Vegetarian impromptu: Courgetti with mushrooms and smoked scamorza cheese

FotorCreated.jpgA funny fridge-emptier, quickly prepared and very tasty. Vegetarian spaghetti, in this case spiralised courgettes, are just a good excuse to have a weird vegetable pencil-sharpener in the kitchen. It is useful if you feel lazy to prep. I had a few vegetables left in the fridge and Portabellini mushrooms are a good combination with the scamorza cheese which I had bought last week–and forgot about (how?!?). I added half a boiled egg for the sake of colour, mainly, and I apologise to those vegetarians who do not eat eggs. This dish would taste as good also without the egg.

The sweet, nutty flavour of the Portabellini mushrooms sings a tasty duet with the smoked scamorza. This is a simple yet fine cheese. It originates in southern Italy, even though my favourite one comes from the central regions like Marche, Abruzzo, and Molise. These regions still remain lands of real famers and you can always go around the countryside and find some fresh scamorza. I love its texture, thick and yet soft, almost spongey and chewy. In the large cheese family, scamorza sits between mozzarella and caciocavallo, and it is prepared with cow milk and warm water. The smoked version is slightly almondy, alabaster coloured, and with a thicker skin than the normal white scamorza, but equally filante–our word for stringy. A truly generous ingredient.

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Courgette spaghetti with mushrooms and scamorza (serves 2)

2 courgettes
250 g mushrooms
100 g scamorza cheese
25 g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
a few sage leaves
1 clove of garlic
(1/2 boiled egg)

Melt the butter in a frying pan on middle heat while you chop the washed mushrooms. I sliced them longitudinally rather than dicing them because they cook better and look nicer. Add the garlic either cleaned and chopped or still unpeeled. When the butter is starting to foam, add the sliced mushrooms and the sage. Cook at medium heat for about 6-7 minutes.

While the mushrooms get cooked, prepare the courgetti–or simply finely slice the courgettes with a mandoline slicer. Add the courgette extra bits remaining from the cutting to the mushrooms and cook together for another 2-3 minutes at high heat. Meanwhile, quickly cook the courgetti in a frying pan with the tbsp of oil at mid-high heat.

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Start serving with a larger nest of your courgetti, on top of which you line a layer of thinly cut scamorza slices. Place the mushrooms still hot on top of the cheese slices, in the middle of your courgetti nest. Add a few scamorza flakes and, eventually, half a boiled egg.

by Max

Jerusalem artichoke soup with leek and shallot

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Due to the snowy spring we are getting here in Europe, I am posting this soup I made in January, before Maria and I started our blog. It might be uneasy to find Jerusalem artichokes after March/April, but if you can get them, have a go! This is simply gorgeous stuff. It takes a bit of time, but it will reward you. Fully.

These tubers were already used by natives in north America and arrived in Europe from Brasil in the 1600s, via Portuguese importers. They then spread across western Europe quite quickly. Their name possibly comes from the misunderstanding of ‘girasole‘, sunflower in Italian, which resembles the word Jerusalem, as said by Italian immigrants in north America.

On the outside, Jerusalem artichokes look like ginger roots, but when you open them, they glow with a unique nacreous shine. Also their taste holds charming secrets, starting from a starch-less, soft potatoey crunch moving to a bitter-sweet nutty finish. I have tried them sautéed or roasted as a side dish, but this time I wanted something comforting, warm, and focused on their peculiar flavour. And in these days, I could really use them again to chase this cold away…

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‘[…retire therefore,] November, depart from this April!’

Jerusalem artichoke soup (serves 4)

500 g Jerusalem artichokes
1 shallot
1 leek
1/2 l vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
a few rose petals

Start washing the tubers and scrub the bulgy edges with a potato peeler. Put them with one tbsp of oil in hot oven at 180°C/160ºC fan/gas 4 for about 30 minutes. When baked, take out and leave to cool at room temperature.

Meanwhile, finely chop the shallot and the leek, and pan fry them in a pot with one tbsp of oil at low heat. Let them slowly turn golden. When the Jerusalem artichokes have cooled down, peel them one by one–the skin will easily come off at this point. Dice them and add to the vegetable base in the frying pan, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, according to how big you have chopped them.

Remove from fire and blend together with warm vegetable stock. Don’t overdo the blending or you will lose the texture of the Jerusalem artichokes. Before serving, warm the soup again in the pot for a few minutes, drizzle with fresh olive oil, and decorate with the rose petals. This will warm you up.

by Max

Naughty pork fillet medallions in ginger and white wine sauce

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This is a quick and naughty version of a Parmesan dish called ‘La Rosa di Parma’, which is usually made with beef fillet, staffed with prosciutto crudo, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and cooked in a red wine sauce. To make my properly naughty version, I wrapped pork fillet in unsmoked streaky bacon and sage, I cooked it in white wine and ginger sauce, and served with pan-fried pak choi, fresh fennel, and maple syrup crispy bacon. I did say it is naughty, but in no way this dish will ever leave you disappointed or hungry at all. The dish comes from a mix of traditional Italian food, with some Anglicised flavours, and Asian ingredients. It would be difficult to put a pin on it; better to use a fork instead.

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This naughty pork fillet/tenderloin is pretty easy to prepare and takes reasonably little time. The hardest part was to find the cooking string, which I had to mooch off the butcher’s desk at my local supermarket. The ingredients are easily obtainable, at least here in London, almost any time of the year.

The original dish, La Rosa di Parma, is one of the town’s symbols, usually appearing on important occasion tables–that’s why it is made with expensive ingredients like the beef fillet, prosciutto crudo, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Lambrusco red wine, and Marsala wine. It truly encapsulates the city’s imperial heritage of Marie Louise in some of its endemic flavours, except the Marsala, of course. I opted for a more cost-contained version, still retaining some of the typical Parmesan ingredients.

I had to cheat using unsmoked bacon, because there was no pancetta, but their preparation remains similar enough to give you almost the same taste. I chose to prepare the pork with white wine and ginger, instead of red and Marsala wines, because this meat calls for a milder dressing than the beef fillet. Fennel and pak choi followed the same rationale to avoid overpowering the dish or covering the delicate intensity of this pork cut. The final taste is a soft, sweet pork main, glazed by a thin, spicy wine sauce, accompanied by a fresh green bite, candied up by the bacon crisps.

Naughty pork fillet medallions (serves 3)

1 pork fillet (whole)
12 unsmoked streaky bacon rashers
a few sage leaves
cooking string
2 tbsp olive oil
15 g butter
2 glasses of white wine
30 g fresh ginger
1 tbsp maple syrup

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Start with sealing the whole fillet on a hot pan with 1 tbsp of oil and the butter, at medium heat for about 5 minutes. Take it off the pan when it is golden all around and starting to get brown. Slice the fillet into medallions of the same thickness, about 3-4 cm–unless you need to serve some more cooked than others: in that case, slice accordingly.

Wrap each medallion with one rasher of unsmoked bacon (or one pancetta rasher, if you can find it), four or five sage leaves, and tighten all together with the cooking string. Once all medallions are prepared, put them back into the hot pan with your second tbsp of olive oil, at medium heat.

After a few minutes, when one side of the medallions is turning brown, raise to high heat, flip them cooked-side-up, and wash with the first glass of wine till reduced. Then lower again to medium heat and cook for another few minutes. When also the second side is cooked, repeat the reduction process with the second glass of wine. Add the ginger now, which you have pealed and sliced, with a couple of shallot rings that you will not serve.

In the meantime, you can start preparing the remaining bacon rashers in another frying pan. You will add the maple syrup only at the end, after you added salt and they are cooked on both sides. The syrup will caramelise the bacon and get it crunchy like a crisp. Slice the washed fennel, and start preparing the pak choi, washing it and separating the leaves.

Once the pork is cooked on both sides, the bacon wrap should also be pink ready. Take the medallions off the pan, leave the remaining sauce to char the pak choi in a couple of minutes at high heat. Serve hot. Eat. And feel guiltily satisfied. Naughty…

by Max

Vegetarian impromptu: warm potato peperonata

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A sunny Sunday in London is a gift, particularly for any Italian guy. And sun makes you want to eat simple, colourful food. The kitchen was pretty much empty, so this happened. An avocado helped keeping the stomach busy while I was preparing the potato peperonata for main course.

First, I cut in half an avocado and dressed with salt, oil, and three drops of balsamic vinegar. I like to eat it off its skin with a spoon–apologies to Pixar’s Wall-e fans, no robot was harmed in feeding this human…

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This simplest amuse-bouche gave me time and energy to see what else could be done with the few ingredients left in the kitchen. I found a few new potatoes and three red peppers, a couple of almond flakes (leftovers from the courgette pesto risotto), and I always have some Parmigiano-Reggiano in my fridge. Enough to prepare a lighter version of peperonata.

Originally, this Sicilian dish was a simple sauté mix of peppers cooked with onions and tomato sauce, something you would have had with bread pretty much, and nothing else. It is a dish that then started to be used on the side of meat and even as a pasta sauce, but its humble origins confirm it was meant to be eaten alone, till you were stuffed. This version is stripped of the heavier base and finds potatoes as a good substitute for the bread. I cooked it in the oven in a little more than half hour.

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Potato peperonata (serves 2)

500 g new potatoes
3 red peppers
20 g Parmigiano-Reggiano
a few almond flakes
2 tbsp oil

Start washing, drying, and cutting the peppers. Lay the pepper slices on an over tray lined with foil, add some salt on the peppers, and leave in hot oven on grill (240°C/gas 9) for about 6-7 minutes. They will lose some water and get a little firmer.

Meanwhile, wash, dry, and cut potatoes. Lay them cut-face up and add a pinch of salt. Take the peppers out of the oven, add the potatoes, and mix all together with the oil.

Place the tray in hot oven at 220°C/gas 7 for about 30 minutes. You can give the vegetables a quick toss during their cooking, but keep the oven closed and hot all the time.

Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and flaked almonds. Eat it hot, warm, or even cold. And remember to enjoy the sun!

by Max

Sweet Treats: Chocolate & Pomegranate tart

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Chocolate is easy to combine with most fruits and I particularly love the combination of the rich red pomegranate and the dark chocolate. This tart is fairly rich, so be warned, you might want to eat it in one go. I was also taken by shortcrust pastry and how easy it is to make. Adding various colours and also flavour to the pastry makes it more personal. My hands are always cold so I don’t have to ever worry about melting the butter. You can use this basic recipe for sweet and also for savoury tarts. Feel free to replace it with one bought in a shop (you will need about 350 g).

When making the filling, remember that chocolate tends to fall down to the base. So ensure you mix it very well bringing the chocolate from the bottom of the bowl.

Sweet Treats: Chocolate and Pomegranate Tart (serves 8-10)

For the shortcrust pastry
200 g plain flour
100 g cold butter, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp of cold water
red or pink food colouring

For the chocolate filling
100 g dark chocolate and 100  of white chocolate
6 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs and 3 egg yolks
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 pomegranate and cocoa powder to for dusting

To make shortcrust pastry, toss and coat cubes of butter with flour, then with your fingertips rub the butter into the flour until it forms breadcrumbs. Shake the bowl every now and then to allow larger cubes come to the surface. Add water and food colouring, keep mixing with a rounded knife which will prevent transferring heat from your hands to the dough. Finally, gather the dough with you hands and kneed on lightly floured surface until you have a smooth ball. Roll out the dough on a flat surface to a slightly larger size than the tart tin (around 5 cm extra). Carefully place pastry on the rolling pin and transfer to the tin. Press lightly into the corners ensure not air bubbles are left on the base of the tin. Chill for 20-30 minutes.

Heat the oven for 200°C (or 180°C fan/gas 6). Prick the base of the tart with a fork to create holes. Place baking parchment on the pastry and fill with baking beans to weight it down. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and put back into the oven for another 5 minutes. Once the pastry is done, trim the edges so they are nice and smooth. Use a sharp knife to prevent breaking big chunks of pastry.

To prepare the filling, lower the oven to 180°C (or 160°C fan/gas 4). Melt both dark and white chocolate in a bowl over slightly simmering water. Then stir the melted butter. Whisk the eggs and sugar together with electric whisk until pale and thick. This would take about 10 minutes. Be patient: if the eggs are not whisked enough, then the mixture will not rise in the oven. Fold in the melted and cooled chocolate with a large spoon. Mix very carefully so you will not knock out the air. Transfer into the tart tin and put into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the surface of the tart is puffed and set. The tart will still have a bit of a wobble. Take out of the oven and allow to cool down. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Once ready to be served sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and cocoa powder.

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by Maria

Courgette pesto risotto with almond flakes and pine kernels

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Risotto is a vital part of my food. It says heritage and cooking experience to me. The options are always many, the last one was a fresh discovery. This risotto is cooked in courgette pesto and its flavour makes it a light, green-tasting new tint for me. The courgettes are prepared raw with cheese and some nuts, and then cooked with the rice. It takes little time to prepare and it is worth it.

Italian food has honoured courgette for centuries, literally. Arriving in Europe with the ingredients from the ‘New World’, courgettes were at the beginning confused for the European pumpkin, which was already widely diffused. Already in the seventeenth century, Italian courgettes from Modena were renowned for their versatility in the kitchen and for apothecaries uses.

Courgettes are the kind of vegetables that you go and get from the garden at home, and that is why they are prepared in so many ways, from vernacular roots to a posh finish, across Italy’s many local traditions. This version is geographical catch, because risotto is typically cooked in Piedmont, Lombardy, and Veneto, pesto comes from Liguria, and green courgettes are equally diffused north and south of the Boot.

Courgette pesto risotto (serves 4)

400 g rice Carnaroli–ideally, otherwise Arborio
1 l vegetable broth
1 glass of white wine
1 shallot
200 g courgette
20 g basil
1 clove of garlic
20 g pine kernels
10 g almond flakes
50 g goat cheese
oil

Start with washing the courgettes, cut extremities off, and shave each one at a time through a grater. Add a pinch of salt and let them drain some liquid.

Wash the basil leaves and blend with pine kernels, almonds, the cleaned garlic clove, and a tablespoon of oil–keep a few nuts for the serving decoration. Add the courgettes and another bit of oil. Your pesto has to look and feel soft and even.

Warm the oil in the pan, add chopped shallot till golden, and then raise the fire to toast the rice. After the first few minutes, the rice starts to lightly toast and smell very ‘cerealy’: add now the wine and let it reduce. Lower the fire and let cook for about 18 minutes adding the broth from time to time. Add your courgette pesto at the end with the very last bit of broth. Instead of creaming with butter, add the goat cheese and mix.

Serve with a sprinkle of the remaining pine kernels and almond flakes.

by Max

Sweet Treats: Lemon Macarons

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Macarons have become my weekend treat. I enjoy making them and find it ever so satisfying to come up with new flavours and colour combinations. There really isn’t too much to it. Just ground almonds, sugar, eggs and of course food colouring.

I have been obsessed with perfecting my chocolate macarons. It takes a little bit of time to get the mixture right and also learn to use a right oven temperature. But this time I was tempted to make a colourful and fresh citrusy tasting ones. Lemon curd is a great filling as it contains butter, therefore it is really easy to pipe. Plus you will most probably have some leftover lemon curd that could be used for next time. If you don’t fancy making it, then shop bought one will be just fine.

My friend watched me the other day when I was banging the baking tray to get rid of the air from the macaron shells. She thought I was upset and that it didn’t work. However, she did laugh after I explained that it is super important to knock the air out so that the shells are not hollow. She probably think I am insane but then again she is too polite to say anything.

Sweet Treats: Lemon Curd Macarons

For macaron shells
95 g egg white
75 g caster sugar
152 g icing sugar
123 g ground almonds
green food colouring (preferably gel)

For lemon curd
65 ml fresh lemon juice
65 g caster sugar
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
65 g unsalted cold butter, cut into small chunks
pinch of salt

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add the caster sugar gradually while you are whisking the egg whites. This allows the macarons to develop their characteristic shine. Add a tiny bit of food colouring to the meringue. Sift flour and icing sugar in a separate bowl and add ground almonds. Slowly fold the flour mixture to the egg whites and be very careful not to over-mix.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe onto a baking sheet. Drop the baking tray on a flat surface to allow air bubbles to come out. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes until the surface of each macaron is no longer sticky when you touch with your finger. This allows the macaron to rise evenly when baking. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/mark 4.

Put into the oven for 10-13 minutes. Keep checking during the baking as you might need to rotate the tray to allow an even bake. Once baked, allow to cool down, and then transfer from the baking sheet. If macaron shells are too sticky, it means they need a bit longer in the oven. However, remember that the tray will be hot and will continue to cook the shells even after you take it out of the oven.

For the lemon curd, whisk eggs with sugar, then add lemon juice and place over the bain marie. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and continue to cook for further 5 minutes. The curd is ready when it coats the back of the spoon and you should be able to draw a path through it. Remove the curd from the heat and quickly whisk in the cold butter until it is completely dissolved and glossy. Transfer the curd into a clean bowl and allow to cool. Place the cling-film over the top of the curd to prevent the skin formation.

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Pipe lemon curd onto one macaron shell and then sandwich together. Macarons will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge.

by Maria

Pink linguine

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This is a light version of the classic pasta dish salmon linguine. I play with the contrast between the salmon’s sweetness and the acidity of three types of pepper, while the dish rejoices in its beautiful pink glow.

Salmon linguine are a classic of the Italian cuisine. You can possibly find them anywhere and usually come in a rich, creamy sauce, often gallantly edged by bits of fresh dill. Today, I wanted to stay a bit lighter and to focus my tease on the salmon flavour. So, instead of cooking the fish in onions and cover it with cream, I prepared it in a lighter shallots base, and decided to exalt its taste with different types of spices, chives, and rose petals.

The colour of the salmon’s flesh mutates during cooking, from a deep, almost blood orange red, to a softer, pastel cipria pink. And this optical transformation calls for a taste pairing, specifically in the choice of spices. The first two I have used are Sichuan ‘pepper’ (which is not really a pepper) and pink peppercorn berries; the third spice I have only used as dressing is ground Egyptian black pepper. The citrusy smell of Sichuan ‘pepper’ gives a phenomenal tangy, lemony punch in the final dish flavour, so it is better to use it parsimoniously. The pink peppercorns are a perfect match for the Sichuan, which opens the buds in your mouth for a proper hot kick delivered by the pink berries. Their acidity and hotness encourage the soothing flavour of the salmon flesh, which I have cooked with a few pine kernels and some finely chopped fresh chives. The grand finale is given by the rose petals, which are not there just to look pretty: they literally wrap all edges and excesses of sweet and sourness up in a delicate perfumed finish.

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Pink Linguine (serves 2)

200 g linguine
220 g fresh salmon fillets (wild Alaskan Sockeye used here)
1 tbsp oil
1 shallot
1 glass of white wine
1 tbsp Sichuan pepper
1 tbsp pink peppercorns
pine kernels (ad lib)
a few chives
ground Egyptian black pepper
1 tbsp of rose petals

The salmon sauce can be prepared while your linguine are cooking in salted boiling water, usually about 11 minutes. Start chopping the shallots, while the oil is warming up in the pan. Gently golden the shallots; in the meantime, dice the salmon up, once you have filleted it off the skin, and add it to the shallot base.

Control the fire: higher to warm up the oil, lower to golden the shallots, high again as soon as you add the salmon, because here you need to quickly simmer the fish with white wine till it is reduced. And then lower it again, so that the salmon retains its moisture. Add now pine kernels, Sichuan pepper and pink peppercorns, and let the salmon transform into those nice light pink flesh flakes. Add the chopped chives at the last second.

You can cheat here, and add 1 tbsp of spreadable cheese, to make your sauce creamier. But if you control the heat and the wine reduction, you will not need it.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it but keep a little bit–half a cup–of the cooking water: add this to the sauce pan, add the pasta, and mix evenly. Before serving, dust with black pepper, add the rose petals, and two longer chives.

by Max

Sweet Treats: Mango & Passion Fruit Roulade

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Now that Easter Eggs are all eaten, I am craving a slightly lighter desserts. I love making sponges and especially this airy roulade sponge. It is very easy to put together and taste superb with fruits. Unfortunately strawberries and raspberries are not yet in season. And even though shops are already filled with amazing colours most fruits still lack the lovely sun-kissed taste of the summer. So I decided to use mango again, and of course my current favourite, passion fruit!

If you feel double cream is too heavy,  please feel free to replace it with whipping cream. It will work perfectly well and spreading it is much easier as it is less likely to curdle. Adding vanilla essence will also bring out lovely soft but not overly sweet flavour.

I have gone into one of those moods the other day and looked up the amazing patterns of Swiss rolls around the world. I would be lying if I said I was not super jealous of stunning, imaginative and artistic rolls. But then practice makes it perfect and maybe one day I will be posting my own ‘impressionistic’ Swiss roll. I will keep you posted anyway… 😉

Mango and Passion Fruit Roulade (serves 6-8)

3 eggs
85 g aster sugar
85 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ripe mango
1 or 2 passion fruit
200 ml double cream
icing or caster sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 190 (170 fan, gas mark 6). Line baking tray with baking parchment, preferably oblong tray with even surface.

Whisk eggs with caster sugar until pale and light in texture. This will take good 5 minutes with an electric whisk. Then carefully fold in the flour mixed with baking powder, using large spoon or spatula. Add the vanilla extract. Spread the mixture to the baking tray and put into the oven for 10-13 minutes. The baking time varies due to the thickness of the sponge. Once sponge is turning golden and springs back when touched, take out if the oven. Leave to cool slightly. Then separate sponge from the parchment and turn on clean baking parchment, then roll it whilst still it is warm. Keep in the rolled position until completely cool.

Whip double cream until just almost solid. Spread over the unrolled sponge. If you whip the cream too much it will start to curdle when spreading. Always ‘underwhip’ the cream so that is still slightly liquid. Scatter chopped mango and one or two passion fruits over the sponge. Them roll the sponge carefully whilst using baking parchment to hold the outside. Leave in the fridge to cool for about 2 hours. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

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by Maria

Sweet treats: Chocolate Cigarello Cake

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Long Easter weekend is coming! And a lot of chocolate with it. I am not so keen on Easter eggs so I came up with a stylish Chocolate Cigarello Cake to share at our friend’s lunch. It is very rich and I can assure you, everyone will love it!

Dark chocolate is amazing and always balances the sweetness of the sponge with the caramel. However, if you are not a fan of ‘bitter’ chocolate you can easily replace it with milk or white chocolate cigarellos. I use Chocolate Trading Co for my cigarellos as they come beautifully uniform and precise. They also taste fantastic and have an excellent crunch. You can choose the volume you need from a small batch to a large one depending on how many cakes you are planning to  make. The delivery is very efficient and cigarellos are packaged really well to prevent any damage. However be aware you might need to buy more cigarellos, in case the crumble once you start working with them.

I must admit that I failed miserably on my attempts to make these beautiful decorations. No matter how many videos I have watched and practised… Working with fragile chocolate is difficult enough when trying to get the temperature and roll consistent for all cigarellos. My determination in this case was simply not enough. And trust me I am a one determined baker!

Fruits are excellent as a decoration on the top of the cake. They bring fresh and citrus flavour and also lighten up the cake. Strawberries, raspberries and also blueberries with redcurrants would work really well. I love having my cake with fruit whenever possible!  Especially now when the spring is in it way. Well one hopes it’s on its way…

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Chocolate Cigarello Easter Cake (serves 12-14)

For Chocolate Sponge
175 g lightly salted butter, plus 10 g for greasing
75 g dark chocolate
300 g plain flour
375 g golden caster sugar
25 g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 medium eggs
200 g buttermilk
100 ml boiling water

For Vanilla Sponge
4 medium eggs
225 g softened unsalted butter
220 g self raising flour
220 g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
pink and purple food colouring

For the chocolate ganache
250 g dark chocolate
180 ml of double cream

For the Filling
1 tin of Carnation Caramel

box of 50 chocolate cigarellos
various fruit (optional)

Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/mark 4. Grease with butter and line two 8-inch cake tins. For Chocolate Sponge, boil the kettle with water. Put chocolate, broken in small pieces, and butter into a small pan, then heat gently and continuously stir until melted. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, and soda bicarbonate together with a pinch of salt in a bowl. Whisk the eggs and buttermilk until lighter in colour then add to the flour mixture together with melted chocolate. Add 100 ml of boiling water and whisk preferably with electrical whisk, until the mixture is lump free.

Divide the cake mixture into two tins and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remember to swap tins halfway through the bake if place on different shelves in the oven. Once the cake is ready and the skewer comes out clean when testing, take the cake out of the oven and allow to cool down.

For a Vanilla Sponge, grease and line one 8-inch cake tin. Whip the softened butter with sugar until pale, and then add eggs, and the rest of the ingredients. Mix until combined. The mixture should be light and easy to spread. Transfer the mixture to a cake tin and bake for 15-20 min until skewer comes out clean. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and allow to cool down.

Once all the sponges are cool, trim all three so that they are same depth. It is very helpful to put them all on top of each other and compare to the hight of the chocolate cigarello. That will give you a rough idea on how high each sponge needs to be. Spread caramel on the bottom chocolate sponge followed by vanilla sponge and finally by the second chocolate sponge. Be generous with the caramel as it will also absorb into the sponges. Put the cake into the fridge for about 30 min.

For the chocolate ganache, pour the double cream into a heavy based pot and bring slowly to boil. Then pour over broken chocolate and leave it to melt the chocolate for a couple of minutes. Once all the chocolate has melted, pour half of the chocolate ganache over the cake and spread over the sides of the cake. Then you can start attaching cigarellos to the side of the cake. Ganache will act as a glue and help to position each roll. This will get messy but keep cigarellos tight together and make sure they are vertical to the work surface. You can keep adding fresh ganache in case cigarellos do not stick to the cake properly.

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Once all cigarellos are attached pour leftover ganache on the top of the cake. Set aside preferably in a cod place to allow the chocolate to set. Add the fruit on top of the cake and dust with icing sugar.

by Maria