What cheese do you use to hide a horse? …. MASCARPONE! Welcome to the inaugural and slightly unorthodox cheese of the week. A thick, creamy, spreadable cheese that originated in the Lombardia region of northern Italy in the late 16th or early 17th century, the name ‘mascarpone’ may come from the Spanish mas que bueno (better than good), or from mascarpia, the name for ricotta in the local dialect, because both ricotta and mascarpone are made by very similar processes.
Mascarpone is made by curdling pasteurised cow’s milk cream with a small amount of citric or acetic acid then draining residual liquid through a finely woven cloth. It does not contain any rennet and is therefore completely vegetarian. This cheese is best known as the essential ingredient in Italy’s signature dessert – Tiramisu – which means, literally, ‘pull me down’ – a name that might be attributable to mascarpone’s deliciously high fat content of 60-75%. It can also be used in savoury dishes, adding creaminess while not detracting from flavour. Available in potentially every supermarket’s dairy section in the entire world, this incredibly un-cheesy cheese is apparently ridiculously easy to make at home … next time!
So how did I devour my cheese of the week? Here we come to the unorthodox part of this high-pressure first blog post … (drumroll please) … I made Machamisu! A Japanese variant of what the BBC so appallingly describes as Italy’s ‘coffee trifle’, using macha (green tea powder) instead of coffee, along with copious amounts of hidden horses. How do you like your mascarpone???
- Dissolve 1 tablespoon of macha in a small glass of hot water. Allow to cool and add a splash of grand marnier. Don’t taste this concoction, it’s not very nice – but it WILL be. Leave aside.
- Whip egg yolks and sugar until a creamy yellow. Fold in mascarpone. Sift in remaining 2 tablespoons of macha, or until it looks roughly like this:
- Trim the ladyfinger biscuits to fit the size of the dish in which you would like to serve you machamisu – I chose individual duralex glasses. Dunk the lady fingers in the glass of macha and grand marnier for a few seconds, then place at the bottom of the dish (layer 1). Cover with the macha and mascarpone cream. Repeat layer 1 two more times, finishing with the mascarpone cream.
- Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Before serving sprinkle the top with sifted macha. Serve with slices of kaki (persimmon) and a fine Japanese whisky (I chose a 17 year old Hibiki).Enjoy!