Chickpeas puree, cocoa, nuts, pine nuts, sugar and many flavors encased in a sweet and crisp casing pastry.
This Christmas sweet is known throughout Italy, form North to South. Italian region of Marche calls them caciunitti ; in Molise the name changes in Caciuni, and in Basilicata they are known as Calzoncelli. In Calabria, we have too many names for this delicacy. Sometimes it needs just a few kilometers away, to find that in Pizzo Calabro they are called Chinuliji, in Vibo Valentia Jauni*. And it takes a female name in my little Village of Maierato: Ciciarata.
From a quick web searching, you could realize that, the versions of these Christmas goodies are endless. Different recipes for the pastry and different for the filling. They can be baked or fried, and covered with icing or granulated sugar .
My recipe is the traditional one of my little village, Maierato. I was taught by a true expert in the field. The dough is made with olive oil, white wine, eggs, sugar and flour. The filling ingredients could vary, according to your own taste, but everyone agrees on what should not be missed: chickpeas, cocoa and nuts.
For this special occasion, I dusted my old cookery book: stuff of other centuries. I do not open it almost ever, but when I do, I can find through the worn pages, the stains of all the times I held it in front of my blender, or on the pastry board. I can recognize the little fingerprints of my children helping me in some cooking mother-and-son moment. Flour through the pages and some crumbs too (rather than seasoned).
In Google and blogs’ era, the handwritten recipes, are prehistorical stuff. And Fingerprints could be cleaned easier from a computer screen.
Handwritten recipe on my notebook was sagely prepared by my neighbor: Mrs Vittoria. She gently and patiently, revealed me her own recipe, and she let me put my hands in the dough together with her. To Observe is fundamental. Then, you can fly away with your imagination, but first of all: OBSERVE! Not everybody loves to share their cooking secrets with the first one occurring. But, to be honest, Mrs Vittoria not only shares her recipes, but also her dinner table. She is the Grandma that everyone wants to have. The One that knows all your favorite dishes, your desire and your mood. And when you are down or lonely, she tells you: come on, my sweetie, my beautiful…eat my darling, eat! Valeria, Martina, and her grandchildren can confirm my words. In this moment I’m dreaming on her Lasagna, that, as they said: are the best in the world.
I would like to dedicate this post to her. To Mrs. Victoria, who very patiently taught me the secrets of Ciciarata, my favorite Christmas’ delicacy.
#CucinaConversations December’s topic, is about Christmas and this festive season. It could not be otherwise. Recipes that could also represent an Edible gift, to share with friends and relatives.
Carmen, of the Heirloom Chronicles and I, will talk about Ciciarata or Cicerata, but in a completely different way. Carmen’s Cicerata is also known as cicerchiata or struffoli. It is very similar, to that we call Pignolata, but Carmen’s has a different pastry recipe. We have a fresh pasta with eggs, cut into small pieces then fried in olive oil and covered with honey.
Sometimes, as often happens in Italy, we call with the same name, different types of food. It is the case of ZEPPOLE, (donuts) for example. Only in Calabria, we have dozen of versions. Donuts with potatoes, with bread dough, with anchovies, pumpkin, and raisins. I could make a long list, each country has its own Zeppole’s recipe. And, as tradition wants, we begin to prepare them from December 8th, The Immaculate Conception’s day. As the saying goes: “D’Ammaculata a prima Padedata”.
To be honest, I start to prepare Zeppole as soon as I feel a winter fragrance in the air.
You Could find my Ciciarata version’s recipe described below. Merry Christmas and follow me on this blog. There will be a lot of delicious recipes, to mix up for Christmas
My fellow blogger’s #CucinaConversations recipes:
Carmen of The Heirloom Chronicles, as we said, describe us her Cicerata. She also tells us, how this sweet is called in different Italian regions. Very interesting to explore the history around the name.
Lisa on her Italian Kiwi blog will describe an interesting recipe for the Turin made Baci di Dama
Rosemarie of Turin Mamma share with us her recipe for Croccante di Mandorle, a favorite of mine. It couldn’t be Christmas without Croccante.
Flavia of Flavia’s Flavors will write about Pizzelle, that is an Italian version of waffles.
Daniela of la Dani Gourmet has a delicious recipe for Ricciarelli, Tuscan Dolcetti with almond paste.
Francesca of Pancakes and Biscotti, is just come back from an amazing trip in Trentino, she will share with us Canederli
Enjoy with us and BUON NATALE
Ciciarata a Maierato
The measuring system is a real mess in traditional recipe. We often use a method called “Ad Occhio” It means that, you have to trust in your sense. This gives that sort of unicity, that traditional dishes always own. They are never the same. I’m grateful to Mrs Vittoria, because she found her personal measuring system, she use a common glass. You can also use a plastic cup.
To the Filling (better if you made it the day before)
500 gr Chickpeas puree
A shot of anise liquor (you can substitute it with vino cotto or other liquor you like)
Cocoa powder, enough to color the chickpeas puree
2 glasses of sugar
Pine nuts, a generous handful
Nuts slightly minced
1 pinch of Cinnamon
Ground cloves minced.
To the Pastry
1 glass Olive Oil
1 glass white wine
1 glass sugar, plus a bit for the topping if you choice the granulated one.
First of all, Soak and cook the chickpeas in abundant lightly salted water. You need to do this the day before.
Grind them with a mixer, while they are warm. If you want to skip chickpeas soaking and cooking process, you can buy them already cooked at the supermarket. I know that, grandmothers will disagree, but sometimes it is useful to mitigate the time 🙂
Once they minced, add the remaining ingredients, starting from cocoa. I prefer the pine nuts in their whole, but you could also grind them. Add also nuts, slightly minced, do the same with cinnamon and cloves. Combine the sugar, anise liqueur and stir to mix them well. Keep in fridge for a day. The flavors will blend. The puree must be neither too hard nor too soft, otherwise it comes out during the frying process.
To the Pastry: Put all liquid ingredients, in a large bowl, including eggs slightly beaten, sugar and then add the flour, just enough to give the dough the consistency of a pastry, soft and supple. So, please, proceed slowly in the addition of flour.
Once the dough is ready. Take a sheeter (with a rolling pin is also fine) and make long sheets. Crop from them many circles, with a dough cutter (coppa pasta) or you can choice a round glass. Put a spoonful of chickpeas puree in the center of each circles. Close it as a panzerotto, and crushed the edges well, maybe with the tines of a fork.
For frying you can use olive oil but, for some dishes, such as ciciarata, its flavor may be too heavy. So we could opt for a good peanut oil, excellent alternative to olive oil. Fry until Ciciarata has a golden surface and then cover with the granulated sugar.
Enjoy Ciciarata and let me Know.
We often give Ciciarata ad other Christmas delicacies as present, to our friends and neighbors.
My grandmother told me that once, neighbor and friends used to share with each other, traditional sweets as Christmas presents. Nonna’s kitchen was often overflowing with unfamiliar, but enticing dishes. Most important was that, you had to give the dishes back, with your own Ciciarata, or Pignolata or whatever you made. These were the only Christmas presents they did. Funnier, cheaper and surely, delicious. But Lovingly, Handmade.
P.S You can also find Carmen’s Version of Panzerotti di ceci, also known with her traditional name, Calzonceddi, here.
This post is also available in: English