Rome wasn’t built in a day…but I (sort-of) became a Roman chef in a day!

Ben and I recently arrived back in Sydney from a three week whirlwind trip to Europe.

I was a bridesmaid for my best friend Melissa as she married her now-husband Bradley in Cornwall, UK which was the main reason we went. But we wanted to make the most of that ever-so-long flight.

Me with the beautiful bride, Melissa.

Me with the beautiful bride, Melissa.

So, we were lucky enough to fit in a few short trips before we travelled over to the UK, to the city of love, Paris and then on to Rome!

We had a wonderful first day seeing the sights – the Colosseum, Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II and the Trevi Fountain. We sampled delicious pasta, ice cream and pizza – and the sun was shining gloriously.

Me at the Colosseum

Me at the Colosseum

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for our final day so we didn’t get to see the Vatican, but day two was truly the highlight of our European adventure.

Ben turned 30 at the end of March, and his sister Claire very generously booked for the two of us to attend Cooking Classes in Rome.

Cooking Classes in Rome is Run by Italian Chef, Andrea Consoli. Visitors to the city can sign up for a five hour class beginning at 10am, where chef Andrea educates, entertains and carefully explains how to prepare four courses of traditional Roman dishes.

Chef Andrea with Ben and I

Chef Andrea with Ben and I

Classes are held for up to twelve people at a time and when all food has been prepared, Andrea turns into your waiter and serves the food in his dining room, with accompanying wines if you choose (and of course we did!).

This is a very popular thing to do in Rome, for good reason, see the TripAdvisor reviews here where it is rated #1 of classes and workshops in Rome, so expect the class to be full.

When we arrived at the location, we were sat at what would later be our dining table, where we got to know the other students and were served some delicious coffee and snacks. We were then taught about the dishes we would prepare, given aprons and directed into the kitchen. At first glance it’s a fairly small space, but this works out well as you’re forced to “get to know” your fellow students quickly and you truly feel like part of a “real” kitchen.

In the middle of the room all of the fresh ingredients were laid out. Andrea explained the importance of using fresh seasonal produce for the best flavour.

Fresh Ingredients laid out

Fresh Ingredients laid out

We were told many interesting facts about Italian food – the origins of different dishes e.g. Spaghetti alla puttanesca AKA “in the style of the whore.” – Chef Andrea explained that this dish was a favourite of these women to prepare as it was cheap and quick. They would leave steaming bowls of it by the window to draw in hungry patrons!

Chef Andrea explains...

Chef Andrea explains…

We were then divided up into pairs and helped with preparing and then cooking the dishes. Chef Andrea was never too far away and happy to answer any questions. He would stop us from time to time and show us how to do parts which were a bit trickier. He also called us out on our often patchy understanding of Italian food…

He was particularly unimpressed by my assumption that there is alcohol in tiramisu! Well, I now know that alcohol is only added to the tiramisu if it has not been eaten quickly – due to the raw egg content – as a preservative!

Starter – Carciofi alla Romana – Roman Style Artichokes

DSC_4587

Preparing artichokes…

We were taught how to prepare and carve the artichokes – which was definitely not my strong point – there wasn’t much artichoke left after I’d finished! Then we stuffed each artichoke with mint, salt and pepper after which they were steamed in olive oil and water.

DSC_4588

Artichokes in oil

First main course – Homemade Cavatelli shaped pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil leaves

Chef Ben!

Chef Ben!

This was probably the most interesting part for me – making fresh pasta from scratch. The pasta was made with semolina or durum wheat flour – no egg (which may surprise you) and water. The flour and water was kneaded into a dough, then using the below device and a special technique we learnt, it was rolled into the cavatelli pasta shape! It was then boiled until the pieces floated to the top. The end result was “al dente”, still firm.

Making the dough

Making the dough

Making pasta

Making pasta

Pasta

Pasta

When we returned to the UK we actually made this dish again for my mum, dad and sister – I forgot to take a picture but I can vouch that it turned out exactly like it did in the cooking school. We will certainly be preparing this dish again, nothing beats fresh pasta, it is divine!

Second main Course – beef “carpaccio” with cherry tomatoes, arugola and shaves of Parmesan Cheese

This dish contained thin strips of beef, which were fried lightly with garlic then mixed with arugula (rocket) and fresh diced tomatoes. I’ve never fried rocket before, but the end result was really tasty.

Lightly cooking the beef

Lightly cooking the beef

Side dish – Broccoli Romaneschi (Roman Style Broccoli)

The Roman broccoli is quite strange looking and took a long while to prepare. Ben and I were tasked with the titillating job of removing each tiny broccoli floret, and then pulling off the even smaller parts, before it was fried with garlic and chilli.

Roman broccoli

Roman broccoli

I have to say this may have (surprisingly) been my favourite dish of the day! It was aromatic and delicious.

Dessert -Traditional Tiramisù

Some of the group were surprised to find out that real tiramisu contains no cream, it’s egg whites, yolks and mascarpone cheese that provide the dessert’s creamy element.

Egg whites

Egg whites

Ladyfingers

Ladyfingers

We dipped ladyfinger biscuits into freshly brewed espresso, then whisked the egg whites with sugar. The yolks were then whisked with sugar and mixed with the mascarpone cheese. It sounds a lot easier than it was, but the finished dish was by far the best tiramisu I have ever tasted.

Time to eat!

At the end of the cooking class, we were sat at the table to devour our creations and a few glasses of wine – matched perfectly with each dish.

Beef with rocket and tomato

Beef with rocket and tomato

Cavatelli pasta

Cavatelli pasta

Artichoke

Artichoke

Roman Broccoli

Roman Broccoli

Tiramisu with a personal touch!

Tiramisu with a personal touch!

Cooking students dining together

Cooking students dining together

I can’t recommend Cooking Classes in Rome highly enough, it was interesting and so much fun.

It is a refreshing break from the crowded tourist traps and a productive way to spend your time in Rome if you only have a few days.

I’m certain if we go to Rome again, we will return! You can check out their Facebook page here.

Coco xo

Happy healthy Halloween!

Happy Halloween folks!

I’m feeling festive this week, so I decided to write about the scariest and arguably the sweetest holiday of the year, Halloween.

Celebrated annually on October 31 – tomorrow – Halloween is a favourite fun holiday for many children (and adults) around the world.

If dressing up, pumpkin carving and sugary treats are your thing, then this celebration is for you!

Photo credit: @Kiuko on Flickr

Photo credit: @Kiuko on Flickr

Origins of Halloween

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. This was a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture where the ancient Pagans would take stock of their supplies in preparation for Winter.

They believed that on October 31, the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc for the living world.

Trick-or-treating as it is known today, is similar to the late medieval practice of “souling,” that originated in Ireland and Britain when the poor would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1st), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2nd).

Interesting fact: Shakespeare mentions “souling” in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering, whining], like a beggar at Hallowmas.”

Read more about the origins of Halloween.

Halloween and I

So it comes as no surprise that Halloween is a solid favourite for kids around the globe, they get to dress up as ghosts and witches (or anything if you’re stateside) and eat lots of sweets. What’s not to like?

I used to love Halloween as a child in England, peering out of the window and watching at all of the groups of adults and children dressed up roaming the streets trick-or-treating. It’s also the time of year to watch one of my favourite movies, Hocus Pocus!

I remember having Halloween parties at my house with games like bobbing for apples, and trick-or-treating with my sister Sarah, coming home with a huge bag of goodies that would be distributed carefully by my parents to ensure that we didn’t throw up.

My sister Sarah and I, dressed up many moons ago for Halloween.

My sister Sarah and I, dressed up many moons ago for Halloween.

My parents were fairly strict when it came to sweets and chocolate as a child, but they did let us celebrate Halloween when we were young, and the sweets that came with it.

Here's a picture of me with my carved pumpkin

Here’s a picture of me with my carved pumpkin

I have noticed that people – particularly parents – are becoming increasingly aware of their sugar intake and the real health risks we are exposed to – and rightly so, as research has shown our consumption has skyrocketed over the years. And it has disastrous impacts on our health including increasing our risk of Diabetes and putting a lot of stress on our liver. Not to mention rotting our teeth. Sugar also has no nutritional content.

It’s unrealistic to stop eating sugar altogether (and I love sweets, but I try and keep my intake in check), but we are now equipped to research what we’re putting in our body and make better choices.

I have found an impressive array of healthy alternative Halloween treats online, so I thought I would pick my favourites and share them with you on the Happy List today – in case you’re thinking of dishing out something a little kinder on the teeth, and the waistline!

Chocolate chip pumpkin protein bars

These Chocolate chip pumpkin protein bars look amazing, and with an added protein kick even the most health conscious can find an excuse to try!  Find the recipe here on Popsugar.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Protein Bars

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Protein Bars

Pumpkin caramels

I have a really sweet tooth, so these Pumpkin caramels look like just the thing to hit the spot! You could devour these in-house or prepare these for trick-or-treaters. Find the recipe here on the Food Network.

Pumpkin Caramels

Pumpkin Caramels

Grape and raisin spiders

I LOVE these grape and raisin spiders which I think would be great for the kids, and are less processed than your typical Halloween sweets. They also look really creepy! Find instructions on Eating Richly here.

Grape and Raisin spiders

Grape and Raisin spiders

Three ingredient Halloween apple bites

How amazing and scary looking are these three-ingredient halloween apple bites? Bound to go down well with the kids, plus all you need is a bunch of apples, nut butter or jam and some slivered almonds! Easy peasy and really effective. Instructions are here on Oh She Glows.

3 ingredient Halloween apple bites

3 ingredient Halloween apple bites

Spooky Halloween chocolate mousse

I’m a big fan of the healthier chocolate mousse recipes – like my avo-choc mousse here. You really can’t taste the difference. I think kids and adults will both love this vegan mousse recipe, and with some decoration like below, they would make a fantastic Halloween snack. Recipe is here on I Quit Sugar

Spooky Halloween Chocolate Mousse

Spooky Halloween Chocolate Mousse’

 

Banana Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins

You can’t help but fall in love with these cute tangerine pumpkins and banana ghosts, and the kids will love them too! Instructions can be found here on Weelcious.

Banana Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins

Banana Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins

So there you have it! Got any favourite healthy Halloween alternatives? Let me know in the comments! And have a fun Halloween!

Coco xo

We need to talk… (and my super easy paella recipe!)

…about Turmeric!

Because this stuff is sensational.

Photo credit: Jackson3 on Flickr

Photo credit: Jackson3 on Flickr

Have you heard of it? I didn’t really know what it was until recently, except for recognising the distinct yellow colour and that it had something to do with curries. Interesting fact – it is also the magic ingredient that gives american mustard its bright yellow colour!

Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, that grows in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh.

Benefits

A natural anti-inflammatory and powerful antioxidant that has been found to help detox the liver in particular, research shows us what many asian countries have known for thousands of years – that turmeric is not just delicious, it could potentially protect us from dementia and even prevent the dreaded C.

How?

Turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin. In lab tests, curcumin was found to block the growth of certain types of tumours! One study even showed that turmeric extract containing curcumin stabilized colorectal cancer without any other treatment! I must add further research needs to be done, but the initial results are promising – and what do we have to lose?

How to eat it

You can buy oral capsules, or it can be added to curries and other dishes in its powder form. I made a simple paella this week when we had a friend over for dinner that I thought I’d share (and the reason why I had turmeric on my mind!).

Super easy Paella recipe

The finished result.

The finished result.

Ingredients

  • 500g chicken
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 200g cooked prawns (I didn’t use these this time – so they are optional)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Bunch of coriander finely chopped
  • 2.5 cups chicken stock
  • Capsicum (or red pepper as i should call it, silly Aussies…)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small chilli – seeds removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 200g green beans
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Method

  1. Pan fry the chicken breast until cooked and set aside.
  2. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan, then cook the chorizo, garlic and onion for a few minutes, until the chorizo begins to crisp.
  3. Add the turmeric, chilli, capsicum and the rice – cook for two minutes.
  4. Add the stock and chopped tomatoes, mix and then simmer for around 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked.
  5. Add the chicken, cannellini beans, green beans and prawns if you’re using them, cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add the chopped coriander, stir.
  7. Serve immediately with lemon wedges. Enjoy!

How do you use Turmeric in your cooking? Let me know in the comments!

Coco xo

Like The Happy List on Facebook. 

Recipe: Easy Fruit Crumble

In the winter, I’m always craving warm, sweet food, so a fruit crumble is the perfect option for dessert.

I think it’s nicer to make food from scratch where possible, and this recipe is so easy, anyone can make it!

It takes about 30 minutes all up to prepare, and tastes delicious.

Ingredients for the filling

  • 200g apple peeled
  • 200g pear peeled
  • 100g blueberries (or 500g of any fruit!)
  • Two tablespoons maple syrup (Or you could use stevia/agave syrup if you don’t want to use maple)
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons of water
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 Teaspoon of cinnamon

And for the crumble topping

  • 60g plain flour
  • 25g oatmeal
  • 60g brown sugar/stevia (I prefer sugar…)
  • 60g butter or olive spread

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C. Peel the apples and pears, then chop and cook in a pan with the water and lemon juice until soft but not mushy.
  2. Add blueberries, maple syrup and stir.
  3. Add the blueberries, cooked fruit and maple mix in the dish you want to bake in.
  4. Sift the flour, then mix together the ingredients for the crumble in a bowl – flour, oatmeal then sugar.
  5. Warm the butter until it is soft before adding in.
  6. Once the crumble has been well mixed, rub into fine breadcrumbs and then sprinkle evenly over the fruit.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 20 minutes in the hottest part of the oven or until the crumble is brown and crunchy. Serve with cream, custard or ice cream! 🙂

Happy baking!

Coco xx