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Nonnina’s Sicilian Cuddureddi Biscuits

Nonnina’s Sicilian Cuddureddi Biscuits

There is something about these biscuits that bring back the most wonderful memories time and time again.

This is a traditional Sicilian festive biscuit, so you would always find them on the table Christmas Day and any other social event leading up to it. My Nonnina was renowned for them, and to our family, they are known as Cuddureddi. But to others, they might be known as Buccellati or Cucciddati. Nonnina would fill these beautifully delicate shortbread pastry with either her homemade fig jam, or a homemade zucchini jam (which was so delicious!).

I have a version of this recipe from my Zia, and I’ve spent some time to recreate it in my own kitchen. The pastry I think is spot on, but the filling Nonnina used was different. Most commonly they are made with a combination of dried fig, nut and spice mix for the filling. And yes they do work wonderfully like this – but they don’t quite taste the same as my Nonnina’s.

There are so many variations to this biscuit, it amazes me how much it can differ between each little Sicilian town. If you have the time, and it’s the season for it, then please go ahead with a traditional fig jam. But for today, I made them with the alternate filling below.

 

Preparation Time - 1 hour, plus resting of the dough

Cooking Time - 20 minutes

Makes approximately 40 biscuits

 

For the pastry

  • 500g plain flour
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 200g chilled butter (Nonnina would use lard)
  • 3 free range eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, beaten

For the filling

  • 500g dried figs
  • 150g raisins
  • 120g blanched almonds
  • 35g pine nuts
  • 35g pistachios
  • 125g honey
  • 200g marmalade
  • 1 large orange, zest only
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon

 

Method

Start this recipe with the pastry. Place the flour, icing sugar, baking powder and sea salt into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes, dropping them into the bowl also. Rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the eggs, mixing until it all starts to combine. Using your hands, work the ingredients until it starts to form a dough. If it is too sticky, add some extra flour. Or water, if you feel the dough is too dry. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.

In the meantime, place the dried figs into a bowl of hot water and set aside for 10 minutes to soften.

Drain and let cool slightly. Remove the stems and roughly chop. Place into a food processor along with the nuts and raisins, and pulse until a thick chunky paste is formed. Add to a clean seperate bowl, along with the remainder of the filling ingredients. Combine and leave to chill in the fridge.

To assemble the biscuits

Working in batches so the pastry won't warm too much, cut a small amount of the dough and place the rest back in the fridge, wrapping in clingfilm. On a clean surface dusted with flour, roll out the dough until it is approximately 2-3mm thick. Using a cookie cutter, start cutting out shapes in the dough, you will need to work quickly. Spoon small amounts of filling into the centre, and place another cut piece of dough to form a ‘lid’. Press down gently enough to secure the dough, but not lose the delicate shape from the cookie cutter. Repeat this process until all the pastry and filling have been used.

Transfer the finished cookies onto baking trays lined with baking paper. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes in a preheated oven set to 180C fan-forced. Let cool, then dust with icing sugar to serve.

Note: If you have left over dough, simply roll into small balls and place onto a baking tray, pressing down gently with your finger tip. It helps if both the pastry and the mixture and cool when making these biscuits.

 

 

 

 

Trofie with Zucchini, Mint and Almonds

Trofie with Zucchini, Mint and Almonds

This recipe is put together in a very similar way to that of a pesto, but the addition of the zucchini lends a very creamy texture that heightens this dish like no other. It’s quick, easy and efficient and it goes a very long way. Any leftover zucchini cream can easily be frozen for those nights when you are really pushed for time but crave something delicious and nutritious.

Serves 4

Preparation Time – 10 Minutes

Cooking Time – 10 Minutes

Ingredients

1 large zucchini

1-2 garlic cloves

50g parmesan cheese

1/2 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted 

1 handful fresh mint

1 handful fresh basil

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Wash and pat dry the zucchini, cutting them into thick rounds. Peel and slice the garlic. Set a frypan to medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the zucchini rounds and sliced garlic and season well. Gently sauté until the zucchini is soft and translucent and the garlic is nicely perfumed, this may take approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a food processor or blender. Add the parmesan, blanched almonds and fresh mint and basil, then secure the lid. Blitz for 1-2 minutes until a smooth puréed consistency is achieved. Transfer the purée back into the frypan originally used for sautéing.  

Bring a large stockpot of salted water to the boil. Drop in the trofie, and cook for approximately 5-6 minutes, or until al dente. Check it’s ready and then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the trofie into the frypan of zucchini purée bringing along some of the cooking water. Continue to cook for a further minute until the sauce has thickened nicely and the trofie are ready. Turn off the heat, serve immediately with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, extra grated parmesan, and freshly cracked black pepper. 

 

 

Orecchiette with Broccoli, Anchovy, Chilli Flakes and Pangrattato

Orecchiette with Broccoli, Anchovy, Chilli Flakes and Pangrattato

Orecchiette with Broccoli, Anchovy, Chilli Flakes and Pangrattato

This is a lovely and simple recipe that's quick to put on the table. Perfect enough for a mid-week meal, yet also impressive enough to serve to your guests. Try this one now, you won't be disappointed!

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

500g orecchiette, or pasta of your choice

1 large head of broccoli

3-4 anchovy fillets

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp of chilli flakes, plus extra to serve

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesen cheese, plus extra to serve

Pangrattato, to serve

Extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Bring a large stockpot of water onto the boil. Salt generously. Cut the broccoli into florets, then blanch in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set side in a bowl of ice water to retain its vibrant green colour. Now, add the orecchiette, or pasta of your choice, to the boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions. If you have made fresh semolina pasta, then cook for 5-6 minutes or until al dente. 

In a shallow saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, anchovy fillets, chopped garlic and chilli flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Pat dry the blanched broccoli, pat dry, roughly chop and add to the saute pan. Stir, and cook for 1-2 minutes to warm the broccoli through and blend the flavours.

Add the pasta to the saute pan when ready, along with a ladleful of the cooking water. Stir, cooking further to emulsify. Once you have reached a lovely glossy consistency in the sauce, turn off the heat and and the grated parmesan and a good sprinkle of black pepper. Stir to combine, serve immediately with extra parmesan and chilli flakes and a good sprinkle of pangrattato.

To make the pangrattato, simple panfry homemade breadcrumbs with a splash of extra virgin olive oil on a low heat. This will depend on the amount of breadcrumbs you are working with. Keep watch and do not walk away - stir continuously. They don't need long at all and you don't want to burn them! When you have achieved a lovely golden crunch, turn off the heat and season with sea salt. 

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