Tuscany 21 December 1997
The festive season brings back fond memories of the time we lived
on the outskirts of Florence in a sharecropper's simple farmhouse,
attached to the wine estate Fattoria di Calavria. Our son Guy was
just two years old, and we enjoyed a wonderfully simple, even old
fashioned Christmas, shared together with our dear friends and neighbours
Giuliano and Agnese Corti. Christmas in Italy is far less commercialised
than in the US or Great Britain and maintains its sense of wonder
and spirituality combined with a hospitality and warmth that is, well,
quite simply Italian.
Santo, made from grapes laid out to dry on cane mats in airy attics,
then left to ferment in sealed caratelli, or small wooden casks
containing 50 l. or 100 l. only for upwards of three years or more,
is Tuscany's wine of hospitality, always offered to guests and friends,
whatever the time of day. It can be exquisite with cantuccini biscotti,
of course, as well as with other typical Tuscan sweets and desserts.
Kim made panforte, the exquisitely simple Sienese speciality,
the other night to enjoy with friends (together with one of our few
remaining bottles of Vin Santo di Calavria) in front of the fire,
and the aroma of spices and honey and roasted nuts immediately transported
us back in time and place to happy memories with friends. The recipe
comes from our first book, The Wine
and Food of Europe.
g/ 4 oz shelled almonds
g/ 4 oz shelled hazelnuts
g/ 2 oz flour
g/ 1 oz cocoa
g/ 1/4 lb honey
g/ 1/2 lb candied fruit, finely chopped
grated orange rind
grated lemon rind
of one lemon
or powdered sugar
the oven to 150° C/300° F. Put almonds and hazelnuts in a
greased shallow pan, and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Set
sift flour together with cocoa, cinnamon and allspice. Mix well. Put
honey and sugar in a saucepan and cook over a low heat for about 10-15
minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and mix into flour
mixture. Then add candied fruit, orange and lemon rind and juice,
and roasted nuts, combining them together well. Grease a round baking
tin and turn the mixture into it. Bake in a slow oven, 140° C/275°
F, until it is firm, about 50 minutes or longer (test with a skewer).
Remove from the oven, turn out, and sprinkle liberally with icing
or powdered sugar.
Suggestion: The only wine to drink with panforte is Vin
Santo, preferably from a small traditional grower. Such wines, made
always in minute quantity, are not easy to get a hold of, and the
best, from Avignonesi, Isola e Olena, Capaccia, and others, can command
high prices due to the scarcity and the time involved in producing
traditional Vin Santo. However, take my word for it: this is a rare
and exquisite wine that is like nothing else and is truly worth trying.
Alternatively, serve panforte with strong espresso coffee.
Copyright © Marc Millon
|QP New Media| |Kim's
Copyright © Marc and Kim Millon 2000