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Recipes, Websites

Italian Food by Nife Is Life

Nife is Life (short for Nice Italian Food Everyday) is a fantastic home delivery service that brings the very best of Italian produce to your door.  It offers a mix of everyday Italian products, fresh ingredients sourced directly from Italian producers and the finest olive oil, vinegar and wines.

I recently tried a Nife is Life food delivery and was impressed by the range of tempting products and the high quality of our groceries.  The website is just as easy as any other food delivery service – simply add items to your basket, check out and arrange a delivery slot.  Our order arrived at our door on time in simple white plastic bags (no need for fancy packaging).

To get the best out of the fresh groceries, I had already planned how to use them in tasty Italian dishes throughout the week.

That evening, we started our meal with a gourmet Italian cheese and ham board filled with Buffalo Mozzarella di Campania, Parmesan, sliced Prosciutto di Norcia, Roasted Porchetta and Black Olive Bread.

The buffalo mozzarella was so fresh and creamy, while the crumbly Parmesan had a rich, nutty and mature taste.  Sourced from the Sibillini mountains in Umbria, the  air-dried Norcia Ham had an intense, slightly salty flavour and the Roasted Porchetta was tender and juicy, infused with plenty of fresh herbs.

Both cured meats can be packaged in a fresh bag for eating right away or a handy vacuum pack to extend their life.

We enjoyed the cheeses and meats with a loaf of Exeter Street Black Olive Rye Bread and couldn’t resist adding a dipping sauce of the most delicious Sapori d’Italia Fresh Pesto di Basilico and a few slivers of juicy La Padula Roasted Peppers.  It was a real treat to enjoy an authentic Italian starter and the slices of cured meat lasted for a number of days, making them good value.

We followed this with a delicious pasta dish using a can of San Marzano Tomatoes, Nonno Nanni Mascarpone and Mafalde di Gragnano pasta.

I slow-cooked the tomatoes and added finely-sliced roasted red peppers and stirred in a tablespoon of mascarpone.  The sauce was then mixed with the luxurious long, wavy strands of pasta and served with torn buffalo mozzarella.

I was really wowed by the superior egg pasta and the clean, sweet taste of the San Marzano tomatoes – no wonder cooks rave about them.  The mascarpone was so creamy and silky that only one tablespoon was needed to round off the pasta sauce.

Dinner was washed down with typically Italian San Pellegrino Aranciata Sweet Red Orange, San Pellegrino Limonata and a lovely, refreshing Santal Peach Juice.

With the rest of the mascarpone, I made a Raspberry and Rose Tiramisu, served in individual glasses.  I layered the light mascarpone and whipped egg white mixture (no double cream needed) with trifle sponges soaked in macerated raspberries and rose syrup, fresh rasberries and white chocolate shavings to finish.

The next day, I made Fresh Gnocchi with Sapori d’Italia Fresh Pesto di Basilico, and lightly crisped Norcia Ham and torn Buffalo Mozzarella di Campania, finished with a few dots of Modena balsamic vinegar glaze.

This dish was ridiculously quick to make and a real joy to eat.  I’ve always found gnocchi a little too rich or stodgy, but this one kept its texture well and wasn’t overly buttery.

The rustic pesto was roughly cut with plenty of garlic and was the perfect accompaniment to the gnocchi.  We used our antipasti ingredients to make crostini topped with pesto, roasted pepper, mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil.

For dessert, we enjoyed a couple of Baci Perugina chocolates made with velvety dark chocolate, gianduja with chopped hazelnut and a whole hazelnut.  Each Baci chocolate (meaning ‘kisses’) includes a love letter – so sweet.

More ‘kisses’ were to follow with some delicious Piedmontese Bistefani Baci di Dama Biscuits made with ground hazelnuts and filled with dark chocolate.

With our order, we received a free gift of Casareccia Taralli – savoury bagel-like crackers that go particularly well with houmous.  I also received a small carton of Parmalat Bechamel Sauce, which I plan to use for a mini lasagne or an Italian-style Croque Monsieur.

Nife is Life is perfect for cooking up a little bit of la dolce vita in your kitchen.  The regional Italian fresh produce is just so tasty and worth spending a little extra on.  I look forward to placing another order when I feel like a foodie treat or when entertaining guests.

All photos by Chérie City

Chérie City received a complimentary delivery from Nife in Life

Recipes, Websites

Chérie City Cooks Fesenjan For Good Food Channel

Fesenjan is my favourite Persian dish – it’s a delicious, slow-cooked stew of walnuts and pomegranates with either chicken or duck.  I used to beg my grandma to make it when she came to visit us from Tehran every few years and the recipe has been passed on through the family since.

Fesenjan is so decadent, rich and particularly comforting during the winter, when I’d happily dive head first into a big bowl of it.  There are more attractive dishes in Persian cooking than Fesenjan, however it’s a special meal that never fails to impress with its unique, aromatic flavours.

My Fesenjan recipe features today on Good Food Channel alongside some lovely Christmas recipes by top food bloggers including The London Foodie, Gastrogeek, Food Stories and Tamarind and Thyme.

Read the full recipe and make your own Fesenjan here.

Do you love Persian food?  Have you tried cooking Fesenjan?  Let me know your favourite dishes…

Cherie Soleil, Cookery, London, Recipes

Gelato Masterclass With Cuisinart At La Cucina Caldesi

There’s no better way to cool down in the summer than with a scoop or two of Italian gelato.  I’ve always assumed that gelato should be left to the experts, but in fact, it’s easier to make by hand than expected.

American kitchenware brand Cuisinart invited me to a special gelato masterclass at La Cucina Caldesi cookery school in Marylebone, taught by the wonderful Katie Caldesi.  Founded by Katie and her husband Giancarlo, La Cucina Caldesi offers classes on authentic Italian cooking and also includes the stylish Caffe Caldesi, serving up regional dishes from Giancarlo’s native Tuscany.

On the cooking agenda that afternoon were three different gelati, inspired by Katie’s recent travels in Sardinia and Italy.  We began peeling and juicing oranges and lemons for our first custard-based gelato, Sunset in Amalfi.  The mixture of beaten egg yolks, caster sugar, citrus fruit zest, warm milk and cream was then heated to 85 degrees and stirred constantly.  Once the custard is thick enough, sieve, add the orange juice and leave to cool.  Then it’s ready to pour into the Cuisinart Ice Cream Professional and that’s all of the work done.

The Sunset in Amalfi gelato was served with a fresh strawberry coulis and tasted so summery and fruity, bringing back memories of holidays in Alghero (not quite Amalfi, but close enough).

Our second concoction was yogurt ice cream served with fresh berries.  Frozen yogurt in London can sometimes be a little bland, but this one was creamy and with a silky texture.

One of my favourites was the almond milk ice cream served with an shot of espresso and/or melted chocolate sauce and Amaretti biscuits for dipping.  It was more like a sorbet than the other two flavours, as there’s no cream or yogurt involved.  This is a great choice for those who are lactose intolerant and you could even substitute the incredibly delicious chocolate sauce for melted carob or dairy-free chocolate.

Katie gave us plenty of expert tips to get the best gelato and the most important one was that there needs to be enough sugar to make it freeze.  Adding just a bottle of fruit smoothie will not be sufficient for a successful sorbet – a little sweet indulgence is needed for it to work.

The Cuisinart Ice Cream Professional is very easy to use and if you don’t always have time to create flavours from scratch, there are a few time-saving tricks for express gelato.  It also comes with a book of recipes, so you won’t get stuck for ideas.

The Cuisinart Ice Cream Professional is priced at £280 and is available from Harrods, House of Fraser, Lakeland and selected indepedent cookshops - www.cuisinart.co.uk

For more information and a list of upcoming Italian cookery classes with Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, visit: www.caldesi.com

London, Recipes

Afternoon Tea chez Canderel

Last week I was invited down to Canderel HQ in Battersea for a bloggers tea party with a twist – everything would be sugar free and we’d actually be making the dishes ourselves, under the guidance of Emma Lewis, a professional chef and ex editor of BBC Good Food.

Canderel’s testing kitchen is a baking emporium in a delightful stone terraced house with the kind of quintessentially English garden terrace that could have come straight from the pages of ELLE Deco.

A small group of food bloggers including Kavey Eats, He Cooks, I Eat and Le Dolci were invited and after chatting over some cocktails and juice in the garden, we put on our aprons and got to work.

We started with a walnut loaf, which was pretty easy to make (admittedly our ingredients were already measured out) and had hints of orange zest and sweetness from the Canderel.

Next up was chocolate brownies and as a long-time hater of beetroot, my heart sank when I had to chuck into the blender the three angry-looking purple balls.  We tried to overpower the offending vegetables by scraping the chocolate bowl for all it’s worth.

The highlight of the afternoon tea was the Strawberry Trifle made with Cantucci biscuits, a mixture of ricotta and low-fat custard and strawberries dusted with Canderel – all layered up in martini glasses and garnished with mint.

Finally, Emma demonstrated how to make a quick and easy chicken tagine that would be ready in 15-20 minutes – perfect, fuss-free cooking for after a long day at work.  She fried the onions and Moroccan spice Ras Al Hanut, added a can of chickpeas and canned tomatoes, followed by diced chicken breast.  The tagine was served with barley cous cous, flavoured with squeezed lemon juice, olive oil and coriander.

Once all the dishes were ready, everything was brought out on exquisite china plates and we tucked right in.  The Chicken Tagine was really scrumptious and I could have easily wolfed down another plateful.  There was no distinct taste of sweetner, as it blended in well, and the Canderel would replace the honey, dried apricots or prunes that are usually found in cous cous.

The walnut loaf was soft and dense and the orange zest worked really well with the nuts.  With the sweetner, one or two slices is enough, otherwise it may become a little bit sickly. It seemed to be in between a savoury bread and a cake, so perhaps it can be best described as a ‘tea bread’.  It was served with a zingy apricot compote that Emma prepared before the evening.

The Strawberry Trifle was absolute heaven and the Cantucci biscuits were an interesting alternative to the usual sponge fingers.  Yes, there was no jelly involved, but the creamy, thick texture of the ricotta and low-fat custard more than made up for it.

I still need a bit more convincing with the Chocolate Brownies – they had a very earth, strong taste due to the beetroot and cocoa and while the texture was good, they needed some extra sweetness.  To me, they are a bit too much of a calorie sacrifice, especially when the Strawberry Trifle still tasted so decadent.

So the mission of the evening was to change my mind about Canderel and banish those childhood memories of drinking my dad’s tea by mistake and wincing at the eye-watering taste.  Before coming to the event, I also had a few chuckles about the episode of Friends where Monica has to rustle up some tasty recipes for Mocklate, the chocolate substitute (note: Canderel is actually safe for human consumption, unlike Mocklate).

I have to say that I was impressed with the recipes and their calorie busting substitutes and in most dishes, the Canderel couldn’t be detected and blended in perfectly.  I was given a box of Canderel sachets with vanilla to try out and I’ve already used them three times this week on sliced strawberries.

There are plenty more recipes on www.canderel.co.uk and I am planning on baking some of the breakfast muffins this week.  With my holiday to Valencia just a few days away, and the impending threat of the swimsuit, I’ll add in wheat-free flour to the mix and see just how well the Canderel holds up…I’ll report back with the results soon.

Bars, London, Recipes, Restaurants

Margaritas at The Player

Last week, I met up with the Handpicked Media crew at The Player in Soho, for our monthly conference on how to take over the blogosphere.  Ok, we’re not actually that scheming, but this private members club seems like the perfect place for a bit of Dr Evil-style secret plotting – it’s cavernous and retro with a super slick bar.

The Player is part of the international Milk & Honey group of exclusive members lounges, including The Clubhouse in Chamonix and the recently burned down East Room in Shoreditch.

It couldn’t be more ‘Soho’ if it tried –  a subtly marked basement bar next door to Agent Provocateur, with a nod to the glamorous ’70s (think Boogie Nights rather than Saturday Night Fever).

Opened in 1998 by cocktail king Dick Bradsell, obviously The Player is all about brilliantly mixed cocktails.  We were treated to round after round of Sauza Tequila Margaritas.  Sauza is a family of premium quality tequilas that contain 100% and 51% blue agave flavour, giving it more character and purity than many other tequilas.

They were kind enough to share the recipe for their fabulous concoctions…starting off with the Margaritas:

1 ½ shots Sauza Blanco Tequila
1 ½ shots Bols Triple Sec liqueur
1 shot fresh lime juice
½ shot sugar (gomme) syrup
Ice cubes
Muddle all ingredients together in shaker, add cubed ice and shake for 12 seconds, strain over pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with half strawberry and basil leaf.

One of my favourite cocktails of all time is a Strawberry Basil Grande, usually made with vodka, so here is the margarita version:

1 ½ shots Sauza Tequila
1 ½ shots Bols Strawberry liqueur
1 shot fresh lime juice
3 strawberries
3 basil leaves

Muddle all ingredients together in shaker, add cubed ice and shake for 12 seconds, strain over pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with half strawberry and basil leaf.

With Sex and the City 2 opening on Friday, I’m guessing there will be plenty of cocktails on the agenda, so these recipes may come in handy having pre-film drinks.

The Player, 8 Broadwick Street, Soho, London W1.  Sauza Blanco is available in stores across the UK, 70cl RRP: £16.49

books, Recipes

Just call me ‘Cookie Girl’…

Last week, I popped down to Benefit in Covent Garden to celebrate the launch of Eat Me! The Stupendous, Self-Raising World of Cupcakes & Bakes According to Cookie Girl.  Xanthe Milton (a.k.a Cookie Girl) was on hand to give baking tips and chat about the new book while we stuffed ourselves with her pastel coloured vanilla cupcakes and then clean up the crumbs with Benefit make-overs.

Xanthe bears more than a few resemblances to that other Domestic Goddess, Nigella, and had Russell Brand down on one knee way before Katy Perry, when she visited his radio show armed with a basket of treats.

Cookie Girl began her baking career in west London, selling Belgian chocolate cookies around Notting Hill’s offices to sugar-starved workers, while dressed as Little Red Riding Hood.  She gained a stellar reputation among local cupcake lovers and celebs, running a stall at Portobello market on a Saturday.

Eat Me! is an exquisite book full of classic and more jazzy cupcake, cookies and biscuit recipes.  Some of the more unusual flavours include French Toast cupcakes, Pistachio rose blossom cakes, Pumpkin marshmallow cookies and Christmas Pudding cupcakes.

The recipes are categorised by season, with flavours inspired by the colours, scents and ingredients of that particular time of year. Lemon, elderflower, pistachio, cherry and raspberry are the flavours we should be getting into for Spring – a bit like fashion, really.

But, the big question is, ‘why on earth should I buy another cupcake cookbook?’  Well, my guess is that the addition of ‘adult flavours’ like Margarita, White Russian and even Jack Daniels cupcakes will be the first thing to persuade seasoned cupcake enthusiasts.

Secondly, Cookie Girl imparts some wisdom about the art of baking (which she describes as ‘a form of alchemy’) and reveals that success depends on ‘cooking with love’.  If you approach baking feeling angry, sad or frustrated, your negative vibes will be present in the food, so be optimistic and just go for it.

The book has a fairytale element, echoing fantasy world of Alice In Wonderland and it is exceedingly well-written.  Xanthe reminisces over childhood memories shaped by what cakes were served and by the sound of it, the baking talent runs in her family.  She currently runs cupcake decorating classes, particularly popular for Hen Parties and childrens’ parties, and is planning to go nationwide with a troupe of Cookie Girls.

Eat Me! The Stupendous, Self-Raising World of Cupcakes & Bakes According to Cookie Girl is out now and is available from Amazon.

Recipes

Last-minute Christmas recipe: My Mum’s Raspberry Tiramisu

One of my favourite parts of the festive period in the Alimohamadi household is doing all the food prep on Christmas Eve.  In between glasses of mulled wine and mince pies, my mum showed me how to make her secret Raspberry Tiramisu.

This dessert has been tried and tested over the years on family member and friends and every time it gets a rapturous response.  The best thing of all is that it’s so easy to make and doesn’t involve any baking or faffing with too many ingredients, which is surely a godsend when you’ve got to fire up a turkey and not burn the Yorkshire puds.

The mother is very precise with her measurements, while I’m more of a free-spirited cook, so I’ll try and stick to the proper way of doing things.

tiramisu

So, to make a tiramisu this delicious, you’ll need:

A medium glass dish

One pack of sponge fingers

2 shots of espresso

4 tablespoons of Disaronno Amaretto

A punnet of organic raspberries (fresh or frozen)

600ml Double cream

500ml Mascarpone cheese

A few drops of vanilla essence

2 squares of good quality dark chocolate

Serves 6-8

First up, line the dish with sponge fingers, up to the edges.  Mix the espresso or concentrated ground cafetiere coffee with the amaretto liqueur and drizzle it lightly over the sponge fingers.  Then scatter a third of the raspberries on top.

tiramisu-base

Add the double cream to a mixing bowl and whisk with an electric hand mixer until is starts to become thick.  Then add the mascarpone cheese and vanilla essence and blend it on full power for about one minute.

Be careful not to over-whisk the cream, as it will be impossible to spread and even worse, could turn into butter!  You’ll know it’s at the right consistency when you seen ‘soft peaks’ and it looks kind of like mountain snow.

cream

Add a layer of cream mixture on top of the sponge and raspberries, spreading it to the edges with a spatula.  Repeat the first step again, but this time soak the sponges in the coffee rather than drizzling it, add some raspberries and more cream.

Finally, throw some raspberries on top, finely grate the dark chocolate and sprinkle it on.  Cover and keep refrigerated before serving.

tiramisu

Et voila!  A quick, decadent but light dessert that knocks points off a boring old trifle.  I tried to go for a Good Food magazine-style shot, but I didn’t have a food stylist to plump up the raspberries, so you’ll have to take my word for how delicious it is.

Sorry if this comes too late for you to change your Christmas dessert plans, but it will make a mean Boxing Day/New Year treat.