Almonds are sun dyed Moroccan markets; they’re the frangipane on a perfectly British Bakewell tart. They’re spring in some foreign climes, green, fresh, fragrant and juicy. They’re the sweet decadence of a rich Christmas cake and the chewy whisper of a light as a feather macaroon.
Almonds are for me, the king of all nuts.
So the announcement that this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge was to combine chocolate with almonds was extremely welcomed. However, revision meant that I couldn’t make the flourless chocolate orange cake I’d envisaged, so I took the simple route and decided to make some chocolate covered almonds. (Revision also meant that I didn’t get this posted in time so I was too late to be included in the round up for the challenge…damn you Colonial and Revolutionary America: From Early Settlement to the War of Independence exam!)
The chocolate was dark and the almonds sweet – the toasting bringing out their delicious natural flavour.
Nestled in their red and gold tin they looked just like antique jewels. A simple treasure that reminds me of the balmy evenings I spent in Italy, on my first au pair job. After supper we would eat fruit: peaches so juicy that their golden nectar would drip down my arm, ripe melon and strawberries; all accompanied by amaretti biscuits. They’re so small and delicate, but when popped into the mouth the bitter sweet almond flavour is so addictive, so light yet fragrant that I could never stop at one.
That’s the thing about the almond; its sweet subtlety is so alluring and exotic that I find it incredibly addictive. Perhaps it’s the nut’s nod toward the Mediterranean, toward a world that I can never forget about. Now this link might seem tenuous, but perhaps it’s this same attachment to the almond, as well as to rich olive oil, to velvet coated peaches, to the freshest fish, herbs, fruit, meat, to the ingredients of Italian life, that has drawn be back to the country again and again.
This summer is no exception.
It would seem that I’ve stumbled upon another nannying job, in Venice of all places. I start in June and it’s not for long, but it’ll be enough time to satisfy my addiction to Italy, to dreamy Venetian nights and to the almond, even if it is only in the form of those tantalising amaretti biscuits…
Now this is hardly a recipe but I’ll tell you the process anyway. I found inspiration from the wonderful (I am now a fully fledged fan) Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food. He suggests that you take a couple of handfuls of unskinned almonds and cook in a dry frying pan until fragrant. While they’re cooling melt 100g of good dark chocolate and toss the almonds into the chocolate until they’re covered. Next, dust a piece of greaseproof paper with cocoa powder and gently roll each almond in the powder. Wait for them to cool and enjoy. He says that you’ll wish you had more, and I think he’s right.