Here's to cooking Italiano


Chef Michael Swamy shows you how to move beyond pizza and pasta in Italian cooking.

Tomato & Goat's Cheese Salad (Tris di pomodori e caprino) (A variety of tomatoes with caramelized shallot dressing, seasonal greens and crumbled goat cheese)

Ingredients: 1 red tomato, 1 green tomato, 50g cherry tomato, 100g shallots, 30ml red wine vinegar, 50g crumbled goat cheese, 10g mixed mesclun (salad leaves),  2g crushed black pepper, 2g salt, 100ml olive oil

Method: To make the dressing, on a pan, pour 5 ml olive oil and the shallots. Cook on low heat for about 5 mins. Caramelize the shallots. Once ready, blend to a fine puree with red wine vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Let it cool. On a plate, drizzle the shallot dressing. Cut the fresh tomatoes in desired shapes. Arrange them along
with the mesclun. Crumble goat cheese on the salad. Drizzle some more of the dressing on the salad and serve immediately.

Mint & Green Pea Soup (Crema di peselli al profuma di menta) (Mint flavoured creamy green pea’s soup) Ingredients: 500g frozen green peas, 50g sliced onions, 5g chopped garlic, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 50g fresh mint leaves, 1l vegetable stock, 50ml fresh cream, 10g unsalted butter, 50ml olive oil, 10g salt, 10g crushed black pepper

Method: Heat up a pot, add oil, onion and sweat it for about a minute. Add garlic and sweat it for another minute. Add the green peas, and cook for about 3 minutes. Drop in the thyme, pour the stock and season it.

Once the green peas have cooked, remove and puree the green peas with fresh mint leaves. Strain into a pot or pan. Heat the soup again and finish with cream and butter. Check for seasoning and serve hot.

Stuffed Spring Chicken (Pollastrella farcita ai porcini) (Spring chicken stuffed with porcini mushrooms, and served with sautéed garlic spinach, and blueberry and gnocchi jus) Ingredients: 1 boneless chicken breast, 50g porcini mushrooms, 10g chopped onions, 5g chopped garlic, 15g smoked cheese, 80g gnocchi mushrooms, 100g fresh spinach, 30g blueberries, 15g unsalted butter, 100ml olive oil, 10g salt, 10g crushed black peppercorn

Method: To stuff the chicken, clean the chicken breast, remove any excess fat, and make a pocket in the breast using a small paring knife. Heat up a pan, add oil, and sweat the onions. Add the porcini mushrooms and cook for about 5 mins. Season it well and cool the mixture. Chop them roughly and place them in a piping bag. Then cut the smoked cheese into a baton shape, which could easily go through the chicken breast pocket.

Now, pre-heat the oven to 180*c. Place a pot of water for boiling and add salt to it. Season the chicken with herbs. Slip in the cheese and pipe the mushroom into the pocket.

Heat up a new pan (preferably nonstick), add butter and oil, and pan fry the chicken breast for about a minute on each side. Then, place the chicken in the oven. It will take about 8 mins to 10 mins to cook, depending on the size of the breast. For the gnocchi, start with butter in a nonstick pan, add the blueberries and cook with a little bit of water.

Then crush the berries using the back of a spoon. Drop the gnocchi in the boiling water and once they start floating, remove and add it into the pan with the berries. Cook them for about a minute. Place another pan with oil. Once hot, add chopped garlic and the spinach. Season with salt and remove. On a plate, arrange the spinach, gnocchi, and chicken breast. Serve hot.

Poached Pear Dessert (Red wine poached pear, with olive oil cake and mascarpone ice cream) Ingredients: For poached pear: 500ml red wine, 1 peeled green pear, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, 1 fresh orange rind, 150g brown sugar. For mascarpone ice-cream: 100g castor sugar, 200g mascarpone cheese, 235ml heavy cream. For olive oil cake: 185g refined flour, 115g castor sugar, 3 lemon rinds, 12g baking powder, 125ml white wine, 80ml milk, 185ml extra virgin olive oil

Method: To prepare the pears, peel them, place them in a pot and add all the ingredients. Make sure the pear is completely submerged in wine. Cook it on low heat for about 20 mins or until the pear has cooked.

Remove the pear and cool it. Strain the wine and reduce it over low heat. Save the sauce for plating. To make the ice cream, mix all the ingredients together and pour it into an ice cream machine. Remove once set and store in the freezer.

To make the cake, pre-heat the oven to 180 degree celsius. Sift baking powder and refined flour in a mixing bowl. Add sugar, olive oil, lemon rind and milk, and whisk them well.  Slowly add in the flour and baking powder. Pour in the wine. Whisk the mixture well to avoid any lumps. Strain if need be. Apply butter to a baking pan. Bake for about 40-45 mins.

For plating, cut a slice of the cake. Dust it with icing sugar, and place it on a plate. Slice the pears and arrange it on the plate beside the cake. Scoop out the mascarpone ice cream and place it near the cake. Drizzle the red wine sauce around and serve immediately.

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