Fristingo, Frustingo, Brostengo..

Italian Food and Flavours

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Italian New year and Christmas pudding: posted by Debby

Fristingo is Marchegiana christmas or new year pudding served cold. It goes by many different names all over the region and according to folklore there are at least 22 different recipes which can include nuts, almonds, figs, raisins, breadcrumbs, candied fruit, orange juice, lemon rind, olive oil, cinnamon, rum, cocoa, coffee white wine and grape juice.

The recipe in its most basic form goes back 2000 years to the Etruscans and via the Piceni. At it’s earliest time it was just a mixture of ground flours mixed with semi dried grapes. It has always been food ‘for the poor’ and that is reflected in the use of dried readily-available fruit to sweeten it rather than sugar which was only available to the rich.

The Romans called it Piceni bread and ate it with honey and the recipe has developed over the years depending on fashion and the availability of different ingredients such as chocolate and spices.

Traditionally it is mixed and left to rest for hours before being cooked in a wood oven. When ready it is eaten together with a nice glass of vino cotto.

Pasquina is my neighbour who has been making this traditional Le Marche cake for years and she presented me with the recipe she uses, written on a much treasured old scrap of paper. The main ingredient is figs and they grow abundantly in Le Marche. One can find large black figs with succulent purple centres and edible skins, large green figs with red centres and tougher skins and many other varieties, my personal favourite being the small black ones which taste like marzipan.

Eaten fresh, straight from the tree they are divine but Le Marche people have always wanted to  preserve them for winter use. Pasquina picks them in early September and dries them very slowly in a wood oven over many hours, turning them and ensuring that they are thoroughly dry. Then she tells me they will keep all winter if there are any left by January!

Ingredients

1 kilo of figs

200g vino cotto ( a sherry like drink made in Le Marche)

150g raw almonds chopped

250g walnuts chopped ( if you prefer more almonds then reverse the nut amounts)

300g wholemeal flour

3 sweetened espressos

125g raisins

200g olive oil

zest of an orange and a lemon

tsp cinnamon and nutmeg

a glass of vino cotto

Method

150g sugar  (Pasquina’s  family recipe didn’t add sugar as would have been an expensive commodity in days gone by, so this is optional depending on how sweet you want it)

It is also possible to add 100g melted chocolate plus 100g cocoa powder to the mixture. I halved the mixture and added chocolate to one half only.

The day before, roughly chop the figs and pour over the 200g vino cotto and allow to soak overnight. The figs take in the liquid and soften.

Then mix everything together. It’s a very rustic cake of the cucina povera tradition so no need to finely chop everything. Nowadays dried figs and nuts can be rather pricy but in Le Marche every farmer has a few fig and nut trees so they are simply using what is available for free!

Finally, spread the mixture over one large baking tin or use 2 loaf tins, drizzle some olive oil over the top and bake at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Keeps for weeks in an airtight tin. Has a moist, crumbly texture and is very rich so you only need a small piece!

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Italian food blog: Faggotini

Italian Food and Flavours

Italian food blog: Faggotini (Italian food parcels of wonder)

Faggotini are another specialty Italian food from the Ascoli region that we are pleased to include on our Italian food blog. They are small thin pancakes stuffed with a mixed meat filling severed with a bechamel sauce. Faggotini are served as a primo (first/pasta course) or as a light lunch. They are melt in the mouth delicacies and a neat alternative to ravioli to impress the guests. All the ingredients and methods are familiar and they reasonably easy to make. You can use a similar stuffing to the Ascoli Olives in the previous Italian food blog recipe or try the one here.

Ingredients

for the stuffing:

olive oil

100g each of  beef, pork and chicken or other white meat, all cut into small cubes

50g chicken livers

half an onion, a carrot and stick of celery

50g freshly grated parmesan

to flavour – salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves

splash of white wine

for the pancakes:

2 eggs

100g plain flour

350cc milk

150cc water

béchamel sauce to serve

Method

Cook the onions in the oil until translucent, add the meats and vegetables and brown. Add the flavourings and the wine put on a lid and simmer for a hour or so on a low heat. Add a little water if it gets too dry. Allow the mixture to cool.

While the meats are cooking prepare the pancakes. Whisk up the pancake mix till smooth. Pour a small amount of the mixture into a small (15cm) frying pan in which you have a little sunflower oil. Tip the pan quickly to cover the base, when cooed through toss the pancake and brown slightly on the other side. Slide out of the pan and cook all the rest of the pancakes, they should be thin and lightly coloured and flexible not crisp. cover with a cloth until you are ready to assemble.

Back to the filling: mince the cooked meats in a mincer or food processor to a coarse consistency, mix in the parmesan, season to taste. Take a pancake and spoon a small dollop (technical term) of the stuffing into the middle.  lift over the top, bottom, right and finally left sides of the pancake to cover the filling then turn the little parcel over and place in a oiled ovenproof dish. Do the same with the remaining pancakes and fill the base of the dish pushing the parcels together but not overlapping. Pour enough béchamel sauce to provide a scant covering of the parcels and put the dish uncovered in a hot oven (200 C) for 10/15 minutes. Everything is already cooked so you are really just making sure it is all lovely and hot.

serve with black pepper and parmesan – and a green salad if you are feeling desperate.

Read more authentic recipes from our Italian food blog

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Olive Ascolana

 

Italian Food and Flavours

Olive Ascolana (Stuffed Ascoli Olives)

Olive ascolana. These amazing little delights are a speciality Italian food of our region, Le Marche. It is unlikely you will have found them anywhere else in Italy, never mind the rest of the world. The only ingredient that you will find difficult to get hold of is the Ascoli olives themselves.  You might be lucky if you have a good Italian food deli nearby and more and more large supermarkets stock large green olives which will be ok, failing that Ascoli Olives can be bought online. If you can’t get hold of the olives then there is another alternative, try the “Faggotini” recipe on this blog – it uses the same stuffing ingredients and is as good in its way.

Ascolane fritta are served with apperitivi,  as antipasti or eaten as street food. In the best Italian food traditions, these little devils take patience and care, the results though are worth the effort.

 

ascolipicenoAscoli Piceno

Ingredients

1000g Ascoli Olives (large green olives)

for the stuffing:

olive oil

100g each of  beef, pork and chicken or ohter white meat, all cut into small cubes

50g mortadella

half an onion, a carrot and stick of celery

50g freshly grated parmesan

50g fresh breadcrums

to flavour – salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves

splash of white wine

2 eggs

for the frying:

sunflower oil

plain flour and fine breadcrumbs for coating

Method

Cook the onions in the oil until translucent, add the meats and vegetables and brown. Add the flavourings and the wine put on a lid and simmer for a hour or so on a low heat. Add a little water if it gets too dry. Allow the mixture to cool.

While the meats are cooking prepare the olives. Use a small sharp knife to “peel” the olive from the stone in one continuous spiral – like peeling an apple in a spiral when you were a kid and had to get it all off in one go – you did do that didn’t you?  Anyway you need to cut close to the stone and try to keep the section a similar size as you peel it from the stone. Be careful how you handle the spiral so as not to break it. As you put it down it should take up its original “olive” form.

Back to the stuffing: mince the cooked meats etc in a mincer or food processor to a reasonably fine consistency, mix in the fresh breadcrumbs, parmesan and 2 eggs and squish it with your fingers until combined into a homogenous mush that sticks together.

Now take an olive “skin” and a small piece of the stuffing, about the size of the stone you removed and place this inside the spiral and carefully reform to the olive shape. when all the olives are stuffed dip them one at a time in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. You can repeat this process if you like a good crumb on your olives. once they are all coated you can wait until you are ready to fry them, alternatively they freeze well at this stage.

To deep fry, get your sunflower oil to 200 degrees C and place in a few olives at a time, drain on kitchen roll when golden brown. They will stay warm for 30 mins or so, they can also be eaten cold, but not quite so delicious as freshly cooked, Italian food to die for!

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