Ottolenghi is probably one of the best and dynamic places to eat in this country. When I worked down South the daughter often came down from London for the weekend with friends and they would always stop at Ottolenghi before they came and stock up on beautiful meringues and breads for the weekend. Of course as the cook, I got to try them out too. Beautiful stuff.
I bought the Ottolenghi cookbook when it first came out in 2008. Having been able to try a few of their goodies via the daughter of my employer . . . I just knew that it would be a winner and it is. It's filled with all sorts of fabulous recipes for vegetables, salads, soups, grains, meats, breads, cakes, tarts, biscuits and no end of other wonderful things. It's a take it to bed book for sure.
I have since gotten his second and third books, entitled . . . Plenty and Jerusalem . . . but the original book remains my favourite of the three. Every recipe I have ever made from it has turned out beautifully. That's the mark of a very good cookbook don't you think?
Today I made the Sour Cherry Amaretti from the first book and they turned out beautifully. Now, I have to say I have never been to Italy . . . and I would not know how an Italian Amaretti biscuit should or does taste. I have no idea if these are authentic or not . . . I only know that they are an incredibly, moreishly, addictively wonderful sweet bite!
Easy to make and oh so tasty. I think I scarfed three down before I even realized it . . . and then I went in for another one. Right now they are locked up in a Kilner jar, and placed up high so that I can't reach them without help for fear that I might finish the whole lot tonight. They are THAT good! Yes.
Lightly crisp on the outsides . . . chewy on the insides . . . and stogged full of lovely dried sour cherries. I just adore dried sour cherries . . . I could eat them by the handful . . . but I don't because they are rather on the pricey side. They remain a once in a blue moon treat.
They are beautifully showcased in these delightful little biscuits. Simply scrummy. One day I hope to go to Italy myself and taste these things first hand . . . or maybe even one day I will make it to Ottolenghi . . . but in the meantime it's nice to know I can have a little taste of what the experience might be like.
If I am not mistaken these are also Gluten Free, so long as you use gluten free icing sugar. These went down a real treat for my mid afternoon break with a nice big cup of hot chocolate. Have you ever sprinkled cinnamon sugar on your hot chocolate? At this hot chocolate place in Chester you can get your chocolate sprinkled with orange cinnamon sugar. I keep saying I am going to make some for myself, and one of these days . . . I will.
*Sour Cherry Amaretti*
Makes about 2 dozen
Delicious little almond flavoured biscuits, sweet and chewy and flecked with bits of dried sour cherries. Do be careful with the almond flavouring. Too much will be too much. You only want a couple drops.
120g golden caster sugar (10 TBS)
180g ground almonds (2 cups +2 TBS)
the finely grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
2 to 3 drops of pure almond extract
pinch of fine sea salt
60g dried sour cherries, roughly chopped (6 1/2 TBS)
2 large free range egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp liquid honey
a bowl of sifted icing sugar to roll them in
Preheat the oven to 170*C/ 325*F/ gas mark 3. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Set aside.
Measure the ground almonds, sugar, lemon zest and almond extract into a bowl. Rub together to help to distribute the ingredients evenly and release the oils and flavour from the lemon zest. Stir in the cherries.
Whip the egg white along with the honey until soft peaks form. Fold them into the almond mixture with a fork. You should have a soft malleable mixture.
Pinch off heaped tablespoon sized lumps of the dough. Roll into an egg shape between your hands then drop into the bowl of icing sugar. Toss gently to generously coat. Place onto the prepared baking sheet, gently pressing down on each side to make sort of a deconstructed triangular shape.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through the baking time. When done they should have taken on some colour, but still remain relatively pale and chewy in the centre. Allow to cool completely before eating. Store in an airtight container.
If you can't get the sour cherries you can use chopped dried cranberries, dried apricots or even dried blueberries. All are very good!