Polpette Piccanti – Spicy Italian meatballs (recipe)

I want to win a week in a Tuscany Villa! Wouldn’t you?

Italy will always have a special place in my heart after living in Perugia, Umbria in my early twenties. It was a year that taught me a lot about life, myself and la dolce vita – how to enjoy life and appreciate the things you do and people you meet.

Please vote for my recipe here!

The love for all things Italian has been with me ever since I set sights on London nine years ago and to this date my favourite cuisine is that of my second adopted country.

So when a little birdy told me about To Tuscany’s blogger competition; create a Tuscan-inspired recipe that includes three key Toscana ingredients: olive oil, tomatoes and Parmesan; I knew I had to put my cooking skills to the test.

I have only been back to Italy once since living there – this was in 2005 on a romantic weekend to the Eternal City – but sadly I have yet to return to my beloved Perugia.

During my time in Umbria (known as Tuscany’s lesser known sister) I spent many hours travelling around the sunflower-covered rolling hills of Tuscany and the marvellous Renaissance city of Florence – or Firenze, eating and drinking my way through the region.

My favourite thing about Italian food is that it can be quite simple, yet taste ever so delicious – something which the region of Tuscany is particularly known for. The use of local, fresh produce combined with golden olive oil and the most gorgeous of sun kissed tomatoes. Yum…

The recipe I’ve created is Polpette Piccanti – or Spicy Italian Meatballs – which incorporates ingredients which I find to be very ‘Tuscan’. Hope you like it!

Ingredients (serves 4)

1.5 dl olive oil
1 onion (finely chopped)
100 g pine nuts
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 red chilies
1 tbls fresh basil
50 g fresh bread crumbs
250 g ricotta
30 g Parmesan, grated
1 egg
100 g Pancetta
400 g mince (pork or beef)
Salt and pepper to taste

100 g Vittoria tomatoes
Green pesto

Method

Heat 1 dl of the olive oil in a saucepan. Simmer the onion and pine nuts in the oil until the onion softens and the pine nuts are golden brown. Add garlic and chili and let simmer for a couple of more minutes. Let cool.

Fry the pancetta and let cool.

Mix basil (nothing like the scent of fresh basil filling the kitchen while cooking), bread crumbs, ricotta, parmesan and egg in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion and pine nut mix, the pancetta and the mince. Add salt and pepper according to taste. Mix everything together then place in the fridge for at least one hour – preferably longer to allow the flavours to blend.

Shape the meatballs using your hands (one to two tablespoons at a time) so that they look like mini-burgers.

Fry them using the remaining 0.5 dl olive oil on medium heat until golden. Be careful so that they don’t burn!

Chop the Vittoria tomatoes into pieces and place on a serving plate before adding the meatballs (2-3 each). Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, green pesto and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan before serving.

Buon appetito!

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Thoughts and Cakes for Japan

Last week, when disaster struck in Japan it was to the date one year since I returned home from Tokyo marveling about the city’s vibrancy, its eccentricity, the vastness, its seemingly lack of crime, its beauty – I could go on forever. In fever words, I was fascinated, in love.

Since returning to London, I have been meaning to write about my first experience of Tokyo but have yet, twelve months later, to write one single word. Perhaps it’s because words can’t describe it? Or that I’m still absorbing the experience?

Like everyone else I have been watching the horrific scenes coming from the Land of the Rising Sun unravel with sadness and a feeling of being powerless. However amid shocking stories and images are also the stories of people around the world doing great things to help Japan.

Here in London some creative Shoreditch bakers have mobilized to raise funds to help those in need, and you can too. Tomorrow, Friday 18th March and Saturday 19th March Cakes for Japan will be at Malden, 188 Shoreditch High Street, London, EC2.  All cakes and sweet things are Japan inspired and more and more volunteer bakers are being added to the already long list. I love this wonderful idea to help those who are suffering. I hope many will stop by Cakes for Japan  to show their support for the bakers and for Japan.

Among the contributors are:

Molly Bakes: sushi cake pops

Charmaine Mok: black sesame macaroons

Nevie Pie: cherry blossom inspired cakes

Emma Rice: geisha and panda cookies

LESHIE Loves CAKE: green tea cupcakes

Icing Bliss: sushi cupcakes

Soy and garlic marinated salmon, broccoli and cauliflower bake

The other day I found myself standing looking aimlessly into my fridge, pondering of what to make for dinner. I had salmon, some cream that needed to be used… some cauliflower and broccoli and cheese. That does make a nice bake I thought to myself – and it sure did!

I placed the salmon in a marinade of soy sauce and garlic (lots of it!) cut into 1 cm thick slices for about an hour.

Then I boiled the cauliflower and broccoli while I lightly fried the salmon pieces.

Using  an oven proof dish, I placed the boiled cauliflower and broccoli in first and covered it with the salmon pieces. The cream was generously sprinkled over the mix, before I topped it all with cheese and put into the oven (200 degrees) for 15 mins.

The result – scrumptious Scandinavian style bake.

If you want to make this yourself you’ll need:

  • 2 pieces of salmon per person (Marinade: soy sauce and garlic)
  • 1 cauliflower
  • 1 broccoli
  • Single cream (use as little or as much as you like – or dare)
  • Cheese of your choice (I used mature Cheddar)

Pepper on top

Cook in a pre-heated oven – 200 degrees – for 15 minutes.

The best of London: Nordica’s A-Z

If you’ve ever been to London you know how valuable the trusted A-Z can be. Fair enough, for Londonites with iPhones the A-Z might be playing second fiddle to Google maps, and can now more often be seen in the hands of tourists roaming the city in hunt of the next photo album shot.

However, in honour of the famous A-Z I have decided to take you on a tour of the city, sharing my favourite places and things to do in London. First stop will be A for… not telling you yet!

Watch this space!

Add some sparkle to your life

I’m a firm believer that every girl should have some sparkle in her life. Shiny clothes, body glitter, dazzling diamonds or… sparkling vodka. Yes, you heard me right, sparkling vodka!

I really should get a better camera

On an otherwise low-key Friday afternoon, MJ asked me if I’ve heard of the Swedish sparkling vodka Camitz. No, never. Is there such a thing? How do they make it sparkling? Intrigued by this never-before heard of variant of an otherwise well-known Scandinavian tipple, I gladly accepted the invitation of an afternoon drink experience. (Now, a couple of days later, having put the name and concept through Google, I’m beginning to think I’ve been living under a rock for the past two years. One article mentioning this very product dates back to May 2008!)

According to their website Camitz Sparkling Vodka is made of “the highest quality grain from the celebrated fields of Scandinavia.” Sounds good.

Equipped with a choice of two mixers; orange juice and lemonade, the bottle cork went pop. The result a great afternoon with a good friend, with gossip and laughter.

When it comes to the vodka, here’s a quick summary.

Smell? Having been distilled five times before carbonation, it has a crisp, pure bouquet (if you can use that when describing vodka?). I’ve been told that the less you can smell it, the better the vodka is.

Taste? Strong. However, with a 40% alc/vol it isn’t stronger than other brands on the market. Perhaps it was the time of day that made it seem stronger on the palate… Preferred it with lemonade, but that’s just how I take my vodka normally.

Look? The design looks like a bottle of fizz should, complete with natural cork. A nice touch is the names of its creators Camtiz + Lindberger embedded on the bottle neck.

Verdict. The novelty of a vodka that goes pop might fade with time, but the taste places it up there among the premium brands.