Pasticcini di mrspao

I was inspired by Rachel Eats to try making some pasticcini di mandorlo. They remind me of the ricciarelli my student days in Siena – a bit of a sad time as my mother had died earlier in the year but also full of good memories of big church meals together on Sundays and contrade parades. There was a shop on the Via di Citta where I lived the first month which sold these and I remember my first taste of these and marvelling at how different they were from the kinds of biscuits we had in England. Nowadays, we do have them almost readily available here in the UK but it was nice to find a recipe to make them myself and re-create that heady smell of cooking almonds in the house.

Here is my take on her recipe:

300g ground almonds
200g icing sugar (plus more for dusting and rolling out)
2 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp Amaretto Disaronno
Flaked almonds to decorate

Preheat oven to 180C.

Mix ground almonds, sugar, eggs, lemon zest and Amaretto together in a bowl. With your hands covered in icing sugar, roll out mix into balls.

Press an indent into each ball and place a flaked almond into the indent.

Bake in oven for about 15 minutes until brown.

Rachel says they should keep in an airtight tin for a few weeks but round here a few days will suffice

particularly when there are kittens who might be really attracted to the mix.

Banana Pecan Bread

(adapted from Banana Bread in How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson)

175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g caster sugar
125g margarine
2 eggs
1 tsbp Southern Comfort
60g pecans, chopped
3 or 4 bananas crushed (about 300g)

Preheat oven to 170C.

Mix together flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder together.
In a separate bowl, cream together sugar and margarine until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add pecans and stir in bananas and Southern Comfort. Add flour mix a third at a time and spoon into loaf tins lined with baking parchment or nifty liners like the ones I buy from Lakeland.

Bake in oven for an hour or until tester comes out clean.

Prevent greedy little kittens from scoffing the lot in one go.

Good night, Stuart

Our dear friend Stuart died just after 11am this morning. He was only 39 and had cancer. He loved Dr Who with the same degree of passion as pao does and long conversations ensued about different episodes and technical details for many happy evenings. Stuart loved cooking and particularly making desserts and one of my favourites was the lemon marmalade ice cream with ginger biscuits. You could tell if he really liked something as he’d watch out of the corner of his eye to see if you really liked it as much as he did. We had lovely times with him on his birthdays – it was on Christmas Eve and he was always a bit uncertain about having a party because of the proximity to Christmas but when he did it was such fun. One year, we were running late and bought him a pheasant dog toy from the pet shop as his gift and he loved it. The pheasant made a honking sound if you squeezed it and we spent hours that evening honking out Christmas carols and other songs for people to guess.

He was the only person to great us saying “Hello, Osbornes” and we just loved him. He sang so loudly and enthusiastically in church and we loved to have him over just to watch DVDs or go over to his house to do just that. Often we three would all fall asleep and wake up as the title sequences were starting up. It isn’t often that you know someone so well you can feel comfortable with falling asleep in their presence.

We were so glad of the opportunity to spend a last few precious moments with him on Wednesday night when we made him giggle when his mum left the room when I said “Now your mum’s gone, we can have a party” and his last words to pao were “Not now, maybe later” when pao said he had a load of Dr Who DVDs they needed to watch together still.

He was a real friend – so precious to us – he used to moan like mad about various things but despite that we loved him. pao and I miss him immensely and are glad that his pain and suffering are over and that he has been promoted to glory. He was a Christian and believed in heaven and I am glad that he has been able to join his Heavenly Father. God bless you and good night, Stuart.

Super Continental Matchy Matchy

I am so happy with these socks. They are almost a complete match and my first pair knitted in continental style. They are a little weird as they are on a slant but I like them.

And apparently Merlin does too! Have a lovely weekend!

All socks-ed up

I finished off a pair

and a single sock (unsurprisingly I can’t find the other ball of yarn) on my way to Tenby and started another pair in some Schoppel Wolle Zauerball which I finished a couple of weeks ago and will post photos of tomorrow. I do love the colours of Schoppel Wolle.

Tremendously Tenby

It seems like quite a while ago now but I thought it would be good to share some of my holiday photos from when we were in Tenby next stop after Cardiff.

It was such a lovely spot by the sea

utterly freezing being the beginning of May

but utterly gorgeous.

It was nice to have a few days to switch off from every day life. Just what you need from time to time.

Yorkshire Fat Rascals

There is a lovely tea room in Canterbury called Tiny Tims which I like to visit on occasion and they make these amazing scone/cake things called Plump Pilgrims. We were having visitors on Sunday and I thought it would be nice to have something with our cup of tea.

I found the recipe for these Yorkshire Fat Rascals in English Traditional Recipes which sounded similar. Replacing the butter with margarine seems to have made them lighter. I’d run out of cherries so I substituted chopped apricots which were a nice addition. I also left out the almonds. There is an alternative recipe on the Waitrose website 🙂 Mine didn’t have any spice in but I bet they would be nice with spice.

B brought these gorgeous roses from her garden. They smelt amazing!

Talking of rascals, Merlin could teach the kittens a thing or two. He is looking old next to those young ones.

Making new friends

We’ve got Joey staying with us again

and Sirius was straight in to reacquaint himself but Tamyra wasn’t all that interested

until they had been properly introduced.

Coconut eclairs

Susie came round last Sunday night and we had a go at making some coconut creme croquembouche. The coconut creme was rather fiddly to make so I was really glad that Susie was here to help as you really did two pairs of hands to make sure things were added and didn’t curdle. She did a lot of stirring of the choux pastry. We went through a lot of eggs!

The method described of piping lumps of choux onto parchment didn’t seem to work so I got out some eclair pans which I’d gotten in a sale once. A friend of mine told me yesterday that our mixture should have been a lot stiffer so we’ll bear that in mind for next time.

I know now that they rise quite a bit so will just make half the mix next time.

They looked mishapen but were utterly delicious when they were filled with coconut creme and drizzled with chocolate. I used some Supercooks chocolate cake covering which seem to be very nice with the coconut creme.

Tamyra slept through the excitement but was quite interested in the coconut creme.