Castagnaccio is one of the oldest sweet dishes in the Italian repertoire: chestnut flour whisked with water and a little olive oil, a few needles of rosemary for perfume, then baked until it turns into a sort of cake, a true poor people’s dessert in this most basic version. Chestnut flour is sweet and this makes adding sugar to the batter unnecessary. For greater extravagance, you could add pinenuts, walnuts and sultanas.
In Italy, well until the second world war, chestnuts were regarded as an important, cheap but nutritious food for a large section of the population – if you were poor, meat was an occasional luxury and beans and chestnuts were more likely to be part of your diet.
Truth be told, the castagnaccio you see in most bakeries now can be the stuff of nightmares: stodgy, to say the least, Continue reading →
Rice is not immediately associated with Sicilian cooking, apart from the wonderful arancini, those glorious deep fried rice balls stuffed with meat ragù, peas and cheese.. I was therefore rather surprised when I stumbled across this intriguing sounding rice and chestnut dish from Messina, in Sapori di Sicilia, by Giovanni Coria, It is nothing more than boiled rice dressed with a (dry or fresh) chestnut and olive oil “sauce”, with some pecorino and boiled, chopped finocchietto (wild fennel), the signature herb of Sicilian cooking. It is an unusual and tasty dish and if you like chestnuts you might find it appealing. Continue reading →
Ideal cold weather fare. I had some excellent beef broth in the fridge (made with a beef tongue, some brisket and some chicken + usual aromatics: celery, carrot, onion in which I had stuck a clove, parsley, bay leaf) and other bits and bobs: finely shredded,steamed cabbage, some boiled pearl barley and some boiled and peeled chestnuts. To make a minestra was the obvious choice.
I reheated everything together + a generous handful of parmesan a tavola.