Dubious didactics of a slacking teacher

I may have mentioned before that I’m a teacher now. I teach English here in Italy, in a private language school. I’m a pretty shitty teacher, probably. My didactic skills are OK, and students love me, that’s not the point. The point is the contents of my lessons. I’m not necessarily teaching what I should be teaching.

Most of my students are bankers, or managers, or business people of some description, and many of them are being subjected to the embarrassment of taking an English course by their superiors. The times they are a-changing, and now that everyone has to work more or less internationally, demand for decent English speakers has gone up. These people are meant to be doing business English, which means talking about the economy, investment banking, meetings, time management – soul-crushingly boring topics. That’s where it all goes horribly wrong.

You see, it’s to be expected that I don’t give a crap about investment banking, but strangely enough, most of my students don’t really seem to care about it, either. Some of them do, and with those I’ll make the effort to struggle through chapter after chapter about fictional enterprises and their business strategies. With the others, in order to make the experience somewhat less traumatic for all parties involved, I’ll do whatever.

My lesson materials have ranged from articles about the legalisation of marijuana in Jamaica to podcasts about coffee addiction to musical gap-fill activities to The Ace of Spades by Motörhead. Once I brought in an article with comprehension questions about the right way to eat crisps, and I still recall it as one of my better lessons. This is the trick: finding something that interests your students, and basing your programme on that.

As we’re in Italy, almost all of my students love to talk about food. It’s that one magical subject that gets everybody chatting. And sometimes, it works out to my advantage, and I manage to pick up a secret recipe. Like the time that two of my students insisted I go to the Salone del Gusto, and I told them after I’d gone about how I bought some bergamotto there. We discussed the various uses I could put them to, and one of them gave me a recipe for salmon with lemon, invented by her father. It calls for lemons rather than bergamot, and in the end that’s what I ended up using, because I finished my bergamots for bergamot tarte before I ever had the chance to flavour my salmon with it. Either way, it was good!

My salmon looks terrible

For two, use:

  • Two big fat slices of salmon
  • one lemon
  • some white wine, about a glass full
  • three carrots
  • one onion
  • some celery
  • some parsley
  • 3 cloves of garlic (optional – I like garlic)

This recipe is kinda easy. Peel the vegetables that need peeling, then chop everything up in medium sized chunks, the lemon into thick slices (go for half moons, they look cute that way), and halve the garlic cloves. Clean the parsley, get rid of the hardest parts of the stems, chop very roughly. Throw it all in an oven dish together with the salmon and the white wine. Mix, and leave in the fridge to marinade for an hour or so.

Drain about half the wine, arrange the vegetables and lemon so that the salmon is lying on top of them, slightly higher than what’s left of the wine. Now put it in the oven on 200 degrees for about 15, maybe 20 minutes.

IMG_2334

IMG_2355 IMG_2347

Posted in cooking, Fish, Food, Italian, Mains, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The end of the meat age

Recently, Blenderman suddenly announced an issue: “We eat way too much meat. Why do we eat so much meat?” Wooahh there, where did that come from? Also, who are “we”?

However, he has a point. We, as in, the household, the flat, the inhabitants of Casa Dittatrice, really do eat way too much meat. In Scotland, I’d eat meat maybe twice a month. Here, I don’t eat meat maybe twice a month. It’s ridiculous. I always used to say that eating meat every day was ridiculous, stupidly unhealthy, unnecessarily polluting, 21st-century extravagant, and yet I’ve fallen into the carnivore’s trap.

I blame the way Italians structure their meals. Here, there’s the whole story of having a primo, or first course, and then a secondo, or second course. Your first is normally something big and/or carby to fill you up (pasta, rice or, in emergencies, soup), after which you’ll have a secondo, something slightly smaller and, on weekdays, less elaborate, that normally consists of meat and/or vegetables. In the beginning I found it really difficult to get out of my habit of cooking one single big dish for dinner, but now that I’m used to it, I’m having trouble remembering the things I used to eat in Scotland. The only things that come to mind, bar the ones which have meat in them, suddenly seem really poor dinners. For some reason whatever I used to eat back there just feels ridiculous when I’m trying to come up with something nutritious for a bunch of Italians. The habit of having meat after the primo has just crept up on me, and I find it hard to shake it.

Plus, maybe even more than that, I just really like meat. I hate to admit it, and truly, I never even thought I liked meat so much, but it’s true, I love it. I can’t get enough of it. But Blenderman is right. We eat too much of it, and we’re going to have to cut down. So I’m easing myself into a slightly less carnivorous lifestyle with aubergines. Aubergines are my favourite thing in the whole wide world, just after meat. They fill you up nicely and they’ve got that nice, dark flavour that no other vegetable seems to have. If you spice them up, they’re what Italians call la fine del mondo, “the end of the world” (or “really goddamn delicious”).

Pasta with spicy aubergines for two!

fuckin' pasta

Go out to procure these delicious edible substances:

  • 1 aubergine
  • one small dried chili
  • one clove of garlic
  • three tomatoes, or, since they’re out of season, half a tin of peeled tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • some basil if you have any
  • enough pasta

Chop your aubergine into cubes. Sprinkle them with salt, chuck them in a colander, put a small plate with some weights on top and wait half an hour for them to leak out their juice. You can skip this if you’re in a really bad hurry.

Chop up your garlic and your chili, gently fry them in some olive oil on low heat. Add your aubergine, turn up the heat to medium, and fry it for a while. Then add the tomatoes (chopped up) and some water, if it’s looking kinda dry. Add salt (and possibly some sugar, depending on the quality of your tomatoes) to taste, then leave it to simmer for 20 minutes or more, stirring occasionally, until your aubergine goes nice and soft.

Boil your pasta, mix it with the sauce, top with some basil and, if you like, parmesan and serve just like that.

IMG_2374 IMG_2370

Posted in cooking, Food, Italian, Mains, recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sinterklaastaart

This week, wonderful readers, is a very important week for the Dutch. For on Friday it will be the fifth of December, which is the national holiday of saint Nicolas, or, as the Dutch lovingly call him, ‘Sinterklaas’.

Sinterklaas is suffering from some bad publicity these days. He’s got these assistants with a pretty unfortunate skin colour (they’re black, supposedly from getting covered in soot by creeping into peoples houses through chimneys), and he’s come under fire for being a backwards slave driver who really has no place in modern society. His Pieten, as they are called, might have to undergo a bit of modernisation soon, which is cool with me, if I can be entirely honest. It’s an unpopular opinion, but traditions change all the time, and I don’t see why the colour these fellows are painted should make such a difference to a holiday that’s really all about presents and food.

You see, Sinterklaas is pretty much the Dutch equivalent of Christmas. As I mentioned before, Sinterklaas is a sort of proto-Father Christmas, who was modelled largely after his example. He goes around the country and he drops off presents for no particular reason. He also hands out tonnes of sweets.

The most traditional of these sweets are called pepernoten, and they’re essentially tiny little mini biscuits, flavoured with spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. They’re pretty delicious, but I don’t really care much for sweets and therefore I don’t really tend to eat them. This fact doesn’t stop my mother, bless, from bringing me some every time she visits me in foreign cities, and recently I ended up, as so often before, with a bag of pepernoten that I was sure I wasn’t going to eat. My Italian friends tried a few last year, but it turned out difficult to get through a whole bag in a household of only three people, so this year I decided to put them to good use, rather than eat half and bin the rest. I used them for the base of a spicy, boozy, autumnal pear cake, which was every bit as awesome as expected!

sinterklaastaart

This recipe calls for pepernoten, or at the very least, speculaas. If you can’t get a hold of those, you can try ginger nuts, which are slightly differently flavoured but still pretty delicious, or otherwise take some plain digestives and spice them up yourself. See the bottom of the ingredients list for the spices to use, or get mixed spice, which will definitely do the trick.

  • 200 gr pepernoten
  • 80 gr butter
  • 3 pears
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 500 gr mascarpone
  • a half or whole glass of marsala
  • 100 gr sugar

If you’re spicing up your cake yourself, use:

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper (trust me – they’re not called pepernoten for no reason)
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • the minusculest pinch of salt imaginable

Pop your pepernoten in a blender or foodprocessor and grind them up to a fine floury powder. Melt your butter, mix it with the pepernootpowder and press it into a spring form cake tin, preferably lined with some baking parchment on the bottom. Press it down well, cover with some cling film and put it in the fridge for at least half an hour.

sinterklaas kapoentje sinterklaasje bonne bonne bonne

Now here’s where you have to make a choice: pears on top or mascarpone on top. I went for mascarpone on top, because I thought it looked nicer, but there’s a serious downside to this method: pears are leaky little bastards, and they ooze all of their delicious peary juices all over your pepernootbase, which will then go soggy. If you plan to eat this thing straight away, that’s not really a problem, because you can just assemble the cake about an hour before eating and the juice won’t have so much time to ruin the base, but you’ll have to finish it in one go. If you don’t think you’re likely to finish the cake within the hour, maybe go for pears on top – you’ll have to invest a little bit more time in slicing them nicely and arranging them in a visually pleasing pattern.

Either way, chop up your pears into small bits (bottom pears) or in elegant long slices (top pears), chuck them in a bowl, add the lemon juice and the icing sugar, mix and leave for a while.

In the meantime beat your mascarpone with the sugar and some marsala. Go easy on the marsala at first, and keep tasting – if you’re like me, and you like your desserts quite boozy, go for an entire glass, don’t be afraid. The spices can be a little bit overwhelming and you risk not tasting the marsala at all if you don’t add enough.

Zie ginds komt de stoomboot Hoor wie klopt daar kinderen Zie de maan schijnt door de bomen

Once you’re happy with your mascarpone, cover the base with it, then top with the pears, which you’ve drained of all juice. Alternatively, drain your pear chunks, put them on the base, then top with the mascarpone. Now chill the whole thing for about an hour, then serve.

Zachtjes gaan de paardenvoetjes Dag sinterklaasje

Posted in Baking, cake, cooking, Desserts, Food, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Verdi, food and cooks” – the favourites of a famous composer

You know Verdi, the famous composer? The one who wrote such operas as Aida and La Traviata? Turns out he had a special predilection for food! I found out about this when I was writing my dissertation on Italian opera a couple of years ago. As a bit of comic relief between all the writing, I was reading this essay called Verdi, Food and Cooks (from Aspects of Verdi by G.W. Martin). It stated a few pretty interesting facts about the maestro.

Did you know, for example, that Verdi was a pretty good cook, as well as a composer? His speciality is said to have been risotto alla milanese. A singer from his company and Verdi’s second wife, Giuseppina Strepponi, mentions it in two separate letters, stressing how good he was at preparing it. Referring to the applause Verdi got after a performance of one of his operas, she said: “Se sapessero poi come compone il risotto alla milanese, Dio sa quali ovazioni gli pioverebbero sulle spalle!”¹ (or “If they knew how he composes risotto alla milanese, God knows what ovations would rain down on his shoulders!”).

It seems Verdi also had a fussy side – apparently he fired cook after cook, sometimes for culinary flaws, sometimes for other reasons. Once he told a young lady, the daughter of his dinner host, to quit playing the piano during dinner, as he apparently could not stand the sound of music whilst he was eating. And he ordered waiters and cooks in restaurants about, telling them what to do and how to prepare his food. After a busy morning shopping at the local market in Cremona, where Verdi lived at the time, the composer went to have  cotoletta alla milanese, calling after the waiter “Remember, plenty of butter!”³

Cotolette alla milanese is a typical dish from the North of Italy (Milan, you guessed it), essentially breaded and fried veal cutlet. “But Dittatrice, isn’t that just a Wiener schnitzel, then?” Well, it kind of is, yeah. It’s a slightly delicate subject, but one which Italians seem capable of dealing with with some degree of humour, something which you can’t normally expect from them when it comes to the authenticity of their food. Either way, if I’m not mistaken, the difference lies in the frying: Wiener schnitzels are, I believe, deep-fried, whilst cotoletta alla milanese are shallow-fried. Whatever. It’s fried breaded veal, either way. I normally fry mine in olive oil, as my use of butter inevitably subjects me to the mockery of my Italian friends, who insist I use way too much of it. However, for this occasion we’ll use butter – if Verdi liked it, how could it possibly be wrong?

va pensiero sull'ali dorate

I still haven’t really understood what the correct meat for this is. I asked the butcher, he gave me coscia, or thigh (which in meat cuts translates to… God, I don’t know!), whilst various dodgy internet sources state lombo or sirloin. Yeah whatever, see what you can get your hands on. Either way, they have to be very thin slices, tenderised with one of those meat maces.

For two:

  • two slices of whichever veal you end up going for
  • one egg, beaten
  • half a cup of flour
  • half a cup of breadcrumbs
  • some lemon wedges, to serve
  • pinch of salt

Put your flour, your egg and your breadcrumbs on separate plates, in that order. Mix in a little bit of salt with your flour. Now drag your veal through the flour, making sure all is covered properly. Then do the same with the egg, making sure you coat the whole slice in egg, after which you drag it through the breadcrumbs to create a crunchy breadcrumb jacket. If you’re feeling a bit rock’n’roll, you can go for a double-breading: drag your meat through the egg again, and then through the breadcrumbs again. Double crispy.

Melt your butter, and when the bubbles are disappearing, chuck in your meat. Fry on both sides until it’s a nice golden brown, then serve up immediately! Squeeze a bit of lime juice over your cutlet if you like. Compose an opera after you finish.

IMG_2267 IMG_2270 IMG_2276

Sources:
1:Percorsi enogastronomici
2 & 3: George Whitney Martin, Aspects of Verdi (New York: Limelight Editions, 1988) 125-135.

Posted in cooking, Italian, Mains, Meat, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When in doubt, it’s Flemish!

Because Italians are inherently suspicious of what I cook, I sometimes lie to them in order to sound more expert. In any other nation, people would be impressed by the words “I just threw this together once and it came out really nice”, but Italians don’t seem to work that way. They won’t trust a dirty Northerner like me to come up with something good myself, so instead I pretend what I’ve made is a traditional dish from a region that they’re unfamiliar with.

Generally, if a dish has a British feeling to it, I’ll say it’s a Scottish classic – the best of British food comes from Scotland, after all. If it’s wildly foreign, depending on what ingredients are used, things suddenly become Chinese (star anise and sesame), Indian (turmeric and coriander) or North African (cumin and cinnamon). The golden rule is, the more specific you are, the better. Made something Dutch? Golly, I do believe this is a traditional dish from the south-west of the Netherlands, where it’s normally eaten around the holiday of Saint Bartholomew. Totally. I don’t particularly enjoy lying to people like this, but it’s the only way to get people to appreciate my food, really.

Saint Bartholomew aside, normally when I’m making something more or less Dutch, or let’s say, more or less northern-continental European, I find Flemish is the best fictional cuisine of origin. Flanders is better than its southern counterpart Wallonia (which is kind of French), and the Dutch have a bad reputation when it comes to food, whereas the Flemish are so obscure in the minds of most people that no-one even knows what their reputation is. No Italian knows what those people eat and being from the North, I’m the automatic expert. It works every time.

So voilà, Flemish sweet pork, or pork cutlets with dried fruit. It’s totally from Flanders. No, really. It totally is.

Poooooork it's the meat of kings

For three, you’ll want to get:

  • 3 pork chops
  • 4 onions, of different colours including at least 2 reds
  • a good hanful of prunes
  • a good handful of dried apricots
  • half a stick of cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • possibly a small amount of veg stock

Slice all your onions into rings, you’ll need them soon.

Fry your chops in some olive oil until they’re slightly coloured on both sides. Remove them from the pan. Add some oil if it looks very dry (although I don’t think it will, with all the pork fat going on), then fry your onion rings on medium heat.

When the onions have started going softish, chuck in all your dried fruit and the cinnamon stick, and add salt and pepper. Mix all well, leave for a couple of minutes, then put the meat back on top. Leave like this for about 20 minutes, half an hour tops, with a lid on. If it looks like it might be going dry and your fruit is getting stuck to the bottom of your pan, add a small amount of vegetable stock (no more than half a glass, probably not even that).

Serve with some vegetables and/or potatoes on the side. So Flemish!

It's made from pig, try it with onion rings Pork sure goes with everything, because it's made from swine (that's why it sure tastes fine!)

Posted in cooking, Food, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Try friarielli – they exist only here, only we have this

Last week I briefly mentioned a habit that a lot of people from Southern Italy have: claiming exclusivity. When you go to the South, people will feed you until you cry, and accompany just about every dish or ingredient with the words “Here, try this! It only exists here, only we have this”. They’re really big on this, which is fair enough because it’s awesome to be the exclusive producer/creator/consumer of something really delicious. It makes you an expert by the virtue of being one-eyed in the land of the blind.

It’s endearing and hilarious at the same time, because to me, only about half of the time it seems true. In Naples, you’re as likely to hear these words when eating some really unique, traditional, hand-made sweets, as when you’re trying a funky type of salad. I understand the charm of being the only one who has something, but I sometimes feel they’re pushing it a bit too far into the realm of the unlikely and unbelievable.

One of the many types of food that they “only have in Naples” are friarielli, or cime di rapa. I frequently buy cime di rapa here at the market in Turin, and my veg guy lists their origin as Puglia (the heel of the boot that is Italy: distinctly not in the close vicinity of Naples), and yet the Neapolitans in my life will not relent. “They’re not the same thing! Friarielli and cime di rapa are not the same vegetable!”

I googled it and found out the following complication: friarielli turn out to be cime di rapa that have started flowering. Well, this is going to be a tricky one to settle, isn’t it? They’re technically the same plant, but the two names refer to different stages in the plant’s life. Does that mean they’re the same thing or not? Let’s say they aren’t, or I’m gonna take a beating from my Neapolitan friends. Plus, I may have to admit: the flowering version, so friarielli, are actually a bit more bitter than cime di rapa, and thus, in my opinion, slightly more delicious.

The good news? I can now make my own friarielli by leaving my cime di rapa in the kitchen for too long. Awesome.

It's not yet a friariello...

This is the start of a flower but it's not quite developed yet, so we're still talking cima di rapa here.

This is the start of a flower but it’s not quite developed yet, so we’re still talking cima di rapa here.

As with many types of food, friarielli are best combined. Aim to eat them with their meaty spouse from the most beautiful culinary marriage of all times: friarielli e salsiccia, or friarielli with sausage. In Naples, you can buy this delicious duo in tonnes of places spread out over the city, usually in a roll or otherwise just like that on a paper plate to shovel down with a plastic fork sitting outside somewhere. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a roll with friarielli and sausages from Naples (you haven’t lived until you’ve been to Naples, full stop, but that’s a different story for a different time). If you want to have a go, and you’re not sure what to look for, in English friarielli are usually called broccoli raab or broccoli rabe, otherwise try for something like broccoletti. As I said, you can have them by themselves or in a roll, but I also like to have them with pasta. So that’s what we’re gonna have today. Pasta, friarielli e salsciccia.

I'm gonna get my ass kicked by all the Neapolitans I know :(

For two, use:

  • a foot of pork sausage
  • 400 gr of friarielli or cime di rapa
  • one small dried chili
  • one clove of garlic
  • enough pasta for two – I like penne for this one
  • olive oil
  • parmesan for finishing touching

Boil a big pot of water with salt for your pasta. In the meantime, crush your garlic and chop up your chili. Gently fry them in some olive oil, low heat. Grab your sausage and squeeze the meat out of the intestine so that you get small little balls of sausage meat. If you find this too much hassle you can also just cut them up with a knife, but I hate those little bits of rolled up sausage skin that you get when you fry them like that. Whichever you prefer.

Chop up your friarielli. Take off the bottom parts of the stems and chuck them out, chop up the rest in parts of half half an inch, then wash them and chuck them in with the sausages. Turn up the heat somewhat, put on a lid and leave the whole thing to simmer. After about a minute, stir the whole bunch, add half a glass of water and put the lid back on. Repeat this process until your friarielli are pretty soft. Then leave them with the lid off so that all the liquid can evaporate.

Boil your penne, drain them, add them to the meat-and-veg, mix well, top with some parmesan and enjoy.

IMG_2251 I LOVE THIS STUFF

Posted in Food, Italian | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

My fruitful quest for something new, or: how I met the bergamot

So here in Turin they organise all kinds of cultural events, and a couple of weeks ago it was time for the Salone del Gusto. The Salone del Gusto is essentially a really big, really overpriced, really pretentious farmers’ market. You go, you pay twenty pop to get in, you get minuscule samples of foods from all over Italy (and indeed from all over the world) and if you can afford it, you shell out a couple of tenners here and there to get your hands on some exclusive <insert product> from the only region in the world where they produce <previously mentioned product> in the authentic, traditional method. No, I didn’t forget to edit my rough draft – you can actually insert just about any product there and someone probably sells it at the Salone del Gusto.

At twenty euros, the tickets were priced rather steeply, and I was close to bailing on the whole thing. Of course, the Slow Food mafia knows that there’s always going to be idiots like me who would never miss out on an opportunity to see this much food from such a variety of places, so they get away with charging this much. Despite all my protestations of what extortionate prices these criminals were demanding for their stupid pretentious event, I ended up paying and heading down with a mate to check it out, hoping to find some exciting new things  I’d never seen before.

The place was gigantic. There were 5 different halls, all divided into sections that represented different regions of Italy, or in the case of the last hall, different countries of the world. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay all day, so we had to be selective. We briefly loitered around Piemonte, tried some olive oil in Tuscany, but then headed straight down to Calabria.

We weren’t sure why, but we both turned out to be pretty excited about this region of Italy. It’s not really a place where lots of people go all the time, or that is positively represented in the media. Around Italy, the Calabrians are mostly known for eating some really spicey shit and making tax-money disappear in the bottomless pits of shady local real estate projects. But Calabria was the region that made our visit worthwhile, and that made me slightly less resentful about having had to pay so much to get in. Of all the regions we saw that day, the Calabrians were the most generous with their samples, handing out sausages, ‘nduja, spicy peppers, and making conversation with everyone while they were at it. More important than that, though, they were the region that managed to amaze me the most with the food they introduced me to: Calabria is home to two fruits that I never even knew existed. One was the anona, a funky-looking thing with a soft, almost liquid pulp inside, pretty tasty.

The other one, the winner of the day, the undisputed champion of the Salone del Gusto, was the bergamotto, or bergamot orange. This thing rocks my world.

Oh, bright green beauty

Oh, bright green beauty

As you can see, they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Lemon for scale.

As you can see, they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Lemon for scale.

The bergamotto, the man told me, is a citrus fruit that grows only in the south of Calabria (although people from the south of Italy often say stuff like this). It’s used mostly for making essential oils and skin products, although you can also eat it. In fact, if you’re from the UK, you’ve probably consumed it indirectly tonnes of times in your life: I never realised this, but Earl Grey tea is flavoured with an essence extracted from bergamot skin. In fact, when you take a good sniff of a bergamot, or when you give the fruit a cheeky wee taste, it actually tastes really similar to Earl Grey. It’s the weirdest sensation, eating a fruit that tastes like a tea – although of course in reality the opposite is true. Either way, the bergamotto was a wonderful discovery for me, and seeing that they were being sold in bags of two kilos for only three euros, my friend and I each decided to take a bag. Surely these things were going to be ace in cakes, and this way we could have a bake-off. I went for a classic citrus dessert, a tarte au citron, but with bergamotto instead of lemon. A tarte au bergamot. It was every bit as awesome as expected.

If you can ever get your hands on a couple of bergamots, buy them. Do it. If not, make a tarte au citron, and use some lemons – not quite as interesting as the bergamot, but definitely pretty tasty.

It's like earl grey cake, but better

The tarte au bergamot starts with a shortcrust kind of pastry. Use:

  • 175 gr flour
  • 100 gr cold butter
  • 50 gr icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp cold water.

The filling is made up with the following:

  • 60 ml bergamot juice
  • the zest of one bergamot
  • 100 ml fresh cream
  • 5 eggs
  • 200gr sugar

If you have a food processor, bring it out now. I used Blenderman’s blender, but it was having a pretty hard time. Pop your flour, butter and icing sugar in the food processor and whizz it all up so it becomes looks like crumble for your apple crumble. (If you don’t have a food processor or blender, imagine you’re actually making crumble.) Now add your yolk and water, blend some more, then tip the dough out onto a sheet of baking parchment. Work it out into a circle that’s a little bit larger than your baking tin, try to spread it out as evenly as possible. I used a combination of a rolling pin and my fingers for this, but see what works, the dough can be a bit delicate and sticky sometimes.

Now when you’ve got a good circle, take the whole sheet, turn it upside down, and try to work the dough into the tin so that it’s covering the whole bottom and you’ve got a nice edge on the side. You can push the dough against the side of the tin to hold it up, it’ll come loose whilst you’re baking. Remember that the cake is only going to be as high as its lowest point, as later on you have to fill it with a liquid bergamot filling: if some points are particularly low,use some of the dough from other, higher sides, to patch it up. Use a fork to press little holes in the bottom, but don’t poke them all the way though the dough.

the bergamot, it's bloody great bergamot, it's bostin' mate

Now you’ll have to do some blind baking: get yourself some baking beans, or just any type of dry beans, line your dough with baking parchment, top with the beans and pop the shortcrust in the oven for about 12 minutes on 200 degrees. Next, remove the baking beans, put the empty shell back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until it’s got a nice golden brown look. Take it out to cool down, and in the meantime, make the filling.

Check out my baking beans

Check out my baking beans

Beat your eggs together, then add sugar, bergamot juice and zest, and cream. Mix it all up properly. When your shortcrust shell has cooled down, fill it with your bergamot liquid, and put it back in the oven at a slightly lower temperature, 175 degrees. Leave it there for another 35 – 40 minutes. The filling should be solid, but still slightly wobbly. If the crust looks like it’s going to burn, cover the whole lot with some baking parchment or tin foil, until the filling is cooked properly.

Before serving up, top with some icing sugar (mainly because it looks nice, it’s sweet enough as it is). All hail the bergamot!

Ooh oohhh ohhh bergamoooooot you are my loooovvveeee taaaake me nowthis broadcast has been brought to you by the awesome bergamot

Posted in Baking, Desserts, Italian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment