This is an old treat from Lombardy, now, alas, almost extinct.
Originally, “pan de mej” were crinkly yellow flat biscuits made with millet flour (“mej” in the Lombardy dialect and “miglio” in Italian) and flavoured with chopped dry elderflowers; over the course of the centuries the millet has been replaced by polenta flour, but chopped elderflowers have remained a key ingredient. These biscuits were traditionally eaten on the day of San Giorgio, the 23rd of April, dunked in single cream: in Lombardy, San Giorgio was hailed as the patron saint of milkmen and, in long gone days, the 23rd of April was when milk supply contracts were renewed. I can vouch for the excellence of the combination of warm pan de mej and cold single cream. In my version, I follow Anna del Conte’s lead and bake a cake instead of biscuits and I use fresh elderflowers. This is a dry cake, exquisitely perfumed, whose restrained elegance and goodness should be revived. Continue reading
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
I could live on apples and bread. If then it were torta di mele (apple cake), which is a glorified form of apples with bread, that would be even better. Continue reading
Focaccia (or schiacciata) con l’uva (with grapes) is an autumn sweet treat that you can find in many parts of Italy: where there are grapes, there is some sort of (more or less enriched) bread dough topped with black grapes and sugar. Continue reading
Miascia (mee-AH-sha) is a bread cake typically found in the lovely villages dotting Lake Como. It is an impromptu cake, made with cheap ingredients: stale bread, milk, some fruit, fresh or dried, polenta flour, sugar, a little chopped rosemary to give an elusive perfume. Nothing fancy and yet the final result is truly delicious. The bread is soaked in milk and then fruit is added, with very little flour to bind. This creates a lovely custardy texture that contrasts well with the crunchy topping. Continue reading