Italian politicians are such a weird bunch.
You’d think they have urgent, pressing problems to deal with: for instance, a government that has been wallowing in the same mountain of manure for years, without ever doing anything to get their act together (*). Or the continuous comebacks of Silvio Berlusconi, more than once left for dead, and more than once returned to hold the nation to ransom. Not to speak of the increasing number of jobless young people, moving abroad to escape a country that has slowly but surely turned into an occupational wasteland.
You’d think these are key priorities, worth the undivided attention of the entire ruling class – until you take a closer look, and discover that they’re much keener on squandering their efforts on much less commendable matters. Like keeping up their infamous cronyism and corruption habits, practicing CPR on Berlusconi’s half-dead political credibility, and engaging with petty local quarrels, betraying currents of chauvinism that don’t do justice to our beautiful, multi-faceted country.
I’m trying hard to convince myself that it was just a dream, but this Guardian article I came across last week is real. A chap called Luca Zaia, governor of one of Italy’s most right-wing, conservative regions, has really started a row about the origins and preparation of Tiramisu. It was invented, so he claims, in Treviso: a petty-bourgeois small town that also happens to be a stronghold of his comic-opera Northern League party. As he battles for the “original” recipe to obtain an EU certification, he condemns all variations. Strawberries, liquor flavouring, whipped cream, and all the other enhancements that make it such a versatile dessert, are disgraceful “mutations”. Abide to the golden rule, ye cook, or be forever damned.
As one of the aforementioned despairing youths, I was unsure whether to laugh hard at the evident preposterousness of all this, or hang my head in despair for much the same reason. But as an incurable sweet tooth, with a particularly soft spot for tiramisu, I also couldn’t help feeling hungry for a decadent, creamy slice. I resolved to make some over the weekend, spent days in eager anticipation – and then, at the very last moment, changed my mind. I prepared no tiramisu last Sunday, ate none throughout the week. The truth is, I found something I craved even more.
All started on a Thursday night, when the lovely Emma and I shared a few food blogger anecdotes – as well as a couple cheeky drinks. As we brought up funny stories about awkward photography props and unusual settings, Emma showed me this recipe. And that’s when I started craving, for the shape of her Lolly Cake reminded me of an Italian treat I hadn’t savoured in ages: Chocolate Salami.
On the following Saturday, I submitted my tiramisu-making plan to my partner. His reply was a surprising coincidence: “Why don’t we make chocolate salami instead?”. It took this little to plant the seed of indecision in my head, and get me struggling between two desserts I’m equally fond of.
In the end, chocolate salami was the winner of our challenging ballot, tiramisu the runner-up that still waits for a chance to shine. And no, I don’t know where either of them comes from, nor do I care. All I know is that food should bring people together, encourage them to share familiar flavours and experiment new ones. It’s a fact that Italians from all over the country love this chocolatey treat, just as they love tiramisu – and I hope you will, too.
(Makes 10 – 12 slices)
- 300g Digestive biscuits
- 200g plain dark chocolate
- 120g butter, softened
- 100g plain sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Break the Digestive biscuits into medium-sized chunks.
- Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, over simmering water. Stir it from time to time, to make sure there are no lumps.
- Once completely melted, leave aside to cool down for a few minutes.
- Cream the butter with a silicone spatula or hand mixer, until it’s soft and fluffy.
- Gradually add the sugar, eggs, chocolate and vanilla extract. Mix until you obtain a smooth, thick cream.
- Add the crushed biscuits, and continue mixing until they’re well blended with the chocolate cream.
- Pour the mixture over a sheet of greaseproof paper. Use your silicone spatula to give it an elongated shape.
- Wrap the greaseproof paper into a roll. Press and hold tight, to give the mixture a cylindrical, salami-like form.
- Take extra care when closing the roll at the ends: you’ll need to seal it very well, to prevent any leaks.
- Wrap your roll with aluminum foil, to add an extra layer of protection.
- Put the roll in the fridge, and leave it aside for at least 3 hours, or until completely set. Chill overnight for best results.
- Unwrap your chocolate salami, cut it into slices, and serve. Be prepared to lick lots of chocolate from your fingers: even after one whole night in the fridge, it can get quite sticky!