A Sweet Salami (Salame di Fichi)

I’ve been looking at how Christmas is celebrated with food in different countries and discovered a great sweet treat for the festive table. In Italy, they often combine dried fruits and nuts to create a sweet salami (so called because of its resemblance to conventional salami). A slice with a coffee is the perfect way to use up that leftover dried fruit.20131218-123646.jpg
What you will need
250g dried figs (soaked for a few minutes in recently boiled water with a splash of orange juice)
50g good quality dark chocolate
150g mixed nuts roughly chopped (I used a combination of pistachios and almonds)
Zest of half a lemon
Zest and juice of a clementine

Roughly chop the dried figs and chocolate in the food processor. Add the zest and juice of the citrus fruits and then whizz once more until you have a sticky paste. Stir in the mixed nuts, and knead the mixture to make sure that they are evenly distributed. Form three sausage shapes by rolling the mixture with cling film. Make sure you do this as tightly as possible to prevent it breaking up when you cut it later. Place the sausage shapes wrapped in cling film into the fridge overnight. Once refrigerated take the ‘sausage’ out of the cling film and place in a plastic bag with some icing sugar to give a dusting over the ‘salami’. Wrap in baking parchment and tie with butchers’ twine. Slice into 1cm thick rounds and serve with coffee.

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Hugs and Biscuits

“Can I give you a big hug?” asked my son the other day. “Of course” I replied. A hug is something we all need now and again. I love how children, naturally more uninhibited, will just ask for a hug, or in my son’s case just offer one. The feeling of being embraced is often all that is needed to solve a problem, or to change one’s mood.

Last week, the children and I ended up getting a coffee and biscuit in the great Caffé Bar Italia di Napoli down the road. I’ve never been to Italy, but it strikes me that this cafe is pretty much as the cafés of Naples (the proprietor’s home town) are like. The coffee is good and the range if biscuits and antipasti super. To accompany our drinks we had some small biscuits which were half chocolate and half vanilla. Deliciously crisp and crumbly, yet not overly sweet, they’re called Abracci. The name translates as ‘hug’, and the vanilla and chocolate halves clasp each other as if they are hugging.

Having looked online, I found a number of recipes (including a recipe from the commercial makers Mulina Bianco) and tracked down what seems like a key ingredient; potato starch, which helps the dough to keep its shape when baking, and maintains the ‘hug’. Whether they are served with a coffee or tea, they are a delicious light biscuit and like a hug bring a smile to your face.

Abracci (makes 72 biscuits)

What you will need
Cream dough:
200g flour
50g potato starch
100g of sugar
50g of butter
45g of margarine
3 tablespoons of fresh cream
1 tablespoon of honey
Knife tip of vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt

Cocoa dough: 
200g flour
50g potato starch
120g of sugar
40g of margarine
60g of butter
30g cocoa powder
40g of fresh milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt.

You need to prepare the two flavoured doughs, then combine before baking. First mix the margarine, butter and sugar until creamy. When light and fluffy, add the cream, vanilla and the honey and mix thoroughly. Finally fold in the flour, potato starch, salt and the baking powder, mixing until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined in a dough.  For the cocoa dough, repeat the process of creaming the butter, margarine and sugar, before adding the milk and egg. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients to make a dough. Allow the dough to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

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Take the dough from the fridge and roll to form 30cm sausages. Divide each sausage into 3cm pieces and then combine one cocoa and one cream sausage to form the ‘hug’ shape shown in the photo above. Bake at 180 ° C for 10-15 minutes. The biscuits are ready when the cream part has started to turn golden brown.

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Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose

The kids both love the books of Julia Donaldson and the illustrations of Nick Sharratt, and so really enjoyed Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose. The title of this book has led to all chocolate mousse in our family being referred to as “chocolate mousse for greedy goose”. Yesterday, asked what he wanted for pudding, he asked for the aforementioned mousse – so I got about finding a recipe.

Whilst searching around for a quick and easy mousse, I came across the blog of Nick Coffer – My Daddy Cooks. This is a man after my own heart, enjoying time spent cooking with his young kids. What’s more, he had a recipe for chocolate mousse (using yoghurt instead of the egg yolks often found in recipes). The recipe really is quick and easy – there is even a video to show the process (although the video is clearly sponsored by a well known Greek Yoghurt brand). I actually used homemade yoghurt, as I find it cheaper to make my own yoghurt.

Anyway, they went down well judging by the chocolate faces that greeted me across the kitchen table. Perhaps next time we’ll experiment with flavoured chocolate.