LAVENDER SOFT AMARETTI with cassis-laced berries

My passion for the almond flavour is such that sometimes I am even driven to eat those leaden almond slices you get at small petrol station shops that have a sell-by date into the next decade, which begs the obvious question. Better me thinks in saner moments to ensure sound provenance and superior taste with homemade almond treats, especially when they take so little time to make as these do. And don't worry if you either can't find or don't fancy the perfumy lavender — the chocolate alternative is no second best. I served them for dessert with the last of the summer berries upscaled with a dousing of cassis. Purchase of the latter may seem extravagant, but I have also used it for my Five-Spiced Duck Breast & Little Apples, and it's a great sweet and savoury flavouring standby.


Makes about 10 amaretti

• Berries, rinsed and well drained
• Crème de cassis for annointing the berries
• 100g whole blanched almonds, plus c. 10 to decorate NB For an even quicker method use ready-ground almonds instead and skip the toasting step, although you will lose out quite a bit on flavour
• Flowerheads picked from 4 lavender stems (washed and patted dry) or 1 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
• 40g golden caster sugar
• 1/2 tsp almond extract
• 1 small or medium egg (you won't need it all), beaten

Toss the berries with a good glug of the cassis, then leave at room temperature until ready to serve. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4. Spread the 100g almonds out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Leave to cool completely. Meanwhile, whizz the lavender flowers with the sugar in a food processor until well distributed. Transfer to a bowl. Line the baking sheet with baking paper. Whizz the cooled almonds with 1 tbsp of the lavender sugar in the processor until finely ground but not oily. Transfer to the bowl with the remaining sugar and mix well. If making choc amaretti, just whizz the almonds with 1 tbsp of the (unflavoured) caster sugar, then mix with the remaining sugar and cocoa. Sprinkle over the almond extract and mix well with a fork, then mix in enough of the beaten egg to bring the mixture together. With wet hands, roll into about 3cm balls, space out on the tray and push an almond into the centre of each. Bake on the middle shelf for about 15 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack, then serve alongside the berries and cassis spooned into large wine glasses.