Friday, 13 April 2012

Macaroons - Amaretti (those thingy's with almonds) and spanakopita ( (spinach and cheese pie to the non Greeks out there)

I woke up this morning to a call from my Mother telling me that my Grandmother is not terribly well. Considering her age and frailty everyone is very concerned over her recovery.
I had to cook. I had to do things with my hands in a warm "this reminds me of family" way. I had to do things that were manual and distracting so that I could think about Gran and my Mum and my family who look after my Gran so far away. And, I did not want to step out of  my nest for anything as mundane as ingredients. I wanted to wallow in my bit of  worrying and be comforted by cooking.
When Philip was home over Christmas he made us this delicious spinach lasagna. It reminded me that I love spanakopita. My friend Frances was visiting a couple of weeks ago and she made a delicious spinach and cheese pie with phyllo pastry. So I was already semi geared up to emulate these two people this week, but did not get around to it.  I now had the incentive. I googled recipes. I borrowed bits from many. I  gathered my ingredients and adjusted etc. In the end I had a respectable pile of spinach, parsley, dill, feta cheese, cottage cheese, onion, nutmeg and salt and pepper and egg. I had phyllo pastry. I put it all together and made individual pies. My folding of the phyllo pastry was dreadful but effective. I made enough to cook some and  freeze some. The frozen ones being beautiful triangles, the cooked ones, well they tasted great.
The ingredients that made the difference between nice and delicious? I used a big handful of dill and and a big handful of parsley, oh and the nutmeg.
Over the last few weeks I have been trying out baking macaroons and amaretti. Something I have not done before. Which is surprising considering that I do like baking with ground almonds. Well who would not, the rich, dense, aromatic flavour is inspired. My efforts have been okay. They have tasted lovely but I keep making them too big and for the most part not stiff enough. I decided that the reason for this is that I have not been using, the recommended, piping bag.
This required a shopping expedition. In this town of plenty I found more piping kits than I would ever know what to do with. Unfortunately the variety I found assumes that I am looking for a piping bag to become a master cake icing specialist. Now, there are a couple of things that I am pretty sure I will not be doing in my lifetime. Bungee jumping is one and cake icing is another. The former because I will never engage in something that requires my weight to be written on my thigh for all the world to see  ( unless I am unconscious and having my weight displayed is a life saving exercise) and  icing because it just looks so disciplined, and organised, and hard.
After walking around the shops in "straight from work clothes complete with six inch heels" (fool that I am) I finally found a piping bag. I looked at the bag. I looked at the picture on the box. I knew for sure that this was a wasteful business. Please, if anyone can correct me on this guide me on the proper use of piping bags. It just screams at you from the packaging that you are going to have a lot of wastage of stuff left in the bag. I was right. I have now used the piping bag method of making ameretti. There was a lot of  mixture left in the nozzle. I think for the macaroon recipes I have tried it is the answer. But for the ameretti, which seem to be a bit more dense somehow, I think I will try rolling them up in balls and then squashing them a bit. Will see how that goes.
This evening I will have a traditional amaretti with a glass of sherry. I will think of my mother in law because she is the person I "do" sherry with. I will think of my mum and her side of the family because that is, naturally, what has preoccupied my day.

Oh, and it is Greek Easter, so strictly speaking if I was a traditionalist I would be fasting. Well darlings Kali Anastasi .
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