Spirito Di Canio


We assume that favourite dishes have been around forever when they are often much more recent than we suppose. The Ploughman’s Lunch, for example; a simple plate of bread, cheese and pickled onions, surely Horntonians throughout history have called into The Dun Cow for such honest simple fare? Not so, the Ploughman’s was in fact the creation of a 1960s advertising campaign for the Milk Marketing Board and part of an attempt to boost cheese sales by pursuading people to eat it in pubs.

Similarly, Tiramisu, which features on The Dun Cow’s May menu, is a lot more recent than we imagined. The first references to it in a cookbook are not until 1983 and the precise origins of the dish are shrouded in mystery.

Accounts of the recipe’s invention at an Italian brothel as a means to provide a pick-me-up for exhausted clients are (sadly) apocryphal. Most sources claim that Tiramisu was invented in Treviso, near Venice but there are two competing versions of the tale. Some maintain that is was created at the Le Beccherie restaurant by the apprentice confectioner whose maiden name was Tiramisu, which seems a little far-fetched to me. Others claim that the dessert  was created by the chef Carminantonio Iannaccone on Christmas Eve 1969, which is much less colourful and therefore, I suspect, more probable.

The origins of our Tiramisu are not a mystery however, we drew inspiration straight from the great Italian striker Paolo Di Canio. Always controversial, his openly neo-Fascist politics are somewhat compensated for by the facts that a) he (all too briefly) played for Charlton Athletic, b) he scored what I believe to be the best goal in the history of the Premiership (take a look at this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwL-QDZg2BY)  and finally, he also claims to make the “ultimate Tiramisu”. In an interview with “Four-Four-Two” magazine, he shared his secrets:

“Grab a pen and start writing” he told the interviewer, “but I want full credit every time you’re congratulated for it. You’ll need fresh eggs, which aren’t easy to find, a good mascarpone, and freshly made coffee, hot. For the biscotti (ladyfingers), pick the Savoiardi type, which come as a sponge, not the smaller crushed Pavesini – they don’t absorb as much. Another secret: egg whites go in the dough and the yolks with the cream, not together. And don’t be lazy – a mixer doesn’t whip as good as oneself. Use a fork for half an hour and you’ll make a unique cream. And be patient – it needs at least five hours in the fridge. Then, write down the compliments and send them to me!”

Well Paolo, we’ll do just that. Paolo Di Canio’s Tiramisu will be on The Dun Cow’s dining menu throughout May and we’ll gather your comments together and drop the man a line.

One thing that he’s sadly silent on however is on his choice of spirit for the biscuits to be flavoured with. In the past, I’ve always kept things simple and simply used Marsala but this time we’ve used Amaretto, which I feel makes the pudding more authentically Italian and less reminiscent of a good, old fashioned sherry trifle. What will Paolo make of that I wonder?

Who knows, this could be the first of a series of dishes inspired by footballers but I think that we’d struggle to find many current stars of the Premiership with the culinary (or footballing) flair of a Di Canio. Look out for “Wayne Rooney’s Deep Fried Mars Bar” over the coming months.