Sunday 20 November 2016

Pudding Recipes

I adapted these recipes from magazines, changing most of the doses and some of the ingredients. My mum and I had great fun experimenting and the whole family enjoyed the treats.

Almond flakes biscuits
 You need: 400 g of self raising flour, 3 eggs, 150 g of light brown sugar, 100 g of melted butter and some drops of vanilla extract.
For the topping: 50 g of butter, 50 g of light brown sugar, 2 tbsp of honey and 200 g of flaked almonds.

Mix the ingredients for the dough, knead it then roll it out. Place the pastry on a greased oven tray and cut it into squares. Bake for 10 minutes at 180° C. In the meantime prepare the topping by mixing all the ingredients in a pan and heating it for 5-10 minutes on the hob. Take the biscuits from the oven and spread the flaked almond mixture on top, keeping the squares separated. Bake for another 10-15 minutes till slightly brown.

Chocolate meringues
You need: 3 egg whites, 150 g of icing sugar and 50 g of dark chocolate chips.

Whip the egg whites until stiff, then mix in the icing sugar. Melt the chocolate chips in a pan and add most of them in the meringue folding it gently, not mixing it in completely. Spoon the meringue mixture on a greased oven tray and drip the remaining melted chocolate on top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, 150° C.

Biscuits and dark chocolate semifreddo
You need: 100 g of golden caster sugar, 150 ml of double cream, 150 ml of milk, 100 g of rich tea biscuits roughly chopped, 100 g of dark chocolate and 4 eggs.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar, melt the chocolate in a pan with 50 ml of milk and add it to the eggs together with the biscuits and 150 ml of milk. Whip the cream and add it to the mixture. Pour it into a loaf tin lined with cling film and freeze it overnight. Serve cut in slices with cream or raspberry coulis.

Walnut and cream Swiss roll
For the Swiss roll you need: 4 eggs, one tbsp of honey, 100 g of sugar and 100 g of self raising flour.
For the filling you need: 2 tbsp of milk, half a tsp of instant coffee, 150 g of whipping cream, one tbsp of sugar and 100 g of ground walnuts.
Prepare the sponge for the Swiss roll by beating the eggs with the sugar, add one tbsp of honey and all the flour. Pour the mixture on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or till slightly brown at 180° C. Spread a damp tea towel on a surface, sprinkle some sugar on it and turn the sponge out onto the tea towel. Roll it up while still hot and let it cool.
Prepare the filling by whisking the cream with the sugar. Warm the milk and add the coffee granules. Mix the coffee with the cream and add the ground walnuts. Unroll the sponge and spread the cream and walnut mixture on it, leaving some aside for decoration. Roll it up again and decorate with the left over cream and maybe some walnuts. Chill overnight before serving.

Filling for cannoli siciliani
We bought the cannoli shells in an Italian supermarket in Surrey, so we had only to fill them.
For the filling you need: 750 g of ricotta, 300 g of sugar, 75 g of chocolate chips, mixed peel and/or glacé cherries halves.
Mix the ricotta with the sugar and chill them for two hours. Add the chocolate chips and chill again for one hour. Fill the cannoli shells using a piping bag and decorate the ends with mixed peel and/or a glacé cherry half. Chill before serving.

I used this ricotta mixture to fill a sponge cake and a Swiss roll, instead of chocolate chips I had 100 g of ground dark chocolate. I mixed all the ingredient and chilled them for two hours. I cut the cake in half and dampened the two halves with milk, then spread the ricotta mixture on one, put the other half on top and chilled everything overnight before serving it. For the Swiss roll you follow the same procedure of the previous recipe. Decorate with icing sugar and ground dark chocolate.

Nutella and yogurt bread loaf
You need: 250 g of flour, one tsp of baking powder, half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda, two tbsp of sunflower oil, 150 g of golden caster sugar,  three tbsp of nutella, four tbsp of full fat plain yogurt and 2 eggs.

Beat the eggs then add oil and sugar. Mix all the other ingredients except the nutella and the yogurt. Divide the mixture into two bowls. Add the nutella to one of them and the yogurt to the other. Grease a tin loaf and alternate a layer of the yogurt mixture to a layer of nutella mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180° C. Decorate with icing sugar and stripes of melted nutella.

Sunday 6 November 2016

October half-term 2016

I had a tremendously busy half term break. I flew to Rome, came back, travelled north to see my autistic daughter in Doncaster and my son in Leeds, and finally came back to Surrey and started work again. Tiring but on the whole a very happy break.
I went to Rome for the weekend, to take my mum back to her home. She had a hernia operation in England at the beginning of October, but then she decided to go back to Italy straight afterwards. She said she missed her home, the area where she had been living for more than fifty year and all her friends and family there.
She wasn’t completely recovered when we left as after the operation (which went very well), she had developed bronchitis and shingles but nothing could stop her. When we arrived at her home, I realized she was very happy to be back in her environment and routines. We went out to do some grocery shopping and she met three people she knew, had a good chat and updated them on her summer. Then we went to the doctor’s and to the pharmacist’s, just a few minutes’ walk from her house. Everything was familiar to her, instead in our house in England, she never remembered where the pots and pans were, she couldn’t reach the glasses and she didn’t like the food. The main problem was that she didn’t speak or understand English so she felt somewhat isolated, though we were with her all the time and translated for her. I also took her to see a group of Italian ladies once a week but it wasn’t enough. When I left she told me not to worry about her, as she had a lot of friends around her. My sister, who lives near Rome, will go and see her from time to time. A lady is also going to stay with her and help her with house chores twice a week. I’m sure she will be all right and after all, this is what she wants. I’ll go back for Christmas.

The day after I came back to England, I left for the north with my husband. We went to see my autistic daughter Valentina who was busy getting ready for Halloween. She showed us the school gym, decorated with fake spider webs and giant stickers of witches and pumpkins. Wherever she went she collected something she liked: a stuffed fake leg, a cushion, a lantern. She ended the tour with her hands (and our hands) full. She also had a brilliant activity, a treasure hunt where she needed to collect the different parts of a skeleton following some written instructions with symbols (PECS) and finally assemble the skeleton. She did it very well and won a pumpkin full of treats. On the whole, we found her happy and definitely improved in her way of communicating with signs.

Our final trip was to Leeds where my son and his fiancée live where we stayed for a day and a half. We visited the Royal Armouries museum together, it was engrossing. They have an incredible display of weapons and armouries mainly from Middle Ages to WW II, from Europe and Asia. Though interesting, it was terrifying to read the descriptions of the excruciating pain a spear or an arrow could provoke penetrating, through the slits of a helmet or between the plates of an armour. Some of the items on display looked fabulous, almost works of art, though mostly meant to protect during combat. What struck me the most were the helmets and some of the armouries, like the Lion Armour, embossed and engraved with beautiful interweaving designs. They are definitely pieces of high quality craftsmanship though disturbing as they were worn in battle and necessarily part of events full of violence and death.

There were a lot of children around and plenty of activities for them, like face painting, archery, a performance with a monologue of a soldier fighting in Vlad the Impaler’s army (known as the inspiration behind Dracula) and interactive games that showed them how to shoot an arrow or explained different kinds of swords.
I felt impressed and bewildered realizing how harmful weapons can be and how much they are an undeniable part of human history. As they say at the entrance of the exhibition: ‘conflict has shaped the world we live in over thousands of years’. It may change in the future, but this is how it was in the past and how it still is in the present day.

In the afternoon we had a long shopping session. I ticked off some of the items on my Christmas shopping list and had a nice walk in the city centre, including a look at the large John Lewis in the new sumptuous shopping centre, Victoria Gate. In the evening we had a gorgeous dinner at Italianissimo, a fabulous Italian restaurant where I enjoyed my first Blind Sailor, not a random bloke, but a cocktail consisting of rum, Ramazzoti, pineapple and lime juice. We had a great time with my son and his fiancée and a fantastic, well deserved holiday.