Serves: 6 generously (or 4 who want some leftovers for breakfast)
Good for: summery dessert for a dinner party among friends
Time needed: 40 mins prep + 1 hour to chill
Faff factor: medium
Here’s the story:
This tiramisu, an elaboration on our mum’s traditional Italian recipe, was thought up during the work week when thinking about what would complement Giulia’s fish cous cous for a dinner party a couple of weeks ago. Inspired by our middle-eastern-slash-Sicilian feast and craving our mum’s tiramisu, we decided to give a North African twist to this classic Italian dessert.
When living in Tripoli, Libya, summer fruit tiramisu was a mainstay on our family menu, and the second the word “pistachio” came to her mind, Coz knew she had to make it! When we think about our time in Libya one of our first memories is the sweet perfume of orange blossoms wafting over from the orange trees in our school playground, so it just made sense to bring together pistachios and orange blossom to take the North African and Sicilian influence further.
Our mum’s original summer fruit tiramisu called for apricots, kiwis, strawberries and other seasonal fruit but, it being prime strawberry season in the UK, we decided to stick with strawberries and add the crunch and colour of pistachios, and team it with the heady, oriental scent of orange blossoms to create the perfect end to our meal.
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 packs sponge fingers, or savoiardi biscuits (you can find these at any Italian delicatessen)
Two teaspoons orange blossom water (we found ours at a large Tesco)
50g peeled, unsalted pistachios, chopped
200 ml water
4 tbsp runny honey
Ground cinnamon (optional)
Chopped, fresh mint leaves (optional)
Step 1: In a large bowl, tip out the mascarpone and mix vigorously with a spoon until smooth and creamy (no longer than two minutes). Add the sugar and mix well, smoothing out any lumps as much as possible. Add the yolks one at a time and mix each one carefully before adding the next.
Step 2: Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form (when we did this, Coz’s tiny and badly equipped kitchen did not yet have an egg beater – thanks to our sous-chef, Coz’s patient boyfriend Domenico, the whites were whisked by hand and we can assure you that it’s not as traumatic as it sounds, and a great upper arm workout!). Very gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture, carefully smoothing out the lumps and mixing until the cream turns out smooth and silky. Add a sprinkling of cinnamon and one or two chopped mint leaves to complete that middle-eastern flavour palette.
Step 3: Boil the water and add the honey. Alternatively, you can use watered-down rum, but the flavour would be slightly less authentic. Add the orange blossom essence to the syrup, and transfer to a shallow bowl.
Step 4: Have your tiramisu casserole ready (any rectangular dish is fine, or for less washing up to do later, try a rectangular foil baking tray). Very lightly soak the biscuits in the syrup one by one (they really only need to touch the syrup lightly on each side – any more and you will end up with a soggy mess) and lay them on the bottom of your casserole. Layer on a couple of dollops of mascarpone cream and smooth over the biscuits. Don’t worry if the cream looks too runny, it will set in the fridge. Slice your strawberries finely and place on top of the cream, covering it completely, and sprinkle with a small handful of pistachios.
Step 5: Repeat the process, placing another layer of biscuits on top of the strawberries, then the cream, and finally the strawberries and pistachios. For show effect, we added a smattering of pomegranate seeds leftover from our side salad and a few fresh mint leaves.
Step 6: Refrigerate for at least an hour, and enjoy!
Coz’s tip: While a classic tiramisu is always a pleasure to make and eat, try playing around with syrups and flavours – all you really need is a diluted, sweet something to dip the biscuits in, the mascarpone cream (which you can flavour with anything you like) and a showy topping to complete it.
Giulia’s tip: Making a healthier version won’t hurt, either- using good, low-fat Greek yogurt and plenty of healthy fruit works just as well for guilt-free indulgence. You can also find light mascarpone in most supermarkets.