Monthly Archives: September 2010


Chocolate. Alcohol. Fat. Sugar. Caffeine. The five essential food groups in a single dish.

  • 300mL strong coffee (fire up the espresso machine or the mocha pot)
  • 250mL marsala
  • 250g (1 packet) of Savoiardi biscuits
  • 150mL double cream (the more luxuriant the better)
  • ¼ cup icing sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cornflour
  • 250g mascarpone (this is about a standard container)
  • chocolate, strawberries, etc for putting on top

Here’s what you do.

  1. In a bowl, mix coffee and two thirds of the marsala, allow to cool
  2. In another bowl, the cream, the icing sugar, the cornflour, and the remainder of the marsala (Add marsala gradually, otherwise the whole thing separates and refuses to co-operate.)
  3. Dip each of the biscuits in the coffee/marsala mixture (not enough to make them disintegrate) and tightly pack them in a layer at the bottom of a square dish. An 8″ × 8″ × 2.5″ deep dish will accommodate two layers from a standard packet (buy an extra packet in case you need more; the remains can be kept for next time as Savoiardi seem impervious to the passage of time)
  4. Cover with half the cream/marsala mix
  5. Repeat
  6. Cover with grated chocolate – I normally get a couple of Cadbury Flake bars and bash them into submission whilst still in their wrappers
  7. Refrigerate at least overnight before serving


Make the cream/marsala mix, throw a couple of punnets of chopped strawberries and serve in large wine glasses.


Happy Bread

Not really a ciabatta, the semolina and olive oil give this bread a decidedly Mediterranean, and annoyingly cheerful aspect. Therefore ideal for wet, miserable days.

These quantities make a very small loaf. (Multiply as required.)

  • 225g strong white flour
  • 25 semolina (plus extra for coating)
  • 1tbsp (15mL) extra virgin olive oil – in the past I’ve slipped and sloshed in twice this amount and it was good
  • 5g salt
  • ½ tsp dried yeast
  • 200mL very warm water

Mix the flour, semolina, dried yeast thoroughly.

Mix the warm water and salt, so that the salt is properly dissolved.

Add the olive oil, and then gradually add the water, bringing together with your hands into a soft sticky dough. You’ll know it’s enough liquid, when the dough starts sticking to itself and detaching from the sides of the bowl. (You may, of course, need slightly less or slightly more water.)

Put a tiny blob of olive oil on a clean flat surface, and spread with your hands until it’s a thin film. Turn out the dough onto this surface and knead for ten minutes. Form into a ball. (Buy Mr Stevens’ book if you’re unsure on how to do this.)

Clean out the bowl, oil the interior lightly, and pop the dough here, covered, until risen. Deflate the dough, arrange it in your favourite shape and roll/dust it with more semolina. Let it prove, and pop into an oven on max. Ten minutes on max, followed by another 20 at 180ºC should do it.

Pass the olives and prosciutto.

Tomates à la Crème

This is worth repeating. The recipe is by Pomiane, but the source used by most people is Elizabeth David, with other versions being from Simon Hopkinson, Julian Barnes, and Ginette Mathiot. (There is a tomates à la Polonaise in Cooking in Ten Minutes, but that involves cooking finely minced onions on a high heat for five minutes, so I’m a little suspicious of the translation.)

Here’s what I do.

Gather as many medium tomatoes as you fancy. (Really small or really huge toms won’t work.) They can be cryogenic, artillery grade supermarket tomatoes as well, because this process really brings out the flavour.

Slice them in half and grind a little salt and plenty of pepper over the cut faces. If the tomatoes are really depressing, and completely pale and rock-like on the inside, sprinkle a small amount of brown sugar on the cut faces as well. Place them face down in a hot pan in which you’ve melted some butter. The pan should be hot enough for everything to be politely sizzling, but not so hot the butter starts going brown.

Fry for five minutes. (Or, longer on a low heat if you have time.) As they fry, pierce the skins of each a few times with a sharp knife.

Turn them over and fry face up for another five minutes. The faces should have coloured a bit, with a bit of brown, but no black. There may also be some sticky goo clinging to the bottom of the pan. Good.

Turn them cut face down again. They will probably hiss and exude juice, and they certainly will if you accidentally on purpose turn up the heat. Tip in some double cream. Once the cream is bubbling, stir and scrape to mix it with the butter and tomato juice, and incorporate any sticky stuff on the bottom of the pan.

Serve immediately, with plenty of bread or pasta to soak up the juices.


I’ve been a bit vague. Assuming six tomatoes somewhere in size between a squash ball and a tennis ball, I reckon you’ll need 20g of butter and 40mL of cream.


Hopkinson mentions adding some torn up mint leaves with the cream. A small amount of basil won’t hurt, either.

In the unlikely event you have leftovers, fry some prawns in garlic and chilli, and then add the leftovers, and some pasta.

DIY Pasta

Thinking about my throwaway comment about using fresh pasta with aglio e olio, I see Ms Cloake is at it again in her “How to Make the Perfect…” series. This time, it’s pasta. A good article. My tuppence worth below.

  • for each serving, 50g strong white bread flour, 50g semolina, one lightly beaten egg, and a pinch of salt
  • alter the flour:semolina ratio to suit your tastes
  • if you want a richer pasta, start replacing whole eggs with an equivalent volume of egg yolks: for example, if you were working with 400g flour:semolina, you could use four whole eggs, or perhaps three whole eggs and two yolks, or two whole eggs and four yolks – the more yolks the richer and more decadent the result
  • egg:flour ratio will vary depending on flour, humidity etc so be ready not to add all the egg, and have some extra egg on standby
  • when you’ve kneaded the pasta – sorry folks, has to be done – form each 100g into a stubby sausage rather than the whole lot into a ball – much easier to roll out later
  • once kneaded, it will need an hour, somewhere cool, to rest – I presume this is so the gluten can develop and so it doesn’t fall to pieces – so I guess the fridge is probably too cold
  • alternatively, it can go in the fridge at this point for an overnight stay in cling film, should that be more convenient
  • make sure you’re chucking plenty of semolina around when you’re rolling it out
  • yeah, rolling – machines are for wimps
  • when you’ve rolled and sliced each sheet into tagliatelle, give it a good shake to dislodge the excess semolina
  • three minutes on the hob ought to do
  • a simple sauce is best

My thanks to Ms Rachel Prejudice for introducing me to The Dark Arts all those years ago.