Heat up with a cup of Vin Brûlé

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Italy is snowed in! Smokey, hot and spicy wine – the perfect solution to chilly weather.
Vin Brûlé (mulled wine) is a tradition in most mountainous areas of Europe. Red wine is infused with spices and citrus and served boiling hot! It’s an extremely fun and easy preparation for your next winter party.

Watch the recipe video: https://vimeo.com/199480956

Recipe for 4
Ingredients:
Red wine, 1 bottle
Orange peel, 1 orange
Brown sugar, 3 Tbsp.
Cloves, 1 Tbsp.
Star anise, 4 whole
Cinnamon, 2 sticks

Method:
In a pot add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes. Strain and ladle into individual cups or glasses. Serve hot and garnish with orange peel and whole star anise.

Cheers!

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Tiramisù

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Need some dessert revelation for Christmas? Why not go the Italian way?
Tiramisù could be defined as THE Italian dessert, known the world over for its creamy texture and comforting flavor. Its origin is mysterious and is motive for many disputes amongst different northern Italian regions that claim the invention of this classic. Tiramisù in Italian means “Raise me up”, probably referring to the highly nutritious ingredients that make it an energetic food. More malicious theories believe it has a sexual connotation that refers to it being an aphrodisiac dish. Energy food or aphrodisiac, to us it remains a favorite, especially for its simplicity in the making. A few simple ingredients and little skills needed. Make sure to use fresh eggs from a trusted source, as they will be served uncooked. Get out your spatula and let the show begin!

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Watch the recipe in a short video: https://vimeo.com/195761067

Ingredients:
Lady finger cookies, ¼ pound
Coffee, 1 cup
Eggs, 4 medium
Powdered sugar, 2 ¼ ounces
Mascarpone, 1 pound
Bitter cocoa powder, 2 ounces
Red berries, as a garnish

Method:
In a casserole, display the cookies to form a layer. Pour over coffee and set aside. Separate egg yolks from egg whites in two bowls. Add the sugar to the yolks and mix until smooth, add the mascarpone and mix until smooth. On the side beat the whites until stiff. Fold whites into the mascarpone cream, gently, trying not to loose the fluffiness. Pour the mixture in the casserole to cover cookies. Sift the cocoa powder over the whole surface. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Serve slices garnished with berries.
Buon Appetito!

Dreaming of an orange Christmas

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If you feel overwhelmed by the Christmas shopping craze, a gift made with your own hands can be a very special and unique way to show your love. This year why not make orange jam? It’s the peak of the season and the oranges are as juicy, sweet and ripe as it gets. Presented in a glass jar of your choice with a handmade decoration it will unmistakably win your loved ones over.

Recipe:
Ingredients
Oranges, 4 pounds
Apple, 1
Brown sugar, 2 pounds
Fresh Ginger, 1 tablespoon
Cloves, 2
Cardamom, 2 pods

Method
Peal oranges, clean trying to discard as much of the white part as possible, as this is what makes the jam more bitter. Keep the peel of an orange and boil in a pot of water for 5 minutes (helps take bitterness away).
In a large pot bring to boil the orange pulp, sugar, ginger, spices and chopped orange peel. Cook over a medium to low heat for about 40 minutes. Take out the cardamom and cloves and let the jam cool a little. With an electric blender, blend the jam to as fine as you prefer it. We like ours to stay a little chunky, so we just give it a quick blend for smoothness.
Sterilise your jars, ladle the boiling jam into the jars, screw the lids on and turn upside down.
Once cooled down you can play around with creating fun labels and decorating the jars with beautiful materials and strings.

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Panettone

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At this time of the year grocery shops and bakeries all over Italy are filling with stacks of colorful boxes containing all kinds of Panettone, a rich, fluffy, naturally leavened bread cake filled with candied fruit and raisins. Originally from Milano, today it has become a tradition in the Piemonte region as well, where the classic recipe sees the addition of a hazelnut glaze topping. There is another very similar cake, Pandoro, originally from the town of Verona. It is baked into the shape of a star and is without raisins and fruit.

Panettone is a century old tradition, a delicious treat present on all Italian tables during the Christmas holidays. Apparently, the etymology is related to it being, essentially, a large sweet bread: “pane” in Italian means bread and “panettone” literally translates as “large bread”. But there’s also a legend saying that the inventor was a baker called Toni. The phrase “Pan de Toni” (bread of Toni) triggered the birth of the name.

The secret to any good panettone is the choice of ingredients. Renowned bakers use pure butter, fresh eggs, top quality flours and first choice fruit. The yeast must be rigorously a sour dough (called “madre”, mother) essential because it provides a very slow leavening. Some bakers have kept the same starter for centuries, passing it on from generation to generation.impasto_glassaWe recently visited Galup, a baker in north-western Italy that has been using the same yeast starter since 1922. This special colony of bacteria has survived a war, witnessed the advent of TV, computers and indeed quite a number of generations. Natural yeasts add complex flavors and unique nuances which commercial yeasts would never be able to achieve.

Panettone is delicious on its own, as a dessert or even as a snack, paired with a cup of tea or coffee. It even makes for a pretty incredible extra-decadent French toast! On Christmas Eve Italians serve it with a fortified wine custard called zabaione. Here is a quick and easy recipe:

Panettone e Zabaione
Ingredients
1 Panettone or Pandoro
4 egg yolks
¾ cup white sugar
½ cup fortified wine (Marsala or Port)

Method
Start by making your zabaione cream. Separate egg yolks and mix with sugar. Once combined place your bowl in a pot with boiling water (bain-marie). Add the wine and whisk the cream until it thickens to a creamy texture. Slice the Panettone and serve with the zabaione on the side.

Buon appetito!

Noble Fat, There’s an oil for that!

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It’s olive harvest season! Between October and early December – depending on variety, geographical position and production style – all across Italy the mature fruits are manually picked and taken to the mills. Pressing them as quickly as possible preserves all of their goodness and all the year’s work comes to an end, from tree to bottle. Did you know that 100kg (220 lb) of olives produce just 12.8kg (28 lb) of EVOO? It’s a very expensive extraction, but it’s totally worth the work…

One of the rare cases when something delicious is at the same time extremely good for you. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is one of the most nutritious vegetal oils, an unbeatable condiment, one of the main pillars of the so-praised Mediterranean diet. A noble fat good for flavor and for your health – rich in natural antioxidants as well as vitamins E and K and beneficial fatty acids. When pure and extra virgin, it contains a number of active components that have a protective action towards the cells of our organism, slowing down their ageing process and strengthening their resistance to free radicals (carcinogens).

The olive tree is very unique, it can live for centuries resisting heat and droughts, cold winters and harsh conditions. Naturally, it only grows in specific geographical areas of the globe between the 30° and 45° parallel, basically going from Marocco to France. At the heart of the Mediterranean. Today there are some plantations in other areas in the world with similar climates, such as Australia and South America.

Olives are just like grapes: considering just Italy it counts over 400 different indigenous varieties growing all over the country. Some are more prone to hilly inland conditions, some to steep terraces on the coasts of Liguria and others that reach the furthest northern tip at the feet of the Alps, on lake Garda. We can talk of an actual terroir for EVOO just as we do with wine. There is the right one for every food pairing. For example a delicate seafood dish can’t get overpower by a strong and spicy EVOO from Puglia. One would rather choose a delicate and subtle flavor, like the Taggiasche olives in Liguria. A full bodied and piquant EVOO from Sicily is unbeatably paired with comfort dishes such as brisket or a bean soup.

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Freshly picked Bianchera variety olives

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Olive producer in Sicily, testing the ripeness of the fruit

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The biodiversity of EVOO’s, the perfect fit for each dish

Tips on how to choose your EVOO – make sure to choose Extra Virgin, when it’s just Olive Oil or Virgin it was most probably made using chemical processes, from second choice olives and the natural beneficial properties are just not there! And let’s not get started on aroma and flavor. Also when buying European EVOO’s you can look for DOP certification labels that are an assurance of qualitative standards.

Tips on how to store your EVOO – Being unrefined, it’s a delicate product and some important details must be considered when storing it. The enemies of EVOO are light, air and heat – this is why the bottles of good olive oil are made from dark glass (the darker the better) and why at home, if you are not going through a vast quantity of EVOO, it is better to use small bottles, which minimize the exposure to air. Keeping the bottle close to the stove or in direct sunlight is also not good because of the heat exposure.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Carbonara is one of Italy’s most traditional pasta dishes, that too often, when prepared across the globe, is not executed following the original recipe. The addition of cream or the absence of eggs (the main ingredient of the dish) can really spoil the essence of such a perfect classic.

The recipe is originally from Rome but a staple for Italian homes across the country. It’s origin is unsure, who invented it remains a mystery. Some legends want it inspired by the influence of American soldiers during WW2, that whilst stationed in Italy, came to cook with ingredients most familiar to them – bacon and eggs.

It’s definitely an easy and quick recipe to fix a delicious last minute meal with little effort. The sauce can be made in the same time you need to cook the pasta, a 20 minute job – classic Italian home ‘Fast Food’. And if you think about it, it’s really an Italian version of eggs and bacon.. just pasta instead of a biscuit or bread! Why not try it out for your next home cooked brunch?

If looking for lighter or vegetarian options follow the same instructions but substitute the pork with crunchy roasted veggies. The traditional recipe requires guanciale, spaghetti and pecorino – these are often substituted with linguine, pancetta and Parmigiano Reggiano.

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Check out the recipe video: https://youtu.be/1CpXblcWPos

Recipe for 5

Ingredients
1 pack (500g – about 1 pound) spaghetti or liunguine pasta

For the Carbonara sauce:
5 Eggs
½ pound guanciale (pork jowl) or pancetta, diced
1 tbs Butter (not traditional but gives an extra creaminess to the sauce)
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano and/or Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper

Utensils needed
Large Bowl
Large pot
Pan
Large Strainer

Method
Fill the large pot with water and bring to boil.
In the mean while, dice the guanciale and cook in a pan at medium heat until crispy.
In the bowl lightly beat 3 whole eggs, 2 yolks, butter, half the cheese, salt and pepper.
Cook pasta in salted boiling water, according to recommended cooking time written on the box.
When pasta is Al-Dente cooked, drain and transfer directly into the large bowl, adding the crispy pancetta. Mix well and fast, so that the egg does not scramble, but evenly covers all the pasta with a creamy texture.
Place pasta in individual serving bowls and garnish with the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Buon apettito!

 

 

Back to school Italian lunch box

In need of some inspiration for creating balanced, healthy  yet tasty meals for your kids? Here are some quick Italian inspired recipes.

Mozzarella lollipop

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Ingredients

4 mozzarella ovoline
4 cherry tomatoes
4 cocktail sticks
2 tablespoons of basil pesto (check our blog to learn how to make your own at home or find it already made at Bellina’s Market)

Method

Roll the mozzarella in the pesto.
Carefully thread the tomato half way through the cocktail stick and top with the mozzarella.

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Zucchini pancakes

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Ingredients
1 large zucchini, trimmed and shredded
2 tablespoons of flour
4 tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Shred zucchini , and squeeze excess water with your hands, Mix with flour in a medium size ball. Mix in the cheese. Add egg, salt and pepper.
Heat oil of choice in frying pan over medium heat. Using a spoon scoop a spoon of the batter into the hot oil.
Using a spatula, flip the pancakes after the first side has browned.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Great to serve with a scoop of Greek yogurt as a snack or light lunch.

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