Italian: Fiori di zucchini ripieni (stuffed zucchini flowers)
I’ve chosen this recipe as a bit of quirk – for something different. I’ve always wanted to try them but I’m yet to see them on a menu.
Zucchini flowers are usually stuffed with a ricotta and herbs, dipped in a light batter and fried.
If you’ve ever grown zucchinis, you’ll know how quickly they multiply and so cooking the flowers or blossoms is a kind way of slowing production down. Pick flowers in the middle of the day, when they are fully open. If they’re male flowers it will have a stamen, whereas the females produce the fruit on the vine and they have pistils. Blossoms need to be eaten the same day they are picked or bought from the market (within hours is best).
To remove the stamens from the zucchini blossoms carefully insert your thumb and index finger into the flower without tearing it and pinch off the stamens
- Meera Freeman, Cooking Class
The batter should be the consistency of pouring cream.
This dish tastes better the next day as the time allows the sponge to absorb the flavours of the alcohol and coffee. When dipping the Savoiardi biscuits try not to soak them completely through as it will lead to puddles at the bottom of the bowl.
Sorbet is an Italian iced dessert made with water, sugar and fruit, or wine or liqueur. It’s perfect to have in summer to cool yourself down on a hot day and quench your thirst. So many varieties, what is your favourite? Mine is a toss up between lemon and raspberry.
carnaroli – easy to cook grain that keeps it shape and texture. from Verona. good for seafood.
vialone nano – large rounded grain – gives an extra creamy, smooth risotto due to the high levels of starch. Good for strong flavours.
Elizabeth David writes “…there is a split-second in the cooking of the rice – just as for scrambled eggs – when the consistency is exactly right. It is neither too liquid nor too compact. It is light, every grain is separate although bound together in a homogeneous whole by the starch which has amalgamated with the cooking liquid.”
There are three traditional styles for cooking risotto: wet, baked and fried.
A wet risotto is cooked on the stove top with the stock added gradually.
A baked risotto is cooked on the stove top in stock and finished off in the oven. It is a timbale or pilaf which is cut and served in slices.
A fried risotto is cooked in the oven like a pilaf until light and fluffy and then fried.
Risotto alla Milanese should be made with real saffron and real stock. It is a traditional partner to osso bucco.
Elizabeth David advises to never “cook a risotto for a dinner party which had to be managed single-handed, because it is a bad dish to keep waiting.”
I’ve only ever had risotto once at a restaurant and I was so disappointed that it was undercooked that I’ve never attempted to order it again. Risotto is about the only thing that I can claim to still cook better than my husband!
Polenta is the name of the dish and the ingredient itself. It was traditionally cooked over an open fire in a cast-iron pot and would take an hour to prepare. It is true peasant food, but is starting to become trendy.
These days there are different varieties and you can buy polenta pre-made or as a quick-cooking version. White polenta from white corn is also available.
For a simple dinner, top your polenta with a fried egg and grated Parmesan cheese.
Pizza dough will keep a day or two in the refrigerator.
Wood fired ovens make the best pizzas, and you’ll need a baker’s peel, which is a long handled wooden paddle, to slide the pizza in and out of the oven. If you don’t have a wood fired oven, invest is an oven stone to help get an evenly cooked and crispy pizza crust. Place the flat stone in a preheated oven at 220C.
Osso bucco literally means ‘bone hole’, which refers to the cut of veal used from the shank which has marrow in the middle. It is an Italian veal stew – some versions contain vegetables and some contain tomato sauce. Allow one piece of osso bucco person, or two if they are small pieces.
It is typically served with Milanese risotto. The fresh gremolata sprinkled over the top really lifts the dish and makes it special.