Tiramisu

Tiramisu – the name of the dessert sounds Oh-so-Exotic, but in truth it is what the Italians call ‘semplice’, meaning simple. I first heard the word Tiramisu when I was about 11. The priest’s chef at the church we go to would make batches of Tiramisu for visitors and guests and when we were lucky, us kids playing in the church premises would get a chance to taste some. It was a rare opportunity, but one we pounced upon eagerly. And man, was it delicious! Luscious and creamy with hits of coffee; gosh, my mouth waters at the memory. Eleven years down the line, I’m extremely proud to say that I make a pretty mean Tiramisu myself! πŸ˜‰

IMG_6431

Over the years, I’ve come across many very distorted versions of the Italian classic. When I was studying in Mangalore, India, a famous ice-cream parlour served a Tiramisu Ice-Cream – a parfait of coffee ice-cream and chocolate cake layers topped with whipped cream. I cringe when I think of how not-so-Tiramisu-ish it tasted. I have also found many department store and bakery versions which are actually just layered whipped cream and chocolate cake parfaits. It is beyond annoying, because the classic Tiramisu doesn’t have ANY chocolate cake in it! :/

Nevertheless, I’m glad I know how make it myself. I mean can you imagine missing out on this beautiful dessert just because no one really knows what it is and how to make it? I cannot fathom how much joy I would be missing out on if I had never eaten an authentic Tiramisu. It is too amazing a pleasure to be deprived of! πŸ™‚

IMG_6423

This recipe is for a cheat Tiramisu. I say cheat because it does not entail half the hard work that normally goes into making a good Tiramisu, yet it tastes just as good and authentic. The original recipe of this fabulous Italian dessert requires you to whip up egg whites until they form stiff peaks or egg yolks until they are creamy and then blend the eggs with mascarpone cheese and sugar to form the creamy mixture. While I have tried this method and though time-consuming it tastes rich and lovely, I figured out a short cut. I don’t really like eggs, and much less raw eggs in my dessert, so I decided to substitute them with heavy whipping cream. This lets me avoid the hassle of beating away at the eggs with my hand mixer and the cream turns out just as rich and lush. Win-win, isn’t it? πŸ˜€

So, here’s what you need:

  • Finger Biscuits – a pack of 30 (also known as Ladyfingers)
  • Mascarpone Cheese – 500 g
  • Castor Sugar – 4 tbsp (or more, depending on how sweet you want the dessert to be)
  • Heavy Whipping Cream – 550 ml
  • Dark Rum – 3 tbsp (optional)
  • Vanilla Extract – 1 tsp
  • Strong Brewed Black Coffee – 500 ml
  • Cocoa Powder – to drizzle

This is the procedure involved:

  • Brew your strong black coffee and keep it in the refrigerator.
  • While the coffee is chilling, in a bowl, blend together Mascarpone cheese, sugar and heavy whipping cream until it forms a thick cream. Pour in the vanilla extract and dark rum and mix until well incorporated.
  • Take the coffee out from the refrigerator and begin quick-dipping the finger biscuits in it one-by-one and placing them in a layer in a large deep square/rectangular dish.
  • Once the entire bottom of the dish is lined with coffee-soaked finger biscuits, pour half of the prepared creamy mixture over the biscuits and even the layer out with a spatula. Then drizzle cocoa over the cream.
  • Repeat the same procedure, layering coffee-soaked biscuits, cream and cocoa alternatively until the dish if filled to a little over 3/4th of its capacity.
  • Cover the dish with aluminium foil and place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • Serve chilled.

IMG_6474

Take this as a guarantee; if you are a coffee-lover or even remotely like the taste of coffee, you will fall in love with this dessert! It is the kind of dessert that makes you feel blessed that you had a chance to eat it and also urges you to say a little prayer for the person who first came up with the recipe centuries ago.

IMG_6522

My entire household are big fans of Tiramisu. The brother can’t get enough of it and many a time when he heads over to a friend’s place for dinner, he asks me to make a bowl-full for them. Mom loves to indulge her taste buds in a small serving of Tiramisu, not that she would refuse if you served her a nice big piece. πŸ˜› The cousins ask for some every time they come over. And the boyfriend says that with my homemade Tiramisu, I’ve ruined all store-bought and restaurant versions for him! πŸ˜‰

IMG_6508

I’m certain that the luscious creaminess of the whipping cream and Mascarpone coupled with the soft, moist finger biscuits oozing with bursts of coffee and hints of bitter chocolate (from the cocoa) will have you believing that you’re floating in paradise! πŸ˜€ Go ahead, try this recipe. You can thank me later! πŸ˜‰

IMG_6587

IMG_6558

Tip: You’re probably wondering why this dessert needs to be chilled for 24 hours. In truth, Tiramisu can be eaten just after a couple of hours of refrigeration. But it takes at least 24 hours for all the flavours to fuse together and make it the splendid dessert that it is. So, make it a day in advance and try to resist eating it before the guests arrive! πŸ™‚

Barbeque Chicken and Basil Lasagna

IMG_1992

Lasagna is a traditional Italian delicacy made with sheets of pasta layered alternatively with sauces, herbs and meats. It is then topped up with a nice thick layer of cheese to finish it up. Β It is a dish that is flavorful, yet simple to make. However, it can be a little time consuming; patience and precision is of the essence.

There is something about Italian cuisine that has always intrigued me. As a child, I was fussy and I wouldn’t want to try new things; the regularly cooked Mangalorean food was my absolute favorite. But growing up, I took a liking towards pizza and the homemade mince and pasta that my mom would cook every once in a while. Then one day, many years ago, she cooked a minced beef in red sauce lasagna; after which there was no turning back!

Cooking Italian is always an exciting challenge – the reason I say it’s a challenge, is because such few ingredients are go into the dish and every distinct flavor has to shine through perfectly. The balance of all the flavors is key. The challenge is to get that balance right.

I came across this recipe sometime last summer; I was looking for chicken lasagna recipes and I came across this. I was both thrilled and skeptical about it at the same time – I really wasn’t sure how it would turn out. But then my mom cooked it, and my brother, my boyfriend and I absolutely loved it! It was perfect – better that the one with beef, I reckon!

Now a year later, after months of my boyfriend asking my mum to make him that lasagna, and subsequently him asking me over and over again for the same, I decided to take up the challenge. I must admit, I am a complete amateur when it comes to cooking Italian – the only thing I know how to make is Chicken Alfredo Pasta. But lucky for me – I am blessed with a knack for cooking and that usually means that my cooking experiments almost never turn out completely horrible. (It also means that I curl like a depressed kitten when they do go bad!)

So here’s what you’re going to need.

  • Store bought lasagna leaves
  • 4 chicken breasts – sliced and marinated with garlic, soy sauce and some salt and then shallow fried till tender and juicy
  • Red sauce,
  • White sauce
  • Fresh basil leaves (I used dried basil herbs).
  • A pack of sliced cheese

For the Red Sauce:

  • Tomatoes – diced
  • Minced garlic
  • Onions – cubed
  • Tomato puree
  • Salt – to taste
  • Basil herbs
  • Dried rosemary – a pinch
  • A pinch of sugar

The preparation for the red sauce is really easy. Saute the onions in olive oil until they turn translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add tomatoes and increase the heat so that they mush up quickly. Then add in the tomato puree -I used two sachets. Add, salt, sugar, and the herbs and bring it to a boil.

For the White Sauce:

  • Butter- 2 tbsp
  • Flour – 2 tbsp
  • Milk – 1 cup
  • Salt
  • Black pepper powder

Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for about two minutes while you keep stirring continuously to make sure that the flour doesn’t become lumpy. Gradually stir in milk and continue to stir till sauce thickens. Then add salt and pepper and your sauce is ready.

Now all your elements of the lasagna are ready. It’s time to layer it! You can layer it any way you like, but this is how I did it. I coated the bottom of a deep microwavable dish with white sauce, then I layered the lasagna leaves over which I poured some red sauce and sprinkled some dried basil. I then put in another layer of lasagna leaves and poured white sauce over it, topped it with a layer of chicken and sprinkled dried basil. Then in went another layer of lasagna leaves, topped with tomato sauce, chicken, another layer of leaves and then white sauce. I then topped this tall layered preparation with a last layer of lasagna leaves and finished it off with some sliced cheese and lightly sprinkled basil on the top. Once you’re done with this, pop the dish into your microwave oven on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the the lasagna leaves are cooked through, and the cheese has melted and looks inviting. Take it out of the oven and serve immediately!

This is what the end product looks like.

P.S. – it is almost impossible to get a portion of lasagna to pose for you!

IMG_2015

See how tempting that looks? Trust me, one spoonful in your mouth and you’re going to enjoy the sweetness of the red sauce, the creamy richness of the white sauce, the tenderness of the barbecue chicken, the strong hint of basil, the lasagna leaves holding it all together and the best bit – the melted cheeeesy topping!

Dig right in!