Donal Skehan says... Savour a sweet treat
Italian food is not all about the mains - as these delicious dessert recipes prove.
Fig, Almond & Honey Cake
At this time of year, sweet and sticky figs are smack bang in season and if you can stop yourself eating them just as they are, this cake is a great way to show them off. Gently spiced with texture and flavour from flaked almonds, the cake comes together with a drizzle of sweet and floral honey.
For the cake
110g butter plus extra for greasing
150g soft light brown sugar
2 large free range eggs
210g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp of baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
12 figs, sliced in half
50g flaked almonds
Honey to drizzle
For the Vanilla Mascarpone
2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
Preheat the oven to 180°C, grease and line a 20cm-cake tin with a removable base with parchment paper.
Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until they are incorporated. Fold through the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom until you have a thick cake batter.
Finely chop 6 figs leaving the rest cut in halves. Stir through the chopped figs and pour the batter into the cake tin. The batter is thick, so use a spatula to spread across the base of the tin. Gently press the fig halves into the batter and sprinkle with the almonds. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Cover with tin foil if you find the almonds brown too much.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool. While the cake is still warm, pierce it all over with a cocktail stick and drizzle with honey, letting it seep into the holes.
For the vanilla mascarpone, mix together the mascarpone, the icing sugar and seeds scraped from the vanilla pod. Serve generous slices of the cake with a dollop of the vanilla mascarpone.
A perfect make-ahead Italian dessert. Creamy layers wrapped together with coffee-soaked ladyfinger biscuits and dark and white shavings of chocolate - it can't be beaten!
4 large free range eggs, separated
120g caster sugar
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
250g savoiardi di fonni or ladyfinger biscuits
Splash of vin santo or marsala
300g best quality dark chocolate, in large thick shavings
Cocoa powder to dust
150g white chocolate, in large thick shavings
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and frothy. Mix in the mascarpone and vanilla until combined and set aside.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until white and stiff. Add a large spoonful of the beaten egg whites to the mascarpone and mix through. Add the rest of the egg whites and fold through gently.
Spread a little of the mascarpone mixture across the base of a trifle dish and then arrange the savoiardi di fonni across the base. Soak the biscuits in espresso and a swig of vin santo. Carefully spread a layer of the mascarpone mixture and sprinkle over a little of the dark chocolate shavings.
Repeat with the rest of the ingredients ending with a final layer of mascarpone mix. Dust with a little cocoa powder and finish with a final garnish of dark and white chocolate shavings. Leave in the fridge to set for at least one hour.
Il Fornaio is a family-run Italian business which has been in existence since 1998 when it opened its first bakery/family restaurant in Raheny, Dublin. The family have since expanded to three new locations including their new bakery on College Green in the city centre. It's easy to spot with its elaborate and very tempting window display of Italian treats and desserts. Il Fornaio promotes a healthy, authentic Mediterranean diet, avoiding additives and preservatives and sources as many of its products as possible from Italy. A great spot for a hearty bowl of pasta, authentic Italian pizza or some of the best bread in the city. SEE: ilfornaio.ie
When making pizza or pasta sauces from scratch, you need the best of ingredients in order to allow the flavours shine. My store cupboard is never without a jar of passata and some top quality tinned tomatoes, as with these to hand, you can whip up a brilliant Italian meal in a matter of minutes. Bunalun Organic is an Irish company which has been around since 1999 and is at the top of its game when it comes to pantry ingredients. The range includes passatas made from Italian tomatoes, beans, pulses, rice cakes, pastas and even cereals, all of which are all 100pc organic and GM-free. SEE: nationalorganic.com