The Tastiest Pasta with Broccoli

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Aside from being English teachers the team at gainEnglish are also very keen cooks! So, we thought why not put some of our favourite personal recipes on the blog for our students and friends to have a go at. Most of the recipes will either be Italian or British, since that’s where we all come from and live. If you are Italian and you are already familiar with the Italian dishes, you can still use the recipes to improve your English.

This recipe may seem a little unusual for any non-Italians, but it’s really lovely, and it’s even better re-fried the following day!

Pasta ai broccoli (Pasta with broccoli)

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

A large head of broccoli (about 700g)

30g capers (we prefer to use capers preserved in salt rather than in vinegar)

4 anchovy fillets (preserved in olive oil)

3 garlic cloves

1 dried red chilli (or a sprinkling of chilli flakes)

350g short pasta (fusilli, penne rigate, tortiglioni)

Extra virgin olive oil


  1. Wash the broccoli, divide into florets, drop into boiling water and simmer for about 10 minutes. Yes, this is a long time to cook broccoli for, but they need to be softer than you would normally eat them. After 10 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the broccoli from the water, leave to cool for a little while. Preserve the water for cooking the pasta later.
  2. Wash the salt off the capers and finely chop them.
  3. Peel the garlic cloves and cut them in half.
  4. Add around 50ml of olive oil to a large non stick frying pan and put it on a low heat, add the garlic, anchovies, capers and dried chilli. Allow the oil to infuse for about 5 minutes (or longer as long as it’s on a low heat and the garlic doesn’t burn), stir from time to time to help the anchovies disintegrate into the oil.
  5. While the oil is infusing, chop the broccoli into small pieces. Once the oil is nicely infused throw your broccoli into the pan and increase the heat to medium. Stir and mix well to ensure the broccoli is all covered with the oil, capers, etc. Add a little more oil if you think necessary. You shouldn’t need to add any salt because the anchovies and capers are already salty.
  6. Once the broccoli starts sizzling, cover and cook like this for 20/30 minutes. Stir regularly and turn the heat down if they are frying to hard.  Towards the end of the cooking time remove the pieces of garlic and the chilli.
  7. With 15 minutes to go before the broccoli is ready, you can get started on the pasta.  Bring the previously saved broccoli water back to the boil, use a good quality pasta, follow the instructions on the packet (make sure you boil and salt the water before adding the pasta). It’s normally a good idea to cook the pasta for 30/45 seconds less than the packet says, because the pasta will continue cooking as you mix it with the warm broccoli. Always taste test to make sure it’s al dente. Just before you drain the pasta, take a cup and collect some of the pasta cooking water, keep to one side as you may use this later.
  8. Drain the pasta and throw it in with the broccoli. Turn the heat off, add a splash of olive oil (or even better chilli olive oil) mix together well. If you feel the mixture is a little dry for your taste, add a few splashes of the pasta cooking water and mix again.

Serve and ENJOY!

ps. If you make too much it’s great re-heated the next day.  Just put a non-stick frying pan on a high heat, add a splash of chilli oil, once it’s hot enough throw your leftovers in and fry the pasta, stirring regularly to make sure they don’t burn.  Should be ready in about 8-10 minutes. You are looking to slightly brown the pasta and if you get it just right it’ll be even more delicious than it was the day before!

Keen – enthusiastic

Floret – small part of a flower shaped vegetable

To drain – allow liquid to run off or away from something to leave it dry

To infuse – allow a substance to transfer its flavour to a liquid

From time to time – occasionally

To sizzle – make a hissing sound while frying

Leftovers – Food that remains from the previous day


Gingerbread men

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Gingerbread men

A classic Christmas favourite.

For many people the smell of gingerbread evokes feelings of Christmas. Making Gingerbread men is the perfect kitchen activity to do with the children during the days before Christmas, here is our simple recipe.

All you need is:

350g flour (plus a little extra)

125g butter

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

175g light soft brown sugar

1 egg

4 tbsp treacle (or soft honey)

Writing icing to decorate or other cake decorations (optional)

1.            Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a bowl. Cut the butter into 2 cm cubes, add to the flour and rub in until the mix resembles breadcrumbs, now stir in the sugar.

Here’s an idea of how the mixture should look after rubbing in

2.            In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg and treacle (or honey) together then add this to the breadcrumb mix. Using your hands, bring the mix together  to form one solid mass. The mixture will be quite crumbly at this point, take it out and start to knead the dough, until it turns into a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

3.            Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and cover two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

4.            Lightly flour a surface and roll out the dough to a 5mm thickness. Cut out the shapes using cutters. Place on a baking tray making sure you leave a gap between them. If you are planning to hang them on your tree, remember to pierce a hole into the shape before baking (and re-pierce the hole halfway through baking to ensure it doesn’t close).

5.            Bake for 12-15 minutes or until they are light golden brown. Leave on the baking tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish the cooling process. When cooled, you can decorate with writing icing and cake decorations.

The dough can be made a month in advance and frozen, so all you have to do when you want to use it is defrost it, roll it and bake it. Baked gingerbread men can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks – that’s if you can keep your hands off them!


Cling filmthin plastic material used for covering food

Dough – a mixture of ingredients such as flour, butter, etc that is then shaped and baked

Icing – A sugar based substance for decorating or covering cakes

Tbsp (tablespoon) – a large spoon (15 ml)

To evoke – to cause or induce

To knead – to work or massage with the hands

To pierce – to make a hole with a sharp object

To resemble – to look like or similar to something

To roll out (phrasal verb) – to cause (pastry, for example) to become flatter and thinner by applying pressure with a rolling pin

To rub in – a method used in baking meaning to work between the fingers

To stir – to move a spoon or other tool round and round in order to mix substances together

Tsp (teaspoon) – a small spoon (5 ml)

Wire rack (or cooling rack) – an open metal frame used for cooling baked food

Pancake Day

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Per essere fedeli alla tradizione britannica gainEnglish ha deciso di mettersi ai fornelli.  Prima però ci vuole una veloce introduzione. Il Martedì Grasso viene chiamato in inglese Shrove Tuesday: tutti sappiamo cosa vuol dire Tuesday – vero? – Shrove deriva invece dal verbo to shrive, shrove, shriven, che significa “confessare”. Come accade anche in Italia (a parte che per chi festeggia il Carnevale Ambrosiano) Shrove Tuesday è l’ultimo giorno prima dell’inizio della quaresima (Lent in inglese) e per questo motivo in passato in questa giornata era tradizione consumare tutte le uova avanzate prima di cominciare il digiuno della quaresima. Quale modo migliore di consumare le uova se non cucinare delle crêpes, o meglio, pancakes? Al giorno d’oggi quasi nessuno ricorda più le origini religiose di questa giornata e tutti chiamano il Martedì Grasso Pancake Day.

Per divertirci un po’ abbiamo chiesto l’aiuto di una bambina di cinque anni, che proprio quel giorno a scuola aveva imparato come preparare pancakes perfette.  La prima domanda che le abbiamo fatto è stata “Di cosa hai bisogno per preparare delle pancakes?” .“Ehm, farina”, ha risposto prontamente. Abbiamo pesato 115g di farina. “E poi?”. “Ehm, latte”, ha risposto la piccolo cuoca, aiutando ad aggiungere 300ml di latte.

“Dopo ci dobbiamo mettere della senape”, ha detto ridacchiando – già, il senso dell’umorismo British è nel DNA. “Scherzavo, ci vogliono un uovo ed un pizzico di sale!”. Dopo aver sbattuto il tutto abbiamo scaldato un goccio di olio in una padella antiaderente, abbiamo versato parte del composto e l’abbiamo cotto da un lato. Quando è arrivato il momento di girare, non abbiamo scelto l’opzione più facile – la spatola di legno – ma abbiamo pensato di rendere il tutto più interessante facendo saltare la pancake in aria e cercando di farla ricadere nella padella. Il primo tentativo è stato un disastro, la pancake è atterrata per terra con un grande splat tra tante risate. Poi ci abbiamo preso la mano e siamo riusciti a cucinare più pancakes di quelle che siamo riusciti a mangiare – riempiono così tanto!

Le abbiamo servite con succo di limone e zucchero, ma quando la giovane assistente si è trovata la pancake nel piatto ci ha liquidato con un “No, grazie, non mi piacciono molto” ed ha infilare due dita nella pancake trasformandola in una maschera!

Pancake Mask
If you don't want to eat it...make a mask out of it!



115g di farina

300ml di latte

1 uovo

1 pizzico di sale

Here at GE we decided to make some traditional British pancakes for Shrove Tuesday or ‘pancake day’ as it is less formally known these days. The traditional reason for pancake day was to use up the last of the eggs before fasting for lent, but these days it’s mostly just for fun, and children know the best way to have fun, so we decided to throw in a child (no not into the pancake of course), throw in the help of a child.

So, we instilled the help from a five year old girl, who had been trained at school that day on how to make the perfect pancake.

The first question we asked was: What do we need to make a pancake? “Err, flour.” she said.

So, we weighed 115g of Flour into a bowl…

What’s next? “Err, milk” replied the small helper.

We measured 300ml and added it to the flour…

“Next, you need some mustard” giggled the mini pancake master. “No, only joking,  we need an egg and a pinch of salt.”

We stirred the mixture together whilst an adult heated up a little oil in a frying pan. Once the mixture was poured in and cooked on one side, it was time to turn it to cook the other side. Now, you can either do this the easy way and flip it using a wooden spatula, or the fun way by tossing, of course we took the fun option!

The first pancake was a disaster, at the last minute the designated pancake tosser got a bit nervous and rather than the pancake getting tossed into the air and landing on it’s other side in the pan, it landed on the floor with a big splat which was met with lots of giggles all round!

After the initial disaster things improved and we all ended up with two each which is enough because they are very filling.

We had them with lemon juice and sugar and when we asked the little girl what she wanted with hers, she replied “Nothing thanks, I don’t like them very much” and proceeded to dig her fingers into the pancake to make a funny face instead!