Monday, 24 November 2014

Ham Mousse

Ham mousse reminds me of the sixties, when "bon ton" and home entertaining were a must!
Yet I like it, and it is so uncommon nowadays that it always surprises my guests and family.
It takes less than 5 minutes to make and you can refrigerate it for up to a couple of days, if it lasts!
As in many of my dishes, you can serve it in a single bowl or in smaller portions.  A small bowl and one special small bread will make an elegant starter.
As an appetizer it serves lots of people, but you can use to stuff your sandwiches if you like.

Ingredients for 8-10 people

300 gr ham cut into pieces
100 gr heavy cream
200 gr. soft cheese (Philadelphia light will be great)
50 gr. almonds (or more to taste)
 2 tablespoon of Marsala (fortified wine) or brandy.
Salt and pepper to taste (very little though, as ham is already salted.

How to:

1) Cut the ham into pieces and put it with the other ingredients, except almonds, in the food processor.
2) Process it until very smooth. 
3) Add the almonds and process for 1 minute or less, and taste it, almonds should remain in small pieces and be detectable when you eat it.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and serve with toasted bread or slices of French baguette.

It keeps well in the fridge for 2 days, cover it cling film.


Monday, 3 November 2014

Cauliflower soup

Are you preparing a boiled or steamed cauliflower?
Well, do not throw away the leaves and the harder parts, make a soup with that!
Of course you can use the whole cauliflower with great results!
Very easy to prepare, it takes about 30/45 minutes to get ready,  it is tasty and warming in this cold winter and very cheap to make.
A light comfort food you can offer to your guests as well, if you garnish it in the right way!

Ingredients for 4:

About 400 grs / 1 lb. cauliflower and its leftovers (leaves, stem, broken pieces)
200 grs / 1/2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
½ liter/ one pint vegetable stock
½ leek or 2 shallots, finely chopped
3 spoons of olive oil
Salt to taste

Serve with
-  Croutons or
-  A thin slice of bacon for each cup 

How to:

    1)      Wash the cauliflower very well and cut the leftovers into small pieces (discard any tough or damaged parts)

   2)      Peel and cut the potatoes in pieces

   3)      Slice the leak or the shallot very finely, warm up the oil in a pan and let it cook over a medium heat until soft and golden

  4) Put the vegetables in the pan, let them saute for 1-2 minutes, stir well, add the stock to cover the vegetables and bring it to the boil.

5)      Put a lid on the pan, and let it cook for 20 minutes, stir well, then take the lid away and cook for an other 15-25 minutes until all the ingredients are soft. Turn off the heat.

   6)      With an immersion blender, whisk the vegetable and the stock until you obtain a thick soup.

7) Serve hot in a little bowl or cup with some freshly ground pepper, croutons, fried bread, or a slice of cooked bacon (it must be dry) cut it into 2-3 pieces or a sprinkle of grated cheese.

You may also like:
Gratinated cauliflower

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Lasagna with red chicory - Lasagne con radicchio

I had some guests last Sunday and, as I did not want to cook the all day, I prepared this autumn/winter recipe in advance. Then I freezed the baking dish before cooking, took out of the freezer the day before, let them in the fridge overnight and put in the oven 1 hr. before eating them. 

If you prepare them the day before, just refrigerate covered with cling film or aluminium foil, which you will remove before putting the baking dish in the oven.

This recipe is a little lighter than the original lasagna with Bolognese sauce, and quite unusual because of the bitterness of the red chicory.  But the vegetables will melt in your mouth and then you will taste the smokey speck. Different tastes, different textures... A great winter treat!

I love to use the season's vegetables, because they usually are more tasty and less expensive.
It takes time to prepare, and as usual I start from the very beginning - making home made pasta. In case you want to use a pasta machine, or your food processor, you will get great results as well. As I believe I take more time in washing and cleaning all the device, I make it the old way, by hand. Remember it is a great exercise for your shoulders and neck as well!
If you use dried lasagna, skip this part and prepare all the other ingredients before boiling the pasta.
Quantities depends on how many courses you have during your meal, if lasagna is the only dish, well consider 5-6, if, as it happens when I entertain, there is plenty of different foods, then consider a 8-9 people.
For a spectacular result, you can also make single portions using little ceramic moulds: the layers of  dark red chicory will make a nice contrast with the yellow pasta. I  made this when preparing my vegetable lasagna last Spring (in this case portions were quite small, as they were part of a 5 course meal).

Ingredients for 6-8

For the home made pasta
2 eggs
About 200 gr / 7 oz 00 Flour (or all purpose)

For the layers

Bechamel sauce:

1,5 liters/ 3 pints milk
150 grs/ 5.30 oz butter
150 grs/ 5.30 oz flour

3 small red chicories /2 big ones
4 shallots
3 tb spoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 cm thick slices Italian speck ham

Butter to grease the baking dish (mine is 30x21x6 cm.)

How to:

1) Peel and cut the shallows very finely.

2) Wash and cut your red chicory.

3) Warm up the oil in a very large and high pan and, over a medium heat,  gently saute the shallots.

  4) When soft, add all the chicory, and stir now and them. They will reduce to less than half by cooking!

Add salt to taste.

5) In the meanwhile, cut the slices of Italian speck ham into stripes and warm them up in a non stick pan until they release the grease and change their colour.

6) Switch off the gas under both pans. 

7) Prepare the bechamel sauce.

8) To make pasta please click here and follow the instructions until you have rolled it out with the pin.

9) Bring a large pan of slightly salted water to the boil.

10) In the meanwhile grease your baking dish with butter.

11) Cut your pasta into squares to fit your baking pan and boil them little by little 2-3 pieces every time. It takes about two minutes.

If you have store-bought pasta for lasagna, follow the instructions on the box, but I recommend to cook it anyway until soft.

Drain them on a clean tea towel.
12) Start making the layers: the first one should be the pasta, then the bechamel sauce, then the speck ham, the vegetables (drain them well squeezing them with your hands), pasta again until you early reach the top. The last layer is bechamel sauce, you should still have a good quantity to close it.

13) Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 45 minutes or until you see it slightly boil for few minutes. Take out of oven and let it set for 10 minutes before serving, so the bechamel sauce will thincken a bit.