My Japanese friends offered to organise a sushi party, that turned out to be as fun as it sounds. Also from the food point of view, I am won over by Japanese cooking. In Italy sushi was extremely hip a couple of years ago, and is still quite popular because, well, if you are that cool, what else can you eat without getting fat? As it often happens, there is much more to Japanese cooking than sushi (of course I advise you to have a look at these beautiful sites, if you don’t know them; and for some great pictures and entertaining reads, if you read Italian, go here). And also in the world of sushi, there is much more than raw fish.
That is the way it worked at our sushi party: there were little seaweed wraps, delicious fresh sushi rice, and some fillings. Each guest takes a wrap, a tablespoon of rice, one or two fillings; wraps, dips in soy sauce and wasabi, and eats. I don’t know how traditional that is in Japan, but it was really funny! Especially with so many people being clumsy with chopsticks. For the fillings, I had a chance to try known ones, such as avocado, cucumber, fish slices, eggs, but also new ones: I quickly became addicted to natto and I can’t wait to buy some; on display there were also some tiny meat slices and yellow pickled daikon (I think). I obtained promises that they are going to teach me how to prepare the whole thing, and also how to roll some sushi, so stay tuned!
As a dessert, we had little pancakes filled with anko, called dorayaki, and matcha shortbread, all from the japanese side. Me, I made this cake. The recipe comes from a recipe book by Green And Black’s Chocolate, that was given for free a while a go if you happened to buy enough chocolate, which I often do. The book has a surprising number of nice recipes from many different sources, and nice pictures, and this particular recipe comes originally from this other book. By this time you will start suspecting I am a lemon addicted, which is, ehrm, true. To my partial excuse, I have to say that in this period a friend brought me some fresh organic lemons from her parent’s garden in Liguria. Could I let them go wasted? And this cake puts them to good use, indeed. It is exactly how you’d expect it to be: very chocolatey and very lemony. I think it is not easy to ask for more.
Note: my mould was a bit too large so I had to stretch the pastry, which made it very fragile, and also the filling was probably not as high as it should have been. The borders were higher than the filling, and it made it look a bit unprofessional. The filling was still quite thick and I think the consistency and the flavour balance worked really well, so next time I’ll probably go for the same case, and just stretch the borders a little lower.
Chocolate and Lemon Tart
For the pastry:
175gr all purpose flour
pinch of salt
25 gr icing sugar
25 gr cocoa
125gr cold butter, diced
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoon cold water
For the filling:
75gr dark chocolate
4 large eggs
3 organic lemons (zest and juice)
150 ml double cream
150 gr caster sugar
icing sugar for finishing
Sift flour, cocoa, sugar and salt together. Work in cold butter using a knife, until you have a mass of crumbs. Add in the yolk and the water and quickly work the dough into a ball (add a little more water if needed). Be careful not to overwork it, mine still had some small lumps of butter visible, and the end result was perfect. Wrap with cling film and refrigerate for about an hour.
Turn on the oven to 200C. Line with baking parchment the bottom of a cake tin with removable sides. I used a 24cmx24cm square one, but I really had to stretch the pastry to the limit. Using a rolling pin, press down the dough in a circle without stretching it too much. I usually do this on a piece of non grease paper. When it is thin enough, line the bottom and the walls of the tin with it. The pastry wall should be about 3-4 cm high, maybe a little more if your cake tin is smaller. Cover with another sheet of baking parchment (I always use the one where I stretched it, it is convenient because it stays there when you turn the pastry) and fill it with beans. Cook for 15′ with the beans, then remove them and cook for another 5′.
In the meanwhile grate 75 gr of dark chocolate (I used a 70% one). When the pastry case is hot from the oven sprinkle it with the grated chocolate so that it will melt a little. Let it cool slightly, or leave also overnight, as I did.
For the filling: heat the oven to 160C. Mix eggs, sugar, lemon zest, grated, lemon juice, strained, and cream, until very smooth. Pour in the pastry case. Cook in the oven for about 35-40 min until set but not coloured or puffed up.
Let it cool, and cover with plenty of icing sugar (it is needed because the cake is not very sweet otherwise).