Author Archives: Annalisa Barbieri

Bay-crushed roast potatoes

This is such an easy, but delicious, way to do roast potatoes if, like me, roast potatoes slightly daunt you (so many people have a theory on which way is best!). They’re also quite forgiving and if you can’t decide between roast/baked/mash, this is a bit of all of those.

Because, unlike with roasties, you don’t have to worry about breaching the crispiness, these lend themselves particularly well to meals where there’s juice or gravy to mop up. That said, the smashing does give these potatoes bits to delightfully crisp up. I originally got this from Delicious magazine.

For about four people you need:

1 kilo of small-ish waxy potatoes – I use Charlottes

Four tablespoons of olive oil (I use extra virgin but you don’t have to)

6-8 fresh bay leaves, ripped if you like

Method:

Oven to 200C. Get a roasting dish and line it with baking parchment – this really makes a difference. Wash but don’t peel the potatoes, put them in the tin with one tablespoon of the oil, mix well and roast for 30-40 minutes.

Now take the dish out of the oven and with a potato masher or a fork press down on the potatoes to gently smash them, you’re going for a genteel muddlement not Trump-style devastation. You want them flattened and a bit broken up to give you nice peaks. Now add the bay leaves and drizzle on the rest of the oil, add salt and pepper and mix together gently.

Put back in the oven for another 20 minutes, remove, toss them one more time and return them to the oven for another 10 minutes. If they’re not crispy around the edge and you’d like them to be you can turn the oven up to 220c for the last five minutes.

Crème brûlée rice pudding

Sometimes you keep a recipe hanging round for years, meaning to make it. And then you do, and you’re glad you did – keep the recipe and, eventually, make it. This is one such. Like a lot of people, I was late to like rice pudding. In my Italian family we tended to have more of a rice cake – served sliced. I mean I liked it but I didn’t love it. And then of course, the more sloppy rice pudding was served at school and was, like everything about school dinners aside from the fluted shortbread rounds we were occasionally served (which were nectar) – awful.

Anyway when I finally made this it was supremely good. The original recipe calls for light brown sugar for the topping for brûlée-ing but I don’t think it worked great. We have three blow torches, of various degrees of industry and I couldn’t really get any of them to do what I wanted, so in the end I shoved it under the grill. This recipe is originally from BBC Good Food, some time ago now..

75g butter

175g short-grain pudding rice

140g light muscovado sugar

500ml double cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

500-600ml full fat milk

Demerara for sprinkling on top to make the brûlée topping (optional but really good)

Get a large-ish sauce pan that can eventually take all the ingredients. Melt the 75g of butter until it starts sizzling and then add the rice. Stir the175g of rice around for 4-5 minutes until the butter starts to turn golden, then stir in the 140g muscovado sugar and cook for a few minutes more until the sugar starts to dissolve.

Now pour in the 500ml of cream, stir and boil gently unil all the sugar has dissolved and you have a thick butterscotch sauce, now gradually stir in 500ml of the milk and the vanilla.

Simmer all of this for 45 minutes, I stirred every three minutes to stop it catching at the bottom as it has a tendency to at the beginning. Towards the end the rice should feel cooked – not mushy – and if you need to add the extra 100ml of milk (I never need to). You should have what looks like a creamy risotto.

When it’s done pour into a shallow heat proof dish – I use a square Le Creuset. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and either blow torch or put it under a grill for about 5 minutes until the top is golden and set. This might not happen uniformly: don’t worry. It’s still delicious. TBH it’s still amazing without its brûlée hat.

I like this about 30 mins out of the oven, but it’s also good later, if kept at room temperature. It can of course be stored in the fridge – and should be if you are leaving it for more than a few hours – but give it a quick blast in the microwave before eating to loosen it, if you don’t have time to bring it back to room temperature. 

It’s delicious. 

Lemon bars

I needed to make “something lemony” for someone. And whilst I love lemony things I just couldn’t think of anything immediately, that wasn’t a huge lemon curd filled cake and ergo difficult for them to take home (I like to think of a present’s impact beyond the mere eating of it). I asked a bunch of people for their favourite lemon recipes, then decided to ignore all of them (sorry about that) and remembered seeing these amazing lemon bars somewhere.

I remember seeing Pioneer Woman (yes I love her) making some lemon bars and although her recipe looked good, and easy, and used a sheet pan (I love sheet pans) I just couldn’t be bothered to translate the recipe from cups ‘n’ spoons ‘n’ sticks into ounces so I went to good old BBC Good Food, which is where this recipe comes from.

Anyway, these are so good. I mean so good that they should be much harder to make. I use organic lemons for anything that uses zest since I read about how many chemicals citrus gets sprayed with. Shall we get on with the recipe?

The base

175g plain flour (I increasingly use spelt now)

50g rice flour

85g caster sugar

140g cold, diced butter

1 tablespoon of milk or cold water

Tiny pinch of salt

The filling

The zest of three lemons

200ml of lemon juice (for me this was the juice of four lemons)

3 eggs

200g caster sugar – don’t skimp on this

25g plain flour

Icing sugar to dust although good luck getting yours to settle, mine didn’t, it was like December snow.

Oven to 200C. Line a 21/22cm square tin with baking parchment. It’s really worth cutting out the bottom and sides so you get nice, neat, sides. I didn’t. I was lazy and just scrunched a sheet in there so it sort of bunched up round the corners and ended up with unsatisfactory lemon bar-sides. Tsk. Dot a tiny bit of butter to the baking parchment so it sticks to the tin, otherwise when you pour in the lemon mixture the parchment sides will collapse and you will cry.

Put the flours, sugar and butter in a bowl and cut with a pastry cutter or put in a food processor and pulse until it’s like fine crumbs. Now add the milk/water. The beauty of this is no rolling out. Just pile everything into the tin and press down well. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.

Remove the base from the oven, and lower the oven down to 180C.
Now whisk together the lemon juice and eggs and into that sieve the flour (do this otherwise: danger of clumps, trust me), add the sugar and zest. Whisk away until all nicely combined. Pour this onto the base. If there are white specks this is because you didn’t sift the flour so don’t blame me.

Bake for 15 mins, maybe a tad more depending on your oven. It should be just set, but look a bit wobbly. But the surface MUST be set/slightly dry to touch. Cool in the tin until really cool, then either slice and eat, try to dust with icing sugar, or store in the fridge if you plan to keep them for a while. Let come up to room temperature before eating. Truly gorgeous.

Sourdough doughnuts

I first made these in the summer of lockdown 2020, when we would ‘go’ for a picnic each Wednesday, which involved us getting into the car, basically driving into the turning circle on our drive and then getting out and having a picnic.

Listen: you make your fun where you can. My friend T gave me this recipe which I have tweaked a bit. It makes a lot – about eight. And they don’t really keep, they’re not the same even two hours after making them. You can use only half the dough at a time and make the rest the next day. (Note: I have pushed these to a 144 hour prove at 4C and they are delicious, so you can absolutely make the dough, cut into doughnuts and keep in the fridge and make in batches, the 144 prove doughnuts were amazing – they puffed up to life-saving-rubber-ring size and tasted amazing.)



Warning: you need to start these the day before you need them.

This doughnut had a 144 hour prove.

These are the ingredients:

240 ml whole milk warmed to 50C (I use a thermapen for all my kitchen thermometer needs)

1 large egg at room temperature

Four tablespoons of melted butter, cooled slightly

225g sourdough starter, also at room temperature. This should have been recently refreshed – about 5-6 hours ago at room temperature, the day before if kept in the fridge

500g plain flour

110g granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

You’ll also need quite a lot of oil for frying (try not to think about it, I am not a fan of deep frying but you need to for this) and some caster sugar mixed with cinnamon for coating later.

Once the milk has reached 50C mix it together with the butter, starter and egg. You can do this by hand or in a mixer with the whisk attachment. Then add the sugar and the flour.

Now with this bit you can either mix it all up and knead on an oiled board, leave for ten minutes, knead for ten seconds, leave for ten minutes, knead for ten seconds, leave for ten seconds until you have a smooth elastic dough (so repeat one more time if needed). Or you can do it all with a dough hook attachment in a mixer for about 15 mins until it all clumps together.

Once this bit has been reached you get a big bowl, oil it and put the dough in, cover it and refrigerate it overnight/until the next day when it’s needed.

About 2-3 hours before you want to eat your doughnuts, take the mixture out, roll it out on an oiled surface until it’s about 3cm thick. I use a round cookie cutter to cut the doughnuts out, using a small one to make the ‘hole’. See what sort of size you want them to be, mine are about 10cm with the hole in the middle about 2.5cm. You can also do them as round doughnuts but I like ring ones best. The first time I made these I tore the edges slightly and was really upset that they wouldn’t be all perfect but actually, those little tears made (see main picture) something gloriously layered and even tastier! I’ve tried to recreate it ever since and can’t..

Put them on an oiled tray, or one lined with baking parchment and cover with cling film which you can also lightly oil if you are nervous (tbh I cover mine with a tea towel). Leave to rise for about 1-2 hours – depends on how warm your kitchen is. You know the dough is ready when your finger gently pressed makes an indentation but also don’t sweat it.

Fry a pan of oil up (use something light and not highly flavoured: I use a blend of olive oil and sunflower oil). Now here it depends a) how brave you are b) how wasteful you want to be with the oil c) how many you have made and intend to cook d) how many you want to cook at once. I tend to use about a litre of oil in a medium sized sauce pan and cook two at a time. DO NOT OVERFILL and of course be sensible, this is oil you are heating up. When it reaches 175C (use your thermometer) you’re ready to go, using a slotted spoon lower down however many doughnuts you intend to cook. Like I said I do two at a time. They take about 2-3 mins per side, flip with the slotted spoon; the colour is the guide here: you’re looking for a true golden brown. Take out using your slotted spoon and immediately flop the doughnut into caster sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.

Then place on a drying rack. When all are done you’re about to experience something wonderful so take a moment to enjoy it.

And try not to eat more than one.

And try not to eat more than one.

The Komp

For a really long time, I’ve been looking for something for a family member which could enable me to send them messages, video chat with them, send them photos. The sort of things that smart-phone, tablet and computer users take for granted. But this family member, unfortunately, had none of those things and furthermore, was very tech-using-averse.

Every now and again, when I was at my desk and avoiding work, which is actually every day, I would look to see if something had come up. I had got them a clock which told them the day, time, weather, in their mother tongue. But that’s all it did, and I couldn’t communicate with them through it and anyway, after a year, it stopped working.

Then one evening, I don’t know what magical combination of words I put in to Google, but I read about something called the Komp. The Komp is a flat screen unit. It needs electricity to work (ie a power source) and a working internet connection. Here is a picture of it I’ve stolen from the Komp – website with permission:

The Komp, made by Norwegian company – I say geniuses – No Isolation.

It looks a bit like an old fashioned TV doesn’t it? And for the end user all there is to operate is the knob which switches off to the left with a lovely kinda thud, and on to the right with volume raising by going further right.

That is it.

All the tech part is done by the other users and this is how it works:

You get the unit, above, and it has its own unique number. You down load the Komp app and register the unit (so for my family member I got it sent to me, first) and everything you do is via the Komp app from here-on-in. You can, if you have the end users router details (for the sake of brevity we’re going to call the end user Grandma okay?) input the name of the router and the wi fi key so that when it goes to Grandma’s house it just needs to be plugged in and then it will find the router.

You can have more than one admin, but let’s image you are the admin, you can add family members – and they can only call/message/photobomb grandma if you send them an invite so it’s ultra secure. So they too will need to download the app (so everything is done via the app so yes you need a smartphone with a working number and anyone else who wants to contact grandma needs a smartphone with a working number). You as admin can also see what everyone else is doing in terms of sending photos and messages (but not if they’ve video called).

Once you are all set up you can:

Message grandma saying things like “I’ll call you this evening” or “Don’t forget you have an appointment with Giovanni at 10am.”

You can send photos to grandma with or without text on them, so you can send a photo of your lunch, or your holiday.

But best of all, you can video call grandma.

Now here is where it gets a tiny bit complicated but only the tiniest bit. Grandma can’t choose to answer the Komp, at her end, because it’s kept purposely simple. If the Komp is on, then both at her end and your end, it counts down from 10 to 1 and then there you both are! So you may prefer to ring first on the landline to say “I’m going to call you on the Komp”, because otherwise it’s a bit invasive.

Although the Komp (short for, and a play on, computer) is mobile in that it’s not particularly heavy you do, I think, need to find a place to put it and keep it there. My family member has it on her dining table so she can sit and chat.

The quality is amazing. Amazing. I sometimes can’t see her so clearly – which is a feature of the internet my end – but she can see me like “I’m in the room” (the screen is nice and big on the Komp) which isn’t always good cos I also get comments like “what’s happened to your face” and “you look tired” and “your hair is so white now”.

Yes the family member is my mother.

But she loves it even though she grumbled so much when I first got it for her. Now she can actually understand that far from having abandoned her as she tells everyone, I not only think of her several times a day but also now she knows it cos I send her messages, pictures and call her and she can see me and I her and this makes her feel less like, well, she’s been abandoned (I would also like to point out that I have always rung my mum at least once a day). The only problemo is that, like a lot of old people, I find, she does sometimes switch it off at the plug/router (you can switch it off on the unit, via the knob) because she thinks it’s going to eat electricity. But, this is her perogative. It has a sleep function – which you as admin control via your smartphone – so it can go to sleep between whatever hours you choose which means the screen goes black, otherwise the screen shows any messages you’ve sent or photos. But it will still let you video call in an emergency in sleep function.

You can control how long the messages/photos are up there for too.

It’s brilliant. I don’t know why more people don’t know about it. I have nothing to do with the company, they didn’t pay me, I paid them, just like everyone else: it’s £39 a month and you trial if for a minimum of three months. My children both have it so they can – and do – send my mum pictures. My mum loves it. I can honestly say it’s probably the only thing I’ve ever got her which she really, truly, loves (other than of course grandchildren..).

And if that isn’t worth £39 a month, I seriously don’t know what is.

It took me a while to get my head round it so any questions please post in the comments so others can also benefit.

Oh and the after help is also extraordinary. I seem to have my very own ‘success’ agent in Oslo who I’ve formed quite a friendship with. Here’s a video which explains a bit more about how it works:

https://www.noisolation.com/uk/komp/

Nigella’s chocolate olive oil cake

This is simple and beautiful. It can be flourless but somehow seems so much better than so many of the flourless chocolate cakes that turn up at gatherings. It’s so easy to throw together. The original recipe is here, but I’ve cut down the sugar and may cut it down further but be careful as sugar plays a role in cake making beyond mere sweetening.

Use a mild olive oil, I have at times used a too fruity one and whilst adding a depth of flavour, it’s distracting.

Once you’ve made this once you’ll realise it’s so easy you can make it in a commercial break, no chocolate to melt or chop. Largely store cupboard ingredients. My children love it.

You need

150ml mild olive oil

50g cocoa powder

125ml boiling water

Two teaspoons of vanilla extract

150g ground almonds (you could also substitute half almond half hazelnut, you can also use flour but unless you are allergic to nuts I implore you not to do this)

Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

A pinch of salt

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

What you do

Oven to 170C

A 23cm spring form tin, base lined with baking parchment.

Pour the boiling water slowly into the cocoa and stir until no lumps remain, add the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, mix together the almonds, bicarb and salt. And then you’re going to beat/whisk together the eggs, olive oil and caster sugar, either by hand (go you) with a whisk/wooden spoon or with an electric contraption (hand held or free standing).

Nigella says to use the paddle attachment, I always use the whisk because I can never find the paddle attachment. Beat electronically for three minutes until it’s syrupy and fluffy and pale yellowy. By hand: until your hand falls off.

To the eggs/oil/sugar mixture slowly add the cocoa mixture (turn down the speed if you are doing this with a gadget). When all incorporated add the ground almonds/bicarb/salt. Scrap down, make sure all mixed then pour into the tin.

Bake for 25-45 mins. Nigella says 40-45, mine is done in 25. You want it to be a bit quivering on top in the middle (Nigella describes it as looking a bit damp) but defo set at the edges. A skewer should come out pretty clean.

Easy peasy no churn ricotta ice cream

I made ricotta ice cream years ago, following a David Lebovitz recipe. It was perfectly nice but not entirely ricotta-y enough for me and also, all those egg yolks.

So I tried something else and it worked really well. This ice cream is absolutely wonderful about 12 hours after making it and it keeps well in the freezer for days, but nothing beats the consistency when it’s ‘just’ made.

You need:

500g of standard supermarket ricotta

A tin of 397g condensed milk (preferably not Nestlé)

225-250 ml of double cream (I use the Yeo Valley 227g organic cream pot)

The finely grated zest of a preferably organic orange (organic so it doesn’t have loads of crap chemicals). You could also of course use lemon but I wanted orange here..

This is what you do:

You mix the ricotta with the condensed milk and the orange zest. Separately you whip the cream until soft peaks form. You gently fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk/rind/ricotta mixture.

Er that’s it. Then you put it in a suitable container and freeze it. If you make it quite early in the morning you’ll have a quite wonderfully tasting dessert for the evening or even before.

Spelt, nut butter, chocolate chip cookies (aka mummy’s lockdown cookies)

I was craving a very particular kind of cookie when I made these: I wanted peanut butter, I wanted spelt or rye flour rather than white flour, and I wanted oats. Basically something a bit wholegrain, not madly high in sugar but definitely still feeling treaty. Because otherwise, just eat something else no?

This is a mishmash of a few recipes I had and really  tasty with, dare I say it, quite a lot of depth to them (dare I say it because: wanker alert). I’m not usually one to ‘make up’ a recipe (and I don’t feel this is really made up in that way but you know…as close as I’ll get). The chocolate chips still make these feel norty, but the other ingredients lessen the sweet-treat hit that makes you want to eat more and more. So in other words, a good, tasty cookie that isn’t just empty calories.

I used some hazelnut paste in the cupboard that I wanted to use up, but if you don’t have it then any nut butter will do. You absolutely do NOT need it for these and I wouldn’t buy it especially, it’s insanely expensive and rather a waste here but like I said, it was in the cupboard and needed using up so…

You need:

100g soft unsalted butter (or you can use salted and don’t add the salt later)

120g nut butter of your choice (so, I used half hazelnut paste, half peanut butter, crunchy)

150g sugar – I used caster and light brown

Two eggs

90g spelt flour (you can also use wholemeal plain, white plain if you must, or rye)

100g oats, any size or if you want to you can blend them so they are fine. I used large oat flakes which makes them a bit chewy

half a teaspoon of baking powder

a good pinch of salt (unless you are using salted butter in which case you don’t need any)

150g chocolate chips/pieces of your choice. I like to use a mix of small pieces and quite large bits and I use milk and dark because I’m all over the place with what I like

Method:

These make about 24. Oven to 190C you’ll also need a baking parchment lined tray.

Mix together the butter, nut butters and sugar until one big, buttery, sugary whole.

Add the eggs one at a time, until all blended, then add the flour, oats and baking powder with the salt if using. You can do this all by hand, it doesn’t need a lot of mixing.

Finally mix in the chocolate chips gently. You can dollop these onto the tray straight away – use a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop. They don’t spread out madly but give them a little space to do their thing.

You can also chill the mixture in the fridge for a few days. I bake some from fresh, chill the rest and I’ve also chilled then rolled into cling film and stored some in the freezer.

I’ll report back on how they fare.

Mine were done in 9/10 minutes. You want to take them out when they are fairly ‘dry’ looking, it’s okay if they look a bit ‘wet’ just in the middle. I like to flatten them gently with a fork the moment they are out. Leave on the baking tray for a few moments before sliding the parchment straight onto a cooling rack. I really like these still a bit warm so the chocolate is still melting and liable to make a mess so you have to sit still for a moment whilst you eat them.

Update. What I do now, if I have some white chocolate spare, and I invariably do, is when the cookies are just out of the oven, I press them down with the back of a fork, then gently press a square of white chocolate in…

 

Pear and spelt tart, with ground almonds and cinnamon

As I write, we are – in England where I live – entering our fifth week of lock down due to coronavirus. Ingredients which we once took for granted are now limited, or unavailable.

I have always run a well-stocked larder, and I have a regular vegetable and fruit box delivery from Riverford a frankly fantastic company. And I get my flour (and you still can) in industrial quantities from Ingredients for Cooks.

I started off wanting something involving banana, peanut butter and oats (tasty but still healthy and not just white flour and sugar) but somehow, ended up making this.

The original recipe is from my Donna Hay (all hail). It’s from her Fresh and Light book, published in 2014 and given to me by my eldest for Christmas that year. I know this because she inscribed the book. I love a book inscription.

I’ve adapted it slightly because I didn’t have the exact flour (flour is a luxury!) and if you don’t have pears you can use other fruits: I think apples would work, or plums. This is a thin tart – as you can see from the pic. And it’s not fluffy and light. But that’s not what I wanted, I wanted something fairly healthy. That’s what I got.

115g flour – I used a mixture of plain wholemeal and spelt

40g ground almonds

One and a half teaspoons of baking powder

80ml of  maple syrup (I actually used 60ml and it was fine)

1 egg

180ml yoghurt or buttermilk

Finely grated rind of a lemon

Half a teaspoon of cinnamon

40g unsalted, melted, butter, slightly cooled

Two pears, peeled, cored, sliced

Two tablespoons of demerara sugar

 

Oven to 190C.

You need a loose bottomed tin of about 24cm, line the bottom with baking parchment.

Mix together the flours, almonds and baking powder in a largish bowl (this is where you’ll end up putting all the mixture). In another bowl mix together the maple syrup, egg, buttermilk/yoghurt, lemon zest and cinnamon. Add the maple/egg mixture to the flour/almond mixture and at this point, add the melted butter. Mix til combined.

Plop the thick mixture into the tin and spread out, you won’t have much, that’s okay. If you haven’t already, peel/slice/core the pears now and arrange in a pleasing fanned out pattern. Sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for about 35-40 mins. It should be golden brown and a skewer stabbed into the cakey part should come out clean.

You can serve this warm with cream or ice cream, or cold just as it is. It’s a humble little tart but no less pleasing for that.

 

Hot oven? Cold oven?

Most mornings I preheat my oven to put the day’s bread in. My oven has a handy timer which means I can come down, the oven is up to temperature (I put the baking tray in the night before) and then I can bake the bread. That’s the usual advice isn’t it? Bread goes into a hot oven.

But one day I hadn’t pre-heated the oven and I only had a certain amount of time to put the bread in so I just put the bread onto a cold baking tray, dusted with polenta, into a cold oven, with my regulation one ice cube on a tray underneath. Then I put the oven on to 250C fan and cooked it for 40 mins (as that’s all the time I had available).

The bread needs a bit longer cooking time – probably 50 mins for a decent crust. But guess what? Absolutely no difference. Here’s the loaf I made today which went into a totally cold oven..

 

hipstamaticphoto-608024196.859590