Sun-dried tomatoes

This post is in praise of sundried tomatoes. They are scrumptious and incredibly versatile. Here are two ways I like to use them.

1. In Salad

All salad requires is a few green ingredients, a few red ingredients and some mixing together. Pips. This is what I used.

Chop up everything into dainty little slices. Cut a few sundried tomatoes into into the mixture with some salad leaves. The oil from the tomato jar is also ideal for tossing the salad with, it adds a little hint of flavour. Done. I kept some extra in the fridge for a few days to serve with meals.

2. Flavouring Snacks

Inspired by my sister and mother who enjoy eating Ryvita I thought I would buy myself some of this healthy crisp-bread next time I was at Tesco’s. They like the ‘dark rye’ variety but I thought that was a bit too adventurous for me and so opted for the safe (or so I thought) sesame version. That was 3 weeks ago and I’ve only eaten three pieces. The first piece was not good. So I came up with a way to ‘yummify’ them. Slap on some philadelphia and sundried tomatoes and you’re good to go!

Any other suggestions for how to dress up my Ryvita?

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Fruit and Nut Biscotti

This is a firm favourite in our household ever since discovering this pipsqueak easy recipe. It’s fairly healthy – no butter just plenty of assorted dried fruits and nuts along with plenty of baking time. Biscotti is the Italian word for any type of biscuit, however it has become associated with the long, hard, twice-baked biscuits more specifically known as ‘cantuccini.’ Cantuccini are traditionally almond biscuits originally from Tuscany in Italy and were served with coffee or wine. Biscotti derive their name from the words ‘bis’ – twice and ‘cotto’ – cooked or baked, ie.twice-baked. However, nowadays biscotti come in many varying flavours (chocolate/cappucino/almond) and textures (crisp and dry, to some softer cake-like ones). They last up to 6 months in a sealed container (ensure that it is dry as moisture will soften the biscotti) – but you can always whiz them into the oven again if they’ve lost a lot of crunch. I didn’t actually make this batch in the photograph but after my mother baked a fresh lot today I thought I’d share the delightful recipe!

Fruit and Nut Biscotti, makes about 50

Preparation time : 35 minutes

Baking time : 1hour +

-500g plain flour

-400g unrefined caster sugar

-1 tbsp baking powder

-300g of mixed dried fruits (I recommended apricots, cranberries, sultanas – but anything works really, it’s also nice to add some different colours!)

-300g of mixed nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios – try to stick to quick tough nuts to complement the dry crunchiness of the biscotti)

-Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

-7 eggs, lightly beaten (this may seem excessive but trust me you read seven)

Sorry there are no accompanying photos for this post – I’ll do my best with the descriptions.

First as always, line the baking sheet. I recommend opting for a large shallow tray that fits a whole shelf in the oven (a swiss-roll tray works well). If you don’t have any, you can also use a few smaller ones.

Mix all the dry ingredients first into a large bowl; flour, sugar and baking powder – then add the fruit, nuts and lemon zest mixing thoroughly to get an even distribution. Crack all seven eggs into a bowl and lightly beat. Add them to the dry mixture about 1/4 at a time. The dough should become quite tough (not too wet) but persevere and make sure you have mixed all the flour.

Spread the mixture onto your baking tray thinly at about 2-3cm height. Thicker biscotti takes a lot longer to bake and creates large slices. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees until golden brown. At this point, I also like to remove the large biscotti layer from the baking parchment as is no longer sticker. Turn over and bake the other side for about 15-20 minutes. Make sure the biscotti does not brown too much, if it starts to burn, lower the temperature. Remove the large biscotti sheet from the oven and place on a chopping board.

Slice the biscotti systematically into very thin centimetre wide slices. Arrange these on the baking tray on their side so that the biscotti can dry out in the middle as well. Return to the oven at a lower temperature of 140 degrees or so and bake for about 10 minutes either side (don’t turn them when they’re piping hot though otherwise you burn your fingers – trust me I know from experience, wait a few minutes for them to cool slightly). When you are satisfied with the crispness (it’s no harm to sample a few), leave to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

Biscotti provide a delicious snack with afternoon coffee (my mother’s favourite) or as a light snack for school or work.