19 May 2017


Bagels are a very popular breakfast and brunch item. A very basic yeasted dough, enriched with Feta cheese, shaped in a ring form and made into a handy savoury treats. You can top them with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, whichever you prefer. These are great toasted with a bit of butter, or just plain, with cream cheese.

For the bagels
300 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons dried yeast
100 grams Feta cheese
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons light olive oil
120 ml warm water
sesame seeds, for sprinkling
For dipping the bagels
300 ml piping hot water
20 grams baking soda

Sift the flour twice, then take out about 50 grams (½ cup) and set it aside. Mix the larger part of the flour with the yeast and sugar and reserve. Crumble the Feta cheese into a large bowl, add the oil, onion powder and salt and mix very well, until creamy. Add the flour you mixed with the yeast, along with the warm water and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, adding the reserved flour as you knead. Oil a large bowl, place the dough in and cover with a kitchen towel. Let it rise for about 90 minutes in a warm spot, or until doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead it for a few minutes. Weigh the dough and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then pierce it with your index finger to make the bagel hole. You can use a handle of a wooden spoon to widen the bagel hole. Take a relatively narrow and deep bowl and pour in the hot water and baking soda. Mix it well and dip each bagel in for 10 seconds. Place them on a large baking sheet (lined with parchment paper) and sprinkle on the sesame seeds, if you like. Let them stand for 10 minutes, then bake them in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F) for 12-15 minutes. Yields 8 small bagels.

12 May 2017


One-pot dishes are always a good choice for a mid-week meal. They are almost always quick and easy to make, and they are usually done in about 30 minutes. This is a very hearty meal, with lots of vegetables, flavourful spices, and of course, a great deal of freshly grated cheese.
I find that freshly grated Parmesan works best here, because it really easily melts right into the sauce itself, rather than clinging to the pasta in tiny clumps. That is fine, too, I just like the cheese completely melted into the sauce.
One of the recommendations I have is to check it as it cooks once you add the pasta, just to stir it occasionally, but also, to make sure there is enough liquid. This liquid to pasta ratio is what I find to be the best, but if you like your pasta well-cooked, add a bit more water, and cook it for a little longer.
One last thing I need to mention is that you can purée your vegetables before adding in the meat. I do it with an immersion blender, but you can blend it in a blender, too, works equally well. Blending the vegetables makes the sauce smoother, but that is just a personal preference.

400 grams ground beef, lean
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 celery stalk, chopped finely
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
500 ml thick tomato passata
500 ml hot water
300 grams uncooked pasta
100 grams freshly grated Parmesan
50 grams sour cream
fresh parsley, to taste
freshly grated Parmesan, to taste

Take a large pot, ideally, a heavy-bottomed one, add in the olive oil, and heat it up on medium-high heat. Add in the prepared vegetable, and sauté it gently, for about 10 minutes, until it softens up. Add in the beef, and cook it until it is no longer pink, breaking it up as it cooks. Once the meat is browned, add in the tomato paste, and the spices, and cook for a few more minutes, until well combined. Pour in the tomato passata, and water, and mix thoroughly.
Tip in the pasta of your choice, cover the pot, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the pasta is done. While it is cooking, check it occasionally, just to make sure there is enough liquid. If it appears to be dry, add some more water until it is done to your liking. Once it is cooked, remove it from the heat, add in the Parmesan, mix well, and let it stand for a few minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve with sour cream, parsley, and some more freshly grated Parmesan. Yields 4 generous servings.

05 May 2017


When new potatoes are in season, I use them in every meal I can, whether as a side, or as a main course. These golden, spicy, Parmesan-coated new potatoes are so easy to make, and they are the perfect side. To be honest, I eat them as a main course, with just a tomato dipping sauce, because they are that good.
If you like them crispier, leave them in the oven for a little while longer, but watch them very carefully, because they can burn very easily. You can use extra virgin olive oil, if you wish, I prefer a lighter one for this. Also, make sure you sprinkle them liberally with salt after baking, so they remain crispy.

1 kilogram new potatoes
5 tablespoons light olive oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
50 grams freshly grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt

Peel the potatoes (or clean them very thoroughly), and slice them into quarters if they are larger new potatoes, or in half if they are really tiny. Make sure the thickness of the pieces is similar, so they cook evenly. Place them into a large bowl, and drizzle over the light olive oil. Sprinkle on the freshly ground black pepper, garlic and onion powder, oregano, and smoked paprika, and toss the potato pieces really well. Grate the Parmesan directly over them, into the bowl, and toss them again. Arrange the slices on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper, and bake them in a well-preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F), for 25-30 minutes. Once they are out of the oven, sprinkle them with salt, and serve immediately, as they are best when served piping hot. Yields 2 generous servings as a main course, or 4 as a side.
Note: You can grate some more Parmesan over the potato slices once they are on the pan.

28 April 2017


Breadsticks are, as the name implies, sticks of crispy bread originating as far back as XIV century. They are eaten throughout the whole world, and very frequently served in restaurants as an appetizer. They are especially good with dips and dipping sauces, but they are pretty amazing with prosciutto, if served as an hors d'oeuvre. These lovely breadsticks are full of Parmesan cheese and garlic, and they make a lovely variation on bread served with lunch or dinner.

Parmesan garlic breadsticks recipe tinascookings.blogspot.com

300 grams plain flour
1 ½ teaspoon dried yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
180 ml warm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
50 grams Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, for brushing

Pour the water into a medium bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and sugar, mix it and leave it for about 10 minutes, so the yeast can activate. Sift half of the flour into a large bowl, add the salt, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and crushed garlic cloves. Mix it well with a wooden spoon, to distribute the cheese and garlic evenly. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water and yeast, along with the olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients until a very sticky dough forms. Slowly sift in the rest of the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon as you add, until you use up all of the flour. The dough should be soft and shouldn't stick to your hands. Flour your work surface well, transfer the dough and knead it by hand for about 5 minutes. Generously oil a clean bowl, place the dough in it, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm spot for about an hour, until the dough doubles.
Once the dough has risen, transfer it to a floured surface and knead it for a minute or two, just to make it elastic. Divide it into 10 equal pieces (you can use a kitchen scale to make sure they are equal by weight) and roll each piece into a log shape, about 25 cm (10") in length and about a centimetre (½") in diameter. Arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper, making sure you leave enough space between them. Cover with a kitchen towel and let them rise for another 30 minutes. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200°C (400°F) for about 15 minutes. As soon as you take them out of the oven, brush them with butter so they are nice and soft when they cool. If you wish, you can sprinkle additional grated Parmesan after brushing them with butter.

21 April 2017


It is really hard to resist a roll of freshly baked bread, warm and straight from the oven; especially when it is made with milk and butter. I love pain au lait because it is a very rich bread, despite not having no eggs or no yolks. Rich dough, made with butter, sugar and whole milk, ensures a tender crumb, and a very slightly golden, crunchy surface with a beautifully soft texture. Serve them warm, with your favourite jam and tea.

Pain au lait tinascookings.blogspot.com

350 grams plain flour
150 ml whole milk
1 ½ teaspoon dried yeast
30 grams sugar
1 teaspoon salt
60 grams butter, soft
1 egg
milk, for brushing

Mix together the warm milk and yeast in a small bowl, along with a teaspoon of the sugar, then set it aside for five to ten minutes, so the yeast can activate. Sift the flour twice into a large bowl, add the sugar and salt and whisk until combined. Dice the softened butter and add it to the flour. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers, until there are no lumps of butter left. The mixture should resemble somewhat wet sand. When the yeast is ready, make a well in the centre of the flour, pour it in, add the slightly beaten egg and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to form. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. If the dough sticks to the surface or to your hands too much, add a bit of flour and keep kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place it in a large bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size. Gently turn the dough out on a work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. You can weigh the dough and divide by weight if you want to be more precise. Take each piece of dough, fold the edges into the centre, then roll it on the work surface into a smooth ball shape. Using your palms, roll each piece into a cylindrical shape. Arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper and cover them with a tea towel and let them rest and rise for another 30 minutes. Just before baking, cut them across with a sharp knife and brush them with some milk. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F) for about 12-15 minutes.