Tuesday, 12 August 2008


We bestowed the name Wolfie upon my friend Alex back when we were at Edinburgh University. This was mainly because of her cute mockney accent, her dreadlocks, a fine line in Che Guevara t-shirts and her general revolutionary stance. Those of you familiar with the cult BBC hit comedy series Citizen Smith will remember Wolfie the Tooting revolutionary and understand. Those of you not familiar with Wolfie Smith should look here. These days, and more years than I care to specify later, Alex's anarchic ways stretch more to popping down to Waitrose for a cupcake or checking out The Gap's fine merino wool in the January sales but she'll always be Wolfie to us, and we love her for it.

Saturday was this very special lady's birthday, and true to form we decided to celebrate by getting more innebriated than any of us have been since the days when Wolfie got her name. Indeed I had intended to write this post on Sunday but it is only now that I am recovered enough to do so.

At the risk of coming over all Martha Stewart, I decided as a birthday present to make Alex some decadent treats to satisfy the penchant she has for the finer things in life these days. Well that, and the fact that I felt it was high time someone got her something other than books. And so it was that I made limoncello, biscotti, florentines and chocolate truffles, and Wolfie can lay off Valvona and Crolla for a while.

Makes around 800ml

750ml bottle good vodka (I used Stolichnaya) or a good 40-80% proof fruit alcohol
200g unrefined caster sugar
8-12 unwaxed lemons, depending on size

Zest and juice the lemons, removing all the pips.

Pour a little of the vodka into a pan, add the sugar and heat gently until dissolved (tip: don't do what I did and inhale deeply or you will become extremely light headed...).

Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool slightly before adding the lemon zest and juice. Stir, add the rest of the alcohol and allow to cool completely.

Pour into a sterile bottle. You will have slightly more limoncello than the original 750ml bottle of vodka.

Ideally , this should be left for at least a week and shaken everyday before drinking to really allow the flavours to blend. However, I didn't have at least a week so I strained it off and it still tasted delicious the following day. Store in a cool dark place and serve very chilled.

FRUIT AND NUT BISCOTTI adapted from this recipe by James Martin
Makes around 25

250g plain flour
250g unrefined caster sugar
1/2 tbsp baking powder
50g plump sultanas
50g dried cherries
50g shelled pistachio nuts
50g pitted dates, chopped
50g whole blanched almonds
50g skinned hazelnuts
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.

Add the fruit, nuts and lemon zest, mixing well.

Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time until the dough takes shape but is not too wet.

Divide the dough into two sausage shapes, 3-5cm thick. Lightly flatten the sausages, and place on the first baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly until not to hot to touch.

Reduce the oven temperature to 140°C.

While the biscotti 'sausages' are still just warm, cut them into slices about an inch thick and lay on the second baking sheet. Return to oven to dry out for about 12 minutes. Turn them over and leave to dry for 10-12 minutes more.

Allow to cool completely and store in air tight containers for about a week. These are delicious served with a shot of limoncello to dip into.

Makes 9-12

55g unsalted butter
45g soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons clear honey
25g flaked almonds, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoons chopped glace cherries
2 tablesspoons chopped mixed peel
40g plain flour, sifted
120g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Melt the butter, brown sugar and honey in a pan until the butter is melted, the sugar has dissolved and all the ingredients are combined.

Remove from the heat and add the almonds, apricots, glace cherries, mixed peel and the flour. Mix well. Resist the urge to eat this out of the pan because it smells so heavenly.

Grease and line a large baking tray with baking paper (do not use greaseproof as the florentines will stick to this). Place level tablespoons of the mixture well apart on the trays. Reshape and flatten the biscuits into aproximate 5cm rounds.

Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly on the tray, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Break the chocolate up into small, even sized pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Bring a pan of water to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Place the heatproof bowl over the pan, ensuring it does not touch the water. Stir the chocolate until melted.

Spread the chocolate on the underside of the florentines and when almost set, make a wavy pattern using a fork. Allow the chocolate to set completely before serving.

Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place if you can resist the urge to eat them all in one sitting.

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES adapted from Nigel Slaters recipe in Real Food
Makes around 500g

450g of the finest plain chocolate you can lay your hands on
275ml double cream
good quality cocoa powder for dusting, such as Green & Blacks

Chop the chocolate finely and into even sized pieces. The individual pieces should be no bigger than the size of a pea.

Warm a heatproof bowl with hot water and dry throughly. Place the chocolate in the bowl.

Bring the cream to the boil in a small pan. Just as it reaches boiling point, remove from the heat and pour carefully over the chocolate, stirring gently with a wooden spoon.

The chocolate should melt into a thick, glossy, dark brown cream. If there are still lumps of chocolate in the mixture, place the bowl over a pan of hot almost simmering water until they melt. Take great caution not to over heat the chocolate mixture at this stage or it will split.

Allow the melted mixture to cool, and place in the fridge for about an hour or so thicken. You do not want it to become solid.

Using teaspoons, scoop out lumps of the chocolate mixture and drop them into the cocoa powder. Roll in the cocoa powder until well coated. Continue until all of the chocolate mixture is left and you have a mound of chocolate truffles. Place them in the fridge to set.

NB: If once you have brought the mixture off the heat it splits - don't panic. Add some clear runny honey, about a tablespoon at a time and stir the mixture until it is smooth and glossy again. It will feel as though it's not going to come back but it will - keep adding the honey and keep stirring. You can use this method if you want to add alcohol to the chocolates (as more often than not adding liquid to the mixture will cause it split) - add a the liquid, say a tablespoon of Brandy, to the mixture and when it splits, stir in the honey. It works, honest.

Store in an air tight container in the fridge and keep for up to three days.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WOLFIE! And er, up the revolution and all that.


Manuel said...

most of my "angry radical" chums are now all married with kids, mortgages, and dogs. It's a sad state of affairs when I'm the last soldier left......and even I shop in M and S!

The Limoncello looks and sounds beautiful. Stoli is good but have you tried Grey Goose or Bisson? Beautiful vodkas....

My birthday is in November now that you ask.....hehehehe

carine said...

Manual: I was going to nudge you in the direction of this post and suggest you make the limoncello because it's so good. There are definitely better vodkas than Stoli but I plumped for it because it's a good basic vodka and I think because you're altering the flavour with lemon it doesn't really need to be an uber vodka.

Go on, make it make it make it... it's dead easy and you'll thank me for it x

Jacq Kelly said...

what I do not get is why anyone thinks that it is even remotely acceptable to put wax on a lemon in the first place.

And yes, I realise that this is a somewhat irrelevant point.

But still!

carine said...

jacq, i'm guessing it was the same man who decided it would be a good idea to package bananas in plastic who came up with the idea to wax lemons.

and yes, i said man for a very good reason.


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