There is a flat on the shores of Lake Garda that has been empty for about 5 years.
It’s only a small place on the top floor of a 3-storey building with 2 bedrooms, an airy living room, a small bathroom and an even smaller kitchen.
There is a balcony overlooking the great deep blue waters of the lake and their crown of snow-topped Alps. A balcony where rabbit was spit-roasted nestled amongst pillows of bacon and rosemary needles and pots of flowers and fresh herbs lined the walls.
There is a cellar that used to be filled with bottles of wine, old books, salamis, tins of homemade olive oil and Lego bricks. There is also a garage spot where a red Alfa Romeo car used to be parked.
My parents and I moved into that flat in the Spring of 1989 – They made the hard choice to leave Panama behind and restart our lives where they first met. Dad’s country. A country I barely knew I was so little, but it is all I know to call Home now.
As a child, I loved the deep pink of our building and the cool feel of the marble staircase against my cheek.
I loved falling asleep in the early afternoon on the uncomfortable c-shaped couch.
I loved watching dad sit in the tiny kitchen, far too small for more than one person, handing over thick slices of homemade salami.
I loved walking home from school on Saturdays, the scent of privet permeating the air, and being greeted by rotisserie chicken and big green salads for lunch.
I loved standing on the balcony watching the wind blow in from the lake in the early morning.
I loved sitting in my small and darkened bedroom, the sunlight timidly streaming in through the shutter slates, reading.
I didn’t love how close we all had to live together and my lack of actual privacy.
I did love the smell of fresh soap that pervaded that confined space after mum ran a load of washing.
I loved spending Saturday nights at home, feeling safe whilst playing cards with my parents.
I loved the laughter the few close friends I had brought to our home.
Now, after my parents have retired and returned to Panama, I realise how much that flat meant to me, how safe I felt there despite the challenges we had to face and I wish we had had more time there…
It was in that building that I started cooking and learned how to make my first desserts from Luisella, our neighbour – I took myself to her flat regularly, pen poised over my pink notebook clipping my first recipes: tiramisú and chocolate salami.
I know those recipes by heart now, I make them time and time again both to celebrate a wins and face challenges.
This is her tiramisu – It’s light and deep in flavour. I use Pavesini instead of the more typical Savoiardi which can normally found in Italian delis because I find they make it more delicate, but feel free to revert to the original base – I wouldn’t judge!
- 250gr good quality mascarpone
- 3 large eggs
- 150gr caster sugar
- 2 cups strong coffee
- Pavesini (or Savoiardi if you really want to be traditional) – Enough to cover the base of a 25cm diameter deep dish with 2 layers
- Cocoa powder
- Cover the base of the dish with the biscuits.
- Pour the coffee over the biscuits and let it soak.
- Cream the egg yolks with the sugar until they are nice and soft.
- Add the mascarpone to the yolk mixture and whisk until well incorporated.
- Whip the egg whites until you have a good hard meringue.
- Fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture.
- Pour the resulting cream in the dish.
- Dust with the cocoa powder.
- Let the tiramisu rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours (best if left overnight).
Keywords: dessert, Italian food, cucina italiana, dolci