Torta Mantovana di Prato – almond and pinenut sponge cake

torta Mantovana

A mystery cake: it is called mantovana, meaning from Mantua (in Lombardy) but it is in fact a speciality of the Tuscan town of Prato. 
It is a buttery and eggy cake with a tight, tender crumb, subtly perfumed with lemon zest and topped with almonds and pine nuts. There is no baking powered in the batter and this makes for a rather flat cake. It is one of those cakes that Italian 19th century cook books would define as da credenza, i.e. a dresser cake, one that that home cooks would keep in a dresser, on a platter or on a cake stand, covered by a napkin – as I do.
It really is ideal with a mid morning coffee or with an afternoon tea. 

Continue reading “Torta Mantovana di Prato – almond and pinenut sponge cake”

Torta di grano saraceno trentina – buckwheat cake from Trentino Alto Adige

Torta di grano saraceno - buckwheat cake

Trentino Alto Adige is a strange corner of Italy: more Heidi’s playground than your typical sea & sun postcard from Italy. On the north-east border with Austria, its gorgeous Alpine scenery, flower-festooned wooden houses and German street signs give its past away: Trentino was part of the the Austrian-Empire, from the early 19th century to just after the first world war.  This is reflected in its food: gulasch suppe,  sauerkraut, apple strudel are common  dishes.
Torta di grano saraceno is one of the most famous cakes from the area, a buckwheat and nut sponge cake, generally filled with a sharp berry jam (blueberry, black currant or raspberry jam). Continue reading “Torta di grano saraceno trentina – buckwheat cake from Trentino Alto Adige”

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)”

Caponata di zucca (Sicilian sour-sweet butternut squash caponata)

Sicilian caponata di melanzane is very famous, however it is not the only one. In fact, on a trip to Sicily and after reading the seminal “Profumi di Sicilia” by Giuseppe Coria,  I learnt that “caponata” is only a generic term used to describe a dish made of assorted cooked vegetables finished off with a sour sweet condiment, either sugar or honey and vinegar. Continue reading “Caponata di zucca (Sicilian sour-sweet butternut squash caponata)”

Biscotti di mandorle al vino (almond, white whine and olive oil biscotti)

Out of curiosity, I have been experimenting with vegan baking lately. Most efforts went into the bin, lacking any real good flavour and/or texture.  I then had a eureka moment when I remembered the traditional ciambelline al vino from Rome. They are sweet, crunchy, little pastry rings, made with whine (red or white, it does not matter), olive oil and anicini (aniseed  seeds) – here a good version I tried. They are really moorish and una tira l’altra, as we say:  you cannot stop eating them. I decided to play around that theme, Continue reading “Biscotti di mandorle al vino (almond, white whine and olive oil biscotti)”