Taste goes Italian

Last night the monthly Taste Wine and Cooking Club was cooking Italian, one of my favourite cuisines, so I jumped at the chance to be the one to choose the best dish on the night.

The cooking club is not a cooking class and it's not targeted at either amateurs or professionals, it's just for those who want to share their favourite recipes, pick up some hot tips and have plenty of laughs along the way.

Taste owner Jodie Macaulay started the club which is based on a different cooking theme each month. There are several groups of 10 to 20 participants who bring pre-made home-cooked meals along a theme to share on the night. They also share their recipe.

And what a great bunch of people they were (pictured above and apoligies to those missing from the photo) All happy and chatting and boy did they cook some great food.Congratulations to all of them!

Amongst my favourites were:
  • Janelle Mulherin's Sweet and sour rabbit (a family favourite cooked regularly on a Sunday),
  • Brenda OBrien's Gnocchi alla Romana which used semolina to give a slightly crunchy texture,
  • Julie Stephens' Zucchinni Ripieni (Stuffed Courgettes) which had a strong mushroom flavour and a crisp crust on top,
  • Adam King's 'Pizza that I've picked up here and there',
  • Deanne Higgins' Porchetta - loved those crunchy bits of pork crackling,
  • John Gray's Gnocchi with Gorgonzola (heart attack in a dish but so tasty).

We washed it all down with two Italian wines available at Purple Palate - a Montrose Estate Rose of Barbera and a Montrose Estate Barbera. Both are made from the same varietal, just in different styles and both were very pleasing to drink.

However my job was to pick a winner and, being a dessert gal at heart, I chose Michelle Laney's Tiramisu. Michelle used Philip Johnson's recipe from his Ecco Restaurant Cookbook. It was seriously good, but seriously rich. The three types of alcohol added a lot of punch.

Here's the recipe

Prepared by Michelle Laney from Philip Johnson's recipe

5 egg yolks
100g (31/2oz) caster sugar
500g (17oz) mascarpone
4 egg whites
400ml (14fl oz) hot espresso coffee (or strong plunger coffee)
30ml (1fl oz) Galliano
30ml (1fl oz) tia maria or kahlua
30ml (1fl oz) brandy
400g (13oz) savoiardi (sponge fingers, preferably Italian)
200g (7fl oz) best quality dark chocolate, shaved
250ml (9fl oz) cream, softly whipped
Cocoa powder

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale then stir in mascarpone until well combined. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks and fold into mascarpone mixture.

Use a 24 x 4cm round deep sided pie dish or a rectangular dish. Combine coffee, Galliano, tia maria or kahlua and brandy in a bowl. Dip half the savoiardi into this mixture, ensuring they do not become totally saturated, and arrange in a pattern inside the dish. Cover with half of the mascarpone mixture and sprinkle liberally with half the shaved chocolate. Repeat layers with remaining savoiardi, mascarpone and chocolate. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, place a wedge or square in the centre of each serving plate. Top with whipped cream and dust generously with cocoa.

# Michelle says this recipe is from the Ecco Restaurant Cookbook. She has made it several times and it always gets rave reviews.