Genova style focaccia

When I decided to try this recipe, encouraged by the promising post title “Giorgio Locatelli’s foolproof focaccia”, I had no idea about the great secret that the famous Cavoletto was about to reveal. No elephant pregnancy-like rising times. No fermentations with improbable living organisms, handed down by some Paleolithic ancestors. Just a simple recipe, with simple ingredients and simple procedures. All without finding your hands forever trapped in a gluey gluten mass. And, hear ye, with a preparation time equal to the duration of a football match. A wonderful Sunday focaccia: could it be any better than this?

Ingredients for 1 focaccia

– “00” flour, 250g
– manitoba flour, 250g
– brewer’s yeast, 15g
– room temperature water, 300g or a little more
– extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons
– salt, 1 tablespoon and ½

– room temperature water, 65g
– extra virgin olive oil, 65g
– salt, 20g (3 teaspoons)

– Dough: 5 min
– Rising: 10+10+20+20 = 60 min
– Cooking: 25 min
Total: 90 min, just as long as a football match

1. In a wide bowl, mix both the flours together with the salt. Make a hole in the middle and pour the oil inside, as well as the yeast, dissolved in the water. I suggest you dissolve the yeast in a little of the water needed, adding the rest little by little afterwards. The reason for this is that if the dough is too dry you can always add a little more water, whereas if it is too damp it will be harder to fix it. You should get a soft dough, only by stirring with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients, without kneading with your hands. Grease the surface with a little oil, cover with a cloth and leave to rest for 10 minutes, away from airstreams (inside the turned-off oven, for instance).

2. Brush a baking tin with oil and pour the dough inside it. Grease the surface with oil again, let rest for another 10 minutes, still covered.

3. Spread the dough very delicately with a rolling pin, from the center outwards, once in one side and once in the other. Do not press too hard, to avoid breaking the air bubbles that will have formed inside during rising. Let rest for 20 minutes.

4. In the meantime, prepare the brine by emulsifying all the ingredients with a whip (or a fork), until you reach a green, creamy texture.

5. After time has passed, with the tip of your index make a lot of dimples over the whole surface of the focaccia. Mix the brine again and pour it over the focaccia, filling all the dimples. Let rest for another 20 minutes.

6. Bring the oven to a temperature of 220°, then bake the focaccia until golden, for about 25 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the baking tin to avoid the bottom from overcooking.

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Curry chicken

I love curry powder. I would put it on top of everything. On fish, meat, pasta, everywhere. I love the smell of this extraordinary blend of spices and the unmistakable touch it brings to the simplest dishes. Made mainly of turmeric, coriander and cumin, a huge number of different recipes are available for curry powder, some of which include ginger, fennel, cinnamon cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, garlic and whatsoever. Despite the commercial standardization, in Asian shops you can still find different types of curry powder, from mild to hot. Choose the one you like the most and adjust according to your personal taste.

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Raspberry Macaron

When you reach the point of mistaking your bathroom soap bar for a macaron, I think it’s serious. And when your boyfriend confesses the same thing happened to him, then you understand that you have hit the bottom. Besides, after an intensive 3-day of macaronage, pochage and croûtage to the extreme attempt, I guess it is quite normal. Heavenly, devilish, little, sweet macaron. How could you resist the temptation? Not that of eating them, though, but rather that of succeeding in the mission of taking out of the oven those smooth and colourful shells, as perfect as a kiss.

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Sicilian stuffed meat rolls

A few months have passed since this blog started and I have realized I still haven’t posted a meat recipe. Far from being a vegetarian, I had to suggest something. So here is an evergreen dish of Sicilian cuisine, or to be more precise, an irresistible specialty from Palermo, quite perfect to taste the whole year long. I’m talking about stuffed meat rolls, a tasty main dish which smells of laurel, with an unmistakable Mediterranean heart. Available in two variations, baked or also pan cooked with white wine, these rolls are an explosion of flavours you will never be able to do without again. 

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Asparagus aspic

Some time ago I asked Nero di Seppia’s Facebook page fans what they would have liked to find within the following recipes, choosing between a first course, a main course or a side dish. The latter got the most votes, with an interesting request: “something with asparagus?”. So, dear Paola, here are your desires satisfied.
I wanted to propose a simple recipe, which accentuates the unique flavour of this vernal gift without any frills, in order to go with more complex main dishes without having limits with flavour pairings.  So I came across the blog Essenzalimentare, where I found what I was looking for. An extremely elegant dish, yet very easy to make, fresh and perfect to
taste when it starts getting hot. Furthermore, since it is served cold, you can also make it in advance the day before. Finally, you could also choose to serve this aspic as a light starter. Here is my recipe, with a few variations.

Ingredients for 4 aspics

– asparagus, 500g
– red onion, 1
– agar agar, 2 teaspoons
– butter, 40g
– salt
– roasted sesame seeds, for decoration
– thyme, for decoration

Wash the asparagus and don’t dry them. Remove the hard part at the bottom, cut off the
tips and keep them aside. Cut the rest in little pieces and steam cook together with the peeled and chopped onion. I used a very useful microwave bag by Toppits, and I cooked at 750W for about 5 minutes.
Blend everything with a  mixer, until you reach a smooth cream. Put it in a pot, add the agar agar, stir well and put over the fire to boil for about 3 minutes, adding 1 glass of warm water. Turn off the fire, adjust with salt, add the butter and stir. Pour the mixture in 4 wet ramekins.
Store in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Take each aspic out of the mould over a plate, decorate with sesame seeds, thyme leaves and the steam cooked asparagus tips.

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Easter almond paste lamb

I have never really loved almond paste. And this said by a Sicilian girl sounds like heresy. But there was something in the one my grandma used to make, a special taste that made it unique and delicious. I was too young to understand that the secret ingredient was not available on the market. Yet she had tons of it, which she used to share with all of her grandchildren. In Easter time, her great love used to take the sweet aspect of a lamb. Contained in a fence as to not let it run away, with the reassuring look of that wholehearted certainty in which me, my brothers and my cousins could always rely on.

With the goal of moving my mum to tears, this year I decided to bring the tradition back, that since a few years has been buried under the memories. Grandma’s recipe has unfortunately got lost in the ephemeral destiny of unwritten words. The one I suggest you was taken from a book of Sicilian cuisine, taken years ago as a supplement of the newspaper “Giornale di Sicilia”. I didn’t make it on time to inherit the decoration ability, so I tried to manage the thing instinctively. The aesthetic result is absolutely questionable, considering I have only found yellow and red colorants. Despite its jaundiced aspect, though, the taste was really appreciated. Who knows if I didn’t gain the same, great resources of secret ingredient that my grandma owned.

Ingredients for per 1 lamb
– almond flour, 250g
– icing sugar, 250g
– water, 1/2dl
– bitter almond essence, a few drops
– cinnamon
– vanillin
– food colouring in powder, brown and red

Put water and sugar in a pot and, after having stirred, heat it up at a low flame. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes. Remove from fire, add a few drops of bitter almond flavouring essence, a pinch of cinnamon and vanillin. Add the almond flour and stir well with a wooden spoon, until you get a dough. Help yourself with your hands if it is necessary. As
soon as you get a “ball”, put it over a chopping board covered with cling film. Knead the dough until smooth and compact. If it is too dry, just rinse your hands quickly under tap water and knead again. Once ready, make a fat sausage out of it and press it over the lamb-shaped mould. Close with the other half of the mould and press well. With a knife, remove any almond paste in excess from the bottom. Delicately detach the lamb and put it aside to dry for 24 hours. The day after, dissolve the colours in a little water and, with a thin brush,
paint over the wool and trace the face features of the lamb. Let dry for another 24 hours, then place the lamb in an enclosure. Decorate with an Easter flag on the back, a ribbon on the neck and a few chocolate eggs all around.

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Sarde a beccafico

While happily surfing through the oceans of the world wide web, I captured in my net a shoal of squirming sardines, on the blog Stefano and the little G. illustrate the curious story which gives the name to one of the most Sicilian recipes on earth: sardines “a beccafico”. Caught by a sudden impulse of nostalgia, I felt the urge to prepare them. Here’s to you the recipe, inspired by Alba Allotta’s book “La cucina siciliana di mare”.

Ingredients for 6 persons
– sardines, 1kg
– bread crumbs, 150g
– anchovies preserved in salt, 2
– pine nuts, 30g
– raisin, 50g
– lemons, 2
– Extra virgin olive oil
– laurel leaves
– salt and pepper

Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small pan and gently roast the bread crumbs and a low heat until it reaches a golden, red-brown colour. Be careful not to burn it. Transfer to a bowl and keep 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs aside. Rinse the anchovies, remove the spine, mince them and dissolve them in a little olive oil. Add to the bread crumbs, together with the raisins, the pine nuts, a little salt, a pinch of black ground pepper and some olive oil. Toss well.
Clean the sardines by removing the head and the spine, then open them flat (skin side facing downwards), quickly rinse them, put them on a chopping board and sprinkle with salt. Put a tablespoon of bread crumbs mixture over each sardine, then roll them over themselves to form several roulades. Put them in a baking tin greased with oil, and alternate them with laurel leaves and thin slices of lemon.
Sprinkle with lemon juice and a little olive oil, spread the rest of the bread crumbs all over and bake in a hot oven at 200° for 15 minutes.

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