Roasted fennel

Fennel is one of my favourite vegetables. This roasted fennel is an easy to prepare side dish that goes well with roast chicken or fish. Fennel transforms when roasted, losing all of its licorice flavour and crunchy texture to become caramelized, soft and deliciously buttery. It is suitable for most diets, but if you are on a dairy free diet or strictly vegan, you can omit the Parmigiano.

PREP TIME 10 MIN COOK TIME 35 min

INGREDIENTS FOR 4

  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano
  • salt and pepper
  • dried herbs of your choice: origano, thyme, sage, rosemary
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  2. Remove the fronds from the fennel bulbs and save them for garnish. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise and then into thick slices.
  3. Put the slices in a bowl and season with salt, pepper and dried herbs. Add the breadcrumbs and also the Parmigiano. Mix well.
  4. Arrange the slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheet ensuring that they are all laid out evenly and do not overlap. 
  5. Pour or sprinkle the oil evenly on the fennel slices.
  6. Roast the fennel in the oven for 35 minutes until it’s tender and caramelized on the edges (cook for another 5-8 minutes if its not yet tender). Serve warm. 

BUON APPETITO!

Baked feta pasta

This pasta recipe was the talk of the town a few years back and it’s still going strong. I wanted to give it a go to see what all the rage was about. It’s made by oven roasting a block of feta with cherry tomatoes to create a salty and creamy sauce for your pasta. The original recipe is from a Finnish blog here

PREP TIME 5 MIN COOK TIME 25 MIN

INGREDIENTS FOR 2-3

  • 300g spaghetti, fettuccine or pappardelle
  • 200g feta
  • 400g cherry tomatoes (of different colours)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 or more garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper
  • peperoncino (optional)
  • dried origano
  • fresh basil
  1. Preheat oven to 200 C and cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions.
  2. Pour some olive oil on the bottom of a baking dish and place the block of feta on top. Add the chopped peperoncino and the origano on top of the cheese and pour some more olive oil on top. Now place the cherry tomatoes and garlic cloves around the feta, swirl them in the olive oil and season with pepper and a dash of salt.
  3. Bake in 200 C for 15 minutes, turn the heat to 225 C, move the dish to the upper rack and use grilling mode for 10 minutes. Don’t let the tomatoes burn.

4. Break the feta and mix with tomatoes. Add the cooked pasta and toss well to combine. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Tip: next time I’ll remove the stems before putting the tomatoes in. They look nice in the photo but are a drag to remove. Also I would try half feta cheese and half ricotta because even though I love feta as is, I found the baked feta a bit too salty and tangy for my taste. But definitely try the recipe!

BUON APPETITO!


Pan fried sea bass with tomatoes

Sea bass, spigola or branzino in Italian, is an easy option for a nice, low calorie meal. You need just a few ingredients and under 20 minutes to serve this pan fried sea bass with tomatoes.

PREP TIME 5 MIN COOK TIME 10-15 MIN

INGREDIENTS FOR 2

  • 2 big sea bass (or sea bream) fillets
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley
  • capers (optional)
  1. Start by patting the fillets dry while heating a pan on medium to high heat on the stove top. Add oil (you can add a knob of butter, too) until it’s very hot. Place the fish fillets skin-side down and press a little with a spatula if they start curling up.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and let cook for 4 minutes undisturbed until you can see the the flesh cooked two thirds of the way up and the skin is crisp and brown.
  3. Turn the fillets over and add salt and pepper and the tomatoes. Let cook for additional 3-4 minutes. Add the capers if using and some chopped parsley.

BUON APPETITO!

Oxtail stew

This recipe is slightly modified from Jamie Oliver‘s fabulous oxtail stew. It is one of the best stews I’ve eaten or cooked. Oxtail is a gelatin-rich meat, which is usually slow-cooked as a stew or braised. While it used to be only the tail of an ox, nowadays it can also refer to the tails of other cattle.

PREP TIME 15 MIN COOK TIME 6 HRS

INGREDIENTS FOR 5-6

  • 1,5kg oxtail, chopped into 4cm chunks
  • extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 leek
  • 1-2 celery stalk
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • fresh thyme and rosemary
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2 Tbls of plain flour
  • a glass of good red wine
  • 2 cans of plum tomatoes
  • 0,5 liter of beef stock or water
  1. Preheat oven to 220C. Place a large oven tray in the oven to preheat.
  2. Carefully remove the hot tray and add the oxtail. Season and drizzle the oil over the meat, toss to coat and place in the hot oven for 20 min, or until golden and caramelised.
  3. Meanwhile trim and halve the leek and celery lengthwise, then chop into 2cm chunks. Peel and chop the carrots and onions and place the veggies into a large ovenproof casserole over a medium low heat with 1 Tbls of oil.
  4. Pick, roughly chop and add thyme, rosemary and bay leaves to the pot and cook for 20 min, stirring frequently.
  5. Meanwhile remove the oxtail from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C.
  6. Add the cloves and flour stirring well to combine, then pour the tomatoes and wine. Add the oxtail and any roasting juices, cover with beef stock or cold water and stir well.
  7. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil, put the lid on and place in the oven for around 5 hrs or until the meat falls off the bone, stirring every hour or so and adding some water if needed.

8. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Using rubber gloves, strip the meat from the bones and return to the pan discarding the bones.

9. Enjoy with creamy mashed potatoes or pappardelle pasta.

BUON APPETITO!

Farfalle pasta with vegetables

This is a simple vegetarian pasta recipe. I used pumpkin, button mushrooms and onion to dress my pasta, but you can use veggies of your choice depending also on the season. No creamy sauces needed. Just fresh vegetables stir fried in good olive oil.

PREP TIME 10 MINUTES COOK TIME 20 MIN

INGREDIENTS FOR 4

  • 360g farfalle pasta
  • 450g pumpkin, cleaned and diced
  • 300g button mushrooms, diced
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • parsley
  • salt
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions or until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile cut and slice the vegetables.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add the onion slices and fry for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the diced pumpkin and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the diced/sliced mushrooms and cook for another 7-8 minutes. Season with salt.
  5. Drain the pasta and toss it in the pan with the veggies. If needed, add a half a glass of the pasta cooking water.
  6. Serve with some chopped parsley.
  7. OPTIONAL: If you love Parmigiano cheese, you can top the plate with it.

BUON APPETITO!

Lentil potato soup

Fall and winter are a perfect time to prepare hearty soups. This lentil potato soup with lemon is vegan, easy to make, and full of flavour. Enjoy a bowl of this nourishing kale and lentil soup on its own or with some crusty bread or maybe adding some rice or risoni (orzo pasta) for a satisfying meal.

PREP TIME 15 MIN COOK TIME 30 MIN

INGREDIENTS FOR 4-5

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 2-3 Tbls olive oil
  • 3-4 potatoes, diced
  • 4-5 grill cloves, crushed
  • 300g lentils of your choice
  • 1 tsp of each: curry powder, ground cumin, paprika
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper
  • 1.5 l stock (or water)
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • chopped cavolo nero/Tuscan kale or another type of kale
  1. In a heavy bottom pot heat the olive oil over medium heat and fry the onions, carrots and celery for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and give it a good stir, then add the curry powder, ground cumin and paprika. Cook for another minute.
  3. Stir in the rinsed lentils, stock and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, covered, for 20 minutes until the lentils are cooked and potatoes are fork-tender. Add salt.
  4. Add the shredded kale and cook for 5 or more minutes until the kale is wilted. Stir in the lemon juice and season with black pepper.

BUON APPETITO!

Yummy Apple Cake

I love all kinds of apple desserts. And apples are available all year round. This is a very easy apple pie recipe given to me by my son-in-law. I’ve made it many times and it never fails. When baking this cake or any any dessert with apples, such as apple crisp or apple pie, it’s important to use apples suitable for baking. Baking apples hold their shape when cooked, so the chunks of fruit won’t turn into applesauce in the oven. Tart-sweet varietals such as Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, Braeburn, and Jonagold are all great options. Feel free to combine different varieties for a more nuanced flavor

PREP TIME 10 MIN COOK TIME 50-60 MIN

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g apples of your choice
  • 200g flour
  • 140g sugar
  • 75g butter, melt and let cool
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml milk
  • 16g baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • dash of sugar and cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease and flour a 22-24cm springform pan.
  2. In a large bowl cream together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Sift the baking powder into the flour and add salt. Add the flour and the liquids (milk with the melted butter) to the batter in a few batches folding with a rubber spatula.
  4. Fold in 3/4 of the peeled and diced apples (slice 1/4 of the apples) and the zest of lemon.
  5. Pour into the baking pan. Add the remaining apple slices in a circle on top of the batter and sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon on top.
  6. Bake at 180C for 50-60 min until the toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool and move to a serving plate.

BUON APPETITO!

Sweet and sour red onions

These pickled onions are a tasty side dish. Easy to prepare with onions and a blend of water, vinegar and sugar. Excellent on good crusty bread or sandwiches but also as a side dish to meat or fish.

prep time 10 min

cook time 30 min

  • 3-4 medium size red onions
  • 150 g water
  • 50 ml red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbls granulated or brown sugar
  • salt
  • olive oil
  1. Peel and thinly slice the onions. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pan, add the onion and sauté for a few minutes.
  2. Combine water, vinegar and sugar and add this blend to the pan. Let simmer for about 20-25 min until the liquid has almost dried up. Add some salt.
  3. Let cool and serve. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days.

BUON APPETITO!

Zucchini and meatballs in tomato sauce

I love all stuffed veggies and I have to say that these ground beef filled zucchini in tomato sauce are one of my favourites. Buy some more ground beef and make meatballs to cook in the same tomato sauce. Delicious.

prep time 20 min

cook time 30-40 min

ingredients for 4-5

  • 350g ground beef
  • 4 medium to large zucchini
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 25g grated Parmigiano
  • handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • flour to coat the meatballs
  • 400g tomato sauce
  • 1/2 onion
  • extra virgin olive oil

  1. Start by washing and tapping dry the zucchini. Cut off the edges and then cut them in half or into 3 pieces.
  2. Use a zucchini corer or an all-purpose corer to gently hollow out a tunnel through the zucchini. Put the zucchini flesh aside.
  3. Mince the zucchini flesh and put it into a bowl. Add the ground beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, grated Parmigiano, one egg, salt and pepper. Use your hands to combine everything thoroughly.
  4. With your fingers or a small spoon, fill the zucchini cavities with the stuffing, taking care not to pack them too tightly. Use the leftover stuffing to make meatballs.
  5. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add thinly sliced onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce or a tin of crushed tomatoes, add some salt and let simmer for a few minutes.
  6. Add the stuffed zucchini to the pan, cover and let cook for 15 minutes. In the meantime coat the meatballs with flour.
  7. After 15 minutes, add the meatballs to the pan with the zucchini and let cook for another 15 to 20 minutes on medium low. Serve warm or tepid.

Enjoy your stuffed zucchini and meatballs in tomato sauce.

BUON APPETITO!

Zebra cake

Zebra cake is like a marble cake but a little flashier. I baked it as a single layer cake or a bundt cake but you can easily bake two cakes and make it double or maybe even a triple.

prep time 15 min cook time 30+ min

ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 120 g sugar
  • 80 ml sunflower or peanut oil
  • 200 ml milk
  • 220 g flour
  • 16 g baking powder, sifted
  • 40 g dark cocoa powder
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C and grease and flour a round baking pan. I used a silicon one.
  2. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the oil and 150 ml of milk and beat together.
  4. Add the flour in batches and mix well. Add also sifted baking powder and mix.
  5. Divide the batter into two bowls. Add in one the cocoa powder and the remaining 50 ml of milk. Beat well.
  6. Start by pouring 2 Tablespoons of the cream batter on one side of the pan and then adding 2 Tbls of the cocoa batter on top. Keep alternating the two batters on the same spot without moving the pan. The batters will slide and mix by themselves into a striped pattern.

7. Bake the zebra cake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

BUON APPETITO!