Tuesday 31 March 2015

14–Carluccio & Contaldo–Two Greedy Italians–Cooking the Books

two greedy italians 

Starter:   Testaroli with Pesto 

Main:      Merluzzo in Crosta (cod with tomato crust) 

Dessert:  Lemon Granita

Whilst trying to find seem thing different in my recipe books this week, it appears I have far more than my fair share of Italian based ideas. One of these is from the Two Greedy Italians. Otherwise known as Gennaro Contaldo, Jamie's friend and mentor, and Antonio Carluccio. With the things I had in the fridge and the standard store cupboard staples, I found myself rather limited for choice this week. Rather than a starter, I've gone for a 'primo' plate, often a pasta plate or more substantial starter.

Starter: Testaroli con Pesto

Easiness: 8/10, especially if you already have pesto

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 4/10 – if you’ve got pasta, you may as well use that instead.

Cheats & Changes: none

This testaroli is a dish often made by the poorer Italian from the Lunigiana region, and it combines only water, flour and salt and ends up more like a pancake batter than a pasta as such. Let's call it a cross between gnocchi, pasta and pancakes. And since it's meant to be served with a plain and simple sauce, I did as suggested and used pesto, the same I used for Jamie's white risotto, as one jar goes a long way!

Sieve a pinch of salt and 350g plain flour. Whisk in 300 ml water little by little, then add 2 tbs olive oil. In a hot, greased pan, fry these in pancake type rounds, then slice. Pop into a pot of boiling, salted water until they rise to the top. Pour your chosen flavour over the top and serve sprinkled with a little cheese.

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If you have pasta to hand, you’d be as well using that, but this did serve as a quick alternative if the cupboard is bare.

Main: Merluzzo in Crosta

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none

The main is a simple cod which I'll serve with potato dauphinois and a green salad: merluzzo in crosta. You combine stale bread, sundried tomatoes, black olives and salt and pepper in a processor until it all resembles breadcrumbs. Splash a little white wine and olive oil over the cod fillets and bake at 150 for five minutes. Then add the topping and bake again for ten mins or until the fish is just cooked through. Serve with greens and whatever else you'd like.


This was a lovely spring / summer dish and had a fresh, healthy feel to it for once, especially after all those rich stews. It was really lovely and one I’ll definitely make again.

Dessert: Lemon Granita

Easiness: 8/10

Taste:10 /10

Make again: 10/10

Cheats & Changes: none


Dessert is more of a palette cleanser served in between courses but you can always serve it as a light, fresh dessert: lemon granita. Add half a litre of water and 300g sugar to the pan and heat until it's beginning to turn syrupy, about ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in half a litre of strained lemon juice, about 6-8 lemons, then leave for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the grated zest of one lemon and stir again. Tip into a plastic tub and freeze, every half an hour, remove and mix with a fork to break up the ice crystals. Now, this is where you need to have planned ahead and made sure you'll be at home for a few hours as this should be done over the cruise of about four hours, every thirty minutes! Once finished, you can leave it in the freezer until ready to serve.

This was really, really nice. Much more so than expected. It gave an instant hit of sugar, so much so that you thought it was going to be too sweet. Then the sour zest hit you and the sweetness was replaced. You were left with a refreshed feeling! I’ll make this again for a quick between-courses refresher, but maybe use a little less sugar.

Sunday 22 March 2015

13–Jamie Oliver, Jamie’s Italy – Cooking the Books

Starter:     Baked Mushrooms stuffed with Ricotta

Main:        White Risotto

Dessert:    Vanilla Ice-cream with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Jamie's Italian

Starter: Baked Mushrooms stuffed with Ricotta

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again:9 /10

Cheats & Changes: none


I do like a stuffed mushroom! And this was no exception. Again, you know the flavours are going to work before you begin and it’s one of those things that when you’ve made a few different versions of it, you sort of come up with your own version based on the ingredients you have to hand. Jamie mixed chilli, lemon zest, parmesan, salt and pepper with ricotta, stuffed the mushrooms, sprinkled a little more parmesan on top and baked until bubbling. We used little mushrooms as served as ‘canapés’ and just popped them into our mouths. The recipe is here but you can really do your own version.

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Main: White Risotto with Pesto

Easiness: 6/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 7/10 – but I’ll definitely make the pesto again

Cheats & Changes: none

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I came across this recipe whilst looking for a pesto sauce to have with some homemade ravioli – made in the KitchenAid but hand finished as I think the ravioli attachment just looks too clumsy to be worthwhile using it. Much easier to lay one sheet on top of the other and cut around by hand. Whatever you do, don’t bother buying the Kitchen Craft single ravioli cutter – it doesn’t cut and is absolutely useless. You’d be far better buying a ravioli wheel cutter instead.

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Anyway, I digress! I still have a jar of the pesto left, so this seemed the ideal recipe with which to use it. A simple white onion based risotto. The pesto is just blitzing the usual pesto ingredients and altering to you own to your own taste: pine nuts, basil, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice if you like, salt and pepper. Jamie’s recipe is here, but it really is a question of taste. The risotto is also a very simple combination of onion, celery and garlic, cooked soffrito (slowly until softening but not coloured). The recipe is here, but if you’re used to making your own usual risotto, you can use that. Once they’ve softened, ad the rice and leave for as long as possible before it starts to catch. Pour in wine and leave until it’s a,most bubbled away. Add the stock, ladle by ladle until it’s been absorbed. At the end, remove from the heat and stir in a large knob of butter and grated parmesan. Leave for a couple of minutes with a lid on to go all gooey. Dollop a large spoonful of the pesto on top and serve with toasted pine nuts sprinkled over.

If you’re going to make a risotto, and you have a jar of pesto at the ready, homemade or otherwise, this is really quick, simple and, more importantly, tasty.

Dessert: Vanilla Ice Cream with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Easiness: 10/10

Taste: 10/10

Make again: 10/10

Cheats & Changes: none

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I think this is the first ‘full house’ 30/30 I’ve given! Jamie himself admits to this being an unusual combination and one you have to try to believe it can work. What you do need to make sure is that all your three ingredients are superb quality. I’m using Carte D’Or vanilla ice-cream, a delicious Abel and Cole extra virgin olive oil and Maldon sea salt. Very, very tasty. No more standard vanilla for us!

Wednesday 11 March 2015

12: Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book- Cooking the Books

Starter:     Scallops au Gratin

Main:        Chicken Pilaff

Dessert:    Vanilla Slices


This has been a ‘home’ family favourite for years, particularly the orange chicken tarragon recipe, but I can no longer source frozen concentrated orange juice! Sainsbury's used to sell it many, many years ago but, alas, no more. And neither does anywhere else, so if you have an alternative, please comment below and let me know, or bring me back some from the US or Australia!


When I flicked through the preface in the book, I was rather surprised! Staring back at me was a much younger, but still very recognisable Mary Berry! She has created many of the recipes inside, and the starter and main I have chosen are both hers. From the three chefs, she’s the only name I recognise!Also, just for a giggle, I’ve included some of the original photos and recipes, many of which simply combine ingredients, rather than require any cooking. Not sure they’re recipe ideas which I’ll be trying any time soon: cold chicken smothered in mayonnaise, jellied turkey with mandarins, and stripy–tie salmon!








Starter: Scallops au Gratin

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 4/10

Make again: 2/10

Cheats & Changes: no quantities, pan fried scallops, own cheese sauce!

I admit it … I  didn’t follow this recipe at all. I looked at it and made the components in my own way. It’s a very old fashioned scallops au gratin with a cheese sauce served in the shell. It is suggested that you cook the scallops in milk first but to add flavour, I browned mine in a frying pan. Pop one in each scallop shell. Make a cheese sauce – a roux béchamel with added cheese, pour over the top. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs over the top and pop under a hot grill till bubbling.


Let’s just say, there are better ways to eat scallops where the gentle, sweet flavours aren’t masked by a thick, gloopy cheese sauce. I’d suggest trying these recipes instead: Scallops on Leek Puree, Scallops with Chorizo & Minted Pea Puree, Seafood Linguine


Main: Chicken Pilaff

Easiness: 6/10 – lots of chopping

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none

I haven’t even bothered searching for this recipe online, so will abbreviate it here!


Fry of your chicken joints until browned, then cover and leave to cook on the hob for 20 minutes. Remove from pan. Add chopped onion, celery and peppers. Fry until they are soft, add rice and fry for a further few minutes. Pour in water chopped tomatoes, stock cube, garlic, curry powder, mixed herbs and chilli powder, bring to the boil, stir, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Fry mushrooms, then stir everything together and add a handful of frozen peas. Reheat till everything is hot.


In terms of spices, add what you like, I didn’t add more than a teaspoon of anything, but it depends on the heat of your powders. To serve four, use 4 joints, 8oz long grain rice, 8oz can tomatoes, 1.25 pints water. Again, once you’ve done the chopping, it’s really easy. I put the mushrooms in the with the chicken at the beginning rather than dong after and added the herbs, pieces, stock and tomatoes to the water in one jug so it was all ready to just pour in.


In theses times, I used a basmati rice which needed a much shorted cooking time, so make sure the veg are cooked to your liking before you add the rice. This was really tasty though and I’d make it again with ‘bottom of the fridge’ ingredients as you can throw in any leftovers that need using.

Dessert: Vanilla Slices

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 4/10

Cheats & Changes: none

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This is really easy, and is definitely a more English version cream cake than a French. Crème Anglaise (custard) version of Mille Feuille. Cut your shop bought, ready rolled puff pastry into 3x12 inch strips, place on a damp baking tray in a hot oven until well risen. Allow to cool. Mix icing sugar with water until it a coating consistency and colour it whatever colour you fancy. Spread one slice of pastry with jam, the other with icing sugar coating. Spread whipped cream, flavoured with vanilla, over the jammy one, top with the icing coated one and cut into slices.

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I found that I cut narrow strips, which meant the pastry really did rise, leaving me with a little problem when it came to jamming and creaming them! If I’d have stuck to the recipe's measurements, I think they’d have ended up a little flatter. My own suggestion would be to cook one as per the recipe for the top, but the bottom layer cooked under a tin – place a piece of greaseproof paper then a roasting tin on top of the pastry and cook for slightly longer to ensure a crisp, flaky but flat base on which to layer the jam and cream.

They were delicious, but rather fiddly to ‘build’. I’d have preferred it without the jam, but you could always change the flavour. Maybe use a lemon curd instead of the jam and add some grated zest to the icing on top?

So the ideas are a little out-dated, and generally, the presentation is hideous, BUT, many of these recipes work and are great stand-by classics, The pilaff was great, and if I can ever find a frozen can of concentrated orange juice again, I’m sure the chicken tarragon will be a regular favourite.


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