Antonia Landi

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Vegan falafel – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on June 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Picture: Useful Times

Falafel is like the Middle Eastern answer to fast food – they’re quick, they’re tasty, and they’re vegan too!

When I first encountered veganism I remember being slightly confused – did they mean vegetarianism or is this something completely different? For those of you still confused, the vegan diet excludes any animal products. So, like vegetarians, vegans don’t eat meat, but they also don’t eat any dairy or egg products. Now, this may sound like a very limited and complicated diet, but I can assure you that all of you have eaten a vegan dish without even realising it. Pasta with tomato sauce? Vegan. Jacket potato with beans? Vegan. Falafel in pitta bread? Vegan. Having tried veganism out of curiosity for a few months myself I can only recommend it. It doesn’t matter whether you do it for health or ethical reasons, what I love about veganism is that it really makes you think about food. If you ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut when it comes to your cooking, try veganism as a one-week challenge to yourself. Besides, with so many fruits and vegetables, veganism is about as healthy as you can get.

Now, I like to serve my falafel with some toasted pitta breads, some lettuce, peppers and hummus and make a big spread where everybody can help themselves, but you can always make them in advance and add them to a couscous meal or even an oriental lamb dish. If you’re not cooking for vegans feel free to add one egg to the mixture as this will bind the ingredients and lower the chances of your falafel falling apart when frying. If you, or one of your friends is vegan, add water to the mix if you feel that it’s too dry. Also make sure that you finely chop the onions – that way you can achieve a more homogenous mixture. And finally, if you’re lucky enough to own a food processor, simply whiz all the ingredients up! You’ll be able to make falafel in no time at all.

Feeds 2

1 can chickpeas

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

1-2 tbsp breadcrumbs or flour

Salt and pepper to taste

– if you are feeling authentic, go for cumin and coriander!

Vegetable or sunflower oil for frying

To serve as a spread:

Lettuce leaves, torn

1 large pepper, sliced and quickly cooked

Pitta breads

Hummus

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

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Film review – Le quattro volte

In Entertainment, Film on June 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Picture: Trisickle

The critically acclaimed film ‘Le quattro volte’ is simply a masterpiece. This film shows what no other form of storytelling could, and it does so in a simple, yet compelling manner.

‘Le quattro volte’ is a film by Michelangelo Frammantino that has won its share of awards. And rightfully so. The film itself briefly follows the story of an old shepherd, played by Giuseppe Fuda, who dies alone after having lost his ‘medicine’. From here on, there is no going back – goats, trees, villagers, they all take the centre stage at one point or another, guiding us through this experience. And that’s what this film really is – an experience, more than anything else.

Fuda is the only actor mentioned in the credits, along with mentions of the village and Vuk, the shepherd’s dog, who has even received his own award. Blurring the lines between reality and cinema, one can never be sure if the things that are happening have been scripted or not. Being a film with no dialogue at all and seemingly no storyline either, ‘Le quattro volte’ is incredibly immersive. At first one might not be convinced of the film’s storytelling techniques, as they require a completely different approach to what we are normally used to. The film is a series of images, where emotions conveyed through movements tell the story. Not everything is explained, and some things are never resolved. You as the viewer are left quite alone as the observer of this small Italian village, and this can take some adjusting to. Some things might seem quite peculiar, but it is the frank authenticity that makes this film so engaging. ‘Le quattro volte’ leaves you wanting more, even if it is just to watch what the goats are up to. From the processions to the professions, through to the odd superstitions of the villagers; the audience gets to know the village just as if it was another actor.

The images are what make this film, and the scenery as well as the pacing is both beautiful and heart wrenching. Moving through the seasons we encounter both sadness as well as humour, and this shows that film does not need to rely on conventional methods to bring a message across. In fact, ‘Le quattro volte’ does something that only a film could do – it offers you a chance to observe something without disrupting what is going on – a bit like a bird on a rooftop. And it is this fact, along with the unique scenery of this tiny village, that makes this film so extraordinary.

Another big theme in this film is continuity. One life ends while another begins, and the ending could easily be the beginning. The ‘circle of life’ is really apparent in this story, and if nothing else, it offers hope in the harsh light of reality. Humour is as much a part of village life as sadness, and the goats are just a delight to observe. There is virtually no music in the entire film – instead, we listen to birds tweet, villagers talk, and many, many goats. The ringing of the goats’ bells is as memorable as the old man’s gait as he struggles with his illness. The sadness in this film real, just like the goats and dogs and trees and birds. ‘Le quattro volte’ is as real as cinema can be. It will take you onto a path you might never have walked on, had it not been for this film, and it will make you re-learn how to watch closely. This film is simple, yet extraordinary, and it just so happens to be that the path it leads you to is one of the most magnificent of its kind.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Pesto alla genovese – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on June 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Picture: Useful Times

This popular Italian sauce is incredibly versatile and so easy to make – you really have no excuse not to try it!

As the name suggests, pesto comes from Genova, which is in northern Italy. The word pesto itself is derived from ‘pestare’, which means to crush, or to pound. Pesto used to be most commonly made with a mortar and pestle – as you can imagine this takes a lot longer than simply whizzing everything together in a food processor, but there is no denying that the traditional method will reward you with an immensely gratifying tasting experience.

Now, since pesto is so quick and easy to make, I could have simply made the sauce and then used it straight away in a meal, but I decided not to do that for one very good reason. I don’t want to limit your imagination as to what you can do with this little sauce of wonders. Arguably, pesto works best simply stirred into pasta, but it’s a great ingredient for any chicken dishes, and even works as a spread. If you require different flavours for your recipe, simply alter the pesto – add a few sundried tomatoes to make red pesto, or change the cheese for a slightly different take on it.

I have used pecorino in my recipe as I find the strong flavours of this cheese work best with pesto, but you can use parmiggiano or any other hard cheese. There is a tendency for home made pesto to be slightly more liquid than the ones you can buy in the supermarket – this is because most bought pestos rely on cashew nuts to give the sauce the right consistency. You can counter this by adding more pine nuts to the recipe, but always make sure that all the flavours have their own space. Also, do make sure that you only add just enough olive oil to make a paste – you don’t want your ingredients to swim in it!

Makes one jar of roughly 300g

100g basil leaves

30g grated pecorino

2-3 tbsp pine nuts

2-4 tbsp olive oil

garlic and black pepper to taste

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Spinach & ham quiche – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on June 20, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Picture: Useful Times

When I say quiche most people will think of quiche lorraine, which is exclusively made with eggs and ham, and can sometimes look quite sad if not done right. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan – my quiche is packed with tasty ingredients and will soon be a lunchtime favourite!

What I like about this quiche is that it’s so incredibly easy to make. You can make it from scratch at lunchtime if you have an hour to spare and then eat it straight away from the oven, or you can make it the night before and take it with you as a packed lunch. I like to have quiche on its own, but pair it with a tasty salad and you have a light and tasty lunch in no time! Quiches are perfect to take on picnics, and you can fill them with a variety of ingredients. Spinach and ham is by far my favourite, as I think that they complement each other very well. Team that up with some creamy soft cheese and black pepper and you’ve got yourself a great meal. If you are a vegetarian, try exchanging the ham for some creamy goat’s cheese – it will give you all the great strong flavours of the ham, while still being veggie!

A note on pastry: If you have time, by all means feel free to make your own shortcrust pastry – but I must warn you: shortcrust isn’t the easiest pastry to make and sometimes it’s not really worth all the fuss. Because of the high butter content in the dough you have to work fast – this goes for both the bought and homemade pastry. I prefer to buy a block of pastry and roll it out myself instead of buying pre-rolled pastry – that way, I can choose the thickness and shape. Another common problem is that pre-rolled pastry tends to break easily, so you’ll have to be careful with it.

Feeds 4 as a main course or 8 with a side:

300g fresh spinach

2 gammon steaks, cooked and cut into cubes

100g soft cheese

1 handful grated hard cheese of your choice

1 egg

500g shortcrust pastry (or 1 sheet of pre-rolled pastry)

mustard and black pepper to taste

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Summer pasta dish – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on June 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Picture: Useful Times

The days are slowly but surely getting brighter and warmer, and what better way to celebrate the arrival of summer than with a colourful and light meal. This is a dish you can really show off with – the vibrant colours and delicate flavours make this one perfect for a dinner party al fresco.

I have consciously decided not to use meat in my recipe today, which means the dish isn’t too heavy. Plus, it’s vegetarian as well, so if you have any veggie friends you can invite them over and have a great meal to wow them with! But be careful – in my recipe I use parmiggiano, which doesn’t actually classify as a vegetarian cheese. Non-vegetarian cheese is made with rennet, which is an animal product and helps the milk proteins to curdle and therefore allow the production of cheese. It’s a small detail, but make sure you get it right if you have vegetarians over for dinner. Ideally, you’d want a mature hard cheese that is ideal for grating (or is already grated!) – if you are struggling, ask your vegetarian friend to suggest any favourites!

The end result for this recipe delivers a dish that is delicate in flavours – if you want to add a bit more zing, try adding some lemon juice and zest to the finished dish. If you find your sauce to be a bit too thick for your liking, you can add some water to it – a ladleful of the cooking water would be ideal, but some ordinary water will do as well. And finally, don’t be afraid to try different flavours! My choice of vegetables came down to presentation and personal preference – but you can substitute any of the ingredients with other vegetables. Mange tout and asparagus are only two of the options you have! Always make sure you get vegetables that take about the same time to cook – or alternatively you can boil the ‘odd one’ separately and add it to the final dish.

Feeds 4:

350g – 400g pasta

400g assorted vegetables (I use broccoli, spinach, fine beans and peas)

150g soft cheese

garlic

basil to taste

salt and pepper

parmiggiano or vegetarian hard cheese to taste

lemon juice and zest is optional

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Chilli con carne – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on June 1, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Chilli con carne. Picture: Useful Times

There are dishes that have been adopted by other cultures so successfully that you sometimes forget where it actually comes from. For me, chilli is one of those dishes.

I would never argue that my version of this dish is authentic by any means – I’m not even sure I ever ate a ‘proper’ chilli! But I find it to be a tasty dish that I can whip up with no effort at all after a long day at uni. You can eat it with rice, as is the custom, or you can try using it as a filling for fajitas, topped with sour cream to counter the heat. When I have guests and I need a filling snack I serve the chilli in bowls with tortilla chips – it makes a fabulous rich dip and it’s so easy to share!

If you are feeling adventurous, you can play around with the taste of the chillies. I would suggest buying fresh chillies for this one – it doesn’t matter how little or how much you’ll put in, fresh chillies give this dish a kind of lively heat you wouldn’t get with dried chillies. I have used simple red chillies for my video, but have a look around in your local supermarket, or even a deli or a farmer’s market – you’d be surprised at just how many varieties of chillies you can get.

Feeds 4:

500g mince

2 tins red kidney beans

2 tins tomatoes

200g rice

fresh chilli and garlic to taste

oil, salt and pepper

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

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