Saturday, 29 September 2012

Pesto alla trapanese (Sicilian pesto)


I was watching Nigella on tv the other day, preparing her own variation of pesto alla trapanese, in which she used sultanas and anchovies. I didn't fancy that particular combination much (to each their own, obviously) but it reminded me that it had been a long, long time since I made any kind of pesto.

Those who know me are well aware that for this sort of preparation and many others I never follow any kind of recipe nor measure things. Also, far be it for me to claim any sort of authenticity for what you'll read below. All I know is that it's delicious, and that's already a good thing.

Pesto alla trapanese

Ingredients: (4 persons)
  • 350-400 g cherry tomatoes or, as a rule of thumb, 8-10 cherry tomatoes per person
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic
  • a large handful of basil
  • a handful of blanched almonds
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • about 100 g of grated pecorino cheese
  • optional: a few mint leaves


Blanch the almonds. Place them in boiling water for one minute then immeditely take them out of transfer them to a bowl of cold water. The skin should come right off when you press the almonds between your fingers.

Place the blanched almonds, cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. If using mint, add it now. Pulse until chopped but not pureed (so that the almonds still retain a little bite) then add olive oil and mix until obtaining a smooth sauce.

Cook the pasta al dente. Retain a small cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta. Immediately add the sauce and mix well. Add the grated pecorino and mix again. If you feel the sauce is a little dry, add a spoonful at a time of the cooking water until satisfied.

Serve immediately.

Note: another way of preparing this pesto is by using a pestle and mortar, which will make for a more rustic, crunchy sauce. If you do it this way, chop the cherry tomatoes into small cubes and do not grind them down with the rest of the ingredients.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Asparagus, beetroot & blood orange salad, orange sauce


A colorful, fresh and delicious salad...

Asparagus, beetroot & blood orange salad, orange sauce

Ingredients (for 4 persons)

  • 2 beetroots
  • a handful of young green asparagus spears
  • 225 g frisée lettuce
  • one radicchio
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 125 ml freshly squeezed and filtered orange juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp grape seed oil or vegetable oil
  • salt, pepper


Cook the beetroots with their skin on in a 180°C oven for an hour or until tender. Leave to cool, remove the skin and cut in thin irregular shaped slices.

Briefly toast the pine nuts in a non-stick pan.

Peal the blood oranges and cut them in slices.

Blanch the green asparagus for about 2 minutes in boiling salted water. Take out and immediately place them in iced water to stop the cooking process. Dry on kitchen paper.

Put the orange and lemon juice in a small sauce pan and cook for about 5 minutes under medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the grape seed oil. Mix well.

Place the frisée lettuce and chopped radicchio in a bowl. Add the olive oil, walnut oil and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Arrange on each plate a handful of salad, asparagus spears, beetroot slices, blood orange slices and toasted pine nuts. Drizzle with orange sauce and serve immediately.

Asparagus, beetroot & blood orange salad, orange sauce

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Bún thịt nướng (Vietnam)


Bún thịt nướng is a Vietnamese dish consisting of marinated grilled pork served with thin rice noodles over salad and pickled carrots and cucumbers. Roasted peanuts and a traditional nước mắm-based dipping sauce add to its fantastic flavour. There is some amount of preparation to take care of but it isn't very much work and is quite easy. The end result, in any case, is well worth it.

Bún thịt nướng

Ingredients: (serves 4)

For the pork and its marinade:
  • 3 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 3 tbsp lemongrass, finely minced
  • 3 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (nước mắm)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 500 g pork shoulder, in thin (~1 cm) slices

For the final dish:

  • Vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups of pickled carrots and cucumbers
  • 2 handfuls of salad leaves, sliced
  • 1 handful of fresh mint, sliced
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, crushed
  • 1/2 cup green onion oil
  • 1 1/2 cup dipping sauce (nước chấm)

Pickled carrots and cucumbers:
  • 2 carrots, very thinly sliced
  • 15-cm piece of cucumber, cut into matchsticks
  • rice vinegar
  • pinch of sugar

Scallion oil:
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Dipping sauce (nước chấm):
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp chili paste or chili sauce
  • fresh red chilies, very thinly sliced, to taste


Prepare the pickled carrots and cucumbers. Place thinly sliced carrots and cucumber in a bowl, cover with rice vinegar and add a pinch of sugar.

Prepare the marinated pork. Cut the pork in thin slices. Add honey, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar to a bowl. Mix well until sugar is dissolved. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients and combine. Add pork and mix to coat each slice with the marinade. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the green onion oil. In a skillet, slowly heat the vegetable oil. Add the chopped green onions and cook over very low heat until just wilted, about 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the dipping sauce. Combine fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and warm water. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Add the chili paste and sliced chilies. Adjust to taste.

Cook the noodles as indicated on the package. Rince with cold water, strain and reserve.

Remove the meat from the fridge about 10 minutes before grilling. If possible, grill the meat over a flame. If not, place a grill pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, toss the meat and grill it for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Assemble the dish in individual bowls. Place pickled carrots and cucumbers (and a little pickling juice) in the bottom. Add the mint and chopped salad leaves. Cover with the noodles. Place the grilled meat on top and brush it with the green onion oil. Add crushed peanuts. Serve alongside the dipping sauce.

Bún thịt nướng
Bún thịt nướng

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Biscotti / Cantuccini


These are wonderful Italian crispy biscuits, doubly-baked and packed pull of almonds. I used a different recipe in the past but this time I went for one seen on Manue's blog (in French). I used only almonds inside the biscotti (because I know that the person I'll gift them to will prefer them this way) but Manue used a mix of almonds, chocolate chips and candied orange. Which is also good, obviously. I've also made another batch, replacing 40 g of almonds by dehydrated cranberries, which I had at home.

Biscotti / Cantuccini

  • 1 egg
  • 80 g sugar
  • 20 g dark brown sugar
  • 120 g flour
  • A few drops of vanilla extract (and, depending on personal taste, a few drops of bitter almond extract)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 95 g almonds, quickly roasted beforehand


Pre-heat oven to 160°C.

Beat the egg with the sugar and the vanilla extract (plus the bitter almond extract, if chosen). Add the flour with the baking powder, then the almonds. Mix with fingertips. Using your hands, form a log on a lightly floured surface.

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 160°C for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on a rack. Cut diagonal, 1 cm thick slices and lay them on the baking sheet, still lined with parchment paper. Bake a second time at 160°C for 10 minutes, turning the biscotti over after 5 minutes.

Turn the oven off and leave the biscotti inside for a further 5 minutes. Then take out of the oven and leave to cool on a rack.


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