Apple Sauce-Based Brownies

No milk, no eggs, no fats: if you are sceptical like I am when trying “healthier” versions of consolidated myths, you will be stunned by these low cal brownies, which use the creamy consistency of the apple sauce to become as good as the classic type. It really is an option for the weight watchers.

Serves 6

  • 800 gr Golden Delicious apples
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • juice of a half lemon
  • 40 gr cocoa powder
  • 100 gr self raising flour
  • 1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 60 gr caster or brown sugar
  • 100 gr dark chocolate, knife sliced
  • 70 gr walnuts, chopped
  • 250 ml coconut milk

Prepare the applesauce: peel, deseed and quarter the apples, place in a heavy-based pot with the lemon juice, cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 2 tbsp of water. Cover with a lid and let cook over low heat for around 30 minutes, occasionally stirring. When the apples are almost reduced to a puréè the apple sauce is ready. Let it cool to room temperature, then weigh 250 gr and transfer in a bowl.

Spinkle over the flour and cocoa powder (using a sieve), sugar, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, chocolate, walnuts and coconut milk.

The mix should be on the running side; if you have a particularly thick apple sauce, add some water or extra coconut milk. Be careful to not overwork the dough, or the brownies will be tough once ready.

Line a square cake tin with non-stick baking paper and spoon in the mixture. Bake in the oven at 180° for  15-18 minutes until the surface is set but the inner is still a little soft. Let cool on a rack, then cut into squares and serve.

 

Mediterranean Tempeh

Today my goal is to create a perfect union between a typical Indonesian food like Tempeh and a savoury Mediterranean flavour to achieve a balanced and tasty result. As you might know, Tempeh is the final product of fermented yellow soya beans. Central in the vegan cuisine, Tempeh is a healthy high protein food which can well substitute meat, specially when served together with sauces, vegetabled and dips. Its flavour is slightly acid, which compliments the sweetness of the carrot and onion.

Serves 2

  • 1 double pack natural Tempeh (about 150 gr)
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 fresh chilli pepper
  • 100 black olives (I normally use Taggiasche)
  • 100 ml extravirgin olive oil + extra 4 tbsp
  • 20 basil leaves, whashed, drained and tap dried
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce

Place the basil leaves in a small food processor together with the olive oil and puls until homogenous and creamy. Pour in a bottle and set aside. This is a simple way to make your own basil oil -you can use it whenever you want to add some flavour to any of your dishes. Just remember to shake it well before using. This will keep up to 2 weeks when correctely stored in the fridge.

In a heavy-based saucepan, or wok, heat 2 tbsp oil and cook the Tempeh, thinly sliced, stirring occasionally, over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until soft and a pale caramel colour. Transfer onto a plate and keep warm.

Peel and thinly shave the carrots with the help of a peeler. Slice the onions and chop the red chilli pepper.

In the same saucepan, or wok, in which you cooked the Tempeh saute the onion and red chilli pepper in the remaining 2 tbsp oil until soft and still white. Add the carrots, fry for 40 seconds, the add the olives and Tempeh. Pour in 2 tbsp soya sauce, season with some sea salt according to your taste and let cook for a few more seconds, until thickened. Serve hot.

To complete you dish, place the Tempeh and vegetables in the centre of your plate and drizzle some of the basil oil around it. Enjoy!

 

Rigatoni alla Checca, a Roman Recipe

Please do not hold a grudge on me, my Roman friends, but let’s admit that the Roman cuisine is essentially  oriented to the “basics” and to a rusticity that I often do not appreciate.  Yet,  give credit where credit is due: there are excellent recipes among the Roman ones too, and what I am describing today is exactly one of them, a very easy pasta, though rich in taste and flavour. The must is the ricotta cheese: it has to be the best you can afford.

Serves 4

  • 400 gr rigatoni
  • 300 gr ricotta cheese
  • 80 gr parmesan, freshly grated
  • 14 date or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 5 tbsp extravirgin olive oil of extra good quality, plus extra to garnish
  • black pepper, freshly ground, to your taste

In a large bowl whisk by hand the ricotta, parmesan and pepper until creamy. Dice the tomatoes to super tiny cubes and add to the ricotta mixture,  together with the basil leaves, washed, drained,  pat-dried and cut by hand into small stripes. Season with the oil and let rest for 2 hours at room temperature. Add some sea salt only before serving.

Boil the rigatoni in salted water (keep 1 cup of water in case the sauce is too thick), transfer to the bowl with the sauce and toss everything together. Add a further glug of oil, salt to your taste, some extra pepper 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.

Super Crunchy Fig and Ricotta Cheese Gratin

What is better than figs dipped in a sea of creamy ricotta cheese mix and surprisingly, deliciously crunchy? Either prepared the day ahead and refrigerated or eaten lukewarm, this is a cake you will treasure.

Serves 8

  • 500 gr fresh ricotta cheese
  • 800 gr figs, ripe but not too soft
  • 200 gr caster sugar
  • 40 gr brown sugar
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 6 amaretti biscuits (optional) or 50 gr almonds, skin on, coarsely crushed
  • 50 gr butter

In a large bowl mix the ricotta, egg yolks and caster sugar working with a fork.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and glossy, then incorporate into the ricotta mix.

Grease a ceramic baking dish with some butter, scatter with a few breadcrumbs discarding the excess, then pour the batter. Place the figs halfway in the batter, forming a circle.

Scatter the butter flakes on top, sprinkle the brown sugar and bake in the oven at 190°C for 15 minutes. Now sprinkle the amaretti, crushed with a mortar and pestle, or with the almonds, and bake for an additional 30 minutes. If the gratin becomes too golden, cover with aluminum foil.