In a second-hand bookshop, under a pile of ancient magazines, my husband unearthed what has quickly become my new favourite cookbook: Mariù Salvatori de Zuliani’s A Tola Coi Nostri Veci. Its recipes are ordered randomly and read like a stream of consciousness. No photos. No ingredient lists. Just proscriptive prose along the lines of ‘a pinch of this’ and ‘a dollop of that’. But the recipes! Oh those Venetians recipes! Here’s one of its recipes for flourless chestnut cake, which I’ve adapted a little. It’s a classic autumnal dish – at this time of year, you can buy it in bakeries across Venice. I use sweetened chestnut purée and add a dash of rich cocoa, as well as a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Chocolate, chestnut and rosemary, by the way, is a match made in heaven.
- 4 eggs
- 500 g sweetened chestnut purée (see Note)
- 50 g (½ cup) cocoa powder
- 75 g almond meal (ground almonds)
- 6 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves roughly chopped, plus extra sprigs to decorate
- icing sugar, for dusting
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease and line a 20 cm round cake tin with baking paper.
Separate the eggs. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then set to one side. Pour the chestnut purée into a large bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork in a separate bowl, then stir into the purée. Add the ground almonds and cocoa, and stir until well combined. Add the rosemary leaves and stir until well combined. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, then pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle a few extra rosemary sprigs on top.
Bake for 40–45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out and dust with icing sugar to serve.
• Sweetened chestnut puree is available from specialist food stores.
Recipe from From My Dining Table by Skye McAlpine, with photographs by Skye McAlpine.