Tag Archives: recipe

Biscuits (or scones for you British folk out there)

27 Apr

There is seriously nothing yummier than warm-out-of-the-oven biscuits with butter and homemade jam (Strawberry-lime-Vanilla or Blood Orange Marmalade are perfect).  As a child I spent many hours in my grandmother’s kitchen making these biscuits and I’d have to say it was through this recipe that my passion for baking was ignited.

This is such a simple recipe and really perfect for kids to learn to do on their own.  My grandmother’s version is always made with vegetable shortening (impossible to find in Italy) but I have made them with butter as well.  They aren’t quite as light and airy but tasty just the same.

Here is the step-by-step recipe for BISCUITS:


Take a peek at my daughter’s little film (fast forward) of making these biscuts here.

Strawberry-lime vanilla jam

19 Apr

We’re heading into strawberry season here in Italy.  You can find big, ripe strawberries in all the supermarkets, outdoor markets and from produce trucks on the side of the roads.  Yesterday I bought a big boxful from the local Sicilian produce truck and was excited to get home and try them out.  They smelled so sweet and delicious.

There’s only one slight little problem.  I’m allergic to fresh strawberries.  But somehow every year when strawberry season comes around I convince myself that it’s a possibility that my strawberry allergy has miraculously been cured.  And every year I pop one lovlingly in my mouth, taste that divine sweet berry flavour then proceed to swell up.  My eyes get red and swollen, my lips puff up (think Angelina Jolie here) and my throat starts to itch so terribily I’ve been known to contemplate shoving a fork down to scratch it .  In other words I look frightening.  Scare-the-neighbourhood-kids sort of frightening.  But let me tell you…those 10 seconds of tasting fresh strawberries is almost worth the discomfort I feel from the allergic reaction.

So in order to use up some of the strawberries that I purchased I decided to give jam making a try again (I’m not allergic to cooked strawberries).  Last time it was actually a success (Blood Orange Marmalade).   And I’m proud to tell you this time was as well.

Today we gave this new batch of jam a try with fresh out of the oven homemade biscuits.  Delicious.  The sweetness of the berries with the addition of the tart lime juice and rind is really perfection.  And to round off all the flavours the vanilla gives it such a deep sweet richness.

Unfortunately only one of my three children likes jam (the other two run away in horror at the mere mention of spreading it on their bread).  So a nice thing about this recipe is the fact it makes quite a small batch.  I managed to get 3 normal sized jars of jam out of this recipe.

Recipe: Strawberry Lime Vanilla Jam

4 cups chopped strawberries
2 cups of sugar (divided in two)
1-2 vanilla bean (split and pulp scraped from the inside)
1 lime (zest and juice)

1. Place chopped strawberries in large bowl with 1 cup of the sugar and the vanilla bean and let marinate (some prefer the term macerate…not me) for 2-3 hours.

2.  Add marinated strawberries into large pot with the remaining cup of sugar and bring to a boil and simmer until it reaches 220 degrees (I use a candy thermometre).

3.  Add the lime juice and zest and boil for additional 5-8 minutes or until the jam is at the correct consistency.

4.  Remove vanilla bean and pour jam into prepared and sterilized jars.

Enjoy! (I found this recipe here)

This jam brings back warm and fuzzy memories of one of my favourite childhood books “Bread and Jam for Frances” by Russel Hoban.  I so related to Francis and her love of bread and jam.  Still do.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

17 Apr

After two weeks of various Japanese desserts which included lots of white and red bean paste, flavoured fruit jellies and matcha tea cookies and ice cream the kids were craving some home baked cookies from La Mama.

So in between all the unpacking and cleaning I managed to whip up some chewy oatmeal cookies.  The perfect afternoon snack for a cold and  rainy spring day.I always slightly underbake oatmeal cookies to give them that soft and chewy texture.  These are great just out of the oven or several days later.  Not that they’ll last that long…

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs (preferably organic)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (good quality makes a huge difference).
1 1/2 cup flour
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (essential for that sweet/salty taste we all love)
3 cups quick cooking oats

1.  Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

2.  Add in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.

3.  Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon (if using) together.  Slowly add to butter mixture.

4.  Mix in the oats (and any nuts or chocolate chips if desired).

5.   Drop onto baking sheet (do not flatten).  Bake for 12 minutes at 350 C (180F).

6.  Let cookies cool for a few minutes before transferring to cooling rack.


Orange blossom cake with mandarine glaze

11 Mar

Today was a beautiful sunny day.  A bit on the chilly side but the smell of spring is definitely in the air.  And with that smell of spring comes the irresistable urge to clean and organise my house.

In between all this cleaning and organising I made some mini Orange Blossom Water Cakes with Mandarine Glaze.  A friend brought me the Orange Blossom Water a while ago and I’ve been really looking forward to baking with it.  I’ve never used it but have seen many Middle Eastern and Mediterrenean recipes which call for it.  It has such a pungent perfumy smell that becomes so mild when baked in these cakes.

Orange Blossom Water Cakes with Mandarine Glaze

1 1/2 cups All purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
small pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp orange blossom water
1/2 cup melted butter (unsalted)

1.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.

2. Beat eggs, lemon zest, brown sugar and white sugar until light and frothy.

3. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and mix until just combined.  Add buttermilk mixed with orange blossom water and melted butter.  Mix until combined.

4. Pour into buttered cake pan (or mini cake pans).  Bake in 350 degree oven (35-45 minutes for one large cake or 20-25 minutes for small cakes.

5. For glaze mix 1/4 orange juice with 1 cup powdered sugar.  You can also add a little splash of the orange blossom water and some grated mandarine peel.  Pour over cakes.


Coffee Cake (senza caffe)

23 Feb

It’s a little overcast today.  The kids are home on vacation for the settimana bianca.  My mom is visiting.  My friend brought me buttermilk from France. I had a craving for chocolate.  All of these are perfect excuses to make a good cake.  I found this recipe on the joy of baking website and I tweaked it ever so slightly (adding half sour cream and half buttermilk).  As always it’s really simple and the result so yummy.  I made the mistake of asking the kids if they want a piece of coffee cake and they all bolted while making gagging noises.  I guess they don’t understand that there’s no coffee in it.  Oh well.  All the more for us.

 And can I just talk for a second about the combination of cinnamon with chocolate?  It’s just so…harmonious together.  The cinnamon really deepens the richness of the dark chocolate I used.  It gives it a little umph if you know what I mean.  I had to google the spelling of umph. Get recipe here.

Petit Fours

10 Feb

I don’t have a bucket list but if I did I think attempting to make petit fours would be on it…at about number 87.  And yesterday I did just that.  I attempted to make petit fours.  Key word being attempted.  The result wasn’t the image I had in my head when I started yesterday morning (blush pink miniature cakes with smooth perfect icing and a sweet embellishment on top).  But they are really tasty.  And if I were to ever attempt to make them again (doubtful) I have lots of things I would do differently to make the whole process MUCH easier and less time consuming.  One of the most important aspects of making Petit Fours is making the glaze the perfect consistency.  At first mine was too liquidy.  Then too thick (hence the lumpy result).

The recipe is from on old Martha Stewart magazine from 2006.   I always keep MS magazines and re-read them from time to time (yeah that’s right…I’m a geek).  It’s a marzipan cake which is absolutely delicious.  Very dense and moist.  I spread some raspberry jam in between the cakes and the almond and raspberry tastes really compliment each other.  The glaze is a simple icing sugar/milk mixture.Get Spring Shower Almond Petit Fours recipe here.

Pesto di Rucola

9 Feb

Another day, another mason jar recipe.  I was browsing through some great blogs and I came across this recipe.  I had a fridge full of lemons and arugula so I figured it was meant to be for me to make it.  And I’m so happy I did.  It is all sorts of delicious.  It’s one of those recipes that I can make at any time due to the fact I always have every single ingredient in my house.  I’ve looked at Italian recipes for Pesto di Rucola and none of them call for anchovies but I think it’s a really perfect addition to the recipe.  It gives some saltiness and of course the famous depth of flavour that is always associated with adding anchovies to any dish.  Put anchovies on my pizza and I’ll be running away in horror but saute them in a pasta sauce or puree them in pesto and I love it.

My husband and I ate it on crusty white ciabatta with goat cheese for lunch.  Then on pasta for dinner.  Then in a salad dressing the next day. You just don’t get bored of this stuff.  Get recipe here.

Red lentil soup with fresh coriander

5 Feb

It is so so so cold here at the moment.  It’s all I talk about to anyone I meet. At bit like when I had newborn twins and all I talked about with anyone who even made eye contact with me was sleep deprivation.   It was actually -15 when we got home from a party last night at midnight.  I’ve decided to not leave the house until the Italian weather smartens up and the crocuses (croci ?) start sprouting.  I keep expecting to find my chickens frozen solid in their little house in the morning when I take them their heated water and kitchen scraps.  How can they survive?  I’m seriously thinking of knitting them this or this.  So of course to make us all feel warmer I decided to make one of my favorite soups.  It’s a recipe from my mother and I actually have no idea where she found it.  It’s delicious and so flavourful.  Lots of fresh coriander is a must. I have a thing for photographing food in mason jars lately.,,,,

Red Lentil Soup with Fresh Coriander.

2 onions finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

3/4 cup red lentils

820 grams  crushed tomatoes (or 2 large cans)

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/3 cup fresh coriander, chopped

2 tsp tumeric

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp black pepper

Cumin to taste (I put a lot)

1. Saute oil, onions and garlic for 2-4 minutes.

2. Add all other ingredients, bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

4. Puree soup (or not) to desired consistency.


4 Feb

This past week has been quite a citrus-y week. First lemon curd and now blood orange marmalade.  But living in Italy it’s quite normal to eat and cook with citrus in the winter months.  You find trucks from the south of Italy parked on the side of all the roads selling their oranges and clementines.  The men who sell these fruits have such a thick southern accent that I sometimes have a hard time deciphering what they’re saying to me and I do a lot of smiling and nodding. But the oranges that they sell are so delicious.  Full of flavour, not too acidic and sometimes so sweet.  I found a recipe for Orange Marmalade in an old Martha Stewart magazine from years ago.  I altered it a little by adding more chopped rind, less sugar and by using blood oranges (Tarocco) instead of normal oranges.  Apparently these Tarocco oranges are packed full of antioxidents, vitamin c, folate, calcium and dietary fibre.  But I’m thinking all that good stuff is wiped out by the truckload of sugar the marmalade recipe calls for.  But it is oh so tasty.

Recipe: Blood Orange Marmalade

3 Organic oranges (I used 2 blood orange and 1 normal)

2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 cups water

7 1/2 cups sugar (I know…it’s nuts.  I only added 7 cups of sugar)

1. Rinse oranges under hot water.  Cut orange in 8 wedges lengthwise.  Slice these wedges very thinly crosswise (to get little triangle shaped pieces).

2. Over medium-high heat bring orange slices, orange juice, lemon juice and 6 cups of water to a boil in large heavy bottomed pan (Le Creuset pots are perfect for this).  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.  The oranges slices should become slightly translucent and tender.

3. Stir in sugar and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved.  Continue cooking (skimming foam from surface) until mixture reads approx. 220 on a candy thermometer (about 15 minutes).    If you see mixture is still runny cook a further 5-10 minutes until syrupy.

4. Let cool and transfer to an airtight container or sterilized bottles. Enjoy!

Cold weather baked goods

1 Feb

I am in absolute shock at the weather the last few days.  Living in Italy you don’t expect to get lots of snow and below zero temperatures.  But we have and apparently it’s going to continue for a while.  Which means I will be holed up in my house with the fire on and the oven ready at all times to bake various goodies.  Something about cold weather just makes me want to bake and make stews.  Here are a few things I’ve made over the last few days…I used my grandmother’s recipe for the lemon curd.  It’s just so good.  You could eat it by the spoonful.  I do actually. I used some of this batch of curd to fill a coconut cake with boiled icing.  It was good.  But very lopsided.  I have some issues with my oven and it’s hotspots.I made these yesterday evening and didn’t notice my son eating them by the handful.  Let’s just say bedtime was very wild last night.  He kept saying “Mama, these look like REAL cookies!”.  And all the other thousands of cookies I’ve made him?  What did they look like? Get shortbread recipe here.

Recipe for Lemon Curd:

3 eggs
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Melt butter in double boiler.  Add sugar and well beaten eggs.  Combine and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice and cook another 3 minutes or until smooth and thick.  CHILL and store in glass jar.  Enjoy!

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