Recipes: Simply Italian

Beer-battered crispy seafood
Beer-battered crispy seafood
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Channel 4 stars Michela Chiappa and her sisters Emi and Romina will be cooking up dishes from their popular four-part cooking series Simply Italian when they come to Yorkshire next month for the Malton Food Festival.

The Chiappa Sisters have also written their first cook book published tomorrow, also entitled Simply Italian, packed full of family recipes that have been handed down the generations, using simple, fresh ingredients. Here’s a taste of what’s in store.

Aubergine and Mozzarella Bake

Serves 6


1kg aubergine, sliced thinly

fine salt

5 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

400g freshly torn

mozzarella cheese

100g freshly grated

Parmesan cheese

Classic Tomato Sauce

Splash of olive oil.

1 small red onion, finely chopped.

½ clove garlic, chopped.

400g can chopped tomatoes.

½ vegetable stock cube.

½ tbsp tomato purée.

Pinch of cayenne pepper.

2 tsp capers.


Place a layer of aubergine slices on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and cover with kitchen paper. Continue layering the aubergine in this way, finishing with kitchen paper.

Weigh the aubergines down using something heavy, like a saucepan filled with water, and leave for 30 minutes so that the aubergine can release its bitter juices. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.

Brush each aubergine slice with a little oil and heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the aubergine, a few slices at a time, until cooked through and golden on both sides. Add a little more oil to the pan if needed. Once cooked, place the aubergine on some kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.

To make the sauce, place a saucepan on a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil, the red onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until softened but not browned. Add the chopped tomatoes, stock cube, tomato purée, a pinch of cayenne pepper and the capers.

Cover the bottom of a 30cm x 20cm baking dish with two tablespoons of the sauce. Top with a layer of aubergine and lightly spread with four tablespoons of sauce.

Sprinkle generously with mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat these layers (aubergine, sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan) until you have used all the aubergine, finishing with a layer of sauce and Parmesan (no mozzarella).

Cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

Beer-Battered Crispy Seafood

This dish takes us back to the seaside town of Santa Margherita in Liguria. We often drove down from the mountain to spend a few days at the beach and this was always Dad’s first choice on the menu. However, we’re lucky enough to be able to enjoy it in Wales, too!

On a Saturday night, you’ll often find us piled into one of Dad’s delivery vans on the way to Porthcawl to visit our Italian–Welsh friends, the Sidolis.

They own a number of fish-and-chip bars and they’ll sometimes have a lock-in just for us. They’ll cook us fresh calamari with chips – and we usually take a few bottles of Peroni or prosecco!

Serves 4


150g Tipo ‘00’ flour, plus extra to dust

100ml beer

150ml cold sparkling water

200g raw prawns, heads removed, tails left on (if frozen, make sure they’re fully defrosted)

200g baby squid, prepared, cleaned and sliced into 1cm rings

120g whitebait

fine salt and freshly ground

black pepper

vegetable oil, for deepfat frying

wedges of lemon, to serve


Mix the flour, beer and water in a bowl until it forms a batter, then chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wash all the seafood with cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Season with salt and pepper, and dust all over with flour.

Pour the oil into a large pan to a depth of about 8cm. Heat the oil until a small piece of batter dropped in bubbles and quickly turns golden brown. One at a time, dip the pieces of seafood in the batter and lower straight into the hot oil. Fry about 10 pieces at a time, for three minutes on each side, until crispy – take care not to burn them.

Do not overcrowd the pan, as the seafood won’t cook properly. Repeat with the rest. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately with wedges of lemon and sprinkled with salt.

Layered Mocha Torte

Having been brought up surrounded by coffee, this dessert naturally made a regular appearance. When we were little, Mum made it without alcohol; but the older we got, the boozier it became!

Serves 8–10


4 medium egg yolks, preferably free-range or organic

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature

175g caster sugar

8 heaped tablespoons

good-quality instant coffee

100ml brandy

100ml Amaretto

1 x 200g packet of sponge finger biscuits

100g flaked almonds

300ml double cream


Cream the egg yolks, butter and sugar in a large bowl or freestanding electric mixer. It’s important that the butter is at room temperature. In a small bowl, dissolve half the coffee in three tablespoons of hot water and stir into the mixture. In another bowl, dissolve the remaining coffee in 100ml hot water. Pour into a shallow dish with the brandy and Amaretto. Stir together and set aside.

Line a 10cm x 20cm loaf tin with cling film, leaving enough hanging over the edges to seal your cake over the top of the tin. One by one, quickly dip each side of the biscuits into the coffee and liqueur mixture. Don’t let them get soggy. Line the bottom and sides of the loaf tin, laying the biscuits side-by-side, like soldiers.

Spoon half the creamed mixture into the tin and top with a layer of soaked biscuits. Spoon over the rest of the creamed mixture and finish with another layer of soaked biscuits. Wrap the cling film over the top and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably one hour. When ready to serve, toast the flaked almonds in a dry pan over a medium heat for about five minutes, until golden brown.

Turn out onto a serving plate and remove the cling film. In a small bowl, whip the cream until light and fluffy and spread over the cake until completely covered. Decorate with the flaked almonds to create a “hedgehog” effect. Slice and serve.

Simply Italian by Michela, Emanuela and Romina Chiappa published by Penguin. The Chiappa Sisters will at Malton Food Festival on May 24/25.