Roasted Fennel with Pomegranate and Tahini

Make the most of the plump fennels Mother Nature offers in this time of the year! This recipe is a luxurious version of the humble roasted fennel and boasts the bulbs with an explosion of colour and flavour from the Middle East.

  • 4 medium fennels, trimmed
  • 3 tbsp extravirgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp pomegranate molasses
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2/3 tbsp tahini sauce
  • bunch of parsley, coarsely chopped

Divide each fennel bulb in 8 wedges, steam for 8 minutes and line on the baking tray covered with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the oil, balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses, and mix well.

Brush the fennels wedges with the emulsion, heat the oven at 160°C and bake for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature at 140°C and continue baking for further 40 minutes: you should leave the fennels in the oven until a second before they get burnt.

Transfer the baked fennel on a plate, season with some sea salt and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and parsley. Drizzle the tahini on top and serve.

 

 

Potatoes Cubes with Buttery Spicy Breadcrumbs

Potatoes like these are a mind-blowing experience and, OMG, so easy to prepare and so inexpensive that there’s nothing more to tell in order to persuade you. Try them, Scouts honour!

Serves 4-6

  • 1 kg potatoes, peeled and cubed into sizes of 2,5 x 2,5 cm
  • 200 gr butter
  • 100 gr breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 tsp cloves powder

Place the potatoes in cold, salted water with a tbsp vinegar. Bring to a boil and let cook until the potatoes are soft, yet chunkie. Drain and let cool to room temperature.

In a large pan melt the butter, when foaming add the breadcrumbs and spicies and let cook until golden.

Add the potatoes and mix well until completely coated with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and serve hot.

Middle Eastern Bell Peppers

Kings of the summer, peppers like these are very simple to prepare yet feature a delicious Middle Eastern flavour which will make you dream of pleasantly being away from home.

Serves 4

  • 4 bell peppers
  • 100 gr hazelnuts
  • 50 gr white sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 3 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp extravirgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp vinegar, any kind
  • 1 garlic clove
  • bread crumbs

Toast the hazelnuts and sesame seeds separately. Let them cool to room temperature, then add the cumin and coriander and reduce to a powder with a food processor. This mix is called Duqqah and it is very common in the Middle East, where they are used to eating it over slices of bread previously dipped in olive oil.

Wash the peppers, eliminate the white part and seeds and quarter them regularly.

In a small food processor, or using a hand blender, emulsify the oil with the vinegar and garlic.

Place the peppers on an oven tray covered with parchment paper, coat with the sauce using a kitchen brush, sprinkle over 3 tbsp of Duqqah (keep the rest in a glass jar up to 1 month) and the same quantity of bread crumbs.

Spray with extra oil.

Bake in the oven, 150° C fan, for around 50 minutes, until brown and crispy.

Season with salt and pepper and serve lukewarm.

Hasselback Potatoes

Normally served with game and soaked with butter, these potatoes are of Swedish origin: crispy golden stacks of delicious potatoes cooked in the oven with a zing of lemon and herbs are perfect with whatever main dish you like, be it meat or not. As an Italian, I normally go for extravirgin olive oil, but if you fancy using butter, feel absolutely free to do so.

Serves 6

  • 1,5 kg potatoes, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 100 ml extravirgin olive oil (or butter) + extra for the oven dish

Slice the potatoes about 0,25 cm thick using a mandoline or the food processor and place in a bowl with cold water.

Finely chop the zest of the lemons, add to the garlic and combine everything with the oil (or melted butter)and herbs.

Drain the potatoes, pat dry and stack the slices around the edges of an oven dish, previously greased with oil or butter, alligning them tightly so that each stack supports the other. Drizzle over the sauce, add some sea salt and pepper to your taste and bake in the oven at 180° C with fan.

Bake for 75 minutes, until crisp and golden: if the potatoes are going too brown, cover with aluminum foil.  Test the potatoes with a skewer to make sure they are properly cooked through, then remove from the oven and serve hot.

 

 

Cauliflower Pudding with Black Olive Pesto

As I would simply put it, this pudding is my signature dish. The pudding in itself is delicate yet savory, while the pesto sauce features a real triumph of aromas.  Please notice that the real zing to the pesto comes from the olives, so take care of choosing the best possible quality. 

Serves 4

  • 800 gr cauliflower, florets removed and washed
  • 150 ml milk
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 80 gr pecorino cheese, grated
  • 3 tbsp extravirgin olive oil

for the pesto:

  • 100 gr black olives, deseeded: if you are lucky enough to find the Taggiasche sort that will be the best! Otherwise, a good alternative is Greek black olives, which are surely easier to locate.
  • 100 ml top quality Italian extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salted capers, accurately washed and drained
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 3 anchovies in oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (or chilli flakes, if you prefer it less spicy)
  • rind and juice of 1 organic orange

Boil the cauliflower in hot salted water, drain and sautéè in a large pan with the oil until golden. Reduce to a purée using the back of a spoon. Let it cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs with the pecorino cheese and milk and add a little black pepper powder.  Add the cauliflower and mix thoroughly.

Grease the inside of a plain bundt cake tin with some olive oil and pour in the batter. Bake in the oven, still, at 190°C, bainmarie, for 50 minutes.

Prepare the pesto by putting all the ingredients in a food processor until creamy and blended.

Leave the pudding to cool a little before turning out, garnish with the pesto and serve. You can make the pudding a day ahead and warm it in the microwave just before serving: cover with the pesto only after warmed up, so that the sauce won’t cook.