Pastini Di Mandorla ~ Almond Cookies

Pastini Di Mandorla
Pastini Di Mandorla

Aaron once asked me if almonds were a national source of income in Malta.  I wondered how he’d come to that conclusion until he pointed out that the desserts I tend to make always have some kind of  almonds or marzipan in them.  It is quite true that I do do that, but I think the reason why I love working with almonds so much is because they are so darn good.

Blanched Almonds
Blanched Almonds

Pastini Di Mandorla means Almond Cookie and it is another recipe I love to make from the book by Edward Calleja Success Bil-Helu 2, the other one being Pastini Bic-Cirasa…not only because they are super delicious, but also because they are a cinch to make.  

They require only one egg white, which means, you’re not left wondering what to do with so many  left over egg yolks.  Even better,  if you use liquid egg whites, then you’re left with no egg yolks at all!!

Also, as opposed to other almond cookies, these require no drying time at all…so if you fancy these cookies at 2pm, you can be happily eating them by 3pm.

Ingredients

Pastini Di Mandorla
Pastini Di Mandorla

200g pure ground almond
200g powdered sugar
zest of a lemon
one egg
one tsp almond essence
one egg white beaten for dipping
about 3/4 slivered almonds to use as topping
rice paper (optional if you use a silpat)

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Place the rice paper if using, on the baking dish.

Mix all the ingredients except for the slivered almonds together in a bowl to form a ball.  Do not be tempted to add more liquid as this is supposed to be on a dry side. If you add more liquid, the cookies will flatten and you don’t want that.  If you see that the result is too sticky, add more ground almonds.

Cut the mixture into four equal pieces. Roll into four long ropes.  Cut into two inch pieces.

Form into crescents.

Beat the egg white in a small bowl.  Place the slivered almonds in a flat plate.

Dip the crescents in the egg white, then again in the slivered almonds and then place on the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 15 mins until just golden.

Cool on wire tray and sprinkle some powdered sugar for presentation.

Pastini Di Mandorla

Next time I see Aaron, I’ll be making these for him!

Blossom Blossom Everywhere

 

Cherry Blossom
Cherry Blossom

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this much blossom in my garden.  When we first moved into this house, I knew close to nothing about gardening and I hope that now, eight years later, I’ve learned to at least recognise weed from plants.  After living in apartments and town homes for such a long time, I was so excited to have my own garden, that I could not wait to dig in and dig out what I did not like.

Surviving Amaryllis
Surviving Amaryllis

No I did not listen to Kevin when he urged me not to touch anything for a whole year and to just to see what the garden had to offer.  Instead, I got my nice shiny new shovel and started digging out multiple agapanthus plants which I really disliked and threw them out!

Lucky for me, that day my friend Kalpana came by to visit and saw my huge clump of green waste ready for Friday’s Pick Up and asked me why I was getting rid of so many Amaryllis!! Aaaagh…what…amaryllis?? What had I done?  I LOVE AMARYLLIS!! So I frantically went head first in the garden bin and picked up and replanted each and every one like the garden fool that I was.  That was my first lesson in gardening.  Listen to Kevin!

Apple Blossom
Apple Blossom

 

Oh apple tree!! The first year you gave us an abundance of the most delicious apples I’d ever tasted.  I had no idea how to take care of  you though.  In my eyes, it looked like you needed a good prune so I grabbed my clippers and prune I did!! I pruned you so hard that you didn’t give us any apples for the next FOUR years!!

Fig Leaf
Fig Leaf

 

 

Oh baby fig tree…I wanted to espalier you like I see at the garden centres.  How hard could that be?  My lovely husband even built me a sturdy frame to train you against the fence but I pulled so hard at those delicate limbs of yours that they snapped right into my hands.  So now you have been retrained into a standard tree and I must say you look very straight and proud, no thanks to me.  I’m still waiting for that first fig though but I think you might be punishing me for being so mean to you.

Grape Vine
Grape Vine

 

 

Oh grapevine!  How many times did I threaten to dig you up because of the way you tend to vine and cling to everything that comes your way like something out of a horror movie.  You have Kevin to thank  for that you know and I have to say he was right not to give in to me because you give out the most delicious grapes ever.  Even the birds think so.

 

 
So when I came out to the garden this morning, I was totally overjoyed to see so many blossoms.  It feels like my garden has finally forgiven me!

Yes I made plenty of mistakes in my garden…and I still do occasionally but hopefully not as drastic.  Luckily, trees are very hardy and laugh at people like me.   They seem to have an endless supply of leaves and fruit…how awesome nature is!

 

Lagunitas Field Trip

 

Lagunitas
Lagunitas

Last weekend we went to Petaluma.  We’d only been talking about going for about four years!  But now that the kids are older and can be trusted not to burn the house down, well, we thought an overnight stay, just the two of us, would  be a good thing.

Lagunitas Sampler
Lagunitas Sampler

What made the occasion a must this time round, was that it was Kevin’s b’day. His wish was to go to his favourite brewery in the whole wide world and as luck would have it, it’s only a couple of hours away.  So, just like I celebrated my b’day with my favourite goats, it was only fair that he should celebrate it with his favourite beer!

Having lived here for so long,  I’m still surprised at how much there is still left to see and experience! I was totally delighted by what Petaluma had to offer.   Nobody has ever said that this place is a must see, so my expectancies were kinda low.  Besides, I honestly thought that the whole weekend was only going to about beer and more beer.   But when we started walking around town and saw the cute little antique shops and people just lapping up the sun outside the charming Bistros,  I wanted to stop and savour every minute.  We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day either.  The sky was blue and the air was warm…and what was that????  Is that French I hear??

Sacre Bleu!! It was!!   It seemed to me that for the most part, the locals were actually french! I could catch snippets of french conversations going on at every corner and bar!  And with French music playing in the air and french decor in every restaurant, I felt like I had just stepped into Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris!  And I fell in love!!

I had almost booked us a room at a Days Inn or Best Western, as Kevin’s only priority was that we were close enough to Lagunitas Brewery so he could have his pint and drink it…literally…and not worry about the driving part.  So I almost did not see this quaint little Metro Hotel just down the road from Petaluma’s Town Center.  It was perfect!! The french decor just added to our french experience and next time we go…and I’m pretty sure there will be a next time…we will definitely stay there again.

The Lagunitas Tour was also very entertaining. We could hear the boisterous laughter from the parking lot which became louder and louder and more enticing as we neared the entrance of the bar!  It was full…the inside bar, the outside beer garden…pretty much every space was taken…but for a tiny corner  at the end of the room.  We sampled some beer while we waited for our tour…well one of us did…and then were led to where the magic happens.

Before we left, we paid a visit to Sonoma which is another very interesting and charming town.  You find anything from Cheese Shops to Hat Shops, and Pottery Shops to Restaurants.

Maybe it was because it was our first get away together with no kids in like ever…but what a marvelous weekend that was…and we both hope to return very very soon!

Happy Birthday Kevin!!

Cheers
Cheers

Meyer Lemon Cake

Meyer Lemon Tree
Meyer Lemon Tree

Now that my baby hummingbirds are no more and I don’t have to tip toe around my lemon tree anymore, I have been thinking of ways that I can use up the numerous lemons it still has left on it.

Meyer Lemons
Meyer Lemons

Lemon marmalade~Check

Lemon Marmalade Truffles~Check

Lemon Salt~Check

Lemon Olive Oil~Check

Endless Amounts of Lemonade~Check

I have a few lemon cake recipes that are a staple in my collection but I’m always on the look out for new ones that may come my way.  So when my friend Karen graciously shared some of her lemon cake with me last week, my eyes lit up.  And when she shared her recipe…well!! I then quickly picked some lemons and got started.

I was blown away with the tanginess and moistness of this cake.  I tweaked the recipe just a tiny bit…and I think if you like a strong lemon taste in cakes and baked goods, then you can’t go wrong with this one!

Meyer Lemon Cakes
Meyer Lemon Cakes

Ingredients

4oz butter
2oz sour cream
3 eggs
8oz sugar
8oz self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
about half a cup of lemon juice (according to taste)
zest of one lemon

Cream butter, sour cream  and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time.

Slowly add in flour, baking powder and salt. Then add lemon juice and zest of one lemon.

Butter and flour a pan of your choice and pour the batter in the pan. You can make into cupcakes or use a Bundt pan. I divided my batter into three five inch cake pans.

Place in a cold oven.  Set the oven to 350 degrees and bake for one hour if putting in a Bundt pan.  Check after 45 mins. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto a cake platter.

Prepare Lemon Glaze
Prepare Lemon Glaze

Glaze

juice of a lemon
4oz sugar

In a small bowl, combine the juice of one lemon and ½ cup sugar.

While still warm, drizzle the cake with the lemon glaze and let cool.

Meyer Lemon Cake
Meyer Lemon Cake

Kevin just reminded me that the best way to use meyer lemons is squeezed into a glass of gin…Cin Cin Kevin!!

Our Wedding Song~My Best Girl

20 Years On
20 Years On

And since we’re on the subject of Anniversaries and Weddings and all that mushy stuff, I thought I’d share with you our Wedding Song.  Never fails to bring tears to my eyes.  Very Special Time and Very Special Memories!  To 20 Wonderful Years!

 

Potato Gnocchi

 

potatoes

Oh potato gnocchi!!  You don’t bring me the good memory that you should…but it is a memory…and kind of funny too although it didn’t seem to be at the time!

Kevin and I had just gotten married and moved in Mr Daniel’s flat where we just had the essentials…couple of pots and pans, a kettle, two plates and two mugs!  It was all we needed.  We ate out the first few nights…but then I wanted to show my new husband what I could do.

Fresh Gnocchi
Fresh Gnocchi

I remembered an Italian friend had made these delicious gnocchi for a group of us once.  He was like the maestro on one side ofthe table, with a bunch of girls surrounding him, watching him orchestrate this magnificent dish.  It looked so easy…but then so does gymnastics and ice skating.

So that was it…that’s what I’d make for our first dinner I thought, as I set about this joyful task!  I worked and slaved all day long in the kitchen while my new husband was slaving away at his job. And then the moment of truth!  I boiled the gnocchi  I’d made, but no amount of sauce could hide the mess underneath!  I was in tears!

Kevin
Kevin

My lovely husband sat down and got ready for his meal and just like the trooper he’s always been and still is, he put that first bite in his mouth and with a smile told me how good it was!!  He never did make it to the second bite though because  I snatched it from his hand, and took the plate from the table and with a whoosh, and a few sobs,  they ended down the toilet!  He still does not know what he had said to get that reaction from me and still insists to this day, that they were jolly good gnocchi…but wouldn’t you say that to your new wife?

So it’s been 20 yrs since that fateful day!!  I never made them again and still get the shivers when I hear the word GNOCCHI!! But since I have a blog, and since it’s our 20th Wedding Anniversary today, I think it’s about time I gave it another go, this time with the help of foodnetwork.

Ingredients
Kosher salt
1 pound russet potatoes (two medium sized potatoes)
3 to 4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon gray salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour

Directions

Preheat oven 425 degrees.  Bake the potatoes for about 45 mins.

When cool enough to handle, take off the skins and grate the potatoes in a bowl.  You should have about two cups.

Add the rest of the ingredients and form into a ball.  Let rest for half an hour.

Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces. Lightly flour the gnocchi as you cut them. Roll each piece into a ball.

Using the back of a grater, roll each piece down the back.  This creates a rough surface for the sauce to cling to.  Do this with each piece. Place on a well floured (or well sprinkled with semolina).

At this point you can freeze them.

Or if you want to cook on the same day, you need to let dry for about half an hour under a fan.  Turn each one and let dry for another half an hour.

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface. Remove the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer, shake off the excess water, and serve as desired.

Delicious with tomato sauce and I’m sure it’s just as nice with just butter and cheese and some herbs of your liking.

Moment of Truth
Moment of Truth

This time, I must say, the gnocchi got two thumbs up.  Not just from Kevin…but also from me:)  I wish I hadn’t waited 20 years to try these again.  I will sure not wait another 20!! Happy Anniversary my qalbi…here’s to many many more!! Love you with all my heart!

Our Honeymoon Dinner
Our Honeymoon Dinner

 

 

Sad Sunday

Sunday's Empty Nest
Sunday’s Empty Nest

 

Went to check on Peter and Paul today and found the nest on the floor.  I’d like to think that they flew away on their own but I doubt they were old enough.  So here are the last photos from the last couple of days.

You Shall Be Missed !!

Delicious treats from Georgina's kitchen