ian’s torta di verona

belinda jeffery's recipes

My recipes are easy. They’re for the food I like to eat. Simple, fresh, full of flavour and just a bit different. You certainly don't need any great cooking skills for them, you just need to like food and like eating – just like me. The rest is simple.

ian’s torta di verona

Early in my career I worked in a rather wonderful Italian restaurant called Taylors in Sydney’s Surry Hills. The food was simply and lovingly cooked Northern Italian, with no razzamatazz, just quietly perfect on the plate. A case in point was the torta di Verona: a glorious tiramisu-like confection of panettone layered with ethereally light mascarpone cream, topped with slivers of crunchy, sugared almonds and served with a spoonful or two of blueberry compote. From the very first time I tried it, I knew that I wanted to work with people who cooked such a wonderful thing. It took a while, but I was offered a position in the kitchen, and found after a few months that the Torta di Verona, or ‘Gloop’ as it was affectionately called, came under my care. Ian McCulloch, who created it, was more than ready to pass the baton on to someone else, as it was one of those dishes that all restaurants seem to have which can never be taken off the menu without eliciting a torrent of phone calls and mail.

There are several steps to making this dessert, none of them hard, but of course they do take time. If you like you can spread the preparation over a few of days - making the almonds and blueberry sauce first, then making the mascarpone cream and putting the torta together the next day, leaving time for it to chill and the flavours to meld together and work their magic.

about 1 cup (250ml) marsala (ideally almond marsala)
1/4 -1/3 cup (60-80ml) amaretto, or more if necessary
About 700g #panettone or pandoro, crusts trimmed, cut into 1cm thick slices

Mascarpone cream
8 eggs
300g caster sugar
800g mascarpone
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Blueberry sauce
300g blueberries (fresh or frozen)
2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
80ml - 100ml crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), to taste

Amaretto almonds
100g flaked almonds
30g caster sugar
3 teaspoons amaretto
Icing sugar, for dusting, optional

# You will need about 600g once the crusts have been removed.)

For the mascarpone cream, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large stainless steel bowl, then sit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and beat the mixture with an electric hand-held beater for about 4 minutes, until it is quite warm and frothy. (Be careful not to overheat the mixture or the eggs will scramble.) Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to beat the mixture for another 6-8 minutes until it’s cool and very light and thick. Reduce the beater speed to low and mix in the mascarpone (it’s a good idea to give this a good stir first to loosen it before adding it) and vanilla until they're well combined – the mixture collapses quite a bit when you do this.

Spread one third of the mascarpone cream over the bottom of a large ceramic or glass serving bowl. Combine the marsala and amaretto in a jug and brush one side of a panettone slice with a little. Sit the slice, moistened-side down, on the mascarpone mixture then brush the top with a little more of the marsala mixture. Repeat this until the mascarpone cream is completely covered with panettone slices (you may find that you need to trim the slices to fit the bowl as you go.) Now carefully spread half of the remaining mascarpone mixture evenly on top. Cover this with the remaining panettone slices, brushing them with the marsala mixture as before. Finish by spreading the remaining mascarpone cream evenly over the top, then cover the bowl and chill it for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight.

To make the blueberry sauce, put the blueberries, caster sugar and crème de cassis into a small saucepan over low-ish heat. Stir them gently to dissolve the sugar, then stop stirring and bring the mixture to just below the boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes, then using a slotted spoon, scoop the berries out of the liquid into a bowl. Increase the heat to high and boil the mixture until its slightly syrupy then remove the pan from the heat. Pour the liquid over the berries and leave them to cool, then pour the mixture into a container, seal it tightly and pop it in the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 150C and line a small oven tray with baking paper.

For the amaretto almonds, toss the almonds and sugar together in a bowl with the amaretto to moisten them lightly. Spread the almonds as best you can in a single layer on the prepared tray. Slip the tray in the oven and cook the almonds, turning them frequently, for about 20 minutes or so until they’re golden and crisp. When they’re ready, transfer the tray to a rack and let the almonds cool completely. Sometimes a few clump together, but I rather like this as they look pretty. Store them in an airtight container in the freezer. (If you do this there is no need to defrost them before using them as they warm up quickly.)

Just before you serve the torta, sprinkle the amaretto almonds over the top. You can serve it family-style and let everyone help themselves to torta and sauce, or use a large kitchen spoon to scoop portions of torta into individual bowls, and spoon a little berry sauce alongside (it’s quite intense so you don’t need much). If you like, dust the almonds with a little icing sugar to finish off.

Serves 8.

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