Antonia Landi

Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Mushroom risotto – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on November 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Picture: bbcgoodfood.com

 

Hailed as the quick and easy midweek supper, risotto actually took me quite a while to perfect. But once you’ve got your technique down, it’ll definitely become a favourite.

Making risotto is all about stirring stirring stirring – unlike instant polenta, there is no cheat mode to delightful risotto! I used to find making it really stressful, as I’m usually busy doing three different things at once when I’m cooking – chop while you cook, that kind of thing. I would’ve been really grateful if someone told me at the start that risotto requires your full and undivided attention, so here it goes: Risotto requires your full and undivided attention. That means measuring and chopping and grating all the ingredients before you start, and having them at arm’s reach. As if you were doing a cooking show! This way, you can pay close attention to what is happening inside your pan, which is very important. By stirring the rice frequently, you do not only prevent it from burning to the bottom of your pan, you also release its starchy goodness, which leads to a heavenly creamy risotto. Do make sure you use either Parmiggiano Reggiano or Grana Padano as these cheeses blend into the sauce wonderfully. Mushroom-wise there is not much you could do wrong. Go for wild mushrooms as they have a bigger and more diverse flavour range than the more traditional mushrooms you find in your supermarket. Remember, mushroom season is almost over, so make the most of it while you can! Think girolle, oyster, brown beech, pied bleu – the list goes on and on. If you’re struggling to find any, have a look at dried mushrooms – they keep forever and all you need to do is soak them before cooking! My favourites are girolle, oyster and porcini mushrooms, but there are endless possibilities. If there’s a big Morrison’s supermarket near you, get your mushrooms there. They have the biggest variety of mushrooms I’ve encountered in a supermarket so far, and their labels tell you about the variety’s taste and texture. Last but not least don’t attempt cooking a risotto with long grain rice – it won’t work. Have a look at the links below to find out why. Carnaroli is my rice of choice, but Arborio is generally easier to find – I got my rice from asda though, so there’s no need to go to an overpriced deli for it! Just shop around and I’m sure you’ll be able to find what you need.

Feeds 2:

180g Carnaroli rice (Arborio is fine as well)

Half a chopped onion

1 garlic clove

Knob of butter, plus approx 40g to finish

Approx 200g-250g wild mushrooms

1l good quality chicken stock (good stock cubes will do; or veggie ones for a vegetarian version)

1 small glass (125ml) white wine

Handful of grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

Seasoning to taste (remember the stock is already quite salty)

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.

 

What’s the difference between basmati and Arborio rice? And what about Carnaroli? Does it really make a difference? Find out here why risotto rice is different and get acquainted with 5 different types (yes five!).

I’ve never made any kind of stock myself and I don’t really mind admitting that, but I feel like I should at least give you the option to do it yourself. And who knows, maybe with this second version that uses no chicken bones at all and is only supposed to take an hour I might even try it myself!

OH NO! I’ve made too much risotto! Yeah right, we all know that you just wanted to have enough leftovers to do these super tasty rice fritters.

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Baked potatoes with two fillings – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on November 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Picture: bbc.co.uk

Aah, the good old baked potato. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, there’s not many dishes that can make one feel warm and fuzzy inside quite like this one. Pair that with how easy it is to make one, and you got the perfect lazy day dinner.

In Switzerland, there’s a dish we make called ‘gschwellti’ which basically consists of boiled potatoes accompanied by an extensive cheese platter, so the idea of pairing potatoes with cheese isn’t foreign to me (especially if you consider the more well-known raclette). But that’s just about how far the Swiss will go. Over here, the classic baked potato is loaded with a mound of cheddar, but there are so many other great toppings to choose from too. From baked beans to a posh chilli, from a simple helping of cheese to a healthier veg alternative – there is nothing the baked potato can’t handle. And that’s what’s so great about this dish – the potato is like a blank canvas, itching to be painted on and you can make it as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Today, I’ve chosen two of my favourite toppings – tuna mayo, because it’s so easy to make, and Brie, bacon and cranberry sauce, because the sweetish-salty-creamy combo of this fancy topping is just divine. Plus, it’s got cranberry sauce in it, which’ll give it a nice Christmassy twist! But do have a look at any of my previous recipes, as some of them would make fantastic toppings – the homemade chilli and the boozy mushroom sauce from the polenta recipe are only two of the many options to choose from! So do go out and get yourself a bag of baking potatoes and bake the winter away – and do share your favourite topping combos in the comments below!

Makes 2 baked potatoes (1 of each)

2 baking potatoes, roughly the same size

Olive oil

Salt

Bake the potatoes for approximately 1 hour (depending on size) on a medium-high heat

For the tuna mayo:

1/2 tin responsibly sourced canned tuna

1/2 tbsp mayonnaise

Capers (optional)

Salt, pepper, dill to taste

Small handful grated cheddar

For the Brie, bacon & cranberry:

4-5 slices Brie

2-3 bacon rashes (best cut with scissors!)

2 tsp cranberry sauce

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.

First time potato baker? Here are fourteen helpful tips on how to make your baked potato a success!

For those who want to be more spud-literate, here is a great link that summarizes which kind of potato is best for which kind of dish. Incredibly helpful, and yes, that’s a purple potato.

And for the purists among us, here is a simple recipe on how to make your very own cranberry sauce.

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Baked Alaska – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on November 10, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Picture: bbcgoodfood.com

Ever put ice cream in the oven? No? You should try it, it’s delicious!

Now, before you call me mad, I should add that the ice cream is protected by a thick layer of whipped egg whites – that is unless your first attempt fails, just like mine did!

The video you are watching is actually the second attempt at this dessert. In my first video, I thought it might be nice to put a layer of jam over the top of the ice cream, so that it would create a nice red rim around the ice cream once you cut into the baked Alaska. What I hadn’t considered is that it caused the egg white to slide away from the ice cream, causing a big rip to appear in my meringue. The heat seeped into the centre of the cake and you can imagine what the end result looked like… Messy, to say the least. But we all make mistakes, and after a night of sulking I simply made another one. Nothing like a bit of cake to cheer yourself up, right?

Now, apart from having a freezer full of baked Alaska, I’m actually quite glad that this little disaster took place. If it hadn’t, I probably would’ve never talked to you about what happens when things go wrong in the kitchen! This in itself is such a big topic, that I couldn’t possibly cover it all in one article. I have, however, put some very useful links at the bottom of this page, so do check them out. To make sure that you succeed, take good care when whipping the egg whites. Your bowl and whisk should be absolutely free of any oil – the best way of doing this is running a wedge of lemon across your equipment just before starting. Make sure you separate the eggs correctly – you will be at the mercy of your egg whites, so be really careful not to drop any yolk into it. As a little pointer: it is easiest to separate an egg when it’s cold, but egg whites are best whisked at room temperature. And if things do go wrong in your kitchen, start from the top and remember: this happens to the best of us!

Makes 1 baked Alaska:

1 flan case (approx 6 inches, or 100g – often referred to as medium flan case)

3 egg whites

Half tub of dairy ice cream (500ml)

Raspberry jam

150g caster sugar

Approx 60-70g frozen berries per person

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.

If you’re in the kitchen often enough, chances are that at some point you’ve either burnt, broken or over-salted something. While at the time this might seem like the end of the world, do have a look at this website before you bin everything – you might be able to save it after all!

For some baked Alaska related info and a lovely recipe for dainty mini versions of this dessert, click this link (and do ignore the apostrophe mistakes…).

When making meringue, you can never read up too much about it. From failing to separate eggs to over-whisking, the truth is that a lot can go wrong. But there are great little tricks that prevent you from making these silly mistakes! You can find some of them here.

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Real spaghetti carbonara – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on November 6, 2011 at 1:21 am

Picture: bbcgoodfood.com

If you think you’ve had this dish before, think again. Carbonara just happens to be one of the most misunderstood Italian dishes in the world. So much so, that most sauces and recipes widely available have little in common with the original. Real carbonara is deliciously creamy and oh so moreish – and it can be done in just ten minutes.

You will notice from my recipe that there is no cream involved in this dish – that’s right, not even a single drop of cream. ‘But, how else would I be able to make a creamy sauce?’ I hear you say. And here’s where I let you in on the secret of first class carbonara – use eggs. Do you remember how we made custard last week? Heat the milk, stir in the eggs and let it thicken. Well this is a similar concept. Again, the last thing you’ll want to do is to make the eggs coagulate. In other words, solid bits are not allowed. As long as you stick to my instructions, you’ll get perfect carbonara, every time. And what a delight it is to eat!

Whenever I explain to people how to make authentic carbonara, most of them look at me with a disgusted look in their face. Barely cooked eggs? Are you mental? But trust me, once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back to those horribly gelatinous white sauces that you can buy in a supermarket. The combination of the egg and the cheese, which will just slowly melt into the sauce, delivers such a great result that will leave you with a plateful of pasta finely coated in the simplest, and quite frankly, greatest sauce for a satisfying midweek meal. And if on your way to carbonara heaven you encounter any sceptics just ask them this: Do you eat custard? Good! IT’S THE SAME THING.

Feeds 2:

180g Spaghetti (I use DeCecco)

1 pack cubed pancetta (equivalent to approx 100g)

Generous handful of grated pecorino Romano

Knob of butter (optional)

2 fresh eggs

2 garlic cloves

Plenty black pepper (salt is optional, as the pancetta and pecorino are quite salty themselves)

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.

I don’t know about you but I love to find out where a dish comes from! I won’t spoil anything, so here’s a great link about carbonara and its origins.

For this recipe you’ll want to get the freshest eggs possible. If you’re not sure just how fresh your eggs are, take a look at this site, which should help you out.

And finally, here’s an article about one of my favourite rant subjects! Do you think you know Italian food? Check out this link to find out!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

%d bloggers like this: