Happy Chinese New Year!
Welcome to the Year of the Horse.
Hong Kong is busy celebrating. For the past few weeks preparations for the holiday have been underway. Red lanterns, decorative firecrackers, streamers and banners have been going up around the city. Small orange trees grace entrance ways, little red envelopes tied onto their tiny branches. Side streets are packed with these little bushes, wrapped up in plastic sheets, waiting to be bought. Flower markets open up across the city, staying open through the night on the eve of the Lunar New Year, not closing until 6am this morning. Parks taken over by little stalls, their tables covered in red table cloths to drive away the bad luck. They are packed with people preparing to clean out their homes, sweeping away the old year, and decorating them to bring in the new. Purchases made, they walk home through the streets, arms full of paper wrapped flowers and blossom covered branches.
Last night families came together for big meals to welcome in the New Year. Our neighbours’ homes were packed with people, their doors open wide, their tables laden with food. Everyone celebrating together. Today Hong Kong is unnervingly peaceful, the only time of the year it is quiet. Shops and restaurants will remain closed through the holiday. Instead their owners will visit relatives, eat whole fish, fried turnip cakes, uncut longevity noodles for long life. Tonight the sky across Victoria Harbour will be lit up by thousands of fireworks. Parents and grandparents give little red envelopes, Lai See, full of lucky money to children dressed in traditional silk outfits, embroidered with flowers and dragons.
The drums of the lion dance echo through the streets.
Cookies and sweet treats are an important part of the celebrations too. Supermarkets are stacked high with boxes of cookies, endless shelves of ferrero rocher and chocolate selections. In each one there is a table near the front entrance. A cashier wraps purchases in auspicious red paper, ready for them to be handed out to family members during the celebrations.
These little almond cookies are light and moreish. The fine crumb dissolves into your mouth as you eat them. They are made with oil, rather than egg or butter so they crumble easily as you bite into them. The texture of a lot of Chinese baking can be a little alien to the western palette. It’s often drier than we, raised on lashings of butter and milk, are used to. Give it a try though, you’ll be happily surprised by the clean, crisp flavours. I love these cookies for their little cracked topped, and sugary almondy bite.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Horse!
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Chinese New Year Almond Cookies
(inspired by wandercrush)
75g plain flour
20g light muscavado sugar
20g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond extract if you want a stronger almond taste)
10 whole roasted almonds
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
Combine the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugars together in a bowl. Whisk together until well combined.
Add in the vanilla (or almond depending on which you are using) extract.
Finally, slowly pour in the oil, mixing as you go.
Bring together into a soft dough.
Divide into 10 evenly sized balls and place on a lined baking sheet.
In a small bowl, whisk together 15ml milk with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Brush over the top of your cookies.
Press a whole almond into the top of each one.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tops are cracked and golden.
Cool completely to harden before serving.