Tiramisu

My husband and I share a love for this dessert. If we find it on a restaurant menu alongside Creme Brûlée, we will usually order both and share! It’s definitely a bonus when you share the same food likes and dislikes with your spouse. 

At this time of year, this is one dessert I will make multiple times. It often graces a Christmas table and then again at a New Year function or casual BBQ with friends. 

For entertaining groups, I always make it in a large glass dish, it just seems to go further. 

If however, I only wanted to serve 6-8, I would serve it in individual glasses. 

This seemed to be the way the Europeans did it, when we ate our way through Italy and France back in June. 

My first Tiramisu was in Venice, and I still think was probably the best of the whole trip. It is thought that Venice is the home of Tiramisu, which means ‘pick me up’ or ‘cheer me up’ in Italian. It most definitely does that every time you eat it. I am not sure whether it’s the coffee or the alcohol 🙂 Thanks to my travel buddies for letting me photograph their food….again!

My second Tiramisu was in Tuscany, in the most gorgeous city of Pienza. A shout out goes to my friend Angela who is the hand model in this picture. 

My third Tiramisu was in Paris. Due to an over tired 5 year old, we decided to stay in our apartment for dinner that night, but my husband graciously went on a mission to find some dessert. He came back with a very funny story about how he had to convince the waitress to let him have the Tiramisu ‘take-away’ and that he promised to wash and return the dish the next day. Him speaking no French, and her not understanding much English, made this exchange quite memorable. We delivered the dish back to them the next day as promised!

My final Tiramisu was on our last night of the whole trip. We found ourselves in the cutest fishing village, Cassis (pronounced Kasi), in the South of France.

Vineyards grow on cliff faces, alongside centuries old chateaus. The area mainly produces rose` and white wine. The water was a brilliant aqua colour and looked stunning against the backdrop of the white limestone cliffs. 

There are so many variations of this wonderful dessert. Some people use gingerbread at this time of year. Other versions are frozen, which is great for summer time entertaining. Some people leave out the alcohol and just use coffee to make it kid friendly, others add chunks of chocolate in the biscuit layer.

The below recipe is from Karen Martini and is my favourite. 

I have added some photos here of each step to give you an idea of how easy it is. A shout out to my patient brother, who held this bowl so beautifully in the photos at our recent family gathering. 

Tiramisu
Serves 8
The classic Italian dessert of layered mascarpone, chocolate and soaked savoiardi biscuits.
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Ingredients
  1. 400ml espresso coffee
  2. 125ml marsala (sweet Italian wine, leave out if you wish)
  3. 50ml Kahlua
  4. 50ml brandy
  5. 2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  6. 5 eggs, separated
  7. 100 grams castor sugar
  8. 500 grams mascarpone
  9. 75 grams cocoa powder
  10. 100 grams dark chocolate, grated
  11. 200-300 grams savoiardi biscuits (you will use more or less depending on the size of your dish)
Instructions
  1. Chill one large glass dish in the fridge until needed (or 8 small glass dishes).
  2. In a large bowl, combine coffee, marsala, Kahlua, brandy and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, using electric beaters, beat the egg yolks and sugar until very light and thick (see picture).
  4. Fold the mascarpone through and set aside.
  5. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
  6. Fold egg white mixture into the mascarpone mixture.
  7. Dust the base of the glass bowl with cocoa and then sprinkle with some of the grated chocolate.
  8. Add some mascarpone mixture and spread in an even layer.
  9. Quickly dip biscuits, a few at a time, into the coffee mixture and place on top of the mascarpone mixture. (If you leave them in for too long, the biscuit will start to fall apart and the tiramisu will taste too soggy).
  10. Dust with cocoa and sprinkle with grated chocolate.
  11. Repeat layering, finishing with mascarpone.
  12. If you are making in advance, cover loosely with cling wrap at this stage and refrigerate until needed.
  13. Just before serving, dust with more cocoa and sprinkle with grated chocolate.
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And here is a happy snap of the 5 of us, on the last night of our holiday, with the lights of Cassis below us. Tired, make-up free, blissfully happy with the adventure we had been on over the previous 4 weeks, and ready for home. There’s really no place like it. 

 

 

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Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

I get so much joy out of sharing stories and recipes from my kitchen with you and yet, nights like tonight remind me why I am so very thankful you’re not actually here at dinner time with us. 

When I started this blog, I wrote a post called ‘Meal Time Madness’  and although that was nearly 3 years ago now, meal times are still just as mad. 

Here is a list of the most common things I would say on any given night at dinner time:

Your chair has 4 legs for a reason, please put them all on the floor.

Stop touching your brother. 

We don’t say that word in this house. 

Please don’t laugh when your brother says that word, it only encourages him. 

Don’t point a knife at your brother. 

Get out from under the table. 

Get back to the table.

Leave the table if you can’t behave. 

I don’t care if they say it at school, we don’t say it here.

Stop touching your brother. 

It’s someone else’s turn to speak, please listen.

We had your favourite last night. 

Yes, you have to eat all of it. 

There is no dessert.

What assignment is due tomorrow? How long have you known about it?

I don’t think that’s a nice name to call your teacher. 

Stop touching your brother. 

I said don’t swing on your chair. 

You are going to choke, please stop talking. 

Quick, put his hands above his head, someone get him some water! 

Please use your cutlery.

STOP TOUCHING YOUR BROTHER!

It’s a hands off policy at dinner, just like school. 

Don’t wave your knife around, you could stab somebody. 

Shhh, we are listening to how Dads day was.

Can you please help clear the table.

I know you did it last week, but it’s your turn again. 

You are about to spill your drink, please move your cup.

Can someone get the paper towel. 

I asked you to change so you wouldn’t get sauce on your school shirt. 

Please take off your shirt and put it in the laundry. 

One more piece of cauliflower and then you can leave the table. 

Any of those ring a bell with you? 

I truly believe that one of the most important things you need in parenting is PERSEVERANCE.

I love that word, but it conjures up images of sweat, tears, time, repetition, stress and tiredness. 

On any one of these discouraging yet normal nights, I picture going out to dinner with my grown sons in many years to come, enjoying their company, the food and wine and thinking ‘all those nights of the hard stuff was worth it after all.’

Let’s keep persevering friend xx

Slow Cooker Beef Ragu
Serves 6
A slow cooked tomato based sauce with tender beef, rosemary and garlic.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Total Time
5 hr 10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Total Time
5 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 kilogram chuck steak, fat trimmed, cut into chunky pieces
  2. 4 carrots, chopped into small rounds
  3. 1 leek, white part only, washed and chopped
  4. 1/2 cup red wine
  5. 1/4 cup tomato paste
  6. 400 gram tin of diced tomatoes
  7. 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  8. 2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
  9. a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary
  10. 3 garlic cloves, peeled, left whole
  11. To serve
  12. 500 gram packet of dried large shell pasta
  13. Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in the slow cooker, put the lid on and cook for 5-6 hours. (If your slow cooker has settings, LOW - 8 hours, HIGH - 4 hours).
  2. In the last 30 minutes, remove the lid and using 2 forks, shred the beef. If it is not falling apart, put the lid back on and cook a little longer.
  3. Cook the pasta according to packet directions, drain and toss into the slow cooker.
  4. Give everything a big stir and serve in bowls with fresh parmesan cheese and a side of steamed veggies or salad.
Notes
  1. Don't forget to remove the bay leaves and rosemary stalks before serving.
  2. The sauce can be frozen, without the pasta in it.
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Roasted Veg Salad (vegetarian)

We all have our list of ‘lazy meals’ that we go to when we can’t really bare to think anymore about what to feed the family. 

Although this salad looks a little fancy, it has become one of my ‘what to eat when I haven’t thought about what to eat’ meals. 

The beauty of this recipe, if you can indeed call it one, is that you roast whatever you have on hand or needs using up. The day I took these photos, it was tomatoes, capsicums, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and I threw some asparagus in for the last 5 minutes of roasting time.

But the options are endless – beetroot, pumpkin, leeks, onions, carrot, zucchini – if it’s in your fridge or cupboard, wash it, chop it into even chunky sized pieces and throw it on the tray. 

Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and scatter with  some fresh or dried herbs – rosemary, thyme or oregano are often my choice for veggies like these. 

If you cut them into small-ish chunks they should only take about 30 minutes in a 200 degree oven. 

I like to let them cool for a moment, before tumbling onto a platter of mixed salad leaves. You could leave it at this and it would be fabulous, or to snaz it up a bit, add some goats cheese or fetta. 

It is such a versatile dish – eat it on it’s own or alongside some protein like chicken, red meat or fish. 

I often try to do a little extra, because a container of these veggies, cold the next day makes for a quick and yummy lunch. 

Here’s to finding new inspiration to keep feeding our families without going mad!

E x

 

 

 

Florentines (gluten free)

I created this recipe a few weeks ago when I was asked to bring something for dessert to a friends house, whose family is mostly gluten free. 

As usual, it was after a forage in the pantry where I spied flaked almonds and craisins that needed using and suddenly the idea of a florentine biscuit came to mind. 

Because I have tried to create a refined sugar free version, you will find that the usual ‘toffee-like snap’ of a florentine isn’t there, but my taste testers assured me that it didn’t matter at all. They still taste like nuts and caramel and chocolate!

Putting a plate of these in the middle of the table at the end of big meal was just the perfect, not too sweet way, to finish. 

Florentines
Yields 20
A thin, chocolate coated biscuit of nuts and dried fruit.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 200 grams flaked almonds, finely chopped
  2. 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  3. 1/2 cup craisins, (dried cranberries) chopped
  4. pinch of sea salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
  6. 3 tablespoons gluten free plain flour
  7. 50 grams butter
  8. 2 tablespoons rice malt syrup
  9. 100 ml double cream
  10. Coating
  11. 100 grams good quality dark chocolate, (70-85%) chopped and melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat fan forced oven to 160 degrees celsius.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Place butter, rice malt syrup and double cream in a small saucepan.
  4. Stir until butter has melted and bring to the boil.
  5. Once boiling, pour over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  6. Leave mixture to sit for a few minutes.
  7. Place heaped teaspoon amounts on baking trays lined with baking paper. You many need to use your hands to help shape each circle.
  8. Flatten each one with your hand or the back of a spoon. I like mine thin, so no more than 1/2-1cm thick is good. Make sure you leave enough room for them to spread a little.
  9. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until spread a little and golden.
  10. Leave to cool completely on trays.
  11. Once cool, dip one side of each biscuit in melted chocolate and leave on a wire rack (with a tray underneath to catch the drips!) until set.
Notes
  1. Store biscuits in an airtight container for 3-4 days. They will get softer over time. If it's very hot, store them in the fridge.
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Torta Chocolate (and Tales from Tuscany)

Every now and then, dreams come true. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreamed of one day visiting Italy. There’s always been something about Italy that has had me captivated; it’s food, people and their love of big-hearted hospitality are just some of the things I love about it.

So, when we were invited to join some friends for a holiday to a Villa in Tuscany, it finally felt like the right time to pack up the family and head to Europe. 

Like everyone, we’ve had our fair share of holidays that haven’t quite lived up to expectations. 

But from the moment we landed, this one met and exceeded them at every turn. 

After 3 days in glorious Venice (recipes to come from there later), we headed to Tuscany and embarked on a week of sight seeing, walking, touring, eating, drinking and immersing ourselves in everything Italy. 

Our base was Villa Gourmet, an old but beautifully restored villa with ample space for our 3 families. Surrounded by acres of olive groves, vineyards and sunflower fields, this Villa felt like home from the moment we arrived. Most meals were eaten at the pool house, which had it’s own kitchen and wood fired pizza oven. 

We cycled through the walled city of Lucca, walked along the top of a 13th century Castle in Montalcino, wandered museums of Florence, and drank Prosecco looking over the fields of Tuscany. We tasted local olive oils, balsamic vinegar and wines and ate at restaurants with no menu where the owners just cooked what they loved and served it. 

We ate pizza, gelato, bruschetta, seafood and the famous Florentine Steak that Tuscany is known for. After long days out touring, evenings were spent with antipasto and wine by the pool where the kids swam until the sun went down, just after 10pm!

On an extra special day, which had been planned by my sneaky friends as a surprise for my 40th birthday (which happened to fall while we were away), we found ourselves Truffle hunting in the woods. 

We were then driven to the beautiful home and vineyards of a family who welcomed the 14 of us into their home and proceeded to cook us a 5 course lunch, with our truffles as a star ingredient. 

We ate Truffled Ravioli (the likes of which I may never have again), Truffled Burrata, and the most amazing veal I have ever had with a truffle sauce. 

When we truly felt we could eat no more, our hosts brought this slim yet decadent Chocolate cake to the table. Named ‘Torta Chocolate’, it is made with 5 ingredients and cooks in just 9 minutes. It is a rich and velvety cake, that looks quite humble, and yet is decadent to eat. 

The Italians we met and ate with on our trip truly welcomed us with a warmth and generosity of spirit that you don’t find everywhere. Their attitude is that life and food is to be celebrated and enjoyed, not just on special occasions, but on even the most ordinary of days. 

Our beautiful hosts happily shared their recipe with me and here I am, passing it on to you. My hope is that you will cook it for a stranger or a friend sometime soon and spend some time with those people, celebrating life around a table.  

Torta Chocolate
Serves 8
A rich, velvety chocolate cake that cooks in 9 minutes.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 150 grams butter
  3. 250 grams good quality dark chocolate (minimum 50% cocoa solids, 70% works the best)
  4. 1 tablespoon sugar
  5. 1 tablespoon plain flour (this also works with gluten free flour or almond meal)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius or 160 degrees fan forced.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together, either in the microwave, 1 minute at a time, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth and combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined round cake tin (approx 23cm) or the size of a dinner plate. It is supposed to be very thin.
  5. Cook for 9 minutes.
  6. As all ovens are a little different, at this stage you can check by moving the pan gently. The cake should be set on the outside, but have a very slight wobble right in the centre. Remove it from the oven at this stage and it will set further as it cools.
  7. If it doesn't seem set enough, put it back in for 2 minutes more and check again.
  8. Dust with cocoa or icing sugar to serve and enjoy on it's own or with double cream and berries.
Notes
  1. This cake can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
  2. If you do happen to over cook it, it will still be edible, but will taste more 'cake' like instead of velvety and smooth.
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