Buckwheat risotto with Piran sea bass

Buckwheat
Buckwheat

Buckwheat has a special place on our tables. In fact Ajdovi žganci (a kind of polenta made out of buckwheat flour) are one of the typical dishes or the Ajdovi krapci too … But we use its flour to prepare also bread, štruklji (a sweet version of dumplings but it has numerous variations and forms here) and also a fantastic ricotta tart.

Did you know that it is really healthy and also considered to be a super-food? Buckwheat is gluten free and packed with iron, zink, selenium and antioxidants.

I decided to combine buckwheat with Piran sea bass from Fonda. Simply because buckwheat needs a fish of a delicate but pronounced flavor and taste which this one surely has. If you aren’t able to get one than try obtaining at least wild sea bass as those from breeding are lacking both in coping with buckwheat’s aromas and taste.

For 2 portions you’ll need following ingredients.

For the fish stock:

  • Sea bass filleting left overs
  • 1 shallot or small onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • olive oil
  • thyme
  • salt & pepper

You can skip the preparation of fish stock. In that case have 500 ml of either fish or vegetable stock (or dissolve half the dice of stock cube in 500 ml of warm water).

For buckwheat risotto:

  • 100 g buckwheat
  • approx 500 ml of fish or vegetable stock (yes, you can skip making it on your own)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 shallot or small onion
  • thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt + pepper

And of course 2 fillets of sea bass (approximate weight of whole fish should be around 550 g).

Preparation

Start by filleting the fish. Check this really great video on fileting sea bass. At first it looks hard but try it, after couple of times you’ll be doing this no sweat. You can also ask your fishmonger to do that for you and don’t forget to take also what will be left of the carcass (spine bones, head and tail).

For the fish stock start by chopping the shallot, carrots and celery stalk. Heat the pan, add a bit of olive oil and then soften the shallot first, add both carrots and celery stalk and allow them to soften and develop flavors. Add fish leftovers and when they are done cover them with water (use all the water at least so that you don’t run out of stock). Add salt, pepper and thyme and bring quickly to the boil. Lower the heat and leave simmering for approximately 30 minutes.

I like to dice (bruonise) the carrots for buckwheat risotto into small cubes of approx 3mm x 3mm. See this video on how to brunoise carrots.

Sea bass fillets
Sea bass fillets

Now to the sea bass fillets. Remove pin bones with the help of fish tweezers and cut them in half. Position them skin side up, press the edges gently together so that the middle part will stand out and cut the skin vertically in approximately 1 cm distance. Add thyme springs and salt and gently rub in salt and thyme springs into the cuts to let it infuse filets. Making those cuts will also prevent the skin from shrinking up causing the fillet to cook uneven.

Moving on with the buckwheat risotto, finely dice the shallot. Heat the pan on medium heat and add olive oil, add chopped shallot and soften, add chopped carrots and let them soften up. Then add buckwheat and allow her to absorb all nicely developed flavors. Aaah the aroma that will come out of the pan as soon as buckwheat starts heating up …

This step is optional, but I like to add approximately 50 ml of Slovenia vodka, not only because it has a great flavor and will add a nice kick to the risotto, but also because it is made with buckwheat. Allow it to evaporate and then start adding warm fish stock ladle by ladle allowing it to evaporate completely in between the process. When you’ll be left with approximately 2 ladles add a spring of fresh thyme to buckwheat and stir it well, so that it will infuse its flavor into the buckwheat. Taste the buckwheat and season if needed. When cooked buckwheat has to be soft but consistent.

Now for the sea bass. Before adding last 2 ladles of fish stock to buckwheat heat a pan on medium heat, add olive oil and when hot position sea bass fillets skin side down. When they will start going white all over the edges turn them around and pan fry for approximately 45 seconds. When they are done place them on a sheet of paper to absorb excessive oil and you’re ready to plate the dish. You can also check this video on pan frying sea bass.

I like to finely chop trimmings of a carrot and use them for decoration together with few thyme springs.

If you’d like to match this dish with a perfect wine than look for a wine that did not rest in wood and has a lot of freshness and pronounced aromas. At the presentation in Palmanova Giovanni suggested pairing it with Malvasia from Mulino Delle Tolle, 2012. The pairing was perfect because the wine has lovely aromas of fruit like peaches and pears and there is also an aroma of hazelnuts. All of them go well with the aromas of buckwheat which reminds chestnuts and hazelnuts. And in the mouth the play in between freshness of the wine and sea bass, the rather softness of wine with buckwheat consistency, the body of wine not overpowering but complementing both buckwheat and sea bass. Amazing …

The recipe might be a bit time consuming, but it really pays of. Enjoy!

From Palmanova with love, food & style

I’d like to start this post with a big “Thank you!” to Elena, Giovanni, Martina, everyone at Palmanova’s outlet village and of course everyone present there for this amazing, tasty, flavor filled week-end.

Saturday’s noon came too quick. I hear Giulia did great and I’m really sorry to have missed her presentation. So, time to do some last minute shopping, prep the ingredients, filet the sea bass and there we were, ready to hit the stage. A quick meet and chat with Giovanni, sound check and pans were on fire.

UPDATE: Giulia just posted the recipe on her blog, check it out as it looks super-delicious (in Italian).

I respect Giovanni deeply, his knowledge of wine, food, wine-regions – also Slovenia’s is immense and he presented the event amazingly. He didn’t have an easy task, as it proved, my Italian (probably also because of a little bit of stage fright) was a bit rusty, but none the less we managed and I hope that guests enjoyed the presentation.

I was asked to prepare something typical Slovene and when you think about Slovenian cuisine you cannot go more obvious than buckwheat. I wanted to try and unite earth and sea, so I decided to cook buckwheat risotto with Piran sea bass. By the impressions it went more than fine, so stay tuned as in the following days the recipe will be available on this blog. For now here are some images of the presentation, taken by my lovely wife.

But for the past two week ends Palmanova’s village was not only about food bloggers cooking, it was also about local producers coming to the village and presenting their delicacies. They were scattered in nice little stands allover the village and it was a really lovely enrichment to the shopping experience. By what I could see people really enjoyed checking the stands, chatting with producers and of course tasting their delicacies. We were so interested to check what is offered on the stands that we returned there the next day and enjoyed every bit we could. Just to mention:

  • Mulino delle Tolle and their wine, we paired their Malvasia with the dish I cooked – perfect match, so I had to meet Giorgio the owner, we will definitley pay you a visit,
  • In Cortile with some amazing salami and insaccati,
  • Arvenis with dried game meats and some intriguing jams and jellies,
  • Prosciutteria Dok dall’Ava with an amazing San Daniele prosciutto, salami and Gobana,
  • Il giardino commestibile of Giusi Foschia whit an interesting combination of various infusions, jellies and herbs, to mention the Sale fatale and fennel flower infused salt,
  • Beekeeping Bajt from Kojsko – Slovenia with some really nice honey and Apidesert – a combination of honey, pollen and royal jelly,
  • Ar the with numerous fruit infusions and Schianchi‘s marmalade and jams, to mention Melape a marmalade of Florina apple, red pepper and Cornflower,
  • Adelia di Fant‘s Bombardino, Chocolate liquor and various chocolate pralines
  • Crastin‘s wine from Collio.

Overall this has been an awesome week end and I’m glad I could be a part of such a nice initiative, meet all these wonderful people and learn some new things about enogastronomy.

See images of the stands in the gallery below. If you were at the village these days you’re also invited to share your impressions, thank you!

Food & Style at Palmanova

So, what are your plans this weekend? Many of you will be probably hitting the streets of Ljubljana at the 18th Ljubljana Marathon others will be probably spoiling your taste buds with chocolate delicacies at Čokoljana.

I wish to all runners godspeed and new personal bests. I’m feeling bad as this year I won’t be there, but since I haven’t trained it’s totally my fault. I’ll definitely make up next year, maybe even with a special goal I’ve been dreaming of for some time now …

Non the less it will be a busy week-end for me and if you don’t have any special plans this Saturday why not coming to Palmanova’s Outlet Village? From the past week-end they’ve been hosting a really nice series of oenogastronomy events and they invited also some food bloggers to come and cook some dishes.

Food & Style flyer

Unfortunately last Saturday we’ve missed fusion cuisine styled presentations by Chiara Selenati of That’s Amore and Theodora Hurustiati of Pura Cucina. And Sunday’s cooking for children ideas held by Solema Cereser of Cucina di Nonna Sole and Antonella Degrassi of Casetta di Cioccolato.

And then this week-end. Saturday I’m honored to be among the ones cooking and I’ll be cooking a typical Slovenian dish (OK, with some adaptation). There will also be an experienced oenologist – Giovanni Munisso on the stage with me and I really hope we’ll make an entertaining and interesting presentation of Slovenia’s food.

The presentations starts already at 15:30 when Julia Godeassi of Juliet’s belly will be preparing some typical delicacies from Friuli region – can’t wait, can’t wait … And then at 17:30 it will be my turn.

Of course you can decide to be there also Sunday and be delighted by two other presentations about Friuli’s cuisine by Valentina Cipriani of valentinacipriani.eu and Micaela Liberati of Cheladigranchio.

So, can’t wait seeing and meeting you all there! If you want, you can check also details of the event here or the Facebook image gallery of last week-end’s presentations.

The sweet smell of fresh baked bread

We love bread, we really do … In fact it’s on our table on daily basis. I love it for it’s versatility, for the fact that it can be made in so many different shapes, variations, tastes and you can mix in the dough practically anything to make it even better. Plus is so much love doing it, I find it extremely relaxing, and not to mention when your whole flat smells so nicely of those fresh, bakery, yeasty aromas  … mmmm

You can also make your own yeast, giving it an even more personal note, but let’s leave this for another post.

So here’s how I make it. Ingredients are for 2 fresh loafs and such bread can last without problems for 5 days, compare that to the one bought in supermarkets. Preparation time is about 30 minutes, but count also time for the dough rising which can be in total around 1,5 hours.

Ingredients:

  • 250 g all purpose flour + 3 tablespoons for sourdough + some for dusting
  • 150 g first clear flour
  • 250 g whole grain spelt flour
  • 100 g whole grain rye flour
  • 42 g (cube) fresh yeast
  • 500 ml warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil

Preparation:

Start by making sourdough. In a plastic or glass bowl crush the cube of yeast into small peaces, add sugar and mix with a wooden spoon. Set aside and allow yeast to take action. You’ll notice it will start turning into fluid. Meanwhile you’ll have time to measure and mix together flours, prepare a large glass bowl, salt and olive oil. When yeast turns into fluid add 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour, cover with 250 ml of warm water and mix. Cover bowl with a cloth, set aside and allow sourdough to activate and start raising.

Add salt, warm water, olive oil in a large bowl and start mixing while slowly adding flour. You can use also a kitchen robot, if so work with a hook attachment. However I prefer working the dough by hands. When you are left with approximately half of flour left add sourdough to the mixture and mix it in well. Then add rest of flour and mix it all together. You will probably need to add some more flour. If working with a robot you’ll know it’s ready when it stops attaching to the bowl’s surface.

If working it with hands place dough on dusted surface and start kneading it for at least 15 minutes, work it with both hands, turning it round and round. You have to obtain a consistent dough that is smooth and non sticky.

Place dough in bowl, cover with a cloth and leave to raise for at least 45 minutes or until it has raised by 2/3. Now at this point you could already place it in the oven, but I prefer to knead it for one more time. Kneading it again will expel Co2 and allow dough to start raising again, making bread more soft and airy. Now is the time to shape it as you like. You can make baggles by simply dividing dough in more small peaces, or shape it in balls and put them in a tray separated by few centimeters in between – that way when raising they will stick together … Or cut the dough in half and make 2 rolled loafs like on below images.

Rolling dough Rolled dough ready for second raising

Cover dough with a cloth and set aside to raise again for approx 45 minutes or until it has raised by 2/3. Preheat the oven to maximum – 275°C for most commercial ovens. Incise 3 lines in raised dough to allow expelling of Co2 and place on lower lining of the oven. Dough needs love, it needs to be caressed by the heat and putting it on the middle lining will burn it, as it will be reaching the top part of the oven, which is super hot. Adjust temperature to 200°C and bake for 40 minutes. Now here’s a little trick I’ve learned, sprinkle some water on bottom of oven for an even nicer crust. You can verify if bread is made if it sounds hollow when you knock on it.

At this stage bread will be smelling so nice you’ll probably find it hard to resist not to cut it while its hot, so just go ahead and enjoy!

Freshly baked bread

Weekend relaxation

Ah yes, Friday eve is here so what should one do? Well obviously relax …

For me the best way of relaxation includes a glass of wine – this time it is Belica‘s Pinot Gris, 2012 – and some educational reading … I guess besides spending time with my beloved ones, weekend will be about finally having time to see what’s up in the wine world reading September’s (did I just say September’s?) editions of Decanter and Wine Spectator and then look for some cooking inspiration in one of my favorite cooking magazines – La Cucina Italiana.

In between I’ll try to finally get rid of this nasty, nasty cold that’s been bothering basically all of us for 2 weeks now … I’m thankful at least that my nose is working so I can enjoy in a little glass of wine here and there. The attack strategy is simple, hitting it with all the possible C vitamin a lemon can get you, enforcing it with all beneficial powers of freshly grated ginger and topping it all with a nice tablespoon of acacia honey. Sounds like a perfect plan, eh?

Cooking? Tomorrow is for bread making and then well, let’s see. Maybe my beloved wife will make something nice, I sure do hope so (wink, wink Teja).

Most of all, wish you all a relaxing, fun and inspiring weekend …

Tonight's reading inspiration

Saffron risotto

I love the scent of saffron … I admit we don’t use it a lot and I’m really sorry for this. Maybe after today’s lunch things will change.

So yes, today we made saffron risotto, which is not to be confused with Risotto alla Milanese as the last does not combine wine and has in addition beef marrow.

Ingredients:

  • 60 g butter
  • 180 g Arborio rice
  • 0,1 l dry white wine
  • 0,5 l warm beef stock
  • 1 small onion or a shallot
  • 1 sachet of saffron, I used saffron from Tuscany bought at Zafran.eu + a pinch for decoration
  • 70 g grated Grana Padano cheese

Servers for: 2

Start by finely dicing the onion. Melt 40 g of butter on low heat, add diced onion and soften it up. Add rice and allow it to absorb butter by stirring. Add the wine, increase heat and let the wine evaporate, you need to stir constantly. When wine evaporated add 2 ladles of warm stock and allow to evaporate. Repeat procedure until rice is cooked – did I mention you have to stir constantly? 🙂

OK approximately 5 minutes before rice is cooked – you can identify this by trying it, if the rice feels grainy and dusty it is still not cooked, at this point it should be still consistent, but shouldn’t feel grainy – dissolve the saffron in remaining beef stock (you should be left with maximum 2 ladles of it). Add the saffron infused stock to rice and stir until it evaporates, making the risotto of a lovely, vibrant yellow color and turn off the heat.

Add remaining butter and Grana Padano and stir in well. Now taste and see if it needs seasoning, add seasoning as needed.

Serve by topping it with pinch of saffron stems.

Saffron risotto

Banana curry cupcakes

Hello!

If you’re a bit of a sweet tooth like we are then this might be an interesting thing for you to try. I had 2 ripe bananas and a sheet of ready made puff pastry which I needed to get rid off. I remembered a colleague once made banana curry ice cream so there was the idea. The aromas and taste of bananas combine really well with turmeric and ground coriander, making it an interesting desert for you to try. You can also add ready made curry spice, but you’ll miss half the fun. And if it convinced my always doubting wife, I’m sure you will like it too.

For this recipe I’ve combined banana curry with pastry cream and baked it on a sheet of ready made puff pastry, quick and easy – part from the cooling time.

Serves: 12 cupcakes

Ingredients for the banana curry:

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • knob of butter

Ingredients for pastry cream:

  • 500 ml semi skimmed milk
  • 100 gr sugar
  • 50 gr cornstarch (you can use also normal flour)
  • 3 egg yolks

In addition you’ll need 1 sheet of ready made puff pastry.

Banana curry:

Start by melting butter on medium heat, when it dissolves add spices and let them infuse a little to allow aromas to develop. Meanwhile cut bananas into thin slices and add to the curry. Mix well until bananas dissolve into a paste. If there will be some chunks left you can bled them with a hand blender. Set aside and leave to cool down.

Banana curry cream:

Bring to scalding point 400 ml of milk. Meanwhile mix in a large bowl the remaining milk with the rest of ingredients, add banana curry cream at end and mix well. When milk is at scalding point slowly pour it bit-by-bit to the mixture constantly whisking it. Return mixture to a clean pan and cook stirring constantly until thick. Set aside and leave to cool down.

Cupcakes:

Roll the sheet of ready made puff pastry. Cut it in chunks of approx 1,5 cm (I managed to obtain exactly 12 pieces). Put them on a dusted surface and roll with a rolling pin until you’ll get discs of approx 10 cm diameter. Place them in a cup cake baking thin and set in the fridge to cool down for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200°C.

Take the baking thin out of the fridge and add on top of the pastry approx 1 tablespoon of banana curry cream (I managed to use it all). Place in the oven – closer to the lower part of it, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

Allow it to cool down, sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Banana curry cupcakes

Going green – spinach pasta

Well hello!

Yesterday I was writing of pasta. What I like about pasta is that you can really make a lot with it. You can play with ingredients and besides eggs, flour and salt add also other things like spinach, aromatic herbs, beetroot … Here’s how you can make spinach pasta and add a nice twist to your lasagna or pasta dishes.

Enjoy!

Spinach pasta

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Making pasta

Hello!

Well I admit, we’re kinda pasta devourers in our family. We consume it almost on daily basis, especially our 2 year old baby boy with his “Pato papu!” (I want to eat pasta.)

Nowadays getting pasta is not a problem, but I like making it on my own. It tastes way more better and it doesn’t take that much time to make it.

Here’s an info-graphic on the whole process of making it I made couple of months ago. Enjoy!

Pasta and its various forms

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