Also known as cucina povera, the food produced by the peasants and farmers had only few ingredients to draw from. What was around them was olive oil, wine, wheat and cheese in some places. Vegetables abounded especially in summer, but meat was consumed very little, perhaps only in times of celebration and feast days.
Italian cooking is at its best when few ingredients are used and when ingredients are fresh and not tampered with too much – the result is sublime… Puglia is also famous for its wonderful bread or pane pugliese – it is characterised by the use of fine durum wheat flour (as in making handmade pasta) and not just with plain flour. The village of Altamura celebrates as the place in Puglia for this rich high gluten bread, traditionally baked in a wood fired oven and one loaf can weigh up to 3 kg!
Another baking tradition in Puglia is the taralli – they are small ring shaped crisp breads which keep well and are a great accompaniment to an antipasto platter and a glass of primitivo red wine from Puglia. It is said that they originated long ago when a poor peasant mother had nothing to feed her family and made these with what was in her cupboard…
The main ingredients here are extra virgin olive and white wine. I have made these and I will say they are very easy to make. They can be made plain or flavoured with various herbs or spices – such as black pepper, poppy seeds, chilli, rosemary, fennel or oregano…Have a try and transport yourself to the south of Italy on a warm summer’s day….
TARALLI PUGLIESI (makes about 50 small taralli)
500 gr plain flour
4 tspns (10 gr) salt
150 ml extravirgin olive oil
150 ml dry white wine
3 tspns cracked black pepper
or instead replace pepper with – 2 tsp fennel seeds
Preheat oven to 180 deg.
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and knead for several minutes.
If the dough is too soft or wet, add in some more flour.
Roll out into tiny cylinders / rolls about 5-7 cm and twist dough into a doughnut round shape and pinch the ends together.
Bake in moderate oven 180 deg for at least 15-20 mins until golden.