Tiramisù . . . Chocolate Orange Version

Chocolate Orange Tiramisu

Ingredients

2 Eggs
250g/8 oz Mascarpone
A packet of Savoiardi (Lady Fingers)
2 Tablespoons of Sugar
50g Dark Chocolate
2 Tbsp Chocolate Milk Powder
200ml whole milk
100g White Chocolate
Zest from one Orange

Instructions

  • Put the whole milk and chocolate milk powder in a saucepan and heat gently. Add the orange zest and once mixed simmer for a couple of minutes then take off the heat and leave to cool. Strain to remove the zest.
  • Chop the chocolate finely. Do not grate. The texture adds to the dish.
  • Separate the eggs into yolks and whites.
  • Add a tiny pinch of salt to the whites. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Set aside.
  • Beat the egg yolks with the sugar to form a creamy paste. Add the mascarpone and stir. Gently fold in the egg whites. Set aside.
  • Dip each lady finger in the chocolate milk/orange mix to soak (not too much . . . they shouldn’t be soggy). Arrange the soaked biscuits into one layer in a serving dish.
  • Once you have the layer of soaked biscuits cover with a layer of the cream mix.
  • Sprinkle with the chocolate. Repeat the process until the dish is full.
  • In each layer you could also add a few pieces of caramelised orange zest (see below*). This adds a little crunch to contrast with the all the cream and adds more ornage flavour to the dish.
  • Finish by decorating with a couple of slices of orange.
  • Cool in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.
  • Please note that this is a dish that should be eaten the same day that it is made as it is made with raw eggs and other dairy products.

*Optional: Caramelised Orange Zest: In a saucepan put 20ml water, 2 tbsp sugar and the zest of one
orange. Heat gently until the sugar melts then becomes a syrup. Take off the heat, seive so that you are
left with the sticky zest. Place the zest on parchment paper on a tray then put in the oven for an hour on
a very low heat. Leave to cool and you’ll have crunchy pieces of zest which you can then crumble and
add into your tiramisù layers. It can be kept in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks so can be made in
advance.

Serves 4 – 6

Tiramisù al Limone/Limoncello

Limoncello Tiramisu

Ingredients

2 Eggs
250g/8 oz Mascarpone
A packet of Savoiardi (Lady Fingers)
2 Tablespoons of Sugar
Zest of 1 Lemon
Lemon Pulp “Vesicles”
200ml whole milk
100g White Chocolate
10ml & 1 tsp of Limoncel

Instructions

  • Put the whole milk and 10ml of Limoncello in a dish.
  • Chop the chocolate finely. Do not grate. The texture adds to the dish.
  • Separate the eggs into yolks and whites.
  • Add a tiny pinch of salt to the whites. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff.
    Set aside.
  • Beat the egg yolks with the sugar to form a creamy paste. Add the mascarpone and stir. Add the teaspoon of limoncello and mix in. Gently fold in the egg whites. Set aside.
  • Dip each lady finger in the milk/limoncello mix to soak (not too much . . . they shouldn’t be soggy). Arrange the soaked biscuits into one layer in a serving dish.
  • Once you have the layer of soaked biscuits cover with a layer of the cream mix. Sprinkle with the white chocolate. Repeat the process until the dish is full.
  • In each layer add a few vesicles of pulp from the lemon (literally the single teardop pieces of lemon). Just a very few in each layer to add a burst of acidity which contrasts with the sweetness of the biscuits and the cream and chocolate.
  • Finish by decorating with a couple of slices of lemon.
  • Cool in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.
  • Please note that this is a dish that should be eaten the same day that it is made as it is made with raw eggs and other dairy products.

Serves 4 – 6

Tiramisù alla Frutta

Fruit Tiramisu

Ingredients

2 Eggs
250g/8 oz Mascarpone
A packet of Savoiardi (Lady Fingers)
2 Tablespoons of Sugar
100g Fresh Fruit
100ml Fresh Fruit Juice
Shot of Desert Wine / Liquor

Instructions

  • I usually make my own mixed fresh fruit juice (with a juicer), using some of the chosen fruit for the tiramisù, some oranges and any other fruit I have on hand.
  • Otherwise use a ready made mixed juice.
  • Add the desert wine/liquor to the juice.
  • Slice your fresh fruit, set aside. This recipe works best with fruits that are a little tart such as strawberries, pineapple, raspberries.
  • Separate the eggs into yolks and whites.
  • Add a tiny pinch of salt to the whites. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Set aside.
  • Beat the egg yolks with the sugar to form a creamy paste. Add the mascarpone and stir. Fold in the egg whites. Set aside.
  • Dip each lady finger in the juice mix to soak. Arrange the soaked biscuits into one layer in a serving dish.
  • Once you have the layer of soaked biscuits cover with a layer of the cream mix. Now do a layer with the sliced fresh fruit. Repeat the process until the dish is full.
  • Finish with a fruit layer on top. Cover with cling film.
  • Cool in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.
  • Please note that this is a dish that should be eaten the same day that it is made as it is made with raw eggs.

Serves 4 – 6

Taste Tuscany Tiramisù variations

We’ve been experimenting this year with Tiramisù, creating alternative flavours to the classic coffee. The basic cream remains unchanged and the structure of the Tiramisù too, but we’ve got some great new combinations for dunking the savoiardi (lady fingers) and layering between the cream and biscuits.

Why not have a go – recipes here below – and if you’re feeling adventurous try out some ideas of your own and let us know if you come up with something delicious!

Fruit Tiramisu

 

Limoncello Tiramisu

Chocolate Orange Tiramisu

 

 

Food Photography & Styling

So I needed to take a new photo of the Crostini with Sausage and Cheese for the web site and with my current mission to improve my food photography I set about styling the food and playing with light. I found a board that I liked, prepared the food and set up on my terrace table. I tried so many different arrangements but nothing struck me as quite right.

Food Photography

Food Photography – Crostini con Salsiccia

I used a foil tart tin to be a reflector and that aspect was surprisingly satisfying. Working remotely via the ipad to take the photos I did have enough hands to stand with my “reflector” and move the natural light where it needed to be.

Half way through I got very frustrated and started eating the crostini! After that I actually started to like my shots, adding in a crust, some crumbs and then playing with the position of the cheese and tomatoes until I finally got the photo above. It’s far from perfect but I think I got good light and you get the idea of what there is to eat.

I’m voraciously reading blogs and photography web sites for information about food photography and have come across two great ones so far:

www.twolovesstudio.com – Australian photographer Rachel who takes amazing photos and has endless tips and info for people looking to improve on their food photography.

I’m putting together the styling kit Rachel recommends and pieces are already proving essential .. tweezers, brushes and so on. For major camera kit items my shopping list this week includes a new Macro Lens and an arm for the tripod for overhead shots.

https://www.foodphotographyclub.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFoodPhotographyClub/ – membership club on facebook (plus web site above) – lots of excellent feedback and information here too.

I’ve got White Balance on my list of technical aspects to study and learn – a great article and videos from this Club from Cristina for that.

It’s a steep learning curve for this aspect of photography but I’m loving it!

Stuffed Zucchini

StuffedZucchini

So my third recipe in the zucchini series is Stuffed Zucchini. This was super tasty. I used fresh Italian sausage, chopped zucchini, plus salt and pepper to season. Mix everything together and fry in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes (I added a little water to keep everything soft). With the zucchini slice lengthwise and scrape out a little of the middle leaving a quarter centimeter edge all round. Place in a baking tray, fill with cooked filling, add a little soft cheese of your preference, cover lightly with baking paper add put in a pre-warmed oven 180° for twenty minutes. Serve warm from the oven.

StuffedZucchini2

Photographs were taken pre-cooked. A long long time spent arranging and photographing for an overhead shot but I eventually reverted to my usual style and much prefer the last shot I took which is the top photo here.

 

Local Butcher

I live here in Tuscany and have been here for fourteen years. It’s a stones throw from Montalcino but my nearest hub is actually a place nobody has ever heard of, called Buonconvento. Population of approx. 3000. Sits on the Via Cassia, the old main road between Siena and Rome.

One of my favourite features is the local butcher run by the Orlandi family which you can find on Via Roma. The meat is excellent quality but the best value for money as far as I’m concerned are the ready prepared meals. We’re not talking processed food .. far from it. It’s things like juicy chicken breasts that have been marinaded in herbs and spices, ready to grill, or the home made meat ragù that you can use for your lasagna.

So if you’re staying in this area and are planning a meal or too in the comfort of your villa this is the place to shop. You can even get your eggs, some local cheeses and other local specialities here.

Another aspect that they’re pursuing and having a huge success with is a roving BBQ – the classic Ape “car” has been converted to house a custom BBQ/Grill and they’ll arrive at your place and cook their meat for you on site. What a fab way to host a dinner party!

16806997_730927040400380_2949295792645659089_n

You can find them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BRACIAPE/

Crostini with Mushrooms

CrostiniFunghi1

Have found a fantastic food blog/photography website written by an Australian girl – www.two-loves.com. Beautiful photos and lots of amazing advice. Used some basic advice on props (interesting) and background (minimal) and did a couple of photos that I really love for today’s recipe…. Crostini with Funghi (Mushrooms).

Super easy this one – chop a handful of parsley with a clove of garlic and start cooking in a pan with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Peel and chop mushrooms and add to the pan. Salt and pepper to season. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, for ten/twelve minutes. Top your baguette slices with the mushrooms and serve. You can add a little mozzarella to each one and put in the oven for another ten minutes (180°c) – optional.

CrostiniFunghi2

Brains!

brains

One of the many things I love about my job are the people I meet. I’m living in what lots of guests say is everyone’s “Dream” i.e. under the Tuscan Sun! And I’d be the first to say that it’s a beautiful place to have landed and stayed in. However I am in the middle of nowhere in a tiny village of 20 houses and the next biggest town is still only 3000 inhabitants so it’s a little restricted at times with regard to conversation and variety. With the regular guests from the US, UK, Canada, Australia … and so on I have a little peek each day into other lives and other realities. It’s so much fun to talk to everyone about what they do, where they live and where they are traveling/have traveled (my favorite topic!).

This year is proving to be very interesting indeed. One of my favorite days so far was with two Australian gentlemen. They’d left their wives in Chianti to ride horses and came to me for two days of good food and wine.

We’d been talking on the first day about flavors and textures and the subject of brains came up – not intelligence but the eating thereof! I was told that if I could procure a brain they would cook it for me during the lesson next day. I’m always up for a challenge so trotted off to my local (and excellent (more on them another day) butcher) and happily purchased the single sheep’s brain that they had on sale.

So in the middle of cooking very typical Tuscan food .. Pici Pasta, Pesto etc … the various ingredients for a stock (carrots, onion and celery) were chopped finely to make a light broth (boiled for 15 mins). In the meantime capers and basil were diced and chopped and a lemon was sliced. The brain was rinsed and popped into the boiling broth for exactly four minutes. Drained, sliced and plated on the bed of capers and basil, lemon squeezed over the top and tasting spoons at the ready.

I have to interject at this point that my cook Paola was very dubious of the whole process – a good Italian will never admit 1) that anyone outside Italy can cook or 2) that there is anything good outside of Italy to eat. I was jollying her along saying that she must at least taste for politeness sake.

My first taste and I was so happy. It was the consistency of soft foie gras and the tart flavours of the capers and lemon gave it a lovely zing.

Paola took her taste and immediately said she’d be trying it again the next evening for guests at home!

A success all round.

Even the plating was beautiful. Gotta love those Aussies!

Savoury Zucchini Tart .. and taking food photos!

zucchinetart

So I got another zucchini recipe underway yesterday … Savoury Zucchini Tart. I chose some of the smaller zucchini from the veggie garden and chopped fine rings. Into a pan with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a splash of water, a lid on top and let them simmer and sweat down until al dente. Leave the lid off for the last couple of minutes for the liquids to evaporate and then set aside to cool. Prepare a puff pastry in a dish (I usually go for round) with parchment paper underneath. Beat an egg in a bowl and add 2 tbs of grated parmeggiano and the zucchini. mix well and then spread into pastry base. Fold edges of pastry and baste lightly with egg wash (or milk). I sometimes add some small cubes of brie on top which melt into the zucchini. With beautiful fresh sweet zucchini I didn’t do this today – no need. A little more grated parmeggiano on top doesn’t go amiss, before putting into a preheated oven (180°c/350°F) for 15/20 mins.

zucchinetarttriangles

It took as much time photographing the tart after making it as it did to make it, if not more! It’s an aspect of photography that I’m trying to improve on (people/portraits are more my forte). Here are my best results… am now researching a good food photography course to take!

zucchineslices