Saturday, September 30, 2006

Fresh almonds
Tonight at dinner ate some lovely almonds picked from the trees in Sicily. Roasted them for 10min and voila a superb after dinner treat. If only the tomatoes we had at dinner were as tasty as those in Sicily! Oh well...have found a new food supplier in London which supplies produce direct from Italy and they are supposed to be great. Will have to try them out -they are called Portobello Foods.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Nonno's land

I got a bit of family history when I was in Sicily, these pics are of the land that my grandfather owned.

Apparently Nonno (grandpa) was quite the entreprenuer and a savvy businessman who was extremely intelligent, excellent negotiator and was the king bee -never the worker bee (sounds like someone I know JQ). He was also very stubborn (JQ again)

When he left Sicily to venture to Canada he sold this piece of land to his brother-in-law Pino who has worked it ever since and now his son/my 2nd cousin Pasquale is still working the land each day...all in the family.

Many pics in upcoming posts will come from this piece of land. The fruit and vegetables that grows on this land is exceptional, organic and extremely delicious. Pasquale sells it to the local co-op which then exports it around the world so if you are currently eating peaches with a Sicily sticker on it - it may have come from this piece of land.

The top pic shows the view that it has (spectacular-the photo doesn't do it justice) and the bottom pic is of some of the olive trees that are to one side. While I was there I tasted some ripe figs, peaches, plums, almonds, fresh peas/string beans, grapes and more...

There is also an old farmhouse with an old wood burning stove to make pizzas and other treats. There are two dogs that guard the land but apparently the rottweiler who is ferocious keeps escaping from his collar. We searched for it while we were there but then Pasquale found it the next day at one of the neighboring properties being pampered by another farmer -so much for a ferocious guard dog only allowing his owner to step onto his property...

Technical difficulties...

Since my photo taking has reached immense proportions. My laptop has decided to chug along slowly….therefore am having difficulty downloading pics and updating the blog. As a blog post without pics is pointless, non? So will try and do some aggressive deleting and get some Sicily posts up asap.

Instead –enjoy this pic of my friend PG enjoying a martini a la towel boy style!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Am back....
Back from sunny Sicily. It amazes me how beautiful it is there. The sea is such a gorgeous shade of blue it sparkles and the rolling hills seem to hug you as you travel through them.

As it is 11pm and I came in on a cheap Ryan Air flight last night and waited about 2hrs to get through customs and only arrived home at 3am this post is going to be short.

Mini summary, I ate, wrote lots of recipes, ate some more, went to the beach (the water was incredibly warm-although I swallowed a mouthful when an unexpected wave interrupted my floating) ate some more, went to a family wedding, enjoyed observing the Sicilian way of life, ate some more and wrote lots of recipes. Not bad for 5 days.

Will write in more detail when I download pics and get settled back to life in London again.

Here is a pic of a local fruit market in the town where I stayed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fresh and Wild -organic kiwi fruit

All I have to say is try them! When you think of kiwis you think of them as fuzzy sour ass things. These organic ones are divine, smooth, sweet with a tangy flavour but not pucker up sour and no fuzz and grown in New Zealand - lots of nice things come from there....Mrs.Pat Hale is one of them.

Get to my new favourite food shop Fresh and Wild(yes am trying to go wheat free for those of you that hear me moan about my dead rat syndrome-esp. Bunny... thx for being patient!) there are a few around London but I am a frequenter of the Soho one...good for a healthy, organic lunch and interseting to browse around all types of products you have never seen before....cage-free eggs and fruit vinegar to name a few.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Figs-have you tasted one?
Have been eating fresh figs from the market lately and a few people have said they have never eaten one? Hmmm....whY? And one of the people won't mention any names (JT) comes from California the land of sunshine and fresh fruit! Isn't it called the sunshine state or fruit belt of America?? Get to the shops and pick some soft figs and eat them - I know you liked them when we had them off a dirty street in Soho.

Why is it that figs are not as popular as they are in Mediterranean places? We grew up on figs. We ate them mainly raw after meals -Italians finish every meal with fruit, my grandmother put them in cookies and sometimes if you were adventurous they could be in sauces (but only in modern Italian cooking).

I will try to get the fig cookie recipe from my mom or aunties in Italy. Will be there on Friday and enjoying the sunshine -not sure what the internet connection will be like, if any? Stay tuned for a post which may take a while to be uploaded....maybe my family have high speed internet and I will post snippets from my weekend of being stuffed like a turkey with home cooked food (can't wait!)

Well for all of you who have not had a fig, go and buy some - the vendors all around London sell them right now they are 5 for 1quid (the pound sign on my keyboard doesn't work) but make sure they are soft and that you can break them open by just gently splitting them in half with your hands. Yum!
Check out this site with tonnes of recipes made with figs. Waitrose is our posh grocery store for the Canucks reading.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Falling Cloudberries
A great cook book, a great title, great recipes and old pictures of Tessa's family. A true coffee table/cookbook. I recommend it!

When I was telling my friend Karen about my cookbook she told me that it reminded her of this book....and it did (thx for lending it to me KD). I want my cookbook to have elements of Tessa's spirit, family memories and more woven into the look and feel of mine. Buy it as a gift for someone is beautiful.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A new trend in drinking coffee?
I had two lovely visitors from Canada here recently and they turned heads and made people laugh at the way they consumed their coffee....

Can I have a skinny latte please.... and a straw? Wuuut!?! was what the baristas would say or think - which was clearly visible on their faces when they saw the lovely girls put their straw in their coffee cups.

There are two reasons given for this:
1) Ro started this as she liked to get all the sugar from the bottom of the coffee cup at first and from then just liked drinking it from a straw

2) The reason that most people accept and do the nod and the ureka 'I just got my teeth whitened' and then people realise that beauty has its price and maybe isn't a bad idea after all.

They do have nice teeth though!

May have to do this when I drink red wine. And apparently they have some converted Torontonian's drinking coffee this way....

Thx girls it was fun having

Saturday, September 16, 2006

4 More days til Sicily

Am packing notebooks, pens and gifts for the wedding (still not sure what to buy?!) what is British-y and is nice for a wedding gift? British pounds may work with a little something small to go with it....that might be it as have looked in a few places and a)things that I think are nice aren't really easy to pack in a suitcase as they are breakable or too heavy and b) am not sure if they will like it.

Well am going to be doing lots of eating so will bring my trainers so I can do some running to work it off.... or will just fill up and then work it off back in London....will see how the schedule goes.

And am packing sun screen it is 30degrees there - yay!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Edible mushrooms or not?
Does anyone know if you can eat these the Smurf like mushrooms? I took this picture at a park in Kent. I was actually shocked to see them as had only seen mushrooms like this in cartoons.

I have never seen them at the Tesco at the petrol station so am assuming they are not for consumption!


p.s. One week to the collection of recipes trip....Sicily

Monday, September 11, 2006

How NOT to make breadcrumbs
This is what happened when I tried to make breadcrumbs for an artichoke recipe. I first burnt 2 peices of toast in the toaster by toasting them 2x, then burnt 4 pieces of toast in the oven (as put them under the grill for 10-15 min-who remembers?!)

I finally watched the next 4 pieces of toast in the oven closely and got my long awaited for breadcrumbs. The smoke alarm went off several times, my eyes teared up from the smoke, my flat and clothes still smell of smoke....all from 8 pieces of burnt toast.

Then when making my artichoke hearts, the recipe (from Mom) calls for olive oil. Reaching into the cupboard to grab the oil, I knock over a tube of guess what.....breadcrumbs!!!!? After shouting out a foul word I continued with the recipe.

Anyhoo, the finished result of dinner last night is in the photo. My neighbours may see burnt toast in the communal garden as we had to throw them on the kitchen balcony but one may have gone overboard as they were smoky and you can never tell how far your throw a burnt piece of toast, right? Thx to J my lovely assistant who chopped and diced and washed all the dishes (good man!)

The artichokes were yummy although their centre was not the much awaited artichoke heart but some fibrous stuff that is inedible. Need to try again with another type of artichoke I guess?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Portobello - bello!
What a beautiful place to see lots of tourists, arguing stall traders (we saw a big fight today between an ignorant fruit seller and a young man) lovely shop owners (who call u bellisima) and buy lots of tacky trinkets, fruit and veg and other great treats from select delicatessens like Tom's on Westbourne Grove and Mr. Christians which has great fresh sandwiches, a deli, and yummy treats like croissants and fab fresh artichoke hearts. (See pic of Michelle inside Mr. C's)
The link shows what its like outside.

Michelle is visiting this weekend and it has been a great time with lots of great wine, Thai food and sunshine! I even bought some artichokes at the market to make according to my grandmother's recipe but Mish will be leaving early in the morn tomorrow so will have to make some other person the guinea pig to sample them. May be calling mom this afternoon for recipe.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fun with food!

At this year's Summer Fete, hosted by the V&A (top fashion & design museum in London) there was a booth where you took fruit and veg and had to create the likeness of someone famous. Albert Einstein (cauliflower hair!) and famous-ish footballer -Peter Crouch who is approx 10ft tall in real life! Below: the infamous Jordan (b-celeb/model) who has very large breasts as you can see from the depiction with beets or turnips (not sure what they are?)

Check out the V&A museum they always have something interesting going on! Friday Late's are especially good....
Victoria & Albert Museum

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Best Tiramisu
Somehow I have tried to perfect this recipe but it seems that the only person that can do it to perfection is my wonderful and beautiful and lovely mother! (no i am not asking for money mom)

This tiramisu recipe, if made properly, will melt in your mouth and bring you lots of fans. My mother is famous for making this and every time there is an occasion they request her tiramisu (not many disagree). I recall a certain cousin Basilio eating almost the whole thing single handedly at a Christmas dinner or my mom having to hide it from her Japanese students as a) they generally eat like monsters and b) there wouldn't be any left for her other 'daughters' and my sister even tried to sell it on eBay for $1 a download, thinking she would make millions -that's how good it is!

Anyhow try it at home - I think the secret is to dunk the cookies in the espresso for one second, no more no less. I wouldn't know really as I am only allowed to watch my mother make this and not actually help unless it is to wash the dishes or crack the eggs (even still she is wary of my ability)
Anyhow, thx for the recipe Mom....luv me xxx
This one will definitely be in the cookbook.

Momma's Tiramisu

Expresso coffee (6 espresso cups)
6 tsps. of sugar
2 capfulls of rum
2 capfulls of vermouth
5 eggs
7 tsps. of sugar
500 grams. mascarpone cheese (don't use anything else but!)
1 bag of savoiardi fingers

- Prepare 6 expresso cups of coffee and pour in a small bowl
- Add two capfulls of vermouth and two capfulls of rum
- Add 6 tsp. of sugar

- In a separate bowl beat together 5 egg whites until stiff

- In a separate bowl beat together 5 egg yolks with 7 tsps. of sugar for approx. 5 min.
- Add mascarpone cheese 1 tbsp at a time and mix well

- Fold in egg whites to cheese mixture

In a 13 x9" pyrex glass pan, dunk savoiardi cookies in coffee and place in pan, add one lawyer of cheese and sprinkle with chocolate quick or coco. Repeat with savoiardi cookies and cheese mixture. Cover the top of the cake with grated or slivered dark chocolate (chocolate square). Cover with foil paper and refrigerate overnight.



Monday, September 04, 2006

Living la dolce vita
Italy v Britain - how the two countries shape up

While the British famously love their fish and chips, pasties and chicken tikka masala, the Italians eat the now-famous Mediterranean diet. This involves a lot of fresh fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds and olive oil, and there is mounting evidence that such a diet can significantly prolong life and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. You may have read stories about McDonald's culture reaching Italy, but the fact remains that they eat better than we do.

Regardless of the seemingly endless health warnings, and then the endless stories about the benefits, there's no prising Italians away from their coffee. Millions of Italians rely on a morning espresso. Because of the way it is made and its concentration, an espresso is thought to contain two to three times the number of healthy antioxidants of coffee made by other brewing methods. Here, we're pretty keen on coffee too, but 85% of the stuff we drink is instant, which is not only, arguably, disgusting, but contains few of the alleged health benefits associated with an Italian espresso.

The Italians have a reputation as great smokers, but in fact there are just as many Brits who smoke, with one in four British adults regularly lighting up. And the Italians have gone further down the legislation road than we have. Last year, the Italian government banned smoking in all enclosed public places, and cigarette sales fell by 10%.

We binge drink; the Italians rarely drink to get drunk. They consume around six times more wine than Brits, but usually with food. A moderate amount of red wine is believed to lower the risk of heart attack and reduce the cholesterol.

Italians appear to be almost as exercise-shy as the Brits. In both countries, more than a third of people do not participate in any sporting activities. But there are differences, which may be crucial ones: in Italy, 28% of journeys are made on foot compared with a woeful 12% here. And then there's the fact that Italians famously take a walk, a passeggiata, after dinner, at about the time most British people are settling down to watch some telly.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Pavlova Roll - get a kiwi person to make it for you!!

From my favourite kiwi in New Zealand - Mrs. Pat Hale

5 egg whites
3/4 c castor sugar
1/4 c slivered almonds
1 tsp sugar extra
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 bottle cream
1Tbsp icing sugar
1/4 c passionfruit pulp

1. Line a sponge roll tin with baking paper
2. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form
3. Add castor sugar, beat 5 minutes(stiff and glossy)
4. Spread into tin, sprinkle over the mixture of slivered almonds, sugar and cinnamon
Bake 190 o C for 8 - 10 minutes, should be golden brown
Remove from oven, tip out onto a smooth tea towel, pull off baking paper and gently roll.
Leave to cool, whip cream until thick and fold in icing sugar and passionfruit pulp.
Gently open roll and spoon in cream, close up.

(you can decorate with fruit on top like in the pic) Pat pls. send a pic of yours.

Et voila! It is gorgeously delicious.