Monday, 30 July 2012

Polpette di melanzana - Aubergine balls

Many eons ago, in the City of the Sun, there lived a god. He was a fretful god; he lived in a perpetual state of frantic uncertainty, for he was a jealous god. But he was also a good god; and when, every morning, he had finally managed to gather enough courage to carry his most precious treasure from one side of the horizon to the other, the people of the City of the Sun were grateful for his courage. For he was He-Who-Has-Come-Forth, and he was known to men as Khepri. Many modern -ists believe that the ancient people of the City of the Sun, upon seeing a scarab pushing its dung ball with great effort day in and day out, thought that surely the great Ball Of The Sky (what a finer and perhaps less scarab-obsessed poet once graciously called "Heaven's Eye") is also being pushed by a (cosmic) beetle. The analogy appears to be legitimate. However, modern -ists do not know that the people of the City of the Sun knew very well that this isn't so. They knew the secret modern -ists, with all their instruments and calculations and conjectures and fictions and joints and bongs and booze and chickens, will never be able to uncover: they knew what Khepri was actually pushing across the sky. And they knew because it had been given to Khepri by Divine Cherry and Celestial Dragon, both of whom at that time used to be the spiritual leaders of the City of the Sun.
Khepri had always been a jealous god. He had been jealous of many things; things good and bad. Mostly, he was jealous he had not created himself with the head of, say, a green lion or blue giraffe--that would've been cool. Unfortunately, when he had created himself, the only thing Khepri could think of was a scarab beetle (might've been due to that nightmare K. would later re-dream). And so it was that his head, according to the convention laid out in §1.3b of the Anthropomorphic Qualities of Egyptian Gods (AQED), became that of a scarab. But Khepri was also jealous because his animal counterpart, the real scarab, actually had something to do--whereas he, who had created himself and was thus not bound to any aspect of the cosmos particularly, was purpose-less.
And so it was that one day he went to see Celestial Dragon and Divine Cherry, hoping to get some advice on how to solve his essentially existential entanglement. When he arrived at their palace, Celestial Dragon and Divine Cherry were having dinner. As it so happened, Divine Cherry had prepared her delicious aubergine balls, and when Khepri entered the room, Celestial Dragon, like the little child he is, was playing with his food, rolling the balls to and fro on his plate (Divine Cherry was laughing affectionately, though). And so it was that a light went on in Khepri's head (literally, for he had hit the oil lamp that was dangling from the ceiling): he would roll a ball over the sky! But it would not be just any ball. Sneakily, feigning hunger, he asked for one of Divine Cherry's aubergine balls.
Thus, in truth, Khepri, the "sun"-pushing scarab god, was not pushing the sun at all from one side of the horizon to the next: he was in fact pushing one of Divine Cherry's aubergine balls.
And so it was that Divine Cherry's cuisine (at that time called something like" iwëfuwpeq-tu-oüàféifaskd-oorrrrrrrrrrrrr-mmh") gave Khepri something to be jealous about. Indeed, she noticed that he was not so much pushing the aubergine ball over the sky, as running away from the gods of the night who actually wanted to eat it.
And the people of the City of the Sun, when they realised that the radiance of their sun was simply due to the brilliance and exquisiteness of Divine Cherry's aubergine ball, changed the name of their city to City of the Radiating Aubergine--at which point Celestial Dragon and Divine Cherry resigned (their job, after all, was done).

Aubergine balls
- 400 g aubergines (2 small-medium ones)
- 1 egg
- 80 g breadcrumbs + enough to cover the balls
- 60 g grated parmigiano
- 3 basil leaves, chopped
- salt and pepper
- 25 g circa unsalted butter

Remove the green part from the aubergines. Make some small holes on their skin with a fork. Put them (whole) on a tray and bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 50 minutes. They are ready when the skin looks shrivelled and the flesh is very soft. Take them out from the oven, cut in two and dig out the flesh with a spoon. Chop the flesh in tiny pieces and put it in a bowl with the egg, parmiggiano, breadcrumbs, chopped basil leaves salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients. If the mixture is too wet, add some more breadcrumbs. You need to be able to make some balls with your hands. Roll the balls into breadcrumbs. Place them on a tray and put on the top of each ball a small cube of butter. Bake for 30 min circa in preheated oven at 180 C.

Notes: -I've used old bread, and have chopped it roughly in order to get the breadcrumbs (duh). Doing so confers the aubergine balls a je ne sais quoi of rough authenticity.
- Cooking the aubergine balls in the oven is an excellent alternative to deep-frying them in the pan. And if you put a dollop of butter on top of them before putting them in the oven, the latter will cause the balls to "deep fry" anyway: at the very least, they'll become nicely crunchy. I personally prefer butter instead of oil in this particular case.
-The aubergine balls are also excellent when prepared in advance and  eaten later at room temperature, instead of piping hot.
-And if, in the spirit of the balls, you fancy a vegetarian dinner/lunch/supper/tea/whatever, you can do like we did: we accompanied the aubergine balls with a fresh homemade tzaziki and grilled zucchinis...

Polpette di melanzana
- 400 g melanzane (2 medio-piccole)
- 1 uovo
- 80 g pangrattato circa + il necessario per l'impanatura
- 60 g parmigiano grattuggiato
- 3 foglie di basilico
- sale e pepe
- 25 g circa burro

Eliminare le parti verdi delle melanzane. Bucherellare la pelle con i rebbi di una forchetta. Disporre le melanzane intere su una teglia rivestita con carta forno. Infornarle a forno caldo a 200 C per 50 minuti circa. Le melanzane sono pronte quando la pelle è avvizzita e un coltello entrerà con estrema facilità nella polpa morbida. Estrarre le melanzane dal forno, tagliarle a metà e quando si saranno un po' raffreddate, scavare la polpa con un cucchiaio. Tagliuzzare le polpa in pezzi piccoli con un coltello e metterla in una ciotola. Aggiungere il pangrattato, il formaggio, l'uovo le foglie di basilico tritate, sale e pepe. Mescolare con un cucchiaio per ottenere un composto facilmente lavorabile, se troppo umido, aggiungere del pangrattato. Formare delle palline con le mani e rotolarle nel pangrattato.  Disporre le polpette su una teglia, su ogni polpetta poggiare un quadratino di burro e infornare a forno caldo a 180 C per 30 minuti circa. Le polpette sono pronte quando le superficie risulta dorata.

Note: - Io ho usato del pane vecchio e l'ho tritato grossolanamente per ottenere il pangrattato, questo conferisce alle polpette un aspetto più rustico.
- Cuocere le polpette al forno è un'ottima alternativa alla frittura in padella, mettendo un dadino di burro in cima a ogni polpetta fa si che durante le cottura in forno l'impanatura "frigga" un po', diventando croccante.Trovo il burro più facile da prozionare che l'olio in questo caso.
- Le polpette sono buonissime fatte in anticipo e mangiate a temperatura ambiente.
-  Noi le abbiamo accompagnate con un po' di salsa tzaziki e delle zucchine grigliate...per una cenetta vegetariana!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sardelle in teglia - Sardines on a tray

Divine Cherry and Celestial Dragon are on holiday. Well, not really: they still have their heavenly and godly duties to attend to. Rather, they are performing those duties in a different place of the world than usual. They are whiling the summer away at their (guess?) United Residence of Summer Smoothness, or URSS. Of course, it's not as big as the Palace of the North East, nor as expansive as the Garden of the Five Fruit Dogs, but it is close to the (warm) sea. As such, the Summer Residence's windows are always open, and a warm and salty breeze wafts through the satin-draped rooms. Mornings are spent in quiet oceanic contemplation, and rays of benign sunlight bless the terrace throughout the day (Celestial Dragon had to put in a good word with his old flame the Sun, though. She had been rather reluctant lately).
However, all good things eventually come to an end (and then they start again, despite of what some would have you believe). And so it was that one day, the Sun decided to not do as she was supposed to. She closed her shop, and drew the curtains--which, down on earth, are mistakingly thought to be clouds. It is a little known fact, however, that her curtains have the peculiar characteristic to reflect their owner's mood. And the Sun, that day, was feeling rather morose and miserable. And so it was that it began to rain.
But do not worry, for Celestial Dragon had a plan: he had been talking to Pontus (who has a summer residence on one of the islands off the coast in front of the URSS). The latter, a friend of old, had lent Celestial Dragon a magic shell. And so it was that when the Sun decided to ruin everybody's day, Celestial Dragon decided to ruin her plan instead. When the first drops of rain started to reach the URSS, Celestial Dragon blew hard and melodiously in the shell and--lo and behold!-- the rain drops transformed themselves into savoury sardines.
Needless to say, that evening, Divine Cherry, whose garden was (annoyingly enough) full of sardines, decided that they'd be served for dinner. And this here below, o ye of little faith, is what she made of it.

 Sardines on a tray - quick and easy recipe for a nice summer dinner

- 30 - 35 sardines
- 2 tablespoons of exravirgin olive oil
- 10ish capers
- one small bunch of parsley
- 1/4 lemon juice
- salt and pepper

Prepare the sardines: remove the head; with it, the innards and the central fishbone should come off as well. In case the head comes off alone, though, grab the central fishbone with your tumb and index finger and extract it. In this way the sardines will open like a book. Don't worry, it is faster and easier done than explained. Arrange the fish with the skin down on a tray. In a cup, mix the finely chopped parsley and capers, the olive oil, and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Add a little salt if necessary and pour the mixture over the sardines. Bake in preheated oven at 180°C for 5- 10 minutes maximum. Be aware that sardines cook very quickly! Enjoy with a bowl of boiled potatoes dressed the same way than the sardines...

Sardelle in teglia - ricetta semplicissima per una veloce cenetta d'estate
- 30-35 sardelle
- 2 cucchiai di olio  evo
- una decina di capperi
- un mazzetto di prezzemolo
- il succo di un quarto di limone
- sale e pepe

Pulire le sarde: Staccare la testa in avanti. In questo modo con la testa si eliminano anche le interiora e la lisca centrale che rimane attaccata. Se si stacca solo testa recuperate con pollice e indice la lisca ed estratela. In questo modo le sarde saranno aperte a libro. Molto più facile a farsi che a dirsi, le sarde si puliscono molto velocemente. Disponetele aperte con la pelle in giù a raggiera in una tortiera. In una tazza mescolate il prezzemolo e i capperi tritati, 2 cucchiai di olio evo, una spruzzatina di succo di limone e eventualmente aggiungete un pò di sale e pepe. Infornate in forno già caldo a 180°C per 5-10 minuti massimo. Le sarde si cucinano molto velocemente, non stracuocetele o diventeranno stoppose. Noi le abbiamo accompagnate con delle semplici patate lesse condite con lo stesso intingolo usato per le sarde.

And Spread the Mess

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Divine Tabouleh

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou alone art…" intimated the Bard in what would later become one of his most celebrated poems. Unfortunately, the first time he ever recited it--and it was not in front of the Queen, but rather in a dingy public house called "The Dragon and the Cherry"--, he was interrupted by someone shouting "NO!" in the audience.
Laughter roared, mugs of ale clashed, (servants looked upset at the spoiled ale they now had to clean up), porks continued to gyrate on their pits, flies buzzed, musicians got drunk, guards dropped their halberds, cooks cut themselves, dogs fled in panic, beards continued to grow, heads turned, someone fell pretty hard, chairs broke, clouds gathered, cakes toppled, drums beat the incessant warnings of war, in short: the universe turned round to look at what had happened, stopped for a second, took a deep breath and shook loose all the tension of the past minute.
Only the poor Bard looked wretched and dismayed. His bewildered eyes searched for the cause of the uproar, of his failure. Finally they locked upon a curious gentlemen sitting in a corner. A pipe was hanging from his smiling lips, but from afar the Bard could not tell whether his imagination revealed what was really was a pipe or in fact a whisker.
'Let me show you why you may not', said the gentleman and beckoned the Bard to join him. 'Look at this. This is what a summer's day looks like--not what you were about to say.' He was pointing at a plate on his table. On it was heaped something no one at that time in that part of the world had ever seen before. The Bard did not understand, of course. Seeing his friend in difficulty, the gentleman invited him to taste the dish of summer. 'It was my packed lunch, you know', said the gentleman while the Bard expanded his culinary horizon and with it the extent of his imagination and thus his virtuosity, 'but I figured that it might be more useful to you'.
The Bard bowed to the ground before the strange gentleman and retired to a lonely table. He took out a paper and a quill and, with one wide motion, crossed out what was written on it. He only left the first sentence, and continued, in the second line, with "Thou art more lovely and more temperate…".
And so it was that a packed lunch, prepared by Divine Cherry for one of Celestial Dragon's tempo-spatial excursions, was responsible for the awakening of the most brilliantly poetic mind of the English-speaking world. In other words, Divine Cherry's tabouleh, as you may gather from the title, has in itself the very spark of divinity.

200 g cous cous
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley
- 15 small tomatoes
- 1/4 of one big red onion
- 1/2 lemon juice
- Extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper

Bring to the boil 200-220 g of water. Pour the water over the cous cous in the a large bowl. After 5 minutes, stir with a fork to separate the grains. Dress with oil and salt. Finely chop the parsley. Dice the tomatoes and the onion into small pieces. Put the vegetables in a large bowl and dress generously with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, let it to stand for at least 10 minutes. Stir in the cous cous and serve.

- 200g cous cous
- 1 mazzetto di prezzemolo fresco
- 15 pomodorini datterini
- 1/4 cipolla rossa di tropea (la mia era grande per questo solo un quarto)
- il succo di mezzo limone
- abbondante olio evo
- salee pepe

In un pentolino fate bollire 200- 220 g di acqua. Ponete il cous cous in una ciotola e versateci sopra l'acqua bollente. Lasciate riposare qualche minuto e poi separate i chicchi con una forchetta, salate e oliate. Triate il prezzemolo. Tagliate i pomodorini e la cipolla a dadini  molto piccoli. In una ciotola capiente versate pomodorini, cipolla e prezzemolo, condite con abbondante olio, il succo di limone sale e pepe e lasciate riposare per almeno 10 minuti per far insaporire le verdure. Aggiungete infine il cous cous, mescolate bene e servite.

And Spread the Mess

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Battenberg Cake

Once upon a midnight dreary, while we pondered long and weary,
Over many a cake and what to bake,
Our minds settled for the chequered log
Whose only sight our jaws made drop.

Thus began the epic journey of Divine Cherry's Battenberg Cake. And what a journey it was. At first, there was reticence, fear and uncertainty. After all, the Battenberg is a worthy foe. One heart and one mind, Divine Cherry and Celestial Dragon studied the enemy from every angle, analysing its every strengths and weaknesses: upper left hand, lower right hand, upper right hand, lower left hand; its enrobing cloak; the sweet-moist texture; the assemblage. Then, after the initial fear was overcome, there appeared in Divine Cherry's heart a sense of challenge, of rivalry with all those who before her had managed to slay the beast (although the actual slaying was done by Celestial Dragon). With the challenge came the will to fight, to go on, to tackle the obstacle and surmount it, just as she had, previously, managed to conquer the insidious twists and turns of the croissants.
This is the story of how Divine Cherry was able to perform such a feat, how her capable hands, besmeared with dough and paste and the lust to knead everything into submission, to mould and shape and create her own Battenberg (some equate the Battenberg with the universe; personally, I think that's going too far--although I can see a case for it, for is there not contained, in the fourfold square, the essence of all that is not round, that is to say, nothing at all? If the Battenberg is thus -literally- Void squared, can it not be thought of as the universe itself? And conversely, is it not the root of all that is?) were able to come to terms with the very principle of ultimate pleasure, both aesthetic and culinary. Needless to say, then, that the result was phenomenal. Celestial Dragon, to this day, relishes the memory of that victory over the forces of impossible bakery, for the impression it has left on his tastebuds has wandered all the way into the tips of his whiskers so that the left whisker has now turned green from the pistachio and the right brown from the chocolate.
As always, divinities ought to set an example. That is why you will find the recipe here below. Not because Divine Cherry and Celestial Dragon expect you to do it, but rather because they give you the possibility do so should you wish to. It is said in the scriptures (of A Posteriori Baking - How To Train Your Tongue) that whosoever manages to bake a proper Battenberg shall be elevated by their loved one into a new sphere of heaven. It certainly was the case for Divine Cherry and Celestial Dragon.

Blog-checking lines:  Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

Battemberg cake  recipe adapted from the June Daring Bakers challenge recipe proposed by Mandy

- 175g  unsalted butter, softened & cut in cubes
- 175g  Caster Sugar
- 175g  Plain Flour
- 1and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 3 Large Eggs, room temp
- 35g Ground Almonds
- 35 g Ground Pistachios
- 2 teaspoons of cocoa
 -40 g of chocolate cut in tiny pieces

Preheat the oven at 180C.  Butter and flour a baking tray. Create a divide with some kitchen foil. Make a rectangle and then cover it with baking paper. Locate it in the middle of the tray, so that you can house the two mixture together (see picture).
Prepare the two mixture.  Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder. In a separate bowl,mix the butter with the eggs. Then mix together all the ingredients until just combined. Divide the mixture in two bowls. Add to one half the almonds, the cocoa and the pieces of chocolate. Add to the other half the ground pistachios.
Pour the chocolate mixture into one side of the prepared tray, and the pistachio batter in the other half. Bake for 25-30 min until well raised and cooked.
Plastic chocolate
- 200 g dark chocolate
- 60 g glucose
Melt the chocolate in a pan over simmering water. When cool add the glucose. Let it cool completely and wrap in cling film. Store in the frige. When needed, warm it up with your hands and use it.

Butter cream
- 250 g icing sugar
- 125 g butter
Mix the icing sugar with the soft butter. Mix until well combined.

Trim the edges of the cakes so to have to rectangles of the same sizes. Cut each cake in half, lengthwise, so as to have 4 long stripes. Trim again the edges to pair them. Glue the stripes together with a thin layer of butter cream, alternating the colours (one black stripe next to one green one). Spread a thin layer of butter cream over all the sides of the cake.
Roll out the plastic chocolate with the help of some icing sugar. Wrap the cake with the plastic chocolate sheet. Neaten up the edges of the cake. 

Battemberg Cake ricetta adattata da quella proposta da Mandy per la sfida di giugno dei Daring Bakers 
- 175 g burro non salato, a temperature ambiente e tagliato a pezzetti
- 175g zucchero
- 175 g farina semplice
- 1 e ½ cucchiaino di lievito in polvere
- 3 uova grandi a temp ambiente
- 35 g di mandorle a farina
- 35 g di pistacchi a farina
- 2 cucchiaini di cacao
- 40 g di cioccolato fondente finemente tritato

Riscaldare il forno a 180C.  Imburrare e infarinare una teglia da forno. Prepare un divisorio con della carta stagnola: creare un rettangolo, sistemarlo nel mezzo della teglia e coprirlo con carta forno (come in foto).
Preparere l’impasto. Mescolare farina, zucchero e lievito. In un’alta ciotola mescolare uova e burro. Unire i due composti, e mescolare poco solo per incorporare. Dividere l’impasto in due metà. Aggiungere il cacao, le mandorle e i pezzetti di cioccolato a una metà e i pistacchi all’altra metà. Versare il composto al cioccolato in una metà della teglia e il composto ai pistacchi nell’altra metà. Cuocere in forno per 25-30 minuti fino a che sarà ben lievitato e cotto.
Cioccolato plastico
- 200 g cioccolato fondente
- 60 g glucosio
Fondere il cioccolato a bagnomaria, aggiungere il glucosio. Aspettare che si raffreddi un po’ e poi conservarlo coperto da pellicola in frigo. Al momento dell’utilizzo, riscaldarlo con le mani e lavorarlo come pongo.

Crema al burro
 - 250 g zucchero a velo
- 125 g burro
 Incorporare lo zucchero a velo al burro morbido fino ad ottenere una consistenza cremosa.

Sfilare i bordi delle due torte in modo da renderle della stessa esatta dimensione. Tagliarle nel senso della lunghezza in modo da ottenere 4 lunghi rettangoli. Incollare i rettangoli l’uno con l’altro (uno nero affianco a uno chiaro etc in modo da alternare i colori), usando un sottile strato di crema al burro come collante.  Spalmare un sottile strato di crema al burro anche sui lati esterni della torta (servirà per tenere insieme il cioccolato plastico di copertura). Stendere il cioccolato plastico con un mattarello, in modo da ottenere un foglio abbastanza sottile. Avvolgere la torta nel foglio di cioccolato. Sfilare le estremità in modo da parificarle.

And spread the Mess