My Break-Through-In-The-UK dish

This is the dish that made me realise how much I enjoy cooking for other people and putting a smile on their faces 🙂

I was 23  years old and full of dreams when I decided it was time to change my life. I moved to the UK in 1999 all by myself, leaving all my family and friends behind, without knowing where I would have stayed and whom I would have met ( my English at that time was ok-ish for me to get by, let alone for me to even start thinking that it would have become a second language for me!!!) …..I did not know I would have had the most amazing time with some special people who are now friends for life.

The passion for food has always been there but it really became visible during my years at Uni and my (Spanish) flatmates helped my passion to become a real “THING”……….. ……simple ingredients made a dish that still today is one of my fortes.

Gracias  Amigas! Merce, Virgi y todas las cumpañeras de piso de Greenstead! Eso es para vosotras 🙂

TAH-LLYA-TEH-LLEH (Tagliatelle) ai Funghi e Pancetta

Pancetta and Mushroom Tagliatelle

I would normally make my own tagliatelle but it’s just as tasty (and quicker) using the pre-packed one. Any local supermarket would sell it! Follow the cooking time on the packet and make sure you add some course salt in the water as it starts to boil. Instead of the pancetta you can use cooked ham (finely chopped). Or if you want to make this dish vegetarian you can completely miss out the pancetta and replace it with some asparagus……it’s still extremely tasty and simple.

Serving 4 people

Ingredients

350g fresh tagliatelle (roughly 2 nests per person)

150g closed up mushrooms, finely chopped

150ml double cream (single cream for less fat content)

1 glove of garlic, finely chopped

1 handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

130g smoked Italian pancetta (cubes)

olive oil 2tbsp

salt, a pinch

Preparation

In a large saucepan pour some water (1/1.5 l) and bring it to the boil. Add a large tablespoon of coarse salt and put the pasta in.

Put the olive oil on a pan, add the pancetta and cook for a couple of minutes until the pancetta is crispy. Add the mushrooms and gently mix together. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes on a low heat. Add the garlic and the parsley keep stirring and cook for a minute. Pour the cream and cook with the lid on for a couple of minutes.

The tagliatelle should be cooked by now! Drain the pasta, put it onto a large serving dish, pour the sauce and mix together. Add some parmesan cheese…..Pronto! 

IMG_1536

Advertisements

We love Gnocchi-di-Patate-Fatti-in-Casa

IMG_3672

People often ask me if it is possible to cook from scratch delicious and healthy dishes when time is an issue. My answer is very simple: Time Management.

Planning an healthy meal is very simple and it will save you lots of time for sure! Firstly I always  make sure I have the basic staples (such as pasta, rice, couscous, flour, semolina….) in my cupboard and pantry,  also fresh herbs and vegetables are a must in my kitchen.

Today I am making a classic, “Gnocchi di Patate” (Potato Gnocchi) the easiest and quickest pasta dish that everyone will love. I would always freeze half of the gnocchi and I would cook them on a school night when time is definitely tight. Just like my Mamma would do I love planning my meals on a daily base, when you are busy with the children, work, school runs and all the sorts of things a Mum needs to do I can guarantee you being organised in the kitchen makes your life better.

So are you ready? Have you got all the ingredients for this delicious dish?

Serving 4-6 people 

Ingredients

4 large potatoes (1kg)

300g strong white flour

1 egg

salt

Preparation 

In a large pot with just enough water to cover the potatoes, boil them with their skins on for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Try not to over boil them.

Remove potatoes and drain well. Peel boiled potatoes and use a potato ricer to mash them until all completely smooth (alternately you can use a potato masher)

Place the riced potatoes into a large mixing bowl (or you can place them straight  on a dry work top). Add the flour, the salt and the egg and start mixing with a fork.

Transfer the mix on a dry work top and pull together ingredients. Knead to form dough. Be careful not to over-knead. Be weary of adding flour at this point. Too much flour will give you hard gnocchi. Knead just enough for the dough to come together. Dough should have a loose airy texture, not gooey or dense. Shape dough into a long, wide cylinder for cutting.

Quarter dough. Roll each piece by gently pushing with fingers spread. The goal is to make an evenly-distributed rope.

Using a pastry cutter or non-serrated knife, cut dough ropes into 2cm pieces. To prevent sticking, keep gnocchi in a cool area. Toss them with extra flour while they are waiting to be cooked or frozen. Gently shake away any excess flour and place finished gnocchi in a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook the gnocchi until they float to the top, about 2-4 minutes. Gently remove them with a slotted spoon, drain very well. Toss them in a saucepan with your favorite sauce and cook together for about 2 minutes.

My children’s favourite Gnocchi dish is in a simple basil and tomato sauce but today I wanted to be more adventurous and I made a creamy mushroom sauce with garlic and thyme.

It was DELIZIOSO!!!!!!!

I hope I made Mamma and Nonna proud 🙂

 

Why #BringNonnaBack?

What is #BringNonnaBack?🇮🇹
Nonna is the Italian word for grandmother.
In Italy, Nonna is the queen of the kitchen and her recipes are passed from generation to generation.
Nonna is in charge of the feeding for the whole family and they are trained to cook for a regiment of family, friends and guests from an early age.
They would start cooking at 7 o’clock in the morning and by the evening they would have already planned lunch and dinner for the next day! They would cook their traditional recipe (every Nonna has her own traditional recipe) and they are very proud of it. We learn from them not to waste any food and to keep recipes simple and fresh. They would encourage everyone (including their young grandchildren) to learn some basic cooking skills They would spend the weekend baking bread and making fresh pasta and they would always make sure everyone is fed….My Nonna is now 95 years old and Lilly’s Nonna is 70 years old..they are both very pleased we are keeping the family tradition alive ❤️Lilly and I love cooking together, we make recipes up, we cook from scratch and we use very simple and fresh ingredients. We are never too busy, too tired, too bored…we just love what we do ❤️Please can you help us spread #BringNonnaBack we are sure all the Nonnas out there would love to see how we can keep old traditions still fresh in the modern society 😊 GRAZIE NONNA xx

IMG_4637 2

IMG_4634

 

 

IMG_0012IMG_1872

IMG_1865

 

La Pasta di Darren

Can you believe my husband’s favourite pasta ever is made with only 3 ingredients? The funny thing is that that MAIN ingredient is CARROTS and HE DOESN’T even LIKE CARROTS!!!!! In my household we like to try different recipes and despite our different tastebuds we end up discovering new flavours and loving new recipes.

I learnt from an early age that you don’t need to elaborate a dish to make it exceptional, you only need to use a few ingredients and everybody will love it….. Darren loves it too 🙂

Both my Mamma and Nonna can rely to this motto since they are the two people who taught me all I know about cooking. “IMPARA A CUCINARE USANDO POCHI, ANZI POCHISSIMI INGREDIENTIS!!!!” ( Learn to cook using the fewest ingredients) …. I can almost hear them saying it to me whilst kneading the dough for some fresh ravioli.

Carrots, onions, cream, a little bit of salt and a drizzle of olive oil…. you might be thinking  “how could it be possible for  a pasta dish to be so delicious and quick?”.

You will have to try !!! and please send all your feedback 🙂

#BringNonnaBack

 

fullsizeoutput_4226

fullsizeoutput_4228

Serving 4 people

 

Ingredients

3 large carrots, peeled

1 red onion

150ml single or double cream

olive oil, 3 tablespoons

salt, 1 teaspoon

Penne Pasta, 350g

 

Preparation 

Bring 1 and a half litre of water to the boil. Add the pasta into the boiling water and cook following the cooking times on the packet.

Whilst you are waiting for the water to boil, get all the ingredients ready: place a non-stick pan on a medium heat with the olive oil, the carrots and the onions finally chopped (you can use a vegetable chopper ). Cook for 15 minutes with the lid on or until the onions and the carrots soften. Add a little water if the mix gets too dry. Stir and add a pinch of salt. Pour the cream and reduce the heat. Cook for 2/3 minutes.

Your past should be ready by now. Drain it and place it on a large dish.

Pour the sauce on your pasta, add a little Parmesan and enjoy….Pronto! 

fullsizeoutput_4227

 

Camone – Amore

fullsizeoutput_3d7b

I was walking around Borough Market the other day hunting for some fresh produce and  amongst all the lively and colourful tents the most beautiful stall of vegetables had my favourite Sardinian tomatoes! I was elated !!! I grew up eating tomatoes, when I say eating them I mean, both my brother and I used to “steal” them from the fridge and eat them whilst watching the telly… no crisps, no sweets, or any other type of snacks….. at the time only fresh and juicy tomatoes.

The Camone tomatoes  /CAH-MOH-NEH/  have all the properties of the other tomatoes and a distinctive texture followed by the sweetest taste that makes your mouth water at the first bite. If you have never tried I would definitely recommend them. Raw, with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt is what makes them so special. And guess what? They are at the heart of the Mediterranean diet, they are an excellent source of vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum and vitamin K, copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E and phosphorus.

fullsizeoutput_3d7f

Tomatoes are not only great in salads but I also put them in my children’s pack lunch, my children take after me…..they would eat tomatoes all day long and they also love them as a snack after they come back from school.

My Nonna and my Mamma have done a great job teaching me all I needed to know about eating fresh and healthy produce. Grazie! #BringNonnaBack

Do you you like balsamic vinegar? If you do I have a delicious recipe for you to try:

POMODORINI AL FORNO ALL’ACETO BALSAMICO

Ingredients for 4 people

1 punnet of cherry or baby plum tomatoes (250g-300g)

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

3 tablespoon of good quality balsamic vinegar

handful of fresh Basil

2 bay leaves

salt, pinch

olive oil, 2/3 tbs

Preparation

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and place them into an oven proof dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle the bay leaves and basil,  add the garlic, add the balsamic vinegar and mix. Place in the oven for 10 minutes and serve as a side dish to a meat of fish recipe ….. BUONISSIMI!

My first trip to America…

This post is going to be a touch different from my previous ones, of course it’s going to be about food ( I’ll be bringing Nonna back to my American table for the next 2 weeks while I will be staying here in Florida) however it’s going to be about Language as well! Language? Why would language have such an impact on my trip? We all speak English, don’t we? Well we do but when you have a strong Italian accent and your American friends are not used to it, every word I say has an American equivalent and muddling up words can be rather entertaining at this point……

Our American friends Richard and Judy are just awesome!! (am I getting Americanised here?) They are wonderful people and fun to be around. I am thrilled that they took the time to come to see us from South Carolina (8 hour journey) and my first trip to America is going to be even more special with them here  🙂

Judy is an excellent cook and she prepared us some beautiful meals. We are staying in a villa with lots of space, a swimming pool and a huge kitchen. It’s so hot, it almost feels weird wearing all my summery clothes!!! The A/C is constantly on, we are all drinking fresh OJ and the kettle makes a funny noise!!! Words like “Kettle” with my accent can sound like something completely different… The Kettle is on! I said to Judy this morning. She looked at me a bit puzzled and she said: What casserole Lara? (Laugh Out Loud!!!!)

We couldn’t stop laughing and for dinner we are having Pork Casserole to commemorate our little misunderstanding! Brazato di Maiale (BRAH-SAH-TOH DEE MAH-YA-LEH) is one delicious dish and I am looking forward to tasting Judy’s recipe.

So our first day was filled with laughter, fun, language lessons,  food, supermarket touring and some relaxing time around the pool. I’ll have to tell my Nonna that I bought some extra virgin olive oil and espresso coffee, she always thought America is too far away for the olive oil and coffee to get here…. she is only 95 years young  🙂

We are vacuuming instead of hoovering, we push shopping carts instead of trolleys, we fill the car with gas instead of petrol, we watch TV instead of Telly, we change the channels with the clicker, we don’t do the washing up (well I don’t anyway!!!) we wear panties, we take a shower (sometimes we jump in the shower too) we talk on a cell and we are ALL SET ……

 

fullsizeoutput_3909

 

 

 

 

 

I am just a girl….

IMG_8610

I am still buzzing and overwhelmed by the most mind blowing experience.
I was picked as a volunteer for the UK CEO CookOff where 30 top chefs, 60 CEOs and 600  everyday heroes from schools and hospitals teamed up for the most amazing banquet, raising money to tackle food waste, obesity and malnutrition. A lifetime evening of cooking, fundraising and feasting. The money raised ( over £500.000) will be divided equally between the food education programmes of Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and UKHarvest’s food waste reduction initiatives. It was just incredible!

If you know me in person you can just imagine how excited I was (and I still am) to be part of this lifetime experience and to have the honour to meet and work with my fellow Food Revolution Ambassadors!

Alex from Cheltenham, Thomas from Germany, Jaroslav from Switzerland and myself from Essex ( well, with my Italian /Essex accent!!). We all helped and worked together in teams with the chefs and CEOs to create some of the most amazing dishes, using the freshest and the finest produce and saving the leftovers…. yes, we did get to taste the most delicious food too.

Being in the heart of London amongst the biggest names in the British culinary world, the UK’s top business leaders, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall who attended the CEO CookOff as a Patron of UKHarvest and Jamie, of course! My dream came true, I always wanted to meet him and tell him I am fighting against child obesity and that I’m bringing Nonna Back to the modern families’ tables…and yes I also had to tell him I come from Essex!! well, Sort of 😉

When I saw him in the flesh I realised it was not a dream ……

I have been following Jamie Oliver since I moved to the UK in 1999, he inspired my cooking and I learnt from him that I need to be myself even when I am cooking. This is how I started sharing a few recipes on social media among my friends and writing a food blog was the beginning….. When I joined his Food Revolution 2 years ago and I become an Ambassador for my area I did not know that I would have received all the support from the community and the local school. The concept of Food Revolution really works and it brings people together.

As I walked into Old Billingsgate on Tuesday I felt more energised and inspired than ever, everyone was there for the same reason: the love and passion for food! I am not a chef by all means, but that day I felt like one, the solidarity and the support that everyone showed was indescribable. When you see people smiling, laughing, having a good time you know there is something pretty special about an event like this. I am grateful I experienced such an amazing day, I met some awesome people and I will never forget how it made me feel.
It brought something into my life, that extra boost …
What’s next?

I am just a girl with dreams and I am a believer in dreams do come true….

Please support the CEOCookOff cause http://www.ceocookoff.co.uk

IMG_8598

IMG_8691IMG_8575.JPG

My recipe today is inspired by the colour yellow (just like the #UKHarvest van)

Risotto allo Zafferano Facile Facile 

Serving 4 people

Ingredients

300g Arborio rice

500ml chicken stock or 500ml hot water (1 gelatine type chicken cube to mix in the water)

white onion, half, finely chopped

70g butter

saffron, 1 bag

fresh parmesan, as much as you like!!!!!

Preparation

Place the butter on a no-stick pan and melt in on a low heat, add the onion and simmer until golden. Add the rice and stir it. The rice will start roasting and it’s important that it doesn’t burn. Have your stock ready and make sure it’s hot, alternatively melt the gelatine cube in the hot water and mix it thoroughly. Gradually add the stock in the pan and keep stirring the rice, repeat this until you have used all the stock. Sprinkle the saffron and mix it throughly. Cook for another 2 minutes. The rice will look creamy and will taste “al dente” . Serve it with some fresh parmesan, shavings or grated. Pronto!

P.S. Rice takes 14/15 minutes to cook, should you have used all of your stock and the rice feels still quite hard, I would recommend to add a little water but don’t over cook it! Never cook your rice for longer than 15 minutes !

P.S.2. I like to use the same basic recipe with other flavour combinations: Asparagus and Mushrooms, Broccoli and Sweet corn, Asparagus and Salmon, Prawns and Courgette……and so many more……..

IMG_1382