The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Friday, 10 December 2010

Almost Christmas?

Why every year Christmas comes all of a sudden? I always think I can prepare myself in advance making cards, sweets, and decorations but then without even realising I wake up and find an obscene list of last-minute jobs that require my attention.

(By the way, between you and me, I still haven't started the famous hand-made food gifts...but I am confident that I will - sooner or later...)

And now I've got the play looming over my shoulders...For the last couple of years I have inflicted on my friends the staging of A Christmas Carol. I thik everyone was too polite to refuse to take part in it. When I suggested the idea to my family, there was a general chorus of "Nooooo" with miming of throat slitting and self asphyxiation. I didn't insist.

So I was quite reluctant to propose the idea to my friends. But to my surprise a few of them even requested it. Suspicious, very suspicious...

For the moment I can probably breathe a sigh of relief that the cooking class last night didn't witness any chopped fingers and burnt hands. My tiny kitchen was swamped by 9 people...I tried to camouflage the lack of space by putting candles everywhere (the decision not to have curtains in the kitchen turned out to be a good one as I would have definitely set fire to them otherwise...) and some pretty Nigella-style lights around the window.

I was a bit anxious, despite having repeated to everyone "nine people at the cooking class? No problem, eeeeasy!". But I pretended I wasn't. And I believe it worked. Or was it the amount of wine I offered around?

The panforte we made though was excellent. I am munching some it right now being careful not to break (again) any WARNING: it contains hard nuts. If you do crack your teeth, don't blame me or send me hefty claims. I have NO money!

Panforte (or Hardbread)

Makes 2 small tins

250ml water
300g almonds
170g caramelised citron
110 g caramelised orange
200g sugar
140g flour
1 tbsp honey
4 tsp all spices
1 tbsp dark cocoa

1. Boil the water in a pan and add the honey and sugar until they form a froth on the surface. Don't let it over-boil or it will evaporate and you will left with a gloopy blob.

2. Add the candied fruit, the spices, the chocolate and almonds (whole not chopped) and let it simmer for about 6-7 minutes

3. Remove from the hob and let it cool in a large bowl. Add to it the flour sifted and incorporate well. Set it aside while you grease a tin (12cm wide x 5cm tall).

4. Pour the mix in the tins and cook in the oven (pre-heated) at 180C for 25 minutes.

5. When it is cold, sprinkle it with icing sugar.

It is ideal to be served cold and accompanied with a glass of sweet wine or vinsanto. Everyone loved it. And thought of making it again as a Christmas gift. It is seriously easy, and everyone can do it.

When I was little (or I should say younger as I am still little....) I used to hate it. That spiciness and stickiness. With age and wisdom I have learnt to appreciate it. Normally we are so stuffed by the end of the meal that nobody wants a slice of panforte (together with fifteen other cakes). This year I will make sure I do give it justice.

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