Tiramisu

This amazing dessert is much greater than the sum of its parts! Making the Tiramisu in advance and then leaving it for a little while in the fridge allows the creamy flavours to infuse and creates a delicious result.

Preparation time: 20 minutesRefrigeration time: 3 to 24 hours
Difficulty: ModerateServes: 10

Ingredients

  • 300g/10.5oz/3 cups of savoiardi or sponge biscuits
  • 500g/17.5oz/2 cups of mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons of Marsala wine
  • 2 tsp of coffee granules
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g/3.5oz/1/2 cup of sugar
  • Cocoa powder

Special Equipment

  • Four mixing bowls
  • An electric whisk
  • A serving dish
  • A sieve

Method

  1. Pour the coffee granules into a mixing bowl along with 300ml of boiling water and stir them together.
  2. Add the mascarpone to a separate bowl and whisk it for a few seconds, until it’s smooth and there are no lumps. Then pour in the marsala and whip it with the mascarpone for a few seconds more.
  3. Add the egg yolks and sugar to separate bowl and whip them for about 3 minutes, or until pale and thick.
  4. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the mascarpone. Fold it in with a spatula or wooden spoon.
  5. Pour the egg whites into a very clean mixing bowl. Clean the whisk thoroughly, then whisk the egg whites for a few minutes, until they form stiff peaks. 
  6. Pour the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture, and very gently fold them in with the spatula or wooden spoon.  
  7. Dip half of the savoiardi bicuits in the coffee, only for a second each, and then use them to line the base of the serving dish. Pour half of the mascarpone mix over the biscuits, and smooth it down with a spoon. Sieve a few teaspoons of cocoa powder on top. 
  8. Repeat the process- dip the rest of the biscuits in the coffee, pour over and the remainder of the mascarpone mixture, smooth it down, and sieve a final layer of cocoa powder on top.
  9. Put the Tiramisu in the fridge and leave it for a few hours until it’s time to eat.
  10. Buon Appetito!

Tips

  • Make sure the bowl you use to whip the egg whites in is made of glass, copper or porcelain- not plastic- and that the bowl has been washed very thoroughly. This will ensure that the egg whites aren’t tainted with traces of grease, which can cause them to collapse.
  • When it’s time to mix the creams and custards together, fold the egg whites into the mascarpone gently using a large spatula, so they don’t collapse.
  • Make the Tiramisu a few hours before you serve it so that the flavours have a chance to infuse. You can make it up to 24 hours in advance.
  • You only need to dip each savoiardi into the coffee for a second- they’re absorbent, and if they’re dipped for much longer they’ll become too soggy.

Background

Pronunciation: /ˌtɪɹəmɪˈsuː/ (ti-ruh-muh-soo)

Origin: Italy (Veneto)
Relatives: Tiremesu, Zuppa Inglese (North East Italy), Trifle (England), Charlotte (France)

History

Tiramisu made its popular debut in the 1960s. That’s when it first appeared on the dessert menu at Le Beccherie, a restaurant in Treviso, a town near Venice in Veneto, north-east Italy. The recipe for Tiramisu is attributed to the confectioner Roberto Linguanotto, who owned Le Beccherie, and also to Carminantonio Iannaccone, a local baker who supplied the restaurant. The dish was a great success and became popular throughout Veneto as well as in the neighboring region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. It made an appearance in Giovanni Capnist’s I Dolci del Veneto in 1983, and subsequently achieved international success.

But while Tiramisu didn’t appear in restaurants, cookbooks, or on the international culinary scene before the 1960s, it predated them nonetheless. Many of Veneto’s elderly residents already had their own Tiramisu recipe, handed down from their parents or grandparents. Some suggest that Tiramisu was created in Sienna in the late 1600s, for Cosimo III de Medici, the Duke of Tuscany. Others that it inspired, or was inspired by, the ‘Tiremesu’ dessert of the neighboring Friuli Venezia Giulia region, and the Zuppa Inglese of Emilia-Romagna. Like Tiramisu, Zuppa Inglese shares some similarities with the English Trifle, which the Zuppa’s creators may have experienced when travelling to the Elizabethan court.

Trifle, Zuppa Inglese and Tiramisu all consist of layers of custard and sponge fingers, but Trifle is layered with English Custard, while Tiramisu and Zuppa Inglese are layered with custards like Zabaglione or Veneto’s Sbatudin. In Veneto, Sbatudin is jokingly referred to a an invigorating food for newlyweds. Indeed, long before Tiramisu was a respectable dessert, it was purportedly served in Treviso’s brothels because it was considered to be an aphrodisiac- hence the name ‘Tiramisu’, which means ‘pick me up’ in the Treviso dialect.

Once a local Venetian dish, possibly of somewhat ill repute, Tiramisu is now famous worldwide. It’s still very much beloved in Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, and is formally considered a traditional recipe of the region by Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Bustrengo

Bustrengo is eaten all year round in San Marino, but it’s particularly popular at Christmas. Light, moist and packed with citrus and fruit, Bustrengo is a delightful Mediterranean alternative to Christmas cake

Preparation time: 15 minutesCooking time: 1 hour
Difficulty: EasyServes: 10-20

Ingredients

  • 150g/5oz/1 cup of cornmeal
  • 100g/3.5oz/1 cup of plain flour 
  • 100g/3.5oz/7/8 cup of fine breadcrumbs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200ml/2dl/1/3 pt/just under a cup of honey
  • 100ml/1dl/1/6 pt/1/4 cup olive oil‌
  • 3 eggs
  • 500ml/5dl/just under 1 pt/2 cups of milk
  • 400g/14oz/2 2/3 cups of dried figs, thickly chopped and with the stems removed
  • 500g/17.5oz/4 cups of apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • Grated zest and juice from 1 orange
  • Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon

Plus:

  • A little extra olive oil, for greasing

Make it vegan: if not using honey, the best substitute is a vegan honey like Honea, but you can also replace it with an equal amount of golden (light corn) syrup or maple syrup instead. Replace the milk with a vegan milk like almond, soya or oat milk.
The best replacement for the three eggs in this recipe is flax egg- mix three tablespoons of ground flaxseeds with nine tablespoons of water, and leave the mixture to sit for five minutes, before adding it to the cake mixture.

Special Equipment:

  • A large steel pizza pan, or large cake tin
  • Large mixing bowl
  • A pastry brush

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170’C/325’F/Gas Mark 3.
  2. Brush the tin or pan with a very small amount of olive oil..
  3. Mix the cornmeal, plain flour, salt and breadcrumbs together in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add the honey, milk, olive oil and eggs to the dry ingredients and mix everything together thoroughly. 
  5. Next, add the apple, figs, zest and juice to the cake mixture, and everything together.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin or pan, and pop it into the oven.
  7. Cook the Bustrengo for about an hour, turning partway through cooking if need be. When it’s done it should be lightly browned and a fork inserted into the cake should come out clean.

Background

Home: San Marino, North East Italy

Relatives: Stollen, Panettone 

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History

San Marino is a very small landlocked country, located between the Italian regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche in the Apennine mountains. It’s one of the world’s three enclaved sovereign states: like Vatican City, San Marino is completely surrounded by Italy. (The other enclaved state, Lesotho, is surrounded by South Africa.)

 San Marino is named after Saint Marinus, a Croatian stonemason who travelled to the city of Rimini and became a Christian preacher there. Marinus eventually fled Rimini to escape the Diocletian Persecution, and founded a church at Monte Titano. There, he led a peaceful, isolated life with a community of mountain peoples and fellow Christian refugees, and he bequeathed the land to the others before he died, around 301 AD. San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving republic in the world as a result.

(Max_Ryazanov, Fortress of Guaita, 2013 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fortress_of_Guaita_2013-09-19.jpg> [accessed 29/01/2020] (commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)

  Today, San Marino is known for its hilly terrain, scenic views, towers, sculptures, and food. Sammarinese cuisine shares many similarities with northern Italian cuisine: local cheeses, meats and wines are prized. Common foods include soup, pasta, and roast rabbit: for dessert, cake, including Bustrengo, Torta Tre Monti (Cake of the Three Mountains) and Torta Titano are  popular options. Other desserts include Verretta (wafers), Cacciatello (custard) and zuppa di ciliegie (cherries in sweetened red wine, served on white bread).

  As a fruity, citrussy breadlike cake popular at Christmas, Bustrengo is similar to the Italian Panettone and the German Stollen. But unlike stollen and panettone, Bustrengo isn’t just made at Christmas: it’s eaten all year round. And while the other dishes are kneaded and leavened, premade breadcrumbs and cornmeal (polenta) are mixed into other cake ingredients to make Bustrengo.

 Bustrengo was traditionally cooked over a fire, in a copper pot covered with a lid lined with hot coals, so the cake was cooked thoroughly on both sides. It would be cooked at night, at the end of a meal, while guests rested around the fire. When the cake was ready, it would be removed, casually sliced into pieces, and served with sweet white wine.

Piernik

There’s a lot of history behind Piernik: it’s Polish gingerbread, which is traditionally eaten at Christmas. Piernik comes in many shapes and sizes, and some versions can be left to mature for months or even years before being baked. This quick version is a soft cake, flavoured with gingerbread spices and plum jam, and decorated with chocolate ganache. 

Preparation time: 30 minutesCooking time: 60 minutes
Difficulty: EasyServing size: 20 slices

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 300g/10.5oz/2 3/4 cups of wholemeal or wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons of gingerbread spice (comprising 2 tsp cinnamon 3/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp ground cardamom, ¼ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp apple pie spice, ¼ tsp black pepper)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 200g/7oz/1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 250ml/2.5dl/just under half a pt/1 cup of milk
  • 100g/3.5oz/just under half a cup of butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp coffee powder, mixed into 2 tsp boiling water
  • 200g/7oz/just over half a cup of plum jam
  • 50g/5oz/half a cup of raisins, briefly scalded with boiling water and drained

For the Ganache:

  • 100g/3.5oz/⅝ cup chocolate
  • 2 tbsp milk or cream
  • 50g/2 oz/¼ cup butter

Plus:

  • Extra butter for greasing

Make it vegan: replace the honey with a vegan honey like Honea, or with golden syrup, and use vegan milk (like soya, almond or oat milk) and plant based margarine instead of dairy. Likewise, replace the milk and butter for the ganache with plant based versions, and use vegan chocolate.

Special equipment

  • A 20×30 square baking tin or a large round baking tin, or two 10×30 loaf tins
  • Pastry brush
  • Baking paper
  • Two large mixing bowls

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C/360’F/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Line the tin/tins with baking paper, and brush the paper with a little butter.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa, spices, soda and powder into a mixing bowl, and stir until combined. Then stir in the sugar.
  4. Add the eggs, milk, honey, coffee, melted butter, and half of the plum jam, to a large mixing bowl and stir together. 
  5. Add the flour mixture into the eggs mixture, mix thoroughly, then stir in the drained raisins. 
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin or tins.
  7. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking time if necessary. The cakes are ready when you can poke a fork through the surface and it comes out clean.
  8. Remove the cake/cakes and leave to cool. When ready, cut them in half so you have two layers. Then spread the remaining jam over one half, and place the top layer back onto the bottom. 
  9. For the topping, add the chocolate, milk and butter to a saucepan and place it over a medium heat. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and everything is well combined. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Then spread over the cake.

Tips

  • When the cake is cool, put it in the freezer for half an hour before cutting it in half- if it’s cold it’s easier to cut it neatly without it crumbling. 

Background

Pronunciation: /‘pʲɛr.ɲik/ (peyr-nick)

Home: Poland

Relatives: Liebkuchen, Pfefferkuchen (Germany), Pryanik (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus), Malt Loaf, Parkin (UK), Pain d’Epices (France)

History

Gingerbread comes in many shapes and sizes, and its exact origins aren’t known. Ginger originates from South East Asia. It was first cultivated millennia ago by the Austronesian peoples and was domesticated in India and China, but it wasn’t introduced to Europe until much later. European precursors to modern gingerbread developed without the spice: the ancient Romans ate unspiced honey biscuits shaped into hearts, for example. An Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis, is said to have introduced spiced gingerbread to France in 992, and different forms of gingerbread seem to have been popular from then on. 

Pierniki Toruńskie

Before ginger was available, pepper was used to spice cakes. The Old East Slavic word for pepper was‘пьпьрь’ (pĭpĭrĭ): derived from this are the Polish word ‘pierny’ and Old Russian word ‘пьпьрянъ’ (Papiryan), both of which mean ‘peppery.’ From ‘peppery’ we get ‘piernik’- Polish gingerbread- and it’s close relative, ‘Pryanik’, which is popular in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. 

Before sugar was available, honey was used sweeten cakes, and it was certainly a key ingredient in both Piernik and Pryanik. It was readily available in mediaeval Toruń, a city in the Kingdom of Poland’s north east, because bee keeping was popular in the surrounding countryside. Toruń was also supplied with copious amounts of rye and wheat flour, produced by farms on the fertile Chelmo and Kujawy lands that lay nearby. And the city’s northerly location facilitated its acceptance into the Hanseatic League, a confederation of Polish, Prussian, Dutch, Wendish, Livonian and Swedish guilds and market towns. This meant Toruń could trade with towns and guilds along the Baltic coast, and allowed it access to wider trade routes, which in turn facilitated the introduction of Asian products and spices to Toruń. 

By the fourteenth century, Toruń had unprecedented access to honey, flour, spices, and prosperous trade. 

The earliest evidence of gingerbread in Toruń is a reference, made c.1380, to the baker Mikołaj Czanie, who was known for producing spicy bread and cakes. Mikołaj was also apparently selling leftover beeswax to the Teutonic Order in neighbouring Livonia. This suggests his cakes were sticky and spicy, and he likely incorporated newly available spices like ginger. Soon, Toruń’s gingerbread was famous.

Its artisans closely guarded their craft- so much so that despite the Toruń’s early gingerbread fame, the city’s oldest surviving gingerbread recipe only dates to 1725. But in 1556, Toruń made a pact with its gingerbread rival, Nuremberg. From then on, Toruń’s bakers had access to Nuremberg’s closely guarded gingerbread recipes, and vice versa. As such, Toruń’s Piernik biscuits shares some similarities with Nürnberger Lebkuchen. Both are usually small, shaped biscuits, often coated in dark chocolate. 

Toruń was particularly famed for its figural gingerbread. Artisans were paid more than mere bakers, and were required to train longer to learn their craft. A master artisan baker might make biscuits in elaborate shapes: heralds, knights, monks, and even kings. If a king, foreign dignitary, or otherwise distinguished person visited Toruń, they would be presented with a personalised gingerbread figurine. This might be huge in size, and could be elaborately decorated with a coat of arms, and even with gold plate. By the 17th century, the poet Fryderick Hoffman categorized Toruń Piernik as one of Poland’s four finest offerings, alongsist Gdansk’s vodka, Warsaw’s shoes and Krakow’s ladies. It’s so integral to Toruń’s history that if you visit the city’s old town today, you can visit the Muzeum Toruńskiego Piernika (Living Museum of Gingerbread), which was founded in 2006.

Święto Piernika

This form of Piernik is more like a cake or a loaf of bread than a biscuit. It’s quite similar to the British Malt Loaf, or Parkin, and to the French Pain d’Epices. Like Malt Loaf, it tastes better if left for a few days or even weeks after being baked. In fact, traditionally the dough is matured for a year or more, in a cold place like a cellar, before being taken to the oven. The longer the dough is left, the fluffier it becomes! Christmas Piernik would be made in December, then left to mature for a year, before being baked and eaten the next Christmas. It could be left for so long, that it was said a dough could be made on the day a daughter was born, left in the cellar to mature, then baked for her wedding day.

This version doesn’t need to be left to mature before being cooked. But it does taste better if left for a day or two after being baked.  

Muzeum Toruńskiego Piernika
Mateuszgdynia, Muzeum Toruńskiego Piernika1, 2015 <https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muzeum_Toru%C5%84skiego_Piernika> [accessed 28/01/2020]. (commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)

Horiatiki Salata

Horiatiki Salata (Greek Salad) is a delicious Mediterranean mix of tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper and kalamata olives, topped with feta cheese, sprinkled with oregano and drizzled with a red wine vinaigrette. 

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • A cucumber
  • Three salad tomatoes
  • Half a red onion
  • A green pepper
  • 10-20 Kalamata olives
  • 200g/7oz/half a block of feta cheese
  • A pinch of salt
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil
  • One tablespoon of red wine vinegar (optional)
  • One teaspoon oregano
  • Crusty bread, to serve

Make it vegan: You can omit the feta cheese- or make your own vegan feta! Online vegan recipes for feta seem to be plentiful, and many claim to taste just like the real thing.

Special Equipment

  • A sharp knife
  • A large serving bowl
  • A ramekin or small bowl

Method:

  1. Use a sharp knife to peel the cucumber and slice it in half length-ways. Neatly cut out the cucumber seeds, then chop the cucumber halves into thick half-moon slices.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks or wedges. Peel the red onion and cut it into thin slices. De-seed the pepper and chop it width-wise into thin rings. 
  3. Gently toss the cucumber, tomato, onion and pepper slices together with the olives and salt in a large serving bowl.
  4. Cut the feta into two or three large blocks and place these on top of the salad. 
  5. Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the oil and vinegar together. Then drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad, but don’t mix it in. 
  6. Sprinkle the oregano over the feta, and serve with crusty bread
  7. Kali Orexi!

Tips

  • Don’t add any leafy salad vegetables or lettuce leaves to the salad
  • Don’t crumble the feta over the salad or cut it up too small. Just lay one or two large blocks of uncut feta over the salad.
  • The salad ingredients should only be very lightly tossed together, and the vinaigrette should be gently poured over the salad and not mixed in.

Background

Pronunciation: /ˌhɔːrɪəˈtiːkɪ / (horr-eaah-tee-kee)

Origin: Greece

History

Horiatiki Salata means ‘Village’ or ‘Peasant’s’ Salad in Greek. This village food was traditionally eaten by Greek farmers, for whom the fresh salad ingredients were readily available.

The ancient Greek Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, put salad-based starters on Greek menus when he advised patients to eat more raw vegetables to aid digestion. But since the tomato, which is a key ingredient in Horiatiki, didn’t make its debut in Greece until the nineteenth century, the contemporary version of this popular salad can’t be quite that old! Europeans were initially skeptical of the South American tomato plant, due to its close relation to the potato plant whose fruit is poisonous. But because the tomato plant thrived on the volcanic soil of the Greek island Santorini, tomatoes quickly became an important component of Greek cuisine. As such, they were soon adapted into Horiatiki Salata.
Today, it’s common in Greece to eat salad with every meal. Horiatiki is eaten in the summer months, when fresh vegetables are inexpensive; it’s a popular lunchtime dish. Horiatiki might be internationally known as the Greek Salad, but there are many other types of salad to be found in Greece. These include regional varieties, potato salad, rocket salad and lettuce salad.

Santorini
Bgabel, GR-santorini-oia-2, 2012 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GR-santorini-oia-2.jpg&gt; [accessed 30/01/2020] (commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)