Monday, 16 January 2012

Coffee, hazelnut, walnut and raisin biscotti

Hmmm... biscotti... The year before last we went to Italy at Christmas-time and spent a few days with a lovely friend and her family, who gave us the best Christmas we've had in our lives... It was so memorable and warm that everything about it wakes up cuddly feelings in me still, and in-between the madness of food food food that we had, I remember something I had never tried before, "ricciarelli", crunchy outside and soft inside, which are some unique cookies from Siena, traditionally eaten at Christmas time with a glass of Vin Santo.

I love Vin Santo. Have I ever said how much I love Vin Santo? I brought a bottle back with me when I went to Santorini a few years ago (they make a really nice "version" there!) and I have been treasuring it to the point that I was giving severe killing looks to my partner's father when he saw it and had a few glassfuls at some point... There's still some left, and I use it very sparingly, as I'm not sure I can find as good a bottle anytime soon, but thinking of Vin Santo and that Christmas, another thing came up in my memories. Biscotti! I also love biscotti, they are amazing on their own, but even better with a cup of coffee to dip in, made a tiny bit softer to bite and also absorbing all the coffee flavours like a sponge...

We make some similar cookies in Greece (paximadia), which I absolutely love and they follow the same kind of double-baking method, only they are usually flavoured with aniseed. I had never made biscotti before, but neither do I like the hard as cement versions you can find in British shops (I remember even some from Konditor & Cook were inedible without serious coffee/tea dippage), so I thought I would try to make some, to see if a. they would turn out genuine and remind me or the ones in Roma, and b. they would be slightly less tooth-breaking than the shop-bought ones you can find here.

They came out quite good, not as tooth-breaking (phew...) and were praised all around. I have to say I'm quite happy with my first attempt, and I'll be trying them again in the future, maybe with some different flavour combinations (pistachio anyone?) A little caffettino makes this a match made in heaven!

Coffee, hazelnut, walnut and raisin biscotti
Source: Mixture of different recipes I found online

Makes around 40

  • 210g plain flour, sifted
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp instant coffee powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 60g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 55g hazelnuts
  • 55g walnuts
  • 30g raisins

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Blend the flour, baking powder, coffee, sugar and the pinch of salt in a food processor for a few seconds, then add the butter and mix until it all looks like breadcrumbs. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and blend again until it becomes a smooth dough.

Knead the dough on a floured countertop, incorporating the hazelnuts, walnuts and raisins. Divide into two parts and, using lightly floured hands, shape each into a log of about 20 centimetres long. Place the logs on a lined baking tray, pressing the top down to make it a bit more flat.

Bake for 35 minutes. Cool for about 20 minutes, and reduce the oven temperature to 170°C. Cut the logs into one-centimetre slices, place them sideways on the tray and bake for 30 minutes (turning once halfway during the cooking time). Cool, and store in an airtight container, they will last for about 2-3 weeks.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Pork chops with cider, apples and sage

I never make new year's resolutions. They're kind of stupid, and I feel that they can just throw you into a deep depression if year after year you count how many you "failed at". But, every new year I see things that I like, like people deciding to take one new photo for every day of the year, or changing things in their life that they always wanted to do, or even just deciding it's a darn good time to start using their food leftovers more efficiently! So, inspired by them all, I thought that this year I would make an extra effort to cook new things I've never cooked before as frequently as I can (see, if I said every day, that would be setting me up already for failure... don't we all need to have an disgustingly oily takeaway pizza every now and then, and go out to eat a few times too?) and for the past few days I've managed to stick to it.

Luckily I'm not a cookbook hoarder, as I rarely find that I like (or want to make) more than 10% of the recipes in any cookbook, and if it's just 10% it's more worth it borrowing the book from the library and getting some free photocopies made in the office than buying the whole book (let alone that we already have 6 bookcases and no more space in the house). However, I do hoard recipes from all kinds of places, from free supermarket magazines, to things I saw online in blogs or newsletters and printed out to keep for future use, and also from the one cooking magazine that I have a (free, got it with Tesco clubcard points) subscription to...

Coming to that last one, although I have loads of recipes in a box, I find myself lately tending to make more and more frequently recipes from past issues of my delicious magazines (lovingly ripped off from the mag, before it takes its lonely road to recycling, and maybe one day becomes again a magazine... it's a funny thought that one recipe could be recycled and appear as another in a future magazine... ah, I'm such a hopeless recycling-obsessed romantic...). I find that they are usually very accurate (which can be the curse of blogs and other more unofficially-sourced recipes, which omit ingredients, forget to describe what you do with them in the process, and then you realise that your bread/stew/pie ended up as a stone/sock water/something out of Alien lying in the floor of the oven...

Since I like pork, cider and sage, I decided to try this one, and it turned out very nice, without any adjustments, and it's quite easy too... And you do get to drink the rest of the cider, which I guess is an extra bonus!

Pork chops with cider, apples and sage
Source: delicious magazine

Serves 2

  • 15g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 pork loin chops
  • 1 eating apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 100ml cider
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh sage
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and olive oil over a high heat in a frying pan large enough to hold the steaks and apple slices. When the butter starts foaming, add the steaks and cook 2-3 minutes on each side until browned. Turn over again, add the apples and cook for 5 minutes, until the apples are softened and browned and the steaks cooked.

Pour the cider, mix in the crème fraîche and sage and let it all bubble for a few minutes, until the sauce is a bit thickened. Serve with roast potatoes (recipe here).

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