As the big day draws near and we take a little moment to reflect on the year that has passed, I thought I’d take a little moment to thank you all for your kind words, comments and support during what has been a difficult year. Yesterday we celebrated the first of several events without the exuberant, Christmas loving, presence of my father. My brother and his family travelled South to Bexhill on Sea and my mother hosted a family meal. Lots of hard work, a few tears, plenty of laughter, and of course a great deal of good food.
Not usually much of a dessert maker or eater, you sometimes need to make an exception and Christmas is mine! One of the desserts I made is a great one for anyone who either doesn’t like a traditional Christmas Pudding or forgot to make one. It’s an Italian dish called Zuccotto, and can be made many different ways with little twists of your own. This is a particularly Christmassy version as it uses panettone and is quickly assembled and feeds a crowd.
INGREDIENTS (to serve about 12 people)
- 1 panettone (you’ll probably have a little left over to enjoy with a coffee)
- 750g ricotta cheese
- 120g icing sugar
- 3 tablespoons chopped mixed peel
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons of chopped dates (or use some chopped nuts, or a mix of both)
- A small glass of marsala or sweet wine or sherry
A round bottomed bowl (about 1.5l) or large pudding basin
Start by mixing the icing sugar into the ricotta then diving the cheese mixture roughly into 2 portions. Stir the mixed peel and orange zest into one portion and the cocoa powder and dates into the other.
Line the bowl with plenty of cling film, leaving enough overhanging to wrap the base of the pudding (it will be turned out when finished and chilled).
Cut the top and bottom off the panettone so that you have two discs, about 1cm thick, then cut the rest of the loaf into 1cm slices. Put the smaller disc on the base of your bowl and line the sides with overlapping slices. It doesn’t matter if they are taller than the bowl, you can tuck them over at the end. Brush the bread which is now lining your bowl with the marsala, be generous!
Place the orange and mixed peel mix of ricotta into the base of your bowl and then cover this mixture with more slices of panettone. Brush the bread with masala and top with the cocoa and date ricotta. Place the second round on top to make a lid (which will become the base) and tuck over any overhanging bread. If you have any gaps, fill with any scraps of panettone and give it all a final, generous brush of marsala. Wrap the cling film over the top, place a plate on the bowl and weigh it down leaving it to chill overnight in the fridge.
When you are ready to serve, remove from the fridge about 15 minutes beforehand, peel back the cling film, place a large serving dish over the bowl and tip the dessert out, flipping it over. Dust with cocoa powder and enjoy.
All that remains for me to say is Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad and Buon Natale to you all. May the year ahead bring you health and happiness and I look forward to seeing you all again in 2018.