Ale's Kitchen - Neapolitan Crocche' & Grilled eggplant parmiggiana

Mammamia...

 

Last time  we were in Naples my Mum made traditional crocche' following my Grandma's method and Christian loved them. I am not a huge fan of frying but I have to say that during the pregnancy I cooked a few times crocche', traditional eggplant parmiggiana and fried zeppole. A few Saturdays ago I made crocche' and the parmiggiana but I made the parmiggiana in a lighter way than is traditional. 

For the crocche I used 5 big potatoes, 3 eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, mozzarella, salt and pepper.

To prepare: Boil the water and when boiling add the potatoes and cook them till soft and till you see the skin coming off.

Let them cool down and then peel them. Whilst cooling the potatoes, roast 3 big eggplants cut in medium slices. Roast them on both sides and then put aside (before having my baby I would cook them in the traditional way: cutting the eggplant in slices, putting them in the sun on a tray covered by rock salt for a few hours to let the water come out, then clean them and coat each slice in beaten egg and flour and fry them). Then I prepare the tomato sauce with a can of plum tomatoes, basil, oil, salt, garlic, and when all eggplants are ready I cover a tray with some sauce then a layer of eggplants then sauce grated parmesan mozzarella or provola basil then eggplants sauce parmesan etc etc again for a total of 3/4 layers then cover with sauce and grated parmesan and grill in pre heated oven for 15/20 min and let them cool a bit before serving yummiiiii !

In the meantime while the parmiggiana was in the oven I prepared the crocche: in a big bowl mash all the potatoes then add a bit of salt pepper the yolk of  2 eggs and grated parmesan.  Then I worked the mixture as if making a pizza dough or bread and then roll the mixture into balls (a bit bigger than a golf ball). Beat the egg whites and place in a bowl and on a plate some breadcrumbs. In each ball add some cubes of mozzarella then make the shape of a crocche, pass them quickly in the egg white and breadcrumbs and so on for all the crocche. To cook, place a few crocche at a time in super hot peanut butter oil,  cook for about a minute on each side. Then dry them on a kitchen paper and serve when still warm. Mammamiaaaaa! I made some for Marley too, same recipe but no salt and pepper and stir fried quickly in coconut oil...what to say he devoured them! Regarding food he is a real Neapolitan inside...loving cheese pasta bread fish.  :-)

 

Ale's Kitchen - Saturday night indulgence

Ciao a tutti, 

Wow it's almost a month I have not been writing but life is pretty intense beautifully busy.

A friend few days ago sent me a picture of a tarte tatin she made with onions and when it's about onions I can not resist...so she inspired me and I made my way of tarte tatin with caramelised red onions. We had them with whiting fish for dinner yesterday and today with some fresh salad. 

I bought the red onions at the Farmers market here in Byron and the fish from the Fish market store. I used 5 red onions, I cut them in 4 pieces and I put them in a saucepan with about 25gr of butter and two spoons of brown sugar. I fried them for a bit then I added balsamic vinegar. I covered completely them with vinegar and let them frying in a low/medium fire for a while. Then I added some water and kept frying them and stirred from time to time and added more water if was needed. Then I added little bit of salt and left them to caramelise.

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Once ready I left them aside and put some butter in a cake tin and put a sheet of puff pastry and made holes with a fork then filled it with all the caramelised onions and lots lots lots of parmesan cheese, then I covered it with another sheet of puff pastry, again made some holes and put a beaten egg all over on the top and voila' ready to go in the oven, 180degrees for 10 or 20 min, depending on your oven and when it is ready, just keep checking and when ready let it cool down before eating or serving it.

We had the tarte tatin with whiting fish that Christian prepared. He put the fish fillets in a bag with some flour and parmesan, shook them and fried them with a little bit of olive oil and then we added some salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Mammamia che bontà....we loved the tarte tatin so much that we have had even today for lunch with some salad and I might do again next week, because it's so simple to make and so yummiiiiiiii.

Enjoy, cook, have fun, eat and taste the love of your cooking and hopefully soon with more recipes.

 

Buon Appetito

Ale

Ayurvedic Yoga Massage by Kusum Modak

I am so grateful to Kusum Modak who created this kind of therapy and to my teachers Subudda and Sangeeta. Here below a beautiful interview with Kusum by Kamakshi.

http://www.yogaspira.com/kusum_interview.html

 

 

 

An interview with Kusum Modak by Kamakshi


Ayurvedic Yoga Massage " Zero Stress"


You have devoted yourself to working with thousands of people, giving sessions, trainings, inspiring them. What does ‘Ayurveda’ mean to you?

Ayurveda is a vast science; it’s an age old science. You know, Yoga, Ayurveda, the Sanskrit language - they go back 5-6000 years. What I’m sharing with my students, you can say, is just one branch of Ayurveda. I don’t want to say that I know many things, because I focused only on the therapy side of the work.

According to Ayurveda, zero stress in the body is the healthiest body. And what does it means - zero stress?

It means that you take a little bit of care with your diet, your exercises, drink lots of water, try to be happy, laugh quite a lot… (laughs) And the most important thing is - be aware of your breathing. But in modern times, we are running with the time: it is 1 o ‘clock - I have to do this; it is 2 o’clock - I have to do that. You understand what I mean? If you keep a little time for yourself, then you will face very few problems with your body - this is the healthiest body.

Where did you learn about zero stress and the body?

One yoga friend of mine was not keeping too well, she wanted to know about some massage, any additional thing to help her. My mother said why you don’t take her to Mr. Limaye. He was very well known in this area. When I met him he was already 82 years old. He used to start his work at 6 in the morning to treat the patients with different problems – knee problems, joint problems, back problems, stomach problems… I explained to my friend that he wants to help you out, can you come in the morning at 6. And then he looked at me and said “What about you - where do you stay, what is your name?” He was a giant with his profound knowledge of the body and all that. So I introduced myself, that I had just finished my graduation in the Arts, that I was studying in Fergusson College, and that I lived with my mother, and that I had unfortunately lost my father a few years ago. And he said, “Okay I’ve heard everything, are you interested to learn this?” I said, “Oh, but I don’t know anything about anatomy, about anything…” He said “Please tell me - yes or no” I said, “Yes…” I was literally shaking. And he said “Okay then, come with your friend tomorrow” That’s how I started. I used to call him Ajoba, which means grandfather. For more than one year I couldn’t dare to ask him a single question. I used to go there, sit in one corner, and watch his work - like that. One day, all of a sudden he said to me “Come forward!” I said “Okay” One woman was having some problem, and he said “Start working on her” I said “But Ajoba, I don’t know anything…” And he said “You were wasting your time, your energy, my time, my energy…? You are coming for more than one year, sitting in the corner, and looking at the wall or something? You have to start. Start working on her, I am looking at you.” I told that woman “Please, if I do something not right, immediately let me know” This is my story, literally this is my story. And then he was happy. Unfortunately after that he fell ill. The last time that I went to see him, he said, “I’m very happy with what you have learned and I am sure you will flourish in this art” Like that. And then he started sending me some local people, “Go to Kusum, go to Kusum”

Doesn’t Ayurvedic Yoga Massage have a lot of yoga stretches?

Someone else is doing all the work for you - the lazy man’s yoga, the ultimate. If I could get that everyday I would be very happy…
You cannot just relax, lie down; and I start working on you. It is not like that. You should be aware and only then will you feel that something is changing in your body. Then after the first one or two sessions, which is our learning process – to see where you are holding the problem, the tightness, the tension. Then we know how to go forward. After warming up of your back, maybe I find somewhere in the thoracic spine, the upper spine; that I feel that the gaps are a little less - you may have to come for several sessions to feel the difference. Then I will definitely ask you to go through a little pain, and give you little bit more pressure to open the gaps. The vertebrae are nothing but the bony structure, and when the two bones start pressing each other – the friction starts. And when the friction starts, your pain starts; because we are all getting old no? Everyday we are heading towards our last breath. Every five minutes I am telling my patient that be aware of your breathing, keep your eyes open, please go through a little bit of pain; then you will come to me and say, “Oh you gave me a little bit of pain, but I feel a little better” It is not a lazy man’s work.

You are actually increasing their awareness…

The person who takes the work and the person who is doing the work - they are both fully aware of what they are doing and what they are receiving. For me, I’m sorry, please don’t feel I am exaggerating, but for me this work is nothing but meditation. The moment I touch your body, this is completely empty. (gestures to her head) The moment I enter in the room, to teach or share with my students, this is completely empty. (gestures to her head again) So for me, this is the best way of meditation.

You have spent 20 years with Shri B.K.S. Iyengar, how has that enriched you?

My health was not good, I had a lot of physical problems, I was a very weak girl, my spine was like this, my breathing was bad, and my immune system was very weak. I had tried many different things, but nothing helped. Then I thought one last thing I would like to try to do – that is Yoga. So I enrolled myself in the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute, I owe quite a lot to my respected Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar for what I am having today. I am not teaching Yoga or anything, that is not my field. I just do it for my good health. When I started going to the Institute - once, twice a week; slowly, slowly I started getting healthier. I could feel it, my posture was becoming good, and my appetite and breathing started getting much better. Now you have the example in front of you. I am a 69 years old woman…
And you look great…
Thank you.

How did you begin to incorporate yoga with massage?

For example, someone comes with a severe back problem, and then I would say, maybe I will try to use my foot to do a little bit more pressure, maybe I would like to try this stretch to see how she feels, or he feels with that. And the next time when the patient comes, the client, they said “Oh I feel a little better with what you did. When you were doing the work I went through a little bit of pain, but I feel a little better after that.” Then I felt that this is a good stretch for this, this is a good pressure for that. Like that I’ve developed this work. The work that I’m sharing with all my students - nobody taught me. All my clients are my books. I hate to study, to read books, and this and that. I always say they are my books, with them I learned many, many things. Since I’ve started working, I’ve never looked back.

Why do you use stretching and breath work?

Because when we are trying to do the stretching, it is more intense work for you; and if you hold the breath, instead of opening the body - you try to resist my work. So you have to be fully aware with your breathing, to help me. For example, you are doing the stretch with fear or with tension, not knowing what is happening with your body; then if I hold my breath, instead of having good results, you will get bad results from me; because I feel suffocating sensations in my lungs. So, breathing is the most important thing; especially when we are doing deep work. When they come after a few sessions, they say, “I don’t have the desire to smoke anymore, I don’t have the desire to drink” Because when your body is healthy, your mind is healthy - your life is happier; so you don’t have the desire to go through the side ways, to do all these things.

What are the three humours, Kapha, Vata, and Pitta, how do you work with them?

Kapha, vata, pitta are the elements we are all having, and according to my understanding, if one goes down, your energy goes down, then you feel the tension, then you feel the pain. So with our complete bodywork, with the stimulation of the organs, the body, the joints, the muscles, we are trying to balance everything. You may come with a back problem, but we don’t concentrate only on your back; because you should feel the complete body work. Then only it helps you. And we always keep the problem in our mind. Because everybody has some different problems, so we keep that problem in our mind, and first start to work on the spine, because the spine is the foundation of our work. If you come with a knee problem, I will never start with the knee, or my students will never start with the knee. We first have to warm up your spine, later on we concentrate on the knee. The session starts with the spine and ends with the eyes. Back as well as front. We never work only with the problem area.

Traditional Ayurvedic Yoga Massage - is this a term you have coined or was it there? How does your system differ from traditional massage?

Because we are using a lot of stretches for the body, no? That comes from Yoga. If you go to Kerala, they do with a lot of oil, and just the bodywork. But my experience is that after warming up your body, when we are trying to do little stretches - the progress is easier. That is why we are calling this Traditional Ayurvedic Yoga Massage. Until today, whoever wants to come to me to learn this art, I am open for that. But I never do any kind of publicity, because I believe that word of mouth is a much better way.

Is the massage according to the individual?

Yes, of course. If the patient is very chronic you cannot do a lot of the hard work for the first one or two session. Let them get feeling of some opening, let them get the feeling of their breathing, and then later on you can proceed further.

Do you mix oils with powder? What is the powder? What oils do you use?

We use pure oil, whatever oil is available, that is, sesame oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, almond oil; olive oil is also very good. We never use coconut oil for the body massage because it is not good for the skin; it is only good for the hair. And the powder we are using is called ‘vaikhand’, in English it’s called ‘calamus’, it is a root and it is very good for blood circulation, it brings out the toxins from the body, it stimulates the blood and it is antiseptic. You can get it in ayurvedic shops, the root of calamus.

I was doing a Google search on ‘Kusum’, ‘Ayurvedic Yoga Massage’, and you are attributed on so many people’s sites and blogs as their Guru in this art. There is absolutely no information about you, but you are everywhere…

That’s what I said; I’m a very low key person. Even from the ashram, many therapists learned this work from me, many of them. One of my students Taruna, is giving groups and sessions in the ashram. She learned from me 4-5 years ago. A few doctors also learned this from me. The ashram story is also very interesting. I had been going to the Yoga Institute for something like twenty years. When Osho came back from the States, a friend from Yoga was at a party in Koregaon Park; and he was talking about me to some of his friends. One German lady who was listening to him, said she would like to try some work with this person you are talking about, who is she? And he said it’s my Yoga friend, Kusum, who is doing some body work, and it’s very strong work; but it helps tremendously to do yoga more easily, and makes you more aware of the physical body also. She asked for my number, but at the time I didn’t have a telephone, nothing. So he gave her my address. And one day she came. My mamma said, “Someone is looking for you.” She came in and said “I’ve heard about you, I would like to try your work. And then like that one, three, five, twenty came…just like that. According to me, your Master Osho is the man of the century, I respect him a lot, I like his understanding; I like everything.

What do you feel of the new ways in society, where people are less and less in touch with their bodies?

If you tell an Indian college-going girl, that I don’t have a dining table; you have to sit down on the floor and eat; like in the olden days, what we used to do. She will say, “Oh, I have difficulty sitting down…” which is a very disturbing thought. I don’t want to say that everything modern is bad, and everything ancient was good. But we try to take the middle path; we try to make the balance in between that. We have to accept some new things, and we have to accept some old things also. Why don’t you listen to your own mind? Why don’t you listen to your own feeling? Most of the time, we are following the society. Many people ask me, “You are feeling comfortable with the sari? You are giving massage with the sari? You are teaching this work with your sari?” I feel very comfortable with my sari, I am very happy. I am a very traditional woman, and I am very happy - this is the way I am. I must say that living in India, not getting married, doing this work with men and women; all the credit goes to my Mamma, because she was a pillar behind me. (tears flow down as her voice falters) Otherwise I would not have been able to do all this. She never forced me to get married, she never ever, not even once; did she ask me what work I am doing, whether I am comfortable like this. So all the credit goes to her, she was a very firm strong pillar behind me. I miss her quite a lot.

I have heard that your work is very structured; it covers every part of the body systematically. That once you’ve had this kind of a massage; with another style you feel the difference, you have shared something amazing with all your students, who are taking it all around the world…

I feel very happy and contented that my students are flourishing. I’m just doing one drop of the work, but I feel very happy with what I’ve developed a little bit. And to be very honest with you, now at this age, I’ve done a lot of work, individual sessions also. Now at this stage, I would like to pass on as much as I can. From the olden days there were still so many hidden secrets which we don’t know about. It carries on just within the family. You are my son, you are my daughter; and I pass it on only to you, not to the others. So many hidden secrets are still hidden. But my thinking is the other way around. Till today, if I feel that this might be a good thing, I feel very uneasy till I can pass it on to my students, because maybe the next time won’t come. You get my point? That’s why I always wanted to pass it on. That is why all my friends, my senior students, say that not a single workshop of yours is the same, it is not monotonous. Every time something comes, I pass it on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ale's Kitchen - Refilled onions, Pizza di pastarelle & more

Hi to everyone, last weekend was a full one, spending a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking my favourite  refilled onions with goat cheese, basil & mint, the “pizza di pastarelle” a type of simple biscuit cake my mum used to make when we were kids, great as a snack in the afternoon and some pasta with asparagus.

White onions & goat cheese with basil and mint

White onions & goat cheese with basil and mint

 

Let’s start with the making of the refilled onions. If you can, buy the white ones. While boiling the onions till they are soft, I put the goat cheese in a bowl with some olive oil, basil and mint and let it rest for a while. Once the onions were ready I took the water out and let them cool down. When they were cooled down, I put some oil in a glass tray then I peel the onions  with my hands, really softly and gently layer by layer, being careful to keep a whole layer that I needed to refill. Once I had all of them, I started refilling them with the goat cheese, I used a teaspoon and my hands too. I put them one by one in the tray then I covered them with some parmesan, (if you don’t want you can leave it without and you can refill them with whatever you prefer) some goat cheese left, a bit of salt (you can add some pepper too if you want).

Refilled onions 

Refilled onions 

 

Warm the oven up at about 180 degrees and when ready grill them for about 30/40 min. We love them a bit burned on the top, otherwise just cook the way you would like them. They are great as a side dishes (we had them with some snapper and jasmine rice) or as a starter or an aperitivo.

Refilled onions covered with cheese, basil and mint

Refilled onions covered with cheese, basil and mint

Ready to eat :)

Ready to eat :)

In the night, just after we put the little one to sleep, I prepared “the pizza di pastarelle”, my mum, grandma and all her other daughters call this cake like that as you create the shape of a square or rectangular pizza (like the focaccia) pastarelle is the neapolitan way to call this type of biscuits (oro saiwa, we have in Italy, like the Arnott’s milk coffee you have here) It’s a biscuit cake made with biscuits and custard.

I bought the Arnott’s milk coffee biscuits and for the custard I used: eggs, flour, milk (coconut & rice milk) brown sugar and lemon.

Pizza di pastarelle

Pizza di pastarelle

 

If you want to try to make it, prepare all you need and start making the custard. I put in a pan 3 eggs yolks, ¾ spoon of brown sugar (but even less is good) started cooking them and slowly slowly I poured 2 spoons of flour, a little bit of lemon juice or you can add some vanilla extract or the lemon skin grated and half litre of a mix of coconut milk and rice milk but while cooking it I added more milk, you will see, while you prepare it how much milk you need to add. (in Naples my mum and family use cow’s milk and white sugar :). Then once the custard is ready let it cool down and start dunking one by one the biscuit in the milk really quickly and put one by one on a tray creating a first layer, then cover it with custard, then cover the custard with another layer of biscuit (always wet first in the milk, I used coconut milk) and then again cover with custard and so on for another layer. I created 3 layers and then finish with a layer of biscuits and put in the fridge overnight and you can taste and enjoy it the day after and just for few days. It’s really yummy simple and adults and kids love it.

 

Then to  complete the  wonderful weekend in the kitchen (but not only ;-) I made Fusilli with Asparagus cream (but the meaning of cream for us Italian doesn’t mean made with cream…. will explain better) I washed 2 bunches of Asparagus and cleared of the ends.

Fusilli with Asparagi

Fusilli with Asparagi

 

Cut the top part and the rest in little pieces too and stir fried in a pan with olive oil and garlic for 5 minutes. Then I took away the garlic and covered it with water and a teaspoon of veggie stock added bit of salt and cooked for 15 min till they were soft and water dried.

I took few tops of the asparagus and left by side for garnishing. When ready I put the rest of the asparagus in the  mixer with about 40gr of unsalted butter and mixed.

I cooked some Fusilli and when they were ready I added all the mixed asparagus (cream), I stirred a lot and added some cheese (if you prefer without is fine too) and then garnished with the asparagus tops and Mammamiaaaaa, they were deliciously delicious!!

If you like you can add some black pepper or chilli too.

 

And as always have fun, patience, wash your hands often while cooking ;) and have lots of love in making it….you and your family and friends will taste it!

 

Buon appetito

Ale

Ale's Kitchen - Buon Anno

Happy New Year - Buon Anno

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To start the new year in a healthy and fresh way we made our delicious potato gnocchi.

In the last few years I have been using a recipe from my dear friend Silvia, but adjusting it to our palate everytime we make them.

Christian has become a master chef in making gnocchi since I taught him from scratch so now when we want to make them we make them together and share the work and it’s much easier and fun.

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I boiled the potatoes with their skin on Saturday during the day as they have to cool down before peeling them and mashing them. Then in the night christian helped in mashing them and we saved them in the fridge. This morning while I was preparing the tomato sauce he kneaded the dough and prepared the little gnocchi and we ate them for lunch, but we made a lot so I freezed some of them and I put some in the fridge to have in the following days.

They were light and delicious! Here is the recipe ;)

1kg of  Potatoes (try to find good ones as whatever you cook the important thing is that the ingredients need to be really really good and fresh) 300gr of plain flour, olive oil, bit of salt.

Bring water to boil and when boiling add the potatoes, when the skin starts opening check if they are soft and ready and take them out from the water and leave them to rest and cool down. In the meantime you can prepare the sauce, usually I put oil garlic to fry for few minutes then you can add either diced, puree tomato or fresh tomatoes, bit of salt and some basil leaves and cook for about 15/20 min.

When the potatoes are really cool (they have to be cool otherwise the flour will be too sticky), peel them, mash them in a bowl and then empty onto a flat bench top which is dusted with flour to prevent sticking to the surface. Add the flour to the potato, do not add the flour all together but add slowly slowly while you knead and see how much you still need. Add some oil, even here while adding the oil see how it feels in your hands, and see if you need more flour or oil, it doesn’t have to be sticky but really soft and flow in your hands.

While working with the dough add some salt too.

Once ready cut off a piece of dough and roll out into a snake-like form and then with a knife cut in little pieces. Place those little gnocchi in a tray with some flour on the base and when you fill the tray sprinkle some flour on the top.

When the salted water boils you can pour all the gnocchi in, you can add a little bit of oil so the gnocchi do not stick, when they float to the surface they are cooked, so lift out with a spoon draining all the water. Place them in a bowl where you poured already in the base some sauce and when you filled the bowl with all the gnocchi add a little bit of oil stir them then add some extra sauce but leave the rest of the sauce to garnish.

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Once ready serve on a plate, add some sauce on each plate and garnish with some basil leaves. You can eat like that or you can add some Parmiggiano reggiano or pecorino. Mammamia che bontà.

They are really light to digest and either if you cook them or not you can save them in the freezer, or in the fridge for few days.

Before making them see how you feel, if you are in a good mood and happy, go for it and have fun if you don’t feel it make a sandwich or a salad as you need lots of patience and love, love love.

Buon Anno & Buon Appetito.

Ciao Ale