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

Ingredients

  • 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.

Tips:

  • 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

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