Usually I love following the traditions: I believe in keeping the proportions and following the procedures even if new technologies can simplify everything: after all, I am not looking for the “correct” and perfect ways, I just need my food to taste like in the childhood. But sometimes, when life sends you a good set of ingredients, I feel like experimenting (anyway, there was no lasagna in my childhood). This time my inspiration was the autumn – keeping in mind that in English climate autumn vegetables must be the tastiest. So, actually, the queen of the autumn, pumpkin, seems like a perfect stuffing balanced with new tomatoes and some potatoes. Alternatively, pumpkin can be replaced with aubergines. The nature is smart, and apparently all autumn veggies tend to combine perfectly with each other.
Pumpkin Potato Lasagna
Potatoes__________ 500 grams
Pumpkin__________ 300 grams
Tomato pasta______ 3 tablespoons
Scamorza Cheese___350 grams
Brie Cheese________150 grams
Parmesan ____100 grams
Butter ______ 40 grams
Flour _______40 grams
Milk ________600 ml
Nutmeg _____a pinch
1. Cut onion and fry till golden, add cut potatoes and diced pumpkin and cook on the low heat for 10 minutes. Add tomato pasta, mix well and cook until ready. Add salt, paper, and rosemary to taste.
2. For the béchamel sauce melt the butter in a pot with thick bottom, add flour, mix it and fry for several minutes constantly mixing so that flour won’t stick to the bottom. Add warm milk, mix well, cook on low flame till it boils, after add salt, nutmeg, cover with the lid and cook for 10-15 minutes (till it becomes dense). Note: for lasagna the sauce shall be not as dense as you would cook otherwise.
3. Grease a baking dish, cover the bottom with béchamel, lay the first layer of lasagna sheets (it’s better if they don’t overlap), cover with béchamel, spread vegetable mix, add salt and pepper to taste, and slices of cheese. Repeat layers till all ingredients are used, cover with lasagna sheets, béchamel, sprinkle with parmesan. Bake on 180C (350F) for 45 minutes.
When I came to Italy, I was amazed how horribly Italians waste food. My flat mates would throw away everything that they had not finished during the dinner; in my perspective you can eat the dish even the day after. From time to time I saw in the garbage a whole loaf of bread; that made me absolutely sick… At least you can give the bread to birds. The fist moths of living together with my Italian bf were a constant fight for the food leftovers – I told we wouldn’t through them away, which confuzzeled him a lot (confuzzeled = confused + puzzled). In general, I can though away only something that is gone, but I prefer to utilize everything before it is wasted. This has nothing to do with greed; it is a matter of respect.
My grandmother was just 4 when the war started – big enough to remember everything. She never spoke about the war, even though many of people of her age or older told us how important it was to keep on studying and helping adults in watching out the fire. The only thing she ever had told me about the war was bread related. She once, when I was a small girl, tried to explain me what was responsibility and that life requires trade-offs. She told me they got a piece of bread per day, and they were three: my granny, her sister and their mother (my grandgrandmother). Each day my grandgrandmother would split this tiny peace in three unequal parts. My grandmother told me, that she was a kid and she was so hungry, as she was growing, but already then she understood that she had right to take just the smallest part of the bread. Her mother was working hard, her sister was studying in school – in her eyes they needed the food more, than herself.
During the siege of Leningrad around 5,000 people per DAY died because of hunger only. The piece of bread, 70% of which was not even wheat, but wood shredding, was the only food for the citizens for 900 days. In total, over 800,000 died from starvation. There is no single person with a normal upbringing in St Petersburg who can through away a piece of bread. It has nothing to do with greed; just the price of this bread is way too high to afford putting it to garbage. It is like spitting in your own history. Each time, when you through away good food, you show fantastic disrespect to those people, who are dying because they don’t have it. Since when have people forgotten that for centuries food was synonym for life?
Well, back to the recipe now. What if you cooked too much of risotto? Next day it is not tasty anymore. Solution is an absolutely fantastic risotto pie.
Time of preparation: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Mushroom risotto leftovers or
Dry mushrooms__ 30 grams
Goat Cheese_____100 grams
1. If you prepare risotto from scratch: put mushrooms into boiling water for 30 minutes. After drain, and save the water. Chop onion; pour oil in the pot, fry onion and mushrooms. Add rice; mix so that every grain is coated with oil. Pour in a splash of broth from mushrooms. Constantly mix till the water evaporates, add another splash then, mix till the liquid evaporates… Repeat this sequence till rice is cooked. Add salt, pepper to taste.
2. Transfer the half of prepared risotto/leftover risotto into the baking dish, put sliced soft goat cheese, sprinkle with dried oregano (any herb you like/have next to you) and cover with the remaining risotto. If you want, sprinkle with grated parmiggiano. Bake on 180C (350F) for about 20 minutes or till golden crust. Super good cold, hot, and on the next day.
For utilizing stale bread you can check stuffed courgettes recipe, for using rice check oven-baked rice, if you have some fried vegetables left roll them into strudel, a lonely cooked potato or a lonely baked aubergine will fit into Balkan cheese pie.
There is a popular idiom in spoken Russian: “All in the chocolate”. Of cause it is not the language of good literature, but rather an expression you use among your cute fellow lads to sound easy and loose, and it means that all is fantastic, fabulous and dreamy. I doubt I had ever used it, as first I am not that cool type of gal, and second I had not had such a phenomenal success yet. Until this Friday.
I came from my job, where I have a pretty exhausting project: I have 250 museums on my list, so I have to contact each and request the complete list of the exhibitions for 2015, and put in the system. Museums are unorganized institutions, who don’t respect deadlines and need to be watched like children. After a week of working as a psychologist, negotiating, praying and blackmailing where suitable, I came home on Friday with the dream of indulging myself. The aim was a perfect marble cheesecake. Apparently, it was a sign of solidarity with Tanya (see my tagline to learn who is she), who made a cheesecake for her party and shared with me a recipe and inspiration. So I came home and I was whisking, mixing, melting chocolate… the cheesecake looked fabulous, the oven reached the temperature and I was putting the baking dish inside when cheesecake suddenly slippered out of my hands and dropped on the floor. As we say in Russia “The bread is always dropping with the buttered side down”. As proved, cheesecake tends to follow the same pattern. The floor, the furniture, the oven were covered with a good and tempting level of chocolate. Finally I learned on my own skin how it is “to have all in chocolate”, which I can boast about among my friends. And I guess my newspaper owes me a cake, for making me exhausted to this extent.
Ok, so for tonight my cheesecake is crumble. A very good crumble though.
Time of preparation: 40 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Sugar__________ 100 grams golden caster
Liquor_________ 2 tablespoons
Self-raising flour___140 grams
Sugar____________50 grams muscovado
Walnuts__________ 50 grams
1. Chop rhubarb in pieces of approximately 5 cm, put in the pan, cover with sugar, pour in liquor (I used amaretto) or water if you do not want to use alcohol and simmer on the low fire for about 15 minutes – the rhubarb should become soft but not shapeless. Transfer it in the baking dish, leaving some of the juice in the pan.
2. Fry the apples in the preserved juice till they are brown and soft. Transfer in the baking dish.
3. Combine butter and flour, rub together with hands, when crumbles are formed add sugar and chopped walnuts. Mix, and cover the apple/rhubarb filling. Bake on 200C (400F) for about 30 minutes or till it is golden brown.