Monday, 14 October 2013

Black prunes, raisin and almonds jam

It is a weird event in Casola Valsenio in the hills over Imola (where the Formula 1 used to race); because we celebrate small forgotten fruits whose names are jujubes, cooking pears, kakhis, chestnuts, and elderberries.
Casola is a village with a little centre and a lot of stone houses and farms scattered in the hills.
For the fair farmers prepare cheeses, cakes, mushrooms, preserves, jams and sell their late fruits, most of them growing wild in the corner of orchards or by the river and sell them to the public. A true feast to find old flavors, old traditions, and old recipes. For more information please have a look at
How could I not be part of that?

My quantities are not large of course, but I only make jams you will not find in supermarkets, using very fresh, ripe fruits from the orchard.
Here is one of my best, using very ripe sweet black prunes. It keeps well one year, always remember to put a nice label with expiry date, but it will not last that long!

Makes 5 glass jars 250 grs

1800 grs/ 4 lbs dark prunes
1100 grs./ 2.5 lbs. Sugar
200 gr./0.5 lb Raisins
100 gr. 5 oz peeled almonds (cut into pieces)
4 tb spoons rum (if you like)

How to:

1)     Wash the fruits thoroughly and divide into halves to take the pit off.
2)     Put  the fruit and the raisin in a heavy, large pan with half a glass of water, take it to the boil, and cook until the prunes are soft and the black skin dissolves, revealing  a beautiful ruby colour.

3)     Wash the glass jars and new lids in hot soapy water, dry them with a tea towel and put all of them in the oven at 100°C for 15 min.
4)     Now add the sugar and mix well to dissolve it. Bring to the boil again.
5)     After 20min try if it is ready: a drop of jam on a cold surface should make a round spot which becomes stiff and sticky when cold. Add the almonds, stir well and let it boil for about 30 seconds, then put the rum in and mix again. It’s ready! Turn the heat to low.
6)     Pour the jam in the hot jars, close them well with the lids and let it rest upside down to sterilise the lids until the jam is cold.
7)     Put a nice label with content and expiry date (home made preserves last about 1 year if stored in a dark cool place)
8)     Enjoy them in your morning yogurt, on crepes or with bread and butter!

Tip: Always use new lids, while the glass jars, if well washed and dried, can be re-used many times.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Spaghetti carbonara

Is there anything more tender than your family sleeping on the sofa in a lazy, dark raining Sunday afternoon?. We were just back from an exhibition of outdoor furniture this afternoon and after have searched for a place where to buy some milk to make a hot cup of chocolate, we could find nothing open.
We decided that a nice cup of  hot tea with cookies  would help not to starve untill dinner time.

Two cups of tea and many biscuits later this was  the picture on my sofa....

Yes we have a cat, one of the most demanding cats of the universe, but in his way so lovely and sometimes even cuddly... (sometimes I said!)

Anyway, it is nearly dinner time (8 p.m. in Italy) and my family is hungry.

Spaghetti carbonara

Very simple recipe for tonight, an Italian classic which will be OK after a nice fresh salad of lettuce and dried tomatoes (just cut the salad into pieces and the dried tomatoes into stripes, few black olives, then season with little salt and extra virgin olive oil)

Ingredients for 4

350 gr Spaghetti
150 gr guanciale or pancetta or bacon (if you like the smoke taste) cut into small cubes
3 eggs
100 gr pecorino romano, grated (or 50% pecorino, 50% parmesan cheese)
Black pepper

How to:

1) Prepare all the ingredients and put the pan with the water on the stove and bring it to the boil.

2) Put the pancetta (yes the pieces could be smaller, but didn't I say lazy Sunday?)  in a non stick frying pan and leave it on the fire until the greasy part becomes 
transparent and slightly crispy. Take out of fire and let it cool.

3) In a large bowl beat the eggs with black pepper and add the grated pecorino.  Mix well and add the pancetta

4) Salt the water (5 grs/liter) and cook the spaghetti al dente (follow the instruction of the packaging).

5) When ready, drain the pasta and put is straight in the bown and mix well.

6) Serve immediately in pre-heated dishes with a little bit more cheese and pepper if you like it.

The original recipe does not include cream , which is not necessary because the eggs should not be cooked but just warmed by the pasta. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Coconut and Nutella cake

I chose this cake because it is so easy that everybody can make it.
Its great for breakfast and tea alike.
You cannot be wrong:


130 gr Flour 00
160 gr Coconut flour
200 gr Sugar
100 gr Sunflower oil
110 gr Milk
3 eggs
1 bag Yeast

 to garnish
2/3 tb spoons Nutella (be generous)
10 gr/2 tb spoons of coconut flour

How To:

1)     Prepare all the ingredients and grease your mold with vegetable oil.

2)     Preheat oven at 180°C/
3)     Mix all the ingredients (except for the 10gr. of coconut flour) in a large bowl and mix with a whisker, you will get a quite liquid dough
4)     Pour the dough in a round tin mold (possibly with buckle) and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes.
5)     Test the cake with the stick to verify it is ready
6)     Take it off the oven and let it cool.
7)     Open the mold and put the cake on a serving dish
8)     Spread Nutella on the top of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining coconut flour

Done! Enjoy!

Let's begin!!!

October is my favourite month, because although all of us miss Summer laziness, the first raining, cooler days are those dedicated to new projects, old friends and new wishes.
These days have the same inspiring taste of the new year eve, with new ideas to create  and have the same effect on my creativity.
October will be a very busy month for me with two major events: the farmers market in Casola Valsenio for two week-ends and Halloween.

Well, Halloween is not exactly an Italian tradition but recently it has reached a large popularity, above all among children.
So, as any creative mother, I used to have a special kid party for my daughter with all her school friends, and now that she has grown up, I decided that I still like to dress up as a witch and have my girl friends for dinner. Special guest my husband – only man - who helps in the kitchen and with the decoration.
The menu is always different, and so will be the table decoration.
As a working mum with heavy working schedule, I have to organize everything well in advance, so here is my first recipe.


Ingredients x 4

800 grs/ about 2 lbs  loin of pork in 1 piece
100 grs smoked pancetta or bacon cut into small cubes
½ onion cut into thick pieces
1 spring rosmary (20-25 cm long)
2 tb spoons vegetable oil
4 apples pealed corked and cut into slices
White wine if necessary

How to:

1)     Season the meat with salt and peper on all the sides.
2)     Pre-heat the oven at 180°C/
3)     In a pan with think bottom which could be put in the oven slightly cook the onion until golden with the rosmary, add the loin and brown it on all sides without drilling.
4)     Add half of the apples and the pancetta and let it brown for few minutes.
5)     Take the rosmary off, add the remaining apples cover with a lid and put in the pre-heated oven
6)     After 45/50 minutes take the kid off and verify the level of the liquid, if there is none ad some white wine, usually it makes about 3 inches liquid, which will be enough (in this case no wine needed).
7)     Cook for 30-40 minutes uncovered and take it off the oven, cover with a lid and let it to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
8)     Cut into slices about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick and serve with the cooked apples and the meat juice.