Tuesday, 30 October 2012

An Arabian Feast

It’s Eid al-Adha, and I have been cooking Al-Andalusian-Catalan food again – this time, “Panellets.”

These are small sweetmeats made of marzipan and covered in almonds or pine-nuts. The marzipan,  “masapà” in Catalan, comes from the Arabic mahsaban, which means “wooden box” according to my Diccionari etimològic. Perhaps this was the wooden box in which the sweets were offered. (Wikipedia lists a lot of other possible origins for the word, including the Arabic phrase "the king who sits still." Hmmm.)

Back to the cooking:

First, make the marzipan:

200g    finely ground almonds
200g    sugar
20cl     water – about a wine-glass full.

Add the sugar to the water and boil to make a syrup. My recipe from Cuina Catalana by Ana Maria Calera says boil the syrup to what she calls the “hard ball” stage. This means 116º on the sugar thermometer, but frankly this seems a lot of fuss for a sugar syrup, so just boil for a bit…

Cool, and add the almonds. At this stage you can also add flavouring – the scraped inside of a vanilla pod, or some grated lemon peel or pretty much anything else you like that will taste good in marzipan.

Add an egg.

Stir a lot, then put onto a marble surface and knead, for 10 minutes if you can bear it.

Second, make the panellets:

You’ll need about 200g of chopped almonds and 200g of pine nuts.
Thoroughly butter a baking tin
Heat the oven to 170ºC.

Make small balls of the marzipan – the size of a Brazil nut – and roll in the chopped almonds or in the pine nuts.

If you are in a hurry, just pop them onto the baking tray. If you are not, then dip the panellets in egg white and give a coating of icing sugar. Really, darling, the calories…

10 minutes in the oven, and you should get this:

Now resist eating them. Impossible.

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