It’s Carnival in Malta, Carnevale in Venezia and Fasching or Karneval in Teutonic lands. Which means of course that it’s raining! After three amazing weeks in February, the usual time for carnival, March sees unsettled weather to cue in carnival’s grand finale, true to form. All those papier-mache’ monstrously large floats have to be laboriously covered lest the creations wilt before our eyes. Dancing girls, all feather and flounce, will be baring all in a chill breeze whipping up from the harbours across Valletta.
Red Bistro may or may not make it to the Grand Defile’ set for late Monday afternoon. I should, I admit, manage to get there just once in my lifetime in Malta. I’ve visited the static floats in the mornings with an entourage of excited kids. Mid-term holidays coincide with carnival. But I’ve shunned the mayhem and crowds of the spectacle itself, with all its jostling, elbowing, rain of course, boisterous locals and bemused and curious tourists.
Last year, I did get as far as putting my own creative labours to the test by making the traditional Maltese carnival cake, Prinjolata; a gooey mound of sponge, glace’ cherries, cream, chocolate chips and almond flakes. I was rather proud of the result, but only J lapped it up! The richness and sheer gooeyness put the rest of us off. This year, I’ll play it more frugally and grown up. I’ve opted for espresso mocha creams with a bit of glitter and snazziness; a Venetian recipe or at least one that was in a magazine write-up about Venice and its cuisine.
While I yearn to go to the Carnevale di Venezia just once in a lifetime, a close friend here in Malta remarked a couple of years back that the Malta one almost rivaled Venice’s in her eyes. She said it scored highly as it costs zero to get to (big factor if you’ve a family of five to get to Venice in peak carnival time) and was certainly just as enthusiastic an outpouring of creative energy and enterprise as it’s glam Italian counterpart. And while it may end up being bad weather here, it isn’t going to be as cold as Venice this time of year.
In honour of carnival (anywhere), these little mocha coffee creams got a carnival costume make-over. If I get to the carnival, I’ll add a photo here as an update. I’ll be in Venice in mid May for a wedding, so I’ll see if I can find something like this dessert masquerading on a menu somewhere. Sadly, no real maschere then as I’ll have missed carnival by two months. I am sure I’ll buy a souvenir though to keep this one company!
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
- 4 egg yolks
- 50g caster sugar
- 2 tsps cornflour
- 6 cubes of dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids
- 2 tsps quality instant coffee
- 2 soup spoons Amaretto liquor
- 300ml milk
- 250ml single cream
- 12 Amaretti biscuits
- Edible glitter and/or chocolate coffee beans (optional)
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 espresso coffees (approx. 100ml)
- 15g unsalted butter
- Beat the egg yolks with the caster sugar and cornflour until they turn pale yellow and slightly frothy.
- Heat the milk, chocolate cubes and instant coffee over a medium heat until steaming point then slowly pour the milk in a narrow stream into the egg yolk mixture stirring all the while to mix it in carefully. If you just pour it in one go, you may curdle the egg mixture.
- Return the mixture to the pan over a low-medium heat and thicken to a medium-thick custard (crème anglaise), ensuring you stir all the time.
- Remove from the heat and add the Amaretto, stirring in well. Set aside to cool.
- Make the Caramel: heat the sugar and espresso coffee until the sugar is melted and browning. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter vigorously. Set caramel aside.
- Make up the Creams: Pour a little of the custard into ramekins, or use coffee or teacups. Add some crumbled-up Amaretti biscuits and continue to layer topping with the mocha cream and a drizzle of the caramel. Chill the mousse for at least 3 hours or preferably a day in the fridge covered with foil or small plastic lids (tip: save lids from yoghurts, ricotta tubs etc to use as covers). Serve topped with some piped cream, whole or crumbled Amaretti and any other decoration of choice. I used edible glitter nuggets and chocolate beans.