The holiday was above and beyond all our expectations, on all fronts. The weather was incredible, nature was in full bloom (I have never seen such biodiversity and several times we stopped on our travels just to take photos of the flowers and plants on the verge of the roads, not to speak of breathing in the heady scent of zagare, the orange and lemon blossoms) and even the children enjoyed themselves.
I am hardly a travel blogger although I could happily talk about the trip for hours on end, so I will swiftly go to today's recipe. In Erice (mountain-top town between Palermo and Trapani) we chanced upon one of Sicily's culinary institutions, Maria Grammatico's Pasticceria: a small shop filled to the brim with the most delicious traditional jams, cakes and biscuits which Maria learned to make as a young orphan girl staying with nuns. I treated myself to cannoli and other delicacies and pined over all the other cakes I could not possibly eat nor take with me on the day. I have left my heart there... and I will most definitely have to go back, especially now that I know they organise baking classes.
Sicilian patisserie is all about the freshest ricotta, almonds, chocolate and pistachios and this recipe for soft pistachio amaretti is a beautiful way to remind myself of the sun drenched streets of Erice and the delicious treats eaten at the Grammatico pasticceria (and pretty much everywhere else on our travels). I have adapted an old recipe of mine which was inspired by my friend @thedorsetfoodie. I hope you try them, they are very easy and just a step away from paradise.
3 egg whites, lightly beaten (approx 80-90g)
175g caster sugar
130g ground almonds
120g ground raw pistachio (fairly coarse, I like to bite into pistachio bits)
3 tbsp icing sugar
whole almonds or pistachios to decorate
Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and set aside.
Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl. you should get a sticky but not too wet mix which should be easy to shape into balls the size of a small walnut (French walnuts rather than Californian ones). Roll each ball in icing sugar and place on the baking tray, slightly flattening it. Top some of the amaretti with an almond or a pistachio.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size, until cracks appear all over the surface. Leave to cool on the tray before eating them. They taste even better the next day, like any nut based treats.
mix in the zest of half an organic orange or lemon
try 100% pistachio. I do not think it is necessary, already 50% gives a lovely flavour
use a few drops of orange flower blossom, for a middle eastern scent