Mark Limacher’s Christmas Cassata

NZ Chef

My mum Mary arrived in NZ from Northern England in 1957. She was beautiful and gregarious, and a fine singer and dancer, but never really had that that much interest in cooking or food.

My mother-in-law Jean, on the other hand, who hails from Yorkshire, is a really grand cook. I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of delicious meals and generous hospitality courtesy of Jean and my father-in-law Alan. No Christmas dinner would be complete without Jean’s famous cassata. Here is my take on her dish, a lovely alternative to Christmas pudding on a warm summer’s day.

— Mark Limacher

Image of Christmas Cassata

Christmas Cassata

Vegetarian, gluten free


  • 150g maraschino or glacé cherries
  • 100g good-quality chocolate chips or chopped milk chocolate
  • 100g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 150g Dishy glacé orange slices, chopped
  • 50g coconut threads
  • 1 litre good-quality vanilla ice cream
  • 22g Fresh As freeze-dried strawberry slices (optional)
  • 60ml Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Orange Curacao, cold

To serve:

  • Blueberry and Orange Blossom Nougat (recipe follows), chopped into chunks and frozen

Let’s Cook

Place cherries, chopped chocolate, chopped pistachios, and chopped glacé orange into the freezer for 30 minutes. Line a 2 litre loaf tin or terrine with greaseproof paper and pre-chill this and a mixing bowl easily big enough to hold the ice cream and other ingredients.

Heat a non-stick frying pan on a medium-low heat, add coconut, and toast, stirring often, until golden brown (alternatively preheat oven to 150°C, spread coconut onto a rimmed baking tray, and bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring a few times, until golden brown). Transfer to a plate to cool before using.

To assemble the cassata, remove ice cream from freezer to thaw slightly. Once only just malleable, transfer to the chilled bowl and quickly mix in all of the other ingredients. Immediately transfer to the lined loaf tin and pack down with a spatula or back of a spoon. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To serve, use the paper to lift the cassata out of the tin. Working quickly, use a hot knife to cut the cassata into individual slices, and use a fish slice to transfer it to the serving plates. Serve with decorative chunks of Blueberry and Orange Blossom Nougat.


  • You don’t want the ice cream to melt while you’re making the cassata, so when you’re mixing everything in, have everything you need to work very quickly and use frozen containers
  • You can reduce or remove the liqueur to make this more child-friendly, but it’s better with booze

More stories

What’s Cooking

Jax Hamilton’s Coconut and Ginger Drops

Celebrity Chef

Cooking was my mum’s way of showing us how she loved us, her dishes are love and nostalgia for me. Every six months or so my aunts would gather in our London kitchen from around the country. There would be music, dancing, laughing, and the old stories – us kids were banned because they used too…

Simon Gault – Mum’s Easy Spinach and Sausage Lasagna

NZ Chef

Mum and Dad both cooked for us and were really keen foodies; I was Chief Taster. Lasagna is often considered everyday food but when Mum made this one it was a real treat, one of those recipes you just look forward to when she says she’s cooking it. Even my daughter asks for it now,…

Kent Baddeley’s Beef Cheeks

NZ Chef

I grew up in Matawhero where my Nana had a hotel and restaurant on the farm, and people came for miles for her food. I was always in the kitchen with Nana, who only cooked what she could grow and kill herself on the farm, and she had a wonderful sense of flavour, always wanting…

Lois Daish’s Welsh Rarebit Dip and Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Food columnist at The Listener

My mother always served Welsh Rarebit as a dip, rather than grilled on toast. My guess is that this innovation began as a mistake when the mixture was too runny to spread. It certainly appealed to me as child, and we’re now into the fourth generation of making it this way in my family. The…

Sean Connolly’s Corned Beef Pie with Mushy Peas


I’ve been quoted before saying that Mum’s corned beef pie would be my death row meal. Mum was fantastic with pastry and I’ve always used her half-butter half-lard pastry recipe when I cook. For many years I’ve wanted to recreate the whole pie, but I’ve never dared, so I’m using this opportunity to pay homage…

Kelli Brett’s Shark Bay Chowder

Editor Cuisine Magazine

I grew up in Western Australia, where Mum had one of the state’s first gourmet food stores. I worked there on weekends, tasting and serving exotic imported cheeses, coffees, and chocolates while my friends were eating processed cheese and baked beans, and it opened up a whole world of food to me. Mum went on…