“A tavola non si invecchia”. - Italian proverb (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old).

Sharing authentic Italian recipes entrusted upon me through the privilege of being invited into many Italian homes and kitchen’s abroad. I travel, cook, eat, share, learn and photograph my experiences, a truly soul enriching journey. There are now over 100 recipes on this blog to search from. I am a Melbourne born girl who now resides in Pietrasanta, Italy. Sharing my love for food and all things Italian with you. I am not a professionally trained chef, just a person that really loves cooking and has made my passion my reality! Through talent and drive I now work as a private chef in some of the most prestigious private villa`s here in Versilia, Italy!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

5,000 views today

Photographer: Spencer Tunick.  Location: Sydney Opera House- Australia
What do 5,000 people look like? Well it looks like this! This is how many people have viewed this blog today!
I would like to thank-you for your continued support, sharing and feedback. Please keep the love coming as I will continue to provide recipes I hope you enjoy.
Also, I ask that you continue to share with your colleagues, friends, family, and even randoms.
Thanks,
Kara x

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Crostata di marmellata (baked jam tart)

There is something so homely about making a tart such as this. The making of the pastry, the kitchen covered in flour, the careful rolling and placing of the dough, and the baking. This is quintessentially what baking is about to me. Then of course, unveiling such a pretty looking tart.
'Crosata' is a crispy shelled pastry tart typically filled with apricot, peach, berry or cherry jam. More recently in Italy they can also be filled with nutella. You can buy them as a whole tart at the local 'pasticceria', or you can request for a slice as they are sold by weight.
I typically fill my crosata with a ricotta mixture, 'Crostata di ricotta'. However I was recently at a friends house who made one filled with apricot jam, of course I had to try it for myself. I love how during the cooking process the jam oozes through the gaps in the dough. The dough takes on the sweet flavour of the jam whilst becoming a little caramelised. It is such a humbling yet decadent desert.
What you need:
500g apricot jam (you can also use cherry, peach or berry)
350g flour
three organic eggs
150g sugar
150g butter
grated zest of one lemon
            
How to make:
1: First make the pastry. Mix sifted flour with sugar in a bowl, make a well and add lightly whisked egg YOLKS to centre and half the of the egg whites. Stir through. Add melted butter at room temperature and lemon zest. Blend the ingredients together with a spoon, start to use your hands to incorporate.
2: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured bench and knead for about 5-10 minutes until dough becomes smooth in consistency. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1/2 hours. TIP: If the dough is too wet simply add some more flour
3: Use a little butter to grease a tart tin.
4:Remove dough from fridge and divide dough in half. Roll out one piece of dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll to fit fill a tart tin, using the rolling pin roll the pastry to tart tin. Use your fingers to press dough in around corners
5: Fill tart case with jam and evenly spread
6: Divide the remaining piece of dough in half again. Roll out dough again on a lightly floured surface. Roll to a long rectangle shape. Use a sharp knife to cut long strips of dough. Start laying strips of dough on top of the jam, starting from the middle working outwards. Continue until the tart has about 5 strips working in one direction. Then start laying strips in the opposite direction using the remaining dough. Use your finger to pinch the outer edge of the tart, bringing all edges tightly together
7: Lightly brush with an egg wash and bake in a pre-heated 180 degree oven for about 40 minuets 

My sister Michelle enjoying a morning coffee in Venice, reflection of me in lens

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Carpaccio di manzo (raw beef carpaccio)

On my first visit to Rome many years ago I found myself in little Trattoria down a hidden lane-way. It was perfect, it was everything I had every dreamed of and more. The waiter spoke no English but I was enthusiastic to speak the limited Italian I knew back then.  There was no menu and the waiter proceeded to reel off the specialties of the day quickly in Italian, I completely bluffed my way through. Any-way the short of the story is that I unknowingly ended up ordering several different forms of 'carpaccio', raw meat. This to me now would not be so shocking, but back then it was a little overwhelming. I am a big fan of a single dish of carpaccio, especially when I know what to expect. 
Carpaccio is a dish consisting of thinly slices of raw meat, traditionally beef. It was invented at Harry's Bar in Venice, where a Countess had requested it. Her Doctor had advised her to be on a special diet including that of raw meat.
I love the different textures and flavours, especially the creamy subtly of the meat. There are many recipes and additions that you can add to carpaccio, but in my experience it is simply served with rocket and parmesan. You can cure it in lemon juice for a longer amount of time if desired.
What you need:
200g top quality beef (100g per person)
handful of rocket leaves
freshly slivers of parmesan cheese
lemon juice
freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt
200g beef eye fillet 
How to make:
1: Slice the beef in the thinnest possible slices (Jamie Oliver once suggested to place the beef in the freezer to harden beef, making it easier to slice OR ask your butcher to thinly slice for you but it may brown so use it quickly). I slice it myself
2: Arrange thin slices of beef on a plate, squeeze fresh lemon juice and oil over meat (cover and place in the fridge for 10 minutes if you want the meat to cure). I let mine rest for 5 minuets.  
3: Place rocket leaves and slices of Parmesan on top, drizzle with a little oil, finish with pepper and salt
taking a rest in a door-way in Venice

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Limoncello (lemon liquor)

When life throws you lemons, make limoncello! What better way to preserve lemons which happen to be in abundance at the moment. After little preparation and patience, limoncello will reward you throughout the year. A lemon liquor typically from the South of Italy. On my first visit to Sorrento on the Amalfi coast many years ago I vividly remember lemon trees almost touching the train as we  approached our destination, you could smell the zest in the air. Then actually arriving and seeing vibrantly coloured yellow bottles being sold on the streets. I used to drink grappa as an after dinner 'digestivo', but after my trip to Sorrento limoncello is now definitely preferred. I have been making it ever since. Last year in Italy I made about five litres of limoncello, the aniticpation for it to finally be ready was tense. 
Last September, some Italian friends had planned a weekend away and I was to meet my ride a short distance from my house. With excitement about the weekend and in sharing my produce with all, I laden myself up with my overnight bags and set off for my lift. As I was approaching my ride, a large bottle of limoncello came flying out of my bag and shattered all over the pedestrian bridge. In true Italian style, this was quite the spectacle as all gathered around to help and sweep away the glass. Everyone was truly devastated to learn that it was homemade limoncello, a true travesty. Then proceeded to delight in the fresh lemon aroma as it was being vapourised from hitting the hot asphalt. 
Limoncello, the perfect way to end an Italian dinner and help digest a heavy meal. Keep glasses in the freezer, ready to serve.
What you need:
750mls 90 proof vodka
8-10 lemons
one cup of water
3/4 cup of sugar
How to make:
1: Remove the skins of lemons, do not to include the pith. Place the lemon skins in a jar large enough to include skins and vodka (about one litre capacity). It is beneficial to use a jar with a compressed flip lid with large opening. Pour in vodka, seal and place in a dark cool place for two weeks
2: Drain the liquid through a fine sieve, pour liquid in a bottle.  Make sugar syrup by putting the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow to cool, then add to the lemon vodka in bottle. Again, allow to sit in a dark, cool place for two weeks
3: Transfer to fridge and serve with liquor glasses straight from the freezer
NOTE: You can add more or less water or sugar depending on your taste. I like my limoncello not too sweet, this is a good recipe for a tart limoncello

Friday, August 17, 2012

Acini di pepe in brodo (pasta in broth)

This one is perfect for combating the sniffles that seem to be prevalent during these cold winter months. Making this soup actually reminds me of making it for a friend last year in Italy as he was suffering from a severe case of 'man flu'. He requested it on a cold blistery day, but it had to be just as his Mamma makes it. It is the same concept as 'tortellini in brodo' (refer to recipe), but the tortellini is replaced with the cutest little balls of pasta called 'acini di pepe' which translates to peppercorns. As mentioned in my post for tortellini in brodo, it is common in the south of Italy to add freshly squeezed lemon juice and chili flakes. I think it also works perfectly in this instance. A concept my Tuscan friends initially found bizarre, but have embraced. I think for the purpose of fighting a cold, the chili helps clear the nose and the lemon add freshness. Of course, no matter what region you are from in Italy it is would be sacrilegious not to add freshly grated parmesan. A bowl of this humbling soup will have you feeling better in no time. 
What you need:
one cup of acini di pepe 78 (available from delicatessen's)
one litre of homemade vegetable or chicken stock
sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan
optional:
lemon
chill flakes
How to make:
1:  Make home-made vegetable or chicken broth (refer to my broth recipe)
2: Bring one litre of broth to the boil, add 1/2- 1 cup of pasta (depending on if you prefer more pasta or broth). I add about 3/4 of a cup
3: Cook with a lid on for about 10 minuets, according to directions on the packet of pasta
4: Serve immediately, squeeze some lemon juice, chili flakes and grate parmesan
In Verona, Italy during Winter

Friday, August 10, 2012

Torta al arancia (Orange cake)

Facile, facile, facilissima (easy, easy, very easy). Really, this cake is so easy to make. It is also extremely moist and juicy. Using blood red oranges gives the cake a certain bitterness which is complimentary against the semi sweet cake batter. Blood red is the perfect colour description for these typical Italian oranges, they are so intensely rich. Vibrant juice flies everywhere when slicing them, including getting covered in it. This actually makes me happy as the colour and scent is amazing. Also the house fills with zesty goodness as it bakes happily in the oven, a perfect mood lifter. This really is one of my favourite cakes, I love dousing the cake with orange syrup at the final stage. It is just so pretty, almost to good to cut.
I recently cooked mini versions of this for a prestigious local restaurant, adding a little cracked pepper on top, and serving it with a blood orange reduction and a side of homemade goats milk gelato....it was certainly a crowd pleaser.
What you need: 
250g and two tablespoons of sugar
250g flour tipo 00
250g unsalted butter
six organic eggs
1/2 tablespoon baking powder 
orange zest
four blood oranges sliced (or used the variety in season)
25g butter
Syrup:
juice of one orange
100g sugar
How to make:
1: Line a round baking tin with baking paper. Finely cube 25g of butter and place smalls cubes at the bottom of tin, sprinkle with two tablespoons of sugar. Slice oranges, then place on top of sugar and butter in the design of your choice
2: Beat together the sugar and eggs, pour in melted warm butter and blend
3: Sift in the flour and baking powder, and zest of orange. Blend together and pour into baking tin over oranges
4: Place in a pre-heated 180 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes or until baked
5: Heat sugar and lemon juice together until melted. Use a skewer to prick cake several times, then pour over sugar syrup while still in cake tin. Allow the sugar syrup to thoroughly soak into cake, about 30 minutes.
6: Remove cake from tin and present up-side down to reveal the gorgeous fruit design on top

Thursday, August 9, 2012

pesce al cartoccio (fish baked in a 'bag')

Fresh, flavoursome, fast, it's fish! Not to mention nutritious, but that does not start with F. I love cooking foods in their whole form, I feel it is a sign of respect to the species. It is wonderful to be able to present a whole fish to a dining table. The snapper I cooked in this recipe is a baby in comparison. When holidaying in Sardinia I had the pleasure of staying with a chef from Milan, we spent many hours in the kitchen. This recipe is inspired by him as he added white wine to the mix. There are many ingredients you can add, in the south of Italy it is common to add capers and olives. In any case you should always buy your fish from a trusted fish monger and it's even better if it's the catch of the day (kindly ask them to gut and descale for you). This fish literally melts in your mouth and is so delicious from being cooked in a juicy cocoon. Enjoy with a glass of white wine, and dream of Sardinia. Make sure to soak up the tasty juices with some crusty bread!
 What you need:
1: About 600grams of snapper (or similar white fleshed fish)
2: A bunch of truss tomatoes 
3: two small lemons sliced
4: one small chili sliced
5: handful of garlic
6: 1/4 cup of flat leaf parsley
7: 1/8 cup of olive oil
8: 1/8 cups of white wine
9: salt and black cracked black pepper
How to make:
1: Score the fish a few times on each side, this will allow the flavours to penetrate. Place fish on baking paper, large enough to envelop fish
2: Chop the chili, garlic, parsley, add lemon zest. Add oil and wine. Generously rub mixture on fish, making sure every surface is covered
3: Top with lemon slices, whole un-peeled garlic and tomatoes. Fill cavity with lemon slices. Wrap fish in baking paper and tie each end to act as a cocoon 
4: Place in pre-heated 180 degree oven for about 25 minutes
5: Served immediately 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Panna cotta (cooked cream)

Panna cotta is a literal translation for cooked cream, and that is literally what this desert is. A simple unctuous combination of vanilla and cream. This recipe is the result of many months of trials and tribulations. My goal, trying to get the panna cotta to consist of the same wobbly yet firm texture of my belly. Maybe my belly has a little more wobble after all the panna cotta testings? I have experimented with various creams, different sugar and gelatin amounts. The cream 'panna' in Italy has a rather watery consistency unlike the thickened creams available in Australia. If you follow this simple recipe precisely you will achieve a perfect 'Kara belly wobble' style panna cotta, just the way it should be. The spoon just glides through the delicate wobbly mound. Don't be tempted to add various berries, nuts or sauces to it. I feel that they detract from the simple silken beauty and gorgeous aroma and flavour of the vanilla bean.

What you need:
600g organic light pouring cream (yes, I used light)
150g sugar
one vanilla pod
two gelatin sheets 


How to make:
1: Soak gelatin sheets in cold water for about five minutes
2: Cut vanilla bean down centre and scrape out vanilla 
3: Heat cream, sugar and vanilla pod with scarped out vanilla. Heat over a low heat, do not bring to the boil
4: Just before boiling point add the gelatin and stir until dissolved
5: Strain and pour mixture in cup moulds, allow to set in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours. Do not use plastic moulds, ceramic or metal is preferred
6: One at a time place moulds into hot water for a few seconds allowing the cream to slightly melt and come away from the mould. Do not leave in the hot water for too long as the cream will melt and run over the place, keep your eye on it. Once it has slightly come away from the edge turn out on serving plate
7: I simply decorated with rosemary leaves
Gelatin sheets soaked in water
I ordered my gelatin sheets from this web-site:
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/GELATIN-SHEETS-Gold-Leaf-Gelatin-15-Pieces-/230768986330?pt=AU_Food&hash=item35bae748da#ht_2952wt_1101

Plate featured in photographs made my me

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Schiacciata alla Fiorentina (sweet bread from Florence)

This bread was originally enjoyed around the time of carnivale, and who does not love the festivities of carnivale? However it is now a specialty found in bakeries annually in Florence. Although this looks like a cake it is actually a sweet bread. Most bakeries sell many versions of this both sweet and savoury and sell them in large rectangular slabs (refer to my recipe Schiacciata for basic version). Once you decide your option they will cut the amount you require, it's a great system as you can select your desired piece, corner or middle. Schiacciata is the word used in Florence for foccacia. When I have ordered Schiacciata in other region's in Italy, I have been told "I am not in Florence now". I first discovered the sweet version of this bread when I was travelling to another country and I wanted to bring my host an authentic gift from Florence. I was advised that this was the ultimate gift to present. Needless to say it was greatly accepted.
Although this is simple to make it is labour intensive. Make sure you are happy to roll your sleeves up and ready for a workout. I know most of you will be mortified to see that this requires lard, but try to remember that this is an old school recipe and is the traditional way of making it. Also remember, that you only need a slither. Enjoy with a coffee as a snack!
About a matchbox size of fresh yeast 20g
very elastic dough, final result 
What you need:
500g tipo 00 flour
20g fresh yeast (purchase from bakery)
300g water
two organic eggs
pinch of salt
125g sugar
150g lard
zest of one orange
How to make:
1: Whisk the yeast and water together, pour over sifted flour in a large bowl. Use a spoon to combine, when dough comes to together start to use your hands. Transfer to a lightly floured bench and knead for about five minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with tea towel and let rest in a warm place for an hour- allowing dough to double in size
2: Punch dough down, add eggs, sugar, salt and zest. Dough will separate and look like a mess, you need to get your hands dirty. Use your hands to mix all ingredients together this will take about 10-15 minuets (it is labour intensive). You could use a dough hook but I like to feel the dough. The dough will come together, smooth and elastic.
3: Once the dough has been combined, add the room temperature lard and again use your hands to combine, this will only take 1-2 minuets
4: Place the dough in a large rectangular baking pan lightly greased with some lard and sprinkled with flour. Cover with a tea towel and allow dough to rest in baking pan for two hours- dough will rise double in size
5: Place in a pre-heated 180 degree oven for about 30 minutes until cooked through
6: Remove, allow to cook, then sprinkle with icing sugar. Use the Florentine symbol if you desire

Symbol for Florence, use for stencil
At the theatre in Florence- Teatro di Firenze