Caramel Tiramisu.

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If you’re of Italian descent, look away now.  I’m going to share a recipe for tiramisu, but not as you know it.

It would probably be fair to describe Italy’s cuisine as the most popular in the world.  Can the contribution of pizza really be surpassed?  I think not.  Perhaps most appealing is the versatility of Italian dishes.  The U.S has taken the basic concept of pizza and taken it to another level, though sometimes with questionable results and much to the horror of Italians, I’m sure.

Today, Italian flags are used to sell all kinds of food products in a bid to attract those with an eye (and a palate) for the authentic.  Italian food is predominantly marketed by relying heavily on tradition and the heritage of the food in question.  It seems that the public would much rather buy food with a long history and preferably a lineage that guarantees reliable production techniques and a family feel to the branding.

I can certainly identify with that preference.  Buying from a family-run company with history and heart makes for a much more satisfying purchase.  However, you can have too much of a good thing.

Bound into the long-standing traditions of many an Italian recipe, are conservative attitudes that can border on severe.  What is a traditional pizza?  When is a pizza not a pizza?  What is the definitive recipe for [insert popular Italian dish with highly disputed ingredients and/or cooking methods]?  At one time, questions like these would have mattered to me.  However, I’ve eaten enough to know that in the end, what matters most is the taste.

For some, twists, variations, innovations and improvements are unacceptable in certain recipes.  Much to the chagrin of any conservative Italian readers, I would like to share a recipe that would not perhaps qualify as a tiramisu in certain circles.  You can call my recipe whatever makes you happy.  I call it my Caramel Tiramisu and it’s about as good as a pudding gets.

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Caramel Tiramisu

250g mascarpone cheese

395g sweetened condensed milk

2 Daim bars

6 sponge fingers

4 shots of espresso

20ml caramel syrup

cocoa powder for dusting

I made 3 individual pots using the quantities shown above.  Daim bars are widely available in the UK and parts of Europe, but may not be easy to find in America.  They are a buttery almond caramel coated in milk chocolate and they’re delicious!

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I used an electric mixer to blend the condensed milk and mascarpone cheese in a bowl.  I used a pestle and mortar to crush the Daim bars into a caramel rubble and then stirred them into the cheese mixture.

Next, I put the coffee in a shallow bowl, stirred in the caramel syrup and dipped the sponge fingers in.  If you let them soak up too much coffee, they’ll be very soggy.  I used two sponge fingers for each individual pot.  To begin with, I broke a sponge finger in half and pushed it into the base of the pot.  Then I added a big layer of the cheese mixture and gave it a good dusting with the cocoa powder.  I then put another layer of sponge finger on top and repeated with the cheese mixture and plenty of cocoa powder to finish.

The pots went into the fridge overnight.  You have a choice:  You can eat the tiramisu immediately and the Daim bar pieces will be crunchy OR you can do what I did.  Wait until the pots have been in the fridge overnight and then enjoy the caramel swirls created by the Daim bar pieces that have dissolved.  This creates a truly delicious treat!

A warning- this is an extremely sweet pudding.  If you prefer a lighter dessert, you may wish to double up the quantity of mascarpone.  Yes, that will increase your yield, but it will also make the result less rich.  It goes without saying that I would not dream of doing any such thing.

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No bake chocolate cake.

I can only apologise for the delay in food action this week.  Preparation for my baby boy’s baptism have given me little or no time to get close to my beloved oven.

There’s no way that I can resist making something, so it was a real guilty treat to knock together my no bake chocolate.  Essentially, it is nothing more than melted chocolate and some tasty bits, but it does the trick.

No oven, no special techniques or weird ingredients.  Just plenty of chocolate and a gorgeous cake in no time at all.  Been promising to try a recipe out, but not had the time?  Perhaps this is the one for you.  Enjoy!

No bake chocolate cake

250g dark chocolate

230g butter

200g chocolate digestive biscuits

60g demerara sugar

4 tblspoons black coffee

100g pecans

100g glace cherries

100g mini marshmallows

half tspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter, chocolate and sugar together in a pan and then stir in the vanilla extract.  Crush the biscuits, but not too finely.  Plenty of biscuit chunks is what you’re looking for.  (Plain digestives work just fine, but I’ll take any excuse to get more chocolate into the recipe!)

Stir the biscuits and cherries and pecans into the chocolate.  Add the marshmallows last so that they don’t melt into the chocolate, but keep their shape.

Tip the mixture into a lined loaf tin and place in the fridge until it is set.  Cut thin slices and serve with coffee.

 

Some like it lukewarm.

There’s one part of English culture which I have never taken to and which I still feel alienated from even after many years of being a British citizen.  I’ve become a big fan of pies, I’ve eaten fish and chips by the seaside, I enjoy a nice pint of bitter and a packet of pork scratchings at the pub and I can queue with the best of them.  Even so, I know in my heart that I’ll never be truly accepted because I am not a tea drinker.

The truth of it is that I don’t like hot drinks.  I never have.  Quite honestly, I don’t particularly enjoy anything that is hot.  Don’t get me wrong, I want my food cooked through, but I just won’t eat it until it has cooled down considerably.  It’s the same with hot drinks.  My uncle won’t touch a cup of coffee unless it is so hot that you can melt gold in it.  For me, the very idea of trying to eat or drink hot things evokes memories of burning the roof of my mouth and seeing the sore, tiny bumps on my tongue after biting over-zealously into a toastie oozing molten cheese.  This aversion to heat has prevented me from participating in the daily tea-drinking ceremonies that the English rely on for comfort and as a vehicle for chat and gossip.

Travel, however, broadens the palate as well as the mind.  Time spent in Hong Kong got me semi-addicted to iced lemon tea and I’d grown up adoring frappe.  It was not until a visit to Hungary that I decided to be a little more open-minded. Coffee seems to fuel most activity in Europe and has done for some time.  Sitting outside a cafe with a cup of something hot, dark and sweet is the only way to people-watch in Hungary.  A short stay in the town of Szeged prompted me to do just that one warm evening.  I was delighted by the intensity of the coffee and the satisfying warmth that filled my body.  I began to drink coffee on a daily basis after that.  It felt like a real treat and one that I began looking forward to more and more.  By the time we had returned from our trip, I was buying fresh coffee grounds to fill our cafetière and eagerly looking forward to my next cup.

Of course, I still can’t drink it when it is piping hot; I wait a little for it to cool.  Dunking Lotus biscuits into the coffee helps pass the time.  I stare into the black, swirling liquid and breathe in the tempting aroma.  “Where have you been all my life?” I ask.  The answer is, right in front of my big Greek nose.  I only drink it once a week, but boy do I look forward to it.  Saturday morning, I get out the Lotus biscuits, I set out my Fairtrade mug and I take my time preparing the coffee.  I make a point of buying only Fairtrade coffee and I choose the strongest available.  I figure, if I’m only drinking it once a week, it’s worth doing it properly.  I’m still the only person in the room who doesn’t say, “Ooh, yes please!” when everyone is offered “a brew”, but I’m used to the raised eyebrows denoting slight suspicion.  Hot drinks just aren’t my cup of tea.