Chestnut soup with rosemary pesto

Still bitterly cold in Zurich. The type of weather that calls for a hearty soup to keep you warm… Randomly found this recipe in Mafalda Pinto Leite’s Cozinha Para Quem Não Tem Tempo [Cooking for those who have no time]. The combination of flavors looked exactly what I was looking for and I even fancied chestnuts, for whatever obscure metabolical reasons. You cannot wrong with this recipe, but this gets hardly done in the 30min she claims it take.  The original recipe called for 150mL of cream to be added at the end. I found it a bit excessive and replaced the cream an equivalent quantity of chicken stock.

It was really good and soul warming. And, it is really worthwhile to make the rosemary… it just gives the soup a little punch, making it more interesting.

Chestnut soup with rosemary pesto

Ingredients for the soup

  • 800g of peeled chestnuts (I used frozen ones)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil – about 120 mL
  • 2 yellow onions chopped
  • 3 celery sticks sliced
  • 125g bacon slices, shredded
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red skin potato
  • 1,5L chicken stock

Ingredients for the rosemary pesto

  • 1 table spoon of finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 20g pinenuts
  • salt
  • 40g of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 100 mL olive oil.


Heat the olive oil in a big saucepan until it shimmers. Add the onion, celery, bacon and garlic. Cook for 10min or until the onion get soft and the mix start to color.

Add the chestnuts, the potato and the garlic. Add in salt and pepper to taste.

Bring it to boil, cover, and then let it simmer for about 25min, or until all ingredients are  soft.

In the meanwhile, start the pesto. Put the rosemary, garlic and pinenuts in a mixer. Blend and after, add the cheese and the salt. Add slowly the olive oil, mixing at the same time so you get a creamy mixture.

Finally, blend in the soup (if you want to add cream, this is your chance to do it).

Serve the chestnut cream sprinkled with the pesto.

Spaghetti and meatballs in a tomato sauce with basil

Comfort food for a bitterly cold day…  For the this dish, I pulled recipes from 2 different books. The meatballs are a modified version of Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas‘ take. The tomato sauce is the famous tomatada by David Leite  I use ever so often.

Spaghetti and meatballs in a tomato sauce with basil

Ingredients for the meatballs

  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 500g ground beef and pork
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried persil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper freshly ground
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Flour as needed

Ingredients for the tomato sauce

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
  • 2 springs fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 garlic gloves minced
  • 1 kg very ripped tomatoes, seeded and chopped* (or a couple of canned tomato, preferably san marzano, chopped, juices reserved).
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste, to taste
  • 1 small fresh medium red hot chilli pepper, such as Serrano, stemmed, seeded and chopped (it optional. Sometimes, I just add a few drops of piri piri sauce).
  • Freshly grounded salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Fresh basil
Ingredients for the spaghetti 
  • Spaghetti
  • Boiling water
  • Salt
  • A little bit of olive oil


Heat the stove the 190 oC (=375 oF).

Place a large heavy base, non stick frying pan on a low heat with 2 dashes of olive oil. Add the sliced onions, a pinch of salt and pepper then sauté gently until soft and tender. When it is done add the minced garlic and let it fry for a 1 minute more.  Set aside to cool.

In a bowl combine the meat with the herbs, the eggs and the caramelised onion. Once the mix has aggregated, roll the  meatballs with your hands. Roll them in flour so all the surface is coated.

Place a large heavy base, non stick frying pan on a low heat with 2 dashes of olive oil. Gently brown the meatballs, about 5min, adding more olive oil if needed. Reserve the frying pan.

Place the meatballs in a baking tray coated with olive oil and put it in the stove for about 30min or until they feel solid.

In the meanwhile, start the tomato sauce. Use the frying where you browned the meatball. Add more oil if necessary, and heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onions, parsley and bay leaf and cook until nicely golden, about 15min. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more.

Turn the heat to medium low, stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste and chilli pepper, if using. Bring to a simmer, cook, lid ajar, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 30min.

Once the tomato sauce is done and the meatballs are out of the stove, you will need to combine both. Just drop gently the meatball in the frying pan, making sure the surfaces are coated. Let it simmer gently for about 20min.

In the meanwhile, boil spaghetti.  Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. If cooking dry spaghetti, use a mimimum of 500ml of water for each 100g. of dry spaghetti. Once the water is boiling, you will need to add the spaghetti. Reduce the heat so that the water is on a slow boil. Let it cook as said in the package. When ready, drain and add some olive oil to avoid sticking.

On a plate, put the spaghetti and on top the meatballs and the tomato sauce. Add a basil leaf for decoration and extra flavor.

Crushed courgettes and roasted chicken

In a couple of weeks, courgettes’s season will be almost over.  But, for the time being, we still can find them at the supermarket screaming to be cooked with loads flavors to soak up. For example –  garlic, thyme and mint, as in this crushed courgettes dish Yotam Ottolenghi created for The New Vegetarian.

To go with the courgettes, nothing better than a roasted chicken. For this one, I used a very basic recipe I saw on Masterchef Australia (with a couple of tweaks).

Crushed courgettes


  • 3 large courgettes (750g), cut in half lengthways and then into 6cm pieces
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, separated into unpeeled cloves
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1½ tsp coarse sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 70ml olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1½ tbsp chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice


Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Put the courgettes and garlic cloves in a bowl and add the dried mint, thyme, salt, some black pepper and the oil. Mix everything together and transfer to a medium baking dish – make sure the courgette pieces overlap a little, cut side up, and form a single layer. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the courgettes have softened and taken on some colour.

Transfer everything to a colander, pressing the courgettes so they start to release some of their liquid, and leave to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Transfer the contents of the colander to a mixing bowl, and squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins (discard the skins). Mash everything together with a fork (if the courgettes’ skin is on the tough side, you may have to chop them with a knife). Stir in the remaining ingredients and set aside for an hour before serving.

Roasted chicken 


  • 1 chicken, broken down into legs & breasts still on the bone
  • 8 sprigs of rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven at 220oC

Cover the  bottom of a roasting tray with olive oil.  Put the chicken into the tray skin, with the side up in one evenly spread layer.

Pat the chicken skin with a paper towel until it is dry.  Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper  and drizzle with olive oil. Put the rosemary on top of the chicken pieces.

Put the tray into the oven, and  cook the chicken for about 35min.

Pizza Bianca with Potato and Anchovies

You don’t like tomato sauce on your pizza? Don’t worry, we have  have something for you: a pizza bianca, courtesy of Gary Mehigan and Masterchef Australia  This elegant combination of flavours and textures is so good, you  will have you wish you had made two pizzas. The Classic Pizza Margherita  is good, but this one is something else…

Pizza Bianca with Potato and Anchovies


  •  semolina and plain flour, for dusting
  • 1 x 120g dough portion (I used already made pizza dough)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and bruised
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated (I replaced it with granna padano)
  • ½ cup aged provolone, coarsely grated (I replaced it with Gruyere)
  • 1 waxy potato, such as Desiree, very thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup wild rocket leaves, washed, drained (I replaced it with baby spinach)
  • 60g buffalo mozzarella, torn
  • 6 anchovy fillets (optional) (only had anchovy filled with cappers, so used it instead).


Place an unglazed terracotta tile into an oven and heat to 250°C. Sprinkle a clean work surface with semolina and flour and use your fingers or rolling pin to stretch out the dough until about 25cm in diameter or to desired thickness. Dust a wooden paddle or sheet of baking paper with semolina and flour and place dough on top.

Step 2: In a small bowl add garlic, 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 tablespoons of oil and a pinch of salt. Brush the dough with the oil.

Step 3: Combine cheeses and scatter over dough, leaving a 1cm border around the edge. Strip leaves from remaining rosemary and sprinkle over dough.

Step 4: Lay the potato slices evenly over the dough. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

Step 5: Slide pizza onto hot terracotta tile and bake for 5-6 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove pizza from oven. Brush the crust with olive oil.

Step 6: Mix rocket with remaining olive oil and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Scatter mozzarella, anchovies, and rocket over pizza. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Grilled aubergine with tahini dressing

A  super easy and quick dish, perfect for a hot Summer day: grilled aubergine finished with a creamy tahini dressing, by the great Gordon Ramsay . It looks a pale shadow of the sabih, tahini sauce and zhoug dish I tried earlier this Summer, but on its simplicity it is an elegant (and) delicious dish that goes well as a salad, entrée or put on the side.

Grilled aubergine with tahini dressing


Grilled aubergines 

  • 1 large aubergine trimmed
  • olive oil enough to brush and drizzle
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • few rosemary springs, plus extra to garnish
  • 3 bay leaves, plus extra to garmish
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Tahini dressing

  • 1 tablespoon tahini paste
  • 2 tablespoos of natural yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely crushed


Cut the aubergine into 1 cm thick slices. Generously brush with olive oil on both sides and tub all over with salt and pepper. Toss with the rosemary and the bay leaves

Heat a griddle pan, then add the aubergine slices with the herbs. Griddle for 4-5min on each side until cooked. Transfer to a serving bowl and while still warm, drizzle over some more olive oil and the lemon juice. Toss well to coat and set aside to cool.

For the tahini dressing, mix all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of hot water to loosen the dressing until it is of the consistency of double cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the dressing over the grilled aubergine and garnish with a few fresh bay leaves and rosemary springs.Serve with some warm flat bread on the side.

Classic Pizza Margherita

Pizza – enough said.  For a quick meal and trying to keep the 11-year-old happy, I gave a go to the pizza Margherita recipe George Calombaris demonstrated during a Masterchef Australia’s Masterclass. A classic combination, which was as named after the Italian queen who first tried (and loved) the tomato, mozzarella and basil in a pizza bread.

To cook this pizza, I took a short cut that is generally a no-no for a high-class number, and used already-made dough. But, if you feel you have bake your own pizza dough, here is an recipe, also from Masterchef Australia.  Also, instead of sticking to pizza sauce, I just took a jar of tomatada [Portuguese style tomato sauce] I had sitting in the fridge and put it to good use.

George and Gary (Mehigan) have another trick to bake a crispy dough for the perfect pizza. To distribute the heat evenly across the pizza base and to extract the moisture, place an unglazed terracotta tile into an oven and heat to 250°C.  (I didn’t  – if only I knew where to find terracota tiles in Zurich which doesn’t cost the equivalent of a 100g of white truffle).

Classic Pizza Margherita 


Tomato sauce (David Leite’s recipe
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
  • 2 springs fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 garlic gloves minced
  • 1 kg very ripped tomatoes, seeded and chopped* (or a couple of canned tomato, preferably san marzano, chopped, juices reserved).
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste, to taste
  • 1 small fresh medium red hot chilli pepper, such as Serrano, stemmed, seeded and chopped (it is optional. Sometimes, I just add a few drops of piri piri sauce).
  • Freshly grounded salt and black pepper to taste.
  • 1 x 120g pizza dough portion (I use already-made pizza dough)
  • Plain flour, for dusting
  • 3 tbs pizza sauce Tomato sauce to cover the base
  • 1 tbs baby capers, rinsed and drained
  • 6-8 large basil leaves
  • 9 halved oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g buffalo mozzarella, torn


Tomato sauce

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until it shimmer. Add the onions, parsley and bay leaf and cook until nicely golden, about 15min. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more.

Turn the heat to medium low, stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste and chilli pepper, if using. Bring to a simmer, cook, lid ajar, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 30min

Toss out the parsley and bay lead and season with salt and pepper. If you wish, you can scrape the sauce into a food processor and buzz until smooth. Store the sauce in the fridge in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 1 week. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months.


On a floured wooden paddle or piece of baking paper, stretch out the dough into a long oval shape about 30cm long and 10-15cm wide, or to desired shape and thickness.

Spread the tomato sauce over the dough, sprinkle with baby capers and scatter over basil leaves. Place cherry tomatoes on top and drizzle with olive oil.

Slide the pizza into the stove  and bake for about 5 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Brush the crust with olive oil and scatter mozzarella over pizza.


Baked peaches with thyme and ice cream

Peaches are long gone, but this dessert will be staying. I saw it on Scarlet Pippin, but the original recipe seems to be by Gordon Ramsay. And, then, I tweaked it a bit more…  hopefully, it will become a viral dish because it an ideal dessert for a Summer dinner.

Baked peaches


  • 4 whole white peaches.
  • 50g icing sugar, 50g caster sugar (I just used 100 of sugarcane sugar)
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 25 unsalted butter, melted
  • 1-2 teaspoons Cointreau or Grand Mariner (I used prune Schnapps)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves (stripped from stalk)


Mix the icing and caster sugar together and roll fruits in them to coat. Sit peaches in a shallow ovenproof dish. Mix the vanilla seeds with the melted butter and trickle over the peaches.

Bake the peaches uncovered at 190 oC for 5 mins. Remove and spoon the caramelised liquid that has formed in the dish back over the peaches. Return to the oven to bake for 10 mins (spooning over the juices a few more times).

About 5 mins before the peaches are ready, spoon over the liqueur and sprinkle over the thyme. Remove when ready and allow to cool until warm.

Thyme ice-cream


  • 250ml of creamy milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme (OR two strands of saffron OR two sticks of cinnamon)
  • 6 free range egg yolks
  • 90g caster sugar


Heat the milk and cream in a large saucepan until the liquid starts to creep up the sides of the pan (i.e. boil). Then stir in the thyme sprigs, remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Put the yolks and the sugar in a large bowl and whisk until thick and creamy (ideally with an electric whisk).

Reheat the milk and cream mixture and, when the mixture rises up again, pour into the yolk mixture whilst slowly mixing. Whist until well blended. Strain back into the pan through a sieve (discard the thyme). On the lowest possible heat, stir until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool the custard, stirring occasionally to stop a skin forming. Churn in an electric ice-cream maker if you have such things, or otherwise take out of the freezer to stir regularly as it starts to freeze.

Tomato soup

It seems today is the last day of Summer. Tomorrow, it will rain and the temperature will drop down; next thing we know, snow will be here and we will all be wearing fluffy thing around our ears. It might be my last chance to post this (cold) tomato soup.

I came across many different versions of tomato soups: my Mother’s (with potatoes), my nanny’s (with loads of potatoes, croutons and a poached egg), Maria de Lourdes Modesto‘s (with rice), the German way (with cabbage), the Swiss way (boil the tomatoes to death and then add an equal amount in volume of cream), the Austrian way (as before, plus pumpkin seed oil), the Spanish way (called gazpacho and eaten cold. In fact, God forbids it’s served warm) …  And then, there is this one, the mean tomato soup Yotam Ottolenghi‘s Mother used to do.  I took the liberty of replacing the coriander by manjericão (Ocimum basilicum), better known as Portuguese basil. Not food snobbery: I actually have it growing on a pot, courtesy of P. and D.

Tomato soup


  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 400ml tin chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 slice sourdough bread
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander, plus extra to finish (I used Portuguese basil)
  • Salt and black pepper


Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and sauté, stirring often, for five minutes, until translucent. Add the cumin and garlic, and fry for two minutes, then add the stock, both fresh and tinned tomatoes, sugar, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes, adding the bread halfway through. Add the coriander, then pulse-blitz the soup a few times to break down the tomatoes a bit – you want them a little coarse and chunky. (This soup should be quite thick, but add a little water to thin it down if you prefer.) Serve drizzled with oil and garnished with fresh coriander.

Sabih, tahini sauce, zhoug and salad

An Israeli chef gives his interpretation of an Iraqi dish, topped with an Yemenite green chilli sauce. And, a pretty damn good it was, just ideal for this sort of weather…. The recipe was brought to the Guardian (here), by the hand of Yotam Ottonleghi. You know the drill: kilometric list of ingredients and several elements to put together at the end. But, it is worthwhile the effort – the combination of flavors and textures is delicate and at the same time exciting. Each one has its place and none is over-powering. It can be cooked in large batches and stored in the fridge to be eaten ad hoc.

Sabih, tahini sauce, zhoug and salad


For the sabih

  • 2 large aubergines
  • About 300ml sunflower oil
  • 4 slices rustic white bread, toasted
  • 4 free-range eggs, hard-boiled and cut into 1cm-thick slices
  • Salt and black pepper

For the tahini sauce

  • 100g tahini paste
  • 80ml water
  • 20ml lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed

For the salad

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
  • 2 mini cucumbers, cut into 1cm dice
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 1½ tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil

For the  zhoug

  • For the zhoug
  • 35g coriander
  • 20g parsley
  • 2 green chillies
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ⅛ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp water


Using a vegetable peeler, peel off strips of aubergine skin from top to bottom, so they end up like a zebra, with alternating black-and-white stripes. Cut both aubergines widthways into 2.5cm-thick slices.

Heat the sunflower oil in a wide pan. Carefully – the oil spits – fry the aubergine in batches until nice and dark, turning once, for six to eight minutes; add oil if needed as you cook the batches. When done, the aubergine should be completely tender in the centre. Remove from the pan, leave to drain on kitchen paper, then sprinkle with salt.

To make the zhoug, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. For the tahini sauce, put the tahini paste, water, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Mix well, and add a little more water, if needed, so its consistency is slightly runnier than honey. Make the salad by mixing the tomato, cucumber, spring onion, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place a slice of bread on each plate. Spoon a tablespoon of tahini sauce over each, then arrange overlapping slices of aubergine on top. Drizzle over some more tahini, without completely covering the aubergines. Season each egg slice, and lay on top of the aubergine. Drizzle more tahini on top and spoon over as much zhoug as you like – be careful, it’s hot! Serve the salad on the side; spoon a little on top of each sabih, too, if you like. Store any leftover zhoug in a sealed container in the fridge – it will keep for a week at least.

Chicken and buttermilk cold soup

Mafalda, a 6-year-old Argentinian girl, who is deeply concerned about humanity and world peace, loves The Beatles and rebels against the current state of the world, hated soup. Totally and vehemently. And, her dislike of soup appears to have been transmitted to her fans, including myself. Not until recently I have started to appreciate soup. I  might eat a mean gazpacho in the peak of Summer, but I used to welcome  soup with the same enthusiasm than a double root-canal. Even away from my parent’s home, I could hear my Mother said “Oh, but is so healthy, it has so many vitamins and minerals…”. Probably today, she would have said something around the lines of “it has loads of antioxidants…” But, over the years my culinary tastes have changed, and I came to appreciate it. In Winter,  a rich soup a rich soup nourish the soul and comfort the body. In Summer, it can be cooling and refreshing. At the end, it seemed to be our parents were right about it.

Before Summer is over, I decided to give it a go to this chicken and buttermilk soup I saw on The Guardian. Dishes by Yotam Ottolenghi very-very-rarely goes wrong, and this Summer soup  looked refreshing, velvety and packed with different flavors and textures. I was not disappointed. In fact, I might even start to serve in Winter, to remind me of the long lost Summer.

Chicken and buttermilk cold soup 


  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • 1 large onion, chopped into 2cm dice
  • 3 small whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 free-range chicken drumsticks or thighs, skinned
  • 2 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
  • Zest of 1 lemon, half of it shaved into strips, the rest grated
  • Salt and white pepper
  • About 800ml chicken stock
  • 250ml buttermilk (or whole milk)
  • 15g each fresh basil, coriander and mint leaves, roughly shredded
  • ½ tbsp sumac


Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion and garlic on a low heat for five to 10 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the chicken, potatoes, lemon strips, a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of white pepper. Pour in stock just to cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and the chicken is cooked.

Remove and discard the lemon strips, and transfer the chicken to a bowl. Blitz the soup until smooth and leave to cool down. Once cool, stir in the grated lemon zest and buttermilk. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and refrigerate until cold. Take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving, so it’s chilled but not fridge-cold.

Just before serving, shred the chicken off the bones, and fry the shredded meat in the remaining olive oil on a high heat until golden and crispy. Divide the soup among the bowls, add the shredded chicken and herbs, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with sumac and serve.

If you want to serve it as a hot dish, warm it up very gently after stirring in the buttermilk, to avoid curdling