An Italian cooking in England: food, photography, recipes.

Braised spring onions

Posted on April 13, 2014

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Today, I’m bringing you an easy, quick and tasty spring recipe. It comes straight to you from my mum’s repertoire, who, unlike my grandmothers, isn’t big on cooking – off the top of my head, I can’t think of more than 5 dishes that I consider ‘hers’ – but the few things that she makes, she makes well. My only addition to her incredibly simple recipe for braised spring, or new, onions is a bay leaf. It infuses the cooking water and gives a gentle aroma to the little liquid leftover at the bottom of the pot.

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As you may notice, the blog has had a little makeover lately. Last week I finally decided to put an end to all those tiny photos which had been annoying me for ages. The new layout is as simple and clean as the old one, but the pictures take centre stage now and all is a little bit more elegant. I couldn’t be happier with the result. Bear with me while I make the last few adjustments in the next few weeks – if you stumble on a post that looks a bit odd, chances are I’m working on it in the background and it’ll look like this one very, very soon. With this, I’ll leave you to what is probably one of the simplest recipes on the blog (hold on, these oranges may well win the round).


Braised spring onions

a bunch of plump, big spring onions
a tbsp or two of extra virgin olive oil
a bay leaf
salt & pepper

Wash, top and tail the onions. You want to end up with the bulbs only – the stems can be chopped and used in another recipe, or even frozen. Place the oil and onions in a pot, cover with a lid and place on medium heat to sizzle for about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf, salt and pepper, along with enough water to cover the onions until half-way through their height (if you only have a few onions and the pot is big, use less water). Cover and cook until tender – about 20 minutes. 5 minutes before the end, uncover the pot and let the water evaporate, so you’ll end up with a deliciously reduced cooking liquid. Serve hot.

Crostata Ivonne

Posted on March 31, 2014


My two grandmothers are both good cooks, albeit in different ways. They both cook for themselves every day, have fed their families (and extended families) for many years in the past (occasionally the present too) and both managed to easily cook up a feast for countless Christmases and other celebrations. My paternal grandmother is quick and a bit chaotic in the kitchen. She has a good repertoire of favourites (like her fantastic rabbit with polenta) but likes to improvise and she gets ideas from cookery magazines and TV programmes – to varying degrees of success, truth be told. My maternal grandmother’s kitchen is orderly and her dishes are well executed, simple traditional local recipes. She too has a repertoire, but hers is more traditional and fairly predictable, as the choice of dish will always be based on both the season and the occasion of the meal.

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Everybody seems to have memories of their grandmothers’ cakes and biscuits. This crostata comes from my maternal grandmother Ivonne. She only made it a couple of times for us – I’m not entirely sure where the recipe comes from in the first place. I remember her preparing it one year for my birthday party. I have no idea where the party was, but I can still see the large tray of crostata squares. I’ve never forgotten how addictively good they were. My friend Daniel called them ‘crack squares’, not without reason. I guess here you would call this a tray bake. It’s called crostata because, even though it’s square and not round, it has a shortbread-like base, and a topping. The topping itself is unusual. It’s a a bit like a loose and quite rough version of macarons batter, as it’s a mix of whipped egg whites, chopped nuts and sugar. And it does have a layer of jam between the base and the topping, so perhaps it’s not such a distant relative of the classic lattice-topped crostata. Of one thing you can be sure: it’s going straight in my repertoire.

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Crostata Ivonne

Ingredients for the base
250 gr butter, softened at room temperature
150 gr caster sugar
3 egg yolks
350 gr plain flour
50 gr ground rice
1 level tsp fine salt
Ingredients for the topping
200 gr almonds, or pistachios, or walnuts or hazelnuts, or a mix
200 gr caster sugar
2 egg whites
4 tbsp apricot jam

Make the base. Prepare a large, rectangular, shallow oven tray by lining it with baking parchment. I used a 38×26 cm tray, only about 2 cm high and it worked a treat. Anything with rougly the same measurements will be fine. Cream the butter in a bowl using a wooden spoon. When fluffy and airy, add the sugar and cream until you can’t feel any sugar granules on the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolks one by one, mixing after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix flour, ground rice and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture all at once, and slowly incorporate in until the mixure is sandy and even. Do not overmix. Spread the base in the baking tray and pat down, then even it out with a rolling pin and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170°C. When it’s ready, bake the base until golden brown – it took me about 20 minutes but start checking after 15. Take out and cool down.

While the base is in the oven, prepare the topping. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then chop the nuts (in a food processor or by hand), mix them with the sugar and add them in small batches to the egg whites. Spread the apricot jam on the crust base, then cover with the nuts mixture. Return to the oven (this time at 140°C) for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool in the baking tray for a couple of minutes, then cut into squares. Let it cool completely in the tray before taking out. The squares keep for a few days in an air-tight container.


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