22 August, 2013

Blueberry and Mirto Jam

Blueberry jam with Mirto liqueur

I find such a huge pleasure in making jams at home that if I only had a possibility to get good quality fruit at reasonable price I think my house would be invaded by jars of all colours.
This year I got a little lazy and made only Strawberry Vanilla Jam, but, hey, at least three batches (if I remember well). And I got really sad when I realized the other day that all the apricot jam I made last year was gone (and I made quite a lot last year) and the apricot season is well over where I live. Perhaps it's still not too late to make some Peach jam instead.
There was, however, one jam that I never made - blueberries. I know there are mountains not far where they grow, but I never went blueberry picking myself. Those would be to die for. And would end up not only in jam but in my favourite liquer ever, Mirtillino.
To my surprise, a couple weeks ago I saw fresh blueberries sold at much lower price than I'm used to (at least 1/2 or 1/3 of the usual price), so I asked immediately for 1 kg. The girl looked at me all confused and asked me 3 or 4 times to confirm that I asked for such a "big" quantity. The high price was the main reason why I never made blueberry jam at home and I was definitely not letting go of this opportunity.
Since I normally like to add some fresh herbs to kick up the flavour of fruit, I was unsure what to do this time. To add some rosemary or thyme as usual? No, I wanted something different. I had seen a recipe once for blueberry jam with myrtle twigs added to aromatize it, but where on Earth could I find myrtle? As far as I know it grows only in Sardinia... And there I had a flash. The bottle of Mirto liqueur we brought from Sardinia a couple years ago. I love this liqueur. One of my favourite digestives. And so, a little part of it ended up in this jam. The result? Fantastic, fabulous, yummiest blueberry jam ever.

Blueberry jam with Mirto liqueur

A few words about the method I use. For the last 3 or 4 years, the industrial pectin has definitely disappeared from my kitchen. I never use any for the jams I make at home.
And if you thought the alternative was sweating for hours over the cooker, I'll prove you wrong.
First of all, I start the preparation in the evening. Wash, clean and eventually chop the fruit.
Then I mix it with sugar - I normally stay in the range of 350-400 g of sugar per 1 kg of fruit.
I let the fruit macerate in the fridge overnight and then proceed the following day.
By separating the pulp from the juice, and cooking the juice alone in the first phase, you actually save time and you don't torture the pulp later cooking it for hours.
As far as the help from pectin, I find the pectin naturally present in lemon skins and seeds works much better than the industrial powder. Ok, you may argue that with that powder jam is cooked faster, but it's the consisteny that bothers me. Naturally cooked jam has that rustic, thick consistency. If you heat it it won't turn into water like the store bought one or the homemade jam cooked with the addition of industrial pectin. If you use it as a filling for cookies or crostatas or croissants or  crescents, it won't simply turn into water and leak out or evaporate. On the contrary, even after baking you'll have the pleasure to enjoy it at it's best.
And I repeat, you will obtain this result in relatively short time, without actually slaving over it for hours.
I hope, really hope you'll give this method a chance and forget about industrial pectin for ever, like I have.


Blueberry jam with Mirto liqueur


Blueberry jam with Mirto liqueur

(ingredients for 600 ml or 800 g jam)
* 1 kg fresh blueberries
* 300 g fructose (or 400 g sugar)
* 2 lemons (juice, skins and seeds)
* 50 ml Mirto liqueur

Carefully wash the blueberries and remove all impurities.
Put the blueberries in large enough container with a lid. Stir in the fructose (or sugar), cover and let macerate in the fridge for 12-24 hours. Try to stir the fruit several times during this period to make sure the sugar melts evenly.
When ready to make your jam, separate the pulp from the juice pouring everything into a colander placed over the pot you'll be using to cook the jam.
Start cooking the juice first over medium heat until it starts caramelizing and has a consistency of a thick syrup, approx. 20-25 minutes.
In the meantime, peel the yellow zest from the lemons (you may discard it, unless using organic lemons, in that case save it for cakes or other). Cut the peeled lemons in half and squeeze all the juice.
Add the juice to the blueberry pulp. The empty  skins and the seeds will serve as a source of pectin, so make a little bundle tying them up in a piece of cheesecloth.
When the fruit juice has turned into a syrup, add the blueberry pulp and the lemon bundle in. Cook the jam stirring often over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes. Remove the skins and seeds trying to squeeze as much of the juices they've absorbed as possible (I recommend using a potato ricer if possible, it's the easiest and safest way ).
Continue cooking the jam for 5 more minutes and then remove from heat. Add the Mirto liqueur and fill the warm, sterilized jars with hot jam.
Turn the jars upside down to create the vacuum and let them cool down completely in this position. Turn them in normal position, label and store in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate the jam only after opening.
*To sterilize the jars, put the perfectly washed and dried jars into a cold oven. Turn it on to 110°C and leave the jars in for all the time the jam is being cooked. To sterilize the lids, I leave them immersed in alcohol and just take them out later without rinsing or drying them on the inside.



Blueberry jam with Mirto liqueur


Confettura di mirtilli con Mirto

(per 600 ml o 800 g di confettura)
* 1 kg di mirtilli freschi
* 300 g di fruttosio (o 400 g di zucchero)
* 2 limoni (succo, bucce e semi)
* 50 ml di liquore Mirto

Pulite e lavate i mirtilli. Metteteli in un contenitore con coperchio, aggiungete il fruttosio (o zucchero), mescolate bene e mettete a macerare in frigo per 12-24 ore. Durante questo tempo cercate di mescolarli più volte per far sì che lo zucchero si sciolga bene.
Trascorso questo tempo, separate la polpa dal succo che si è creato filtrandola attraverso un colino.
Mettete il succo in una pentola e cuocetelo a fuoco medio per circa 20 minuti (o poco più) finché cominci a caramellare e assumere l'aspetto di uno sciroppo denso.
Nel frattempo, sbucciate i limoni togliendo solo la parte gialla con un coltello o sbucciapatate. *se avete i limoni biologici, sfruttate le bucce per dolci o altro, altrimenti scartatele.
Tagliate i limoni a metà, spremete il succo e aggiungetelo alla polpa di mirtilli. Le bucce vuote e i semi, invece, raccoglieteli e legateli dentro un pezzo di garza. Questo pacchetto e la fonte di pectina e serve per far addensare la confettura.
Quando il succo che state cuocendo ha iniziato ad addensarsi, aggiungete la polpa con il succo di limone e il pacchetto con le bucce e semi.
Cuocete la confettura per circa 20-30 minuti mescolando spesso. Togliete il pacchetto con le bucce e spremetelo bene per far uscire più succo possibile (consiglio di usare lo schiacciapatate), lasciate cuocere per altri 5 minuti fino a raggiungere la densità desiderata (considerate il fatto che la confettura diventerà ancora più densa raffreddandosi). Togliete dal fuoco e aggiungete il Mirto.
Versate la confettura ancora calda nei vasetti caldi e sterilizzati. Chiudete i vasetti, girateli a testa in giù e lasciateli raffreddare in questa posizione. Una volta freddi, rigirateli e conservate la confettura in un luogo fresco e asciutto (dopo l'apertura conservatela nel frigorifero).
Per sterilizzare i vasetti, inseriteli ben lavati e asciugati nel forno freddo. Accendete poi il forno a 110°C e teneteli così per tutto il tempo che la confettura si sta cuocendo. Per sterilizzare i coperchi invece, li metto nel alcol per 15-20 minuti senza sciacquarli o asciugarli dopo.
Nella mia esperienza, confetture preparate in questo modo si conservano benissimo anche per 2 anni. Appena preparate hanno un colore bellissimo, e la consistenza fantastica (cambia naturalmente con il tipo di frutta). E completamente naturale e senza conservanti, ma si conserva benissimo anche se non avete una cantina o altro luogo fresco in casa come me. 

Blueberry jam with Mirto liqueur


Pekmez od borovnica s Mirtom

(za 600 ml ili 800 g pekmeza)
* 1 kg svježih borovnica
* 300 g fruktoze (ili 400 g šećera)
* 2 limuna (sok, kore i sjemenke)
* 50 ml likera Mirto

Pažljivo operite borovnice, odstranite eventualne listiće i/ili druge nečistoće.
Stavite ih u veću plastičnu posudu s poklopcem. Dodajte fruktozu (ili obični šećer) promiješajte poklopite i stavite u hladnjak na 12-24 sata. Tijekom tog vremena, nastojte promiješati voće nekoliko puta da se šećer bolje istopi.
Kad ste spremni kuhati pekmez, uspite voće u cjedilo i odvojite pulpu od soka koji je voće pustilo.
Stavite sok u lonac i kuhajte ga na srednje jakoj vatri 15-20 minuta, sok će se početi lagano zgušnjavati u sirup.
U međuvremenu ogulite limunovima vanjsku, žutu koricu (skinite tanki sloj) i odbacite je (ako vam je limun neprskani iskoristite je naravno za kolače, kekse itd.). Prepolovite limunove i iscijedite sok iz njih, ali sačuvajte sjemenke.
Naprevite zavežljajčić od gaze u koji stavite iscijeđene polovice limuna i sjemenke.
Kad se sok lagano zgusnuo u sirup dodajte pulpu borovnica, sok limuna  i zavežljajčić s limunovim koricama i sjemenkama.
Kuhajte dalje 20-30 minuta. Izvadite zavežljajčić s limunom i dobro ga iscijedite jer upije dosta pekmeza. Najlakše je to napraviti tijeskom za krumpir.
Kuhajte pekmez još pet minuta, maknite s vatre, umiješajte liker, a zatim ga sipajte još vrućeg u tople, sterilizirane staklenke.
Da biste sterilizirali staklenke, stavite ih dobro oprane i posušene u hladnu pećnicu. Uključite pećnicu na 110°C u trenutku kad počnete kuhati pekmez i neka stoje tako dok pekmez nije gotov.
Kad ste usuli pekmez u staklenke, zatvorite poklopcima i okrenite ih naopako. Na taj način će se stvoriti vakuum i ujedno poklopci sterilizirati od topline pekmeza. Kad se pekmez potpuno ohladi vratite staklenke u normalan položaj i spremite ih u ostavu.

* Svrha korica limuna (samo bijelog dijela) i sjemenki je brže zgušnjavanje pekmeza, budući da i jedno i drugo prirodno sadrže pektin. Dakle služe kao prirodna zamjena za prah želin. Može vam se tijekom kuhanja činiti da je pekmez previše rijedak, ali će se hlađenjem dodatno zgusnuti, stoga nemojte pretjerati s ukuhavanjem (govorim iz iskustva).
* Ako volite pekmez bez komadića voća, prije nego ga sipate u staklenke kratko ga promiksajte štapnim mikserom.

Blueberry jam with Mirto liqueur

10 August, 2013

Vegetable Crumble


Vegetable Crumble

You probably don't expect a food blogger to ever run out of ideas for a meal. But the truth is, it happens often, more often than I like to admit. Mostly because I'm totally disorganized when it comes to meal planning. My husband often critisizes me for this reason, saying we'd also save money not only time if I decided to make a weekly meals plan. But it's just not me. I mean planning in general. I feel like it kills the creativity.
I like shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables and it is then that I decide what I want to make with those lovely little summer zucchini, or cherry tomatoes, or peaches or whatever is in season and whatever looks fresh and good.
The other side of the medal is that sometimes I buy too much and either forget there are things burried at the bottom of vegetable box or for whatever other reason (lazyness, heat...) I don't get to cook them in time, that is before they turn bad.
And there are times, again, when I'd like to make something with zucchini, and there's only one left. I'd like to prepare some asparagus, but there's only a few left. Or that head of broccoli that's almost turned yellow, but there's still a few florets that can be saved. Well for those odd times I've found a delicious solution. A mixed vegetable crumble.
You can simply mix anything you like, and toss in the oven with some nice, golden cheesy topping. In a matter of minutes, with less effort than you can imagine, a delicious meal or side dish is served.
You can prepare one big dish to divide later, or divide into single serving baking dishes before baking it. Choose the veggies you like, don't feel forced to use something you don't like.

 Vegetable crumble

* about 1/2 kg (1lb) mixed fresh vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, shallots, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower- depending on season or whatever you have or like)
* fresh marjoram leaves
* extra virgin olive oil
for crumbs:
* 50 g flour
* 30 g grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese
* 35 g cold butter

Wash and clean the vegetables. Cut them into larger chunks. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and remove the seeds with a finger.
Warm up a little olive oil in a skillet and add the shallots first, then everything else. Sauté the vegetables on medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Lightly oil a baking dish and put the vegetables in.

               Vegetable Crumble Vegetable Crumble

Sprinkle some fresh marjoram leaves over the vegetables.
For the crumbs, mix the flour with the grated cheese. Rub in the cold butter to form crumbs. Sprinkle them over the vegetables.
Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C for about 30 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown.


Vegetable Crumble


Crumble di verdure

* circa 1/2 kg di verdure (broccoli, asparagi, zucchine, cipollotti, pomodorini, cavolfiore - quello che avete o più vi piace)
* maggiorana fresca
* olio extra vergine d'oliva
per il crumble (briciole):
* 50 g farina
* 30 g pecorino o parmigiano gratuggiato
* 35 g burro freddo

Lavate e pulite le verdure. Tagliatele in pezzi non troppo piccoli. Tagliate i pomodorini a metà e togliete i semi con un dito.
Scaldate un po' di olio in una padella, aggiungete prima i cipollotti e poi tutte le altre verdure e saltatele a fuoco medio per 5-10 minuti. Conditele con sale e pepe.
Ungete leggermente una pirofila da forno con un po' di olio e trasferitevi le verdure saltate.
Distribuite le foglioline di maggiorana sopra le verdure.
Per le briciole, mescolate prima la farina con il formaggio grattugiato. Aggiungete il burro freddo a tocchetti e strofinate con le mani per ottenere delle briciole irregolari. Cospargetele sopra le verdure.
Mettete i crumble a cuocere nel forno già caldo a 180°C per circa 30 minuti o finché le briciole non sono dorate.


Vegetable Crumble


Povrtni crumble

* oko 1/2 kg različitog svježeg povrća (brokula, šparoge, tikvice, mladi luk, cherry rajčice, karfiol - što imate i volite)
* svježi mažuran
* maslinovo ulje
za mrvice:
* 50 g brašna
* 30 g naribanog pecorina ili parmigiano
* 35 g hladnog maslaca

Povrće operite i narežite na krupnije komade. Rajčice samo prepolovite i prstom odstranite sjemenke.
Zagrijte u tavi malo ulja pa dodajte povrće - prvo mladi luk, pa zatim i ostalo. Pirjajte miješajući na srednje jakoj vatri 5-10 minuta.
Posolite i popaprite po ukusu
Malo nauljite vatrostalnu posudu i rasporedite povrće u ravnomjernom sloju (ili rasporedite u individualne posudice).
Pospite listiće mažurana preko povrća i pospite mrvicama.
Za mrvice pomiješajte brašno i naribani sir. Dodajte hladan maslac narezan na listiće pa ga utrljajte u smjesu od brašna da dobijete mrvice.
Pecite oko 30 minuta u pećnici zagrijanoj na 180°C ili dok mrvice ne dobiju zlatno žutu boju.

06 August, 2013

Peach and Amaretti Lattice Pie... HB to me!!!


Peach and Amaretti PIe

What's the beauty of turning 41? If you look at the glass half full it's everything that surrounds me. Me myself (Hey, I'm still here, life is beautiful!!!)... my three kids and husband (just one look at all of them fills my heart with joy and happiness, peace and... oh, well, they're not always angels, but they are mine, and I love them as they are)... little everyday things that make part of my life, little aches and sorrows, losses and gains.
Life's making slow and steady progress and I sincerely hope to be sitting here at 82, with a couple grandchildren in my lap to tell you about the beauty of still being here :)))
Yes, I turned 41 yesterday. Jeez, the number scares me a little bit, I admit. That's when think about the glass half empty. Sometimes I wish my kids wouldn't repeat it for days, I'd rather just sleep for two days and wake up not thinking about it at all. And when one of your friends turns 27 (27!!?) and the kids shout, "Wow, she's so young and you're already 40!? Life is good, no matter what...

Peaches

And here we go. Usually we're away from the beginning of August and I never get to make a birthday cake for myself. This year we are still in town, Torturing ourselves, because the heat is so unbearable that even with the AC on I'm breathing rather like a fish out of water. Just few more days and this fish will be swimming in the crystal clear sea waters, but until then... I even had to give up an idea of baking myself a cake.
But luckily, I have something  I managed to bake last week to offer.
And it was so good that you won't be sorry if you decide to make it. The idea came from a food magazine, I just thought that if I replaced the puff pastry from the original recipe with a nice, flaky pie crust, the hole thing would take a step forward to a new level.
And it did. I enjoyed every little bite of it. My diet and my perfect bikini look got closed in a drawer. Hell, that's the beauty of being 41, you don't have to prove anything to anyone. You get to enyoy lots of sweet little things in life, you can always start dieting tomorrow. I still look good to myself and I'm happy.
Have a good day folks. If I don't get too busy preparing vacation bags, I'll get back to you with a new recipe before I leave, or at least leave you with something to read while I'm away.

Peach and Amaretti PIe


Peach and Amaretti Lattice Pie

Pie crust:
* 200 g flour
* 1 TB spoon brown sugar
* 110 g cold butter
* 6-7 TB spoons ice cold water
Filling:
* 60 g amaretti cookies - approx. 18-20 pc.
* 2 big peaches (ripe but firm)
* 2 TBspoons sugar
* 1 egg
* 40 g powdered sugar
* 50 g almond meal
* 20 g rum

Prepare the pie crust:
Put the flour and the sugar in a food processor and mix shortly (pulse a few times).
Add cold butter cut into cubes and pulse again several times to get just coarse crumbs.
Add 2 TB spoons of very cold water at a time and pulse in between.
To get a good, flaky pie crust it is important not to overmix and heat butter, so it melts. If in the end you can see flakes of butter throughout the dough that's perfectly fine.
Drop the dough on a piece of plastic wrap, just bring everything into a ball without kneading it. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 or 3 days).

Prepare the filling:
Peel the peaches and cut them into 1 - 1,5 cm thick wedges.
Combine the caster sugar with 1 TB spoon of water in a skillet and heat stirring until the sugar's melted. Add the peaches and cook them in the syrup just enough to make them a little soft zatim. Remove from heat and let them cool.
Beat the egg with the powdered sugar until creamy.
Stir in the almond meal and in the end the rum.

Take 2/3 of the dough and roll it thin into a rectangle.  Press it into a 35x10 pie/crostata mould.
Put the amaretti cookies on the bottom.
Pour the almond batter over the cookies.
Arrange the peach wedges over the batter.

        Peach and Amaretti PIe    Peach and Amaretti PIe    Peach and Amaretti PIe

Roll out the remaining 1/3 of the dough and cut a lattice with the approprite lattice cutter or a simple knife following the pattern in the picture (otherwise just cut into strips and make a woven lattice top). It's easier to work with the chilled dough, so if it has softened, refrigerate it again after you've rolled it out.
Transfer the lattice top and cover the filling.

                                 Peach and Amaretti PIe     Peach and Amaretti PIe

Brush the top lattice with a little milk or egg wash or (like I did) with the syrup you cooked peaches in and sprinkle with some brown sugar.l
Bake the pie in the oven preheated to 180°C for about 40 minutes.

Peach and Amaretti PIe

Pie alle pesche e amaretti

Pasta:
* 200 g di farina 00
* 1 cucchiaio di zucchero di canna
* 110 g di burro freddo
* 6-7 cucchiai di acqua molto fredda
Ripieno:
* 60 g di amarett - circa 18-20 biscotti.
* 2 pesche grandi (mature, ma sode)
* 2 cucchiai di zucchero semolato
* 1 egg
* 40 g di zucchero a velo
* 50 g di farina di mandorle
* 20 g di rum


Preparate la pasta:
Mettete la farina e lo zucchero nel robot da cucina e pulsate un paio di volte.
Aggiungete il burro freddo tagliato a cubetti e pulsate di nuovo per qualche secondo senza esaggerare, dovete ottenere delle briciole piuttosto irregolari e grossolane.
Aggiungete l'acqua molto fredda, 2 cucchiai alla volta pulsando qualche volta dopo ogni aggiunta.
La cosa importante per ottenere un buon impasto è non mescolare troppo per non permettere al burro di ammorbidirsi troppo. Se alla fine i pezzetti di burro sono ancora visibili nel impasto, tanto meglio.
Rovesciate l'impasto su un pezzo di pellicola alimentare e raccoglietelo formando una palla senza impastare, però. Avvolgete la pasta e riposatela in frigo per almeno due ore (o fino a 2-3 giorni).

Preparate il ripieno:
Sbucciate le pesche e tagliatele a fette spesse 1 - 1,5 cm.
Mettete lo zucchero semolato con 1 cucchiaio d'acqua in una padella e scaldatelo finché non si sia sciolto. Aggiungete le pesche e fatele cuocere nello sciroppo fino ad ammorbidirle un po'. Toglietele dal fuoco e lasciatele raffreddare nello sciroppo.
Sbattete bene l'uovo con lo zucchero a velo.
Aggiungete la farina di mandorle e rum.

Prendete  2/3 di pasta e stendetela sottile con un mattarello formando un rettangolo. Rivestite con la pasta stesa uno stampo rettangolare per crostate (35x10 cm).
Distribuite gli amaretti interi sul fondo.
Versate la crema alle mandorle sopra i biscotti e distribuitela uniformemente.
Arrangiate le pesche sopra la crema.
Stendete la pasta rimanente e incidetela con il rullo per losanghe oppure tagliatelo a strisce e formate una griglia sopra il ripieno.
Trasferite la griglia nello stampo coprendo  bene il ripieno.
Spennellate la griglia con un po' di latte o un uovo sbattuto con un po' di latte o (come ho fatto io) con lo sciroppo delle pesche.
Infornate la pie a 180°C per circa 40 minuti.

Peach and Amaretti PIe


Pita s breskvama i amarettima

Tijesto:
* 200 g brašna
* 1 žlica smeđeg šećera
* 110 g hladnog maslaca
* 6-7 žlica ledeno hladne vode
Nadjev:
* 60 g amaretta (keksića) - oko 18-20 kom.
* 2 breskve
* 2 žlice kristal šećera
* 1 jaje
* 40 g šećera u prahu
* 50 g mljevenih badema
* 20 g ruma

Priprema tijesta:
Stavite brašno i šećer u multipraktik i kratko izmiksajte.
Dodajte hladan maslac narezan na kockice i opet vrlo kratko izmiksajte (par sekundi).
Dodajte 2 po dvije žlice jako hladne vode (iz hladnjaka) i svaki put kratko izmiksajte.
Ne miksajte dugo da se maslac ne zagrije i ne otopi. Ako se i vide komadići maslaca u tijestu, u redu je.
Istresite tijesto na komad prozirne folije i prikupite sve u lopticu, ne mijesite, omotajte i stavite u hladnjak na par i sati (može stajati i dva, tri dana).

Priprema nadjeva:
Breskve ogulite i narežite na ne kriške debljine oko 1 - 1,5 cm.
Stavite u tavu kristal šećer s 1 žlicom vode i zagrijavajte da se šećer otopi. Dodajte zatim breskve i pažljivo miješajući kuhajte ih u sirupu tek toliko da malo odmeknu, ne da se raspadnu. Maknite s vatre i ostavite da se ohlade.
Umutite jaje sa šećerom u prahu.
Dodajte mljevene bademe i na kraju rum.
Odvojite 2/3 tijesta i razvaljajte ga tanko pa utisnite u niski kalup za crostate/pite. Moj kalup je 35x10 cm.
Preko tijesta rasporedite cijele amarette.
Prelijte smjesu s bademima preko amaretta.
Preko kreme rasporedite breskve.
Preostalu trećinu tijesta razvaljajte i narežite rešetku (odgovarajućom spravicom ili nožem) ili ako vam je lakše izrežite na uske trakice pa ih složite u rešetku.
Lagano raširite rešetku i prekrijte nadjev.
Uz pomoć kista premažite tijesto s malo mlijeka, jajetom razmućenim s malo mlijeka ili (kao ja) sirupom u kojem su se kuhale breskve, i pospite kristal šećerom.
Stavite peći pitu u pećnicu zagrijanu na 180°C oko 40 minuta.

Peach and Amaretti Pie


Peach and Amaretti PIe

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