One of the things about being a food blogger is that you rarely stay loyal to a favourite dish or recipe for long. Ask me what my favourite recipe is today and it probably won’t be the same as it was yesterday AND in all likelihood it will be the most recent success that I’ve had in the kitchen … that great dish that I am giddy with excitement about.
But if you ask me the question today, here and now, right this minute, my answer will be these Almond Cookies. 100%.
I’m really not good at being pinned down on a favourite thing when it comes to anything at all foodie … it’s a bit like asking me which is my favourite child … (although today it is #2 teenage son because he got out of school super quickly at finish time, hence avoiding that knock on effect of being late leaving school and therefore being late for everything else for the rest of the afternoon. Thanks honey.)
Favourite chef? Favourite cookbook? Favourite ingredient? Favourite place to get coffee in Dubai, London, Bath …? Favourite sandwich filling? Favourite pizza topping? Favourite ice cream flavour? Ask me any of these questions and I will ponder for an eternity, there’ll probably be a debate (even if it’s just with myself) and in the end I’ll most likely ask for extra time.
But ask me about my Favourite Meal EVER and I’ll answer in a flash …
Lunch with my lovely husband at Honey & Co not far from Euston station in North London, August 2014. A muggy day, spitting with rain; no children (they were having a lovely time with gorgeous grandparents); tiny restaurant (20 covers perhaps); next to a tanning parlour (sometimes it’s not about the location); simple decor; ‘Rachael’ the most perfect, charming, vivacious, infectiously enthusiastic waitress in the history of great waitresses; a table outside on the pavement (inside was PACKED); a couple of glasses of chilled red and then, the food … perfectly ripe white peaches, warm arabic bread, creamy goat’s cheese, crispy leaves, fresh herbs, melt in the mouth lamb, tahini, onion fritters, roasted plums, tiny almond cakes, beautiful green pistachios.
This was Middle Eastern food made with immense skill and respect for wonderful ingredients, but mostly this was simple food made with love. We ooohed and aahhhhed and gushed and completely fell in love with this magical foodie heaven created in a small terraced building in the most unlikely of locations. Rachael, the waitress was also a great saleswoman and suggested that we may also love their cookery book … she could get it signed by the chef owners too. Nice idea we said but we’d rather it was signed by ‘Rachael’ the most perfect, charming, vivacious waitress in the history of great waitresses. And so she did.
And these Almond Cookies are from a recipe in that very same book – just tweaked a little. These are sophisticated, grown-up cookies – possibly too good for the children (although that has never stopped them) – and glorious with a strong coffee, or a glass of wine. My lovely husband has been known to breakfast on one as he has dashed out of the door too.
So why will these be your favourites too?
- They are moist and mouthwateringly delicious. There’s a hint of orange and a spice or two, but mostly it’s the glorious flavour of almonds. One bite and you’ll be transported to a far away, exotic place.
- They are very easy to make (once you get over the fact that the consistency of the mixture is not what you would expect) and their impact far outweighs the effort involved.
- They’re so pretty too – I think it’s that coating of nibbed almonds. You could also use flaked almonds if they’re easier to get hold of. And in case you were wondering, ‘nibbed’ almonds are cut into tiny matchsticks and ‘flaked’ almonds are cut into wafer thin slices.
- They happen to be gluten free. Could be useful.
- They’ll keep in an airtight container for a few days.
- Sophisticated enough to use as a dinner party dessert. Just add a good coffee.
Almond Cookies … I declare undying love for you. You are my favourite. Today. And almost certainly tomorrow too …
- 150g (5oz) marzipan, at room temperature
- 2 egg whites
- 75g (3oz) ground almonds
- 25g (1oz) flaked almonds
- 50g (2oz) icing sugar
- zest of ½ orange
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- To cover the cookies -
- 100-150g (4-5oz) nibbed or flaked almonds
- 2 baking trays, covered in baking parchment
- Break the marzipan into small pieces and add to a mixing bowl with the egg whites, ground almonds, flaked almonds, icing sugar, orange zest, ground ginger and ground cinnamon.
- Mix well using an electric mixer (or beating ferociously with a wooden spoon!) until the marzipan pieces are blended into the mixture.
- Cover and chill overnight or until the mixture has firmed up slightly - it will still be more sloppy than a regular cookie mixture.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C, 325°F (gas mark 3).
- Place the nibbed or flaked almonds in a wide, shallow bowl.
- Using a dessertspoon, scoop up a big, heaped spoonful of the chilled cookie mixture and using your finger slide the mixture off the spoon so that you have a 'ball' of mixture in your hand. Don't be alarmed that the mixture is very gooey - this is how it should be.
- Now roll the mixture into the nibbed almonds so that it is covered on all sides and then place it carefully on the baking tray. Press the cookies down a little if they are very rounded. Be sure to leave a little space between the cookies as they will spread a bit in the oven.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the tray around and bake for a further 5-7 minutes until the cookies are light golden in colour but are still soft to the touch. Allow to cool on the tray.