Tarte Tatin

Whenever I think of Tarte Tatin, I follow the buttery smell of caramelized sugar and land straight in Strasbourg. The flour-white facades of Alsatian houses, framed by dark wooden beams like liquorices sticks. And a neon sign that doesn’t leave much room to imagination: “À la Tête de Lard” (at pig’s head). In this rustic typical restaurant, following the unmissable tarte flambée and a choucroute that challenges even the toughest gourmet, there is always a little room for a slice of Tarte Tatin. And at the sound of the little fork breaking the thin, golden caramel shell, before sinking into the soft apple layer down to the crust, you already know that this gluttony sin is absolutely worth it.

Even though being far from this little manifestation of earthly perfection, my recipe is inspired by that of the Silver Spoon. The advantage is that this version does not require to caramelize the apples by putting the tin directly over the fire, so you can make it even if you don’t have the special Tatin cake tin. Don’t you even think, though, of using a springform one. Unless you want to go through the entertaining lava flow of melted sugar over the bottom of your oven and challenge the effectiveness of you oven cleaner. Trust my personal experience.

– apples, 5 big
– sugar, 125g
– “00” flour, 150g
– butter, 75g + to grease tin
– lukewarm water, ¼ glass
– lemon, 1

Prepare the dough by mixing together the flour, the softened butter cut into pieces and the water, in order to obtain a very soft texture. Make a ball out of it, wrap it in cling film and keep aside for about an hour. Peel and cut the apples into 8 slices. Pour the lemon juice over them to avoid from making them turn brown. Grease the tin and sprinkle with a lot of sugar. Put the apples in the tin in a round circle. Sprinkle with a lot of sugar. Repeat this action with another layer of apples and sugar. Take the dough and keep the cling film in which it was wrapped underneath. Take another sheet of cling film and place it over the dough. Press it with your hands to obtain a disc shape. Stretch it at a thickness of 3mm, passing the rolling pin over the cling film. This will prevent the dough from sticking. Place the stretched dough over the apples. To make this action easier, roll the dough delicately around the rolling pin, raise it and unroll the dough over the apples. Make it go within the border of the tin and the apples. Cook in a preheated oven at 250°C for about 30 minutes. Overturn the cake upside down in an oven resistant plate. Be very careful as the pie might easily slip. Place the plate in the oven under the grill function for around 10 minutes, until the surface is golden and caramelized.

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Leeks and potatoes sformato

Some time ago, on Nero di Seppia’s Facebook page, I asked my fans what they would have liked to find in the next recipes. The final “like” went to the popular artichoke, followed by a tough pistachio. Considering the success and the hard conquest of the first place, I felt I needed to gratify the efforts of who, voting and recruiting votes, has fought to bring the great green fruit on the podium.
With a Sicilian twist, this plate is a remake of Fabien’s recipe, a fast and simple starter but also a good side dish.

Ingredients for 6 mini sformatos
– leeks, 200g
– potatoes, 250g
– ground pistachio, 12 tablespoons
– extra virgin olive oil
– butter
– salt and pepper

Remove the green part and the roots from the leeks, rinse them, dry them and slice them. Cook them in a pot with a teaspoon of butter and a little oil, add salt, pepper and, before they start to brown, add about 1 cup of hot water. Let them stew until all water is absorbed and until leeks are soft. If they aren’t soft yet when all water has evaporated, add a little more and continue cooking. Keep aside.
Clean the potatoes and slice them thinly, keeping the skin. Sauté them in a pan with some oil, until golden. Add salt and pepper.
Grease 6 ramekins, put a few potato slices at the bottom, proceed by layering leeks and a tablespoon of pistachio. Continue this way and make sure to finish with a layer of pistachio. Cook in a preheated oven at 200° for around 15 minutes. Serve them inside the ramekins or reverse them in a plate as to maintain a pie shape.

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Stuffed squid with pesto and prawns

To Nero di Seppia Facebook fans’great request, here is finally a fish recipe. Or, to be more accurate, a cephalopod recipe. 🙂 This dish is very easy to prepare and makes a great impact, and with the suggested side it becomes a wonderful and balanced main dish. I warn you not to make the common mistake of overcooking the squid. Five minutes per side at a high temperature will be enough, and you’ll see that it will be tender but substantial, keeping the juices without becoming stringy.

Ingredients for 4 servings
– medium to large sized squids, 4
– shelled, precooked prawns, 300g
– ligurian pesto, 4 full teaspoons
– bread crumbs, 4 full tablespoons
– Pizzutello tomatoes, 12g
– juice of 1 lemon
– extra virgin olive oil
– oregano
– salt and pepper
– toothpicks, 4

Prepare the filling: cut the prawns into pieces, put them in a bowl, add pesto, bread crumbs and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add a pinch of salt, some ground black pepper and toss.
Clean the squids, cut the head at the bottom, over the eyes, so as to obtain a bag. Keep tentacles aside. Peel them, rinse them and dry them accurately with some kitchen paper.
Stuff the squids with the filling, close them at the bottom with a toothpick and, with a sharp knife, make some cuts on the “bag”, as to cut them almost into rings. Brush with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and oregano.
Grill the squids and the tentacles for around 5 minutes per side on a very hot grilling plate, until they reach a nice, roasted colour.
Serve over a bed of concassé tomato, deprived from seeds, dressed with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, black pepper and oregano. Serve with a couscous pie, made with a fish stock.

Original pictures by Laura Renieri. Post production: Nero di Seppia.

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Mini raspberry cheesecake

An awakening like many others at my parents’ house, on a sunny September morning. On the table, a note for me. A few words written rapidly but with the heart. It’s the cheesecake recipe of Aunt Sery, who came from far away to offer smiles and sweetness like nobody else can do. With this cake, I discovered America.

Ingredients for 6 mini cakes or 1 normal cake
– digestive cookies, 250g
– butter, 125g
– cream cheese (Philadelphia), 500g
– sugar, 80g
– raspberries, 200g
– eggs, 2
– raspberry jam, 3 tablespoons

Blend the cookies and mix them with the melted butter. Grease 6 mini cake baking tins with butter, line with baking paper and grease again. In each mould, make a layer of cookies, rising the borders a little. Store in the fridge.
Mix the cheese together with sugar and blended raspberries, keeping some aside for decoration. Add the eggs, one at a time. Cover the layer of cookies with the cheese mixture. Bake for 1h in a preheated oven at 150/160°.
Decorate with a thin layer of jam and fresh raspberries.

Original pictures by Laura Renieri. Post production: Nero di Seppia.

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Sfincione is a typical Sicilian specialty. Despite the resemblance, it is far from being just a pizza. It’s a surprising bite of Palermo.


Ingredients for 1 baking tin
– flour “00”, 500g
– brewer’s yeast, 25g
– onions, 2
– fresh Sicilian caciocavallo cheese, 200g
– fillets of anchovies in oil, 100g
– peeled tomatoes, 500g
– bread crumbs, 1 handful
– sugar, 1 pinch
– Siclian oregano
– extra virgin olive oil
– salt and pepper

Sift the flour in a wide bowl. Dissolve the yeast in a little warm water, pour it over the flour, add the sugar, a pinch of salt and knead for about 10 minutes, adding some lukewarm water little by little, until the dough is soft and elastic. Make a ball out of it, sprinkle the bowl with flour and cover with a cloth. Let it rise for 2 hours in a dry place, away from airstreams.
Meanwhile, slice the onions thinly and let them soften in a pan with a little oil and 3 tablespoons of hot water. Do not make them brown. Press the tomatoes with a fork and add them in the pan as soon as the onions are ready. Adjust with salt, pepper and cook for 20 minutes at a low flame.
Once the dough has risen, knead it again for a few minutes, adding 2 tablespoons of oil.
Grease a baking tin and stretch out the dough evenly, at a thickness of 2cm. Chop the anchovies into little pieces and cut the caciocavallo cheese in cubes. Stick them into the dough, pressing with your fingers to let them well inside. Let the temperature of the tomato sauce cool a little, then spread it over the dough, including the borders to prevent them from drying up. Grease the breadcrumbs with some oil and spread it all over the surface of the Sfincione. Sprinkle with oregano and let rest for another 40 minutes. Cook in a preheated oven for 220°C for about half an hour, until the borders gain a nice colour.

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A Gianduja weekend

The tips of the Alps, sprinkled with icing sugar-like snow, stand enormous over the clear sky, blue as the ribbon of a baby boy, smooth as a satin vest.

The doors of the city open to the generous embrace of the arcades over boundless squares, ball rooms of a royal palace en plein air, celebrating all of its greatness.

Here it is. Turin. An elegant old lady, enwrapped in the warm wood of antiquarians and in the subtle fragrance of chocolate, embellished by curvy wrought-iron jewels. Gaping over the shore where she quenches her thirst, riverbanks of a dynamic vein which upsets the order of her streets. She smiles with austerity, as she reflects on the windows of liberty-signed boutiques, tying her past to the dusty bow ties of old cafés’ waiters.

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Artichoke Lasagne with prawns and buffalo mozzarella

In full accordance to the rules of web 2.0, through my Facebook Page, I asked Nero di Seppia fans what they would have liked to find within the next recipes. After several suggestions, pistachio and artichokes were the two ingredients competing for the podium.  Following a tough challenge, the final “like” was given to the winner. Despite its spiny appearance, its soft heart couldn’t hide the emotion for the great victory. And here’s to you, the Champion.

Ingredients for 4 persons (1 small baking tin)
– fresh egg lasagne, 250g
– artichokes, 250g already cleaned and cut + 10 stalks
– garlic, 1 clove
– prawns, 250g
– buffalo mozzarella, 150g
– ricotta, 1 tbsp
– béchamel sauce, ½ litre
– lemon, 1
– extra virgin olive oil
– salt & pepper

Clean the artichokes, slice them thinly, Mondate i carciofi, affettateli finemente, scrape off the stalks and cover everything with water and lemon juice. Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a pan with the unpeeled garlic clove, crushed.  Towel-dry the artichoke stalks, cut them into pieces and, as soon as the garlic starts turning golden, let them brown in the pan for a few minutes. Add 60ml of warm water, switch to a low flame, cover and stew for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste, ground pepper and blend together with 50 ml of warm water, the ricotta and some olive oil, until you get a creamy and even texture. Adjust salt and keep aside.
Drain the other artichokes and sauté them in the same pan used for the stalks, removing the garlic. Add 60ml of warm water, cover and stew for 10 minutes. Add salt, ground pepper and keep aside.
Clean the prawns, cut them into pieces and store in the fridge. Cut the mozzarella into pieces and put it in a colander so as to let it lose the liquids.  
Prepare a light béchamel sauce, keeping it quite liquid, not too thick.
Grease the baking tin with some olive oil by using a brush. Make a first layer of lasagne, without precooking (we’re using the fresh ones, in case you only find dry lasagne you should cook them in salted boiling water first). Cover with 2 or 3 tablespoons of artichoke cream, sprinkle with sliced artichokes, prawns and mozzarella. Finish with 2 or 3 tablespoons of béchamel sauce. Repeat this process, damping the lasagne with a little warm water, using a brush. Continue with the layers until you reach the top of the tin, making sure you finish with a layer of lasagne. Damp with water and add a thin layer of béchamel sauce to cover the whole surface.
Bake in preheated oven at 180° for about 25 minutes. Finish the cooking under the grill for 5 minutes, or until the top will result golden, au gratin.

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