Antonia Landi

Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

How to make a pokéball cake – Better than Toast Extra

In Food on September 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Pokéball cake - Picture: Antonia Landi

Hello and welcome to this rather informal video tutorial about how to make your very own pokéball cake in a few simple steps! This recipe and video combined should give you enough confidence and information about how to make your cake – if you’re unsure about any of the steps, please contact me! I am more than happy to help 🙂

First of all, here is the all-important cake recipe.

You will need:

225g butter, plus extra for greasing

225g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

4 eggs

1tsp vanilla extract

If you want to make a chocolate cake, simply add 50-75g of cocoa powder. Please not that the more cocoa you use, the darker the chocolate cake will be.

Grease your cake tins with butter and line the bottom of each with greaseproof paper. Divide mixture into equal parts and bake on a medium heat for approx 30 minutes.

For the filling you will need:

1 tub elmea whipping cream

Jam of your choice (I used strawberry jam)

And finally this is what you will need for decorating:

2x 500g white ready to roll icing (you might be able to do with one pack, but I’d rather have too much than not enough!)

1/2 bottle red food colouring

1 tube black ‘decorating’ icing

Icing sugar

You will notice that the red icing will be softer and more difficult to work with than the white icing (it sticks to everything!). This is because you have added extra liquid (the food colouring) to the icing. Therefore it is very important that you work quickly and efficiently with the red icing and make sure to put it in the fridge (or even the freezer!) immediately after colouring it.

If you don’t want to muck about with the black icing, you could use liquorice instead. I’m not a big fan of it, so it’s really up to you!

Finally, if this is your first cake, do check out my cake baking strategy guide – there’s lots of tips and tricks to be found there, plus an easy recipe for a simple chocolate cake to get you started!

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

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Homemade fish fingers & potato salad – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on September 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Picture: tescorealfood.com

Hey guys! Do you like fish sticks? Good! Because with this tutorial you can make your own in no time!

Fish fingers are a staple of comfort food. They are quick and easy to make and even people who don’t like fish will usually eat them. And since fish fingers have had a lot of bad press about what’s in them, this way you know exactly what goes in them – delicious fish, and nothing else. I have used Pollock for my recipe today for three good reasons. It is cheaper than both Haddock and Cod; it can be sustainably sourced in British waters and it’s actually the main ingredient for most commercial fish fingers anyway! It is a firm white fish, and therefore perfect for our recipe. If you would like to make a more grown up version, you can use salmon instead of Pollock, and serve with a wedge of lemon.

When choosing a side for today’s recipe it was difficult to get away from the traditional ‘fish and chips’ but I find that one fried component is more than enough for any plate, so I opted for a potato salad instead. Now the deal with potato salad is this: it’s either well made or badly made. A lot of potato salads you get in supermarkets or dodgy restaurants are too starchy and thick with mayo, with little flavour to speak of. To avoid this, use a firm cooking potato, such as Charlotte, Maris Peer or Nicola, and add crème fraîche to your mayo to make the whole thing less heavy. For extra flavour I have added some spring onions and capers – spring onions for the freshness and capers to deliver that much needed kick.

Feeds 2:

For the fish fingers:

250g Pollock

50g flour

2 eggs

Approx 100g breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the potato salad:

Approx 300g potatoes (equivalent to 8 small potatoes)

2 tbsp mayonnaise

2tbsp crème fraîche

2 spring onions

1-2 tsp capers in vinegar

Salt, pepper and herbs 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!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

Made too many fish fingers? Why not go for a fish finger sandwich! This recipe is a great way to use up any leftover fish fingers in a tasty sandwich.

When cooking with fish it is extremely important to realise how the fishing industry works and what damage over-fishing can do. Please do visit this website and join Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s fish fight. Hugh is one of my favourite food writers, and this website is full of great ideas and recipes on how to be a more responsible cook.

And finally, here is a great website filled with everything you need to know about fish. What they look like, what they taste like, and what you can do with them. A fun and good-looking resource for all your fishy needs!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Tiramisù – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on September 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Picture: bbcgoodfood.com

 

You can’t deny the fact that you’re back at uni now, Christmas holidays are still a world away, the weather’s getting worse and all you really want is a little pick me up to get you through the week… And what better way to cheer yourself up than a little tiramisù!

Tiramisù is the staple of any Italian restaurant’s dessert menu, even though its origins are not quite clear. With its lovely medley of mild mascarpone, strong coffee and a hint of chocolate, it is easy to see why it’s literally called ‘pick me up’! Some people prefer it with alcohol, some people add subtle flavours along the way – this version is the plainest and simplest possible. This way, you can enjoy it as it is, or really make it your own by playing around with various flavours. If you would like your tiramisù to be a bit boozy, try adding a bit of rum or amaretto – Marsala wine (which is similar to port) is the standard, but any of these will go. Don’t add too much alcohol to your recipe – I would suggest a swig or a tablespoon to be precise. Tiramisù is a rather delicate dessert, despite its strong coffee, so make sure you don’t use anything too overpowering.

Apart from the savoiardi (which are just ladyfingers or ‘sponge fingers’) the coffee is the star of this dessert. The higher quality your coffee is, the better your dessert will taste. Now, I know that we are all students here but please refrain from using filtered or even instant coffee. It will taste horrible, and we both know it. You don’t need to have a pump espresso maker to make good coffee at home. You can get a small coffee machine for the hob, such as the moka express by Bialetti, or if this is just a one off, go down your local coffee shop for some espresso shots.

If you’re not keen on the idea of having coffee, you can try and substitute the coffee for some chocolate milk. I would suggest avoiding overly sweet brands as this could affect the overall sweetness of the dessert. This is also a good alternative for a children’s version of tiramisù. Finally, if you want to add subtle flavours such as vanilla or a hint of orange, do so in the mascarpone. Simply add the seeds of a vanilla pod or some grated orange peel into the mascarpone and you will be surprised to see how far just a little tweaking can take you.

 

Feeds 6-8 (enough for a 25x25cm dish or equivalent)

500g mascarpone

5 egg yolks

50g sugar

1 pack savoiardi (200g)

approx 500ml espresso or very strong coffee

cocoa to dust

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.

Pizza – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on September 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Picture: Useful Times

What is round, Italian and delicious? Well, Pizza of course! With this simple recipe you won’t have to dread making your own dough anymore – there are just a few simple steps to pizza perfection!

Growing up in an Italian household, it is needless to say that our pizza was never shop bought. But unfortunately not everyone’s as lucky as I am! While I do enjoy the occasional supermarket pizza myself, it is so much more rewarding to make your own pizza entirely from scratch. By working the dough and kneading it with your hands you can really get a feel for creating your own food. It is a fantastic experience and will lead to many others. Pizza is just about the simplest kind of dough you can make – and once you’ve mastered the basics, a whole new world opens up for you. From pastry to cakes to fantastic real homemade bread, food always tastes infinitely better if you’ve made it yourself.

Pizza of course is the unrivalled queen of student food – if you think that following this recipe won’t be nearly as quick and easy as simply chucking a soggy supermarket pizza in the oven, let me convince you otherwise. The key to any good cooking experience is preparation. From simply preparing all your ingredients in the right amounts beforehand, to making the dough in big batches and freezing it for later, as long as you’re prepared, this will be as easy as you want it to be.

The really great thing about pizza is that it’s so versatile. There is literally nothing you can’t put on it – if you’re a fan of American style pizzas, opt for a deep oven dish and smother in barbecue sauce before adding some meat and cheese of your choice – if you like it veggie and light, load your pizza with delicious vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms and onion – if you have a taste for the exquisite, opt for goat’s cheese instead of regular cheese, or garnish your pizza with thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, then add a handful of rocket and shavings of parmiggiano reggiano before serving. You see? There is really something for any taste.

A note about rising: To let your dough rise, you should keep it in a reasonably warm and sheltered place, away from any drafts. There are big debates about how long pizza dough should rise – some pizzaioli leave the dough to rise for up to 48 hours! I would generally suggest a minimum of 2 hours. Use this to your advantage! Prepare your dough a few hours before your guests arrive, and don’t worry if you forget about it – the longer, the better. Rising times can change with room temperature and location, but if your dough has doubled in size, you should be good to go.

Makes two 14’’ thin crust pizzas:

500g tipo 00 flour, plus extra for dusting

7g dried yeast (equivalent to one sachet)

Approx 320ml lukewarm water

Salt

For the tomato base use one can of chopped tomatoes and 1-2 tbsp of tomato concentrate. Season with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice. Alternatively use barbecue sauce or leave plain, in which case you may drizzle some olive oil on your base before sprinkling some sea salt over it.

Bake on a high heat (careful not to burn anything) for approx 15-20 minutes

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.

Cat treats – Better than Toast

In Animals, Food on September 5, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Picture: The Useful Times

 

Have you ever wondered how they make cat treats? What do they taste like, what’s really in it? Well fear no more! With this simple and quick recipe you can make cheap and tasty cat treats at the touch of a paw.

Here in Scotland it’s the start of Scottish Animal Week, and to support the SSPCA and all the great things they do for animals I wanted to make something special. From re-homing cats, taking care of abandoned dogs, to looking after injured animals, the SSPCA is a great charity to support. Unlike the RSPCA, it doesn’t get government funding, so they really need all the help they can find. I donate £3 a month to the SSPCA and I hardly even notice it leaving my bank account. It’s a very small sum, so small that even a student can afford it!

But enough about charity. Today’s recipe is really as simple as it could get. Simply take one tasty thing, and mix it with two floury things and bake. I chose mackrel this time around, as it is a welcome change to the salmon and tuna treats you can find out there. But if your cat is not fond of fish, you can easily replace it with cooked chicken. Whatever ingredient you choose, make sure you get the option with the lowest salt content. We don’t want to have a thirsty kitty! My mackrels already came in sunflower oil, but if yours don’t, just add a splash before adding the rest of the ingredients. Now, if you find your mixture to be too dry, you can add water. If you want to go all out and use milk, please only use cat milk, or full fat milk in very small doses. Cats are naturally lactose intolerant and too much milk can upset their digestion. The lower the fat content of milk, the higher the lactose content – so if you want to go all natural, opt for a mix of full fat milk and water.

Last but not least please remember that I am in no way qualified to give you expert advice on cats – you as the owner know what your cat likes and dislikes. If you are unsure about any of the ingredients or simply want a bit of advice before you start cooking, please do go see your vet. They will be more than happy to help you out.

Makes approx 200g of cat crunchies:

1 tin mackrel in sunflower oil (you can also use tuna, salmon, sardines or chicken)

50g whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting

50g cornflour

1 egg

small tub of catnip (use as little or as much as you like!)

 

Bake in the oven on a medium to high heat until crunchy (about 15-20 minutes)

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.

5 Minutes with Jason Webley

In Edinburgh, Entertainment, Music, Performing Arts on September 5, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Picture: listal.com

He’s loud, he’s talented, he’s away. For those of you who have missed him at the Fringe, you’re going to have to wait quite some time for your next chance. 11.11.2011 will be the date of his last gig and after that it’s some well-deserved alone time for this Seattle based accordionist. So before he takes a break, Jason decided to re-visit every country he’s played in before and more. Appearing in Edinburgh both as a solo act and as one half of the Siamese twin duo EvelynEvelyn, Jason rarely travels alone. With the likes of Amanda Palmer and Sxip Shirley in tow, you’ll always be guaranteed a unique experience at his gigs. Here he talks about his first Fringe and the future.

Tell me about your first time at the Fringe. Were you here as a spectator or as an artist? What were your first impressions?

This was my first time at the Fringe, and sadly I didn’t get to get out much… I was jetlagged and busy. But it was lovely to spend some time in such a beautiful place and see a lot of friends.

Do you feel any differently about it now? Has anything changed for you?

Before I ever came I always thought to avoid Edinburgh during the Fringe, that it would probably be a crazy rat race with so many people fighting for the attention of a limited audience. But in the end, I enjoyed the energy and think it could be nice to come back again.

Your music is very unique – not only because of the choice of instruments. How did you end up playing the accordion?

I was working on a play my last year of college, writing the music, and my father had bought an accordion at a garage sale. For the end of the play, I wrote a few songs using the accordion.

You are on an Europe-wide tour right now. What will happen after this?

A little tour of big shows with my band in the US and then a big show in Seattle and then a big break.

Tell me about the 11th November.

The 11th of November is a lot of things… it was Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday. It was the end of World War I. It is the date of my last concert this year.

Where will you be in two years?

Where will you be in five?

I honestly don’t know.

Did you manage to catch any shows during the festival? Did you see anything memorable?

I was bad. As I said, I didn’t really get out at all. I just went to one of Neil Gaiman’s talks. I wanted to see more but everything conflicted with my shows.

EvelynEvelyn – how did this happen?

I was doing this project, writing songs with a bunch of musician friends for a series of little records. I approached Amanda and we enjoyed writing together so much that it we decided to do a full album and a stage show as well.

What was the last song you wrote about?

Probably the last song I finished was my silly song about the solstice.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Film review – Gianni e le donne

In Entertainment, Film on September 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Picture: comingsoon.it

Do you know those days that are just a bit ‘meh’? Nothing really happens but you’re still not bored enough to do something about it. Uneventful, I guess, is the right word to describe it. Well, that’s what ‘Gianni e le donne’ is like. Armed with a potentially entertaining story to tell, this film is a bit of a let down. The cast is good, the setting is pleasant, the soundtrack is very good – so what is the problem?

Gianni Di Gregorio, director, writer and main character of the film, sets the viewer up for an interesting story. We meet Gianni, a fifty-something stay at home husband who is less than happy with the way things are going. He lives in a virtually love-less marriage, prepares breakfast for everyone while his wife and daughter are too busy to spend any time with him, and all he is left with is a long list of errands to run. Any favour a woman asks him to do he will do, and it is soon clear that Gianni, as lovely as he is, is sick of it. Cue the main theme of the film: Gianni decides to get back into the game. But what does that actually mean? Clearly, he does not get what he wants from his marriage, but are we really watching a movie about an oldish man desperately trying to have an affair with younger women? It is needless to say that the film does not lack cringeworthy moments.

For a comedy ‘Gianni e le donne’ is almost tragic at times. The humour is scarce, and very rarely laugh out loud funny. But it is so well done that you can almost forget about the lack of character development. Instead of obvious puns and bad jokes, this film relies entirely on situation comedy. Sometimes it’s cringy, sometimes it’s just unfortunate, but it is entirely funny and always works.

The biggest surprise is in the soundtrack. It is very well written and has the potential to lead a whole scene. Ratchev & Carratello have truly hit the nail on the head here – the music is entertaining, well written, and just leaves you wanting more.

It is a shame that a film that has the potential to be very good ended up to be, well, not so good. The main problem with ‘Gianni e le donne’ is that character development is unheard of. All the characters – whether it is Gianni’s mum that relies on her son whenever her housemaid is not around, or his daughter, who gets back together with her old boyfriend just to realise that she isn’t happy – stay absolutely the same throughout the entire film. Not even Gianni, who is clearly like a block of clay just begging to be shaped and moulded, shows the slightest sign of change or realisation. This is absolutely fine for the first half hour, as the viewer eagerly awaits the main plot point where everything will change, and things will go wrong but they will also be funny and eventually lead to a happy end, but as the film goes on it dawns on you that this film simply does not go anywhere. The ending is simply baffling and feels a bit like a cop-out. And so we leave Gianni as desperate as he was before and neither he, nor the viewer, is any wiser.

All in all this film has all the right ingredients to make things work, but the storyline is bland and gets repetitive after a while. Fifty-something stay at home dad, looking for action.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

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