Frittelle for Carnevale

After the month-long festivities to celebrate Santa Lucia, then Christmas, New Year’s Eve and finally la Befana (don’t know who La Befana is? click here and read my last blog post) you would probably expect me to say that things were starting to quieten down and for this frigid winter to be tightening its icy grip. If only! We’re now starting to revv up for Carnevale!


Find out more about the Carnevale di Venezia, which officially starts on Jan 27th this year and runs until Shrove Tuesday, on the official website here.

I also heartily recommend checking out the Venice Insider website which has painstakingly listed all of this year’s events and much of the history.


Anyway, this morning, coming back from a meeting to decide upon a new marble staircase for the house (yay!) I popped into my local bakery for a caffè-brioche and saw these on the counter….

frittelle di carnevale
Frittelle!

Frittelle, fritole or fritoe (depending on which accent or dialect you’re speaking with) are small, fried balls of dough. They’re about the size of a walnut but it’s quite easy to tell that these particular ones have been handmade because they are all different shapes and sizes. At my bakery, there was the choice of frittelle studded with raisins (uvette) or filled with pastry cream. In other parts, I’ve seen apple and pine nut frittelle as well as with lemon peel or chestnuts. Once they come out of the oven, they get generously sprinkled with sugar (just as you would with a doughnut) and are best eaten still slightly warm.

Like most things in Italy, there’s a certain time and place for everything and even these (otherwise pretty nondescript) treats are actually highly seasonal. The one and only season for frittelle, as you may have guessed, is during Carnevale.

If you want to try your hand at making them, the recipe on “I Love You More Than Food” looks solid but I admit that I haven’t tried it. Link here. Good luck!

New Year’s Eve in Italy… and the importance of lentils!

Happy New Year’s Eve! Or “la notte di San Silvestro” in Italian.

Whether it’s out partying or staying in wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa, I hope you’re spending the last few hours of 2017 exactly as you want to spend them. I’m personally not much of a fan of New Year’s Eve. There seems to be so much hype about what really is just another day. Many moons ago, I would choose to take a shift working in a bar or restaurant on NYE. That way, I was at least in a festive ambiance but I wasn’t spending stupid amounts of money on a set meal and a bottle of over-priced Champagne.

More recently, I’ve preferred hosting friends for a dinner and drinks party and that’s exactly what we did this year – just a small dinner party for some local friends. To lighten the load, it was agreed that they would bring the appetisers, cheese course and the dessert, and that I’d cook the main course.

The traditional main course over the winter festivities in Italy is a type of sausage called cotechino. It’s a large pork sausage, originally hailing from Modena but even my local butchers make a pretty good version.

I’m not sure why, but I always feel a little uneasy about cooking classic Italian foods for Italians. I suppose I fear that whatever I serve couldn’t possibly live up to whatever their mamma or nonna used to make.

As a result, I resort to typical English or French dishes, with which I’m fairly confident there won’t already be ridiculously high expectations. For tonight, I’ve decided to cook Beef Wellington. If you’re not familiar with this antiquated-but-undeservedly-so English speciality, it’s essentially about a kilo of beef sirloin, wrapped in finely chopped mushrooms, wrapped again speck (I chose speck ham for the smokey flavour over the more traditional prosciutto crudo) and all of that wrapped in puff pastry! I’m going to be serving it with roast potatoes (requested by the boys) and two cold side salads – red cabbage and orange (inspired by BBC Good Food) and kisir (a Turkish salad mainly of bulghur wheat and tomatoes) – and a warm side: lentils!

When I was running through my proposed menu with the boy, “yes, but you must also cook lentils,” was his advice. Lentils are a bearer of good luck and prosperity, apparently.

 

It would appear that in Ancient Rome, there was a tradition to give a leather bag filled with lentils as a gift. You would attach this bag to your belt and apparently (but I mean this is rather a stretch of the imagination!) the lentils would transform into coins!

So there you have it, a bowl of lentils is going to be on my table this evening…. just in case! Happy New Year, one and all!