Giana De Laurentiis’ Caremalised Pancetta and Fennel Salad

Serves: 4

In the family, I known for my green salads.

I’m known for plenty of other things too 🥴, though pulling together vinaigrette and a bowl of greens and leaves, is definitely my thing; with pasta, with grilled meat, by-itself.

Shaved parmesan, toasted, sliced almonds, French shallots, plenty of avacado… or just leaves.

Yum.

Which is why when I find a new salad that hits it out of the park, it makes me so excited.

We did a lockdown date-night last night and I did a Giana De Laurentiis lemon spaghetti and this salad.

The pasta was good.

This salad was brilliant.

Cook the pancetta until it crumbles. And don’t hold back on the salad greens.

Because trust me, none will be left.

Ingredients

1 fennel bulb, halved and cut into 1cm wedges
6 slices pancetta
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground blac pepper
6 – 7 c mixed salad greens
Red wine vinaigrette
Bottle of cold, crisp white ready for big pours

Red Wine Vinaigrette

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together fennel, pancetta, garlic, brown sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the ingredients on the baking sheet in a single layer. Cook until the pancetta is crisp and fennel is caramelised: about 20 – 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  3. For the Red Wine Vinaigrette: mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Adjust the seasoning as necessary.
  4. In a large bowl, place the salad greens, crumbled pancetta and caremlised fennel. Toss with the Red Wine Vinaigrette.

Sixpenny’s Mushroom Lasagne

Serves: 8 – 10

Sixpenny is a Sydney institution – 3 hats no less – and their head chef Dan Puskas is clearly a genius.

We have only eaten there once, though it was an entirely memorable and particularly impressive meal.

So when the head of Sixpenny puts out a lasagne recipe and it is based on mushrooms with a celeriac thrown in, time to listen up.

Simply put, this is mushroom greatness.

Yes, being a lasagne helps, though the mushroom is is the clincher. It is so moorish, so satisfying, so endless, it’s as I said, mushroom greatness.

I was wrong footed on the porcini powder, though simple blitz dried porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder and voila.

Also, I used instant lasagne sheets which seems to me a fine cheat. No doubt, fresh would be even better and the next time I do this dish, I’ll make the effort.

Live like they do at Sixpenny and mushroom it up the next cold Saturday night you can.

Ingredients

50gm dried porcini mushrooms, broken into small pieces
1kg button mushrooms, finely chopped
2/3 cup olive oil
100gm butter
1 medium celeriac, peeled, coarsely grated
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp coarsely chopped sage
1/3 c porcini powder
100gm tomato paste
200ml red wine
4 c vegetable stock
Lasagne sheets

BĂ©chamel sauce

125gm butter
125gm plain flour
5 c milk
165gm Parmesan, finely grated
1 1/4 tsp white pepper
1 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Method

  1. Soak porcini mushrooms in 3 cups boiling water until soft (30 minutes); drain, reserving liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, working in batches, use a food processor to finely chop the button mushrooms.
  3. Heat half the olive oil in a deep frying pan over a high heat. Cook half the button and porcini mushrooms, stirring until browned and tender; transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms. Set aside with the cooked mushrooms.
  4. Add butter to the pan, reduce heat to medium and use a wooden spoon to scrape the pan of any caramelised bits. Add celeriac, celery, carrot, onion, sage and porcini powder; cook, stirring until softened. Add the tomato paste and mushrooms and mix well. Add wine and simmer until almost evaporated.
  5. Add the reserved porcini liquid and 2 cups of the stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until well reduced. Add remaining stock and simmer until the consistency of a meat sauce.
  6. To make the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add flour and stir until bubbling. Remove from the heat, gradually whisk in milk until combined. Simmer over a low heat stirring until thick and smooth. Add 125gm of the Parmesan, pepper and nutmeg. Season with salt. Set aside until needed.
  7. Preheat oven to 180C. Great a large ovenproof dish. Spread 1/4 of the mushroom mixture in base of the dish. Top with pasta sheets and then a layer of béchamel. Repeat, finishing with béchamel. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden and bubbling.

Antonio Carluccio’s Salsa di Funghi (Mushroom Sauce)

Serves: 4

How good is Northern Italian food?

And how good is simplicity?

Which when combined, begs the question, just how good was Antonio Carluccio?

I absolutely love mushrooms and cooked down slowly, with just a bit of olive oil and rosemary; the addition of the porcini stock, butter and then Parmesan. My word.

Toast me something and pile those mushrooms on that! Polenta equally so!

Again, it’s simple, though cook those mushrooms as slowly as possible and live the Northern Italian life.

(We did the white sauce… which is not what you might expect.)

Ingredients

25gm dried porcini mushrooms
150ml water
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
400gm fresh mushrooms (mix it up!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan to serve

For white sauce

15 butter

For red sauce

2 – 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp tomato pulp (passata)
1 tbsp tomato paste

  1. Soak the dried porcini in tepid water for 30 minutes and squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquor.
  2. Heat the oil and fry the rosemary and garlic for 20 seconds. If you are making the red sauce, add the extra virgin olive oil at this point. Add the fresh mushrooms and soaked dried mushrooms and continue to slowly cook for no less than 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. (I cooked for 45 minutes and wow!)
  3. Cook your pasta, reserving a small amount of pasta water for the sauce.
  4. For the white sauce, stir in the soaking liquor and the butter and cook for another 15 minutes. Add some of the pasta water and check the seasoning.
  5. Serve with the pasta and a good amount of Parmesan.

Method

Antonio Carluccio’s Insalata all’Abruzzese (Vegetable and Tuna Salad)

Serves: 4

This salad is a triumph of flavours: the combination of cooked and raw vegetables, the tuna, the whole thing.

(Yes, it is a summer salad and we had it in the tail of winter, though the sun was out and we had some good Italian wines to try.)

With a bit of toasted bread, this is a meal on its own.

Though next time I serve this, I hope it is part of a long Italian feast welcoming our family and friends back into our home.

That’s when the really good Italian whites and reds are coming out.

Bookmark this one. It is beautiful. And lockdown will end one way or the other!

Ingredients

300gm young zucchinis (around 4 small)
200gm green beans, trimmed (about a big handful)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200gm tomatoes (around 2 tomatoes)
1 red pepper
1 red onion
150gm good canned tuna in oil, drained
8 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
8 basil leaves, torn
1 tsp dried oregano
1 – 3 red chillies, chopped
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method

  1. Quarter the zucchinis lengthways, then cut into chunks. Cook the beans until al dente, drain and cool. Repeat with the zucchinis.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and remove the seeds. Halve, core and deseed the pepper, then cut into long, thin strips. Finely slice the red onion.
  3. Put the zucchinis, beans, tomatoes, red pepper and onion into a bowl. Break the tuna into little chunks and add to the salad with the anchovies, herbs and as much fresh chilli as you can take! Toss everything together, adding the olive oil, followed by the wine vinegar. Season and serve at room temperature.

Antonio Carluccio’s Gnocchetti Sardi Con Broccoli (Sardinian Gnocchi with Broccoli)

Serves: 4

The first post I did for robbydogcooks.com was an Antonio Carluccio dish.

His pastas are always unique, always simple and always 1-hat. We can never fault them, especially the fact that you can start cooking at midday and serve lunch at one.

This pasta is wonderful.

And absurdly simple to make.

With a green salad and a glass of cold vino, it really doesn’t get better.

I have slightly adapted this recipe.

Ingredients

500gm broccoli florets
60gm smoked, streaky bacon, finely chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
200ml heated milk
400gm Sardinian gnocchetti (I used Casarecce which seemed close)
A little hot water from cooking the pasta (this is important)
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Cook the broccoli, drain and process in a food processor until finely chopped. Set aside.
  2. In a large pan, start to fry the bacon in the olive oil. Once it begins to brown, add the slices of garlic, which should not be allowed to colour. Add the broccoli and the milk and cook for 10 – 15 minutes over a medium heat, stirring every now and then. At the end of this time, the broccoli should be reduced to a creamy texture.
  3. Cook the gnocchetti until al denote, drain (reserving some of the water), then our the pasta into the pan with the broccoli mixture, adding the Parmesan, salt and pepper. Add a spoonful or two of cooking water so the mixture is creamy rather than stiff. Stir well over a moderate flame for a few minutes or so and serve.

Lucas Hollweg’s Spinach Gnudi

Serves: 4 as a starter

Geez I wish I took a photo of this cracker of a starter plated by Nat as part of a long Italian lockdown lunch we felt we needed.

(We needed it.)

There is a little time in it, though it’s worth it.

Ricotta and parmesan, burnt butter and more parmesan?

Yes please!

Reminds me of a very similar dish I had at Otto Restaurant on Sydney’s Woolloomooloo Wharf with a cracking bottle of Italian white and the sun dancing on the water.

If only…

Ingredients

250gm ricotta (we used smooth)
Olive oil for frying
200gm baby leaf spinach
1 small garlic clove, crushed
50gm parmesan grated, plus extra to serve
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 nutmeg, freshly grated
250gm fine semolina for dusting
50gm butter to serve

Method

  1. Place the ricotta in a fine plastic sieve over a bowl and let it drain for a few hours.
  2. Heat a splash of olive oil in a saucepan and add the spinach and garlic. Stir over the heat until the leaves are completely wilted. Set aside to cool and then squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can with your hands. Very finely chop and then squeeze again.
  3. Put spinach in a bowl with the ricotta and parmesan. Season, add the nutmeg and mix well. Taste and add more seasoning/nutmeg if needed.
  4. Spread half the semolina over a large plate or tray. Shape the the ricotta mixture into 16 – 20 balls, rolling them between damp hands. Place on the semolina and carefully roll until coated on all sides. Cover with the remaining semolina, then chill (don’t cover with anything else) overnight. This creates a semolina ‘skin’ that holds he gnudi together.
  5. To cook, bring a large saucepan of water to a gentle boil. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and slightly brown/burn. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Drop the gnudi into the boiling water, turn down the heat and gently cook for 3 minutes or until the gnudi float to the surface. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon, drain off the excess water then toss in the butter.
  7. Divide the gnudi among 4 bowls, drizzle the butter over and shave over plenty of parmesan to serve.

Prawn & Cannellini Bean Salad

Serves: 4

This is just a great salad.

Like surprisingly great.

Saturday lunch is served!

Ingredients

500gm green prawns peeled
400gm canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained well
2 inner celery stalks, sliced, leaves torn
20 pitted Ligurian olives
8 basil leaves, torn
Crusty bread, to serve

Red Wine Dressing

100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp oregano leaves, roughly chopped
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients

  1. Make Red Wine Dressing: combine oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper in a screw top jar and shake well to emulsify. Pout into a bowl.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil with 2 tbsp of salt per litre of water.
  3. Add the prawns to the boiling water and cook for a minute or two. Allow to cool somewhat and then cut into chunks and add to the Red Wine Dressing.
  4. Add beans, celery, celery leaves, olives and basil and toss until well combined.
  5. Serve at room temperature with crusty bread.

Crab and Preserved Lemon Risotto

Serves: 6 as an entree

Just before Sydney’s lockdown, Nat and I did one of the Sydney Seafood School classes: a well received Mother’s Day present.

At their best, these classes are a lot of fun. An hour in the auditorium watching the chef cook and then two hours cooking at a workstation with another couple, knocking over the various dishes.

Then it’s lunch with a glass of wine. (You can even order an additional bottle of wine which of course, I commend firmly.)

The Italian Seafood class we attended did not push us particularly in terms of technique or complexity, though Nat cooked one of her first risottos (I am the resident risotto cooker) and I cleaned a squid for only the second time. And hey, we had fun!

And of course, I only type up recipes that are great and genuinely, this risotto is great.

I overheard someone saying that the preserved lemon was a little overpowering and lemon zest would be better.

Wrong.

It works and if you love crab and/or preserved lemon, this risotto is definitely for you.

Ingredients

300gm raw crabmeat*
1.25 litres quality chicken stock
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 small brown onion, chopped
Salt flakes and freshly ground white pepper
250gm risotto (do not rinse)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and dried, skin only finely diced
50gm salted butter
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp snipped chives

Method

  1. Heat stock in a saucepan until simmering, then maintain at that temperature.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat, add onion and a good pinch of salt and fry until soft but not coloured.
  3. Add the rice and stir over a high heat until grains are well coated in oil and warmed through.
  4. Add white wine and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, add stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.
  6. Continue until rice is tender, with a slight bite, and has a creamy consistency (about 18 minutes): you may not need all of the stock.
  7. Add a final ladle or 2 of stock, preserved lemon, crabmeat, butter, Parmesan, salt and pepper and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until all the butter is incorporated and the grab has broken into thin wisps. The finished risotto should be quite soupy. (The Italians call it all’onde which translates to wave-like.)
  8. Taste, season, stir through chives and serve immediately on a flat plate, tapping the bottom of the plate to spread the risotto out.

* Look, maybe it needs to be said, maybe not. We need to be buying only local, sustainable seafood. Australian for me. The time is up on imported seafood, please.

Chocolate and Strega Tiramisu

Serves: 6

I love an old school Tiramisu, the more traditional – the better!

Its important to dial up the alcohol so you have that warming hit with every spoonful.

This recipe is from Ellen Beerworth’s famous cookbook and I can’t wait to try it tonight (its currently setting in the fridge)

By Nat x

Ingredients

3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup caster sugar
250g cream cheese (at room temperature
1 cup thickened cream (not light!)
1 1/2 Tbs cocoa + extra for dusting
1 c espresso (2 Tsp instant coffee mixed with warm water)
2 Tbs dark rum (I have a whole bottle here if anyone ever wants to borrow some)
250g Savoiardi biscuits

Method

  1. Beat the egg yolks and 1/4 c of the sugar until thick and pale (about 7 mins). Mix in the cream cheese and combine well (if its lumpy at this point the cream cheese was too cold, put over heat and beat until it smooths out).
  2. Wisk the cream with the remaining sugar (1.5 Tbs) until soft peaks form.
  3. Add the whipped cream to the egg and cream cheese mixture and divide evenly into two bowls.
  4. In one of the bowls sift 1 1/2 Tbs cocoa and stir until its combined.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
  6. Divide the egg whites between the two bowls and fold in until combined.
  7. Mix the espresso with the dark rum in a shallow bowl. Dip in the biscuits for about 20 seconds so they are really soggy and make layers of biscuits, plain mascarpone, biscuits and chocolate mascarpone.
  8. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

`

Potato Focaccia

Serves: 6

If there is a gap in my cooking, it is baking.

Especially bread.

Enter Nat.

This focaccia is just a cracker and supplied as a recipe from my mother.

It is just wonderful. Focaccia usually is, though warm and home-cooked?

Call me!

Ingredients

200gm floury potatoes
3 tsp dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
200gm flour
100gm strong flour
Olive oil
10 cherry tomatoes, halves
2 tbsp marinated olives, chopped
2 tbsp chopped rosemary (and/or fresh oregano)
Sea salt

Method

  1. Microwave the potatoes until soft, put through a ricer and allow to cool.
  2. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 125ml water, mix with a fork and allow to froth.
  3. Mix together the flours, add the potatoes, yeast, 50ml olive oil, and enough water to make a dough that isn’t sticky.
  4. Either knead by hand (boring) or use a dough hook to knead for 5 minutes.
  5. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place for an hour of more until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat the oven to 220c and liberally oil a 28cm round pan.
  7. Place the dough in the palm add 1tbsp of olive oil on top and stretch it to fit to fit the bottom.
  8. Press the tomatoes into the surface, scatter over the olives and herbs and sprinkle with salt.
  9. Bake for 25 – 35 mins or until golden.

`