Crostini are a fantastic way to start a meal or to have with a glass of wine. The smell of the warm bread in the oven welcomes your guests at the door and they make a change from boring oily crisps and peanuts.
In Italy they are traditionally made with unsalted ‘Tuscan bread', but at home you can improvise by making your own fresh bread or using a baguette (the half baked ones are quite good for this).
Soft Cheese and Sundried Tomato Crostini
Wine tip: White – light & fresh ( Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, Soave)
Stracchino is a soft and mild Italian cheese with a silky texture, ideal for this recipe. You can find it in any local Italian delicatessen, or else it could be substituted with Philadelphia, or even a goat’s cheese.
Sundried tomatoes are easy to get hold of in jars, but you can also find them dry in Italian specialist dried-fruit markets. It is far tastier to marinade the sundried tomatoes yourself, using your own good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh ingredients, they will definitely impress!
200g stracchino cheese
25g sundried tomatoes
Fresh parsley to garnish
Step 1: Slice your baguette or Tuscan bread, glaze with olive oil and then toast on both sides. Spread your cheese over the top.
Step 2: Roughly chop your sundried tomatoes and place on the cheese. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve at room temperature.
Wine tip: White – Crisp & Elegant (e.g. Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc)
1 large octopus
3 small dried chillies
2 sprigs parsley
I knob ginger
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Step 1: Take your octopus and if it is fresh from the sea, (like it was for us) the first thing to do is to remove the mouth.
Step 2: In a pan boil up some water and add plenty of dried chilli, a large pinch of salt, a sprig of parsley and the grated ginger. Next add the octopus whole into the pan.
Step 3: Cook the octopus for 30 minutes but depending on the size it can take a little bit more. You can test if it si cooked by sticking a knife into the flesh and if ready it should be tender and the knife will slide off easily. At this point take out the octopus (you can save the water for stock) and drain in a large colander before placing it on a surface where you have enough room to cut it into small pieces. Leave to cool down in a large dish, in a dry place.
Step 4: Once the octopus is cool, pour over some extra virgin olive oil; throw in the rest of the fresh chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper. Finally, pour in the lemon juice. Toss and serve with a potato salad.
Lemon Mousse Tart
Full of zesty lemon this tasty dessert was inspired by an old friend of mine from Northern Ireland who also loves cooking. This recipe was very handy and served me well, when I was hosting my first Italian dinner parties in Florence!
Pure melt in your mouth, light and fluffy, lemon zingy dessert!
Wine tip: Sweet White (e.g. Muscat de Beaumes de Venise)
300 ml double cream
Raspberries (for a garnish)
250g plain flour
125g butter, chilled
60g ground almonds
50g caster sugar
1tbsp cold water
Pinch of salt
Step 1: Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl and add the ground almonds and sugar.
Step 2: Dice the chilled butter and rub it gently between your thumbs incorporating the flour and sugar. Try creating a consistency of small crumbs.
Step 3: Add the egg yolk and water to the flour and mix with a fork until it forms a ball.
Step 4: Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Step 5: Roll out the pastry to 4mm thickness and put onto a greased tart tin, pushing lightly into the sides. Cover with greaseproof paper and fill with some dry lentils or rice, to stop the pastry rising.
Step 6: Place in a pre-heated oven at 190˚C/370°F for 10-15 minutes, or until is starts to colour.
Step 7: Take out of the oven, remove the paper and lentils and place the pastry to one side.
Step 1: Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the cream, then fold them together.
Step 2: Now add the lemon juice from all three lemons and the grated rind from one lemon.
Step 3: Pour the mixture over the pastry in the prepared tin and cook in the oven for 20mins at 180°C/356°F Leave to set for a couple of hours in a cool place or in the fridge before removing the tin.
Step 4: Carefully remove the tin and arrange the raspberries on top. Sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving.