Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A post long over due

I've been pretty busy recently. I know, it's a lame excuse, it's been 4, no 5 months (!), since I last posted… What a shame. Well, the good things is that it means I had time to do plenty of things and thus I'll have plenty of things to tell :) Actually I travelled a lot. Quite a lot indeed. I have been visiting my relatives (in Geneva, Lisbon, Berlin…), and I also have done some proper travelling! You know, like going to a place you've never been before, where you don't know anyone and where you're a real tourist!

Italy is a destination that only started to attract me recently. While many of my friends are Italians, I have always thought that they were better, further, more exotic places to go first… But this year I felt like I had to go. It was my New Year's wish (one of mine and my husband's traditions) and we actually made it come true. And my, what a trip! I fell so in love with Italy, what a beautiful beautiful country! I never imagined I would like it that much, but everything went beyond my expectations. The landscape, the towns, and the cooking! Ah the cooking... Well, I knew Italian food was supposed to be good, sure. But really, it IS good. I had the best pizza of my life, in a restaurant a few streets away from Stazione Termini in Rome, with the thinnest crust, and gelato everyday (and when I say every day I mean it).

And even better, I tasted for the first time farinata or cecina (the former being used in Liguria and the latter in Tuscany) a kind of chickpea bread, soft like polenta and crusty like pizza.
I love it because the flavour and the texture are wonderful (not to mention that you only need 4 ingredients: chickpea flour, water, oil and salt), but also because it is one of the simplest thing to do… And something that taste great without being too much fuss is a winning combination for me.

One thing though is that you're supposed to leave the batter rest for at least 4 hours, but to be honest I always skip this part because I am completely unable to plan my life, even for 4 hours. But I am determined to try one of these days, because I am sure, as they say, that "il gioco vale la candela" :)

Adapted from this Italian recipe
Serve 3-4 people as a side

200g chickpea flour
1/2 litre lukewarm water
olive oil

1. Pour the flour in a bowl and mix in, little by little, the water. Mix well so that no pieces remain. It should be fairly liquid, a bit like crêpe batter. Let it rest from 4 to 10 hours, covered and at room temperature, mixing from time to time.

2. If foam has formed on the surface, remove it. Add about 2 tsp of salt and half a cup of oil.

Poor enough oil to cover the bottom of a pan (square or round it doesn't matter) and add the mixture slowly. It should not be thicker than half a centimetre.

4. Bake in a preheated oven (220°) for about one hour. Careful here, if you don't let the farinata rest like it should, it will probably only take about half and hour. When there is 15 minutes left, turn off the oven and switch on the grill so that the farinata get a nice golden-brown colour.

5. Take out of the oven and add some pepper if you wish, cut it in long squares and serve immediately! In Tuscany, it is enjoyed just the way it is, while in Liguria, people spread it hot with fresh pesto or top it with rosemary.

Now for the story: farinata is said to have been discovered after the battle of Meloria, between Pisa and Genova, when the victorious Genoese fleet was hit by a storm so violent barrels of chickpea flour broken open and mixed with seawater. When the waters calmed, the sailors couldn't resolve to throw away the flour because it was all they had; they spread it on the decks to dry. It was so good that when they got home they began baking it, calling it l'oro di Pisa, or the gold of Pisa.

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