Monday 18 December 2017

Satisfying a manly appetite with Jamie's mentor Gennaro Contaldo

Celebration Cake
Celebration Cake
Fritto Misto Di Pesce Mixed fried fish
Porchetta: Stuffed rolled pork belly

Gennaro Contaldo's new book offers lots of ideas for family get togethers, such as Father’s Day which falls next weekend

Torta Festiva  Celebration cake

This is a typical Italian celebration cake, made for birthdays and other festivities. The sponge, known as pan di spagna, is drizzled with a syrup made from water and a sweet liqueur, which makes it very moist. The filling is usually a crema pasticciera (custard cream), which is home-made and can be flavoured with vanilla and/or chocolate if desired.

This cake can be decorated as you like; I use fresh fruit, which is quite traditional. However, you can use your imagination and make a cake that is suitable for any member of your family, for any occasion.

You will need

Butter, to grease

6 eggs

300g/10½ oz/1½ cups caster sugar

200g/7oz/1½ cups plain flour, sifted

3 tsp baking powder, sifted for the filling

750ml/1 pint 6fl oz/3 cups milk

1 vanilla pod

9 egg yolks

300g/10½ oz/1½ cups caster sugar

75g/2¾ oz cornflour

60g/2¼ oz good plain chocolate, finely chopped

For the syrup

100ml/3½ fl oz/½ cup Marsala

40g/1½ oz/scant ¼ cup caster sugar

For the decoration A selection of fruit, such as strawberries, kiwi, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, figs

Icing sugar, sifted


First, make the sponge. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease a deep 20cm/8-inch square cake tin, or 3 x 20cm/8-inch round sandwich tins if you have them, then set aside.

For the sponge, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until creamy and foamy. Gradually fold in the flour and baking powder. Pour into the cake tin/s and bake for 40 minutes if using a large tin, and 15-20 minutes if using small tins.

Check it is done by inserting a wooden skewer: if it comes out clean and dry, the sponge is ready. Leave to cool, then tip out of the tin/s. If you have made one cake, cut it horizontally into three sponges.

For the filling, pour the milk into a small saucepan, add the vanilla pod and heat until the milk reaches boiling point. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the cornflour and continue to whisk.

Gradually pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking all the time to prevent lumps forming. Once well-amalgamated, pour the mixture back into the pan, place on a medium heat and stir. As soon as it begins to boil, remove from the heat (do this quickly or the cream on the bottom of the pan will burn). Pour a third of the mixture into another bowl and immediately stir in the chocolate until well-amalgamated and the chocolate has melted. You will then have a vanilla filling and a chocolate filling - cover both with clingfilm and leave to cool.

For the syrup, put the Marsala and sugar in a small saucepan with 200ml/7fl oz/scant one cup of water and cook on a medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has reduced a little. Leave to cool. Brush each layer of sponge with the syrup.

Spread the first sponge layer with vanilla filling. Add a second layer of sponge and spread with the chocolate filling. Add a third layer of sponge and top with the remaining vanilla filling.

Decorate with the fruit and dust with sifted icing sugar.

Fritto Misto Di Pesce Mixed fried fish

Popular in restaurants at coastal resorts throughout Italy, the traditional way of making this dish was to simply dust the fish with flour and then fry them. I like a light batter, which works really well with the delicate flavour of the fish. The secret of this recipe is to use really fresh fish.

Serves 4.

You will need

200g/7oz king prawns (jumbo shrimp), raw and unpeeled

200g/7oz whitebait

200g/7oz squid (calamari), cleaned and cut into rings and tentacles

200g/7oz sardines, gutted

Grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

A handful of parsley, finely chopped

Good vegetable or seed oil, to deep-fry

Lemon wedges, to serve

For the batter

2 egg yolks

A pinch of salt

200g/7oz/1½ cups plain flour, sifted


Place the prawns, whitebait, squid and sardines in a shallow dish and scatter half the lemon zest and all the garlic and parsley over them. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make the batter, whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, then gradually whisk in 40ml/1½ fl oz/scant 3 tbsp of very cold water and the salt. Gradually fold in the flour until well-amalgamated.

Heat the oil for deep-frying in a large saucepan or deep-fryer until a small piece of bread dropped in sizzles immediately.

Remove the fish from the fridge and dip each piece into the batter, then immediately fry a few pieces at a time for a few minutes, until golden and the fish is cooked.

Drain on kitchen towel and serve immediately, scattered with the remaining lemon zest, with lemon wedges.

Porchetta: Stuffed rolled pork belly

A great idea for large gatherings, porchetta, to me, means a party and I make it during special occasions, when I know hordes of people will drop by. It feeds lots, can be eaten cold and can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Traditionally in Italy, porchetta is a whole piglet filled with lots of fresh herbs and slow-roasted, either in a wood oven or even outdoors on a spit. It is made at home, as well as sold ready-made as a takeaway. Since whole piglets are not that easily obtainable, I use pork belly and the result is similar. It is simple to prepare and can be made in advance and eaten cold.

Serves 10-12

You will need

5kg/11lb pork belly (ask your butcher to remove the ribs and trim the excess fat)

25g/1oz coarse sea salt

Freshly ground coarse black pepper

Small green leaves from a large handful of fresh thyme

Leaves from a large handful of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

A large handful of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped

1 tbsp fennel seeds (if you are lucky enough to find wild fennel, use it)

8 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

Small carrots, cut into chunks

6 tbsp runny honey


Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7. Lay the pork belly flat, skin side down. Sprinkle with half the salt and lots of black pepper, rubbing it well into the meat with your fingers. Leave to rest for 10 minutes so that the seasoning settles well into the meat. Sprinkle the herbs, fennel seeds and garlic, evenly all over.

You will need 10 pieces of string, each about 12 inches long. Carefully roll the meat up widthways and tie it very tightly with string in the middle of the joint. Then, tie at either end about ½ inch from the edge, and keep tying along the joint until you have used up all the string. The filling should be well-wrapped - if any escapes from the sides, push it in.

Using your hands, massage one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over the joint, then rub in the remaining salt and some more black pepper.

Grease a large roasting pan with the remaining olive oil and place the pork in it. Roast for 10 minutes, then turn it over. After 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and cover the pork with foil (if you like the crackling to be very crispy, don't bother with the foil, but remember the porchetta needs to be thinly sliced and crispy crackling will make that difficult). Roast for three hours.

If cooking the potatoes and carrots, add them to the roasting dish for the final 1½ hours of cooking.

Remove the joint from the oven and coat with the honey, drizzling some of the juices from the roasting tin over it too. Insert a fork at either side of the joint and lift onto a wooden board.

Leave to rest for five minutes, then slice and serve hot or cold.

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