Here's another very easy recipe to prepare with small artichokes, the ones you can buy in Italy and France (the violetti/violets, for example). Clean them (here you can see how) removing all the hard bits and the center part (for this you can use a small teaspoon) to make some space, fill them and then stew them in a pan. Nothing more than this. If you don't count the cleaning part they're ready in no time!
8 small Italian or French artichokes, cleaned 30 gr./1 oz. grated pecorino romano 30 gr./1 oz. grated Parmesan or Grana cheese 2 small cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped 1/2 handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped extra virgin olive oil salt and black pepper
Remove the inside part of the artichokes with a small teaspoon making sure you eliminate all of the hay. Make enough space for at least one or two teaspoons of filling. Trim the bases of the artichokes with a small knife so that they're flat and even and can stand in the pan.
Mix pecorino, parmigiano, chopped garlic and parsley together and add a little freshly ground black pepper, mixing further.
Fill the artichokes with this mixture and then place them standing in a deep enough pan with a thick bottom (I used a small Le Creuset). Add 2-3 spoons of olive oil and 1 dl/0,4 cup of water, season with salt and cover with a lid. Stew for 15-20 minutes and serve hot.
If I had to eat just ONE kind of vegetables my whole life I would probably opt for artichokes. My love for this vegetable is immense. I love their distinct flavor, their special texture and also the fact that they are not too easy to "handle". You have to do some work if you want to enjoy them and in that they're just like life. :)
Every time I'm back to Puglia, the Italian region where I grew up and where they are massively grown, I have an envy attack. Last time I went there I almost turned as green as an artichoke when I saw my favourite, thornless carciofi costing just 3 euros for 7 pieces at the market, grrrrrrrr!!! Why are they so expensive here in Holland and, most of all, often old and sloppy???
Anyway, back to the preparation of this wonderful vegetable. Cleaning it is a lot work (see photos and recipe) and you eliminate quite a lot of this amazing flower, as I often hear during my cooking workshops when I show how to do it. So what? What you have after all that work is something totally DELICIOUS, so definitely worth the hassle! And you can use it for a wonderful frittata just like I do.
10 eggs 6-8 small artichokes 50 g grated Parmesan cheese 2 garlic cloves a bunch of flat-leaf parsley salt and pepper a splash of milk or cream extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven at 180°C.
Clean the artichokes by removing the stems (which you can peel and use too like I did for this frittata! See TIP at the end of the recipe) then the hard, outer leaves (see how I do it in this video).
Place the artichokes in a bowl with cold water and a little lemon juice or vinegar so that they don't get dark. Leave them in their "bath" for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile lightly beat the eggs with a dash of milk or cream, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper.
Cut the artichokes into thin slices and fry them in olive oil together with the crushed garlic cloves. They usually tend to get too dry so add a little hot water from time to time and let them gently cook until soft. Season with finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper.
Lay the artichokes in a baking dish lined with baking parchment. Add the egg mixture and spread everything evenly inside the dish.
Bake the frittata in the oven for about 20 minutes or until it feels firm under your fingers and becomes golden brown.
Leave to cool a bit and serve lukewarm or at room temperature.
TIP: you can also eat the artichoke stems. First you have to trim the harder part around them and then put them in lemony water like the rest of the artichokes. After that you can stew or fry them together with the artichokes.
A classic traditional Spanish dish, paella is originally from
Valencia, a city on the East coast of the country. The original version
called paella valencianainvolves the use of
flat green beans, meat (mainly chicken and rabbit), white beans and
snails, but there are many variations that include only fish,
crustaceans and molluscs (paella marinera) or meat and fish together (paella mixta).
The wide, shallow pan used to prepare this recipe is the paella, also called paellera. Spaniards are quite divided about the right name for this beautiful cooking instrument: some prefer paella and some others argue that the correct name is paellera.
The Real Academia Española, the official institution that takes care of
setting the rules for the Spanish language, accepts both. For clarity
in the recipe we use the term paella for the dish and paellera for the pan.
When looking for one to buy, select it possibly with a thick enough
bottom to promote uniform cooking of the rice without burning it. This
has to happen in such an way that the rice is no longer stirred after a
first, initial stir so as to form that delicious crust on the bottom of
the pan that, together with the perfect cooking of all the ingredients,
characterizes a really well done paella.
This version by Oliver, a friend from the Spanish Canary Islands, is a paella mixta, with meat and fish together. The chorizo
used here is the classic Spanish pork sausage characterized by a
uniform red colour even in the fat parts since the meat and fat mixture
has been flavoured and “coloured” with pimentón, red smoked pepper powder, or more or less spicy paprika.
The use of fish, crustaceans and molluscs makes the preparation a little
more delicate than a paella with just meat as it is necessary to avoid
overcooking the prawns that would otherwise become unpleasantly flaky.
Add them when the rice is almost cooked calculating about three more
minutes on the stove. Also for cod and squid it is preferable to avoid
too long a cooking time (4 to 5 minutes maximum). Oliver cooks the
mussels long enough to ensure that the rice absorbs their juices and
flavour even better.
The video has Italian subtitles only but you’ll get what we mean by looking at the images and following the written recipe you find here.
250 g rice for paella or risotto
20 raw mussels in their shells
250 gr. fresh clean prawns (without head, shell and intestines)
3-4 large cleaned squid
150 gr. cod fillet
100 gr. bacon or pancetta
100 gr. chorizo (Spanish sausage)
150 gr. fresh shelled peas
4 medium tomatoes
2 red peppers
1 green pepper
2 red onions
4-5 cloves of garlic
extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches of saffron stigmas or powder
1 pinch of Cayenne pepper
2,5 dl. dry white wine
2,5 l. chicken stock
two lemons and flat-leaf parsley for garnishing
Heat plenty of oil in the paellera and fry the chopped onions in it.
Add the diced peppers and the finely chopped garlic and fry for a few
Add the chorizo, the bacon or pancetta and the blanched, peeled and
diced tomatoes together with the Cayenne pepper. Stir and cook for about
5-10 minutes on a medium heat.
Add the rice, raise the heat a little and stir well.
Pour the white wine, stir and allow the alcohol to evaporate.
Season with saffron, stirring well to give the rice a beautiful, uniform yellow colour.
Place the mussels on top of the rice and stir gently.
Add the peas and, immediately after, 4-5 ladles of hot stock which will have to cover the rice completely.
Cook the rice on a medium / high flame until almost cooked, adding stock from time to time if it gets too dry.
Add the squid cut into rings and the fish fillet into large pieces and
push them gently into the rice without moving it too much. Add more
stock if necessary.
Add the prawns to the paella about three minutes before the rice is
ready. Lay them on the rice and turn them so that they evenly cook on
both sides. If you don’t want to risk overcooking you can also briefly
sauté them in a pan with a little olive oil and then add them to the
paella once you take it from the fire. Season with a little salt if
Turn off the heat and let the paella rest for 5 minutes.
Serve garnished with chopped parsley and lemon slices.
The market in Bari, Puglia. 7 artichokes for 3 euros...
In the course of the almost 13 years that I’ve been teaching Italian cooking
I’ve noticed that some vegetables are a total mystery for a lot of amateur cooks.
Take fennel and artichoke, for
example: here in Holland I always have to demonstrate how to clean them
and what to use or throw away because most people have never had the
chance (or the courage) to actually “tackle” some of these wonderful
So if you can’t clean small Italian and French artichokes
(for the big French ones we’ll need another video since they’re quite
different…) not to worry! Nicoletta and Cime di Rapa come to your rescue! :)
Just watch this video, grab a bunch of beautiful Violets from France or small artichokes from Liguria or Puglia and gorge on them after cleaning them perfectly well!
I love to eat them raw, very thinly sliced, simply "dressed" with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. You can of course stew or bake them too, they always remain the most wonderful veggie on Earth!
This is a very simple recipe I made with my experiments-in-the-kitchen partner Claudio Varone, a dear friend and a wonderful interior designer and artist, when we were spending a weekend together with some friends in a lovely house on the Dutch countryside. It's his hands you see in the picture - I'm not THAT hairy ;) - and we prepared this dish in no time.
I'm going to make this on Easter Monday because I've decided to have a totally meat-free Easter. I'm eating a lot less meat in general since quite some time, and I try and buy only organic when I do. Moreover I have regular fish cravings and a nice piece of wild salmon is really perfect to satisfy them. You'll only need a big piece of GOOD salmon (we chose the wild Alaskan one) and a few more ingredients among which some fresh herbs of your choice. We used chives and oregano and since the lattest was flowering we added some of the flowers too for extra taste and texture (and beauty!).
You can serve this wonderfully aromatic salmon like we did, with boiled organic potatoes simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil and salt, and a colourful mixed salad. Roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic will be perfect too.
Salmone al forno con miele e senape
500 gr. fresh salmon in one big piece, or 4 chunks of about 125 gr each juice of 1 big lemon 3 tablespoons of mustard 3 tablespoons of honey a handful of mixed fresh herbs, coarsely chopped (chives and oregano) salt and black pepper extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven at 180*C.
Mix lemon juice, mustard, honey, a bit of salt and pepper and three tablespoons of olive oil together making a nice, smooth emulsion.
Lay the salmon on a sheet of baking parchment big enough to easily wrap it all and "massage" it with the emulsion. Spread the herbs on top of the salmon and wrap it well in the parchment.
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes and serve immediately.
Scarcelle are lovely Apulian Easter cookies with different shapes – baskets, chicks, garlands, Easter bells, little lambs, eggs – often prepared as plain biscuits and sometimes filled with jam and almond paste. In this version I find them truly irresistible.
Growing up in Puglia I used to eat them when I was a child and some friends of my parents’ brought them as a gift from the Salento area. Like all kids, I loved them for their pretty shapes as well as for the decorations, made with white sugar frosting and little crunchy silver or multicoloured sugar “beads”. Nowadays I love them because they taste great and because they remind me of my childhood.
Last year I made them for the first time when I decided to feature them in my cookbook “Cucina di casa mia”– the recipe you find here is the one from the book – and once again I enjoyed them very much.
In this version they are not super sweet – I don’t use the white, sugary icing – and have that lovely taste given by the grated lemon and orange peel which makes them even more appetizing. And they’re so colourful and happy-making!
Prepare lots of them and give them to friends and family as it’s traditionally done in Puglia during Holy Week.
Tip: to make beautiful, regular shapes you can use
large cookie cutters or you can draw the desired silhouettes on thin
cardboard, cut them and then place them on the dough to cut it more
neatly. I simply used a pasta wheel cutter.
The scarcelle you see
photographed by Dutch food photographer Jan Bartelsman for my book have been cut with architectorial precision by Claudio Varone,
my friend and mythical companion of culinary experimentations who
helped me to prepare some of the sweets when cooking for my cookbook. :)
500 g plain flour + a little extra
7 g instant baking powder
200 g of sugar
1 dl of extra virgin olive oil
2 + 1 eggs
5 tablespoons milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1/2 orange
1 pinch of salt
5-6 hard-boiled eggs
coloured sugar "beads"
Preheat the oven to 180 ° C.
Mix flour and baking powder, then add the sugar, the olive oil, 2 eggs, milk, lemon and orange zest and a pinch of salt.
Mix all ingredients together, preferably in a blender with a special
dough hook. If the dough is too stiff, add a few tablespoons of milk and
mix further. If it’s too sticky, add a little extra flour.
Live to rest for 40 minutes inside the bowl covered with cling film and keep warm. Meanwhile, boil 5-6 eggs and let them cool.
Dust the working surface with flour and roll out the dough with a
rolling pin to a thickness of about 8 mm – 1 cm. Cut the desired shapes
(approx. 15 x 13 cm) and place your scarcelle on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment.
Prepare enough strips or small braids with the scraps of dough and make
sure they are long enough to allow you to secure the hard-boiled eggs to
Place one egg on each scarcella and secure it with two strips
or braids of dough crossing each other (see photos). Press the ends well
so that they adhere to the scarcelle.
Beat an egg and brush the scarcelle with it using a pastry brush. Decorate with coloured or silver sugar beads that will stick to the beaten egg.
Bake the scarcelle for about 20 minutes or until they are golden brown.
From the 21st to the 25th of February I was in Paris. Not for a long weekend in the Ville Lumière, purely for relaxation and some good old compulsive shopping, but for a visit to the Paris Cookbook Fair. There was I, under the Pyramid of the Louvre, with a stand in the name of Choizes (my Dutch publisher) and my cookbook.
Onder de Pyramide du Louvre
Exciting! And fun! So many famous chefs (including the fantastic Annabel Langbein), writers, food bloggers, food photographers, foodies and cookbook publishers under one roof, something which I had never experienced before! And Paris! It's not my favourite city in the world (that very special place is, of course, reserved for Amsterdam!) but in a weird way I feel very much at home there and I enjoy the atmosphere, the food and the beauty. Could it be it's because I speak the language quite well? Or perhaps because - I clearly believe in reincarnation - I lived there in a previous life? Who knows. It's a funny feeling. I quite dislike certain things in Paris - the arrogance in some shops and restaurants, a tad too much grandeur everywhere, and too many useless macarons :D - and yet I feel completely at ease there.
Souvenir de Paris
The Paris Cookbook Fair is a super fun fair that makes the heart of cookbook lovers beat faster. Mine too, and this year not only because of the many books that could be admired (and bought) there, but also because my book "Cucina di casa mia" was nominated in the category Best Italian Cookbook 2012 together with all the other Italian cookbooks of the world received by the jury. Five books were eventually chosen, and out of those five three were selected for Gold, Silver and Bronze. And ... I won bronze! After the beautiful Pulpo by Russel Norman and Limoncello and linen water by the great Tessa Kiros I gained the third prize. What an honor! During the ceremony, I was slightly tense, nervously fanning the tension away at a table with a nice team of other winners, Gert Crum for Best Wine Book, Koen de Grote of Literalicious (also a third prize) and the publishers Minestrone and Lannoo from Belgium, a country that won many prizes. And when I saw my book and my name on the big screen, along with the other two, I was veeeeery happy and the nerves just disappeared. :)
There it is, a bit far and not really sharp because of my shaking hands plus with the old cover, and yet... my book on the third place!
On the big screen! 3rd!
What a nice experience that was. Who would have imagined it when I started this book in 2011? My applause goes to my publisher, Choizes, my mother Gabriella Formigoni who worked at the book and cooked with me, photographer Jan Bartelsman, stylist Jan-Willem van Riel, editors Bel & Jet, graphic agency Van Erkelens and all the people who have worked on the book. And an applause for myself too, because I wrote a book that I'm really proud of. :)
I love Chinese food, the REAL one, the one you can eat even here in
Amsterdam at places that do not make concessions to the locals’ taste
such as the fantastic Nam Kee restaurant on the Geldersekade.
It’s a vast cuisine with an infinite variety of preparations – a bit
like the Italian one – because every region of China is characterized by
own dishes and ingredients, exactly like in my own country. Just think
of the enormous differences between the spicy Sichuan cuisine and the
Cantonese one, more “cosmopolitan” and widespread, and you’ll have an
My favorite type of Chinese food is represented by that simple, plain
cuisine which uses just a few ingredients and, by doing that, exploits
their flavours and textures to the max. I very much prefer this type of
Chinese food to the more complicated and sophisticated cuisine of some
Recently, at the Paris Cookbook Fair I bought the beautiful Chinese home cooking book titled “Every grain of rice (simple Chinese home cooking)”. The talented writer Fuchsia Dunlop,
who has lived in China and was the first Westerner to study at the
Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine, describes the dishes, traditions
and ingredients of the everyday Chinese food so well and yet with so
much simplicity that you really want to prepare some.
My first dish inspired by this book is really easy and fast to make, and
leaves you a lot of freedom as it allows you to add the vegetables you
prefer. It is a noodle soup prepared with good broth, preferably
homemade (I made a simple chicken and onion stock) and enriched by
vegetables and noodles of your own choice. I used egg ones, those that
cook really fast just like Italian egg pasta.
My vegetables of choice were pak choy, also know as bok choy or Chinese chard,
and chestnut mushrooms. If you do not find pak choy you can also use
the more common Swiss chard, slightly sweeter and with less fleshy
The other “exotic” ingredients you will need are sesame oil and basic soy sauce, easy to find in any oriental food store.
Basic Noodle Soup (Qing Tang Mian) according to Fuchsia Dunlop
300 gr of boneless chicken thighs, preferably organic, cut in fairly big chunks
1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of soy-bean oil
2 l. water (it will partly evaporate while cooking the broth)
200 g Chinese egg noodles
2 handfuls of pak choy cut into rather large pieces, whole leaves
100 grams of fresh chestnut mushrooms
2-3 spring onions
basic soy sauce
Prepare the broth by gently frying the onion in soy-bean oil and then
browning the chicken in it. Add the water, possibly already boiling,
and simmer for a while with the lid on the pan, at least until the
chicken is thoroughly cooked (which means that the meat should flake
easily when pressed with the chopsticks or with a wooden spoon). Also
make sure that the broth is nicely concentrated for extra flavour. Add a
little salt or soy sauce at the end.
Add the white, fleshy parts of the pak choy and the quartered mushrooms to the stock and cook for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles adding them to boiling water (slightly
salted, if you like) which you then immediately remove from the flame
leaving them to rest for about 4 minutes (the actual time will depend on
the type of noodles you use).
Drain and divide into two bowls. Chop the spring onions in rings, making sure you use also most of the green leaves.
Throw the green parts of the pak choy in the broth and remove the pan
from the flame. The pak choy leaves only need to be blanched.
Add a couple of ladles of broth, chicken and vegetables to the noodles in every bowl and garnish with the spring onion rings.
Season with a teaspoon of sesame oil and a little soy sauce and enjoy.
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