Monday, March 28, 2016

Spaghetti with meat and aubergine balls

Spaghetti with meat and aubergine balls / Espaguete com almôndegas de carne e berinjela

I once told you that meatballs are a huge success at home, and I was not lying: I make them quite often, and always pop some of them (still uncooked) in the freezer – they can go to the oven directly from frozen, making my life a lot easier during weeknights (+ my husband can do that himself, which is always a plus). :)

I have posted meatballs made of beef, and meatballs made of eggplant, and today I present you a merge between those two kinds: eggplants get roasted, then their pulp is mixed with beef to create delicious, moist meatballs – they were very flavorsome and turned the spaghetti into something even more special.

Since this is a recipe by Antonio Carluccio there was no way it could go wrong.

Spaghetti with meat and aubergine balls
from the always delicious and beautiful Pasta

400g spaghetti
freshly grated parmesan or pecorino, to serve

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
100ml dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
680g tomato passata
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
handful fresh basil leaves

2 whole aubergines
olive oil, for drizzling the aubergines and for shallow-frying
300g minced beef
1 garlic clove, peeled and squashed to a paste
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
50g parmesan, finely grated
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
100g fresh breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon table salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it with olive oil. Cut the aubergines in half lengthwise and place them cut side up onto the foil. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Scoop the pulp out of the skins, transfer to a large bowl and mash the pulp. Cool. Discard the skins.

While the aubergines are roasting, make the sauce: heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, and fry the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and tomato passata. Season with salt and pepper, add the sugar, stir well and cook gently for 30–40 minutes. Stir in the basil and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, continue with the meatballs by mixing together the beef mince, the aubergine pulp, garlic, nutmeg, parmesan, egg and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper, mix well and shape into balls. Shallow-fry in olive oil to brown on all sides. Add the balls to the tomato sauce and keep warm.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Mix the past and the sauce carefully and serve immediately sprinkled with parmesan or pecorino.

Serves 4

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Simple, delicious brownies

Simple, delicious brownies / Brownies simples e deliciosos

I once subscribed to a DVD delivery service and at first it sounded like a very good idea: it would be a matter of logging in to the website, choosing a movie to watch and the DVD would be sent to your house. Easy peasy.

That was before Netflix, for the young ones reading me right now. :D

After a while, however, I realized that the service was not all that: the movie I actually wanted to watch at that moment was hardly ever available, so they would send me the following movies on my list, which was not always OK since there were days I wanted to watch a drama and a comedy got delivered to my doorstep (and the other way around). Or like the day I was feeling miserable and wanted something to cheer me up and they sent me Heavenly Creatures. :S

All that to tell you that although I am someone who will choose a lemon or fruit dessert over a chocolate one any day, there are occasions I want something specifically chocolatey, to the point of being almost sinful. These brownies, despite being super easy to make, are really tasty and have a wonderful texture to boot. They are every bit what I wanted on the day I made them, and I can guarantee they go well with either drama or comedies. :)

Simple, delicious brownies
slightly adapted from the beautiful Treats

150g unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
150g dark chocolate, finely chopped – I used one with 70% cocoa solids
1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar
½ cup (88g) light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (150g) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon table salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20cm (8in) square pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang on two opposite sides and butter the foil as well.

In a large bowl, melt the butter and chocolate over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove the bowl from the heat and cool slightly.

Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Whisk in the vanilla. Sift flour and salt over mixture and fold in with a spatula. Do not overmix. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the sides and top are set and the center still moist.

Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into squares. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes 16

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Port cookies to celebrate Leo

Port cookies / Biscoitinhos de vinho do Porto

My days are still super busy, and I hope things slow down a little in the weeks to come, but I am still making super quick recipes at home (and there are days I don’t make anything at all) and I am also still writing very short posts, as you can see. :)

However, there is one thing I could not leave aside, which is the fact that my beloved Leonardo Di Caprio, or “Leozinho”, as I call him, has finally won an Oscar, after so many years watching less worthy actors take home the award (not to mention the wonderful performances that were not nominated). The Internet almost collapsed and I jumped on my bed (and there were people a lot less subtle than me). :)

So congrats to Leo! And because of that I am posting cookies – not any kind of cookies, but cookies made with wine, because it is time to celebrate. \0/

Port cookies
slightly adapted from Rita Lobo

2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
¼ cup (25g) almond meal
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
200g unsalted butter, chopped, room temperature
¼ cup (60ml) Port wine
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
icing sugar, for dusting the cookies

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, place flour, almond meal, granulated sugar and salt and mix on low speed to combine. Add the butter and mix on low speed until a dough begins to form. Drizzle the wine and vanilla over the mixture, mix again on low just until a dough forms, but avoid overmixing.

Roll 1 leveled tablespoon of dough per cookie into balls and place onto prepared sheets 2.5cm (1in) apart. Gently flatten each ball. Bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from the oven, transfer sheet to a wire rack and dust the hot cookies with the icing sugar. After 5 minutes, slide the paper with the cookies onto the rack and cool completely.

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes about 42

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