Angel wings – Chiacchiere – carnival biscuits

Chiacchiere finished dish

Chiacchiere finished dish

Like in most catholic countries, the start of lent is a big occasion in Italy. Carnival (carnivale) runs from “fat Thursday , giovedi grasso” until “fat Tuesday, martedi grasso”. Traditionally people dress up in masks and costumes, but outside of Venice, this is mostly only done by small children. However everybody uses it as an excuse to eat lots of sweet things. This is Italy after all ūüôā This recipe is for one of the most common biscuits. They have many regional names, ¬†bugie, ¬†cenci, ¬†crostoli, ¬†frappe, ¬†galani, ¬†sfrappole ,but here they are known as¬†chiacchiere. A rough translation would be “chatty biscuits”. There are many variations on the basic recipe, some include ¬†grappa or wine, or lemon zest, but this is one of the simplest.

Chiacchere ingredients

Chiacchere ingredients

  • 280g plain flour
  • 70g potato starch (if you can’t find this, use all plain flour)
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 20g icing sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • A few drops of vanilla essence or a sachet of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • Oil for deep frying

Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough.

Chiacchere mixing dough

Chiacchere mixing dough

Knead it for a couple of minutes until it’s smooth.

Chiacchere dough

Chiacchere dough

Roll it out very thinly. If the dough is too sticky, dust with a little flour. You are aiming for about the thickness of lasagne. In fact, if you have a pasta rolling machine, that would be perfect.

Chiacchere ready to fry

Chiacchere ready to fry

Cut out rectangles of about 6×3 cm (2×1 inch) and make a slit in the middle. A pastry wheel is good for this.

Chiacchere frying

Chiacchere frying

Deep fry in hot oil (about 190¬įc 375¬įf) until they are puffed up and lightly golden.

Drain on kitchen paper and dust with icing sugar.

Inspector Montalbano’s Arancini

Arancini finished dish

Arancini finished dish

Coat_of_arms_of_SicilyInspector Montalbano is a popular fictional Sicilian police detective, created by Andrea Camilleri. The stories are set in the small town of Vigata¬†, and, being Italian, feature food quite prominently. In the story Inspector Montelbano’s Arancini (Gli arancini di Montalbano), the famous Sicilian dish is used as a plot device. Does the inspector want to leave Sicily to be with his girlfriend in Paris, or does he want to stay and eat his housekeeper Adelina’s¬†arancini. I won’t tell you what he decides, but you can probably guess ūüėČ My father is a fan of the books, and he is fond of arancini when he visits me, so I decided to recreate this recipe from the book. The main differences between Adelina’s dish, and the more well known version is that she uses¬†b√©chamel sauce¬†instead of cheese. Also the rag√Ļ is made with whole pieces of meat, not mince.

For the rag√Ļ

  • 150g of reasonably fatty beef in one piece
  • 150g of reasonably fatty pork in one piece
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • a sprig of parsley
  • a few leaves of basil
  • 250ml of passata
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato pur√©e
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the risotto

  • 500g risotto rice
  • 1 small onion
  • oil and butter to taste
  • beef stock
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g of shelled peas (use fresh or frozen depending on the season)
  • 80g of spicy salami in a single piece
  • b√©chamel sauce made with 250ml of milk.
  • 2 eggs
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil for deep frying (traditionally olive oil, but you can use peanut oil or similar)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Arancini Rag√Ļ ingredients

Arancini Rag√Ļ ingredients

Fry the onion and celery gently in a little oil. Add the two pieces of meat and brown them on all sides.
Add the passata and tomato purée diluted in a little hot water. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if needed. Cook slowly for at least an hour and a half, longer if possible. Add the chopped parsley and basil, and cook for a further half an hour. This sauce can also be made in advance.

Arancini Rag√Ļ cooked

Arancini Rag√Ļ cooked

Make a classic risotto following the standard recipe, but without wine or cheese. It should be quite dry.  Montalbano is quiet clear that it should be without saffron.  (senza zaffirano, pi carità!)

 Arancini cooking risotto

Arancini cooking risotto

Tip the risotto out onto a marble slab (or a large tray), let it cool a little and then mix with a little of the tomato sauce and stir in the eggs. Let it cool completely. Put it into the fridge for about half an hour.

 Arancini risotto cooling

Arancini risotto cooling

Meanwhile, cook the peas in boiling salted water. Chop the meat with a mezzaluna or a knife. Montalbano forbids the use of a food processor ¬†(nenti frullatore, pi carit√† di Dio!)¬†ūüôā Mix some of the ¬†b√©chamel sauce with the peas and salami cut into small cubes. Add enough of the tomato sauce from the meat to make a fairly thick mixture.

Arancini mixed filling

Arancini mixed filling

Arancini forming

Arancini forming

Slightly dampen your hands and take some of the rice and roll it in the palm of your hand trying to make a sort of bowl. Put a spoonful of the rag√Ļ mixture in the middle. Cover with a little more rice and form it into a ball.You are aiming for about tennis ball size. Continue until you run out of rice. You probably won’t need all of the filling.

Arancini ready for coating

Arancini ready for coating

Put them in the fridge again for half an hour or so to firm up. Coat with egg, and then roll in bread crumbs.

Arancini ready for cooking

Arancini ready for cooking

Fry the arancini in hot oil (about 165¬įC) until they are golden brown. Drain on kitchen towels. They are best eaten hot, but are also good cold.

Arancini cooked

Arancini cooked

Swiss chard frittata

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Frittata di bietole. This is one of the myriad¬†of¬†¬†recipes for frittate or Italian style omelettes. If you can’t find swiss chard, fresh spinach would be a good substitute.

Swiss chard frittata ingredients

Swiss chard frittata ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 kg of swiss chard, only the green leaves, use the stalks for something else.
  • 1 clove ¬†of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • A handful of fresh marjoram leaves or about a teaspoon of dried (optional)
  • 100g of grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
Swiss chard frittata prepared

Swiss chard frittata prepared

Fry the whole clove of garlic and the finely chopped onion gently in a little olive oil. After a few minutes, when the clove is lightly brown, remove it and discard. Add the chard and marjoram if used. Season with salt and pepper. Cook gently for a few minutes until the chard is completely wilted. You don’t have to add any water, the water left clinging to the leaves after washing should be enough.

Swiss chard frittata wilting chard

Swiss chard frittata wilting chard

Allow to cool and squeeze out as much water as possible. Mix together the lightly beaten eggs, the chard and the cheese.

Swiss chard frittata ready to cook

Swiss chard frittata ready to cook

Heat a large frying pan to a medium. Add a couple of table spoons of oil an add the egg mixture. Fry until the top has started to set.

Swiss chard frittata ready to turn

Swiss chard frittata ready to turn

Flip the frittata by placing a large plate on top. Turn out onto the plate and then slide back into the pan. Finish off for a couple of minutes. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Torta Pasqualina

 Torta pasqualina finished dish

Torta pasqualina finished dish

LiguriaTorta Pasqualina or Easter Monday pie is a very popular dish to have today that has its origins in Liguria. Easter Monday is traditionally a day for picnics and this is often one of the things taken along. This is a slightly simplified version as it uses¬†pre prepared puff pastry. It’s good to know that doctors no longer say eating¬†cholesterol is bad for you as it includes at least 10 eggs. Serves at least 6.

  • 500g puff pastry
  • 500g swiss chard or spinach, stalks removed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 80g of parmesan or pecorino romano (or a mixture of both)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh¬†marjoram or parsley
  • 10 ¬†eggs
  • 300g ricotta, passed through a sieve to remove lumps
  • 1 tbsp of single cream
  • ¬†Olive oil
 Torta pasqualina ingredients

Torta pasqualina ingredients

Put the swiss chard, the onion and 2 tbsp of oil into a saucepan. Season with salt and people and cook over a medium heat until the chard is completely wilted. Allow to cool and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

 Torta pasqualina wilting chard

Torta pasqualina wilting chard

Chop finely and transfer to a bowl. Add an egg, 50g of cheese and the marjoram or parsley and mix well.

Torta pasqualina filling

Torta pasqualina filling

In another bowl mix together the ricotta, the cream, 2 eggs and 30g of cheese.

 Torta pasqualina assembling pie

Torta pasqualina assembling pie

Roll out 2/3 of the pastry and use it to line an oiled cake tin. Make a layer with the chard. Cover with the ricotta. Crack 6 eggs, regularly spaced onto the surface.

 Torta pasqualina ready for the oven

Torta pasqualina ready for the oven

Roll out the remaining 1/3 of the pastry and use it to close the pie. Trim off the excess pastry and fold over and crimp the edges to seal. Brush with olive oil and bake at 180 ¬įc for 45 minutes.

 Torta pasqualina after baking

Torta pasqualina after baking

Eggs mimosa

Eggs mimosa finished dish

Eggs mimosa finished dish

Hard boiled eggs are of course an important symbol of Easter in Italy. They are often eaten as part of an Easter antipasto. This is one of the simplest, and in my opinion best recipes.

  • 6 hardboiled eggs
  • 6 anchovy fillets or 2 tablespoons anchovy paste
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • chopped¬†parsley¬†or chives
  • pepper
Eggs mimosa ingredients

Eggs mimosa ingredients

Halve the eggs and put the yolks in a bowl along with the anchovies and pepper to taste. Blend with a blender, adding the olive oil little by little, until you have a smooth paste. Fill the empty halves of the eggs with the mixture, sprinkle with parsley or chives and serve.

Eggs mimosa blending stuffing

Eggs mimosa blending stuffing

Bagna cauda

Bagna caoda fished dish

Bagna caoda fished dish

Piedmont-flagBagna ca√īda.From¬†Piemonte. The rough translation of title is “hot bath” , which in my opinion is always preferable to a cold one ūüôā This dish is well known outside of Italy, but as is often the case it often is very different from the original. It is basically a warm anchovy and garlic dip for raw vegetables. These are two of my favourite things, so it’s one of my¬†favourite¬†antipasti. A lot of versions include milk or cream, but these are not found in the original Piemonte version

Bagna caoda ingredients

Bagna caoda ingredients

  • About 6 anchovy fillets per person. Salted are best, but tinned in oil will do. Soak them in a little white wine.
  • Garlic (from 2 or 3 cloves per person up to a whole head)
  • Olive oil, the best you can find, about 1/2 a wine glass per person. Only olive oil will do.
  • About 20 g of unsalted butter per person.
  • 1 egg per person(optional)

To serve, dip vegetables into the mixture. The recipe I have is very prescriptive and says you can only use vegetables that are in season and grow in Piedmont. I think this is going a bit far though. Some suggestions on what to serve with the Bagna Cauda (raw unless otherwise stated):-

  • Fresh bread
  • potatoes cooked in their skins and then peeled
  • Peppers roasted and peeled or raw
  • Onions boiled or baked
  • Sliced apples
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Jerusalem artichokes (raw or cooked))
  • Fennel
  • Cauliflower (raw or cooked)
  • Endive
  • Celery
  • Courgettes
  • Small globe artichoke
  • Cardoons
  • Cucumber
  • Radicchio
  • Asparagus
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Spring onions
  • Small whole mushrooms
Bagna caoda vegetables

Bagna caoda vegetables

Slice the garlic very thinly and soak it in cold water for a couple of hours. Some recipes call for it to be boiled in milk, but I think this is unnecessary.

Add all the ingredients to an¬†earthenware pot along with a small¬†ladle¬†of oil and cook very slowly for about half an hour. Don’t let the garlic brown. Stir it¬†constantly¬†with a wooden¬†spoon. When the anchovies and garlic have¬†dissolved¬†into the sauce, add the rest of the oil.

Bring the pot to the table and keep it warm with some kind heat source.  You can buy special pots for this purpose, but fondue sets work well. Serve it with your selection of vegetables.

When you have had your fill of vegetables you can add a beaten egg to what’s left in the pot.

Plum Cake

Plum Cake

Plum Cake

Plum Cake. You see this cake all over Italy. It is a type of sponge cake, baked in a loaf tin, similar to what is known as a loaf cake in the UK. In my¬†opinion Italy does most things to do with food extremely well. One possible exception is breakfast. It is usually just coffee and some variety of cake.¬†¬†The coffee is very good though ūüôā This is a very common breakfast cake. I haven’t translated the name. It always appears in English, although the¬†pronunciation is more ploomcake. It never, however, contains plums, or indeed any other kind of fruit. I have asked around, but nobody has any idea how it got its name.¬†If anybody knows, please let me know.

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 4 eggs, seperated
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g 00 flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • A pinch of salt
Plum Cake ingredients

Plum Cake ingredients

Beat the butter together with the sugar using a wooden spoon.

Plum Cake butter and sugar

Plum Cake butter and sugar

When they are combined, add the egg yolks and continue beating until you get a smooth mixture.

Plum Cake egg yolks

Plum Cake egg yolks

Whip the egg white, together with a pinch of salt, with an electric whisk until you get stiff peaks.

Plum Cake egg whites

Plum Cake egg whites

Gently fold in the egg whites, into the egg yolk mixture.

Plum Cake flour

Plum Cake flour

Gently fold in the flour, baking powder and the vanilla essence.

Plum Cake ready for the oven

Plum Cake ready for the oven

Grease a large loaf tin with butter and dust with flour. Pour in the mixture.

Plum Cake finished dish

Plum Cake finished dish

Bake at 170¬įc for 40-45 minutes. When a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, it is ready.