A family lunch for my brother and his family to meet Baby Gale had to be postponed for a month. The original Greek lunch plan turned into an Italian lunch plan. I’m still in Italian mode after the days in Venice this past week; there was a semifreddo already prepared and waiting in my freezer; prosecco chilling in the fridge. The planned moussaka turned into lasagna and I decided to put together an antipasti mainly of bought things from the wonderful Corto Italian Deli in Twickenham. With a baby in the family, everything has to stay simple; mainly everything has to stay flexible. A lasagna is very forgiving. I knew if the meal was delayed it would happily sit awhile in a low oven and it’s anyway best not piping hot but allowed to cool a little.
First thing this morning I went to the deli. It almost took me back to Venice: a perfect Italian-style cappuccino with a croissant filled with jam.
As I sat there an Italian man came in and drank an espresso at the counter as his meats were cut for him to take away and a conversation in Italian ensued. Then, my breakfast finished, I made my choices. Romina recommended the stracciatella – the filling that goes into a burrata. Stracciatella means ‘torn apart’ and thin strands of buffalo mozzarella are mixed into cream.
Romina suggested I should sprinkle just a little salt and pepper over it and some olive oil. I also bought some Tuscan prosciutto, mortadella and salami with fennel. There were some good looking ciabatta loaves and I bought some taralli too. In Italy bread baskets always came with fresh bread and bread sticks or biscuits. Back at home I griddled some courgettes and tomatoes and opened a jar of chargrilled artichokes from Carluccio’s.
When it came to eating, the meats were simply fantastic. I don’t know anywhere better to buy cold meats and now the family is becoming so spoilt by the quality at Corto Deli we won’t want to buy meat anywhere else. And the stracciatella was wonderful; quite special and a real treat.
The lasagna I’d started preparing the day before, making the ragu last night. Making a lasagna from scratch takes a while; having the ragu all done made putting it together easier today. It cooked quite slowly in the oven for a long time and by the time we came to eat it, it was beautifully browned; a nice crust from the Parmigiano on top. I’d added an extra layer of spinach through the middle – just fresh, uncooked baby spinach leaves laid across one of the layers. It’s a Jamie Oliver idea; not ‘authentic’ maybe but nice. We served just a simple green salad with it.
The semifreddo came out of the freezer to soften a bit while we ate the main course. I’d used the same recipe as I put on the blog recently – click here – and made that first and chilled in fridge.
However, to jazz it up a bit I decided to put in a raspberry layer and add a topping of crushed amaretti biscuits. For the raspberry layer I just gently cooked 300g raspberries with a little sugar (this will depend on the sweetness of your raspberries) and a squeeze of lemon juice, as if making a compôte.
I didn’t cook it down a lot though and at the end mashed a little but left some recognisable raspberry pieces. I chilled this too. When everything was ready I crushed 12 amaretti biscuits with a rolling pin in a freezer bag.
I lined a 2-litre loaf tin with cling film and spread a layer of the crushed biscuits over the bottom. I put in the freezer for about 20 minutes. It was all a bit of an experiment – would the layer remain once I’d poured in some of the chocolate mixture. I did that very carefully – just half of the chocolate. Then I froze it, checking after about an hour that it was set. Then I carefully poured over a layer of the raspberry (the entire compôte) and left this to set for another hour.
Finally I poured in the rest of the chocolate mix and put it back in the freezer.
I waited until it was frozen before covering the top in a couple of layers of cling film for protection in the freezer. Then it was happy to wait a week while I went to Venice! I was slightly worried when tipping it out of the tin to serve this lunchtime that the amaretti layer would have completely disappeared, but it was still there; slightly sunken but a definite layer. I crushed a few more amaretti and scattered them over the top.
Another slight worry was that while I knew the chocolate would be easy to slice through, would the raspberry layer? Or would it be hard and icy? But it was all fine; it was all wonderful!
Although we’d all eaten a large antipasti … a good slice of lasagna, drunk Prosecco and Chianti … everyone wanted seconds of the semifreddo! I was really pleased with the chocolate semifreddo I made a few weeks ago, but the addition of the raspberry and amaretti layers made a big difference. The flavours all work together well and the finished dish felt more special than a simple chocolate version. It’s so good when experimenting works well. But it was even better to be seven family round a table enjoying each others’ company and a good meal.