Fig tarte

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Not really Winter, not Spring yet. Time for cleaning your freezer. This is not a Brussels’ sprout tart – hehe – but a fig tart! A friend of mine has fig trees and so I use to prepare  fig preserve for my sister – she loves it – and  freeze fig halves during the winter season. I use to serve them with blue cheese and Prosecco, if I am very inspired I wrap them in pancetta, fry them and then serve them with blue cheese and Prosecco – boring, ah?

But when it is time, I love to bake fig tarts. I cover the shortbread base with home-made fig preserve, add the frozen fig halves and some chopped almonds. A grated orange zest and off into the oven at 200 C for half an hour or so. Not too sweet, tasty, a perfect breakfast treatimage

 

A mostly needed gentle hug

How to put it gently and not sound creepy? I don’t know, but the fact is that Gromit, our first family dog, an old one, rescued from a family (human) who suffered a murder attempt, slipped from sleep to wherever mighty dogs run in the afterlife.

No need to add that it was hard, very hard to accept. We somehow believe he will live forever. Despite his age, his fur turned white, his fading appetite. We knew,of course we knew, but we still won’t believe it possible.

Life is not what we like it to be, it simply is, and so Gromit is not here anymore. We should be happy, rejoice even, because he simply never woke after his sleep.

Gromit is to be remembered as the dog who had a name before he was even born. In our family we had two TV programmes fit for the kids: the first was Pingu, the second Wallace and Gromit.  Pingu had no intelligible language – this is not true, of course, the underline was very subtle – Wallace and Gromit gave the kids the first taste of english.

Like all kids our two had a mad desire for a pet. A dog! We then lived in a  small flat, a brisk change of town and school to help our son cope with his allergies. No way to keep a dog in there. Then, for the allergy reason, we moved to the country and there was no denying them the dog. The name had been settled for years: Gromit. The dog who is wiser and brighter than his owner. And off I went, searching for him.

I was a cat woman, never had a dog, no experience at all, more: I was afraid of them! But a mother is a war machine when needed and so off I went, with two things in mind: a) the dog must not smell when wet (I cannot stand the stench), b) it must be a “rescued” dog. Italian law did not allow me and my partner – me and him married after 25 years of partnership because there was no law to secure our underage kids, thank you so much – to adopt a child, we will at least adopt a pet.

I visited and cuddle a selection of puddles advertised by the local newspaper, then I end up in a small home where they gave away two tiny dogs, a male and a female. I fell in love with Gromit-to-be at first sight, and when we drove to bring him home my husband asked me: are you sure the dog lives here? Here where?  We are both journalist, you must understand this. And he covered a criminal story in that very place. A relative came to the house, shoot with a gun at the house, missed the young granddaughter  of the owner, killed a dog instead, and run away across the border. In our places it is possible to run to another country, happy we… Headlines for weeks, but i did not realize it when I first visited. My husband, who had to cover the story, was shocked. But Gromit came home with us, for good.

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And so the story goes till February the 9th, when Gromit – as said – drifted away as peacefully as we all hope to. To put it right, there will be no other Gromit in our household. When our retired greyhound was put to sleep due to an aggressive cancer, we adopt another poor soul, but this time we decided not.

Gromit gone, end of the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A serial knitter cooking book

Let us talk about time. Last week I somehow edited my first knitting pattern ever. I am ashamed to tell you how I struggled to put the “creature” together, so overwhelmed by the alien technology I am supposed to master living in  A.D. 2017, using smartphones to interact with the wide world. The truth is that I am far from any 2.0 or 3.0 human entity.  When I started school, in 1966, I learned to write using an ink pen (read any reference you will find: historical writing instrument!). Then I entered the journalist profession, again in historical times…. my writing had to be prepared for the tin printing machine. This being enough said.

Anyway. The pattern is out for you to grab (it is free) and knit. Tin(y) gloves on Ravelry


As said, working on patterns is devouring my time, so my cooking suffers a bit. That’s why I am so in love with roasted veggies. Today will be parsnip-potato-peperoni roast with poached eggs. With a precious hour left for me to knit my next project, a destashing, mostly garter sts wrap with a twisted border and a special closing.


Buon appetito!

Orange and almonds cake (my way

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I could make a fortune with this recipe, but will share it with you instead. To enjoy when oranges are in season. Will only recommend you not to cheat about the organic orange. If you don’t  have one – one is all you will need –  then peel your orange before starting. It will lose in taste, but you will not end up eating baked pesticides and  waxes. My oranges and almonds are from the organic farm Agricortese, just in case you will learn something about the Ribera region.

  • For an average cake you will need:
  • one organic orange, cut into pieces eventually de-seeded
  • 50 gr of unpeeled almonds (organic as well)
  • 3 eggs
  • 250 gr plain flour or a mix of your choice
  • 250 gr of sugar
  • baking powder
  • small glass of sunflower or mild olive oil
  • small glass of milk or substitute

a mixer with blades – this is mandatory

Pre heat your oven at 180 C. Put the orange and the almonds in your mixer and blitz untill you have a paste. Add the eggs, the dry ingredients and then – with blades on medium speed – enough oil and milk to reach a cake consistency. Not too runny, but better runny than stiff. (a Michelin’s star recipe, I know, I know)

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The batter looks like this when put into your baking tin. As for this, do as you please… grease and flour the tin, line it with parchment, with reusable foil  – like me – or simply go for a non sticky tin. I have none.

Put into your oven and lower the temperature to 160 C and….   baaake (as in GBBO) for almost an hour. At the end you will have a soft, delicious cake, full of flavour but without fuss. No need for icing, powder sugar od layers of jam. Just this.

 

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Gloves

It is about time to make dreams come true. Better said, to make dreams become written patterns for  other people to read and – possibly – knit. But what if the pattern you fancy does not mean anything to the so-called Wool tribe? (credit for the Wool tribe to be given to Mica and Jo the ladies behind EYF aka Edinburgh Yarn Festival) image

So here is my entry for the blackerpodkal, gloves in their glorious Cornish Tin blend, right from the stash. For me this yarn is unbeatable for gloves and mittens, but this is just me and my cold fingertips speaking. What really does bother me is if the cuff on the right, with its Estonian braid will be worth the (knitting) effort and beat the cuff on the left with its plain knit and purl pas de deux.

Any member of the Wool tribe is kindly asked to express a preference. it will be much appreciated by my poor me.

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I also have another issue… the finishing of the fingers. Shall I opt for the pointed version or go softly with round decreases?

No doubts about the thumb though. I’ll use the one with central increases, because you don’t have to think about right and left hand when in a hurry. You just must remember this when knitting in different patterns, because it could happen (I can tell you from personal experience) that you will mess the patterns and end up with gloves extravaganza.

Need an example?

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I can tell I was playing with them a lot…. the final pattern will have longer cuffs, a more agile thumb and an open grid on the inner part of the glove. In case you are interested, the pattern is a traditional one, used for cross stitching  in Austria, a textile museum’s find. I used to sketch down patterns seen visiting museums, now I can use the smart phone – when permitted – but still have my sketch books at  hand.

While waiting for some comments, I’ll go on cooking in my tiny kitchen with a view on an equally small garden where Spring was announced by the first blackbird.  image

On the wall a framed illustration by a dear friend Romeo Toffanetti

Turning pages

      Let us talk about Nadia. She is the bright lady behind Terra di Ciona. She used to work with pencils and colors, now she is growing organic food, baking delicious bread and superb croissants. So delicious that I put them on my precious antique embroidery to show off.


      Her was also the most sweety peaches I’ve ever had the fortune to turn into jam, cheese,  preserves and a cakes. She also delivers her goodies right to your front door, once a week. Quite a girl, I must say.

      Of course there is some knitting to talk about, too. The Tin(y) gloves are on their way. Will knit the fingers, then try the other glove omitting the yarn over braid and placing some good purl rows instead, just to see how it works out. So far I like both the texture and the colour match, even if I am not a purple kind of girl…. as I once told the owner of Kathy’s knits yarn shop in Edinburgh. I was honest, true, planning my future knitting,  but she had her tresses dyed in a fierce purple-pink shade, so I ended up like an idiot. 


      Gloves will be very welcome in the next few days. Freezing cold again. And windy. Knitting time bonanza.

      KnitTINg plans and other ThINgs

      Going big today: from my tiny laptop corner – whatever it could mean in my quite small house (being posh I’ll call it cosy) – I moved to the big PC in my son’s room.

      Pros: it is huge, has a widescreen on the wall, when typing the key buttons get flashed with a fainting purple light, if used in the right way the entire hub will cook dinner and wash the dishes, I am pretty sure of this!

      Cons: the screen is too far away for my lenses: I look like a mole trying to read the writing – literally – on the wall. I already feel a little dizzy  …  but I am cool! Gosh I am, with the purple disco light running under my fingertips.

      Since today we are the 19th, I was bound to cast on for the blackerpodkal on  Ravelry  and I did. Using Cornish Tin yarn from the stash I am knitting and writing a pattern for a pair of gloves. I had other plans, a cardi, but  I came to my senses in time and decided to play safe. Gloves could be useful in March….

      image         At this point of my blogging  I am just staring at this wide-screen and the dogs, all the three of them, are staring at me and at my performance (moving my neck like a crane, that is). They are good enough not to comment, just watching the purple light coming out from the black board on the desktop. Mah!

      Before I go mad, just a hint for one of your emergency suppers/dinners, those with tins involved – tin is the topic today, right?

      You start with plain boiled potatoes, organic whenever possible, slightly cooled and smashed with your fist. This is very important, it helps you release stress. You bet it was one of my favourite cooking technique apart from squeezing raw cabbage or coleslaw with my bare hands.

      image    You season the mess with turmeric, mustard, black pepper, flacks of sea salt (any will be good) and a good splash of olive oil. Adding some rosemary will do, garlic is optional and it will not do if you plan to go to the theatre after dinner. Put the roasting tin (again) in a really hot oven and let it roast for 20 min to half an hour, turning the potatoes at least once.

      Here they are, all dressed up, ready for the hob

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      Then it comes the tough part: serve Simmenthal meat (from the tin) in a way no one can spot it at first glance. To my excuse I can tell that I had those tins left from the last time our son was at home alone…. but, anyway, it is not bad at all. You put the meat on the serving plate and top it with the salsa you’ve prepared blitzing together two TBS of mayonnaise (not as professional as  Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time , but quasi),  capers to taste, 3 or 4 cornichons and another splash of olive oil. NB. Olive oil goes always in splashes, not spoons. In any case, do not use the same ratio that Nigella uses when adding wine to her dishes, half a bottle at the time, as I’ve noticed watching her on TV. Too much, you’ll be broken in no time, just a splash. And here you are, your hidden meal is ready. Best served to people really involved in a soccer match on the tv. No one will ask, just have enough potatoes if they ask for more.

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      A sad story with a happy ending

      This story is about the saddest fate of more than 4 kg of organic Sicilian lemons frozen to death in my garden during the big chill that hit us this week. In Trieste we have this lovely wind called Bora, silent most of the year, but when it blows it blows! 100, even 120 km/h in the elegant way of a “refolo”. No need for redbull cans here, I guarantee, you can fly without a drink if you are not trained… So the Bora came and with her (wind is a she chez nous) came some snow, lot of ice and temperatures below zero C. No need to tell you that the precious content of my part of this month’s collective buy of organic Sicilian citruses, oranges and lemons, became solid icy rock. What to do next? Oranges, once thawed,  were squeezed, but lemons ….

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      I decided to take them all in, let them stay in my sink for a while, then I washed them and peeled just the yellow part. I let it  dry out and now I have at least some organic zest for my cakes. The rest was cored, cut in small bites and covered with sugar then cooked for enough time to become a quasi jelly. Now it is in use as a syrup, lovely to mix with water and drink during the day. Just for the taste of it, it does not make you slim, or bright, or smart. But I could not let my lemons go. Plain and simple.

      Let’s bake a pinca (pi’ntza)

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      There are many many recipes for the perfect pinca (if you are Slovene) or pinza (if you are Italian) and they are all “the best”. Just ask anyone. But we’ll love to eat a slice of this delicious bake without too much fuss, don’t we? So, here is what you’ll need
      1 kg strong white bread flour
      1/2 tbs salt
      One and a half cube of yeats (about 35/40 gr)
      3 dl lukewarm milk
      2 eggs and 3 yolks ( it goes a minimum of 4 eggs, 2 and 2, to a maximum of 8)
      200 gr sugar
      1 sachet vanilla
      zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon (untreated)
      1 shot of rhum or grappa or (that’s my family tradition) and infusion of anise in hot water or white wine
      150 gr butter (I use homemade ghee, it’s festive baking, remember?), melted
      1 egg, beaten, to glaze

      You can either knead as a slave or use a friendly kitchen robot (I am madly in love with my KitchenAid, but any device that will make the hard kneading work will be welcome). Whatever. But remember: you’ll need time and a warm place to let the dough rest. If you are in a hurry, bake a cheesecake instead.

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      Mix the fresh yeats with the milk and some flour. Wait till the yeats will do his job.
      Sieve the flour and put all the ingredients (be careful to have the eggs, flour and the melted butter at room temperature) in the kneading bowl.

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      Ok. Now you have to knead and knead and knead, untill the dough does no stick anymore. Refrain from adding more flour. You ( or the robot ) have to work hard!
      After this, let the dough stay covered for an hour or so. Knead again and repeat. If you repeat this at least once more, you’ll have a superb pinca. Garantee.
      From this batch you can bake 4 smaller pincas or 2 medium or, of course, one really large. The decision is on you. Just form a ball and put it on a greased baketray. Glaze with the beaten egg and cut a cross in the middle of the ball. You can do it with the scissors or with a knife. Bake in a preheated owen at 200 C for 20 minutes and then other half an hour or more at 180 or even 150 C. The pinca has to be soft, nicely brown where coated with the beaten egg. It smells so fine that you have to be very zen not to cut into the still warm bake. But you have to. The pinca is a pinca when all the steam has evaporated.

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