Last week, I started a long-winded, rambling post on why I haven’t been writing as much as I wanted since I came back from Italy in July. That post will never see the light; it was too long-winded, too rambling, even for my standards. I let it go, knowing I could keep writing for hours, and never feel confident or satisfied enough to publish it. In the end, though, it all boiled down to one simple fact: I’ve been tired. I still am.
I won’t go in too much detail; suffice to say I have a lot on my plate right now. A tense time at the office, as we approach a period of unsettling (although not unexpected) change. Health concerns that will most likely result in nothing at all, but no one is helping me ease – least of all any of the doctors I’ve gone to. A family holiday to New York that’s taking a ridiculous amount of time and stress to plan. And the ghosts of all the other things I’d like to focus on, but can’t afford dedicating headspace and energy to. Yes, “afford” – as if headspace and energy were money, only that I don’t know when I’m next getting paid.
I’m tired, I’m angry, I’m stuck. Unwilling to write any more, or start any of the new projects I’ve been mulling over for months, because I feel too jaded to handle yet more dead ends. Unwilling to visit a new doctor, because I have no guarantee they’ll take my concerns more seriously than the ones I’ve seen so far. Even unwilling to give in to my family’s enthusiasm about New York, because that would mean accepting that, in one month’s time, I’ll be flying for eight hours above the ocean. In case I haven’t told you before, I’m terrified of flying. And here’s one of my favourite Bright Eyes songs, which begins with the account of a plane crash. Coincidence? I’d better fucking hope so.
When I’m at my most tired, cooking plunges down my list of priorities. Unlike washing the dishes or unloading the clothes line, however, it’s a need I can’t put off. Conservation instinct, y’ know. My weekly food shopping is a mix of what I call “happy” and “sad” meals; the former are my comfort food staples, or the new recipes I’m excited to try for the first time. The thought of them alone is enough to cheer me up on a bad day.
On some bad days, though, there’s no convincing me to wait one hour for potatoes to bake, tend to three different pots to cook almond chicken, or make focaccia dough from scratch. The best I can do is set my brain on auto-pilot and cook something mindnumbingly simple – but also, most of the time, downright sad. Store-bought soup might take five minutes to microwave, but does little to fill up the pit of hunger and bitterness in my stomach. A small chunk of fish with a bunch of cooked spinach might be good for my health, but only makes me want to reach for an uplifting slice of cake afterwards.
The thing is, uncomplicated doesn’t always mean uninteresting. While most of the dishes I cook when I’m tight for time and patience aren’t the heartwarming stuff I’d like in those situations, I do know some quick, fuss-free mood-lifters. No-bake amaretti bites are one; an old favourite I’ve written about ages ago, but wanted to honour with better pictures. Spare twenty minutes to make them the night before, and you’ll have a ready-made solution when you need to sweeten up your day.
I make them with coffee and mascarpone, as in the recipe my partner’s mum (a former chef) handed down to us. It’s incredible how they bring together our conflicting tastes. He doesn’t like coffee, and will only accept having it in these (or, better still, in tiramisu). The thought of eating raw mascarpone makes me feel uneasy – but I’m all for pairing it with coffee and amaretti. As long as we can sit together in the evening, and shove a handful of these in our mouths while we unwind from a challenging day, the world’s not too bad a place.
No-bake Amaretti Bites with Coffee and Mascarpone
- 48 amaretti biscuits
- 1 heaped tsp mascarpone per biscuit (that’s around half a 250g tub)
- 1 cup black coffee
- Ground dessiccated coconut, to your taste
- Prepare the coffee (use an Italian stovetop cafetière for best results), and pour it in a small bowl.
- Quickly dip a biscuit in the coffee bowl. Don’t soak it for too long, or it’ll become soggy.
- Spread a teaspoon of mascarpone on the flat side of the biscuit.
- Dip another biscuit in coffee, then stick its flat side on the mascarpone cream, as if you were making a biscuit sandwich (see picture above).
- Roll the “sandwich” in ground coconut, then place it on a dish with tall edges.
- Repeat steps 2 to 5 until you run out of biscuits (make more coffee if needed).
- Once you’ve placed all your amaretti bites on the plate, sprinkle more ground coconut on top.
- Put the plate in the fridge, and wait at least 4 hours before serving. Leave to rest overnight for best results.
- After serving, put any leftovers back in the fridge. They will keep well for 2 – 3 more days (if you can save them for that long).