Last Christmas I received a particularly special gift from my dear elderly aunt. Her usual Christmas gift to me is an Italian Panetone or a bottle of wine. This year however I was gifted a bottle of amaretto liqueur that my Zio, her husband, had made ten years earlier, the date clearly marked on a label in his hand writing. Having discovered the forgotten stash of bottles under the house she decided to give them as gifts.
My Zio had past away six years earlier, the old fancy glass amaretto bottle filled with the red brown home brew brought with it memories of the man I first met when I was a skinny little four year old girl. He reminded me of Pop-eye with a stocky build, short blonde red hair framing a round face with pale blue eyes, a husky voice, long knee high white socks with black shoes and gruff manner. That’s what I remember of him at our first introduction. Immediately I decided I didn’t like him, my dislike for him increased when he popped a blue balloon I was playing with, with his cigarette. He laughed thinking it was terribly funny while I tried to hold back tears devastated that my balloon was no more.
A few months later he married my Aunt becoming part of our tribe. Every Christmas Eve Zio would cook up an elaborate array of seafood dishes. As children we dreaded the array of yukky smelly seafood on offer, cringing up our faces with disgust as my parents encouraged us to at least try the food. As we grew older however we eagerly looked forward to the sumptuous seafood banquet my Zio would prepare. He did this every year for thirty years until he was unable to due to ill health.
Even though he has long gone every Christmas Eve I recall those special nights that we shared at his table with fondness. It also became tradition to play board games, bingo being the favourite, after the evening meal before making our way to the midnight mass service on those hot summer nights. As a child I thought those days would last forever, never imagining that there would come a time that we would not all be together.
Over the years many of those family members have departed the world but the memories of those gatherings are rich pools of happy time shared together.
After unwrapping the bottle of amaretto and allowing myself a trip down memory lane, I put the bottle away wondering if I would ever use it. You see I don’t much care for the bitter taste of amaretto. The bottle sat untouched for seven months until one day I recalled a recipe for an Italian dessert I’d made years earlier that required amaretto in its ingredients. I made the dish for a family function and watched the scrummy dessert disappear in minutes feeling that my Zio’s spirit was present (and it literally was in the dessert).
Chocolate and amaretto are a fabulous combination. This recipe is a must try.
The recipe I’ve provided below can make two Italian salami’s. It’s worth having one in the freezer as back up for a special treat but I assure you it won’t last long.
Keep making wonderful memories with the ones you love. They are the moments we will forever cherish.
Rosemary “The Key For Me”
350g Scotch fingers
700g milk chocolate
120g slivered almonds, slightly toasted
280g unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
100ml amaretto liquer
½ cup ground almonds
1 – Process the biscuits coarsely in a food processor
2 – Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, add half the butter and all the amaretto and heat until the chocolate melts. Stirring until all the chocolate melts. Add in the remaining butter just before taking the bowl off the heat. Stir until melted.
3 – Remove the bowl from the heat, then stir in the egg yolks. Tip in all the crushed biscuits and stir in the shredded almonds. Leave the mixture in a cold place for about an hour until it begins to stiffen.
4 – Divide the chocolate mixture onto two sheets of lightly greased baking paper, then shape each chocolate biscuit mixture into the shape of a sausage, tapering the ends so they look like a salami. Wrap in the paper and freeze for at least four hours.
5 – To serve, unwrap the salami and roll into almond meal until evenly coated. Allow it to stand for at least an hour before serving. Each chocolate salami serves around ten people.
By Rosemary Sherro “The Key For Me”