Monday, 26 September 2016

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread from Gennaro's Italian Bakery

I get food envy. I see home bakers post photo's of homemade sourdough bread and sourdough starters overflowing and my question to these lovely people is... 'how have you found that extra few hours in the day that I am somehow missing? Whats the secret?!?' I can hardly keep my pot plants alive let alone attempt sourdough these days.

If you're like me and also get these envious feelings because of homemade bread then I have a recipe for you, it's going to fulfil your sourdough eating and making cravings but doesn't have the responsibility. It's perfect for all those fellow sourdough dreamers out there. You get the same crusty, chewy homemade bread but it's all in a nights work. No feeding a starter or keeping anything alive. It's the no commitment needed, faux sourdough loaf... the single girls sourdough AND it's midweek friendly. You read that right. Freshly baked bread on a Wednesday. Yep.

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread from Gennaro's Italian Bakery

This genius recipe that does all the work while you sleep is in Gennaro Contaldo brilliant new cookbook Gennaro's Italian Bakery. The Pane Cafone, Neapolitan Peasant Bread. It's a traditional Italian recipe for a no-knead bread from Naples originally baked in a wood-oven. It has a 24 hour slow rise then a little folding and resting, then its just baking your little loaf in an extremely hot oven in an extremely hot cast-iron pot. It's changed my bread making days forever.

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread from Gennaro's Italian Bakery

This little loaf was so delicious and simple. The crust was satisfyingly crunchy and chewy with the inside having more flavour then other homemade breads as the slow rise gives it that almost sourdough taste. It was a seriously good loaf of bread and even kept well the next day, just needed a little reheat in a warm oven and it was just as good as straight out of the oven smothered in salty butter.

The recipe calls for fresh yeast but unless you know someone in the industry or want to buy a large amount of it, the dried stuff you get in the supermarkets works fine. I used roughly half the amount in dried yeast which worked out to be just under a 1/2 teaspoon - I've made a note in the recipe below. Also make sure you have the sharpest knife you own ready at hand to score the top once you place the dough in the hot pot. I fumbled and didn't have a sharp knife ready so didn't get a nice pattern or lift on top of my bread but thats just being picky now and I'm so stoked with the recipe, sharp knife or not. It's going to taste delicious.

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread from Gennaro's Italian Bakery

There are so many more recipes in Gennaro's new cookbook that I cannot wait to get stuck into like the olive oil soaked focaccia, traditional Italian pizza dough, Calzone, Sicilian Brioche filled with gelato and beautiful fruit and jam tarts. If these other recipes are anything like the Pan Cafone, they are going to change the way you work with dough. Everything looks so beautiful in this cookbook, a little rustic but it has home and tradition all over it. My advice to you my lovely readers is; go now and get your self some dried yeast (or fresh if you're lucky) and start the recipe below because in 24 hours you could have a little loaf just like mine. No food envy, just 24 hours of dreaming of the best home made bread you'll make.

I know I'm off to put together another batch of Pan Cafone so I can have a freshly baked 'faux sourdough' little loaf tomorrow night.

Pane Cafone - Neapolitan Peasant Bread

recipe from Gennaro's Italian Bakery by Gennaro Contaldo
(adapted ever so slightly - with notes)

3g fresh yeast - or just under 1/2 a teaspoon dried yeast
250ml lukewarm water
375g strong bread flour - plain all purpose flour works too
1 teaspoon salt

- Dissolve the yeast into the lukewarm water and set aside. Place 300g of flour in a large bowl, add the yeast mixture and mix in gently with a spoon (this will look like a shaggy mess, thats ok). Combine the remaining flour with the salt in a bowl, then add this to the flour and yeast mixture, gently mixing until all ingredients are amalgamated (you may need a little more water, so add it carefully). Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in a warm place for 24 hours. Small bubbles will appear and this is normal.

- After 24 hours, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and gently fold over a couple of times to form a ball. Cover with a clean tea-towel and leave to rest for a further 2 hours.

- After 1 hour, preheat the oven to 220C/450F and place an empty cast-iron pot (without the lid) in the oven.

- Remove the pot from the oven and carefully place the bread inside. Make a couple of incisions on the top of the dough using a very sharp knife, cove with the lid and place immediately back into the hot oven on the bottom shelf.

- Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes.

- Remove from the oven, leave in the pot for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pot onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely - if you can wait that long! Slice and enjoy.

Friday, 9 September 2016

eggplant parmigiana from The Dinner Ladies

For the past two weeks I've been cooking for one, or should I say cooking for six and eating the same thing all week while still filling my freezer. I've also eaten a lot of random rice bowls. Not the lovely vibrants looking ones which are all over instagram where these amazingly organised people keep dressings and sauces and roasted vegetables just lying around ready to make a rice bowl on demand. The kind of rice bowls I've been eating start with those 90 second rice packets, a hard boiled egg, a can of tuna and a random mix of anything else leftover from the previous nights dinner or a can of beans on top. And let me tell you they are not instagram worthy at all... I sit watching trashy tv after night school and am so hungry that I could eat anything which is why I can stomach my random rice bowls which lack flavour and texture but do a great job at filling a hole.

So when the lovely cookbook The Dinner Ladies by Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt arrived in the mail I was only too happy to start cooking from it. I mean it promised to fill my freezer and it is all about doing the prep work in advance and enjoying midweek dinners rather then being the headless chook most of us are when trying to complete these trendy 15 minute meals. The only catch is you need to be organised and prepared. Something I am somewhat good at and others times I envy everyone who manages to look like they have their stuff together.

Flicking through this book the are pages full of feasts just waiting for a family to dig in like twice cooked master-stock pork belly, three-bean chilli, lasagne, sausage rolls and also lighter dishes for the warmer nights like sesame prawn stir fry. The book comes with all the tricks to make feasts happen without the stress. It shows you it possible to eat a delicious, substantial dinner (that isn't a dodgy rice bowl) midweek. A couple of these cook ups in the freezer and my weeknight dinner disaster is sorted.

The recipe I chose to make first from this book was the eggplant parmigiana. I'm not the biggest meat eater when I cook for one and I LOVE eggplant and tomatoes and mozzarella so this was a perfect option. The fragrant bunch of basil in the local greengrocer also caught my eye or should I say nose as the smell was incredible. Summer is coming!!

It's starts with thickly slicing the eggplants and roasting them in a hot oven with salt and olive oil while you cook your basic tomato sauce. Once they are both done it is time to start assembling. If you are making it ahead, wait until everything is cooled before assembling but if you are going to cook it straight away start assembling the roasted eggplant and the tomato sauce with generous amounts of fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese making sure you end with a cheese layer on top. Bake it in the oven until cooked though and bubbling at the sides. The recipe suggests to serve it with a green salad but I couldn't help but add some buttered pasta to mine too... I'm a carb lover what can I say.

The eggplant parmigiana from The Dinner Ladies will definitely start becoming a regular midweek dinner for me. Especially if I can make it over the weekend then just bung it in the oven midweek and dinner is done. So easy, so delicious and I think it's going to make the BEST filled baguettes for lunch the next day too. YUM.

The Dinner Ladies by Katherine Westwood & Sophie Gilliatt is published by Murdoch Books, September 2016 (RRP $39.99)

eggplant parmigiana

recipe adapted ever so slightly
from The Dinner Ladies by Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt
serves 4-6 as a side dish or 2-3 as a main

2 medium eggplants, about 1.25kg
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
3 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped (I used a pinch of dried thyme)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 very large handful basil leaves
150g fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or torn roughly
50g parmesan cheese, grated

Make ahead: The whole dish can be assembled up to 3 days ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge. Bake it on the day you mean to serve it and serve warm or allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

- Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

- Line two baking trays with baking paper. Cut the eggplants into slices about 1.5cm thick, sprinkle with salt, lay them on the baking trays and brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If not making ahead, leave the oven on.

- Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-low heat and cook the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt for about 10-15 minutes until soft and sweet, stirring occasionally. When completely soft, add the tinned tomatoes, thyme and a splash of water and continue to cook gently, partially covered, for about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar and taste for seasoning - you may need to add a pinch of salt and/or sugar if the tomatoes are particularly sharp. Set aside to cook.

- Now to start the assembly. In an oven proof dish, place a layer of eggplant on the bottom. Top with one-third of the tomato sauce, then half of the basil, a third of the mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmesan. Repeat until you have three layers of eggplant, finishing with mozzarella and an extra snowing of parmesan on top.

- Place in the centre of your oven for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling at the sides. Serve warm or at room temperature with a mixed leaf salad and/or some buttered pasta and/or a crusty baguette.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

broccolini with sweet tahini dressing - a taste of faux spring/summer

When it gets to the end of winter I start to feel a little frumpy about food. I'm a little over the heavy stews and crave vine ripened tomatoes and juicy peaches but these food craving always hit a little too early when spring isn't even near. Although over the past few weeks someone got the weather all mixed up and it has been sunny, t-shirt weather, this week it's back to winter, well as winter as Sydney gets.

So instead of the new season tomatoes I cooked broccolini with sweet tahini dressing from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi. We didn't have the variety of green vegetables in the crisper like the recipe called for so instead I only used baby broccoli which for two people was the perfect amount for a side.

I blanched the trimmed broccolini in boiling water, drained it and then drizzled the sweet tahini dressing over the top, adding a sprinkling of sesame seeds at the end. The sweet tahini dressing was so easy, mix everything in a bowl, taste for seasoning and done. YUM. I love this tahini dressing with vegetables, it also goes great with cauliflower, green beans and roasted sweet potato.

I served the dressed broccolini with a butterflied lemon roast chicken and roast winter veg. It was our little taste of faux summer on a plate. I loved every mouthful and even dipped the chicken into the dressing. It was such a lovely refreshing, mid winter change from all the heavy meals we've been throwing together in the slow cooker. Mind you the slow cooker has been a life saviour when I don't get home till 9pm and know that all I need to do is spoon some stew in a bowl and add some toast (or a microwaved potato... don't judge!).

So if you're like me and need a little faux summer/spring I highly recommend this sweet tahini dressing with any veg you can find or have in your crisper. Would even be a delicious sauce over some kind of throw-what-ever-you-have-in-the-fridge-together rice bowl.

broccolini with sweet tahini dressing | salt sugar and i

broccolini with sweet tahini dressing

recipe adapted from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
serves 2 as a side (with left over dressing)

1 bunch of broccolini, trimmed and chopped into 2 inch pieces
tahini dressing - 
about 50g tahini paste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon runny honey
salt & black pepper
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

- Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a bowl along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of water. The consistency should be smooth and thick but pourable. If the dressing is still a little thick, add a little more water, set aside.

- Blanch your broccolini in boiling water for about 2 minutes and drain (or longer if you like - I like mine more on the crunchy side).

- Pile the broccolini on a plate and drizzle with the sweet tahini dressing and a sprinkling of sesame seeds, serve.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sweetbitter + a simple chanterelle omelette

Sweetbitter. First things first, this is not a cookbook, it's a novel. A novel that has had rave reviews from the media and it being based on food, wine and the restaurant industry I thought it still appropriate for here.

I went in with high expectations as I love books that have even the slightest mention of food in them plus this one is set in New York, who doesn't love New York as a setting?? So with these both playing a huge feature in the book I had a feeling I'd be instantly hooked before I even started.

The book is set out in seasons and follows the 22 year old narrator from her hometown into the big city, New York. She gets a job as a server in a renowned restaurant and the story is based about her time there, the people she works with, the customers she serves, the mentor she craves and of course the mysterious talk, dark and handsome character, who she desperately wants. There is swearing, drugs, sex, food, wine, everyones dirty little secrets and more wine.

By the hype of the book, I thought that there would be more food involved but to tell you the truth it didn't make me want to cook, it made me want to open a bottle of wine every time I picked it up.

I don't think I've mentioned it on the space yet but I've worked in restaurant kitchens before so a lot of the kitchen talk in the book brought back memories of my apprenticeship with head chefs that yelled, screamed 'pick-up', screamed 'pick-up!' even louder if no one came running, threw plates of food at walls or called you a 'blow-arse'. Now, not all my head chef's were like that and the social vibe between staff was not as gritty as this book makes it out to be but it still brought back the feeling of being at the pass and waiting for my desserts to be picked up, hoping desperately someone would come quickly so the ice cream didn't end up like soup. I will also admit when I first started reading this book, it brought back the anxiety that also came hand in hand with my kitchen gig and the feeling of being the newbie in a foreign space.

I enjoyed this book but there was something that kept me a little uneasy throughout the entire thing and I think it was my own experiences working in restaurants and being on the kitchen side of it all. All I saw was the kitchens I've worked in and the chefs that yelled. I never had a mentor, it was all for one and one for all. You had two feet to stand on and if you didn't get it right the first time the second time you had no choice but to get it right or you got your head bitten off.

Although my time sounds highly unpleasant working in a kitchen, it wasn't all like that but I do think the name of the book is very fitting and describes restaurant life in one (two) words perfectly. Sweetbitter.

One thing, I wanted more food. I wanted more mouth watering family meals and cooking for one in her tiny New York apartment but I didn't get much of that. There were two memorable food moments in it which I'll mention. One consisted of oysters, beer and the tall, dark and handsome fella and the other was a simple chanterelle omelette which had me craving mushrooms. As I can't give you a recipe for a tall, dark handsome fella who hands you freshly shucked oysters and an ice cold beer, I can share with you a recipe for a chanterelle omelette I made recently. It is a given that you are required to open a bottle of wine with this.

a simple chanterelle omelette

inspired by Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
serves 1 - recipe adapted from Savour

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 small shallot, finely diced
about 1 cup chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and torn (or any mushrooms you like)
a dollop of creme fraiche
a handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten

- In a frying pan heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat until melted then add the garlic and diced shallot. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the chanterelle mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes or until soft. Add the creme fraiche and parsley and cook until melted and oozy, season with generous amounts of salt and pepper.

- Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Wipe the frying pan out with paper towel then add the other tablespoon of butter on medium heat. Pour the beaten eggs into pan and cook for 30 seconds, lifting cooked edges with a spatula to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath.

- Spoon mushroom mixture into the centre of the still slightly runny eggs and fold closed, cook for 1 minute more. Serve with some toasty sourdough and salty butter.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler is published by Allen and Unwin, August 2016 (RRP $27.99).

Monday, 15 August 2016

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles by Fuchsia Dunlop from Land of Fish and Rice

The other day I was extremely lucky and received a copy of Fuchsia Dunlop's new cookbook 'Land of Fish and Rice' in the mail. Fuchsia Dunlop is known for her authentic Chinese cooking but I've never owned one of her cookbooks before, having heard only good things everywhere I was pretty exciting to get a copy. The first thing I did was grab a pen and paper to make my shopping list, knowing well and good I'd need to stock my pantry with a few bits and pieces from the Asian supermarket. What I didn't realise was that there would be quite a number of vegetables that I've never heard of and to be honest, no idea what or where to look for them.

It was the dumpling section of the book which had me hooked the minute I flicked to it. I have a weakness for Chinese dumplings, doesn't everyone?! but the thought of making them on a Thursday night after work was a little intimidating so I'll admit it, I went for an easier looking, midweek option rather then some of the other more complicated dishes in this cookbook. The other section of the book which I was drawn to was the noodles and rice chapter, any type of fried noodles or rice and I'm done. I decided to make the Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles as it can be a stand alone dish or part of a banquet style dinner, plus the ingredients weren't too obscure and no random vegetables I'd never heard of so I jumped at it almost instantly.

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles by Fuchsia Dunlop from 'Land of Fish and Rice'

My first tip if you're going to make this dish or in fact any of the dishes that require stir-frying in this book, get a wok. I don't have one and I kind of struggled. The pot I used had noodles sticking to the bottom instantly and needed soaking for a good 48 hours after. My second piece of advice when making this dish is get the wok stupidly hot! Do not use your crock pot like me and have it over a medium flame. I felt like I was having a work out trying to toss the noodles and get to the the bottom of the pan to stop the sticking.

Apart from my pan troubles, the flavour of these noodles with strips of lean pork dotted throughout and crunchy pakchoi was delicious. It was salty and comforting and the vegetables added a lovely freshness to the whole dish, it was moorish. I could have eaten the whole pot myself in one sitting if my stomach had allowed it. Normally when I make a throw-everything-in-a-pot-stir-fry I make them a little heavier on the vegetables but what I've come to realise is that Chinese cooking is a lot about sharing a variety of dishes so I think a vegetable dish on the side would be a perfect combo to these noodles.

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles by Fuchsia Dunlop from 'Land of Fish and Rice'

I can't wait to get stuck into the other recipes in this book and even plan a banquet style dinner party... might need to tell people to byo a chair but it'd be worth it to try some of the other dishes. A trip to the asian fruit and veg store might need to happen first and maybe even bring the cookbook along with me so I can ask for help. With some of the ingredients I wouldn't even know where to start but there is nothing wrong with a challenge now and then for a delicious dinner.

Shanghai stir-fried chunky noodles

by Fuchsia Dunlop from 'Land of Fish and Rice'

100g lean pork
425g fresh Shanghai noodles or Japanese udon
2 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
200g baby green pakchoi or 2 large handfuls of spinach (I used regular pakchoi)
1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
ground white pepper

for the marinade:
1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
2 teaspoons potato starch (potato flour)
1 tablespoon beaten egg or 1 tablespoon cold water

- Cut the pork evenly into thin slices, then into slivers. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.

- Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes (fresh shanghai and udon are half-cooked when you buy them which is why this doesn't take long) or if using dried noodle, according to packet instructions. Turn the cooked noodles into a colander and cool under the cold tap. Shake them dry. Drip over 1/2 tablespoon oil and stir in thoroughly to prevent sticking.

- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame. Add the pork strips and stir-fry swiftly to separate them. When they are just cooked, remove from the wok and set aside.

- Clean and re-season the wok if necessary, then return it to a light flame with the remaining oil. Add the noodles and stir-fry until piping hot (if you used regular pakchoi, add it with the noodles), adding both soy sauces and seasoning well with sale and ground white pepper. Add the baby pakchoi or spinach and continue to stir-fry until just wilted. Finally, stir in the pork. Serve.

Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop is published by Bloomsbury Publishing, August 2016 (RRP $49.99)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Seven Spoon's Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies + Love.

So here is a little re-cap of whats been going on in the life of salt sugar and i.

I went lovely hot Thailand with the bf. Spent 90% of the time drinking our way through the cocktail menu by the pool. Got sunburnt on the first day. The bf/love of my life asked to spend the rest of his life with me. I said yes. I got a really sparkly ring. We spent more time by the pool drinking cocktails like sunburnt sloths. Ate ALOT of fried rice and eggs. Rang the parents and heard my mum scream with joy all the way from Thailand. Ate too many omelettes for breakfast. Said OMG we're engaged about 1000 times. Flashed my sparkly ring about. Ate more fried rice and eggs. Got photos with 'lady-boys'. Flew home. Hugged and kissed the cat against his will. Got Thailand Tummy. Silver Lining - great detox from my poolside drinking habits. Temporarily had enough Thai food to last me a while. Made a couple of birthday cupcakes/cakes. Went back to work. Realised I definitely have the holidays blues. Started semester 2 of night school. Lost my calculator. Hugged the cat again. In shock over how expensive weddings are. Baked cookies. Still in shock.

I think that sums it all up... mmmm love.

All in all... pretty damn good holiday. I even came back with a tan which means I am the same colour as normal people now and not 'grossly' white anymore. yay!

Back it up to where I mentioned cookies. I made these Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies from Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady over the weekend and I'm going to say it...they are my favourite and not just because they taste amazing straight from the oven or the next day but they are a melt and mix recipe. The best kind. Tara even gives you little notes so tweak the recipe if you prefer crunchy cookies rather then soft chewy ones or what to add instead of sticking with chocolate or if you conscious gets the better of you and you decide to add wholemeal flour. I've mentioned these cookies before on this space but rudely, never shared the recipe. So here it is in all it's glory.

Now on to more important things... does anyone know if wedding venues, stylists or florists are easily bribed with chocolate chip cookies? If so, please leave your comments below or email me if it is sensitive information. Your secret will be safe with me.

Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady
(recipe ever so slightly adapted)

225g unsalted butter, melted (but cool)
415g plain flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
320g light brown sugar
100g white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
340g dark chocolate, chopped (or any type of chocolate you like best)
flaked sea salt, for sprinkling on top (optional)

- Preheat your oven to 180C/360F and line two trays with baking paper.

- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

- In a large bowl whisk together your cooled melted butter and both sugars. This will looks like it's not coming together and the butter is separating but don't worry, just go with it. Add your eggs, one at a time, whisking well followed by the vanilla extract.

- Next fold the dry ingredients using a spatular or wooden spoon until almost mixed through then add the chopped chocolate. Bring any stray ingredients up from the bottom util the dough is no longer dusty but don't over mix. If the dough seems warm or looks overly glossy, refrigerate for five minutes.

- Roll the dough into balls using 2 tablespoons for each. Arrange on the prepared trays, leaving a good 3 inches in between each one. Sprinkle with sea salt (optional) and bake until the tops are cracked and lightly golden, yet the cookies are still soft at the centre, about 9 to 11 minutes. If your oven bakes uneven or has a hot spot, make sure you rotate your trays in the oven so you get even baking.

- Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Continue shaping the remainder of the cookie dough, making sure to use a cool baking tray for each batch.

- Keep cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week (if they last that long).

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Rome’s Involtini di Manzo (Beef Rolls) from Tasting Rome.

This will be my last post before I enter into a blissful week of tropical summer where my hardest decisions will be whether I order a cocktail in a coconut or pineapple. I'm going on holidays!!! And I'm so excited. It's been 5 years since I've been on a proper 'hop-on-a-plane' holiday and the first time in 9 years going overseas with my other half. Thailand here we come baby!!

But before I disappear off cyber space for the next week I thought I'd share the dinner I made on Saturday night when the big chill decided to hit the east coast of Australia. My previous post must of jinxed it and Mother Nature thought 'I'll show her!' and let Jack Frost go mental on us all. So to warm our little footsies a hearty, carb filled, slow cooked dinner was on the cards with a glass of wine (or a bottle or two) for Saturday night.

Earlier in the week I read a blog post from 'Dinner: A Love Story' where guest blogger Katie Parla shared a recipe for Rome’s Involtini di Manzo (Beef Rolls) from her new book Tasting Rome who she wrote with Kristina Gill - I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy when I'm back. As soon as I read the post, I knew I had to make it this weekend, especially if it was going to be as cold as they were predicting. And it was. Jack Frost did not hold back although he didn't quite bring the snow to Sydney unfortunately.

Now I could tell you that the entire dinner went smoothly and I had no hiccups but then my nose would grow and quickly poke the laptop screen in front of me as I'd be telling you a fib. I blame the fact that there was a cheese plater and a bottle of really delicious bubbles that made me (kind of) forget about the involtino in tomato sauce blipping away that needed checking now and again to make sure it hadn't reduced too much or caught on the bottom. It was my nose that picked up on it before dinner ended up a total disaster. I could suddenly smell something and I instantly knew what it was, I've done this before you see. I had a 'Julie and Julia' moment when Julie Powell burns the stew... no no no no! I walked very quickly (I didn't want to cause alarm by running despite what instinct told me to do) over to the pot and lifted the lid. I had caught it just in time. I turned the heat off, didn't stir it and scooped the involtini out of the pan and the parts of the thick sauce which hadn't caught to the bottom of the pan yet and put it all in a new pot with about a cup of boiling water to save dinner. It worked...thank goodness!! Dinner was saved and even with my hiccup it tasted pretty darn delicious.

The recipe says 'cook once, eat twice' but I decided to serve the entire dish with spaghetti and serve it all together with the involtini sliced on top. It was delicious and the leftovers on Sunday night were just as good, if not even better.

I know I will make this again and again, I love pasta with tomato based sauces and any kind of slow cooked beef. Yum. It does take and hour and a half on the stove and YES it needs to be checked now and again to make sure it hasn't reduced too much or caught on the bottom of your pot. But then maybe don't try and consume half a bottle of bubbles and a cheese plate while cooking or at least set a timer if good wine and cheese distracts you as much as it does me.

It was a great way to spend a chilly Saturday night... great food and great company now bring on the cocktails and sun lounges. Laters!

Rome’s Involtini di Manzo (Beef Rolls)

Makes 6 involtini, plus about 2 cups sauce for pasta
From Tasting Rome, by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill

500g beef sizzle steaks or rump roast, cut into six equal thin slices
sea salt
6 thin slices prosciutto
1 carrot, julienned
1 celery stalk, julienned
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
800g can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

- Lay the slices of beef flat on a chopping board and season with salt on both sides. Place 1 piece of prosciutto over each slice of meat, followed by 3 or 4 sticks each of carrot and celery at one short end of the meat. Roll the meat around the vegetables, forming a medium-tight involtino (roll). Using a couple of toothpicks inserted flush with the meat to keep the roll closed (or you can use kitchen twine).

- Heat the olive oil in a medium to small pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the involtini and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the rolls from the pan and set aside.

- Add the crushed garlic to the same pan and cook, stirring constantly until it just turns golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the canned tomatoes and wine and cook until the alcohol aroma dissipates, about a minute or two.

- When the sauce begins to simmer, add the involtini back to the pan. The meat should be mostly covered by the tomato sauce. Cook, covered, until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ hours, checking occasionally (very important!!) to be sure the meat is at least two-thirds submerged and adding water if necessary.

- Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with spaghetti (like I did) or separately serving the sauce with pasta as an entree and the Involtini as a mail. Or allow the dish to rest in the refrigerator for up to three days to allow the flavours to develop - it's even better the next day!