Monday, 5 December 2011


Panforte & Other Christmas Food Gifts

Panforte, the Sienese classic fruit cake

Spiced Nuts

I have for too many years crammed Christmas shopping into the last week, remonstrating with myself that next Christmas things will have to change. At last the annual berating has sunk in and this festive season I'm sparing myself the misery of shopping and everyone is getting food gifts.

All day I have baked panforte, Christmas biscotti, spiced nuts, chocolate dipped orange peel. And a vast improvement it was from the shopping streets of central London, I've had a delightful day imbuing the gifts with the good vibrations of happy cooking. No stress, lovely day. What took me so long...…?

The Panforte (strong bread) is a packed with all that is Christmas; fruit, nuts, sugar and spice. It pairs very well with cheese. For the last few years I have been making my spin on this Sienese classic. This year I am sharing the recipe, which up to now has been a secret. So here it is. Try serving this with cheese, a Parmesan works particularly well.

Try serving with a hard salty cheese

  • 100 gms hazelnuts roasted and roughly chopped
  • 150 gms ground almonds
  • 25 gms green pistachio roughly chopped
  • 150 gms orange & lemon candied peel (so much nicer when you do homemade) chopped tiny
  • 50 gms figs chopped small
  • 100 gms glace cherries (leave whole but toss in the flour so they separate)
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 70 gms rice flour
  • 150 gms soft brown sugar
  • 30 gms butter
  • 60 gms best quality honey (I used raw Norfolk honey)
  • 1 tsp aniseed
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • quarter tsp ground cloves
  • good pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • a sheet of rice paper cut to the size of your cake tin.
You will need a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin.

  1. Line the cake tin with the rice paper.
  2. Pre heat the oven to 160C.
  3. Assemble all the nuts (chopped) and dried fruit which you have cut tiny. The cherries are best tossed in some of the rice flour so they don't clump together.
  4. Combine the rice flour with the 4 spices and add to the nuts and fruit.
  5. In a pan heat the butter, sugar and honey until it melts and just comes to the boil.
  6. Quickly add the butter/sugar/honey mix with the fruit, nuts and spices and mix until thoroughly combined. It's hard work. You want to make sure its evenly mixed.
  7. Press the mixture into the tin and work it down so the mixture is even. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. You are looking just to set it, so don't wait for it to turn dark, you want a light golden colour. As it cools, it will further set.
Spiced Nuts

2 recipes here for spicing mixed nuts, which makes a great gift. Almost impossible not to eat half of them as you cook.

Rosemary & Fennel
  • 500gms of mixed nuts (I used macadamia, pecans, whole almond & cashews)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh Rosemary leaves chopped
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp sea salt flakes (Maldon or Cornish)
  • 2 tsp golden caster sugar
  • half tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  1. Pre heat oven to 180C
  2. Mix the spices & herbs with the oil and coat the nuts thoroughly
  3. Put on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, keeping a keen eye on it as the edges catch and burn quickly. Keep turning the nuts over until evenly golden.
Spiced Nuts
  • 1 Tbsp sunflower or veg oil
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • half tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
Method as above.

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