Friday, 28 March 2008

food to share: quick crostini

There is nothing as challenging as having a few fussy friends around to feed. Each one of them have their own food preference but also each one not with  something they are not eating.
 I find that having many different things that they can pick save you and them from the embarassment of leaving a whole untouched starter.
I am also in the mood for some colorful food, craving the spring I suppose!
I made my sourdough bread (my favourite recipe being again here) but I have got a good tip for the londoners, end especially the north London one (am I narrowing down my niche too much here?). You can buy your bread at euphorium bakery after 8PM buy one get one free (normally the price is quite high), mhh what a very English idea... However this means you can get bread in the evening and prepare a Sunday Lunch (I refuse to say brunch here), without having to bake, they do sourdough too.

You need to slice your bread in slices of about 1.5 cm then brush them with extra virgin olive oil, and put them in he oven at 200C° for 15 minutes or till golden.

My toppings:
  • Marinated courgettes (sliced finely with a potato peeler), my marinate: 4 tbsp of eldelflower vinegar, 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt to taste, fresh marjoram
  • Roasted and peeled peppers (bake till the skin gets dark, then place in a paper bag for few minutes and then peel of the skin once that they cool down), slice and mix  with green olives, capers and mint (and again a bit of olive oil)
  • tofu cream, which is just a packet of silken tofu blend with a small bunch of dill and a finely chopped leek plus 2 tbs of good shoyu or Tamari soy sauce (I prepare this the night before and keep in the fridge)
  • olive pate' which consist in blend kalamata olives and basil
Isn't just easy to please everyone?

Euphorium Bakery
202 Upper Street Islington

Monday, 24 March 2008

Easter in London and homemade Gnocchi

I was never quite sure whether my mum loved or hated cooking. I think she did like to be adored like the only one that could feed me and dad, but she would have happily put some quicker meals on the table rather then the  Sunday lunches my dad xpected her to. 
The place where I come from in Italy  is all about traditons an when my mum arrived from Eastern Europe (the neighboor called her Bulgarian, Polish and Russian never getting it right) she had to learn quickly from my auntie as my father would not eat any nonsense ethnic stuff. My mum did not know how to cook an egg which was lucky in a way as she did not have her own way to cook and she just picked the Italian one quite quickly.Sunday was normally all about the traditional homemade pasta,"cappelletti" for years. I remember quite clearly that one fine Sunday mum did some gnocchi, an it was as revolutionary as it could get in her kitchen.
On Easter day I have done them just the way she toughed me, boiling the potatoes, mashing them and adding 1/5 of their weight in flour mixing in a dough when the potatoes are still warm. Then I rolled out some ropes of dough cut in  bite size gnocchi and rolled them with my thumb on a fork.
My mum used to do them with fresh tomatoes and basil for me and with ragu' (bolognaise sauce) for her and my father, and they were the most delicious thing ever (or so I remember them to be)
Now I always say to my friends that live in the UK  that thy sould  make them as there is no comparison between the potatoes back home and the ones they have in Britain which are far superior, it's easy and you friends would love it, although I very raely eat potatoes this is my favourite way to use them.  
I did my gnocchi at Easter with an easy easy rocket pesto:
1 bunch rocket
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pistachio nuts
Blend the rocket and garlic and salt add 3 tbs olive oil and taste.
Blend the pistachio nuts, mix with the rocket and add olive oil if you need to preserve it in the fridge (it will keep for 3 days).
Otherwise  put in a sauce pan when your pasta (or gnocchi) is ready add 3 tbsp or more to the pesto of the boiling water to thin it down and
 add the gnocchi to the pesto mixing thoroughly, add dry yeast if your vegan and if you like the taste of it. You can add cashewnuts to the pistachio for a different flavour.
Once again don't buy a jar of pest already made! It's disgusting is not fresh the oil they use is cheap and it would never be as good s you make your own and have it straight away.
The cost of home made:
organic pistachio nuts 1£ for 85gr
olive oil maybe 20 pence for three tbsp
rocket you could grow it on your balcony
salt not sure maybe free if you get it from the neighboor, 50p in Portobello Market.
the waitrose pesto is not vegan and it's 1.99, so fresh is better isn't it? You can obviously add parmesan if you eat dairy but it would still be nicer, and soon you'd be able to do it with basil (ehm it was snowing this morning!)

a guest has a suspicious approach to the rocket pesto :)

Sunday, 16 March 2008

The protest -part two

I would like to thank the Hare Khrisna people that fed us at the protest to end the siege on Gaza,  we were many in Trafalgar Square and they offered food for free. If you feel like giving back you could visit their London restaurant a classic vegetarian address (they are not vegan but you can find some dishes without dairy).

10 Soho street London W1D 3DL,
tel 02074374928
the Bombay mix they gave us at the march was glorious...

Friday, 14 March 2008

A special tahini

Tomorrow like many people we will be attending the protest to end the siege on Gaza in Trafalgar Square, if you would like to see the impact that the siege has you can read it here.
This is only a food blog so  for me the best way to support the cau
se trough it is just to recommend you some ingredients that come from Palestine, so that we can try to support the Palestinians right to have a normal life.
In the UK there are several ways you can get hold of the products from online sellers.
Last week I attended the Palestine Trade Fair at the Arab Chamber of commerce in London, I got to know the products of Canaan Fair Trade (US).
Now if you know me or read my blog you know how I use tahini in almost everything, but the one I bought from the fair is the best I ever had, as it is quite liquid compared to the ones I normally buy but it has really go body and flavor. The olive oil (that I bought from a producer that unfortunately doesn't have a website) has got nothing to envy to an Italian one, and I think that from now on I will always buy Palestinian olive oil.

So if you can't come to Trafalgar square tomorrow (assemble at noon) maybe you can think about filling your pantry with this delicacies.
As they say on the Zaytoun website (UK) the best way is  "resisting the occupation by insisting on life".

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Apple strudel

I don't know what's wrong with me but the more busy I am socially and at work the more prolific I become in the kitchen.
I guess it is just a way to prove myself that I can have a busy schedule and still be an Eco-domestic-goddess? Being submerged with things to do at work and having to find a flatmate (this is a mild form of advertisement if you are interest please leave a comment) I still manage to make all my lunchboxes, and cook almost all my meals. Tonight I went to a restaurant on Essex road called Zigni House, it was delicious! BUT I did not want to skip cooking and made a strudel to have after the dinner... 
So, give me a  lazy Sunday with no commitment and I will probably feed myself with bread and tahini  but pack in so many things in the week, and I will have dozens of pots on the stoves and a funny blob in the oven, I guess cooking makes me so happy that it balances out all the mad stress?

Busy Busy Apple strudel
1 cup whole flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup sunflower seeds oil
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt
3 peeled and diced small apples (I used cox)
1/2 cup raisin
1/2 cup water 
1 teaspoon kuzu
pinch of salt
3/4 cup cashew nuts
1/8 tbs Cinnamon
In a bowl mix together the flour and salt. Rub in the water and oil and make a soft dough, it does not need kneading.Make a ball and leave it to rest while you prepare the filling.
In a small saucepan put all the ingredients for the filling but not the nuts. put on a medium flame and wait till the kuzu is all dissolved and the fruit is covered in the jelly mixture. Let it cool.
Now you can roll the dough between waxed paper ( I have to admit I used tin foil but it's evil so don't do it!)
My dough was really thin (careful not to break it) and the size was like 25cmX10cm. 
You can remove the top sheet and you end up with this almost rectangular thing.
I put the mixture of fruit in the middle and cut slits on the sides and braided them (if you look at the picture you'd understand) :)
You can also spread the mixture all over the surface and simply roll it.

Bake it in a preheat oven 200C° for 30 minutes, when still hot I brush it with 1 teaspoon of rice malt mixed dissolved into 2 of water.

Adapted from Macrobiotic community cookbook by Andrea Bliss-Lerman

Sunday, 9 March 2008

the uplifting aduki beans

Since when I was 18 I learned that to be a good vegetarian you need to soak the beans the night before, no matter if you are planning or not to use them, as once  decided  that you do ... then it's too late!

There are some pulses that can do the job without soaking like certain types of lentils, but to make an hearty soup you need to plan in advance!

I soak mine with a strip of kombu seaweed to avoid digestion problems for almost half of my life, and I try to avoid soggy disgusting canned ones. Canned beans have really the weirdest texture and I can only stand chick peas but really very rarely. 

Cooking with dry pulses is incredibly rewarding and very cheap,  the general rule for a satisfying balanced meal is: one soup, one  grain selection, one long cooking vegetable, and one short cooking one, my long cooking dishes are normally beans.

Once that the beans are soaked overnight you need to boil them for 1 hour I add a strip of kombu seaweed this keeps the pulses more digestible.

Uplifting stir fry

Add 1 tbsp of extravergin olive oil to a pan, add 2 cups of shredded savoy cabbage and few juniper berry, 2 grated carrots, half a sliced red onion, when the vegetables are almost cooked add the cooked beans, a drizzle of tamari and a teaspoon of rice vinegar. Serve sprinkled with gomasio (roasted sesame seeds and sea salt)

This is just an improvised dish but I am trying to use more and more the aduki beans for their amazing properties, and the delicious sweet taste.

If you want to read more about them and wish to find fool-proof recipes click here