A Food & Travel Blog

An Interview with a Cook as Delightful as Her Books – Tessa Kiros & Her Torta Tartufata

26/10/2012 | By

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy writing a food blog?  I get to utterly indulge my personal interests, appetite and the nosey part of my nature, I’ve been the guest of some remarkable food and wine producing businesses, groups and organisations and I’ve had the opportunity to met more talented, passionate and inspiring people than I’d have ever imagined possible.  A couple of weeks ago I added another notch in my belt when I was able to spend some time with much-loved author Tessa Kiros.

Tessa is the author of seven bestselling titles (at least 5 of which are on my shelves) and was in Australia for her first ever promotional trip here, headlining the Crave Sydney International Food Festival before touring nationally to share her newest book, Limoncello and Linenwater (Murdock Books).  Although Adelaide was her last stop on the gruelling two week tour, with no days off in that time, Tessa still found the grace to be charming, engaging, interesting and interested.  I’d had a tricky afternoon before I was due to meet her and arrived slightly discombobulated, but she has a happy knack of setting people at their ease and within minutes I was relaxed and completely smitten with her as she agreeably answered my questions.

With food which is informed by many different cultures – Finnish, Greek, Italian, South African – I couldn’t help but wonder who are the people who Tessa looks up to and respects?  While she credits the current craze for food-based television shows with the growth in interest in seasonal and sustainable eating, Tessa doesn’t watch them.  Her food clearly has it’s feet firmly planted in her family, her background and her travel, but her first influencers outside of that, and those she still counts as among the most important, date from her early working days – first as a waitress in a restaurant with Angela Dwyer as head chef, next working under restauranteur and chef Corrine Young and thirdly  Ketty Koufonicola-Touros, the Greek mother of her childhood friend (and long-time food stylist).  Given that her new book is a tribute to her Italian mother-in-law – and all the women in her (and our) lives – I was beginning to sense a strong matriarchal theme.

Tessa’s books are – without exception – beautiful.  They are lavishly photographed with images of the food and it’s inspirations, but they all also have a very strong personal touch and the latest is no exception with it’s photographs of Italian women and their household tips and hints, reminding me of a treasured family album.  This is no accident and Tessa always has a very firm visual concept in mind for each of her books which is consistently carried through each publication and always with the help of her stylist whom she has known since birth and her photographer who is a long-time friend.

During our chat we each talked of our children, with me lamenting the fact I am now paying the price for my control issues in the kitchen with children who are reluctant to cook (with the exception of my cupcake-baking eldest who was herself inspired by Tessa’s book Apples for Jam).  Tessa’s children are 12 and 14 years old respectively and while she encourages them, they are not yet overly keen.  They are just beginning to show some interest and she is determined to get them to competency with 15 basic recipes before they fly the nest, giving them a fundamental repertoire on which to build.

I was keen to find find out what foods Tessa herself is interested in eating when she goes out or what she loves to prepare at home.  She lives in Tuscany – a glorious part of the world, but one that can be a little homogenous when it comes to food so when she is away from home she loves to take the opportunity to indulge in a fondness for Vietnamese or Indian food.  I was thrilled to discover that her favourite cuisine to prepare herself is, in fact, mine too – Middle Eastern.  Finally, I had to know what she considers to be her absolutely sure-fire, drop-dead gorgeous, never-fail-to-impress dishes and she has three – her Shrimp with lemon, peri peri, garlic and feta, Gravalax with dill cucumbers and Finish mustard and her Cinnamon and Cardamom buns – all from her book Falling Cloudberries, and all soon to feature on my table!

I’ve chosen a delicious but dead simple recipe from her new book, Limoncello and Linenwater, to share with you today.  It’s a cake and it’s chocolate and knocks up very quickly – and will impress at any table on which you choose to share it.

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Torta Tartufata
 
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The recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I used almonds which are much more prevalent here in Australia.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 40 gms skinned hazelnuts
  • 100 gms butter
  • 120 gms dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 100 gms sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 20 gms plain flour
  • Icing sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Butter and flour 28cm spring form pan.
  3. Carefully toast nuts in a dry frypan over moderate heat, then roughly chop.
  4. Melt butter in a small saucepan, add chocolate and cocoa. Stir until smooth, remove from heat and cool.
  5. Using electric beaters, whip egg whites to snowy peaks & set aside.
  6. Use beaters to whip egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a wide bowl until creamy.
  7. Stir in flour, nuts and a pinch of salt.
  8. Very gently fold in egg whites with a metal spoon.
  9. Scrape into tin, bake for about 20-30 minutes until top is dry, but middle is still moist and soft.
  10. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

 

 

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Flourless Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

21/09/2012 | By

It’s going to be a long day today.  My son was up and out the door at 0430 hrs this morning on his way to catch a plane to Brisbane for his football trip/weekend.  Football trips have been in the news in Australia of late for all the wrong reasons and, like most 19 year-olds, my sons impulse control and decision-making can be a little flawed when wearing beer goggles.  But, like most 19 year-olds, he assures me that he is an adult, can look after himself and is allowed to have a good time so – like every mother before me – I have to let him go, keeping fingers and toes crossed that he comes home in one piece. The fact that he has gone off for a beery weekend with his third bout of tonsillitis this year only added to my concerns and I lay in bed worrying for 10 minutes after he left, then gave up and got up.

Given that I now had an extra two hours in my day, I decided to comfort myself with baking – my go-to remedy for most unsettling emotional disturbances.  I have a fabulously active sourdough starter bubbling away on the kitchen bench at the moment.  That this is so, is no real credit to me.  It is a starter given to me by my dear friend Isabel and which I brought back from the US earlier this year.  I wickedly neglected it over the last three months, leaving it languishing in the back of the fridge.  In a guilt-induced panic last week, I pulled it out, whispered a prayer to the gods of fermentation and started feeding it.  Like magic it kicked back into life and I baked with it earlier this week.  I intend to use it again, to create something special later today but what I needed this morning was something a little more immediate, preferably with chocolate in it – I’m a bit predictable like that.

Now that my kids are well past the stage where nuts are a threat to their airways, I’ve become quite addicted to them.  I have at least four different varieties in the house at any given time and try to get them into as many different dishes as possible.  Somehow (yet another failure in efficient domestic management according to The Husband) I managed to buy almonds three times in one week a while back, so I started thinking about ways to use them up this morning and came up with something I’m really rather proud of.  I have a Thermomix, so used it to make this, but any decent food processor will do the job, it will just take a little longer to process the nuts.  I’ll give the exact quantities for the ingredients I used, but I think you could cut back on the sugar if you wanted to.


Flourless Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
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A quick, flourless cookie recipe that can be whipped up in a Thermomix or food processor in no time.
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 36 cookies
Ingredients
  • 250 gms almonds
  • 4 tsps solid coconut oil
  • 180 gms soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 good pinch of sea salt
  • 100gms dark choc chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Put almonds in the Thermomix, speed 9 for 1 minute. Scrape down, add coconut oil, speed 9 for 30 seconds or until a paste. OR
  3. Process almonds until finely ground, add coconut oil and continue processing until consistency of a paste.
  4. Add sugar, egg, vanilla bean paste, salt and bicarb of soda to Thermomix, speed 4, 10 seconds or process until combined.
  5. Add choc chips, speed 3 Reverse, 10 seconds, or pulse until combined.
  6. Roll teaspoons of batter into balls, place on prepared cookie sheet and press down with a fork.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Cool on tray for 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.

 

 

 

 

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