For the past two weeks we've had visitors; my boyfriend's sister with her husband and their two kids came over to Holland from Greece for the first time. We are always so happy whenever our families get the chance to visit us here. We see them once, maybe twice a year and that definitely isn't enough.
The best part about these kinds of visits is the chance we have to show them around Holland and at the same time having the opportunity ourselves to discover parts and sights that we haven't yet seen. That's exactly what happened during these last two weeks. S and I were both tourist guides and tourists. That's some combination.
This small country we call home for that last three years has a lot to offer. Perhaps it's not the best place to be during the summer since there is a lack of decent beaches and seas and the weather acts up every so often, but there is something for everyone here.
In Rotterdam, you can see the most amazingly strange cubic houses (Kubuswoning) that have been standing there since 1984. Being inside one is so curious and disorienting. I became a little dizzy while I was trying to look out the window and I was bewildered by the ability of the people who live there to lead a normal life. I suppose one can get used to anything.
In the same city, with its enormous skyscrapers and the largest port in Europe, you can climb up the Euromast tower and marvel the panoramic view of Rotterdam from 185 meters high. This may not sound high enough to a person living in New York for example but in The Netherlands, this is as high as it gets. The day we visited Euromast was, unfortunately but not surprisingly, a rainy day so our view was limited though still breathtaking. They say that on a clear day you can see all the way to Belgium.
In Amsterdam, one of the best places to visit if you have kids, is the Artis zoo. I have been there three times already (I don't have kids mind you) and I can't get enough of watching all the adorable animals. My boyfriend's nieces were ecstatic, to say the least.
For the grown ups, there are all kinds of museums to visit. I don't know what it is with the Dutch but they have museums for everything. The strangest one of all is the museum of bags and purses and even though I'm a typical handbag-crazed girl, this museum still seems a little too much.
The Dutch countryside is stunning. Endless fields and trees in every possible shade of green you can imagine, masticating cows and grazing sheep, cute ponies and tall, majestic horses galloping around freely are sights so peculiar for a city girl like me, as well as for the little munchkins that visited us from Athens. They were overjoyed by these images that they rarely view and I shared their enthusiasm. All I missed were some mountains, but I was asking too much. In Holland you can't even find a hill let alone a mountain.
A good time was had by all not only while we were out and about but at home as well—especially around the dinner table. I cooked up a storm these past couple of weeks. Being used to cooking for two, I had now four extra hungry mouths to feed and I was elated. S's family also has quite the sweet tooth so there was no shortage of desserts and sweets around. I made marble cakes, chocolate tarts and mango tiramisu, as well as muffins and cupcakes. Having bought my pink KitchenAid a while ago made it easier too.
Since we enjoyed these desserts so much, naturally I wanted to share them with you as well. I left the choice up to you and your pick was the Mango Tiramisu. I secretly wished you would all choose this fruity layered cake because it is just delicious. And this coming from a chocoholic. (To those of you who opted for the chocolate tart, I promise I will post that recipe too at some point).
The mango is such a flavorful fruit which I never used to cook or make desserts with before I moved to Holland. I had only tasted it once or twice and it was always too expensive and rare to get in Greece. But when I moved here, where the mango was as exotic as the orange and the price for either one was about the same, I got to discover this delectable fruit, using it mainly in Thai dishes and salads and of course in various desserts such as this one here.
Mango, raspberries, vanilla seeds, mascarpone cheese, ladyfingers, Grand Marnier liqueur (everything tastes better with a little booze added to it, don't you agree?). The best of ingredients yield the best of desserts. There is no baking involved; all you need is some space in your fridge to let the cake chill. Stacked ladyfingers soaked in Grand Marnier and orange juice, mango slices and mascarpone vanilla cream, topped with more mango slices and a divine raspberry sauce dripping down the sides—the perfect summery, fruity, light, fresh and luscious dessert.
The sweetness of the mango pairs excellently with the sourness of the raspberry sauce and the sumptuous vanilla cream. It tastes like a sweet summer tart and its colors are so vibrant. You just want to dive into it. The hint of orange from the moist ladyfingers and the clear sharpness of the liqueur render a perfect balance of flavors. Its fluffy texture and airy quality make this the ultimate summer dessert that you must try.
Mango Tiramisu with Raspberry Sauce
Barely adapted from Delicious magazine
As with all tiramisu recipes this one also has raw eggs. Make sure the eggs you use are as fresh as possible.
I want to remind you also that raw eggs should not be consumed by pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those whose immune system is compromised.
This is a fairly easy and quick recipe but keep in mind that the tiramisu needs to stay in the fridge for a few hours in order to firm up. It is best to prepare it in the morning if you are going to serve it after dinner.
If you want to make the tiramisu kid-friendly, substitute the Grand Marnier with more orange juice.
I've been thinking that the flavors of this tiramisu would work very well with peeled firm, sweet nectarines or peaches instead of mango. I will try it at some point and I'll let you know about the result.
Yield: 1 cake / 10 pieces
1 vanilla bean
450 g mascarpone cheese
500 ml cream, full-fat
40 g icing sugar
2 medium-sized egg yolks
125 ml Grand Marnier liqueur
130 ml orange juice, freshly squeezed (juice of 2 large oranges)
270 g ladyfingers
3 large, ripe mangoes (350-400 g each), peeled and sliced* 0,5 cm thick
1 Tbsp butter for greasing the pan
for raspberry sauce
2 Tbsp water
55 g sugar
250 g fresh raspberries (or frozen)
2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed (juice of 1 lemon)
Some extra raspberries and mango slices for garnishing the plates (optional)
Special equipment: round spring-form cake pan 23 cm in diameter and at least 7 cm high, hand held mixer (or stand mixer), small food processor, fine sieve
Grease the bottom of the baking pan with the butter and then line it with a round piece of baking paper.
Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using the dull side of the knife, scrape the seeds out. Add them to a large bowl along with the mascarpone cheese, cream, icing sugar and egg yolks. Beat everything with an electric hand mixer (or a stand mixer using the 'paddle' attachment) until you have a thick cream.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the orange juice and the Grand Marnier. Take half of the ladyfingers and start dipping them one by one in the liquid mixture and placing them on the bottom of the pan. Be careful not to soak the ladyfingers for too long otherwise they will disintegrate. They only need a few seconds. When the base of the pan is layered with the ladyfingers, spread one-third of the mascarpone mixture on top. Add a layer of mango, using one-third of the mango slices.
Repeat the process by dipping the rest of the ladyfingers in the liquid mixture, layering them on top of the mango slices, then spreading one-third of the mascarpone mixture on top, followed by a layer of one-third of the mango slices. Spread the remaining one-third of the mascarpone mixture on top, reserving the rest of the mango slices to serve.
Cover the cake with cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I would suggest you refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.
for raspberry sauce
In the meantime, prepare the raspberry sauce. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and take off the heat. Let it cool slightly and then pour the syrup into a small food processor along with the raspberries and the lemon juice. Process everything until you have a smooth purée and then pass it through a fine sieve to get rid of the raspberry seeds. Chill the sauce, covered with cling film, until ready to use.
You can prepare the raspberry sauce 3 days in advance and store it in the fridge, covered.
Serve the tiramisu
To serve the cake, remove the sides of the pan carefully. You can also remove the bottom of the pan and place the cake on a serving platter or you can keep it on the pan base.
Before cutting the cake, add the remaining mango slices (or curls if you want your cake to be even more pretty), decorating the cake and then once you cut it into pieces, spoon some raspberry sauce over each piece.
Garnish the plates with either some raspberries or mango slices (optional).
You can keep the cake in the refrigerator, covered with cling film, for up to 3 days.
*You don't need to worry about the mango slices being perfectly cut—at least not the two-third of them that will go inside the cake. You can make some mango curls or use the prettiest of your slices to decorate the top of the tiramisu so that it looks nice.