A Neapolital Carnival
One of the things I have really missed from my Italian past is carnival. Here, you have Halloween, a ‘holiday’ very much imported from the US, which lasts for a night or so, and it’s all about scary and spooky.
Back home, we celebrate Carnevale for a couple of weeks in the run up to Shrove Tuesday. Called Fat Tuesday in Italy too (martedi’ grasso), it is a fun event for school kids, with an unofficial bank holiday, costume parties, egg throwing (if you were brave enough to venture out during the day) and lots of delicious food.
In Napoli for example, lasagna (our version of it!) is prepared for Carnevale, as well as an easy dessert which is traditionally eaten with a dip made of dark chocolate and pigs’ blood (nose to tail, nothing was thrown away). Nowadays, the blood is usually substituted with spices and milk and sanguinaccio is a delicious accompaniment to the crunchy chiacchiere.
I made both to show our toddler a little bit of his mum’s country Carnevale spirit, and he loved them. He’s been munching on chiacchiere a lot!
Below the recipes.
This is a recipe handwritten on a piece of paper in my family, no idea where it originally came from but works very well!
- 200gr plain flour
- a knob of butter, softened
- 2 free range eggs
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon rum or dry white wine
- a pinch of salt
- grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
- oil for frying (groundnut or sunflower)
- icing sugar
In a bowl, mix flour, egg, sugar, butter, zest and the salt then add the rum. Mix until well blended and smooth, wrap in cling film (or better, in a waxed reusable cloth) and rest in the fridge for half an hour.
When ready, dust a clean flat surface with a bit of flour; cut off a chunk of the dough and with a rollin pin, roll it until very thin (about 2mm). With a knife or a roller, cut shapes: thin, long, triangular.. whatever takes your fancy! Continue until all the dough is cut up.
In the meantime, in a large, deep pan heat up the oil: it must be very hot. Then, a few at a time, start frying the chiacchiere. Once they are puffed up and golden, remove them from the pan and rest on kitchen towel to absorb excess oil.
Place in a serving plate and sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve with the sanguinaccio for dipping. They will keep in an air tight container for a few days.
Recipe adapted from La Cucina di Napoli by Lydia Capasso / Maria Teresa Di Marco
- 1/2 pint full fat milk
- 35gr corn starch
- 1tbsp plain flour
- 150gr caster sugar
- 50gr cocoa powder
- 50gr dark chocolate, chopped (at least 70%)
- knob of butter
- vanilla essence
- a generous pinch of cinnamon powder
- a dash of rum
In two cups, separately, melt the flour and the corn starch in some of the milk. Pour both in a medium size sauce pan and add the rest of the milk, the sifted cocoa powder, the chopped chocolate, the butter and bring to the boil, constantly stirring. Once it’s boiling, cook it for 5 minutes, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, the cinnamon and the rum and pour in a serving bowl. Once cooled, top with the cocoa nibs.