Although there are a million and one ways to drink coffee in Italy, I’m always surprised and delighted to discover a new one. Especially one like caffè alla salentina, perfectly suited to the summer weather which has finally arrived.
Happy New Year
The New Year is almost upon us and in Italy people are starting to think about preparing their dinners for the 31 December. Many Italians will go out to dinner on that night, and restaurants up and down the country provide special meals, often quite costly, to celebrate with music and dancing. Whether people go out or stay at home, there is one thing which is usually on the menu: cotechino e lenticchie (a kind of pork sausage served with lentils).
An honest mistake
I was standing behind my friend the other day as he ordered some espressi at the bar. Suddenly he let out a gasp. He’d ordered all three coffees in porcelain cups but our other friend preferred his in a glass. I glanced at the cups ranged on the bar to check that they weren’t still empty, but it was too late. All three were filled with perfect Italian espresso.
What is panforte?
For Tuscans, and nowadays many Italians, panforte means Christmas. A centuries-old tradition from the province of Siena, panforte is a rich cake made of almonds, candied peel, and honey peppered with winter spices, with a unique flavour and texture. There are several variations on the recipe for panforte, but to create this one, I went back to the official requirements of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture for Panforte di Siena IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta). If you fancy something different, I also created a cherry, hazelnut, and chocolate version which you can find here.
Pasta in a box
In the last couple of years, particularly in Italy’s large tourist centres, a new phenomenon has appeared: fast food pasta restaurants. Typically, they serve a few types of fresh pasta which can be coupled with a sauce of your choice, served in a cardboard box Chinese take-away style. It can be eaten on or off premises and usually costs the price of a hamburger and fries.
Christmas is coming!
Now that we’ve got the feasts of All Saints, San Martin, and the Festa della Salute out of the way, it’s safe to talk about Christmas. For Italians, there’s one more holiday before, December 8, the Immacolata—more about that next month—but Christmas is definitely coming. The shops are already full of panettone and other Christmas sweetmeats. Churches are in the middle of erecting their presepi (nativity scenes) which will be revealed in a couple of weeks time on the First Sunday of Advent.