Antonia Landi

Posts Tagged ‘homemade’

Bread – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on February 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Picture: Antonia Landi

This week, I’ve decided to make myself sound like a bit of a hypocrite and declare bread to be ‘better than toast’. Well, let’s just put it this way: All bread can be good toast but not all toast is necessarily good bread. In fact, once you’ve baked your own I’m convinced that little else will satisfy you just as much.

Bread is such a basic thing that we rarely stop to think about it. Supermarket bread is readily available at any time of the day and stays soft for days, but rarely sports a great crust. Of course, you could go to an artisan baker, but I’m somehow reluctant to pay a fiver for a loaf that I could just as well make at home. And yet, baking bread doesn’t really catch on with the younger generation. I don’t know if it’s because it’s seen as something old-fashioned to do, or if people are put off by how long the whole process takes. Granted, it’s much quicker to go to your nearest store and buy some than make your own, but homemade bread ages far better and gives you endless possibilities. Besides, you could make your whole flat smell of freshly baked bread and snack on a warm loaf afterwards. What’s not to love?

There are no two ways about it: making bread does take time. But that doesn’t mean that this is a bad thing! Schedule your bread-making on a day you have lots of little things to do, that way you can cross things off your list while you wait for the bread to rise. Make the dough and then tidy your flat, knock the bread back and skype with your parents afterwards, stick it in the oven and do your nails while you wait.

If you’ve never baked bread before I would really urge you to take your time with this recipe. Get a real feel for the dough, see how it changes beneath your hands while you are kneading it. After all, breadmaking is an ancient tradition and so vital. Take your time and think about what you are doing; you’re effectively transforming three basic ingredients (water, flour, yeast) into food with only your hands and some heat. You can probably already tell, but I really find something almost magical in making bread.

It is needless to tell you just how many different kinds of bread you could make. Wholemeal, with seeds, sweet, savoury, you can play around with different flours like spelt and rye, make a tin loaf one day and then burger buns the next – I could go on forever. Take this very basic recipe, memorize it forever, and run with it. Quite honestly, the best advice about breadmaking I can give you.

Makes one loaf:

500g strong white bread flour

7g dried yeast (1 sachet)

2 tbsp olive oil (optional)

1-2 tbsp salt, to taste (optional but recommended)

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.

Want to know more about baking your own loaved? Check out this website for a thorough bread baking 101.

Once you’ve made your loaf you can either eat it as it is or make it into this heavenly creation (hint: goes down great at parties!).

And finally, don’t ever get tempted to throw out hard bread. There’s still plenty of life in it!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Homemade chocolates – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on February 8, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Picture: Antonia Landi

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The shops are filled with bears holding up hearts, roses are basically shoved in your face and everyone is supposed to be happy and in love. But why not use this time to treat yourself to some handmade sweets?

It’s Valentine’s Day alright. Quite possibly the worst holiday of the year. You either feel under pressure to make a romantic gesture to your partner, or supposedly need to feel bad because you don’t currently have a partner. Either way, it’s not very cheerful, is it. So instead of spending money on some horrible stuffed animal, get a few bars of chocolate and make the magic happen! Celebrating Valentine’s Day should be about the people that you love, be it friends or family. And trust me, after they’ve tried these delicious chocolates, they will love you.

Working with chocolate is really tricky and easy to mess up. Many people will tell you that you’ll need to temper it by closely monitor the chocolate’s temperature and suggest a myriad of techniques to aid you in your quest for the chocolate of the century. The truth is, as long as you don’t get water into your melted chocolate, you’ll be just fine. True, the chocolate you’ll produce won’t be glossy and shiny, and won’t have that characteristic ‘snap’ when you bite into it; it’ll look and taste more like a truffle. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad! So stop faffing about with your thermometer and let’s melt some chocolate.

Melting chocolate is pretty straightforward. The only two things that could go wrong is if you accidentally get water into it (remember, even a tiny amount can ruin your chocolate, so be extra careful) or if you burn it, but if you’re as impatient as I am, that isn’t likely going to happen. The great thing about making these yourself is that you can personalize them to suit the person you are making them for. Think about their favourite chocolate and customise: chopped or whole nuts, dried fruit, tiny marshmallows, experiment with layering two kinds of chocolate or add a small amount of cereals – there is so much you can do. There is no right or wrong – think about what you like and then make it! This is a great opportunity to really bring your ideas to life.

I find working with silicon moulds easiest – when you choose one, make sure you take its shape into account and go for the one with fewer details. For example, it’s easier to get the chocolate out of a heart shape than it is to get all the corners of a star out without breaking anything. It takes about 4 hours for the chocolate to set, but  I would suggest leaving it to set overnight. And if you have leftover melted chocolate, simply dip some fruits in it and let them to cool on a baking sheet. There’s nothing like a few sweet treats to reward yourself!

 

Makes approx. 20 chocolates:

150g white chocolate

150g milk chocolate

150g dark chocolate

Fillings like cereals, nuts, dried fruits, dried chilli flakes, marshmallows… be creative!

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 up for making chocolates but you don’t have a mould, or you want to make something a bit more sophisticated, why not try making your own truffles?

For the future Chocolatiers among you and for those who want to know the tricks of the trade, here is a great and simple guide on how to properly temper chocolate.

And if you’d rather keep the chocolates for yourself but still need a gift for your loved one, have a look at these great ideas for homemade presents.

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Toad in the hole with simple onion gravy – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on December 1, 2011 at 2:27 am

Picture: Antonia Landi

Toad in the what? I don’t know, but just stay with me, okay? I promise this dish is so moreish and comforting, you won’t want to eat anything else until March.

So, for those who don’t know this dish, it’s basically sausages in a giant yorkshire pudding. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? It’s really easy to make and so great during winter. Plus, if you master this one, you’re bascially already an expert on how to make yorkshire puddings, so really it’s two recipes for the price of one!

For some reason I always thought that there must be some kind of wizardry going on when making yorkshire puddings. I fell in love with them the moment I set foot in Britain, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how they make them. Why do they rise so much? What do you mean pour the batter in hot oil? That’s not gonna make any difference… is it? Turns out, it really does make a difference! I have since been told that the yorkshire pudding batter rises so much because of the egg, although my knowledge doesn’t go beyond that. Sausage-wise, it’s easiest to keep it traditional – this is a British dish after all! Use nice plump bangers that’ll stay moist throughout the cooking process, unless you happen to be vegetarian of course! In that case opt for this tip: I’ve never been a big fan of overpriced quorn style veggie sausages – they cost a fortune and more often than not the taste is quite disappointing. So if you don’t mind getting your hands a bit dirty go get some sausage mix – you’ll usually find it in the aisle next to dried stuffing mix. It’s dirt cheap, makes a load of sausages, and you can season and shape them any way you want! I’ve used them in Toad in the hole before, and boy are they tasty. But I am rambling. To get back to the topic: make sure your oil is seriously hot before adding the batter (use vegetable oil, as olive oil starts burning at high temperatures), try not to open the oven once the batter’s in and if your toad is collapsing when you take it out, stick it back in for another few minutes! The trick is to make it get nice and crispy, so that it won’t collapse under its own weight. If you’re having serious trouble with it, try making individual toads in a muffin tray – they are easier to heat up quickly and therefore less prone to disasters.

A note on making your own gravy: You really don’t know how easy it is until you make it yourself. I was a firm supporter of instant gravy, and I can still see the benefits of it, but when a dish really makes the gravy shine, it’s definitely worth making your own. There is virtually nothing that can go wrong and it’s just fun and so easy! Besides, nothing can beat that ‘I just made my own gravy’ feeling.

 

Feeds 2:

For the Toad in the Hole:

4-6 bangers

125ml milk

75g flour

1 large or 2 small eggs

Salt & pepper to taste

Vegetable or Sunflower oil

 

For the side:

200g Cauliflower florets, cut into bitesize chunks

Olive oil, salt & pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan (optional)

 

For the onion gravy:

Half an onion, sliced

Knob of butter

1 tbsp flour

Half a stock cube

250ml water

Seasoning to taste

 

Heat oil in oven dish in a preheated oven on a high heat until very hot. Add sausages, reduce heat and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked thoroughly. Add batter and bake on a high heat for 20 minutes or until crispy.

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.

 

Ever wondered how Toad in the hole got ist name? This is by far the best explanation I could find!

Almost entirely unrelated to this week’s recipe, I came across this charming website that explains all the British culinary eccentrities to the non-Brits among us. Mainly aimed at those living in the USA, it’s a great read if you want to have a laugh!

If you’ve made too much roasted cauliflower (and who can blame you – roasted cauliflower tastes delish!) here is a great recipe for a lovely casserole.

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.

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.

Snow White’s poisoned apple – Better than Toast

In Entertainment, Food, Student life on October 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Picture: disney.wikia.com

 

For ages I didn’t know what to cook for this week’s recipe – I knew I wanted to make something for Halloween, but what? Pumpkin pie? Pumpkin bread? Pumpkin cake? My final recipe turned out to be a lot less orange than expected…

Apart from my get-up, this recipe was actually quite scary to make. Ever since messing up my first batch of custard I have an irrational fear of messing it up again. So I stand by the stove, stirring until my arm falls off and carefully watching the custard’s every move. For a less traumatic experience, just stick to the recipe! A bain-marie is pretty much the safest way of making custard – by only gradually adding heat to the mixture the chances of it turning into scrambled eggs is virtually zero. If you are adding corn flour to the mix make sure you sift it – no one likes clumpy custard! Finally, enjoy watching your custard thicken. For ages nothing will happen and you start having doubts whether you’re doing things right, but when things start to get creamy, you suddenly realize that you just made your first delicious bowl of homemade custard. How British!

Apple-wise, make sure to choose a variety that is firm cooking and lends itself to baking. I used red delicious because of their taste and colour, but have a look at the links below for more inspiration. Some people just core the apple without first cutting the top off – it’s up to you what you go for, I just prefer my apples with a hat! When coring, make sure that you remove all inedible parts of the apple (e.g. seeds etc) and don’t go too far down! It is easy to slip with your spoon and accidentally break your apple, so I would suggest buying one or two more, just in case.

You could replace the apple juice in the recipe with plain water if you wanted to, the juice is just there to make sure that the bottoms of the apples don’t burn to the oven dish. And if you want to go budget, vanilla essence works just as fine as actual pods, and check the baking aisle for cheaper raisins!

 

Feeds 3:

For the apples:

3 firm-cooking red apples (I used red delicious)

2 handfuls of dried fruits & pecans

2 tbsp syrup

150 ml apple juice

 

For the custard:

150 ml milk

150 ml single cream

1 vanilla pod

3-4 egg yolks (depending on size)

Green food colouring

Corn flour (optional)

Bake apples for approx 30-40 minutes. Make custard in the meantime!

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.

 

Custard-related science anyone? This informative website holds all the custard facts your heart could desire!

You can’t serve this dish without proper Halloween decoration! Here are some great ideas on how to make your own!

Finally, have you ever wondered what the differences between different kinds of apples are? I know I have! This website has an extensive list of apple varieties, their look, taste and texture. And with its handy sidebar you can easily navigate the hundreds of apples!

 

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

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.

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.

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