Monday, 26 March 2012

Brownies with white chocolate and macadamia nuts

OK, so brownies are not Italian (or Welsh) but they are delicious and actually, all the Italians I have given these to have just loved them. The other thing they have going for them is that they are (dangerously) easy to make - some melting and a little light stirring is all that's required of you.

Brownie recipes seem to vary enormously, some fudgy, others more cakey, others solid and dense. I have tried lots but I always come back to this one; the brownies are sweet, moist and squidgy in the middle with a slightly crisp exterior.


110g butter
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
2 eggs, beaten
100g granulated sugar
125g caster sugar
50g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
60g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
60g white chocolate, roughly chopped

A baking tin, 17x26cm approx, greased and lined with greaseproof paper

Preheat oven to 180°C

Melt the butter and chocolate, either in a saucepan on a very low heat or in a microwave, on low.

When melted, take off the heat and stir in all the other ingredients, adding the nuts and white chocolate last.

Pour into tin and bake for 25-30 mins. The top should be pale brown and the centre springy. Don't overcook - it will firm up as it cools. I leave them to cool in the tin completely, otherwise they're very difficult to cut.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A dish for St. David's Day - Risotto with leeks and Perl las

The daffodils are out, classrooms are full of singing children and the Red Dragons are flying high, all of which can only mean one thing - it's St. David's Day (and we're doing rather well in the Six Nations rugby).

In previous years, living in Italy, I tried to celebrate St. David's Day with some Welsh feasting but while Brains SA and Penderyn whisky have always gone down very well with the Italian side of the family, my efforts at making some traditional dishes of Wales have not met with the same success. It is perhaps better to draw a line under the Welsh faggots (made from pig's liver) incident; suffice to say that the meal did not tempt GL to delve further into 'Cuisine Cymraeg'.

So this year, I'm taking the 'Entente Cordiale' approach, using Welsh flavours and ingredients to make a very Italian risotto. Leeks, the national vegetable and symbol of Wales form the base of the risotto, and Perl Las, a Welsh blue cheese is added at the end. Both sides of the Italo/Welsh alliance are satisfied.

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus.

Leek and blue cheese risotto

Serves 2 generously

2 leeks
50g butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 glass dry white wine
1 litre vegetable stock
250g carnaroli or arborio rice
120g Perl Las or other blue cheese (Gorgonzola is used in Italy)
10g parmesan, grated

Chop the leeks very finely. Melt the butter with the oil in a wide saucepan, add the leeks and cook gently until softened, being careful not to colour them as leeks can turn very bitter if they start to brown.

When the leeks are soft, tip in the rice and stir well so that all the grains are coated in the buttery juices. Turn up the heat to medium and pour in the wine. Keep stirring until it is absorbed.

Start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, making sure it is all absorbed before adding the next, stirring all the while to make sure the rice doesn't start to stick.

The rice should be cooked after about 18-20 minutes (it should still have a slight 'bite' to it). You might not need all the stock or you may need a little more (you could just add boiling water).

Add the blue cheese, roughly crumbling it in and stirring so that it melts into the risotto. You can also beat in the parmesan at this point or you can sprinkle it over just before eating if you prefer.

Leek and Gorgonzola Risotto