Tag Archives: cooking

Biscotti (including tozzetti, cantucci)

25 Jan


There are many ways to make biscotti. The defining characteristic is that they are cooked twice (bis = twice; cotti = cooked), first baked in a loaf, slices of which are then gently toasted to dry.

They go by various names, and with many variations, in different parts of Italy. The almond and lemon ones here are similar to the tozzetti or cantucci dunked into Vin Santo, especially in central Italy. Some of my favourite biscotti are lightly flavoured with anise, though I haven’t tried to make these (yet). For tozzetti, cut the slices thicker than what you see here, up to 1cm thick.

Here I give the recipe for two different flavours – almond- lemon or hazelnut-chocolate. The almond variety are best suited to dunking in Vin Santo, or with a cup of tea, while the the hazelnut and chocolate go better with coffee or darker liqueurs. For special occasions I like to make a batch of each.

I will occasionally bring these to meetings when it’s my turn to bring the snacks.

You get a clearer sense of how to make biscotti with the visuals, I think, so this recipe has an unusually high number of pictures. The specifics of getting the skin off hazelnuts, and the shaping and cutting of the pastries is better conveyed in photography than in verbal description.


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Tiramisù – booze and caffeine, what could possibly go wrong?

21 Dec

As I’ve mentioned before in my recipe posts, desserts were not a big part of my upbringing, but some events call for something a little special. One such event that has become a tradition within the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble over the last handful of years is the final official meeting of the Core Ensemble, (the major artists in the company) in any given calendar year. We come together to reflect on the year that was, to dream on the possibilities of the year to come, and to share food. It is a potluck dinner, each artist brings a plate, and over the last three years I have always contributed what is fast becoming my signature dessert – Tiramisù.

Here is my recipe, cobbled together from many different traditional and contemporary versions, but trying to remain true to the origins of the dish. No berries, no jelly, no bells or whistles. You can add those, if you must.


Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_21917811_italian-tiramisu.html’>lsantilli / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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Green Turkey

4 Dec

I know, there are thousands of recipes for roast turkey available in books and on-line, what makes mine so special? Nothing, except that it’s green. And if you make gravy from the pan drippings, you get green gravy! It’s delicious. The coating and basting, as well as the quick temperature change at the beginning, helps to keep it dry so that both the white and dark meat cook fully without the white meat drying out. My wife, the American, loves it so much she insists that I cook the Thanksgiving turkey each year.

This recipe also avoids having to turn the turkey over, which can be dangerous. Apparently more cooking fires are started in the USA at Thanksgiving than at any other time of year.

It also belongs in the “recipes of love” section because I make it for a celebration that our family has adopted – thanksgiving. Although we live in Australia and it’s not a holiday there, and it’s generally thought of as a specifically American celebration (though it started in the UK, slightly earlier in the year), we have adopted it as a secular ritual centred around gratitude. Every year we invite a number of our closest friends to our house to feast, and engage in a ritual where each person says at least one thing from the previous year, or in their life currently, for which they are grateful. And there’s plenty of fare for the vegetarians. But here, just the turkey recipe. And you can make it for Christmas, or any other damn time you please.


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Panforte (all’Australiano)

6 Nov

Christmas is coming, and since this has to sit for a while before you eat it (well, ideally), I thought it best to get this recipe out there now.

Legend goes that the Sienese army use to carry this stuff around as part of their rations. It’s certainly high in protein, fruit fibre, and natural sugars from the fruit. There is a gluten free version (using nut flours) but the result is completely different. There is very little flour in this recipe and I’ve had gluten-intolerant friends able to eat it. It’s basically fruits and nuts held together using a minimum of flour and candy as glue. I like spices, so this recipe is fairly spicy (and I still tend to increase the amount of spice by about 50% on top of what’s here).

The Australian touch is that I’ve replaced half of the hazelnuts from the traditional recipe with macadamias, half the citrus peel with crystallised ginger, and half the dried figs with dates. No vegemite.. yet. Continue reading

Cassata – Italian ice-cream cake

14 Apr

My family was not big on desserts. Even at the big annual feasts like Easter, Christmas, or New Year, dessert would usually be a small bowl of (home) tinned peaches with a scoop of ice-cream – or perhaps a trifle brought by one of the Anglo-Australian in-laws.

To my mind (or perhaps it’s to my sweet tooth), there are certain occasions that call for something more elaborate, more celebratory. It comes, no doubt, from the Anglo-Australian influence. This Easter (just two weeks ago), I decided to add something to the gnocchi and rabbit (rabbit recipe forthcoming) that have become a bit of a tradition in our home. I remembered, during my three months in Italy as a ten year old, that I became a little obsessed with individual serves of an Italian ice-cream cake called cassata that the local shop sold. Every few years my thoughts will return to cassata, and I’ll vaguely wonder where I might get one before being distracted by my life. This year, I decided to make one. The results were remarkably good, so I’m sharing the recipe.


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10 Mar

Easter-time is gnocchi time, at least at the Pensalfini house in Brisbane.

Gnocchi were one of my favourite Italian foods growing up, and they’ve remained so. Gnocchi I’ve had in restaurants, including in Italy, have always been slightly disappointing… and those you can buy in supermarkets or speciality stores in vacuum sealed packets are not remotely worthy of the name.

Gnocchi are a kind of pasta which dates from Roman times at least, quite possibly of Middle-Eastern origin, though of course potato gnocchi would not have existed until the introduction of the potato to Europe in the sixteenth century. Continue reading

Lasagne Verdi

27 Jan

Lasagne Verdi is a dish that I remember my mother making, perhaps once a year, or once every two years… sometimes for Easter or Christmas, but I recall it as a New Year’s day celebration. New Year’s day lunch was always a fancy affair, with family and friends of the family. Of course, as I entered my late teens and university years, it was a little hard to drag myself out of bed for a New Year’s Day lunch, but the food was always worth it.

This dish is something that, in my family, we called “Tagliatelle Verde”, though technically it should have been “Lasagne Verdi.”  Technically tagliatelle are fettuccine (the reason there are so many different names for pasta is not that there are so many different kinds – though there are – it’s because each region has its own names for the various standard paste).

At any rate, this version of lasagne (and note that in most parts of Italy it’s lasagne, the plural, not the singular lasagna) comes from the Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions on and near the Adriatic coast of central Italy. My family hails from the border of those regions, part way between the modern city of Pesaro and the medieval/Renaissance city of Urbino. Continue reading