La Dolce Vita in a dish


If it seems as though there is an Italian ‘thing’ going on here, you’re probably right (the title is a bit of a giveaway…). Periodically, I experience severe withdrawal symptoms from that country, and now is one such time. Unfortunately the planned antidote in the form of a visit to Bologna later this month has had to be postponed.

I certainly don’t look to Italy for its reliability or organisation – but if it’s an aesthetic boost you’re in need of, there really is no better inspiration than The Boot. In a sense, it’s the idea of Italy – La Dolce Vita – that is important. Taken at face value, it is languidly, decadently glorious; look too closely and you might find rather dark depths…

Of course, no one who is not Italian will ever be able to do it like the natives, but that’s not the point. We can appreciate the style (without ever fully trusting their delivery times) and adapt to our own needs. That said, there is also an almost perverse pleasure in seeing how close you can get.

One’s best chances are in the kitchen, where language and body shape cease to matter. I have spent frustratingly enjoyable years trying to get close to my conception of perfection with certain Italian dishes. I say conception because there is no one such thing as the objective ideal, of course. However, one learns certain secrets in the process, and the ‘research’ is by no means a hardship…

So here is one such dish, that I have started making again this summer after several years without; I am immediately wondering why I stopped, apart from the impact on the waistline. Tiramisu can be bought in any supermarket, but there is no substitute for making one’s own; so long as you have the means to make decent espresso and think ahead a few hours, it is ridiculously easy.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • Three egg yolks
  • 500 g mascarpone
  • 100ml single cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 (espresso) cups of cold espresso coffee
  • 4 tbsp coffee liquer such as Kahlua
  • 15 (approx) savoiardi biscuits (ladies/sponge fingers)
  • Cocoa powder for dusting.


Make the coffee and leave to cool.

Beat the egg yolks with the caster sugar and vanilla essence until thick and smooth.

Beat the cream into the mascarpone to loosen it, then carefully fold in the egg mixture.

Spread half the mixture over a shallow dish; briefly dip the savoiardi biscuits in the coffee, and lay over the mascarpone.

Once a complete layer is achieved, spread the rest of the mascarpone mixture on top, to cover completely; chill for some hours.

Before serving, dust the tiramisu generously with cocoa power.

(from Antonio Carluccio’s Complete Italian Food)

Virginal tiramisu

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