Asparagus Risotto

26 May 2010

Asparagus Risotto

Classic asparagus risotto made with arborio rice, onions, stock, Parmesan cheese and fresh asparagus.

The season for asparagus always seems too short. In a blink of an eye it’s gone and you have to wait a whole year to enjoy these tasty shoots again. So when I was in Provence this past weekend I took advantage of the Uzes Market.

There were many different varieties of asparagus to choose from – white,  green, purple tipped, but for this recipe I prefered the green.  What is great about risotto is that it doesn’t over power the asparagus, but compliments it. This is quintessential Italian cooking, which is all about tasting each ingredient.

For other asparagus recipes see these links: Pumpkin Risotto Grilled Asparagus

See link ‘asparagus risotto‘ below for recipe:




24 September 2009



PESTO : This will be the shortest post known to man! Ok well not quite, but I was about to post the recipe for an avocado, goats cheese & quinoa salad when it occurred to me that it might be useful to have the Basil Pesto recipe first, as it is one of the main ingredients.

This recipe can be easily adapted to different tastes – more or less garlic, with or without parmesan and I add a dash of lemon juice to help keep the bright green colour, as the outer layer seems to oxidize so quickly!

Marisa told me,that when she was a little girl living in Italy, she was given the odious job of having to chop the basil by hand, into a fine paste using only a knife… authentic yes, time efficient no. So I have opted for using the blender and while less romantic it does get the job done.



31 August 2009


Courgette pizza

PIZZA : A kitchen garden is a dream I have had for some time, however as we currently live in the city center with only a balcony fit for potted herbs,  I have to live vicariously through Olivier’s mother. Josiane has a wonderful potager in France, where she grows everything from runner beans and beetroot to leeks & lettuce.

However it is the courgettes (zucchinis) that are growing like wild fire, taking up more than their share of the vegetable garden. As the summer months pass and Autumn draws near, Josiane has an increasingly difficult time keeping up with their pace and as a result, come August I am the happy owner of several enormous courgettes.

Now I tell you, grateful as I am, a girl can only do so much with courgettes and after my fifth batch of soup I was getting desperate. The fact that I have been on an Italian theme for the past few post and recently been perfecting my hand at homemade pizza dough, gave me the idea for this recipe!

The mint to be honest was a lucky accident…. I  was preparing the pizza for this post, grabbed the herb jar of dried ‘basel’…. shook it generously over the pizza, only to look down and discover that the label read MINT! Shit I thought… oh well, too late to turn back now, so into the oven it went.



25 August 2009



What you didn’t know about true Italian tomato sauce…..

Marisa, the concierge in my office building,  is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Italian cooking.  Born and raised in the small village of Zogno, 4km from San Pellegrino, she grew up with the transitional values of simple & delicious hands on cooking.

At the end of the day when my job is ending and hers is starting, we often spend some time chatting about recipes. She told me that for Italians, the true way of making tomato sauce is with either onions or garlic but never both together. The tomatoes should be very ripe, as that is where the taste comes from and will make or break your sauce.  Removing the skin is also essential, as is a generous quantity of fresh basil and hand chopped garlic.



21 August 2009


Eight friends and a pasta machine is a great recipe for a dinner party and a welcomed change to the standard fare of one exhausted host, slaving over a hot stove while the guests wait ‘patiently’ in the next room.

Weeks ago at Lucy’s wedding, Helen & Rich casually mentioned the steam oven in their kitchen. I’m not sure they were quite prepared for my overly enthusiastic reaction…. Imagine a fat kid on a lolly pop and you are getting warmer. So they suggested we come over for dinner and I said great, why don’t we all cook together.  Friends are always surprised by this idea, I think mostly because they have never done it. I grew up in a family where everyone, men and women alike, pitched in to make the meal. The talking, drinking and cooking together was half the fun.

When planning the cooking menu, I had to keep in mind that we were 8 in the kitchen and that the recipes should be vegetarian for Lucy 🙂 While the steam oven was a great temptation, I put this on the back burner, opting for homemade pasta making – as I thought it would be a better idea for a large group.


19 June 2008

{STEAMED ARTICHOKES –  ARTICHAUTS A LA VAPEUR} Artichokes are actually eatable flowers… which would explain their simple, natural beauty. I often find myself being wood by crates of these lovely globes, not only by their looks, but for their versatility in cooking. 

While the list of artichoke recipes is long & extensive (canapés, soups, salads, gratin….), simply steaming the choke & eating it leaf by leaf, dipped in a sumptuous vinaigrette- is a little bit of heaven. And it is here that the saying “It’s what’s in side that counts…” holds doubly true, as while the leaves are delicious, the piece de résistance, the whole reason for buying the artichoke in the 1st place, is for its tender heart.


  • Name : derived from the ancient Northern Italian articiocco (modern carciofo)
  • A perennial thistle from Southern Europe & the Mediterranean
  • 16th century: artichokes were reserved for men as they were considered an aphrodisiac
  • Origin thought to be in Italy
  • Over 140 artichoke varieties
  • Peak season April thought to June
  • Select dark green, heavy, artichokes with tight (not open) leaf formation
  • Freshness test: squeaks when squeezed. Avoid brown tips.
  • Store in the fridge, unwashed, sprinkled with water, in an airtight plastic bag
  • Health note: artichokes are a powerful antioxidant



  • Like asparagus, steamed globe artichokes can be eaten with your fingers!
  • Leaves : pluck each leaf off by pulling the pointed end
  • Dip the edible wider end of the leaf into the vinaigrette
  • Eating : put 1/2 the edible end in your mouth, and drag it between your teeth, scrapping off the flesh
  • The leaves will become progressively smaller, tender & white with purple tips towards the centre, and can often be eaten whole 
  • The Artichoke heart : is the centre or flower of the choke, covered in a thick bed of fuzzy, hairlike strands. Using your fingers or a spoon gently pry away the hairs revealing the edible choke, referred to as the ‘heart’. This is often the favourite part of the artichoke


Sweet Pea Blog Recipe

There comes a time in every girls life where she has to face facts – that if ones beloved husband, boyfriend, fiancé (mine very much included in this list…) brother, partner, father, the list is long but distinguished here, has become an official OFFICE MOLE – one of those very dedicated, over achieving, hard workers, who should basically set up camp under their desk, you are going to have to join the ranks of those who triumphed over the work pile! It will not take an army, nor a city wide power shortage, you loosing your mind, or having a shout, all you need is your OVEN and a couple of ingredients.

Now the saying goes that you may be able to bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, but I can tell you – you can bring a hungry overworked man to the table and believe me he will eat!! The story is the same if the roles of the sexes are reversed. So if you are going to lure them out of their den, you need to make it worth their while. Which got me to thinking about an Italian dish my colleague Melissa made last year – one that had so much success that no sooner had she placed the platter on the table but the dish was clean. I figured that this would do the trick.

My first attempt at RICOTTA STUFFED PASTA SHELLS,produced a dish that while savoury, was a little dry for my liking and lack that unctuous creamy quality Italian cooking is so famous for. Melissa’s shells however are filled with three types of cheese which solves this problem. Like many cooks who are comfortable in the kitchen, she cooks by her nose and not necessarily by the book, so I had to invent my own proportions etc based on the ingredients she normally uses. Half the fun of cooking is the art of improvisation & personalisation!

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4 December 2007


AMARETTI These well known Italian almond cookies, get their name from the Italian word ‘amaro’ meaning ‘bitter’ as they are made with bitter almonds & ‘etti’ indicating that they are small. Don’t be scared off, as most of you know, these cookies are anything but bitter, and the ones I make are not small!

Though I have to say that the Nona’s out there must have a hidden family secret or simply a magic fairy in the pantry, that allows them to make this recipe perfectly every time. Let’s just say that I was a ‘virgin amaretti maker’ a ‘babe in the kitchen’ and was in serious need of 1. a pair of training wheels 2. a Nona with a black belt in Italian patisserie and 3. to “borrow” that little magic fairy….

As my 1st attempt produced a very sad, poor excuse for amaretti …. they were lifeless and flat, and while the exterior was shiny & crispy, the biggest disappointment was yet to come – as biting into the cookie you were to discover – NOTHING, AIR, VOID, HOLLOW SPACE…. oooh that cannot be good I though.

So I went back to the drawing board. After much reading & baking, I came accross Yvonne’s recipe for amaretti’s. For this I have to say ‘chapeau’, my hat goes off to her – so impressed was I with these cookies, that I was inspired to create my own version based on her recipe – omitting the cocoa powder & almond decoration,  and using pure almond essence. These amaretti cookies are easy to make, have a lovely almond taste and a wonderfully soft centre!