Torta Chocolate (and Tales from Tuscany)

Every now and then, dreams come true. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreamed of one day visiting Italy. There’s always been something about Italy that has had me captivated; it’s food, people and their love of big-hearted hospitality are just some of the things I love about it.

So, when we were invited to join some friends for a holiday to a Villa in Tuscany, it finally felt like the right time to pack up the family and head to Europe. 

Like everyone, we’ve had our fair share of holidays that haven’t quite lived up to expectations. 

But from the moment we landed, this one met and exceeded them at every turn. 

After 3 days in glorious Venice (recipes to come from there later), we headed to Tuscany and embarked on a week of sight seeing, walking, touring, eating, drinking and immersing ourselves in everything Italy. 

Our base was Villa Gourmet, an old but beautifully restored villa with ample space for our 3 families. Surrounded by acres of olive groves, vineyards and sunflower fields, this Villa felt like home from the moment we arrived. Most meals were eaten at the pool house, which had it’s own kitchen and wood fired pizza oven. 

We cycled through the walled city of Lucca, walked along the top of a 13th century Castle in Montalcino, wandered museums of Florence, and drank Prosecco looking over the fields of Tuscany. We tasted local olive oils, balsamic vinegar and wines and ate at restaurants with no menu where the owners just cooked what they loved and served it. 

We ate pizza, gelato, bruschetta, seafood and the famous Florentine Steak that Tuscany is known for. After long days out touring, evenings were spent with antipasto and wine by the pool where the kids swam until the sun went down, just after 10pm!

On an extra special day, which had been planned by my sneaky friends as a surprise for my 40th birthday (which happened to fall while we were away), we found ourselves Truffle hunting in the woods. 

We were then driven to the beautiful home and vineyards of a family who welcomed the 14 of us into their home and proceeded to cook us a 5 course lunch, with our truffles as a star ingredient. 

We ate Truffled Ravioli (the likes of which I may never have again), Truffled Burrata, and the most amazing veal I have ever had with a truffle sauce. 

When we truly felt we could eat no more, our hosts brought this slim yet decadent Chocolate cake to the table. Named ‘Torta Chocolate’, it is made with 5 ingredients and cooks in just 9 minutes. It is a rich and velvety cake, that looks quite humble, and yet is decadent to eat. 

The Italians we met and ate with on our trip truly welcomed us with a warmth and generosity of spirit that you don’t find everywhere. Their attitude is that life and food is to be celebrated and enjoyed, not just on special occasions, but on even the most ordinary of days. 

Our beautiful hosts happily shared their recipe with me and here I am, passing it on to you. My hope is that you will cook it for a stranger or a friend sometime soon and spend some time with those people, celebrating life around a table.  

Torta Chocolate
Serves 8
A rich, velvety chocolate cake that cooks in 9 minutes.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 150 grams butter
  3. 250 grams good quality dark chocolate (minimum 50% cocoa solids, 70% works the best)
  4. 1 tablespoon sugar
  5. 1 tablespoon plain flour (this also works with gluten free flour or almond meal)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius or 160 degrees fan forced.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together, either in the microwave, 1 minute at a time, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth and combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined round cake tin (approx 23cm) or the size of a dinner plate. It is supposed to be very thin.
  5. Cook for 9 minutes.
  6. As all ovens are a little different, at this stage you can check by moving the pan gently. The cake should be set on the outside, but have a very slight wobble right in the centre. Remove it from the oven at this stage and it will set further as it cools.
  7. If it doesn't seem set enough, put it back in for 2 minutes more and check again.
  8. Dust with cocoa or icing sugar to serve and enjoy on it's own or with double cream and berries.
Notes
  1. This cake can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
  2. If you do happen to over cook it, it will still be edible, but will taste more 'cake' like instead of velvety and smooth.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

 

 

Penne with Sausage and Kale

Pasta is such a great ‘go to’ meal for those rushed mid-week nights. Most kids love it, it’s inexpensive and in most houses, a pantry staple.

For those watching their carbohydrate intake, keeping pasta meals to a minimum and using wholemeal varieties means you can enjoy pasta as a part of a balanced diet.  We also live in a time where there are many wheat-free pasta options available, so if you are steering clear of wheat, you can substitute brown rice pasta or gluten free pasta in this recipe. 

This recipe, from Curtis Stone’s cookbook Good Food Good Life, is quick to make and full of flavour. I love the way he has added Kale, (often disliked by children due to it’s bitter taste) and made it a part of a very tasty dish. This dish got the thumbs up from the whole family, even the kale part!

As a busy mum, I opted for the 500 grams of pork and veal mince in this recipe, even though Curtis suggests you use the meat from inside good quality sausages, removing and discarding their casings. That just felt a little too hard for me after arriving home late from soccer training on a Tuesday night and needing dinner on the table PRONTO.

As another school term begins and we hit the downward run to Christmas (did I just really type that?) you might be able to add this to your menu for something a little different. 

Penne with Sausage and Kale
Serves 5
A tomato-based pasta dish with sausage meat, kale and parmesan cheese.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 pork sausages, casings removed OR 500gm pork and veal mince
  2. 1/2 bunch Kale, trimmed and roughly chopped (approx 2 cups)
  3. 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  4. 1/2 cup dry white wine
  5. 1x 500gm jar pasta sauce (tomato based)
  6. 400gm penne, (wholemeal or gluten free pasta options work well too)
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. shredded parmesan cheese to serve
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
  2. Add the penne and cook according to packet directions.
  3. While the penne is cooking, heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat.
  4. Add the sausage meat or mince, and cook, breaking the meat up with a spoon as it cooks.
  5. Once it is golden brown, add the chopped kale and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the kale starts to wilt.
  6. Add the wine and jar of pasta sauce, bring to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes or the liquid is slightly reduced.
  7. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of it's cooking liquid.
  8. Toss the penne into the sauce and add a little of the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce.
  9. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parmesan and serve immediately.
Adapted from Good Food Good Life
Adapted from Good Food Good Life
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Scrambled Eggs with Goats Cheese (what to cook when you’re too tired to cook)

I feel a little sorry for the humble egg.

It’s been given a hard time for so long. The good old cholesterol drama of the last 20 years or so had many believing that the yolk was bad for you and we were encouraged to only eat eggs sparingly. Remember egg white omelettes? Seriously…what were we thinking people?

The yolk actually contains most of the important nutrients and the white is mostly protein. ALL of it is good for you. 

One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the egg. It’s such a powerhouse of nutrition, it’s inexpensive and can be cooked quickly and in a million different ways.

Here is a link to an easy-to-understand article about HOW amazing eggs actually are. It’s a must read.

My new favourite breakfast, lunch or dinner dish is this Scrambled Eggs with Goats Cheese and Rosemary. 

I first read about the combination in a beautiful book by Shauna Niequist called Bread and Wine, a love letter to life around the table (my kind of book).

This is one of those ideas that is hard to put in a recipe format. 

Basically, choose as many eggs as you wish to eat or according to how many you are feeding. This is very personal. I would eat 2 if I was making this for myself, my eldest son has been having 5 on his own lately….you see what I mean!

Pour your lightly beaten eggs into a cold non-stick frying pan and then turn on the heat. Gently, start moving the eggs around in ribbons with a spatula or whisk. I like to think of it as a gentle scramble. We all know how awful tough and chewy scrambled eggs can taste. That’s usually from too much over zealous beating and too long on the heat. 

The whole thing takes only a few minutes. When the egg is starting to look almost finished, i.e. just set, crumble in as much goats cheese (feta works well too) as you like, sprinkle in some finely chopped fresh rosemary and season with pepper. 

And there you have it. 3 ingredients, ready in about 3 minutes. 

Who said eating well had to be complicated? 

 

 

1 Minute Lemon & Coconut Mug Cake and Lessons from a Little Blue Fish

I never thought I would be reminded of some important life lessons from an animated movie about a little blue fish.

As I sat watching Finding Dory with the family, I found myself fighting back tears.

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Dory, with her short-term memory loss, really struggled to survive in the ocean and needed a buddy with her most of the time to help guide where she was going.

She had lost her family and she was afraid.

She was different to the other sea creatures and lacked the skills the other fish had to survive.

The creatures that end up helping her find her family had their own difficulties too, such as the Whale shark with bad eye sight and the Octopus, with relationship and commitment issues. Nemo and his dad Marlin, knew what it was like to lose someone they love, but despite their fears of it happening again, agreed to help Dory find her way home.

 Just Keep Swimming.

And when Dory finally made it home, her parents had not given up either.

They had been faithfully waiting for her to make her way home, laying out paths that might help her eventually remember and find them.

finding-dory-movie

 

 

 

 

 

You’re in another hard season.

Just Keep Swimming.

You thought maybe the battles were slowing down, or it was your turn for a break from the hard stuff.

But life doesn’t work that way and you find yourself weary and discouraged.

Just Keep Swimming.

Despite the fear and the pain and the difficulty.

Just Keep Swimming.

And don’t swim alone. Gather your crew around you, your imperfect, motley crew of people who love you unconditionally, and get them to pull you along when you don’t think you can go any further.

Do the next thing. Take the one next step.

Don’t look too far ahead, but for today, just don’t give up my friend.

quotes-courage-voice-mary-anne-radmacher-480x480

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Minute Lemon & Coconut Mug Cake
Serves 1
Lemon and Coconut Cake, mixed and cooked in a mug in 1 minute in the microwave.
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Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
1 min
Total Time
3 min
Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
1 min
Total Time
3 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 tablespoons self raising flour
  2. 2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
  3. 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  4. 3 tablespoons coconut milk (or normal milk)
  5. 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  6. 1 egg
  7. 2 tablespoons store-bought lemon curd
Instructions
  1. Mix flour, coconut and sugar in a 11/2 cup capacity mug or cup.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Add milk, olive oil and egg.
  4. Mix till thoroughly combined.
  5. Gently stir through lemon curd, do not mix in completely.
  6. Cook in the microwave for 50-60 seconds.
  7. It will puff up and rise to the top. If the cake batter is not fully cooked, put in for another 10 seconds or so.
  8. Enjoy immediately with extra curd and cream if desired.
Adapted from Tasty Express
Adapted from Tasty Express
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Simple Salmon Laksa

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe using one of our favourite foods, salmon. 

Lightly poaching the salmon and vegetables in the spicy coconut broth for a few minutes and then pouring it over some rice noodles is all it takes to get this delicious dish on the table on a cold Tuesday night.

For our younger kids who don’t like spicy food, I serve them noodles, salmon and vegetables and not much broth. 

For ourselves and our eldest, we enjoy it almost like a soup, with forks and spoons, drinking up the liquid at the end. 

Simple Salmon Laksa
Serves 6
Salmon and vegetables poached in a spicy coconut broth, served on top of thin rice noodles.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 185 gram jar of laksa paste (I used AYAM brand)
  2. 1/2 a lemongrass stalk (approx 5cm), finely chopped
  3. 1/8 purple cabbage, finely shredded
  4. the stalks of a bunch of broccollini, sliced into thin batons
  5. leaves and stems of 1 bunch of bok choy, washed and thinly sliced
  6. 150gm green beans, cut into small pieces
  7. 4 cups fish, vegetable or chicken stock
  8. 400ml can of coconut cream
  9. 400-500gm fresh salmon fillets, skin off, bones removed, cut into small cubes
  10. 200gm pack rice vermicilli noodles
  11. juice of 1 lime
  12. a handful of bean sprouts and fresh coriander to serve
Instructions
  1. Prepare rice noodles according to packet directions.
  2. When noodles are ready, divide amongst serving bowls.
  3. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan.
  4. Fry the lemongrass stalks and jar of paste for a few minutes until fragrant.
  5. Add the beans, cabbage and broccollini stems and stir till combined.
  6. Add the stock and coconut cream, stir and bring to the boil.
  7. Once boiling, add the salmon and bok choy and turn off the heat.
  8. Leave it for a few minutes, until the salmon is cooked through.
  9. Stir through the lime juice.
  10. Ladle the broth, salmon and vegetables over the noodles in the bowls.
  11. Garnish with bean sprouts and coriander leaves to serve.
Notes
  1. This was quite spicy. To make a milder version, only use 1/2 jar of laksa paste.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/