These delicious Italian pastries have a long history – being first mentioned in the 14th century in the Piemonte region of north west Italy. It was created in honour of the visit of the King of France.
When most of Europe and the northern hemisphere celebrates Labour Day or May Day, in Abruzzo there is a wonderful food tradition each May 1, in a little corner in the north of the region.
I grow them in my garden in the Australian summer and with the subtropical climate in Brisbane it is a great plant and you have abundant crops with only one plant.
Here is a great Sicilian recipe below which I was given when I visited the fabulous Aeolian Islands. Give it a try it is simple and tastes fabulous. I love the balance of the sweet and the acidity and the freshness of the mint. We made this recipe in one of my Italian cooking classes earlier this year.
This is a lovely recipe to make in summer when eggplants and mint are in abundance.
Once made keep this dish at room temperature to serve.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
- Wash the eggplant and dice in walnut size cubes.
- Place in a dish and salt them generously and leave for 30 mins. This helps remove any bitterness from the eggplant (usually more so if eggplants are large or older).
- In a non stick frypan, add the oil and the chopped onion – sautée and do not burn the onion, just sweat it down.
- Drain the salted eggplant and pat dry with clean tea towel or absorbent towel.
- Add the eggplant and stir until eggplant cooked and browned.
- In a cup add the vinegar and the sugar, stir to dissolve sugar. Pour this over the eggplant in the frypan.
- Stir gently until the vinegar evaporates. When done, add half the mint leaves(tear them) and mix through gently.
- Place on a dish and put the extra mint leaves on top.
VARIATIONS: You can also do this with zucchini. Slice in round slices and salt as above.
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We made dishes like veal involtini filled with a parsley frittata – a recipe shown to me by by Abruzzese family. Once you fill the veal with the frittata it is rolled up and secured with a toothpick, the meat is browned then it is placed into the tomato sauce for the pasta and gently simmers there for a while. Of course the great flavours soak into the veal rolls. So you have a primo dish of pasta, then the secondo or meat dish is ready also!
They do not look ugly to me, but taste sublime. They originate from the north of Italy from the 1800’s, some say from Lombardia region and others say from the Piemonte region as there are many hazelnuts found there.
Why not try them yourselves? Quite simple to make using basically 3 ingredients!
75 gr (2.65 oz) egg whites (about 3 eggs)
150 gr (5.0 oz) roasted ground coarsely hazelnuts
140 gr (about 5oz) (or less) caster sugar
vanilla bean scraped or paste
* Preheat oven 150 deg.
* In a bowl, whisk the egg whites with about half the sugar to form stiff meringue, add the vanilla.
* Blend the other half of the sugar with the whole hazelnuts.
* Place the meringue mixture and add the hazelnuts into a saucepan and stir until the mixture starts to thicken (about 10 mins or so). You will need to stir as it will stick.
* Remove from heat and cool. Place spoonfuls of mixture onto tray lined with baking paper.
* Bake for at least 15-20 mins until golden brown.
VARIATION – add 2 tbsp dark cocoa to the meringue mix to make chocolate hazelnut biscuits, a great combination.
This is such a simple batter to make and it is great for many vegetables.. think of it as an Italian tempura batter.
I like to use it with sage leaves – sometimes they are in abundance and a great aperitivo snack to go with your crisp white Italian summer wine.
Other vegetables work equally well – such as zucchini flowers, eggplant slices (not too thick), zucchini and red capsicums (peppers) strips or julienne. In season I have also tried using elderflower blossoms and also acacia (robinia robusta) flowers. They are great!
Have a go and impress your friends!BATTER for coating vegetables:
This is the most popular version used in Abruzzo:
150 gr (5 oz) plain flour
150 ml (5 oz) water (plain or soda water)
Good pinch of salt
In a bowl:
Mix together with a fork in a bowl, until it turns into soft batter and is free of lumps.
Dip the desired vegetable or edible flowers.
If using eggplant best to steam them a little to soften. Drain and dry on a cloth before dipping into the batter and frying.
I get asked many times to share the recipe, so here it is again. Of course depending on which part of Abruzzo you are from, the recipe alters slightly.
The main thing I learned from my mother Rosa, is that it is all about ratios – so easy to remember. So for every egg you add one tablespoon (or 2) of sugar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one heaped tablespoon of plain flour. They can be flavoured with lemon zest, some limoncello or with aniseed. But they are ALWAYS made with olive oil and never butter!
HAVE A GO!
For every 1 egg : add
- 2 tbs sugar
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- Plain Flour – as needed
- lemon rind
- some vanilla essence
- or aniseed (instead of lemon zest)
Beat the egg with extravirgin olive oil and sugar. Add the flour untill you obtain a soft mixture. Then add some aniseed or lemon zest.
A spoonful is placed on the hot waffle iron, after oiling and heating on a gas stove. Close the waffle iron and press. When the mixture turns golden brown it is cooked and can be removed from the iron.
( ..The time to say a Hail Mary on one side, should be ready to turn over! This is about 30 – 40 seconds)
Alternative: Electric waffle irons are a much easier option.
When all neole are cooked, sandwich with the gorgeous homemade grape jam (Traditional) or other jam of your choice.
Serve – sprinkled with icing sugar.
Here is a lovely Abruzzese recipe from the current issue of ITALIANICIOUS magazine – a great magazine for the Italophiles out there! A good recipe for Mother’s Day that is for sure!! Click on the recipe below and follow the step by step guide to making your delicious pasta and this fabulous sauce. Seafood and mint, what a delightful combination…buon appetito!
I posted this photo on my Touring Abruzzo Facebook page last week:
and amazingly it reached the most amount of followers out there, over 500! Many of the comments brought back fond food memories for those who grew up with the aroma of the pizzelle or neole or ferratelle wafting in the air…
The name for these olive oil waffles changes according to where you are from in Abruzzo!
Many have asked for the recipe so I thought I would share it with you.
I have finally perfected it as I have so many variations from my mother, my grandmother, other ladies in the village when I go back to Abruzzo. I have shared it also with many who have attended my Italian cooking classes in Brisbane. It will certainly make it in my collection of Abruzzese recipes I am putting together! It is truly a classic and a traditional Abruzzese recipe.
This recipe makes about 50 small waffles:
2 eggs (60 gr eggs)
4 heaped tbspn sugar
4 heaped tbspn extravirgin olive oil
180- 200 gr plain flour
1 tbspn PERNOD liqueur (or other i e Limoncello) or add 1 tspn aniseed in the batter
½ tspn vanilla essence
In a bowl, beat with electric beater the eggs and sugar until the sugar dissolves – beat 3- 5 minutes.
Then add the oil and beat for a further 3 -5 minutes
Remove electric beater and fold in the vanilla, Pernod liqueur (or aniseed) and the flour by hand. Add the plain flour a little at a time until well folded in.
The batter should be thick and not runny as you will need to push off the batter with your finger or another spoon onto the well heated waffle iron.
Heat the waffle iron, spray with olive oil spray or use pastry brush dipped in oil.
Place 1 tspn dough in the middle of the waffle iron, close and hold firmly. If dough spills out, just trim with a knife.
The waffle should take about 30 secs to cook, open and use fork to remove waffle.
The first ones may stick and not work out, clean and scrape out all pastry and re oil until they work..
Place cooked waffles on a flat surface and stack. When cool, they can snap off. Store in air tight containers as they last a long time.
WHERE TO SOURCE A WAFFLE IRON: Here we use a waffle iron which will make thin and crispy waffles, not the deep and soft waffles. In Australia, they are available from Italian stores such as this one in Melbourne:
COSTANTE IMPORTS http://www.costanteimports.com.au/
377-379 Bell Street Preston, VIC 3072 TEL: (03) 9484 7948