I’m lov­ing

For MasterChef judge Matt Pre­ston, Italy’s best savoury dish is sim­ple, clas­sico and un­touch­able. Italy’s best dolce, how­ever, needs a lit­tle up­date.

delicious - - CONTENTS - @mattscra­vat

Matt Pre­ston re­veals the Ital­ian food that rocks his world.

STOP FOR ONE MO­MENT and think of all the amaz­ing food that Italy has gifted the world… then ask your­self: among all that great de­li­cious­ness, what would be the great­est dish?

Cer­tainly, if you look at Google, pizza (203 mil­lion hits) and pasta (131 mil­lion) dom­i­nate. But these are hardly dishes, more

groups of dishes. There are prob­lems with the next big pollers, too. Spaghetti bolog­nese (85 mil­lion hits) is a clear favourite, but many food his­to­ri­ans ques­tion whether it is re­ally Ital­ian. Bizarrely, the words ‘chicken’ and ‘risotto’ to­gether reg­is­ter more hits (49.4 mil­lion) than just ‘risotto’ (48.7 mil­lion), which throws my method­ol­ogy in a spin and draws a ques­tion mark over who is count­ing hits at Google! (For the en­tire Top 30 Ital­ian Dishes, head to de­li­cious.com.au.)

This leaves one clear claimant for the ti­tle of Italy’s great­est dish. It’s unique and def­i­nitely loved world­wide. It is also a dish that, for me, gets to the core of Ital­ian cook­ing: take a few of the best in­gre­di­ents and make them shine. So, Italy’s great­est dish is the heav­enly com­bi­na­tion of blis­tered, puffy dough, tart tomato sugo, and milky moz­zarella. It’s Napoli’s margherita pizza! For my money, this clas­sic pizza just edges out lasagne.

De­spite all these savoury hits, the Ital­ian kitchen strug­gles when it comes to equally leg­endary home­grown desserts. Most are built around budino (pud­dings, only 2.5 mil­lion hits) and cakes (yawn), or are more like a cheese course with fresh fruit. Zuppa in­glese (‘English soup’) is ba­si­cally a tri­fle. Panna cotta draws an im­pres­sive 52 mil­lion hits, but, again, there is doubt over its ori­gin.

To me, there is only one ex­em­plary dessert in the Ital­ian kitchen, and this one at­tracts over 42 mil­lion hits. It is tiramisu – a dessert that popped up in the ’60s, part of that whole La Dolce Vita, smooth-talk­ing, hooded-eyed, play­boy-lover-on-a-Vespa era.

The trou­ble is that the clas­sic com­bi­na­tion of bis­cuits, cof­fee and mas­car­pone is look­ing a lit­tle tired these days. Even with the modern ad­di­tion of a liqueur such as Strega, Marsala, Kahlúa, amaretto or Frangelico, it needs a lit­tle up­dat­ing.

Never one to shirk from this sort of culi­nary Everest, de­li­cious. food di­rec­tor Phoebe Wood and I have dragged the tiramisu right up to the now by in­cor­po­rat­ing the hot-in-all-the-coolest-restau­rants malty, salty flavours of Hor­licks and Mal­te­sers. And Lord love me if it doesn’t work bet­ter than a smooth Ital­ian’s line about your ‘beau­ti­ful eyes’ – even if he is strad­dling a Vespa, V-neck thrown over his shoul­ders while call­ing you ‘ bella’.

MALTED MILK TIRAMISU (COVER RECIPE) SERVES 12-15

Be­gin this recipe at least 5 hours ahead. You will need a sugar ther­mome­ter.

11/ 2 cups (330g) caster sugar 1/ 3 cup (80ml) runny honey 3/4 tsp bi­car­bon­ate of soda, sifted 2 cups (240g) malted milk pow­der 3 ti­ta­nium-strength gela­tine leaves 2 cups (500ml) thick­ened cream 250g choco­late rip­ple bis­cuits, finely crushed 80g un­salted but­ter, melted, cooled 6 eggs, sep­a­rated 1kg good-qual­ity mas­car­pone 300ml strong black cof­fee 200ml hazel­nut liqueur 450g sponge finger bis­cuits (savoiardi) 100g dark (70%) choco­late, chopped 1 tsp veg­etable oil Good-qual­ity dark co­coa, to serve

To make hon­ey­comb, line a bak­ing tray with bak­ing pa­per. Place

1/2 cup (110g) sugar, honey and 2 tbs wa­ter in a deep saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir to dis­solve sugar. In­crease heat to high and bring to the boil. Cook, with­out stir­ring, for 5 min­utes or un­til 154°C on a sugar ther­mome­ter. Re­move from the heat, add bi­carb and 1/2 cup (60g) milk pow­der, and stir to com­bine. Quickly pour into pre­pared tray to set and cool com­pletely, then roughly chop.

Soak gela­tine in cold wa­ter for 5 min­utes to soften. Place 1 cup (250ml) cream in a saucepan over low heat and bring to a sim­mer. Re­move from heat. Squeeze ex­cess wa­ter from gela­tine and add to cream. Stir to dis­solve, then cool com­pletely. Grease a 22cm square pan and line with 3 lay­ers of plas­tic wrap, leav­ing 10cm over­hang­ing (this helps to re­move tiramisu). Com­bine bis­cuits and but­ter in a bowl. Press into base of pre­pared pan and chill un­til needed. To make the mas­car­pone cream, whisk egg yolks and re­main­ing 1 cup (220g) sugar for 4-5 min­utes or un­til thick and pale. Add re­main­ing 1 cup (250ml) cream and whisk un­til thick, then add mas­car­pone and re­main­ing 11/ 2 cups (180g) milk pow­der, and whisk un­til thick. Whisk in gela­tine mix­ture, then set aside.

Whisk egg­whites to stiff peaks, then, in 2 batches, fold into mas­car­pone mix­ture. Chill un­til ready to as­sem­ble. To as­sem­ble tiramisu, com­bine cof­fee and hazel­nut liqueur in a shal­low bowl. Dip one-third savoiardi into cof­fee mix­ture and ar­range in a sin­gle layer over bis­cuit base. Spread with one-third mas­car­pone cream. Re­peat dip­ping and lay­er­ing process to cre­ate 3 lay­ers. Fold the over­hang­ing plas­tic wrap over top of tiramisu to en­close. Chill for 4 hours or un­til set.

When ready to serve, place choco­late and oil in a heat­proof bowl set over a saucepan of sim­mer­ing wa­ter. Stir un­til melted, then cool to room tem­per­a­ture. Dust tiramisu with co­coa and scat­ter with hon­ey­comb. Driz­zle with choco­late to serve.

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