Italian baked chicken with grapes followed by semifreddo with honey, figs and walnuts

Italian feast

Boasting honey, figs, grapes, nuts and sweet wine, this Italian feast would surely have won the approval of Bacchus himself. When I think about good food, when I dream about delicious dishes bringing together the simplest ingredients to create something truly magical, when I picture myself being served an incredible meal in an idyllic setting, I tend to find myself transported to Italy.

It’s been a few years since I’ve travelled in Italy and I long to return. My parents are in Tuscany right now and as you can imagine I am extremely jealous. My step-mum Sue has been sending me droolsome updates on Whatsapp, replete with photos, documenting their food adventures. There have been accounts of wonderful salads with chicken, ravioli in a walnut cream sauce,  the thinnest pizzas with just one or two toppings, grilled sea bass with roast courgettes, fritto misto in the lightest of batters, fagiolini with fine green beans and bacon in tomatoes and garlic. Oh and lots of gelati with figs and cherries… The list goes on. It’s been pure torture.

So when Expedia challenged me to come up with an Italian meal for their #expediaworldonaplate challenge, I knew I would be taking my inspiration from Tuscany. Continue reading “Italian baked chicken with grapes followed by semifreddo with honey, figs and walnuts”

Because trifle is for life, not just for Christmas

As I tucked into my bowl of trifle on Christmas Day, it occurred to me that we don’t eat trifle nearly as much as we should do.

It’s such a magnificently luxurious dessert, but one that is so easy to prepare. And so versatile too – you can be as creative as you dare trying out new combinations of fruits, alcohol, cake and toppings.

Trifle deserves to be dished up more often, rather than being reserved for the festive season.

So I offer you my most recent take on the glorious trifle, combining the sumptuous warming tones of Amaretto with the light fruitiness of white grapes and the crunch of toasted almonds.

You really ought to make your own custard but I had enough on my plate (quite literally) this Christmas. I reckon it’s perfectly acceptable to cheat and use a ready-made custard instead. Just make sure you use a good quality one, preferably with lots of vanilla.

I also made a non-alcoholic version of this for the children, replacing the Amaretto with apple juice.

So please do give this a try in the new year. I’ll be finding an excuse to make it again myself as soon as I can.

Amaretto and white grape trifle

8 large trifle sponges
Apricot jam
Half a glass of Amaretto
600 ml of fresh custard
500 g white seedless grapes, halved
600 ml whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp icing sugar
100g almond flakes

Cut the trifle sponges in half, spread with the jam and sandwich back together. Arrange these in the bottom of a large, suitably pretty glass bowl; depending on the size of your bowl you may end up with two layers of sponge.

Sprinkle the Amaretto over the sponges. It’s hard to advise how much to use as this is very much down to personal taste. I love Amaretto and I love a boozy trifle, so I use lots. I generally pour some on, let it soak in, then add a bit more. I stand back and watch it soak in again, before adding some more. So use your own discretion here.

Place the grapes on top of the sponges and cover with a layer of custard.

Pour the cream into a large glass bowl and add the vanilla and sugar. Whip the cream with an electric whisk until it forms soft peaks. Carefully spoon the cream over the custard.

In a dry pan, lightly toast the almonds. Leave to cool for a few minutes before scattering liberally over the cream. Chill in the fridge for as long as you can resist before diving in!