Scarpaccia viareggina (sweet and custardy courgette cake from Viareggio, in Tuscany)

Update May 2022: it is that time of the year again – courgette bonanza. Time to make scarpaccia, both as a dessert and as a savoury tart.
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It took a leap of faith and my avid curiosity to try this cake: could a basic sweet batter and some grated courgettes make a good cake? No nuts, no sultanas, no spices…really? A resolute “yes!” is the answer.
This is a most unusual and excellent cake come dessert: delicate, plain and light, but not at all boring, with a delicious custardy quality. Burnished golden outside, yellow with specks of green inside, it is also pretty.
Scarpaccia  means “nasty/old shoe” and no one really knows why such an uninspiring name; it is possibly something to do with the appearance of this dessert: a genuine scarpaccia should be a fairly thin and crusty affair – like an old, over-worn shoe. It is the contrast between the sugary and crusty exterior (due to a good drizzle of olive oil) and the custardy, vanilla scented interior that make this unposessing looking dessert sing.

It is a Tuscan speciality and you will not find anywhere else in Italy – Continue reading “Scarpaccia viareggina (sweet and custardy courgette cake from Viareggio, in Tuscany)”

Torta di farro della Garfagnana (emmer savoury pie from Garfagnana)

A savoury pie typical of Garfagnana and Lunigiana, those mountainous areas in between North Tuscany, South Liguria and west Emilia Romagna, sparsely populated, traditionally poor (hence their rather sombre style of cooking), thickly covered in chestnut tree woods (hence the many dishes based on chestnuts, once called “the bread of the poor”, because they were free and highly nutritious) and where mushrooms and wild boars are still abundant. It is farro, however, or emmer (Triticum dicoccum), a type of wheat, that is perhaps the most celebrated produce of this part of Italy.

Continue reading “Torta di farro della Garfagnana (emmer savoury pie from Garfagnana)”

Scorze di agrumi candite – my candied citrus peels

This is a method for candying citrus peels that works FOR ME. It is not a professional method, it has flaws, it is not “the perfect”, BUT it works for ME (hence that “my”). It delivers the type of candied peels that I like: still juicy and fruity, with a faint bitterness in the background, not overly sweet.
The following are to be regarded as working notes, drawn from experience and other cooks’ versions.
I do not have any “culinary scientific evidence” for some of the things I say – you decide, if they make sense to you or not.

Continue reading “Scorze di agrumi candite – my candied citrus peels”

Minestra di zucca, ceci e spezie medievali – a pumpkin and chickpea soup with a Medieval flavour

This soup does not claim any specific provenance; in fact, I developed the recipe over a few suppers. And yet I daresay most Italians would immediately recognise it as “Italian” – even if the spicing might throw them at first. Continue reading “Minestra di zucca, ceci e spezie medievali – a pumpkin and chickpea soup with a Medieval flavour”

Pan di mort (All Souls spiced chocolate biscuits from Lombardy)

Italian spiced chocolate biscuits
Italian spiced chocolate biscuits

Here’s another traditional recipe from Lombardy that honours I morti, All Souls. Pan di mort (literally “dead people’s bread”) are quintessential Lombardy biscuits that are sold in bakeries between the end of October and the first week in November. They are diamond-shaped, chocolatey, spicy biscuits, full of nuts and candied citrus peels, quite chewy but not crunchy. Continue reading “Pan di mort (All Souls spiced chocolate biscuits from Lombardy)”