Saturday, 20 August 2011

See you in September

Cherries are remarkable in many ways. Come spring they blossom into arguably the most beautiful flowers, and the mesmerising cherry blossom rain with which they bless the lucky observers is second to none. Then, come summer, they produce a fruit that is small but bears in its heart the unmistakeable taste of immense beauty. And all they require for so much goodness is a bit of water, a bit of care, and a lot of sunshine. Now imagine you were a Divine Cherry. Just how much sun would you require to truly thrive and shine? And now imagine you were a Celestial Dragon. Would you not want to provide the water, the care and sun? (That one's a rhetorical question).
You may see where this is going.
This is going on holiday. This is going away in the sun, the sea and the selfless indulgence of summer. And this is not coming back until sometime in September. Therefore, this is goodbye for now. But fear not, for once the beatific attraction of warmth and dolce far niente has worn off a bit, and Divine Cherry and Celestial Dragon will have filled up with much-needed sunshine and carelessness, Favoloso Pasticcio will be on its feet again and provide those who want it with new ideas and recipes. We will see you later.

And Spread the Sun

Monday, 15 August 2011

Bread # 1

We all know it. We've all seen it. We've all had it. Since someone far back in the recesses of time and imagination decided that instead of imitating giant grasshoppers it may be more interesting to crush some grains until they crumble to dust, add water and form a paste in a vain demiurgical experiment to re-create the first beings, and eventually put that paste somewhere to bake (preferably in an oven, but a burning city or a small sun would do just fine as well), mankind has known bread. In many shapes and sizes, in many variations and under many different names, but it has known bread. Some say that a god one day inadvertently demanded bread for his sacrifice (for gods, being immortal, don't perceive time the way you do: they can simultaneously see in the past, present and prospective), thus triggering a chain of events that will eventually culminate with the creation of a bread-made mirror. Some say that it didn't happen incidentally at all. Still others claim that bread actually came from the gods. That it was a gift from Above to Below. They gave it to the humans so that even in the face of ultimate adversity and desolation, when all that remained would be darkness and despair, they would still have something to share with one another. How idyllic. How romantic. How true.
And no one knows this better than Divine Cherry herself. For she was there, that long forgotten mid-summer's afternoon, when bread was given to mankind. She was there when they received the Sacred Pastry, when they marvelled at its form, when they were raptured by its smell, when they fell in ecstasy at their first bite, when they fell in love with the Bakers and when eventually they fell to the ground before Celestial Dragon who was distributing it. Divine Cherry has been making bread ever since, and her admiration for the Baked Bundle knows no bounds indeed.
Unlike usually, however, her most precious aid in this ancestral task does not come from Celestial Dragon. Nor from Small Perfect Cloud. When Divine Cherry sets out to make bread, she calls on another being: Robin the All-rounder. Together they then embark on a quest for the perfect bread. After minute observation, it has been ascertained that the quest always begins thus:
First, Divine Cherry adds 15g of fresh yeast to a glass of lukewarm water (she uses 300g of water for the recipe in total, and it has been observed that the water used to melt the yeast comes rigorously from said 300g). After also putting in a pinch of sugar, she leaves it to rest for 10mins. In the meantime, she mixes 300g of wholemeal flour and 200g of strong white flour with 1&1/2 tsp of salt in a large bowl. When the ingredients are well-mixed, Divine Cherry then makes a hole in the centre of the bowl and pours in the yeast, the rest of the water, 3tbsp of sunflower oil and 2tbsp of honey. She mixes it all with a wooden spoon until the bowl contains a homogeneous paste. At this point, Divine Cherry puts the paste on a floured worktop table where she works it until it becomes elastic. (It is usually at this point that Robin the All-rounder steps in and gives her a hand). Naturally, if the paste is too sticky she adds a bit of flour; and if it is too dry, she adds a bit of water. Eventually, she forms the well-worked dough into a ball and covers it with a cloth (one or more if needed) and leaves it to raise for at least 2 hours. However, it is not a matter of time, really. She knows that it's ready when it has more or less doubled its volume. Also, Divine Cherry usually puts the dough to raise in a warmish place in order to accelerate the process. She has confided that in order to accelerate the process even further one may use more yeast, but she has also insinuated that in doing so one will lessen the quality of the bread, for it is better to let it raise slowly.
Once the dough has grown enough, Divine Cherry then transfers it onto a floured baking tray and forms it to will (but beware! one must do this very carefully, because a rough handling of the raised dough may entail a deflation of the latter, thus completely nullifying the raising process). Once the dough is formed, Divine Cherry covers it with a cloth again and leaves it be for another 45mins. Eventually, being normally short of a small sun or a burning city, she puts it in an extremely hot oven (230°C). She lowers the temperature to 210°C after 15mins and bakes the bread to perfection for another 20-30mins. Voilà.


-300g of strong wholemeal flour
-200g of strong white flour
-300g of lukewarm water
-15g of fresh yeast
-3 tbsp of sunflower oil
-2 tbsp of honey
-1&1/2 tsp of table salt
-a pinch of sugar

Melt the yeast in a glass of lukewarm water (from the 300g) with a pinch of sugar and leave it to rest for 10mins. Meanwhile, mix the flour (300g+200g) and the salt in a large bowl. Make a hole in the centre and add the glass of water with yeast, all the remaining water, the sunflower oil and the honey. Mix well until you get a homogeneous paste. On a floured worktop table, work the paste well until you get an elastic dough. In case it is too dry add some water, and in case it is too stick add some flour. Form the dough into a ball, cover it with some cloth and leave it to raise until it has more or less doubled size. This should take about 2 hours. Once that's done, transfer the dough on a floured baking tray and form it to will - make sure to handle the dough with utmost care at this point, because it is extremely fragile and you may risk to deflate it completely. Cover again and leave it to rest for another 45mins. Eventually, put it in the oven at at least 230°C. After 15mins lower the temperature to 210°C and bake it for another 20-30mins.

Ricetta in italiano

-300 g farina integrale forte
-200 g farina bianca forte
-300 g acqua tiepida
-15 g lievito fresco
-3 cucchiai olio di semi di girasole
-2 cucchiai di miele
-1 e 1/2 cucchiaino sale fino
-una punta di zucchero

Sciogliere il lievito in un bicchiere di acqua tiepida (presa dai 300g) con una punta di zucchero e lasciare agire per 10 minuti. Nel frattempo mescolare in una ciotola capiente la farina e il sale. Fare un buco al centro e aggiungere:  il lievito e tutta l'acqua, l'olio e il miele. Mescolare con un cucchiaio fino ad ottenere un composto omogeneo. Trasferire l'impasto sul tavolo infarinato e impastare a lungo fino a che il composto non risulta elastico. In caso aggiungere un po' di farina se l'impasto risulta troppo appiccicoso o un po' di acqua se risulta troppo duro. A questo punto formare una palla, coprire con canovaccio e lasciare lievitare, possibilmente in un luogo tiepido, fino a che il volume sarà più che raddoppiato. Ci vorranno almeno 2 ore: dipende dal clima e da quanto lievito è stato usato. Per accelerare aumentare il lievito (ma una lievitazione lenta migliora la qualità di pane).
Trasferire l'impasto su una teglia ben infarinata, dare la forma alla pagnotta (con delicatezza per non vanificare l'attesa di lievitazione!). Coprire con un canovaccio e laciar lievitare altri 45 minuti almeno. Infornare a forno caldissimo (230°C), dopo 15 minuti abbassare a 210°C e portare a cottura in altri 20-30 minuti.

And Spread the Mess

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Pasta Alla Toscana

Lazy, lazy, lazy. So lazy. Almost too lazy for its own good. Small Perfect Cloud stretches its lithe limbs in the only ray of light the sky has deigned to illuminate the terrace with today. The brown paws reveal their retractable claws, and drowsily Small Perfect Cloud scratches at a random bush of grass that is growing between the cracks in the stones. Small Perfect Cloud's colour today is especially creamy; one would be tempted to think that boredom influences the colour patterns of cats - and one may even be right. Divine Cherry, however, who as always finds inspiration in just about everything, was reminded by Small Perfect Cloud's harmonie en beige of a Pasta dish she used to love as a child. A somewhat distorted madeleine, if you will. Be that as it may, this is what Divine Cherry set out to prepare after gazing upon the blessed serenity of a sleepy cat.
Divine Cherry took a carrot, a stick of celery and half an onion and chopped it very finely. It has been pointed out that using a mini food processor may or may not improve your task considerably. The choice is yours -  but it is highly recommended. Not that you have to. But you may wish to think about it. Divine Cherry used a food processor. Just saying. It's up to you though. Nevertheless, once that was done, Divine Cherry put the chopped ingredients, together with some black olives and the speck/cured ham, as well as some salt and pepper, into a pan with some oil and lightly fried it. When the ingredients were satisfactorily done, she poured the secret sacred liquid in the pan. It is the one secret that must never be revealed. It is what makes the world go round, what keeps one sane in long summer afternoons, and generally speaking, what makes living worthwhile. It is the secret to everything, and never must it be divulged. It's half a glass of white wine. Divine Cherry kept the fire on (on low) until the wine had evaporated. Meanwhile, she had been cooking 200g of pasta (al dente, naturally). Once it was ready, she simply mixed the pasta with the preparation and added 3 spoons of cream. I remember distinctly that Divine Cherry paid very carful attention not to cook the cream - she was very specific on this indeed. The cream is to be warmed up, but never, under any circumstance, must it cook. Never ever.
And that is how this Small Perfect Cloud inspired childhood's dish came to be. The Celestial Dragon is still licking its whiskers.

-1 carrot
-1/2 onion
-1 stick of celery
-a handful of black olives
-1/2 think slice of cured ham or speck
-half a glass of white wine
-3 tbsp of cream
-200g of pasta (preferably any short kind)
-oil, salt and pepper

Finely chop the carrot, the celery and onion with the help of a mini food processor if you have one. Then toss them in a pan with some oil, salt and pepper, the black olives and the speck/ham. Add the white wine and let it simmer until it has evaporated. Cook the noodles and drain them al dente. Put everything together and add the cream. Stir well, making sure however not to cook the cream.


Pasta alla toscana come la faceva mia nonna...

-200 g pasta
-1/2 cipolla
-1 carota
-1 costa di sedano
-una manciata di olive nere
-1/2 fetta spessa di prosciutto crudo o speck
-mezzo bicchiere di vino bianco
-3 cucchiai di panna
-olio, sale e pepe

Tritare carota, cipolla e sedano molto fini (se avete un mini food processor la vostra vita sarà più facile...). Soffriggere il trito con un po' d'olio, sale e pepe, e agiungere le olive e il prosciutto tagliato a dadini. Unire il vino e lasciare che si consumi. Bollire la pasta e scolarla al dente. Unire il sugo alla pasta e legarlo con un po' di panna. Attenzione a non cuocere la panna ma scaldarla solamente.

And Spread the Mess

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Savoury cake with cherry tomatoes and feta

Episode 1
It was a big day. Perhaps the biggest day of them all. It was a long and large and heavy and important day. It was one of those days that will remain engraved in the collective memory of those present for the rest of their lives. It was the day the Celestial Dragon ascended to the higher spheres of heaven, there to be appointed rightful ruler of the four classes of Small Beings. Needless to say, the Celestial Dragon was very proud that day. The denizens of the higher spheres had even decided that a special ceremony was to be performed. A large number of creatures were summoned, and most them answered the call and announced their presence at the ceremony. This was to be one of those very big days. Divine Cherry, however, although very happy for the Celestial Dragon, was at a loss as to what to offer in sacrifice to the other creatures attending the ceremony. For it so happened that it fell upon Divine Cherry to feed everyone. So she set out on an culinary journey to find the perfect sacrifices. This is her story, and this is the first episode in which she discovers the delicious savouriness of the feta and cherry tomatoes cake.
Divine Cherry was grumpy. She had been rummaging in her grimoires for ages, and she still hadn't chanced upon something she deemed worthy of being a ceremonial sacrifice. She had tried everything from the book that contains raw sacrifices to the book that shows you how to combine various sacrifices in order to create a new, bigger and better sacrifice. Divine Cherry wasn't satisfied with any of the millions and millions of combination she was able to scan through in a second (you don't need forever to read a book when you are a Divine Cherry). Then, however, she fell upon this particular concoction. And this is how the sacred scrolls tell us she did it:
First of all, she cut 200g of cherry tomatoes into small pieces and put them in a bowl with a bit of olive oil, a whole clove of garlic and fresh basil. She also threw a pinch of salt on the tomatoes and put the bowl to rest, covered in cellophane, while she went on to prepare the rest. With the aid of her trusty electric whisks, Divine Cherry mixed together three medium-sized eggs, 50ml of (extra virgin) olive oil and half a glass of milk. When they had emerged of the electric whirlpool of madness as a well-mixed liquid, she added 150g of flour, a tsp of baking powder, salt and pepper and mixed it all again until it became a homogeneous whole. At this point Divine Cherry cut 150g of feta in cubes and threw them in the mix together with a handful of black kalamata olives as well as the previously-prepared cherry tomatoes (minus the garlic, of course. She didn't want any of the creatures attending the ceremony to smell like a garlic clove for the rest of their lives. Some of them ruled over worlds in which lived a fair number of vampires. Surely you can understand that this would've been a major diplomatic faux-pas.) Once Divine Cherry had added everything (again, minus the garlic), she delicately mixed it all. She then poured it in a rectangular cake mould (not unlike the one used for plum cakes) and cooked it for one hour in the oven at 180°C. The sacred scrolls that record this creation however tell us that alternatively, Divine Cherry could've known that the cake was ready once it had become golden. Be that as it may, it remains vitally important not to open the oven during the first 45mins, for that will mean that the cake will not raise and therefore deflate, consequently ruining the sacrifice. But that Divine Cherry did know. Indeed, once the cake was ready and she had put it on a plate and served it to the creatures attending the Celestial Dragon's ceremony, she received many a compliment for her sacrifice. Everyone was pleased, and Divine Cherry's cheek flushed red when the Celestial Dragon gave her a kiss that reverberated across all the spheres of heaven.

-150g of flour
-1 tsp of baking poweder
-3 medium-sized eggs
-150g of feta
-50ml of olive oil (extra virgin)
-half a glass of milk
-200g of cherry tomatoes
-a handful of kalamata olives
-plenty of fresh basil
-1 clove of garlic
-salt and pepper

Cut the cherry tomatoes in small pieces, put them in a bowl and add olive oil, the clove of garlic and the basil. Add some salt and let it rest while you prepare the cake.
Mix together the eggs, the milk and 50ml of olive oil with electric whisks. Add then the flour, the baking powder and salt and pepper until you get a homogeneous whole. Add now the feta (cut in cubes), the olives and the cherry tomatoes (including their oil but excluding the garlic clove). Mix delicately. Pour the mix in a rectangular cake mould and put it for 60mins in the oven at 180°C until it is cooked. Alternatively, until the outside turns golden. Be careful not to open the oven during the first 45mins as to do so will prevent the cake from raising. Serve cold garnished with some rocket.


-150 g farina
-un cucchiaino di lievito in polvere
-3 uova medie
-50 ml olio evo
-mezzo bicchiere di latte
-150 g feta
-200 g pomodorini
-una manciata di olive nere kalamata
-abbondante basilico
-uno spicchio d'aglio
-sale e pepe q.b.

Tagliare i pomodorini a pezzetti, metterli in una ciotola con una girata di olio d'oliva, uno spicchio d'aglio intero e basilico. Salare e lasciare insaporire mentre si prepara l'impasto del cake.
Sbattere con la frusta elettrica le uova, i 50 ml di olio e il latte. Aggiungere la farina con il lievito, sale e pepe e mescolare fino ad ottenere un composto omogeneo. A questo punto aggiungere la feta tagliata a cubetti, le olive tagliuzzate e i pomodorini con tutto il loro olio e basilico (togliere l'aglio...) e mescolare il tutto delicatamente. Versare l'impasto in uno stampo rettangolare (tipo da plumcake appunto) e cuocere per un'ora a 180° o fino a quando risulta dorato fuori. Attenzione a non aprire il forno nei primi 45 minuti altrimenti il cake sgonfia e non lievita più... :)
PS: Questa ricetta non e' mia, e' ripresa e adattata da una trovata in rete tempo fa. Sinceramente non ricordo la fonte: se qualcuno la riconosce, saro' felice di indicare l'origine!

And Spread the Mess

Friday, 5 August 2011

Baba Ghanoush

Well here we go. The first recipe I am posting is Baba Ghanoush. As far as I am aware, it is a Turkish dish, and broadly speaking, it is an aubergine-based hummus. For those of you who don't know what hummus is, google it.
I realise that it's nothing much, but one has to start from the bottom, as they say, and work one's way up. The main ingredient is aubergine, but as always, there is more to it than meets the eye. (Elementary, my dear Watson.) Once upon a time, there was a lonely aubergine whose solitary existence in the recesses of an otherwise well-kept fridge led it to reach new depths of darkness and despair. It was so desperate to meet new vegetables and/or simply be eaten that it decided that it was time for Baba Ghanoush. You must know that Baba Ghanoush is a very special time in an aubergine's life indeed, for it represents a long process at the end of which the unhappy aubergine finds itself in a bowl mixed with some of its best friends. Also, it's a once in a lifetime experience.
First, the aubergine lets itself be pricked with a fork, cut in half and then put in the oven until its flesh is cooked. It knows that it is cooked when its skin is all wrinkled and its flesh is soft and tender. That usually happens after 20-30 minutes at a temperature of 200°C, depending obviously on the largeness of the aubergine in question. After its flesh is cooked, the aubergine then passes on to the second phase of its transformation into Baba Ghanoush. It sheds its skin - for it is not needed anymore - and the scooped out flesh is put in a bowl, where it is soon joined by other lonely ingredients. The ancestral laws of Baba Ghanoush dictate that these ingredients be a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of tahine, half a clove of garlic, some olive oil (extra virgin) and the juice of half a lemon. Eventually, all these friends-ingredients are mixed together using a conventional electric mixer until they form a nice and tasty paste (as shown in the picture). But Baba Ghanoush wouldn't be Baba Ghanoush without some garnishing plum tomatoes, another bit of oil and some parsley. However, I have been told that traditions vary on this point, so it is safe to say that the rules of decoration are quite loose. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

-1 aubergine
-1 tsp of tahine
-1/2 clove of garlic
-the juice of half a lemon
-olive oil
-a pinch of salt

Put the aubergine in the oven at 200°C until its the skin is wrinkled and the flesh cooked. Scoop out the flesh, put it in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix with an electric mixer until you get a think paste. Garnish to pleasure. Serve cold with (pita) bread.

- 1 grossa melanzana
- 1 cucchiao di tahina (pasta di semi di sesamo)
- 1/2 spicchio d'aglio
- 1 cucchiaio di olio EVO (extra vergine d'oliva)
- il succo di mezzo limone
- sale

Bucherellare la melanzana con i rebbi di una forchetta e metterla in forno a 200 gradi per 30-40 minuti o fino a che la pelle sarà raggrinzita e la polpa morbida. Con cucchiaio prelevare la polpa, metterla in una ciotola, aggiungere un cucchiaio di tahina, mezzo spicchio d'aglio, il succo di mezzo limone, un'abbondante girata d'olio e una presa di sale. Mixare con un frullatore ad immersione e il gioco è fatto!
Assaggiare e in caso aggiungere olio o tahine o limone a seconda del proprio gusto...

And Spread the Mess


Hey You,

This oh-so-subtle Pink Floyd reference aside (Pink Floyd as in the pink background), a very warm welcome to this blog. It is dedicated heart and soul to food. Indeed, Favoloso Pasticcio means either Wonderful Mess or Wonderful Lasagna. Well, a Pasticcio is anything that is put in the oven and has layers, really. Safe for cakes. You know what I mean.

I shall be posting pictures, comments and recipes of the mess that is in my kitchen and usually, much to the dismay of my surroundings, ends up on the table. I shall be assisted in this monumental task by my lovely Celestial Dragon, by the Divine Cherry and last but not least, by the Small Perfect Cloud. Let it be said, however, that those three are as much a part of me as I am a part of them. Explanations will follow.

In the meantime, please feel free to browse this empty blog (emptiness is a property) until something comes up - which I assure you won't be long.

And Spread the Mess