Forget the summer diet. Don't miss these three ever-so-tempting desserts from the back streets of Venice
Campari is one of the ingredients I most associate with Venice, even though it originates from Milan. Its bright red glow and sticky bitter taste are key elements of the quintessential Venetian drink, the Spritz. It’s also the defining ingredient in a Negroni, and makes it a cocktail to be reckoned with.
My early trips to Venice found me in the Giardini neighbourhood at the end of the Grand Canal and I have a strong memory of the massive illuminated CAMPARI sign on top of the Hotel Riviera on Lido, now sadly gone.
Ingredients to make twelve slices:
8 blood oranges
350g Greek yoghurt
600g caster sugar
4 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
250g butter, melted and cooled
350g fine semolina
100g ground almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC/Gas 3.
2. Finely grate the zest of four of the blood oranges and set the fruit to one side.
3. Get a large mixing bowl and put in the yoghurt, 300g of the caster sugar and the lightly beaten eggs. Stir in the cooled butter and finally fold through all the dry ingredients including the orange zest. Scrape the mixture into a 23cm greased cake tin and put into the oven.
4. Check to see if the cake is ready after 15 minutes. Push a skewer into the centre; it should come out dry. Leave to cool in the tin.
5. While the cake is cooking, make the syrup. Put the juice of eight blood oranges, the remaining sugar and the Campari into a heavy-based saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil. Allow the syrup to simmer and skim off any white scum. When reduced to a medium-thick syrup remove from the heat.
6. Prick the top of the cake all over with a toothpick and spoon the syrup over the warm sponge in a couple of batches until everything has been absorbed. Your cake is now ready.
7. To serve, simply cut a slice and offer with excellent vanilla ice cream.
This isn’t so much a dessert, but rather a small sweet taste to go with coffee, like those enigmatically named petits fours. The fun here is had in the appearance of the chocolate-and-nut sausage: it looks like salami. And when it is sliced, it takes on the appearance of black pudding or blood sausage.
4 medium free-range egg yolks
160g caster sugar
180g unsalted butter – at room temperature
100g cocoa powder
Good pinch of fine salt
200g mixed nuts – hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios
150g dried fruit roughly chopped – one type or a mixture eg dried apricots, figs and prunes
200g Savoiardi sponge fingers, broken into 1cm pieces
1. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, then add the butter, cocoa powder and salt, beating all the while so that you create a creamy paste.
2. Mix in the nuts, fruit and broken biscuits and place the mixture on a sheet of foil. Roll the mixture into a cylinder 5cm wide – like a large, thick sausage. Wrap in greaseproof paper or clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
3. Slice into rounds and serve with coffee.
It may not be quite the right time of year, but with this gloomy summer weather it's the perfect warming dessert. This recipe takes three autumn fruits prepared in different ways and brings them together for a common cause. The pears are poached, the apples are caramelised and the figs are left to speak for themselves.
When served, this dish looks incredibly simple but a little preparation is required. The pears can be any variety, but Comice are best. Use small round dessert apples. Make sure the figs are ripe; if they are not, you can cheat by roasting them before you use them.
Quarter them, drizzle with a little honey and place on a baking tray for 15 minutes at 140ºC/Gas 1.
Ingredients to make six portions:
500ml white wine
250g caster sugar – use vanilla sugar if you can
1 cinnamon stick, broken into two
3 firm pears
6 small dessert apples (three if they are large)
A squeeze of lemon juice
200g unsalted butter
200g brown sugar
200g whipping cream
6 ripe figs, quartered
4 Amaretti biscuits
1. Bring one litre of water, the wine, sugar and cinnamon stick to the boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Leave it bubbling for five minutes while you peel the pears, leaving the stalks intact. Pop the pears into the pot and simmer on a very low heat, covered, for approximately one hour, or until the pears are soft when pierced with a knife.
2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool, cut the pears into quarters, removing the cores. Keep them in the syrup and discard the cinnamon stick.
3. Now peel, core and cut each apple in half if they are small, or into quarters if they are large. Keep in water with a good squeeze of lemon juice to stop them from going brown.
4. In a wide pan melt the butter with the brown sugar. When this starts to boil add the apple pieces.
5. Turn the temperature down and bubble on a low heat until tender (about three to four minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside. Finally, whisk the whipping cream to very soft peaks, then stir in the Amaretto.
Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts) (Bloomsbury, £25) by restauranteur Russell Norman is as much about putting together delicious, simple food as it is about discovering the hidden waterways, restaurants and markets of magical Venice. Wanderlust has one copy of Polpo to give-away online – enter now for your chance to win.
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