Pip's hazelnut macaroons

Uplyme, Devon, 3 February 2011 It was a blustery February day that promised gloriously bright sunshine one moment, dark showers the next. Hundreds had made their way to this lovely village to remember and celebrate a young person whose life was far too short. I knew Philippa through her involvement in and support for the Slow Food movement. We had enjoyed dinners together in Turin with her father Hugh over the years and she was deeply committed to food that is good, clean and fair. Throughout the moving service in Uplyme's Church of St Peter and St Paul, we were reminded of Philippa's love of food, its importance in her life, her time at Ballymaloe House and Cookery School and of course at nearby River Cottage where she worked. Philippa's young friends Louisa and Ian movingly invited us to imagine and share a magnificent picnic banquet orchestrated by Philippa, set on the high cliffs above Lyme Bay, looking across to the Cobb and out to sea. It was a beautiful evocation -- I could really smell and taste that freshly caught mackerel, sizzling over the campfire! Indeed the loving and detailed description of food -- real food, good food, Philippa's food -- was a powerful comfort to us all.

The day was unspeakably sad and our heartfelt thoughts and deepest sympathy go out to Philippa's family and all her community. Afterwards, in the packed Uplyme Village Hall, I felt privileged to share a taste of 'Pip’s hazelnut macaroons'. Chewy, nutty, cooked just enough to firm up, they were soothingly delicious - if understandably bittersweet, seasoned by the collective grief of so many. Thank you to Pam, Hugh and Maddy for sharing with us all this very precious family taste memory.

Makes 10 medium macaroons or 24 petits four

125g ground hazelnuts
150g caster sugar
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g plain chocolate, chopped into pieces approximately 1cm square
Whole hazelnuts to finish

Baking sheet lined with 2 or 3 sheets of rice paper or baking parchment. Pre-heat the over to 180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the ground hazelnuts and the caster sugar. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites until they are white and frothy but not too stiff. Use a large metal spoon to lightly fold the egg whites into the nuts and sugar. When evenly mixed, stir in the vanilla and the chocolate pieces.

Allowing sufficient room for the macaroons to spread, place spoonfuls of the mixture on the prepared baking sheet. Use a dessertspoon for larger biscuits or a teaspoon for smaller ones. Place a whole hazelnut in the centre of each. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes until just firm and slightly coloured. Leave to cool then strip off the rice paper surrounding each biscuit or simply use a palette knife to remove from the baking parchment. They will keep for 3-4 weeks stored in an airtight tin.

© Recipe copyright Philippa Corbin 2011

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