Margherita Cake with Vernaccia Sabayon

Amaze your friends with this sweet recipe from former chef-in-residence Aaron Tomczak. This cake is the ultimate dessert for al-fresco dinners with your loved ones.
Villa Lena to me is simplicity, made extraordinary through natural beauty augmented by creativity. To draw a parallel to food for me would be ripe strawberries and Margherita cake, topped with a sabayon made from local wine and garnished with herbs from the garden. Very simple ingredients, made memorable by the airy texture of the sabayon and floral aroma of nasturtium and lavender.
The sabayon itself is simple, made only of three ingredients; egg yolks, sugar, and wine.
Only through proper technique and care does it become distinctive.
Margherita Cake
3 large free range eggs
Pinch of sea salt
75 g sugar
1 lemon zest
75 g melted  butter
300 g flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Beat the eggs whites until stiff with a pinch of sea salt and set aside. Beat the egg yolks with sugar until creamy and light. Add the lemon zest and melted butter. Add the flour sifted with baking powder and mix quickly. Stir in the egg whites, stirring from the bottom up. Pour the batter into a baking pan covered with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes.
Egg Sabayon
2 Egg yolks
66 grams sugar
118 ml white wine such as Vernaccia
To make sabayon you will need a pot 1/3 filled with barely simmering water. Above that you will need a metal bowl big enough to sit on top without touching the water.
Place egg yolks, sugar and white wine into the cold bowl, and begin whisking above the pot of water as the mixture begins to heat up.
As the eggs start to cook and thicken, the wine will begin to steam the mixture causing aeration.
Whisk for 4-5 minutes until the mixture has tripled in volume and resembles the texture of whipped cream.
Serve atop fruit and cake warm or cold and top with fresh herbs such as lavender and nasturtium.

Strawberry Tree Syrup by Natalie Zervou

Discovering the Arbutus Unedo plant (or strawberry tree as it is affectionately known) growing abundantly at Villa Lena was a revelation!

This small tree belongs  to the Ericaceae family, native to the Mediterranean region. The species name, ‘unedo’, is said to mean “I only eat one” in Latin as they are said to leave a slightly bitter aftertaste. I did not find this to be the case, though the texture for me was somewhat challenging (think flouring apple!) however,  when transformed into shrubs, syrups and jams this fruit really is utterly delightful. The flavour is layered, complex and sweet and when married with thymus mint, also bountiful at the villa, the heavenly aroma and sticky sweet taste kept us going back for more. In folk medicine, the plant has been used for antiseptic, astringent, intoxicant, rheumatism, and tonic purposes.                                          I enjoyed the shub best, the acidity of the vinegar gave a tangy twist and had that addictive quality that contrasting flavours often possess (think salty and sweet).

For the children at the Villa, the Arbutus unedo plants were magic (imagine a whole strawberry tree!!!!).                                                                                                              

For one of the workshops we made edible ‘magic potions’ using the plant and other herbs as our base; they certainly enjoyed the holistic, sensory experience of experimenting with edible delights.

 
The below syrup recipe adds complexity to cocktails and salads.
Or if you are like me, devour it on a teaspoon as it is, or add it to porridge.
 
Quantity wise you will need a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit, sugar, and vinegar.
 

  1. Clean fruit well
  2. Add equal parts of sugar and water to a saucepan, and heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Add Arbutus Unedo fruit and simmer until the fruit’s juice blends well into the syrup.
  4. Add the thymos mint or any other herb you wish- this will infuse fairly quickly and the perfume aroma is wonderfully intense
  5. Let the mixture cool. Strain out the solids using a cheesecloth.
  6. Add vinegar to the syrup and let it cool.
  7. Bottle it all up in sterilized bottles or jars, and store in the fridge for 2-4 days before using.            

 

                                                                                                 The sugar and vinegar work to preserve the shrub and just like jam, they keep for ages!