Strawberry tiramisu with pistachios and orange blossom


Serves: 6 generously (or 4 who want some leftovers for breakfast)
Good for: summery dessert for a dinner party among friends
Time needed: 40 mins prep + 1 hour to chill
Faff factor: medium

Here’s the story:
This tiramisu, an elaboration on our mum’s traditional Italian recipe, was thought up during the work week when thinking about what would complement Giulia’s fish cous cous for a dinner party a couple of weeks ago. Inspired by our middle-eastern-slash-Sicilian feast and craving our mum’s tiramisu, we decided to give a North African twist to this classic Italian dessert.
When living in Tripoli, Libya, summer fruit tiramisu was a mainstay on our family menu, and the second the word “pistachio” came to her mind, Coz knew she had to make it! When we think about our time in Libya one of our first memories is the sweet perfume of orange blossoms wafting over from the orange trees in our school playground, so it just made sense to bring together pistachios and orange blossom to take the North African and Sicilian influence further.
Our mum’s original summer fruit tiramisu called for apricots, kiwis, strawberries and other seasonal fruit but, it being prime strawberry season in the UK, we decided to stick with strawberries and add the crunch and colour of pistachios, and team it with the heady, oriental scent of orange blossoms to create the perfect end to our meal.

250g mascarpone
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 packs sponge fingers, or savoiardi biscuits (you can find these at any Italian delicatessen)
Two teaspoons orange blossom water (we found ours at a large Tesco)
200g strawberries
50g peeled, unsalted pistachios, chopped
200 ml water
4 tbsp runny honey
Ground cinnamon (optional)
Chopped, fresh mint leaves (optional)

Step 1: In a large bowl, tip out the mascarpone and mix vigorously with a spoon until smooth and creamy (no longer than two minutes). Add the sugar and mix well, smoothing out any lumps as much as possible. Add the yolks one at a time and mix each one carefully before adding the next.
Step 2: Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form (when we did this, Coz’s tiny and badly equipped kitchen did not yet have an egg beater – thanks to our sous-chef, Coz’s patient boyfriend Domenico, the whites were whisked by hand and we can assure you that it’s not as traumatic as it sounds, and a great upper arm workout!). Very gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture, carefully smoothing out the lumps and mixing until the cream turns out smooth and silky. Add a sprinkling of cinnamon and one or two chopped mint leaves to complete that middle-eastern flavour palette.
Step 3: Boil the water and add the honey. Alternatively, you can use watered-down rum, but the flavour would be slightly less authentic. Add the orange blossom essence to the syrup, and transfer to a shallow bowl.
Step 4: Have your tiramisu casserole ready (any rectangular dish is fine, or for less washing up to do later, try a rectangular foil baking tray). Very lightly soak the biscuits in the syrup one by one (they really only need to touch the syrup lightly on each side – any more and you will end up with a soggy mess) and lay them on the bottom of your casserole. Layer on a couple of dollops of mascarpone cream and smooth over the biscuits. Don’t worry if the cream looks  too runny, it will set in the fridge. Slice your strawberries finely and place on top of the cream, covering it completely, and sprinkle with a small handful of pistachios.
Step 5: Repeat the process, placing another layer of biscuits on top of the strawberries, then the cream, and finally the strawberries and pistachios. For show effect, we added a smattering of pomegranate seeds leftover from our side salad and a few fresh mint leaves.
Step 6: Refrigerate for at least an hour, and enjoy!

Coz’s tip: While a classic tiramisu is always a pleasure to make and eat, try playing around with syrups and flavours – all you really need is a diluted, sweet something to dip the biscuits in, the mascarpone cream (which you can flavour with anything you like) and a showy topping to complete it.

Giulia’s tip: Making a healthier version won’t hurt, either-  using good, low-fat Greek yogurt and plenty of healthy fruit works just as well for guilt-free indulgence. You can also find light mascarpone in most supermarkets.

Sichuan Aubergine Stir-Fry


Serves 4 (or two very hungry flatmates)
Good for
: side dish, Chinese dinner, light meal with rice

Time needed: 10 mins prep, 30 mins to cook
Faff factor: medium  

Here’s the story: Giulia and her flatmate are Asian food obsessed, their kitchen has more Asian ingredients than Italian (they still can’t believe how they replenish their soy sauce supply on a monthly basis, whereas a bottle of olive oil will last them four months). Having both lived in China, they occasionally crave dishes they would eat there, one being Sichuan spicy aubergines. Hours of scouring for recipes in cookbooks and on the internet, and several attempts later, this is their perfected Sichuan aubergine recipe.

3 large aubergines (or 5 asian aubergines)
2 spring onions
2-cm piece of fresh ginger, minced or grated (or about a teaspoon of ground ginger)
3 cloves of garlic, minced (or if you are garlic intolerant, leave them whole and bash them with the flat end of a knife to release more flavour)
1 fresh red chilli (remove the seeds if you don’t want it to be too spicy)
125ml chicken stock
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Sesame oil
Salt and pepper

Step 1: Prep all your ingredients – cut the aubergines in half length ways and then slice crosswise into wedges, about 1-2 cm wide. Slice the spring onions, both white and green parts, cutting diagonally. Slice the chilli and mince (or bash) the garlic cloves.
Step 2: Heat a good glug of peanut oil in a wok. When the oil starts to smoke, add a layer (about a quarter) of aubergines and stir-fry on a medium flame, about 5 minutes. Keep turning the aubergines with a wooden spoon and reduce the flame and add a bit more oil if they start to burn and stick to the wok. Add salt and pepper as the aubergines cook. Once the first layer is cooked, remove the aubergines from the wok and onto a plate to set aside. Repeat the process (adding more oil) until all the aubergines have been cooked.
Step 3: Heat (or make by dissolving a stock cube in boiling water) your stock. Mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch and sugar in a bowl, until the sugar and cornstarch have dissolved.
p 4: Stir-fry the garlic, chilli, spring onions and grated ginger in the wok for about a minute, until fragrant. Add the soy sauce mixture and the stock and cook for about a minute (max) until the sauce has thickened. 
Step 5: Add the aubergines and cook on a low flame until they are soft and sticky and have absorbed the sauce. Scatter the sesame seeds on top and adjust for salt and pepper before serving. Serve as a side dish, or alone with rice as a light meal.

Coz’s tip: for a more filling meal, add chicken or beef strips and eat with steamed long-grain rice.
Giulia’s tip: add as many different types of vegetables as you want, as this Sichuan sauce goes with anything. Broccoli and shiitake mushrooms go particularly well with the aubergines.



Address: 1 Redcurch Street, E2 7DJ
Nearest tube: Shoreditch High Street (overground)
Good for: ceviche, quinoa, pisco
Price range: £20-40

Here’s the story: On her latest food obsession (Peruvian), Giulia had been long-awaiting Andina’s opening after falling in food love with Andina’s sister restaurant, Ceviche in Soho. What better way to sample the entire menu than by hosting her birthday dinner there – countless quinoa dishes and piscos later, Giulia had found her new favourite Peruvian restaurant in London.

Andina has a very cool vibe. It is colourful, laid back and there is plenty of space, music isn’t loud and tables aren’t squeezed together, meaning you can enjoy your meal in peace. Ceviche on the other hand, whilst also serving exceptional food, is much louder, darker, and busier. If you have never tried Peruvian food, it is quite different to other South American food. Dishes tend to be quite healthy, with a lot of fish and citrus flavours, potatoes, and corn. To give you context, Giulia’s favourite foods include both fish and quinoa (quinoa features in her lunch at least once a week), so it was inevitable that she would love Andina. Quinoa is in virtually every other dish – quinoa croquetas, quinoa burger, quinoa chocolate brownie, to name a few. Who knew quinoa could be so versatile, and delicious. All dishes tasted were incredibly fresh, favourites were the Ceviche de Verano and the lamb skewers. If you like sweetcorn, you will love peruvian corn, added as a side to many of the dishes on the menu. Wash everything down with one of the Peruvian smoothies and juices (the Chicha Morada, a Peruvian soft drink made with purple corn, became the drink of the evening), and celebrate with a Pisco.
Come for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or drinks, Andina is perfect for all occasions.

Coz’s pick: lamb skewers (lamb in panca chilli, with corn and Uchucuta herb sauce)
Giulia’s pick: ceviche de verano (sea bass, avocado, watermelon, strawberries, red onion, rocoto chilli tiger’s milk)

Food: 9
Friendliness: 8
Feel: 9
Total foodactually rating: 26 – a must try 

Note: book in advance, and if coming in a large group, book the Music Room on the lower-ground floor of the restaurant.

Homemade Potato Gnocchi with Ragù


Serves 4 (plus extra sauce for freezing)
Good for: A hearty Sunday lunch or impressive dinner
Time needed30 mins prep + 1 hour cooking (sauce only – the gnocchi are super quick!)
Faff factorMedium-high

Here’s the story: Coming from Emilia-Romagna, we had to have a recipe for homemade ragù and gnocchi. This is one of our family’s staples and is literally so easy to make! Whenever we tell our colleagues we make my our gnocchi and ragù (bolognese sauce), the instant reaction is “that must be so difficult!”. Trust us, it really isn’t. Read through the recipe once and you’ll realise that putting the sauce on in the morning while doing your house work is easy, relaxing, and instantly gratifying. And the best thing is, you can spend all morning bumming around in the kitchen and receive impressed glances when you announce that you made it all from scratch. Both recipes are our mother’s, and whenever we’re feeling particularly homesick all it takes is to whip up a big pot of ragù and the entire flat smelling like Sunday lunch at our grandmother’s house for everything to look just a tiny bit better. NB: You will end up with a lot of ragù: simply stash the sauce you don’t need in clean, dry (labelled and dated) jars, close and freeze. They will keep for a couple of months. Whenever you fancy pasta with homemade sauce, simply defrost in the microwave or in a pot of boiling water. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta’s cooking water, and enjoy!

For the ragù (yields about 1L of sauce) 
1 kg good-quality minced beef
3 or 4 pork sausages
1 onion
3 carrots
2 celery sticks
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
2 large bottles of tomato purée
2 or 3 stock cubes
1 spoonful of tomato concentrate
Extra virgin olive oil
For the gnocchi
4 firm potatoes
Salt and pepper

Step 1: Start with your sauce, as it will take at least an hour on the hob. In a blender, chop up your celery, carrot and onion. Take your sausages and snag them lengthways, exposing the flesh. Rake through with a fork, so you end up with the minced pork on a plate.
In a large saucepan, heat a good two or three glugs of olive oil on a medium flame (you will need enough to brown the meat, as well as for flavour) for around 30 to 40 seconds. Drop in the cloves of garlic, and swirl them around the pan so they get nicely coated. When their gorgeous smell wafts up, add the chopped greens and stir around until softened. The onion should become transluscent, the carrot and celery soft, and it should all smell like what our calls “the smell of Paradise”.
Step 2: Tip the minced beef and pork into the pan, and stir around. You want to brown the meat, and coat it nicely with the olive oil and chopped greens. When the meat has browned slightly, mix in your tomato sauce, concentrate and stock cubes (try adding just two at the beginning, then add to taste after it’s been bubbling away for some time). Stir well and cook, covered, on a medium-high flame for at least an hour/hour and a half. You want your entire kitchen to smell fantastic, the sauce should combine perfectly and the taste should be wonderfully rich. Adjust for salt and pepper, and if it tastes even remotely bland, add either an extra stock cube or some tomato concentrate and salt.
Step 3: While your sauce is bubbling away, get started on your gnocchi. Peel the skin off your potatoes, cut them into rough quarters and boil for around 10 minutes with a handful of salt. The potatoes should be thoroughly cooked. Drain them, and get out a potato ricer (yes, you definitely need this. We found it in John Lewis for about 20 pounds, but you can find them on the cheap. Alternatively, you can try using a mixer or blender, although we never have. Ricing the potatoes, aside from being a great workout, gives them the right consistency to bind properly with the flour and produce wonderful little dumplings). Squish your potatoes over a large bowl, then add some salt and pepper. Take out your bag of flour and add around 100g, then start kneading. You want the mixture to bind perfectly and to start coming away from the sides of the bowl – you should end up with a big ball of dough. If this doesn’t happen, add more flour, but please be patient and continue kneading.
Step 4: Once you have your big ball of dough, dust your kitchen worktop with flour. Take a clementine-sized piece of dough and roll it out into a long, thin sausage. Then, cut the sausage into small, 1cm long dumplings. Once you’ve cut up one sausage, dust the dumplings with flour and place on a waiting tray or plate. Leave some space around them, to prevent them from sticking. Repeat the process until you’ve used up all your dough. You might end up with more than you need, and in this case, as with the sauce, simply freeze in labelled, dated sandwich bags, ready to be taken out at the last minute (much cheaper and better tasting than a takeaway). They will last about a month, month and a half.
Step 5: Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, and add two large handfuls of sea salt. When the water boils, gently drop in your gnocchi (be very careful as the water will splash a bit when you tip them in). Have a large bowl and ladle at the ready! When the gnocchi start floating on the surface, they’re cooked. They won’t all bubble up at the same time, so stand by the pan and carefully scoop up the ones on the surface and transfer them to your waiting bowl. At intervals, cover them with spoonfuls of ragù. Once they’re all in the bowl, add a couple more spoonfuls of sauce, stir gently to bind, and serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Coz’s tip: In Italy, I would serve these for Sunday lunch and accompany with a good Sangiovese, a red wine from Emilia Romagna.
Giulia’s tip: Not in the mood for the starchy bulk of potatoes? Try substituting them for boiled, strained and minced spinach or pumpkin for a colourful and lighter alternative!

Aubergine and Tomato Quiche

foto (4)

Serves 4
Good for: A quick evening meal, a crowd-pleasing antipasto, or a perfect picnic
Time needed: 25 mins prep + 30 mins in the oven
Faff factor: Low

Here’s the story: Cooking is a major passion for the women in our family, and it is not uncommon for us to share recipes with our aunts, grandmothers, and cousins. This particular recipe comes from our aunt Donatella, a fantastic cook whose attention to detail and creativity make her one of the best chefs in the family. This is one of our go-to recipes when we have a crowd to feed and very little time (or space).

1 roll chilled puff pastry
2 large aubergines
2 cloves of garlic
100g mildly matured cheese (the original calls for Tilsit, but here in the UK go for a mild cheddar)
2 eggs
2 ripe tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Step 1: Take out a large, shallow cake tin (we usually keep large round foil ones at hand, but rectangular ones work too) and roll out your pastry. Lay it onto your cake tin, and loosely prick the base with a fork.
Step 2: Move on to your aubergines. Wash them and cut off the ends, and halve them lengthways. Take each half and chop roughly – your cubes should be small but don’t have to be perfectly symmetrical. Over a medium flame, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan and, after about 30 seconds, toss in the cloves of garlic. Move the pan around and place back on the flame. Once the heavenly aroma of garlic starts to waft up, toss in your aubergine cubes. Make sure they all get coated by the oil, and add salt, pepper and oregano. Make sure to shake them around every so often with a wooden spoon or spatula, and cook for around 15 minutes, or until they’re translucent and have reduced in size by about a third. Taste them frequently and adjust the salt and pepper.
Step 3: While the aubergines are cooking, chop the cheddar into rough, 1cm cubes. When the aubergines are cooked, turn off the heat and add the cheese, stirring constantly. The cheese should melt into the aubergines immediately.
Step 4: Add the eggs and carefully mix into your cheese and aubergines. You should end up with a gloriously gloopy mess, ready to be tipped into your waiting pastry case.
Step 5: Tip the mixture into the pastry case and level with a spoon. Cut your tomatoes into semi-circle slices and place them on top of your quiche, starting from the centre, in a “crown” pattern (see photo).
Step 6: Cook for half an hour in a pre-heated oven at 180°C, or until your pastry is golden brown and the tomatoes on top have withered slightly.
Let the quiche cool slightly before slicing and serving alongside a colourful salad, or slice into cubes and serve as an aperitivo with cocktails.

Coz’s tip: Accompany with my favourite side salad: toss together some rocket leaves, sliced and peeled oranges, and some thinly cut fennel with good extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.
Giulia’s tip: Make some extra to bring into work the next day!



Address: 73 Haverstock Hill, NW3 4SL
Nearest tube: Chalk Farm
Good for: relaxed dinner with friends
Price range: £15-£20

Here’s the story: Craving good Persian food in London, Giulia and Giacomo found Tandis and simply had to check it out. The Tognini siblings have now become firm regulars.

Don’t be fooled by the cool and contemporary feel, Tandis is incredibly authentic. The stars of the menu are the kebabs – generous skewers of meat, all served with saffron rice and salad or fries. You simply must try some starters first, especially if dining with friends. Without fail, we always order the loobiyah (borlotti, kidney and butter beans cooked in a home-made tomato sauce), and every time are amazed that beans could be made to taste so good. We recommend you accompany this with hummus and naan bread, a huge pile of deliciously crispy and warm flat bread with which to scoop everything up. Don’t exaggerate with the starters as the mains are huge, the stews are served with mountains of rice and are often large enough to feed two people. Try to make room for dessert though, as the bastani (saffron ice cream with pistachios) is to die for. Tandis is a family-owned restaurant and the service is warm and welcoming, making you feel right at home. 

Coz’s pick: khoresh fesenjaan (sweet and sour stew of chicken, ground walnuts and pomegranate puree)
Giulia’s pick: khoresh baamiyeh (stew of okra, potatoes and carrots)

Food: 8
Friendliness: 8
Feel: 8
Total foodactually rating: 24 

Tip: come during the spring and summer and grab a table on the outside patio.

Sweet and Sour Chicken


Serves 4
Good for
: quick and tasty weekday dinner (and impressing your flatmate)

Time needed: 15 mins prep, 30 mins to cook
Faff factor: medium  

Here’s the story: Being obsessed with healthily recreating Asian favourites at home, Giulia tested this recipe out on her poor, unsuspecting boyfriend in a last-ditch attempt at getting him to eat more vegetables (trust us, he only eats carbs and meat). It turned out to be a great success and has been replicated and perfected on numerous occasions over the years. It is by now one of our go-to recipes for impressing friends, or just a yummy mid-week meal.

1 onion, finely chopped
2 peppers, chopped
500g chicken, diced
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
2 tbsp plum jam (or substitute with apricot)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 large can chopped pineapple (with juice)
2 tbsp ketchup
1-2 tbsp double concentrate tomato purée
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
300g basmati rice
Handful of bean sprouts (optional)

Step 1: Prep all your ingredients – chop the onion (run the knife under cold water to avoid tears) and peppers and dice the chicken. Put these to one side and get started on the sauce.
Step 2: In a large bowl, whisk together the jam, soy sauce, ketchup and rice wine vinegar. Drain the juice from the canned pineapple, and add it to the slightly revolting-looking liquid. Trust us, it’ll taste great. Leave the pineapple pieces to one side for later.
Step 3: Get out a large wok and sautée the onion with a little oil (olive or vegetable is fine). Once the onion softens and becomes slightly transparent, add the peppers and cook on a medium flame for around 5 minutes. Add the diced chicken and the 5-spice, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken starts to turn white.
p 4Add the sauce and keep cooking on a medium flame for 15 minutes, adding the tomato concentrate halfway through. While the wok’s bubbling away, fill a pan with boiling water and cook the rice for around 10 minutes. Once it’s soft but not too mushy, drain and leave to one side.
Step 5: Once the sauce is dense (and tastes good – if you find it too sweet, add some soy sauce or rice wine vinegar, according to taste), add the pineapple chunks and the bean sprouts if you’re using them. Toss them around the wok for a further five minutes, then serve on top of a dollop of boiled rice and enjoy. 

Coz’s tip: the plum or prune jam really works to make the perfect sweet and sour flavour.
Giulia’s tip: eat with chopsticks – it’s the only way!