Winter market

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The last market day in the village before les fêtes and a chance to stock up with a boxful of Spanish oranges, lemons and clementines, as well as more local garlic and fennel, and apples from northern France. I was pleased to see a new stallholder, who says he will be coming every two weeks from now on, selling Catalan fuet – cured sausage – in many different flavours. By the time there is another market the days will be getting longer again and we can look forward to spring. The panforte I’ve made today, to more or less the same recipe as last year, will be finished too!

Panforte

This is one of the few ‘Christmassy’ recipes I’m making this year, preferring to have more of a midwinter festival of good things generally, and falling in with the local tradition of eating oysters and foie gras at celebratory lunches and dinners.  I’ve based my panforte on Antonio Carluccio’s recipe in Complete Italian Food but with the changes I always make to almost any recipe according to available ingredients.

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I couldn’t find the candied pumpkin that is traditional in Siena where panforte originates, or a reasonable amount of candied lemon peel, so I made a quick version of each of these by cutting small pieces of pumpkin including the peel and quartering the peel of three lemons and boiling them in sugar syrup, then leaving them to soak overnight in the syrup.  Candying fruit properly takes about 10 days and then, of course, it will keep for weeks or even months, but since I was going to cook with this straight away I thought it would be all right to make this last-minute version.

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I made two of these, one for when the family will be here next week and one to take to friends who’ve invited us for lunch on Christmas Day.  The ingredients for one would be:

200 grams white flour

75 grams candied lemon peel and 100 grams candied pumpkin, roughly chopped

75 grams walnuts

65 grams almonds, blanched, peeled and toasted

200 grams honey (I used local garrigue honey, but Carluccio recommends acacia)

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

a pinch of salt

(Carluccio adds 200 grams icing sugar, but I used the syrup that I’d used to candy the peel instead.)

I mixed the flour, spices and nuts, heated the honey and the syrup together and then mixed into the flour and nut mixture, stirring until it was smooth.  It was quite thick and had to be pressed into the grease-proof paper-lined tin.  I then cooked it in a medium oven – about 170 C – for 40 minutes, slightly longer than Carluccio recommends, but this may be because my oven isn’t working properly.  When I took it out I left it to cool in the tin.  Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve in thin slices.  It will keep for several weeks, but it will almost certainly be eaten sooner!

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I made a small one so that Lo Jardinièr and I could make sure it was all right before we give it to friends – and it is delicious.  Well, with those ingredients we couldn’t really go wrong, could we?