Tag Archives: Italian

Pork Belly with Potatoes cooked in milk

There has been alot of controversy in the media lately about pork. Rightly so.  Society due to various recessions and “modernisation” has led to cheap food produced through mass farming. And it’s not a good thing.  I always try to be as ethical with my purchases as possible.  And with pork and chicken this is essential.  Pigs are very closely related, disease wise to humans, therefore are often pumped full of drugs to prevent disease as they live so close in proximity to each other when being intensively reared.  So my point- eventually- read the label.  Do your best. This dish is crying out for some really well reared pork.  This method of cooking it in milk is an Italian classic…

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Rocket Gnudi- Yep I’d never heard of them either

My Mum and Dad are great at spying recipes for me to try, and when they proudly presented me with this particular Gnudi one, there was a definite hint of -I’ve-stumped-you-now in my father’s eye.  But never one to resist a challenge, I went about making some. This recipe is  from the book – Too Good To Waste by Victoria Glass.

Technically dumplings, these billowy puffs of cheese are from Tuscany originally, where ricotta replaced potato in the more common Gnocchi. Gnudi is an English-adopted Tuscan word for the Italian term “nudi” (naked), the idea being that these balls of ricotta (and sometimes spinach) are “nude ravioli”, consisting of just the tasty filling without the pasta shell. Fine with me. I’m not adverse to a bowl of nude pasta if push comes to shove.

Rocket Gnudi


150g Rocket/ or you could probably use baby spinach

250g ricotta

50g freshly grated Parmesan

1 egg, beaten

1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

250g semolina

Sage butter or tomato passata sauce to serve.


Place the rocket in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of boiling water and heat until the leaves are just wilted. Drain well, cool and chop finely.  Mix this chopped rocket together with the ricotta, parmesan, egg, nutmeg, salt and some black pepper in a bowl.


Pour the semolina into a separate shallow bowl.


Wet your hands (to prevent sticking) and roll a walnut sized piece of ricotta mixture into balls in between your palms. Then coat this in semolina, leaving it to one side in the semolina dish when you move onto the next ball.

Continue like this until all the balls are used up.  Then roll all the balls again through the semolina to make sure that they are well coated.


At this stage they need to go uncovered into the fridge for at least 48 hours. Here the gnudi will develop a skin to make them easier to cook.  They can be frozen in a container at this stage.

When you are ready to cook the gnudi, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Adding a few gnudi at a time to this water, you will know when they are cooked as they will start to float.  Using a slotted spoon remove the cooked gnudi to a frying pan with sizzling melted butter to finish them off.

Rocket Gnudi

Rocket Gnudi

I love them just like this, with extra parmesan, but you could throw them into a bowl of bubbling passata if you were feeling indulgent.  Whatever way you chose they are divine.








An unexpected lunch at the Italian Batoni’s in Emo

We recently had an hour to spend en route from Dublin to Mount Mellick , and decided to stop in Emo for Lunch. This Italian Restaurant is a really hidden gem in Emo. It’s directly opposite the entrance to Emo Court. Jordan and I had visited there a number of years ago for a schools orienteering event, but had never spotted Batoni’s.
Although it looked closed driving by, once in the car park there’s a lovely entrance into the restaurant. We were seated immediately, and just to note, if I ever own a restaurant, I want those chairs.  SO comfortable.

Italian Food at Batoni's

Bruschetta Starter

The menu was really nicely presented and the specials clear- too clear- and delicious.  Nigel went for the Pate dello Chef (duck pate), and I the Bruschetta Contadina.  As a teeny aside, I’ve been learning Italian using the cool little Duolingo App, and really thought my language skills in this area were improving greatly.  Alas when I proudly ordered my starter in my BESTEST Italian accent, our server corrected my pronunciation without a second glance.  Total MORTO.  I really enjoyed the starter, despite my inability to pronuonce it! Both were unusually plated, but gave it uniqueness.

Batoni's Italian Restaurant

The pic doesn’t do this Italian take on pate justice

Main courses were as good, I went for Lasagna, and was not disappointed at all. Nigel had the special Linguine con Coniglio (rabbit pasta).

Batoni's Italian Restaurant

Lasagna with the most amazing cheese sauce

I’m not sure who got the better deal.
EmoAnd although I’m a BIG Dessert fan, I really couldn’t fit in anything else.  The only downside for me was the cheesecake special -Nutella and Strawberry Cheesecake.

a) Not a fan of Nutella AT ALL

b) Nutella and Strawberry WHA?

I had managed to have a really nice glass of Pinot Grigio with my meal, and would have quite happily sat having another glass, but we had to move on.  After a very strong coffee (too strong for me- so himself had to have the equivalant of three espressos!), we paid and left. Very satisfied.

Sometimes I fear, I am guilty of thinking that restaurants outside of major towns are not as busy or offer the same quality of food.  I was put firmly in my place here.  It was a real diamond.

Parking: Yes

Easily Accessible: Yes

Price: Mid Range but definitely value for money

Decor: Subtle

Food: Very Good Authentic Italian with their own stamp.

Italian Biscuits- to have with a nice strong coffee, or tea..

Or just to nibble. Who doesn’t love a nice cuppa with a little something on the side.. and the sound of Italian Biscuits is so alluring.

There’s always either egg yolks or egg whites in the fridge. And these biscuits use up egg whites not destined for macaron, or meringue. A biscuit can be several different things depending on which side of the oceans you are on.  In America, when I visited New Orleans, a biscuit was a kind of what we would call a scone.  Mind you they serve them with gravy.  Yes, *sigh* I didn’t really get my head around it either.

What is really interesting is that in her book “English Bread and Yeast Cookery”, Elizabeth David had a section on soft biscuits in which she writes…

“It is interesting that these soft biscuits (such as scones) are common to Scotland and Guernsey, and that the term biscuit as applied to a soft product was retained in these places, and in America, whereas in England it has completely died out.

These “new” biscuits, were hard, flat and unleavened. In some parts of Europe they were baked twice, like the Italian biscuits called biscotti served in cafes across Italy. But all were used as a dry form of food that was easily carried. By the 7th century AD this was changing. The sweetness of a biscuit was much desired.

Fast forward to my recipe for today.

Richard Bertinet’s Italian Biscuits


300g Icing Sugar

300g ground almonds

2 teaspoons of honey

3 egg whites

Butter for greasing the baking tray


Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar together, add in the honey and the egg whites.  Mix this together until you have a smooth dough.  Leave to chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat your oven to 150oC.  Prepare your baking trays.

Italian Biscuits

Italian Biscuits- the dough in rolls ready to slice

Divide the dough into four and roll each piece to a rough sausage shape. Slice each of these rolls into about ten pieces and place on the trays.  I used the end of a small butter knife to make an indent in each biscuit.  Being careful not to go straight through to the tray.

Add some jam or something sweet that you might have into the dent.  I used some salted caramel spread in some, and some raspberry curd in others.  It was suggested that nutella might also be acceptable! But I’m not a nutella fan.

Italian Biscuits

Caramel and Raspberry curd filling

Now comes the tricky bit.  Bake for around 15 minutes. They will still be soft coming out of the oven, but once rested they will slide off the trays to cool. They need to be coloured on top.









The Italian Job – Day 3

Day three will be ingrained in my memory for more than any of the delicious pizza. it’s just so sticky. And really for me, with my complete aversion to anything sticky (note- anyone spills juice on the floor in my house- kids run for cover- they KNOW) it was a real mental challenge.

Italian Bread Making

Rolling out Pizza

At this stage I’d like to say that mixing the ingredients and the doughs is second nature- but sadly not.  But it is getting easier as the muscle memory is starting to kick in.  And they we started mixing the ciabatta (slipper) dough. Not the oldest of breads, which is unusual, I feel for something Italian (as everything there- so they’ll tell you- is over 2000 years old!), ciabatta was first baked in Verona, in 1976.

Ciabatta is something I’ve only made in my trusty Kenwood, it always makes a mess too.  I think I might try it by hand.  But only on a good day when I’m not under pressure.  As really ciabatta should be the Italian for patience.

Some Bread for the display

Some Bread for the display

We made other Italian bread too- and I especially liked the “inclusion” breads where we added two different types of pesto- walnut & rocket was really good. But by now, my favourite time of the day is when we all sit down and eat our lunch together.  And by day 3 we know each other quite well- so there’s a fair bit of slagging.

But it’s a great way to reinforce together what we’ve learnt.  It’s a change of pace from the frantic running around checking rising, turning dough, and keeping under the radar from those French Masters eyes!



Things I learnt today:

Ciabatta dough is stickier than you could ever imagine

Walnuts can be nice in pesto (who’d have thought?)

Follow the method religiously and you (hopefully) won’t fail!


Tomorrow is, well, I’ve no idea- I’m dreaming of doughnuts- so you never know!