Foolproof favourite: tiramisu

TiramisuMy grandmother called yesterday: her TV didn’t work anymore. And so I found myself making tiramisu again… It’s my grandmother’s favourite dessert, she loves it so much, that she has taken to “ordering” it. I get a phone call of her chatting away, and after a while she will ask if it’s possible to make tiramisu for 1 person. I then say I think it is, and she will then tell me to try it, she will volunteer to eat it. Since I had to go over the fix the TV issue (which was no issue at all of course), I made her her favourite dessert. She happily took it from me and hid it in the fridge, she doesn’t make the mistake to offer it to any guests, all the more for her! So here is her favourite recipe:

Make 1, 25 dl strong coffee and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, split 4 eggs and mix the egg yolks in a bowl with 100 g icing sugar and 2o ml Amaretto (a good splash). Add 500 g mascarpone and mix again until most lumps are gone. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat them until stiff (the salt will help it stiffen more quickly). Turn the bowl upside down to make sure the egg whites are as stiff as they can get, and then fold them in the mascarpone mix. Take a deep serving bowl (square is easier, but any shape will do). One by one, dip a third of 200 g boudoirs or ladyfingers in the coffee and cover the bottom of the bowl with a layer. Add a third of the mascarpone mix. Repeat this 2 more times, ending with the mascarpone mix on top.

Put in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours or overnight. I personally like it best like this, but if you want a more “authentic” look, you can dust the top with 3 tbsp cacao powder before serving. Enjoy while listening to Marina by Rocco Granata (also a Belgian twist to an Italian classic!).

For a modern twist on this classic, replace the ladyfingers and coffee by speculaas or opt for a summer version with fresh raspberries.

Summer flavours: basil panna cotta

Basil panna cottaOn our recent holiday to the south of England, I tried basil panna cotta at the Gurnard’s head in Cornwall. I didn’t really have much room for a dessert, but when I saw it on the menu, I just had to try it. It was so good, I decided to make it myself. I searched online for good recipes but found nothing to my liking so I decided to adapt a Lorraine Pascale recipe. The result was a big hit with our guests, although I did keep most of it for myself!

Don’t be daunted: panna cotta is the easiest thing to make! Here’s how: put 4 leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water (they have to be fully covered) and set aside for 5 min. In the mean time, put 300 ml double cream or whipping cream (you need at least 30% fat contents) in a pan with 250 g mascarpone, 100 g caster sugar and the seeds of a vanilla pod (add the pod as well for extra taste) and stir to combine. Gently heat the mixture while stirring occasionally until it’s almost boiling. Take of the heat and add the leaves of two bunches of basil (you really need a lot of it) and stir for 2 min until the basil is wilted. Using a stick blender, mix until you get an even green mix. Add the gelatine leaves one by one (squeeze out all the water first) and stir well. Pour the mixture into dariole moulds and put in the fridge to set for 2-3 hours or overnight.

To serve, make a strawberry sauce by mixing a handful of strawberries with 1 tbsp icing sugar. Push through a sieve if you prefer. Cut some more strawberries for decoration. To unmould the panna cotta, dip the bottom of the moulds in hot water for a few seconds to loosen them, then turn them upside down on a serving plate. They may need a few sharp jerks of the hand for them to come out. If this fails, run a small knife around the side of the mould to loosen slightly. Or just don’t bother taking them out of the moulds at all. Enjoy while listening to Strawberry Fields Forever by the Beatles.

This recipe is really versatile, if basil is not to your taste, you can add anything you want. Bear in mind that when adding sweet elements, you may need to reduce the amount of sugar. Lorraine Pascale went for a white chocolate panna cotta: to do so, stick to the above recipe but don’t add any sugar at all. When taking the mixture of the heat, add 100 g of white chocolate, instead of the basil, and stir until melted. Serve with raspberry coulis and extra raspberries.

Use up leftover mascarpone in speculamisuraspberry and orange tiramisu or strawberries with balsamic vinegar.

Quick and easy: strawberries with balsamic vinegar

strawberries with balsamic vinegarMy parents came for dinner recently and with my busy schedule I hadn’t been able to prepare a dessert ahead the night before. So I needed something quick yet still delicious and I remembered this recipe. It was very hot for a while so I never tried it (too cliché) but it seemed a good choice now as it meant I could use up some left over basil in one go. I found the recipe in an old Jamie Oliver cookbook, but I adapted it slightly. It went down a treat!

For 4 people, hull 500 g strawberries and cut them in half. Put them in a bowl and 2 hours before serving add  5 tbsp sugar and 8 tbsp balsamic vinegar (the recipe called for 10, but this seemed more than enough). Give it a good stir and leave to marinate.

In a separate bowl, mix 400 g mascarpone with the seeds of 1 vanilla pod and 2 bags of vanilla sugar (or 20 g caster sugar). You can do this right before serving.

Put a big spoon of mascarpone on each plate, top with a generous serving of strawberries and finish with a bit of shredded basil leaves or mint leaves. Enjoy while listening to Oh my gosh by Basement Jaxx feat. Vula Malinga.

Summertime: raspberry and orange tiramisu

Raspberry and orange tiramisu
Raspberry and orange tiramisu

Another favourite of mine, and even more so of my grandmother, and a great and fresh variation on tiramisu. This recipe from the Italian chef Aldo Zilli comes from one of my trusted GoodFood magazines which I slightly adapted (less alcohol mainly, Brits have a tendency to drown stuff in alcohol). Not only does it look great, it really tasted absolutely delicious too! This recipe serves about 8 people. If you can’t find raspberries, you can use whatever other berries that are around. You only need egg yolks in the recipe, but there is no need to throw away the whites: you can easily freeze them for later. Just defrost them before use (for when you crave some meringue or macaroons).

Put 175 g caster sugar and 6 egg yolks in a heatproof bowl and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk them until pale, creamy and doubled in volume (about 5 min). Remove from the heat an whisk for another 1 min to cool. If you feel like being lazy and just mixing the sugar with the yolks without the simmering: don’t, I tried it and failed…

In another bowl, beat 284 ml pot double cream, 500 g mascarpone and 2 tbsp vanilla extract until combined. Fold or gently whisk this mixture into the creamy yolks (or vice versa, just put them together in the biggest of the two bowls).

Combine 100 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (I’m sure from a bottle will work just as well) with 50 ml Grand Marnier, then dip in half of 24 sponge fingers or ladyfingers (just buy a pack) and arrange them over the bottom of a serving dish. Pour over half the creamy mixture, then top with 350 g raspberries (save a couple for the decoration). Add a second layer of dipped cookies and the rest of the mixture and finish by dotting over the remaining raspberries. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight. And check on it every now and then, because last time I made a batch for my grandparents, my grandmother was spotted with a small spoon already secretly tasting it in between courses before it made it’s way to the table! Enjoy!

Use up your leftover speculaas: speculamisu


To use up leftover speculaas and to surprise a friend who, because of her allergy to gluten, had never eaten tiramisu, I came up with a combination of both: speculamisu. It’s the same mix as for tiramisu, but instead of using ladyfingers (aka boudoirs) dipped in coffee, I use speculaas.

Let’s face it: after years of tiramisu revival, you’re bound to be ready for a change. If so, this is a great alternative.

Mix 4 egg yolks with 100 g icing sugar and a splash of amaretto. Add 500 g mascarpone and mix well (you don’t want any lumps). Beat 4 egg whites until stiff (add a small pinch of salt to make it easier). You should be able to hold your bowl upside down without the egg whites moving. Carefully spoon the egg whites under the mascarpone mix.

Put a layer of speculaas at the bottom of your serving this (if you didn’t have time to make them yourself, you can off course use shop-bought speculaas). You don’t need to soak them in anything, a couple of hours with your mascarpone mix and they will be soft. Add a layer of mascarpone mix, another layer of speculaas en so on. End with a layer of mascarpone mix.

That’s all there is to it! Put in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight and you’re ready to go. If you want, you can sprinkle some cacao powder on the top to decorate. If you prefer a regular tiramisu, just swap the speculaas for ladyfingers and dip them in strong coffee first. Enjoy!