Ciambelline al vino

Ciambelline al vino 2

As you may have guessed from the name of this blog, I’m a somewhat timid cook. Rarely one to experiment or stray from a recipe. Sticking to the rules like the accountant/dork that I am. But the whole point of this blog was to force me to go against my instincts, fight my cautious nature and ultimately become a better cook.

Ciambelline al vino 3

So when I read a recent post from the beautifully written blog rachel eats, I knew I’d found the perfect place to start, my first challenge!

Ciambelline al vino

Rachel’s blog focuses on simple, delicious, predominately italian food. The type of food that bursts with bold flavours and showcases quality ingredients. In the post that inspired me, she discussed ‘quantobasta’ or ‘how much is enough’. In a lot of italian recipes, rather than giving precise measurements, the quantity is simply given as ‘q.b.’ and then it’s up to you to get the balance right. (Rachel describes this so much better than me, you really must read her post)

Ciambelline al vino 4

For a scaredy cat like me this concept is fairly terrifying. I couldn’t bear the thought of a kitchen disaster (especially not after the chocolate macaroon debacle, which I can’t bring myself to discuss right now) and I didn’t know if my baking experience would be enough to get me through.

Thankfully this recipe was a fairly gentle introduction, with little scope for an appalling result!

Ciambelline al vino 5

Ciambelline al vino, otherwise known as wine biscuits, are an absolute revelation to me. They feature one of my favourite flavours, the aniseed like punch of fennel seeds. They have a crunchy, sugary top and their texture is reminiscent of shortbread which is ideal as they are designed for dunking. But rather than dunking them in a lovely cuppa, the idea is to dip them in wine.

Ciambelline al vino 7

However, their name isn’t just due to their wine dunking abilities, these babies are also made with wine. Yes, dipping wine in wine, what an fabulous idea, the italians are absolute geniuses! Genii?

The wine imparts a beautiful flavour to the biscuits, but the main selling point is definitely the fennel seeds. In estimating my quantities, I went with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of fennel seeds, but personally I could have taken a little more, I wanted to be punched in the face by aniseed. However, if you’re not such a big fan you can rein it in.

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I really recommend that those of you clinging to recipes and exact measurements like me, give these biscuits a go. And even if you’re not, these bad boys are bloomin’ gorgeous so try them anyway! Who could resist a lazy evening with friends, chatting round the table and dunking biscuits in a nice glass of red? I rest my case.

Ciambelline al vino 8

Ciambelline al vino
Taken from rachel eats
The amount of biscuits made from this recipe will vary wildly based on the size of glass you use, I went with a glass that holds 250ml and I made 25 biscuits.

Ingredients

1 glass of sugar
1 glass of wine (I chose white wine, but red will do just as well)
1 glass of extra virgin olive oil
Salt q.b. (I went with a pinch)
Fennel seeds q.b. (I went with a 1 1/2 tsps, but I would up it next time)
Plain flour q.b.
Sugar for topping q.b.

Start by mixing together the sugar, oil and wine in a large bowl. Add the salt and fennel seeds and then start adding the flour. Stir in a little flour at a time, getting your hands involved in the mixing as it starts to become less liquid. Continue to add flour until the dough comes together into a soft ball that cleans the sides on the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it for about an hour.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 C / 160 C Fan / 350 F and line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment.

Flour a clean work surface or chopping board and also coat your hands with flour. Take a walnut size piece of dough, roll it into a log and join the ends together to make a little donut.

Dip one side in sugar and pop it, sugar side up, onto the baking tray. When you’ve used up all the dough, put the baking trays into the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until the biscuits are lightly browned and crispy.

Turn off the oven and open it a crack (use a wooden spoon handle to stop it closing fully if needs be) . Allow the biscuits to cool fully in the oven.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, dunk and enjoy!

Ciambelline al vino 9

A Classic Manhattan

Manhattan 1

My new shaker has finally arrived and to celebrate I’ve whipped up my all time favourite cocktail (albeit one that shouldn’t be shaken!)

The Manhattan has everything I want in a cocktail. I’m not a fan of long, icy drinks, I like the ones that come in tiny glasses and have to be sipped in a terribly civilised fashion. I want them to be bitter and strong, preferably with a hint of something zesty and a hip flask that you’re permitted to take home.

Manhattan ingredients

I also love simplicity. A Manhattan has just 4 ingredients; bourbon (or rye whiskey, if you prefer), vermouth, bitters (angostura if you’re after authenticity) and some kind of garnish. There are, however, variations within those ingredients that you can experiment with until you find your perfect blend.

Manhattan 2

I like to use a good, sweet, red vermouth resulting in a ‘sweet’ Manhattan, if you use dry, white vermouth you’ll end up with a ‘dry’ Manhattan (which I find a little too bitter for me) and if you go for half and half it’s known as a ‘perfect’ Manhattan. If you use those terms in a decent cocktail bar they’ll know what you’re talking about, I promise!

Manhattan 3

As far as garnish goes there are 2 authentic options, lemon zest or a maraschino cherry.  Whilst I love a maraschino cherry, it’s tough to find a decent jar of them in the shops (i.e. those soaked in maraschino liqueur) and besides, I’m very partial to a bit of orange zest, so forget authenticity!

Manhattan 4

It was a barman in the fabulous Worship Street Whistling Shop who first showed me the proper way to mix a Manhattan.

He told me that if you shake it, you risk bruising the bourbon and diluting the flavour with ice chips. It’ll also leave a nasty film on top of the drink and make it cloudy and unappealing. So get your stirring chopstick out! (Admittedly the barman didn’t recommend using a chopstick to stir your cocktail but sadly I don’t have a bar spoon.)

Orange zest 1

Whilst making this drink I discovered how difficult it is to cut a strip of orange zest without leaving a load of white pith on it. Soooo many attempts before I got it right!

Plus I couldn’t decide which picture of zest I liked best, so you get 2!

Orange zest 2

I usually like my Manhattan served in a vintage coupe, I’m pretentious like that, but since I don’t have one I went with a fabulous, 1950s sherry glass that belonged to my Nan.

Manhattan 5

I have a set of these glasses in 3 different sizes, but I suspect they were never used by my Nan, she wasn’t a big drinker. Apparently she used to have the occasional snifter, once every few years, that left her rather giggly, but sadly I never got to witness it.

Go on, give this cocktail a whirl and pretend you’re in Mad Men. You know you want to.

Manhattan 6

A Classic Manhattan
Makes 1

Ingredients:
2 measures of bourbon
1 measure of sweet vermouth
3 big splashes of angostura bitters
Orange zest

Chill your cocktail glass in the freezer until nice and frosty.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in the bourbon, vermouth and bitters. With a bar spoon (or a chopstick!) smoothly stir the ice around the glass for about 30 second.

Leave to stand for a further 30 seconds and then gently stir again. Strain the cocktail into the chilled glass. To do this I just popped the top on my shaker, but if you have cocktail strainer, use that.

Cut a strip of orange zest, ensuring that there is minimal white pith on the back of the skin. Over the top of the cocktail glass, hold the zest skin side down and crack it in half lengthways, this creates a film of gorgeous orange oil on the top of the drink.

Relax and enjoy, Mr Draper!

Manhattan 7

Peach Iced White Tea

Peach iced tea

Bubble tea. I absolutely luuurve bubble tea. I’ve only actually had it 3 times but that’s enough to fall in love, right? Right?? Fruity iced tea with crazy, chewy tapioca balls in the bottom that shoot up the straw when you least expect it. Oh my goodness!

OK so I’m probably massively behind the curve here and hugely uncool, but I don’t care, deal with it people.

Tea bags

Whilst I would love to recreate the bubble tea experience at home, I feel that would ruin it for me. It’s supposed to be a weird treat on a Sunday afternoon stroll and my straws are way too small. Besides, it’s probably not a good idea to ingest that many e-numbers and that much processed sugar on a regular basis.

However, everyone needs a go to recipe for iced tea. It has to be one of the most refreshing drinks out there and the addition of peaches, just pushes it over the edge into utter awesomeness (real word? Not sure I care…)

Peach Iced Tea 2

We’re in a Choose Your Own Adventure situation here people. (Or we would be, if they wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure book about how you like your tea. I doubt they did, that would probably be a tad dry for your average 10 year old. I’d probably read it though.)

Like your tea a little stronger? Sub your favourite black tea bags for the white tea. Got an insanely sweet tooth? Double (no, triple!) the sugar. Want it to be super peachy? Puree the peaches into the tea once it’s cooled or whack in some peach juice. Don’t even like peaches? Don’t put them in. Duh.

Peach Iced Tea 3

It’s basically majorly customisable and incredibly easy to whip up on a hot summers day. (Not that we have those in England, but we can put the heating on and parade around in a summer dress and sunglasses whenever we like.) You can even pop a little booze in there if you’re feeling cheeky. I’m thinking bourbon….in keeping with the Southern American theme. Do it, you know you want to. Sorry, did that come across a little too ‘pusher’?

Peach Iced Tea 4

Peach Iced White Tea
This version isn’t hugely sweet, as that’s my preference, but you can add more sugar to taste.

Ingredients:

2 ripe peaches
4 bags of white tea
1/2 cup of caster sugar

Slice the peaches and put them in a large jug or pitcher. Throw in the tea bags and pore over 4 cups of boiling water.

Allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes and then immediately remove the tea bags. If you leave them for too long the tannins will start making the tea bitter.

Add the sugar and give it a good stir until it’s all dissolved. Add 4 cups of cold water and leave the whole lot to cool. You can take the peaches out once it’s cool if you want, but I don’t think it’s really necessary.

Once cool it’s ready to go. Serve it over plenty of ice,with a slug of bourbon if you fancy it, and a few of the peaches on top.

Pop any leftovers in the fridge, I found that it was still lovely the next day. Enjoy!