January 31, 2011

Chocolate Puddle Cookies

This weekend was rather odd - a cyclone was supposed to hit Perth Sunday morning, but then changed to Sunday night, but then never came at all.  Instead, what we experienced was incredibly hot and humid weather, overcast with a bit of rain and thunderstorm elsewhere.  Outside it looked like winter, but it sure didn't feel that way. 

So with the overcast weather, I was in the mood to bake.  I’ve had this Chocolate Puddle Cookies recipe for a while now, and have waited for the right time to make it.  It originally came from 101 Cookbooks, but I found it looking through Everybody Likes Sandwiches 

These cookies were A-mazing!  They were hard and chewy on the outside, and soft and gooey on the inside.  Drool.

The batter makes 18 large cookies, and large they are, so feel free to make smaller ones and therefore double the amount (make sure to cook for only 10 minutes if making smaller ones).
The only thing I changed was the exclusion of sunflower seeds, as I didn’t feel they were right for this recipe.  I used very large eggs which made the batter quite runny, so I would suggest adding most of the egg whites, stir, and see if it needs more.  They will spread thinly when you drop them on the tray, but will soon rise in the oven.

3 cups icing sugar
/3 cup cocoa
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup of chocolate bits
1 cup of toasted almonds, chopped
1 cup of sunflower seeds (or another nut preference)
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180°C.

In a large bowl, add the icing sugar, cocoa and salt and mix well.  Add in the chocolate, nuts (and seeds is you like) and mix.  In another bowl, stir together the egg whites and vanilla, and then add to the cocoa and chocolate mixture, and mix well.

On a baking tray lined with baking paper, place 1 tablespoon size drops of the batter.  Leave a good amount of space between cookies as they will expand while cooking.

Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes or until the cookies lose their shine and become matte.  Let them cool before removing from the paper.  Repeat process until all cooked.

Make 18 large cookies.

January 27, 2011

Banana Bread

The smell of banana bread baking has to one of the greatest pleasures.  I make this loaf quite often as I tend to buy lots of bananas, but don't really get around to eating them.  I even have a couple of bananas in my freezer waiting for the next time I make this loaf!

The great thing about this recipe is it is soft and moist, and can last days without drying out.  It's also an ideal banana bread to freeze or toast.  The original recipe came from the Australian Women’s Weekly, but I have altered it slightly, as some of the methods seemed unnecessary.  The original called for 1 3/4 cups plain flour and a 1/4 cup of plain flour.  It also said to mix the wet ingredients separately, and then add to the dry.  I just prefer to add all the ingredients in the one bowl!  The recipe also called for 2 bananas but it works much better with 3. 

2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 teaspoon ground cinamon
2/3 cup brown sungar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
50g butter, melted and cooled
3 overripe bananas

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Line a loaf tin with non-stick baking paper.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon and sugar, breaking up any lumps of the brown sugar.  Add the eggs, milk, butter and bananas and mix until well combined.  Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and set aside in the pan for 5 minutes.  Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

January 25, 2011

Chilli Mussels

Chilli mussels are an year round dish - they work great in summer with some beers outside, but they are also a warming winter comfort food.  There are so many variations to chilli mussels – thick tomato sauce, light Asian broth, steamed chilli mussels, with white wine, red wine, lemon, herbs, the list goes on.  I prefer a simple tomato sauce, not to thick and chunky, not too runny, but ‘soupy’ enough to soak a crunchy piece bread in. 

I have written in the recipe to use a tomato passata – this is fresh tomatoes that have puréed into a smooth consistency.  My family make their own passata every year, so I haven’t ever used a store bought one, but I would recommend trying to avoid any with added herbs, salt etc.

A couple of notes about cooking the mussels:
  • Simmering times will differ from pot to pot.  When ready the sauce should have a silky texture, and the tomatoes should no longer be acidic.
  • Don’t be tempted to add salt - the water from the mussels with season the sauce.
  • Don’t try and open closed mussels – these are dead and shouldn’t be eaten.
  • If you like more chilli, garlic, oil, herbs, add them.
  • 3kg was plenty for 4 people; however there were a couple of other dishes consumed before the mussels, so 4kg could have worked too.

3-4 kg mussels, cleaned well
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 tin tomatoes
750ml tomato puree / passata
3 chilli’s, depending on your preference
Large handful of basil, chopped coarsely
Olive oil

In a large pot, sauté the garlic, onion and chilli with a good splash of olive oil.  When the onion becomes translucent, add the tin of tomatoes and the passata.  Fill the tin up half way with water and add to the pot.  Bring to the boil and cook on high for 10 minutes. 

After 10 minutes, reduce the sauce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until the acidity of the sauce is gone and you have a nice smooth sauce.  Add the mussels to the pot, give them a little stir and cover.  Give the pot a shake every now and then to get the mussels opening.  When all the mussel shells are open, they are cooked.  Add the basil and mix through well.

Serve with some fresh bread.

Serves 4.

January 21, 2011

Linguine with Zucchini, Basil, Lemon and Pine Nuts

Pasta.  Oh how I could live on you.  I’m a big pasta consumer, love it!  When I lived at home with my parents I used to eat it at least three times a week, and people always thought it was strange, but pasta is such a staple for an Italian household (I say Italian even though my mum is Australian and we live in Australia, but experience a meal with my family and it's clear which side is stronger).  It’s so quick and easy to cook, not to mention versatile.  At some stage I will post a recipe for a great pasta ragu which is my all time favourite, but for now I would like to share a little pasta dish I made last night.

I’ve had this recipe in my file for ages, maybe a good two years, and I’ve always wanted to make it.  I’m not sure who invented the recipe, but it did come from an old Madison magazine.  Last night while driving home I remembered it, so quickly popped into the shops to pick up a zucchini.  When I got home I realised the recipe called for baby spinach leaves as well, which I didn’t have, so I used fresh basil leaves instead.

The pasta was just lovely – light, zesty, and nutty.  A bit different from a traditional plate of pasta, but still very good.  At first I didn’t put any parmesan on top, but after a couple of mouthfuls I realised it needed it.

Linguine with Zucchini, Basil, Lemon and Pine Nuts
500g linguine
1 large zucchini, grated
Handful of basil, chopped coarsely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
40ml olive oil
Dried chilli flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan (to serve)

Cook the linguine in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and return to the pot. 

Turn the heat back on and add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and season well with the salt and pepper.  The pasta and zucchini will absorb the oil quickly so add more should it need it.  Toss everything well, and serve with grated parmesan.

Serves 4.

January 19, 2011

Mint & Apple Lamb with Crunchy Salad

I’ve been a bit quiet the past few days.  The weekend was full of eating food not cooked by me, so I haven’t had a new post until today.  Last night I had a couple of my favourite girls over for dinner, and after back and forth emails, I narrowed the meal preferences down to healthy, yummy, not containing nuts or coriander.  Easy enough.  So I flicked through my books and found a recipe in Donna Hay’s Seasons – mint and apple lamb with crunchy salad.  Yum!

I altered the original recipe slightly, for example I didn’t use radishes as I’m not the biggest fan.  I would have preferred to use fennel, but the fennel currently being sold in the shops is below average, so I settled with some fresh baby spinach which worked perfectly.  The recipe said to blanch the snow peas, but I completely misread this and served them fresh.  The recipe also called for dressing the salad with the hot apple sauce, but this would have caused my fresh spinach to wilt down and no longer be a salad.  So what I did is put the sauce in a separate bowl, and as the girls plated up, they could pour the dressing over the lamb and salad.  This worked well as the sauce had also cooled down slightly by then.

The meal was served with a warm crunchy baguette and a glass of rosé, and finished off with a delectable chocolate mousse made by Suzie.  (PS thank you Sara for the wine!)

8 x 75g lamb cutlets
Olive oil, for brushing
1 cup (250ml) apple juice
¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
150g snow peas (manage tout), trimmed and blanched
300g radishes, finely sliced
2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely sliced

Heat a frying pan over a high heat.  Lightly drizzle the lamb cutlets with olive oil, then place on the pan and cook for 3 minutes each side, or until lightly browned and cooked to your liking.  Set these aside on a plate and cover.

In the same pan, reduce the heat to medium, then add the apple juice, mint, salt and pepper.  Cook for a couple of minutes until the juice has slightly reduced.

In a bowl, add the sliced snow peas, radishes and celery (and spinach if you like) and toss to combine. 

You can add the apple mint sauce to the salad and toss, or add fresh to a plate, add the lamb, and drizzle the sauce over the plate.

Serves 4.

January 14, 2011

Zucchini Frittata

Wednesday night, come home late, fridge is empty.   I don’t know what the temperature was that night but it felt like 40°C – it was hot enough for me to go down to the shops later in the night and buy icy-poles!  A salad would have been perfect for dinner, but I had that for lunch, and I needed something filling, easy, quick.

Enter zucchini frittata.  I had a zucchini, I had eggs.  This is one of those dishes that bring back memories – Sunday lunch with the family, there’s the frittata, cold meats, sliced tomatoes drizzled with oil, salt and oregano, and some crusty bread.  If you have these items I suggest eating them for lunch one day because it truly is a simple Italian lunch that is easy and delicious.

So back to the frittata.  This is a really simple dish and you can pretty much adapt it to how you like.  Some options are:
  • Cooking a slice red capsicum with the zucchini.
  • Sauté a sliced red onion before cooking the zucchini. When you're ready to pour the egg mixture over, scatter the red onion over the zucchini first.
  • Add a handful of grated parmesan in the egg mixture – this will create a greater depth of flavour.

1 clove garlic, chopped finely
Half an onion, diced
1 zucchini, cubed
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Add a good splash of olive oil in a hot pan, and start sautéing the onion and garlic.  When the onions becomes slightly translucent, add the zucchini.  The zucchini will take around 10-15 minutes to cook.  Move the zucchini around when one side becomes golden.

Beat the eggs with a fork in a separate bowl, and season well with salt and pepper.

When the zucchini is completely golden, spread them evenly in the pan and pour the egg mixture over the top.  Turn the heat down, you don't want the eggs to cook too quickly and dry out.

Turn the grill on to medium.

When you find pockets of runny egg mixture, use a spatula to move the base of that section, which will allow the egg to run to the base of the pan.  When the base of the frittata is set, place the pan under a grill to finish cooking the top. 

Finish off with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.

Buon appetito!

January 12, 2011

Peach & Raspberry Tart

There is nothing quite like a homemade cake.  Not only do they taste better than a store bought cake, but more importantly there is a great satisfaction in knowing you made it yourself!  Baking for me is kind of therapeutic – from mixing the ingredients to watching people enjoy eating it.  This particular cake lasted around 24 hours before being devoured.  I even impressed a certain someone who claims to not eat cake, unless it’s chocolate!

The Peach & Raspberry Tart is definitely one of my favourite and so easy to make.  There is no tart crust to prepare and only a small amount of ingredients.  The batter is a thick silky consistency, that when topped with the fruit, sets firm and crunchy like a tart on the outside, but moist and delicious in the centre. 

This recipe comes from Donna Hay’s Off the Shelf, and the only adjustments I would make are the cooking times.  I use a slightly smaller baking tin which makes the cake higher, so my cooking time is closer 1 hour, 20 minutes.  Follow the recipe, and test with a skewer after 1 hour.  This cake will collapse ever so slightly, so try not to open the door while cooking.  And don't be
scared about the lack of milk or liquids - the fruit on top creates the moist centre.

125g butter, softened
1 cup castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 ½ cup self-raising flour, sifted
2 peaches, halved and cut into thin wedges
150g raspberries (frozen is fine)
2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C.  Line a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper.

In a bowl, add the butter sugar and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating in between.  Add the flour and fold in until well combined.  Pour the mixture into the tin, and top with the peaches and raspberries.  Sprinkle the icing sugar on top.

Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool before turning onto a wire rack.  Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream.

Serves 8 - 10

January 10, 2011

Italian Brown Rice Salad

This recipe originally came from the Women’s Weekly website, but I have changed it around a bit since then.  You can use whatever ingredients you have on hand, substitute ingredients etc (originally this recipe had spring onions and sun-dried tomatoes). 

This is great for either a BBQ or for a quick week time lunch (which is what made it for!).  I know this isn’t really me trying out a new recipe, but this version was a newie for me.  Enjoy!

2 cups of brown rice, cooked and cooled to room temperature
400g chicken, cubed and cooked
3 heaped tablespoons black chopped olives
¼ red onion, chopped finely
4 mushrooms, sliced finely
½ red capsicum, chopped
½ packet of feta, cubed or broken up
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or basil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
Good pinch of salt

Combine all the salad ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

Add the dressing ingredients into a jar, seal, and shake.  Add dressing to the salad and mix well.  Check for seasonings - you might need to add more salt / olive oil depending on ingredients used.

Serve at room temperature. 

January 8, 2011

Piri Piri Chicken

First recipe for the blog!  Oh so very excited to have uploaded this, not to mention I am actually carrying out my New Years resolution.  As most Australians may have noticed – Jamie is back on tv!  His 30 minute meals have me glued to the TV every night.  I am a big fan of Jamie and his food philosophy, and of the many recipes I have made of his pretty much all turn out successful.

His Piri Piri chicken (I thought it was Peri Peri?) intrigued me.  I don’t cook with chicken that often but after watching him make it, I was sold.

The recipe is for Piri Piri chicken, dressed potatoes, rocket salad, and quick Portuguese tarts.  I made all minus the tarts (too tired on a Wednesday night to make dessert).  The chicken was perfect – juicy, tender, crispy skinned and oozing with goodness.  I now want all my chicken to have crispy skin.  Seriously, good stuff.  Only downfall – it took more like an hour to make, but that might have been due to me sipping wine, aimlessly walking around the house, and enjoying every moment of the process.

Here is the recipe for the chicken (with a couple of changes by me), but I recommend making the potatoes too, as they were the perfect accompaniment, as was the simple salad to finish off the meal.

• 4 large chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
• 1 red pepper
• 1 yellow pepper
• 6 sprigs of fresh thyme

• 1 red onion
• 4 cloves of garlic
• 1–2 bird’s-eye chillies
• 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
• 2 lemons
• 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• a large bunch of fresh basil

Preheat the oven on to 200°C.

First things first, the sauce. 

Peel and roughly chop the red onion and add to the food processor or blender with 4 peeled cloves of garlic. Add the chillies (stalks removed), 2 tablespoons of paprika, the zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1 lemon. Add 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, a good pinch of salt and pepper, the large bunch of basil and a swig of water. Blitz until smooth.
Put the chicken thighs on a board skin side down, and slash the meat on each one a few times. Drizzle with olive oil and season, then put in the hot pan skin side down. Cook until golden underneath, then turn over. When cooked through, remove and set aside.
Slice the peppers into strips and add to the hot pan. Turn the heat down to medium and keep moving the peppers around. Cook for a few minutes.

Pour the piri piri sauce into a snug-fitting roasting tray. Place the chicken on top of the sauce (skin side up), then fill the remaining gaps with the peppers. Scatter over the sprigs of thyme, then put the tray into the middle of the oven.  Cook for around 10 minutes until sauce is bubbling.Serve with potatoes and salad.

Buon appetito!

January 7, 2011


2011 New Years resolution: start cooking the 1001 recipes I have collected. This is what I decided in December 2010. To make sure I don’t lose track of this mission, I have started this blog to document everything I make, whether a success or a failure.

So this is a little about me: my name is Natashia Bevilacqua. I have an Italian father, and an Australian mother, and I‘m from Perth, Western Australia. I’ve always been obsessed with good quality food, in particular, traditional rustic Italian / peasant food. Over the years I have collected numerous recipes from magazines, newspapers, the internet and friends and family, and I have purchased my weight in cook books. Always intrigued by the idea of making these recipes, I rarely find the time to actually carry it out.

Inspired by the many food blogs I visit every day, I have decided to give it a go myself!

I hope you enjoy this blog, and I welcome your feedback. Buon appetito!

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