while the fog surrounds? Here’s our family favourite recipe for warming pumpkin soup that features in our book ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found‘ :-
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Zuppa di Zucca
Pumpkin Soup
This soup was served to us at the restaurant of the same name, La Zucca, in tiny backstreet in Venice where they serve mainly vegetarian food and primarily those dishes are made with pumpkin. There are paintings of pumpkins on the walls and pumpkin-coloured paper placemats too. The food is different to the typical Venetian food and it has a really good following so if you plan to go make sure you book in advance. This soup is loosely based on their recipe and I think it does help to find the best quality pumpkin (not the Halloween type, they are too watery and have no flavour) you can. In Venice, they mainly use the mantovana pumpkin variety, which is squat, large and pale green.  Remember to save your peelings to add to other vegetable off cuts if you are making a stock.
Serves 6–8
6 tablespoons best quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) pumpkin (around 1/2 butternut squash), cut into 3 cm (11/4 in) cubes
1 carrot, cut into 2 cm (3/4 in) cubes
1 stick celery, cut into 2 cm cubes
2 white onions, cut into 2 cm cubes1/2 red chilli (chile), finely chopped
1.2 litres (2 pints 9 fl oz) vegetable or chicken stock (bouillon)
400 g (14 oz) tin cannellini beans, drained, or 350 g (12 oz) cooked beans from dried
handful of kale, chard or spinach
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g feta cheese, optional
 
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the garlic, pumpkin, carrot, celery and onion. Reduce the heat, cover with the lid and sweat for 20 minutes, shaking the pan frequently. Add the chilli (you can add more or less according to your taste) and fry for 2 minutes.
making soup
Pour in the stock, increase the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Italians tend to purée roughly a third of their soups to thicken them. This used to be done with a passetutto but you can use a stick blender instead, I did. Stir in the beans and kale. Cook for 2–3 minutes until the kale is soft. Season to taste and serve with a swirl of your best olive oil, a little black pepper and (though not strictly Italian) a crumble of feta cheese.
soup made 2
You can buy ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found’, which includes a whole range of Venetian recipes both historic and modern day, online here.

First Day of Autumn… Time for Gnocchi

This is my version of a ragù I tasted in a lasagnetta, a little lasagna in the restaurant, Il Divo, in a cave in Siena. The inclusion of fennel seeds is typically Tuscan. Instead of buying minced pork or sausage meat, Italians usually split sausages open and use the meat inside. Often the contents are just minced pork, garlic and salt so, if possible, buy Italian ones like this or go for the best quality lean ones you can find with little or preferably no added bread.
The recipes for both the ragu and the gnocchi are from my book ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ which you can purchase here.
 
Gnocchi al ragù di salsiccia e semi di finocchio
Tomato, sausage and fennel seed ragù with gnocchi
Serves 4
6 lean best quality pork sausages
6 tablespoons of olive oil
2 whole cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ white onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
125ml of red wine
400g Italian tinned tomatoes
3 heaped tablespoons of tomato concentrate
25g finely grated Parmesan
gnocchi for four
 
Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil.  Meanwhile remove the sausages from their casings and chop up the meat from them to break it up.
Put the olive oil in a frying pan onto a medium heat and add the garlic and salt and pepper. Fry for about 2 minutes, until the garlic becomes light gold. Then add the onion and fry for a few of minutes, until translucent.
Stir in the fennel seeds and bay leaves. Put the meat into the pan and fry for 6-7 minutes, or until it is cooked through. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat into mince and stop it sticking. If the sausages release a lot of fat, pour it away, although a little won’t harm.
Add the wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato concentrate and tinned tomatoes and stir well.  Leave the ragù to simmer for ten minutes while you cook the gnocchi (recipe below) in the boiling water. When the gnocchi are cooked, drain them and toss into the ragù. Serve in warmed bowls and scatter over some parmesan.
 
Gnocchi di patate
Potato gnocchi
Serves 8
Nothing is as comforting as soft pillows of potato gnocchi to banish woes. Both are satisfying and welcoming. Gnocchi are best made with potatoes that are neither too floury or too waxy, such as King Edwards, Maris Piper and the Italians says they should be boiled in their skins so that the water doesn’t penetrate. I am not sure I believe this, although I do think the flavour is better when potatoes are cooked in their skins.
The secret of light gnocchi is to trap as much air inside as you can and rubbing the cooked potatoes through a passatutto (foodmill) or ricer will achieve this but otherwise you can mash them. Freezing gnocchi before they are cooked can give an even better result than cooking from fresh, they tend to hold their shape better.
1kg potatoes (King Edwards or Mary Piper), unpeeled
1 egg
250g ‘00’ or pasta flour, plus up to 100g extra, depending on water content of potatoes
1 heaped teaspoon salt
A generous twist of pepper
 
Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water until tender – this could take up to an hour, depending on their size. Drain and peel them while they are still hot, either by holding them in one hand on a fork or with a cloth, and peeling the skin away with a knife in the other hand.
Pass them through a passatutto or ricer into a bowl. Stir in the egg with a wooden spoon. Add one-third of the flour to form a soft, pliable dough. Pour the remaining flour onto the work surface in a mound and turn out the dough onto the flour. Knead the flour in with the dough, adding a little more if the dough sticks to your hands. (the more flour you add at this stage, the heavier the gnocchi will be, so only add the extra 100g if the dough is really sticky).
You need to decide how big to make the gnocchi. The trick is to keep them the same size so that they have the same cooking time. Roll out the dough into long sausages and chop it into pieces between 2 and 4 cm in length.
You can then roll them over the tines of a fork for texture or make an indentation in the top with your finger – this means more sauce will stick to them – but you can leave them simply pillow shaped and plain.
If you plan to eat the gnocchi straight away, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and drop in the gnocchi. They are cooked when they bob back up to the surface – this takes about 2–4 minutes. Drain well and toss in your chosen sauce.
To freeze gnocchi before cooking, spread them on a well-floured tray, making sure they don’t touch each other, and put them in the freezer. When frozen, shake off any excess flour and transfer to a freezer bag. Use within 3 months. To cook from frozen, allowing an extra 1–2 minutes cooking time.

Berry Beautiful…

What is better than picking your own fruit to cook with? These little custard tarts can be topped with any seasonal fruit. Our favourites are raspberries and blackberries together. In our house I make the pastry, Giancarlo makes the custard and the children decorate. This Italian pastry is more interesting than an English shortcrust because it has flavour from the citrus zest and vanilla.
 

Crostatine di crema pasticcera

Berry custard tarts
 
Makes a 25cm tart or 4 x 10cm individual tarts
 
For the pastry (makes 275g)
100g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing, at room temperature (or use 50g butter and 50g lard)
150g ‘00’ or plain flour, plus extra for dredging
2 teaspoons grated zest from 1 orange and/or 1 lemon
4 drops of vanilla essence, or seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla pod
1 medium egg
50g caster sugar
1 tablespoon milk, if needed
 
For the custard
300ml milk
1 vanilla pod, slit lengthways and seeds scraped out
2 eggs, separated
40g granulated sugar
20g cornflour
125ml mascarpone or double cream
 
To decorate
Strawberries or other soft fruits
Apricot glaze or jam (optional)
 
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease a 25cm fluted tart tin with a removable base with butter.
Put the butter, flour, zest and vanilla into a large bowl and rub together until you achieve a consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Keep your hands above the bowl, letting the crumbs fall, to aerate the mixture.
Add the egg and sugar, using your hands to mix and form a firm dough – simply squelch the ingredients through your fingers until well blended. If the dough is a little dry, add a tablespoon of milk and blend well. You will only need this if your egg is small or your flour very absorbent. Ideally, chill the pastry for 20 minutes in the fridge but if time is short you can roll out the pastry between two layers of baking parchment or cling film. If it cracks, you can patch up using trimmings from the pastry; the result will be fine.
Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 0.5cm (1/4mm) and line the tart tin. Prick the base with a fork. Transfer the tin to the oven and bake the pastry for 20 minutes or until it is a light golden colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, make the custard. Put the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla seeds and pod and bring to a gentle boil. Mix together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl using an electric mixer, until pale and fluffy. When the milk is boiling, remove from the heat and add a ladleful at a time to the cornflour mixture until half of it is incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the rest of the milk in the saucepan. Return to the heat for just a few minutes to thicken, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and transfer to a cold bowl. Cover the surface of the custard with cling film to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool without removing the vanilla pod.
Fill the pastry cases with the cooled custard, discarding the pod, and top with fresh fruits to decorate. You can go for a random look and pile the fruits on top or, starting from the outside, push in the individual berries to form concentric circles in alternating colours. For a really professional finish, brush with apricot glaze or jam (after warming it gently, to make it runny).
 
 
 

Amazing Arancini…

These little hot rice pyramids (or other shapes) are sold as snacks in bakeries around Sicily. I travelled near Etna and there they were made in the shape of its famous volcano. Fillings vary from tomato sauce to mozzarella to, in this case, ragú with peas and Fontina cheese. In fact this is a perfect way to use up a little leftover ragu but we have put a recipe below.
‘The worse the rice, the better the arancini’ goes the saying in Sicily. Arborio rice is usually used for this dish, but any rice that sticks to itself when well cooked will work. They are sold as a snack but are actually really filling so think small, roughly the size of a walnut for a nibble and save the pyramids filled with ragu for a meal. They are perfect for filling up hungry teenagers and will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Warm briefly in a microwave if you prefer them hot. As with all rice dishes don’t let rice sit at room temperature for more than an hour or it can lead to food poisoning, keep it in the fridge.
Arancini dell’Etna
Rice Volcanoes
Makes 8
 
FOR THE VOLCANOES
1.5 litre vegetable stock
500g risotto rice (Arborio)
4 packets of saffron (5g in total)
1 teaspoon salt
50g butter
sunflower oil for frying
100g fine breadcrumbs
 
FOR THE FILLING
30g peas, cooked
250g ragù (see recipe below)
80g Fontina cheese
 
FOR THE BATTER
200g plain flour or 00 flour
500ml cold water
 
Put the stock into a large saucepan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the rice, saffron and salt. Cook without stirring (although you can shake the pan from time to time) for around 20–25 minutes, until cooked through. If necessary, add a little more stock or hot water. When the water has evaporated and the rice is cooked through, add the butter and stir in, until melted. Remove from the heat, put a lid on the pan and leave for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the batter. Put the flour into a bowl and then add the water little by little until it is all used up. The batter will be very runny, but smooth and without any lumps of flour; whisk it if necessary.
To make the filling, stir the peas into the ragù. Cut the cheese into small pieces and divide into 8 equal portions. Heat the sunflower oil in a high-sided pan or deep fat fryer to 175?C.
Spoon the rice onto a flat work surface and work it through with your hands for around 5 minutes to break down the grains. Dip your hands into tepid water so that the rice does not stick to you.
Weigh out around 120g of rice and flatten it a little into the palm of your hand.
Put around 30g of the ragu and 10g of the cheese into the hollow in the rice.
Close the rice around the filling, squeezing and pushing the rice together with the point facing down towards you. Flatten the end away from you.
 Dip the volcano into the batter and, as you bring it out, let the batter drain off.
Now roll the volcano in the breadcrumbs. Pick up more breadcrumbs and scatter them over the surface, pressing them in. Repeat to make 8 arancini. Drop a small piece of bread into the hot oil; if it turns brown and sizzles within a couple of minutes, the oil is ready for frying. Fry the arancini in batches in the hot oil until golden brown, around 7–10 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm.
 
Bolognese Ragù
Ragù alla Bolognese
 
Serves 8 as a main, 10 as a starter
 
1 quantity of soffritto (see recipe below), omitting the garlic and rosemary
600g beef mince
200g pancetta or unsmoked streaky bacon or lardo, minced in a food processor or cut finely by hand
200g chicken livers, chopped finely
200ml red wine
800g Italian tinned plum tomatoes
200ml water to wash out the tins
150ml milk
1 teaspoon salt
 
Make the soffritto, frying the vegetables in hot oil for 15–20 minutes or until softened. Add the mince, pancetta and chicken livers and fry for 10–15 minutes over a medium heat, stirring frequently until the meat is browned and the water has been released and evaporated. The mixture should sizzle as it is stirred. Add the wine and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes until the wine has separated from the oil. At this point add the tomatoes, rinsing out the cans with the stock, and add this too. Turn down to a simmer and leave to cook for 1 hour. Add the milk and stir through, leave to cook for a further 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
 
Basic Soffritto recipe
 
150g carrot (about 2-3)
150g celery (2-3 sticks)
150g onions (red or white)
150ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves (optional)
Salt and pepper
2 large sprigs of rosemary and/or thyme
2 bay leaves
 
Finely chop the ingredients by hand or in a food processor. It is best to cut them separately if you are using a machine as the carrots need longer than the celery and onion.
 
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-hot heat. Add the garlic, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Fry for 1 minute before adding the remaining ingredients. Keep frying, stirring frequently, for 15–20 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. The colours will have changed from bright and sharp to soft and golden. Use straight away or freeze
 

Pannacotta for Grown Ups…

This recipe for a coffee pannacotta serves as an excellent finish to a summer dinner party. The strong espresso flavour works really well with the soft milky texture of the pannacotta and the coffee caramel brings a sweet crunch to the affair.
This recipe and many more features in ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ my encyclopaedia of authentic Italian seasonal cookery which can be purchased here.
Pannacotta al caffè
Coffee Pannacotta
 
Serves 4 if using 120ml dariole moulds
 
21?2 gelatine leaves, or 7g powdered gelatine
200ml espresso coffee
300ml double cream
80g caster sugar
Soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water, or follow the packet instructions for softening the powdered gelatine.
Combine the coffee and cream in a bowl, then pour about a quarter of this liquid into a saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir in the sugar and, once it has dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat.
Squeeze out the gelatine sheets and add them to the pan, or add the powdered gelatine. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved, returning the saucepan to the heat if necessary.
Strain this warmed liquid through a sieve (to remove any undissolved gelatine) into the remaining coffee and cream in the bowl. Stir to combine.
Cool the pannacotta, then divide it between moulds or glasses.
 
Caramello al caffè
Coffee Caramel
 
This is also ideal for pouring over ice cream.
 
200g sugar
100ml espresso
Put the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Caramelise until the sugar bubbles and takes on a rich golden colour. (Be careful: the hot caramel can spit at you so it is a good idea to wear oven gloves.) Stir in the espresso when the caramel is bubbling. Leave to cool.
 

Coconut Kisses… Sweet yet Saintly!

These little treats are ideal for when you want something sweet or want stop sweet cravings as they have hardly any sugar and make a great alternative to a chocolate bar or a processed biscuit. They’re quick easy and fun to make and are ready in no time.
 
Baci di Cocco
Coconut kisses
As coconut is naturally sweet I have reduced the maple syrup right down to the minimum. You could make them without the sugar or use xylitol instead. These biscuits are also gluten free so you can indulge those who are intolerant. They are very moreish however, especially when still warm from the oven.
 
Makes approx. 20 kisses
150g desiccated coconut
2 egg whites
30g coconut oil or unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Small pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoon maple syrup (depending on your sweet tooth or use xylitol to taste or 40g Totalsweet)
 
Preheat the oven to 160oC. Mix the coconut, coconut oil or butter, maple syrup and vanilla together until well combined. Beat the egg whites until stiff then fold into the coconut mixture. The mixture will form into a paste. Use a couple of teaspoons to drop mounds around the size of a walnut onto a baking parchment lined tray spaced apart by around 3cm. Put into the oven to bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Then store in an airtight tin for up to a week.
 Coconut kisses
This recipe features on my ‘New You, New Food’ cookery course. See here for upcoming dates.

The Best Broadbean Pate…

Broad bean and mint dip
Franco Taruschio made me this vibrant green dip in spring when he instructed our family in picking the long, green leaves of wild garlic. It is often found by rivers and now the children recognise the smell and gather it for us when we are out walking. The leaves have a gentler flavour than garlic bulbs. It is very moreish and good with lamb chops or on toasted bread for crostini. It is a little late for wild garlic now in June but it can be replaced with the normal cloves of garlic instead. However the time is just right for tender broad beans and we have plenty of fresh mint in our garden these days.
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Serves 12 allowing two pieces of toasted bread each approx 10cm by 7cm or
Serves 6 as a vegetable dish
500g young broad beans in the pod or the same quantity of frozen beans
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or 10 leaves of wild garlic
8 large mint leaves
2 heaped tbsps freshly grated pecorino sardo or parmesan
4 tbsps or more of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 
Shell the beans and blanch them in boiling water for a minute, then plunge into cold water. If the outer skins are tough and you have time, slip the beans out of their skins. Normally I find this unnecessary as the whole dip is so finely chopped.
In a food processor process the garlic and mint to a paste, add the beans then the cheese, salt and pepper and finally the olive oil. The end result should be a smooth, loose paste.
Slice a baguette approximately ½ cm thick and brush with olive oil. Place onto a tray and put into the oven until golden brown and crisp. Serve the broad bean paste. Finish by topping with finely shredded mint leaves.
This recipe features on my ‘New You, New Food’ cookery course. See here for upcoming dates.
Broad beans