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Here in Italy we have reached la Settimana Grassa (the fat week), which is the final week of Carnevale. La Settimana Grassa began yesterday with Giovedi’ Grasso (fat Thursday) and will end next Tuesday with Martedi’ Grasso (fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday). These are days of euphoria and excess, particularly regarding food, because traditionally people had to use up all their meat, butter and eggs (hence the name fat week) before Mercoledi’ delle Ceneri (Ash Wednesday) when the Quaresima (Lent) begins. Quaresima was traditionally a period of penitence and moderation during which the consumption of meat and rich food was not allowed. During la Settimana Grassa Feste in Maschera (masquerade parties) will be taking place in every school and main piazza, as well as many private houses (see my last blog about Maschere di Carnevale, Carnival masks), and wherever you go you’ll find Chiacchiere di Carnevale (lit. Carnival chats), which are the fried sweet pastries that are also known as Cenci fritti (lit. fried rags) or Frappe. They are very easy to make, so if you want to try them, here is the recipe:
400 grammi di farina (14oz of plain flour)
60 grammi di zucchero semolato (2.5oz caster sugar)
50 grammi di burro (2oz butter)
2 uova (2 eggs)
200ml di vino bianco secco (200ml of dry white wine)
Un pizzico di sale (a pinch of salt)
Abbondante olio per friggere (enough oil for deep frying)
50gr di zucchero a velo (2oz icing sugar)
Place the flour, caster sugar and salt on the work surface. Make a well and add the butter, which should be cut into small pieces, and the eggs, then mix all the ingredients whilst adding the white wine a bit at a time. Knead the dough until smooth, and then roll it out very thinly (about 1-2 mm), then, using a fluted pastry cutter, cut the pastry into roughly 5cm by 2cm rectangles. Make 2 parallel lengthwise cuts through each rectangle of pastry. Deep fry the chiacchiere in hot oil until they become a dark, golden color, drain them and put them on some kitchen paper, let them cool and then dust them with icing sugar. Serve the chiacchiere with Moscato Naturale d’Asti (or any fruity sweet white wine).