July 7, 2009
Moscatel is the name of the Spanish sweet wine made from the muscat grape. Cleopatra drank wine of the muscat grape, and so did the mourners at the funeral of King Midas. And I drank it last night while eating moscatel-soaked strawberries with thick cream and thin almond cookies.
The strawberries recipe is from Sam and Sam Clark's wonderful Moro cookbook. I've recently been reunited with most of my cookbooks, which lived in storage for over 3 years, and this is probably the one I'm most excited to see again. I inherited my bottle of moscatel from the previous residents of the house I'm staying in and was wondering what to do with it when I found this recipe in Moro; between the moscatel and the current glut of British strawberries, it seemed just right.
Moscatel is a sweet wine, aromatic but not cloying. It forms an amber pool around the strawberries, which soften and swell. The Clarks serve their boozy berries with Moorish sandcakes, but I experimented with a simpler almond shortbread. The best thing was to spoon the strawberries onto the shortbread cookies, splodge on some cream, and eat, but I'm sure there are more delicate ways of managing. This makes too many cookies, but they're so tasty you won't mind.
The light situation in this house isn't fantastic; it's old and stone with deep-set windows, so there's no happy medium between bright bright windowsills and too-dark rooms. This is cosy and lovely for living and bad for photographing food, so I'm thinking of these photos as moody and atmospheric and reassuring myself that everyone knows what a bowl of strawberries looks like...
Strawberries in Moscatel
adapted from Sam & Sam Clark, Moro
300g strawberries, washed, drained and stalks removed
140ml Moscatel Málaga wine or Moscatel sherry
1 level tbsp icing/confectioner's sugar
Mix the strawberries with the Moscatel and icing/confectioner's sugar to taste, and marinate in the fridge for a few hours, covered. You can slice your strawberries before or after marinating, or leave them whole. Serve chilled. Serves 2-4, depending on large you want portions to be; if you want to increase the number of strawberries, you won't need much more wine than this.
170g unsalted butter
115g caster sugar (ordinary granulated sugar will also be fine)
140g plain flour
50g ground almonds / almond meal
a pinch of salt
sugar for sprinkling - demerara or ordinary granulated
Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until well combined. Sift the flour, ground almonds / almond meal and salt into a separate bowl and mix well, then add to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix together on a low speed until the dough comes together - this won't take long. Don't over-mix. Turn out onto a surface dusted with flour and form a flat disc. Wrap this disc in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Placed the chilled disc on a floured surface and roll out until about half a centimetre thick (you don't need to be too precise, but if the cookies are too thin, they'll spread). Use a cookie cutter to stamp out circles and transfer them onto the baking sheet. You'll probably need to use a metal spatula to transfer them - the dough softens very quickly. Allow the cookies a little room to expand.
Sprinkle the cookies with a little sugar, then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Cool to room temperature. Makes approx. 24 cookies.
* The metric measurements of this recipe reflect my newest toy, a set of electric scales. I'm sorry not to have included cup measurements for US readers, and promise to try and do so in the future, but I got so carried away by the perfection of measuring to within a gram that I didn't work out the equivalents.