Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Talking Italian…

And here we are, first World Vegetarian Cooking class for 2012. I’ve had a lovely long break to recharge the batteries and come up with some new recipes and ideas. Of course most of these new recipes relied on the weather climbing above 24 degrees which today it did not. Not exactly exotic summer weather. Hmm.

Plan B was a comforting Italian menu of Crispy Eggplant and Mushroom Balls with Soft Polenta and a simple tomato sauce. A quick little salad on the side made with Shaved Fennel, Radish and Red Onion. Warm Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Pine Nuts is a good side dish too.

Not wanting to over do it on our first evening we made yummy but quick Pistachio and Orange Biscotti. The hardest thing about making biscotti is the cutting. You need to use a sharp serrated knife. Use a gentle sawing motion, don’t press or the whole thing will crumble before your eyes and you’ll be eating delicious biscotti crumbs!

Enjoy these recipes, I’ll have some more next week x

roast broccolipolenta & eggplant ballspistachio & orange biscotti


Serve as finger food or with pasta and fresh tomato sauce as a main course.

Serves: makes around small 32 balls

Preparation: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes


Large pot of boiling water, knife, chopping board, wooden spoon, colander, large bowl, small bowl, fork, frypan, tray, paper towel


450 grams eggplant cut in 3cm cubes

1 tablespoon salt

100 grams breadcrumbs, fresh or “Panko”

25 grams pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated

50 grams kalamata or green olives, finely chopped

200 grams mushroom, finely chopped

1 large egg

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil, for frying

50 grams fine dry breadcrumbs, for frying


1.Salt 4 litres of boiling water and add the eggplant

2.Boil uncovered for 10 minutes, pushing the eggplant occasionally under the water

3.Drain eggplant in colander, cool and squeeze out excess water

4.Chop finely and place in a large bowl

5.Fry mushroom in a little olive oil till dry

6.Combine eggplant and mushroom

7.Add in parsley, fresh breadcrumbs, egg, garlic and cheese

8.Blend with a fork and season with salt & pepper

9.Cover frypan with a 2cm of olive oil and heat gently

10. Fry a little of the mix to check the seasoning, adjust if necessary

11. Roll remaining mix into 1” balls and set on a tray

12. Roll balls in dry bread crumbs till evenly coated

13. Fry the balls in hot oil, turning till golden brown all over

14. Drain on absorbent paper and cool slightly before serving


A satisfying yet gluten free alternative to pasta.

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, garlic press, large pot with lid, frypan, wooden spoon, baking dish



8 cups water

2 cups polenta

1 teaspoon salt

1 quantity Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

250gm Mozzarella cheese, sliced (optional)

100 gm Parmesan cheese

6 basil leaves, torn (as a garnish)


1. Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid and add salt.

2. Whilst stirring the water, pour in the polenta in a thin stream.

3. Simmer and continue to stir with a long handled wooden spoon for 5 minutes.

4. Place on lid and sit at the back of the stove top whilst you prepare the sauce.

Simple Tomato Sauce


¼ cup olive oil

1 brown onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

400gm tin Italian tomatoes, whole

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt & black pepper


1. In a frypan, gently heat oil and fry the onion and the garlic till translucent and without colour

2. Add tinned tomatoes squishing them with your (clean) fingers.

3. Add oregano and cook for 10 minutes.

4. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve:

Stir polenta well and pour into an oven proof serving dish.

If using mozzarella, place slices on top and place under grill to melt till golden and bubbly.

Serve spoonfuls onto plates topped with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan and garnish with torn basil leaves.

Variations: Polenta goes very well with roasted vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant.


This dish elevates humble broccoli to a delicious zesty dish.

Serves: 6

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes


Chopping board, sharp knife, large bowl, large shallow baking tray, lemon zester

Oven 180C


2 large heads of broccoli (c. 1 kilo)

1/3 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic

Salt and Pepper

¼ cup pine nuts

1 lemon

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated (optional)


1.Cut the broccoli into medium size florets

2.In a large bowl toss broccoli, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts

3.Spread evenly on baking tray and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper

4.Roast for 20 minutes till stems are tender

5.Just before serving, sprinkle with cheese (optional), lemon zest and lemon juice.

The cooked broccoli is great tossed through penne pasta.


Broccolini or cauliflower can also be cooked this way.


A simple recipe, perfect for coffee or to serve with dessert.

Serves: makes about 36 thin biscotti

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Equipment: large bowl, 2 baking trays, baking paper, grater, electric mixer, sharp serrated knife.

Oven at 170C.


1 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

2 cups plain flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

120 grams pistachios, peeled and raw

4 slices candied orange slices (make your own* or buy them from a good deli)

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ cup extra flour for kneading on bench


1. Line baking tray with baking paper.

2. Place sugar, eggs, and grated lemon rind in a large bowl.

3. Beat with electric mixer till pale and thick

4. Fold in sifted flour, baking powder and almonds.

5. Using your hands, lightly knead the dough on a floured surface till smooth.

6. Divide the mixture in half and form 2 long logs about 25 cm long and 5 cm wide.

7. Place on prepared baking tray and bake for 20 -25 minutes till golden.

8. Remove from the oven and cool. Reduce oven temperature to 140C.

9. Using a sharp serrated knife gently cut on a slight angle into ½ cm thin slices.

10. Place slices flat on paper lined trays and bake for 15- 20 minutes turning once.

11. Remove from oven and allow biscuits to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Serving suggestions:

Traditionally served with coffee, wine (especially Vin Santo) or liqueur.

An easy dessert is a dollop of mascarpone with a little glass of Vin Santo and a few biscotti.

Can also add some crunch to creamy desserts and poached fruit.

Candied orange slices


1 orange

1 ½ cups water

½ cup white sugar


1. Slice the orange with a sharp knife into ½ cm thick rounds.

2. Boil sugar and water in a thick based pot or pan big enough to hold the orange slices without crowding. You may need more sugar syrup if your pan is big. The slices need to be covered in syrup to cook.

3. Add the orange slices and boil for around 5 minutes, turning a few times

4. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook a further 30 minutes

5. Stir occasionally and make sure the oranges aren’t burning or catching

6. Take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes

7. Remove orange slices from the syrup and dry on baking paper or a cake rack

8. For harder glazed fruit, dry on a cake rack on the very lowest heat in the oven till dry and then allow to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

Fruit glazed or candied this way lasts indefinitely, at least 2 months.

You can also use the slices to decorate cakes and desserts.

Any leftover syrup can be used to drizzle over your cakes or serve with a dessert.

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