When asked about the Italian dish closest to her heart, Ritu Dalmia, the celebrity chef and author of ‘Italian Khana’ gave us exclusive recipes of two of her favourite dishes- Ciambella alle mele and Mozzarella in carrozza. Try them out and enjoy the taste of real “Italian Khana”.
CIAMBELLA ALLE MELE
Apple ring cake
Region: Italian Alps-Trentino
This is a perfect example of a recipe, which is passed from grandma to granddaughter, from one friend to another. A simple trustworthy recipe which has retained its originality over the ages. This is truly my comfort dessert. Something I would bake in the middle of the night when I get an urge to eat something sweet. Although making a cake is fairly labour intensive, this is surpassingly simple to make, and all you need is a bowl to mix all the ingredients and a dish to bake the cake in. The whole thing takes less than an hour.
150 gms sugar
300 gms flour
80 ml olive oil
250 gms natural yoghurt
2 tsps baking powder
1 tbsp orange zest (orange peel, without the bitter white pith)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
Preheat oven to 180°C/ gas mark 5.
Peel, quarter and thinly slice the apples.
Beat the eggs with the sugar until light and very foamy. Fold in, one at a time, the flour, oil, sliced apples, yoghurt, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add cinnamon if you want to spice it up a bit. Mix well until smooth.
Grease a ring mould (easily available) with olive oil and dust it with a bit of flour. Pour the mixture into the mould and bake for about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Variation: You can also do a ciambella of banana, substituting the apple with 6 pureed bananas.
MOZZARELLA IN CARROZZA
Mozzarella in a carriage
There used to be an Italian restaurant called La Famiglia, a few doors away from Vama, my Indian restaurant in London. Eating at this great but expensive Italian restaurant was way beyond my means when I first set up Vama, but I could never resist treating myself to these fried mozzarella bites. Afterwards I always felt immensely guilty, yet the dish was worth every penny I spent on it. Now I like to make these delicious appetizers from Campania at home, especially when I want to indulge myself and don’t have too many fancy ingredients on hand.
8 slices white bread, crust removed
500 gms mozzarella, thinly sliced
50 gms flour
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Pomace oil for frying
Place four slices of bread on the counter. Top with the mozzarella slices, trimming the cheese to ensure that it does not extend over the edges of the bread. Cover with the four remaining slices of bread, making four sandwiches in all.
Spread the flour on a plate. Pour a cup of water into a shallow bowl.
First dip the four edges of each ‘sandwich’ in the flour, then dip the edges in the water, being careful to moisten only the edges and not the inside of the sandwiches. The idea is to form a sort of glue with flour and water that will prevent the mozzarella from leaking out once it melts in the hot oil, as the sandwiches are frying. Arrange the four sealed sandwiches on a platter in a single layer.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Pour half of the egg mixture over the sandwiches and set aside for 10 minutes. Turn the sandwiches over and repeat the process on the other side of the sandwiches. The purpose is to allow the bread to soak in the egg as much as possible.
Heat the oil in a deep pan. There should be enough oil to completely cover the sandwiches. Deep-fry one or two sandwiches at a time until golden on both sides, turning once, about 3 minutes per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon to a platter lined with paper towels and blot dry. Cut each of the sandwiches half and serve hot.