Thursday 21 June 2007

Summer's in the air...

Rome and the whole of Italy have been hit, at last, by the summer heat wave and boy are we sweating here!
I love summer and I love the heat, but the down side is it makes cooking a cumbersome time.
After a long day running round like a headless chicken getting the little tsunami to kindergarden, then rushing to work, smashed and mashed between an array of other bodies fighting their way into the hot hot hot subway, and then, after hours spent in a warm office, going through the process all over again turns the idea of slaving infront of a stove a gruesome dream.
And so...what to serve on the table this evening?
Dear husband is on a mission to lose weight (he doesn't need it, believe me. At 39 he's got a great muscular figure, he's a bit of a hunk, if I say so myself, but then again I know what cruel judges we are of our own bodies), and every meal has become and ordeal for me!
It's far from easy to concoct a light yet tasty meal every evening, so the one time your man is not in, I can finally eat whatever I want to my heart's content.
Tired, sweaty and hungry as I was last night, I decided I was in no mood to turn the stoves on a second time, the first havig been to prepare pasta with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala and basil for the little tsunami - and so opted for an old time Roman favourite, Parma ham (prosciutto) with fresh fruit.
You'd be amazed how versatile Parma ham is. It tastes lovely, and looks lovely too, casually draped over slices of juicy orange melon, and is, for me at least, at it's best when accompanied by sweet mushy figs.
These two delicacies are at their best though when squashed between two slices of pizza bianca alla romana, or on foccaccia.
Of course living in Italy it's easy as pie to get your hands on a good piece of white pizza (I've got 5 pizza shops lined up one after the other just across the road from my house!!!), but following is your basic pizza dough recipe, which can easily be whipped together in a big batch and used to your heart's content. My advise is make a lot, prepare some for dinner and freeze the rest of the dough for another occasion.

Pizza with Prosciutto e fichi
300 gr. 00 flour
20 gr beer yeast
250 ml water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pour the flour onto a clean surface and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast and a little at a time luke warm water. Gently start mixing all together with a fork starting from the centre of the well and moving out. Add the olive oil and start kneading the dough with your hands until you end up with a smooth ball of dough.
Place in a bowl, score a cross on the top, cover and let it rest until it has doubled in volume.
At this stage you take a good sized chuck of, gently flatten the dough (the best way is to work it with your fingers to get the air out), to about half an inch. Remember you want it to be high enough and soft enough to cut through it add the filling later.
Place on an oiled oven dish, add a pinch of salt, and some fresh rosemary, and pop it in the oven at full blast for aprox 15 minute, or until nice and golden.
Wait for it to cool, cut across, and fill with slices of Parma ham and wedges of very mature figs.
Serve with chilled sparkling wine, prosecco is lovely, or, for a more relaxed evening, a big pitcher of lager beer.
Nothing nicer then an evening to yourself having dinner on the terrace, Portishead on in the background, a good book in one hand, a glass of almost frozed white wine in the other and a mouth full of Parma sharpness and the sweetness of figs. Not the lightest of meal, I'll admit, but one deserves to indulge in these anti-diet joys once in a while.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

I'm a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown

..not true really, or at least not most of the time, though I must admit this has been so far a pretty exausting, if very fulfilling, year and am therefore really looking forward to taking a whole month of in August (it's a first, believe me!!!).
Plans for the summer? not even one. We'd talked about spending a couple of weeks in Pantelleria, where my husband's family is originally from, but alas, little money and no beaches on the island rapidly turned our dream into an impossible fantasy.

And so the plan is to spend a couple of weeks at my in-laws house, not far from the beach in Nettuno, and then lover boy and I might, and I do wish to stress the word might, spend a couple of days in Senigallia, during the Summer Jamboree week. (check the website
What week, one may wonder....for a full week this summer resort on the adriatic coast plunges back in time to the good ol'1950s, with tiki parties on the beach, vintage cars, vintage clothes, and oh boy vintage hairdos, Elvis stile and all!!!

We went three years ago with a big group of friends only to find even more friends when we got there, it's a really huge appointment in Europe, something not to be missed rockabillies and such.

We skipped the two following years first 'cos I was especting, then 'cos my little tsunami was just too small for it.

This year the plan is to go on the wednesday and I'll return on the friday, whereas he'll go up to Piemonte for a bicker fest. It is yet only a plan, as it would mean to leave my little tsunami with my mother for a couple of days and I'm not sure I can yet cope with the idea. Taking him with us is out of the question, he's used to going to sleep at 7.30 pm....that says it all!!!!

The wednesday night we'd be going to see Jerry Lee Lewis in concert (yea, I know, I thought he'd died long ago of old age, but I was wrong, eh?), and the second night, the one I'm most interested in, the Dita Von Teese strip show!!!!!

Ok, I've gone of on a tangent there, so moving back to the of my favourite movies, and one I'm planing to watch with lover boy this evening, as he's never seen it, and I'm sure he'll like it. I mean what's not to like about this movie???

Plus to really recreate the atmosphere, I'm planning on making Gazpacho Andaluz for dinner, which should keep him happy, as it's a light dish and he's braking my back with the whole 'I've put on weight, I'm on a diet starting from now' bull that I've been having to endure for the past three months.
Why do men simply not accept the fact that your body simply changes in time, and that he's moving towards forty, not twentytwo!!!!

Monday 11 June 2007

Summer is here....(or what to feed a picky kid!)

Is it really, though?
It's certainly hot these days, but just last friday Rome was absolutely flooded in rain and yours trully finally got back home from work drenched to the bones!
then again, the positive side is I didn't have to bother watering the plants, so that's one plus, I guess.
Anyhow....being that it's summer, and being in a summery mode I went food shopping on saturday (as you do) and bought a basil and a parsley plant, for the astonishing overall cost of 2.00 euro!!!!!
and so, fresh basil and hungry baby.....tadaaaa make some fresh pesto for his dinner.
if you're sick of cooking the usual soups and casseroles for your kids well then you really must try making them a plate of pasta with pesto.
I've still to meet a little one who won't go bonkers when presented with pesto, I don't know why!!!
And you can fiddle with pasta al pesto by adding cherry tomatoes or ricotta cheese to make it a one meal dinner - any mother will agree with me, they are absolute time and stress savers!!!
Pesto is sooooo easy to make, the most important ingredient being good basil, the best is certainly the genoese basil, with its small, oval, pale green leaves, and good extra virgin olive oil.
traditionally you should really make pesto with a pestal and mortar, but it can be a little more energy and time consuming then the good old magimix.

Pesto alla genovese
So what you do is take five big handfuls of basil leaves, three quarts a glass of olive oil, 3 spoonfuls grated parmesan cheese and three of pecorino cheese, 1/2 clove of garlic (the traditinal recipe actually calls for 2, but I think it's a tad eccessive, and could end up compromising your social life), one spoonful of pine nuts.
In the baby version you might prefer to leave out pine nuts if you're afraid of your child being allergic to nuts.
Just put everything in the magimix and give it a few short blasts. you want everything to be crushed and mixed together, but you also want it to retain a little of its crunchiness.

I didn't add salt to the recipe because I'm assuming you're making it for a small child. All you have to do is add salt and a little pepper (I know, it's not in the real and original recipe, but I add pepper to anything I eat) to the pesto destined to the adult's dinner.
My advise is to make a big batch of it, because pesto can really be used with and for anything.
A few spoonfuls on a caprese salad, mixed with cream cheese and spread over a baguette instead of your usual butter, on a bruschetta with slices of tomato, in cuscus....on white fish, on grilled prawns....I'm off on a tangent now!!!!!!!!!
But really there's no limit to it's uses, and again the great thing is that in one go you've prepared a great meal for a hungry little tsunami generally hyperpicky about his food, and dinner for the poor exausted parents, in no time and certain success.

Tuesday 29 May 2007

I made a wicked burger

So, for most of you this is probably going to come as absolutely useless information ( I imagine you all know how to whip up a real homemade burger), but only yesterday, after having read an article on the New York Times, did I try my hand at making one, and have decided that never again shall I buy the readymade ones in the meat sector of a supermarket again!
Being half Italian, having lived in Italy all of my life but most of all with a father who was also a great cook and originally from the Abruzzo region, I'm not too bad when it comes to making meatballs, or as we call them here, polpette.
But burgers...that's an entirely different cup of tea. When I think burger I thinks Big Mac; aka a lot of sauce, lettuce bread and a sliver of tastless meat (don't get me wrong, I'll kill for a Big Mac any day!!!!).
But having read said article, I really wanted to see how a real all american burger would suit my taste buds. And let me tell you, suit me it did!
The great thing is there really is so little to it. Whereas when making polpette you need to add eggs, stale bread soaked in milk, maybe even one mashed potato to the meat and then, with infinite patience roll the above into little balls, which have to then be rolled in flour, gently sauteed and afer all this start working on a sauce, tomato, wine, lemon etc, good old burgers need so little preparation and time it's scary!
And so last night I just knocked up a simple fresh potato salad with lots of onion, celery and mayo, and started working on my burgers.
As the article says, the trick is in the meat. So I went to the butcher's, and had him thickly grind me a nice chunk of beef, with it's fair share of fat (I love meat fat!!).
At home I simply added half a clove of pureed garlic (fresh, not from a tube), a little bit of chopped parsley - again fresh, pepper, one fresh chili pepper, malton salt and worchester sauce.
I left the burgers really thick, say one and a half centimetres (don't ask me the equivalent in inches, 'cos I have no idea!!), and cooked on the hot grill for around 8 minutes.
They were still a little pink in the centre, but far from being raw, and certainly not overly cooked.
Slapped 'em inside a fresh rosetta - tipical roman bun - with a couple of leaves of lettuce, sliced tomato, and sauteed onions.

I admit I couldn't do without the ketchup, but hey, nobody's perfect.
Easy dinner, and great success!
Snooping around the net I fould this site, completely dedicated to hamburger recipes. Some are a little OTT for my taste (bacon and banana burger is not for me, but who am I to judge?), but others are certainly worth a try.

Monday 28 May 2007


This morning I'm going to talk a little about me (come on people, fess out, we all like braggin' about ourselves!!), by answering a series of questions Merce from Pip in the City (go check her blog, great food ideas, and lovely pics of her creations) has sent me.
Being new to the blog world, I'm still trying to figure out the thin boundary between protecting my privacy and being just plain old paranoid about exposing myself too much. Certainly my answers can give you a more general idea of who I am and what I like.
So, here goes! Let's start with a pic (not the best, but this is what I've got)

My meme interview:

1. What was your favorite dish as a child?
My mum's mac and cheese, my dad's wicked rigatoni all'amatriciana (in true roman stile!) and the stuffed turkey we'd have on Christmas day, which I'll one day attempt making and post on the blog (mum de-bones the whole turkey, and no matter how much attention I pay every xmas, I still haven't mastered the skill).

2. What´s your fondest food memory?
There's two really.

The first is my dad, who passed away four years ago (it still seems like yesterday he'd be waiting up for me at night reading a book or the paper in the kitchen!), strolling around the kitchen preparing one of his magical sugos together for dinner on the rare occasion when he'd be spending sunday with us, away from work and enjoying the bustle and noise of family life. And the memory of all my xmasses in Ireland, my mother's land, preparing dinner with the family. My grandad popping a bottle of bubbly while I'd be peeling the potatoes, mum attacking the said turkey, my aunt preparing the stuffing, and then all of us trying to make the oven work (why do these things allways break down when you need them the most???), with Top of the Pops in the background.

3. How did you meet your husband?
I saw him the first time in my best friend's house one summer of...many years ago. I'd just come out of a long relationship, and had no interest in men whatsoever. He came into the house with a smug face, harldy said hello to me, and then went along for his own business chatting to his mates, never bothering to take a second look at me (or so I thought!)
I met him again a year later at a party, my dad had recently passed away, and again was in no mood to chat or be chatted up by men. We met again another couple of times after that, and even though he showed interest in me, I completely dismissed the chance of there ever being anything between us - famous last words, eh?
Then one night in a club, after one to many Camparis he offered to walk me to my car, and next thing I was in his arms!
Our relationship was quite shaky at first, we both had deep scars to show, and we had (still have) very different in personalities. I'm very open and confide blindly in people (again, I've got the scars to show it!), whereas he's, or rather was, a very closed person. But, four years down the line, we are still passionately (really!) in love with one another, and have an adorable, if a little hyperactive, son to prove it.

4. What are your all time favorite books/movies?
I love -with an absolute passion - the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Dr Frankenfurter is my kind of guy (kinky, I know. But we've all got our little fetishes, and men in fishnet tights and high heels is mine!!! To this I do wish to add that dear hubby has never worn, and never will wear fishnet tights!!!)
Some like it hot. I adore oldies, and this is by far my favorite. I used to think Tony Curtis was the hight of sexy, John Lemmon the best of commedians, Marilyn was just so marvelous, and the dialogues are wicked. Maybe I also love it because it was certainly one of my dads favourites too.
Bridget Jones diary - because for most of my life (take away the last 6 years) I was plump, shy, insecure, a little clumsy (ok, I still am clumsy!), a general mess with men, even if I did have my fare share of admirers. So I really do feel for her, plus I'm a romantic all the way, and love happy endings
The Sting - I mean, you just can't decide which one if the cutest, Robert or Paul!!!!

Books....hmmmm not easy.....I'm a real bookworm, hope I don't leave any out.....
So here goes:
The Master and Margarita - Bulgakov
Funny, gory, romantic and absolutely crazy description of Russia during the difficult Lenin times. I actually only read a few pages a day 'cos I didn't want it to end!

Emily Bronte's Wuthering heights. I read it the first time when I was no more then 13, and to meHeatcliff became the man of my romantic, still childish dreams.
Funny to say that my husband's caracther is very like his!

Perfume - Peter Suskind
I just couldn't put this book down! Yyou feel sorry for Grenouile while at the same time you find him repulsive, scary, just plain weird, but oh, so carismatic!

Kafka's The Metamorphosis. Gregor Samsa is soo soo sad, every page you turn your heart just keeps on going out to him. True magic, it always moves me to tears.

Anything by Oscar Wilde, but most of all the Ballad of Reading Goal. To think that a true dandy like him had to go through the hell of prison - in Victorian times! - and still be able to compose such music through words is incredible.
In fact it hits me so much each time I read it that here's a link to it. Please, if you've never read it, do! It will move even the most heartless of people, believe me!!!!
All of Jorge Amado's books. Nowriter was ever so good at describing the heart and soul of women.

5. Who is your biggest inspiration (in cooking or otherwise)?
Let's start with the easy bit! In the kitchen it has to be my mum, 'cos she's one hell of a cook! Creative, with a wicked imagination but also really diligent when it comes to following the rules of certain recipes. People still remember when she once stuffed a previously stuffed pheasant inside a chicken inside turkey!!!!!!!
In my life.....I really hate to say this.....but probably my mum, again.
Corny, I know. Especially when I think of all the times I promised myself while growing up that I would do anything to never ever ever be like her!!!!
how things change over time, eh? She's a strong willed woman, who faced true pain and loss in her life holding her chin up, never losing her cool, always remaining positive towards life, never letting herself go.
And all in all a pretty good mum, even if there were times when I really hated her guts!!!!
So here it is, my dears. If anybody would like me to send them questions for a meme interview, here I am!

Again, thank you Marce!! Love, Candida


1. Leave a comment saying, “Interview me" and be sure to leave your address.

2. I'll come back to you with five questions

3. You will update your blog with the answers

.4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Friday 25 May 2007

Muffin Frenzy

Ok, so I have to admit, I'm a master (or so they say) at pasta making , not so bad on the main course front, but when it comes to putting together desserts or baking cakes, well, more often then not my first attempts end up in the bin.
But I like a challenge any time it looks me in the eyes, and I've stubornly been testing my hand on the baking front, with promising results.
My latest fixation is with muffins, which are supposedly easy peasy to make, but which I managed nonetheless to mess up first time around.
But then again, I guess in the kitchen it's a question of trial and error, and success is acieved through pure perseverance. So if my first batch - of 30 muffins!!! - ended up in the bin, my second and third and so on and so forth attempts came out more then ok.
In fact, since getting the nack of muffin baking, I've become ever so slightly more daring, and am starting to venture into more interesting creations than your average chocolate version.
During my usual coffee and net brousing this morning I stumbled across this recipe, which looks interesting and within the boundaries of my yet poor baking skills.
So, as the weather forecast is all but promissing this weekend, I'll probably spend tomorrow cleaning, playing with my own little blond hurricane and giving these little sweeties a try.
Following is the recipe I've been using so far, and which has proved to be easy, fast and an absolute winner. Thank you Nigella (Lawson) for your down to earth no fuss recipes, which always inspire me, and which I always seem to go back to!

Nigella's Muffins:

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups Flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup sugar (even though I add more)

1/2 cup yogurt + 7 tablespoons low fat milk

1 large egg

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.
Melt butter and add wet ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix VERY (believe me when I say very!) very little, just barelly enough for the flour to have mixed in completely.
It will look very lumpy and dense, and that's the way we like it.
Spoon into paper cups lining muffin tin and bake at 180° for 20 minutes.
With this recipe you can leave your fantasy to run free. Add lots of cocoa powder and pieces of chocolate for a muffin that tastes and looks great next to a cup of espresso coffee, or soak raisins in rhum, and add mix before baking.
Another thing I did was use strawberry yogurt instead of the plain one (that's all I had in the fridge) and then add frozen raspberries to the mix. they came out lovely!

Ok, am rambling off as usual, so here is the link to the recipe I'm gonna try this weekend. will let you know!

P.s. to all, if you have other recipes, variations, ideas re muffins....LET ME KNOW!!!! I want to try them all!