About Holyfork

Food lover! I am lucky enough to live in a huge, multicultural city like London and to have the chance to constantly try different cuisines!

Discovering new food in St Petersburg

Lunch in Helsinki: check! Next stop is St Petersburg!
In about three hours by train you can easily and comfortably reach St Petersburg from Helsinki and I would advice everyone to take the train as you go through some amazing woods and landscape, an extremely pleasant and relaxing ride before arriving in one of the most charming cities I have ever visited.

I fell in love with this city as soon as I got off from the train and every place I have visited it definitely kept up with my expectations. I had a clear idea of what to visit and where to go in terms of museums and historical hotspots and I was certainly looking for the performance at the Mariinsky Theatre, but I have to admit that food wise I had no expectations at all and I am glad to say that I was very pleasantly surprised.

Following our Lonely Planet’s advice, we had lunch in “stolovaya” (canteen): if you like fine dining and fancy atmosphere, you should not go there, if you are instead interested in a authentic dining experience with locals and some traditional and simple food, then this is the sort of places to go. Every canteen gives you the possibility to choose among a few options of warm food, salads, drinks and desserts for a very cheap price, yet the food is really nice. We had borscht every day, both the cold and warm version…delicious!

Another great discovery I made in Russia was…Georgian food. Yes, one day we were hungry and tired after a huge walk and many hours spent visiting the Hermitage (I would need an entire dedicated blog to describe how fantastic is this museum and the Winter Palace!) and we literally entered the first restaurant we found, and I am so glad we did as that was my introduction to such an amazing cuisine. The restaurant is called Baje and it’s a tiny, hidden place not far from the Admiralteyskaya metro station and it’s totally worth a visit.

Here below  few photos of some of the food we had during our stay. I hope I will be able to post a few recipes in the near future!

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Aubergine and walnut salad

Georgian lemonade

Georgian Lemonade

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Aubergine rolls with cheese and walnuts

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Beef stew with sour cream and sesame

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Salmon and caviar

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Beef stroganoff

Lobiani bread

Lobiani bread

Lunch at Kauppatori, Helsinki

It’s our first day of holiday and the sun is shining, it’s the perfect day for a visit to Suomenlinna, the little island in front of Helsinki and a UNESCO world heritage site. We leave the hotel headed to the harbour to take the boat that will bring us there in about 20 minutes, I was feeling very excited about the idea of spending an whole day out, walking and cycling in the nature, but as soon as we approached the harbour my attention was totally caught by something completely different: the Kauppatori (which is the Finnish for the Market Square). I was still determined to visit Suomenlinna first though, so I had to wait a few hours to go and explore the market properly (but I promise that the temptation to stop just there and dive into the food was really huge!).

What is nice about this market is that you can actually stop there and have some warm delicious food! It’s (obviously) mainly fish, so if you are not a fish lover you might not understand all my enthusiasm and might not enjoy the experience fully. On the other hand, if you do love fish, then you’d better go there soon!

I tried an amazing salmon and dill soup, then (more) salmon cooked with cream and potatoes, then some mixed fried fish/calamari/prawn…mmmh mouthwatering! All of this sitting in front of the sea and ended with some fresh cherries also from the market.

The day went on and we had a lovely walk in the city (so extremely tidy and clean), but this is a food blog, so I should stop here and leave you with a few pictures! 🙂

Salmon and veg

Salmon and veg

Fish, veg and dill soup!

Fish, veg and dill soup!

Home made pasta: first (successful) attempt!

I gave ravioli a try a while ago and I must say the result was not really impressive!
Yesterday I felt inspired again, or more simply, the weather was so miserable that I felt like doing nothing else than staying at home and treat myself with some nice food and a movie.

I tried to make “sagne” a kind of pasta typical from the Abruzzo region in Italy and whose main feature is the total lack of eggs – it is in fact one of those everyday “poor dishes”, but still so incredibly tasty, not to mention the fact that making and eating them was a sort of trip down to memory lane.

All you need is some plain white flour (the version with rye flavour is also very good though), salt and water: mix all the ingredients until the dough is not too sticky anymore and you can start using a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a circle. The thickness can vary depending on your tastes, I personally prefer it a bit thicker so that when you cook it it stays more crunchy and al dente.

Once it is rolled out and you reach the preferred thickness, leave it to dry for about 1 hour (or more, it depends on how dry is the room) – make sure it is quite dry before rolling and cut it or it will just get a super messy and sticky result!

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You can now start folding it (as if you would like to make a pasta tube) and cut it into stripes – I cut mine around 1.5 cm wide. Then put it in a tray and let it rest for another 30 minutes, making sure to sprinkle some flour so that the pasta stripes do not stick to each other.

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Time to cook it and enjoy it: bring water to the boil, add salt and then the pasta. It will cook very quickly, as soon as it starts floating you can drain the water and dress the pasta (be quick, or it will stick!).

I dressed mine with some garlic and chilli tomato sauce and percorino cheese sprinkled on top, YUMMY!

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Couscous with peppers and poached egg on top

Another easy and quick recipe!

Cut some red, green and yellow bell peppers into small stripes (about 1 cm wide or little less) and put them in a pan with some onion and olive oil.

Let it cook for a few minutes then add some tomato sauce, not too much, you don’t want to give a too tomato-ish flavour.I added it mostly to give some colour and to add some liquid.

After a few minutes turn the heat off and add the couscous, salt, freshly grounded black pepper and some rosemarine. Then cover the pan with its lid and let it cook in its own steam for about 5 minutes (this really depends on what kind of couscous you are using though…if you are using big couscous this might take longer and vice-versa).
If it is all too dry add some boiling water but make sure to do so little by little and be careful not to add too much or your couscous will become a big sticky ball.

In the meantime boil some water, when it is all bubbly, stir it quickly with a spoon and poach  your egg in. You want to make sure that the yolk is still running (as it will be delicious with the rest of the dish) so don’t overcook.

Et voilà!

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Spaghetti alla gricia recipe

Today I want to share with you one of the most famous dish of the Roman culinary tradition: pasta alla gricia.
When it was first invented it was considered a “poor” dish, which was generally prepared by shepherds which were simply using the ingredients that were easier for them to find.

It could be considered the ancestor of pasta alla amatriciana, in fact it has all the ingredients in common except for the tomato sauce (probably because pasta alla gricia was invented much earlier, when tomatoes were still unknown in Europe!).

Easy and quick to prepare but incredibly tasty.
All you need is some bacon (better if guanciale, but in case you don’t have it, bacon can do! well, sort of…), grated pecorino cheese, olive oil, pepper and of course spaghetti!

In terms of quantity, I would suggest around 70-80 gr of bacon per 100 gr of pasta. The amount of pecorino it really depends on your tastes, but the more you put, the creamer and tastier the pasta will be.

pasta griciaHow to prepare it: cut the bacon in small stripes or cubes and let it cook in a pan with some olive oil until it is crunchy and golden (once it is cook, you can throw away some of the cooking oil. I like to do so because the pasta will be less greasy!).

Boil the spaghetti and once they are ready add them to the bacon, sprinkle the pecorino and some pepper all over. Make sure spaghetti are “al dente” or they will get all sticky once you will try to mix them with bacon and pecorino.
Tip: in order to have a creamy result, add some of the pasta cooking water.

That’s all! Quick and easy as I promised.
Try it and let me know what you think! 🙂

Chocolate & coconut cookies

Yet another week as started and to be honest I was quite happy to go back to work after a cozy and relaxing weekend at home. London was all white and snowy and I absolutely loved it!

How did you spend your weekend? Did you have a nice one?

Yesterday it snowed the whole day, so it was just the perfect day for some baking and here it is the result:

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The recipe is super easy and I love the cookie cutter, it’s so cool being able to carry around your mug and your cookies so easily! I bought mine last year in a Christmas market in Germany, but I have seen similar ones here in the UK as well.

Ingredients:

  • 350g self rising flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 200g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • one egg
  • 350g dark chocolate
  • 2 spoons of cocoa powder
  • 2 spoons of grated coconut
Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, mix well until they are well blended together.
Add the egg and mix it with the dry mix. Add the melted chocolate and repeat the process.
You should now have a crumbly mixture. Cut the butter into little cubes and add them to the mix. Now use your hands to get everything together and get a smooth dough.
Once the dough is ready you can flatten it in a 1.5 cm layer and start cutting your cookies.
Bake for about 15 minutes (more or less, this really depends on how strong is your oven!) and you are done! 🙂
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Pumpkin soup

Just a few days to Christmas, this means lots of food on the way!
I am going back to Italy for a week and I have already given my mum a list of things I want to eat 🙂 …so I am trying to keep myself light these days…

Today is such a rainy and cold day, haven’t done much other than start packing and some online shopping.

Since I am going away for a few days, I am trying to empty my fridge and use all that could go off. Luckily enough I had a beautiful pumpkin, perfect to make some warm soup!

This dish is so incredibly easy, but yet tasty and can make you feel really full even with just a few calories.

All you need is a pumpkin, a little bit of onion, salt, pepper and if you like some nutmeg.
I personally think that pumpkin and nutmeg are a perfect match, but this really depends on your taste.

Cut the pumpkin in small cube and cook them in a pot with some olive oil and water for about 20 minutes.

When it is all tender and you can mash in with a fork, put it in a blender and mix it for a few minutes until you get a smooth creamy mix.
Pour the soup back into the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the grounded nutmeg,pepper and salt.

Mix well, remove from heat and serve immediately.
I have garnished mine with blue cheese croutons (if you don’t like blue cheese you can replace it with some cheddar).

Little tip: if you get a too thick mix, you can add some warm water.

I know some people like to add some cream, but I prefer this lighter version, and I assure you it tastes great!

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Halloween themed afternoon

I love autumn and I particularly love October…why you may wonder, one simple reason: Halloween! 🙂
Maybe it’s due to the fact that I have never celebrated it as a child (no, it’s not because I had a sad childhood, but simply because in Italy was not so popular 15-20 years ago), or simply because it is just another excuse to be creative, to dress up and to organise parties.
Falling the 31st on a Wednesday, we all took the chance to double the celebrations and party for two weekend! That was cool! 🙂 A Mexican friend of mine organised a Dia de los muertos themed party and it was amazing how everyone made the effort of showing up properly dressed and made up! And let me tell you…crossing London with that skull make up on has been an experience! 🙂

I thought of organising something slightly different and unusual…well at least for a late twenties/early thirties bunch of people: a Halloween themed afternoon on a Sunday. I think the last time I had some sort of party on a Sunday afternoon was for my 10th birthday or so. When I sent out the invitation for a “pumpkin carving and Halloween-ish food afternoon” I wasn’t sure how my friends would have reacted to this, but surprisingly everyone was quite excited about it.

It was a very pleasant afternoon, we all showed our childish side and this is the result:

Carved pepper with guacamole!

Nutella crostata with marzipan decorations

White chocolate ghosts popsicles

my carved pumpkin with feather eyelashes! 🙂

Halloween table

A few carved pumpkins

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza with onions

This is an easy pizza recipe that you can quickly make at home as a substitute of bread.
The other day I realized that I ran out of bread, but it was too late and cold to go outside and get some, plus I am not a big fan of the bread you find in supermarkets in the evening, far too dry after an whole day on the shelf.

Fortunately in my cupboard there are always some flour and yeast for emergencies like this and I was able to prepare some fresh home made pizza. I didn’t make bread as I am not always happy with the result you get with an electric oven (maybe I am too spoiled as  I am used to my mum’s wood oven bread!), pizza is easier to make and you can get good results with any kind of oven.

Anyway…this is what I prepared:

The process to make this pizza is very similar to the one for the focaccia whose recipe I have already posted a while ago and you can find here.

I think I don’t need to tell you exactly the quantities I have used, as it depends of course on how much pizza you need to prepare, and most importantly, you will understand when the dough is ready from its consistence.
Mix the flour, yeast and water till you are happy with the result. It should not be too hard, but should not stick to your hands either while kneading it. You just need a bit of practice and a couple of trials and you will get the perfect dough.
I find that adding a glass of warm milk really improves the quality of the dough and makes it very soft, give it a try and let me know if you agree!

Let the dough rise for good 1-2 hours, then add the topping right before you put it in the oven. For the topping I used some very thin sliced onions and black pepper (you can add some sea salt if you like it a bit more salty).

You then need to bake it for about 20 mins at 180°C (but please keep an eye on it, depending on how strong is your oven!).

Two random findings on the internet

I spent quite a lot of time today browsing the internet and I bumped into two strange interesting things: the Hipster Dust and the Shippo Tail.

The first one is a mix of “vegan spices mixture” created by someone, somewhere in New York.

                                              Image from http://www.coolmaterial.com

Now, in all honesty I think this is nothing so incredibly innovative, but just a smart and catchy name to market a product that probably already exists. Plus, maybe I am wrong, and if I am please correct me, but what does it mean exactly “vegan spices”? I know what vegan means, and I know what spices are…but my question is: can spices be not vegan? Anyway, as I mentioned before, I honestly think that this is a smart name for a product, especially considering how “cool and trendy” is being a hipster these days, and anyone that comes up with an original idea definitely deserves the success that comes from it, so I am not moving any critic at all…and anyway…who am I to judge? 🙂

The second finding is this new “device” (the brackets are simply because I find it hard to use this word for a furry tail! 🙂 ) called Shippo (= tail in Japanese) produced by the Japanese company Neurowear. At a first glance you might frown and think: “why should I want to stuck a furry tail to my back!?”,  but if you think about the technology behind it, let alone the tail itself, I think it is actually a cool idea.

Here you have the advert which, as most of the thing made in Japan, is extremely cute!

How does it work anyway? The tail reads electrical waves emitted by the brain through an electroencephalography apparatus and manifests them as wagging. The device is also linked to a smartphone which records a mood map. Of course it might sound odd, but I could really see how something like this might be used in certain situations or with people with certain health condition (of course not under the shape of a tail, that’s obvious), and I really like this “moving things with my mind” concept.

Unfortunately Shippo is still at concept stage and despite there are some working models it is still unsure whether it will reach or not the manufacturing stage.