Tag Archives: Italian

Chickpea Pancake (Farinata)

14 Sep
This is an Italian street food I first tried in Liguria, close to the southern coast of France. A kind of savoury pancake made from ground chickpeas made into a batter with water and seasoned with olive oil, black pepper, salt and sometimes with rosemary. It is a brilliant snack food and perfect for those who have an allergy to gluten and cannot eat wheat, particularly in pasta-eating regions where avoiding gluten can be a real challenge.
Traditionally Farinata is cooked in a wide flat copper pan with a 4-5 cm lip in a hot wood fired oven. In Nice, just back across the border in France, a similar dish called socca is made with the same ingredients and cooked in an oven or in a skillet over flames. I’ve never tasted the French version but this is what the Ligurian one tastes like. I got the recipe from the back of a packet of chickpea flour i bought in Liguria and have tweaked it to taste more like the local vendors.
  • 250g chickpea flour (about 2 cups)
  • 750g water (about 3 cups)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt (1 tsp)
  • Cracked black pepper (1/2 tsp)
  • Rosemary minced (optional)

Put the ckickpea flour in a large bowl or jug, one with a spout if you can so it will make pouring easier, add the water beating as you go. Beat the mixture until you have a lovely smooth batter then add the salt & pepper and oil. Set aside for an hour or more to allow the batter to mature it can be left overnight. Heat the oven to very high and put a metal baking tray or a large paella pan into the oven to heat. If you have one, a paella pan is the nearest thing to the sort of pan used in Liguria.

When the pan is really hot lift out and drizzle with olive oil, to coat all over, then pour in enough batter to cover the surface of the pan in a thin layer, tipping side to side to ensure an even cover. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pop it straight back into the oven. Cook for 10-20 minutes, depending on how hot you can get your oven, until the edges and bottom are brown and crisp and the top is starting to take some colour. remove from the oven and tear or cut into pieces.

Sprinkle with a touch more of salt and pepper then serve with a glass of chilled wine or beer and you have a lovely start to the evening. If you have friends round you might want to put the next batch straight in the oven, this stuff disappears quickly. The quantity here makes enough batter for 4 batches cooked in a paella pan

Variation If you don’t want to use an oven it works fine on a stove top, i find using a heavy cast iron skillet works best. Once it is crisp on the bottom, turn it over and cook to just colouring on the other.

Tips for best and most authentic results make sure that the oven is as hot as it will go, the pan you use is very hot and use plenty of olive oil and salt. My oven will only go to 240c but with fan assisted gets pretty hot, hot enough to get the farinata just right. For really crispy ones make the layer of batter as thin as you can.


Giacomo’s Fried Courgette Salad

24 Jun

Italian writer, Giacomo Castelvetro, set out to encourage the English to cook and appreciate vegetables in his book, A Brief Account of the Fruit, Herbs and Vegetables of Italy written in 1614. In it he describes all the produce of his beloved Italy as it comes into season and how best to prepare it. Almost 400 years on, his words are still an inspiration. For courgettes he recommends that young courgettes should be dipped in flour then fried in oil and served sprinkled with salt , pepper and agresto or verjus (the sour juice of unripe grapes) or lemon juice.
As we have an abundant and seemingly never ending crop of courgettes all through the summer and an  overcrowded grape vine it seems churlish not to take his advice. The result is delicious and works equally well with lemon, or lime juice which is easier to come by than unripe grapes.

  • 3-4 young courgettes
  • 25g white flour
  • crushed sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Verjuice or lemon juice

Slice the courgettes into thin rounds and drop into a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper then flour and toss to coat evenly. Shake off excess flour. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add a single layer of courgettes. Turn when the first side is browned and cook until the second side is brown. Drain on paper towels and continue in batches until all the courgettes are cooked. Arrange the courgettes in a serving bowl season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with verjuice or lemon and serve immediately.

Cook’s TIP If the courgettes are too dry the flour won’t stick to them. My dad used to make fried courgettes from the garden when i was a kid, by first dipping the slices in milk before flouring. This version has more of a light batter and is very delicious too.

Our grapes are not nearly big enough to make verjuice yet so i am using lemon juice which is a good alternative until the grapes are big enough. This year i’ll freeze the verjuice in ice cube trays for winter use.

Fennel baked with Parmesan

27 Mar

Like all great dishes this one is so simple and so delicious. I first tried this one New Year in Italy at our friends house where Maggie always cooks up a storm of simple food with a big taste. It makes an excellent first course, vegetable side or light lunch.

Serves  4
Prep: 15mins  Cooking 30mins

  • 2 fennel bubs
  • Olive oil
  • Cracked sea salt and black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese freshly grated

Wash and trim whole fennel bulbs then slice the bulbs vertically through the middle so that you have 2 mirror halves of each. Place these in a pan with water just covering bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15mins until only just tender. Drain and lay the 4 halves flat side down in a oiled baking dish drizzle with olive oil and a pinch each of cracked sea salt and black pepper. (if you are cooking for a dinner party this stage can be prepared in advance and left aside to finish just before serving). Bake in a moderate oven for 20-30mins. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan over the fennel 5 minutes before the end of cooking and put back in the oven. Serve hot sprinkled with a little more grated or shaved parmesan if desired.

Pasta Arrabbiata

14 Oct

This is a classic Italian pasta sauce, spicy tomato sauce with garlic, herbs and hot chilli pepper. Most commonly served with a ridged pasta such Penne all’Arrabbiata. Arrabbiata means “angry” in Italian referring to the red colour of the sauce and its angry heat. The main ingredients of an Arrabbiata Sauce are tomatoes and chilli most cooks will add some garlic, onion and one or more fresh herbs, I prefer oregano for this dish. Some cooks also use cured bacon but for my taste i like to add a couple of anchovy fillets to deepen the flavour. It is a simple sauce and can be cooked in the time it takes to boil the pasta, using either fresh tomatoes or bottled.
Serves 2 prep 5mins cooking 9 minutes

  • Pasta, 2 servings
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red shallot
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1-3 fresh red chilli peppers or dried chilli flakes to taste
  • 2-3 tomatoes or 1 cup of home-made passata
  • Fresh oregano leaves or basil chopped

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 9 minutes or until ‘al dente’. Mince the anchovies and fry in a good slug of olive oil l until they melt into the oil, add the garlic and fry until its aroma rises then add the chopped or flaked chilli, skinned and chopped tomatoes (I used home-made passata but you could also use tinned tomatoes) stir well and cook for until the sauce is thick, about 5 minutes. Serve on a bed of pasta that has been tossed in olive oil with a pinch of cracked black pepper and some grated parmesan cheese (optional).

Recipe Sources
I looked at several versions of this classic the simplest being the one from in mamas kitchen or this one with bacon About.com some recipes advocate using parsley, basil, oregano, marjoram or even mint some even suggest using all of them.
Variation Leave out the anchovies and this is a great vegetarian pasta dish.

Courgette Frittata

23 Jul

This is a kind of omelette and a delicious way of cooking courgettes, particularly the yellow ones. It makes a quick and easy lunch and an ideal picnic food.
Serves 4-6 Prep 7min Cook 20min

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 courgettes thinly sliced, yellow will be better
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as basil, tarragon, parsley or thyme
  • 4 eggs
  • crushed sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Heat oil in a large non stick frying pan. Add onion and cook gently 3-4 mins until soft, add the garlic and courgettes stir well and cook until courgettes are softened and have a little colour, about 10mins. Beat eggs and stir in herbs, season and pour into the frying pan, stir well and continue to cook on a moderate heat until the underside is set. Sprinkle the top with parmesan. Heat the grill and place the pan under the grill to cook for a few more minutes until the omelette is set and the cheese is golden.

Source Necessity is the mother of invention and courgette gluts have inspired some pretty inventive dishes. Our neighbours find it hilarious that we grow so many courgettes they only have 2 plants and still the Jersey cow ends up eating half of them. I have cut down the 10 or more plants I grow to a more manageable 4 and harvest young.


14 Mar

These little almond biscuits are divine, crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and with an almond treasure on the top. This is my mum’s recipe, although it may have originally come from a book, and one of the highlights from my childhood, something my mum made as a special treat for us kids. To this day I have not tasted better macaroons, even in Italy. She brought the recipe over last visit along with the sheets of rice paper so I could make them.

Makes 20-25 biscuits
* 2 large egg whites
* 115g (4oz) ground almonds
* 225g (8oz) caster sugar
* 30g (1oz) ground rice
* 25 almonds
* rice paper sheets

Put the almonds in a bowl and cover with boiling water leave for twenty minutes or so and when cooled rub the skins off. Whisk the egg whites until peaks form then gently fold in the almonds, sugar and ground rice. Place a sheet of rice paper on each baking tray (I used 2 trays). Use a teaspoon to form small heaps evenly on a baking sheet lined with rice paper. Press an almond into the centre of each.
Bake in the lower middle of a medium oven for 20-25 mins Gas 4 / 180c / 350F until lightly golden. Make sure not to over cook them they should be just turning golden and still be a little soft when you take them out of the oven. Leave to cool then tear the biscuits apart to separate.

This recipe was originally posted on www.masdudiable.comon 14/10/2008.

Rocket, Chicken,Tomato Pasta

21 Oct

I love rocket and I love cooking with it like a herb. The leafy greens have a wonderful spicy pungency that lifts so many dishes out of the ordinary. This is an ordinary pasta dish, with a chicken & tomato sauce, given a rocket booster. It is fresh and vibrant and really delicious.

Prep & cooking time 10-12 minutes

* 1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
* 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
* 250g tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped or passata
* pinch salt
* pinch cracked black pepper
* handful of rocket leaves, torn

Heat a large frying pan and add a generous glug of olive oil. When it is hot add the garlic and sizzle for a few seconds then add the chicken, salt & pepper and fry quickly until sealed. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes, add the torn rocket and stir as soon as the rocket wilts serve on a bed of chunky, freshly cooked pasta.

It works equally well without the chicken.

This recipe was originally posted on www.masdudiable.comon 21/10/2008.