As arty as it will ever get on Dig In.
Ciao bella! The last city I’m visiting on my stay-at-home-Euro-tour is Rome. I loved Italy: the open fields of the countryside, the narrow alleys of the cities, the long lines of tourists to see Michelangelo’s David. I remember pigeons scattering through Venice’s squares; a pair of red strappy sandals I admired through the shop window but never bought; vespas speeding past ancient ruins; bold flowers in gracious country villa gardens; and everywhere, the collision between the ancient and the modern.
When I return to Rome, I want to go to the opera, get lost amongst the chaos of the ancient streets, and wander through the food markets. Like Paris, I want to fall for the seduction of city that has been around for centuries; like Paris I want to eat as much as I can. Real parmesan, chewy ciabatti, pasta of every possibility, and dolce, dolce, dolce: rich cannoli, coffee-kicking tiramisu, anything with sweetened, baked ricotta.
Because even though I cook and eat a lot of Italian-style food at home — or Italian inspired, as Nigella so rightly declares in her new book — it will naturally be so much different in Italy itself. The trick will be to find the authentic restaurants and offerings, not the tourist traps churning out safe stereotypes.
Instead of pasta, I thought I’d re-visit Rome thru my ‘Italian-inspired’ biscotti. If you have a keen memory, you may have recall that I hinted at something I was going to make about a month ago — well, this was that, but I got horridly sidetracked and the plump raisins have remained soaking in Tia Maria all this time in the fridge. But they looked happy enough – the longer, the better, when making tipsy fruit.
PS What would you eat in Italy?
Boozy raisin biscotti
Full disclosure: this did not bake as it was supposed to. It took way longer than the recipe specified at both baking stages, therefore these are not thin, brittle and elegant biscotti I had hoped for; rather, mine look more like toddlers' teething husks (I always told you that Dig In wass as much about the failures as the successes). The biscotti are good though dunked in a cup of tea. However, I'll still give you the original recipe's baking/timing instructions - perhaps you'll have better luck with biscotti than me. Adapted from the Women's Weekly 'Biscuits, brownies and biscotti'.
- Cream 30 gms soft butter, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 tspn vanilla, then two small eggs.
- Stir in 1 and 1/8 cup plain flour (I was halving the recipe, hence the strange quantity), 1/2 tspn baking powder and 1/4 tspn bicarb soda.
- Stir thru 1/3 cup raisins, boozy or sober. To this I also added some broke up walnut halves but I'm afraid I didn't note down how much I added! I'm sure it would only have been about the same amount as the raisins; I apologise.
- Cover and refrigerate mix for 60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 180 and line a baking tray. Knead the dough briefly, then form into a log shape about 30 cm long.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly brown and firm, remove and stand for ten minutes. Reduce oven temp to 160.
- Cut the biscotti using a serrated or electric knife into 1cm thick slices, and replace onto oven tray.
- Bake for about 15 minutes or until dry and crisp, turning halfway. Cool on wire racks.