December 1997


Comeana, Tuscany 21 December 1997 The festive season brings back fond memories of the time we lived on the outskirts of Florence in a sharecropper's simple farmhouse, attached to the wine estate Fattoria di Calavria. Our son Guy was just two years old, and we enjoyed a wonderfully simple, even old fashioned Christmas, shared together with our dear friends and neighbours Giuliano and Agnese Corti. Christmas in Italy is far less commercialised than in the US or Great Britain and maintains its sense of wonder and spirituality combined with a hospitality and warmth that is, well, quite simply Italian.
Vin Santo, made from grapes laid out to dry on cane mats in airy attics, then left to ferment in sealed caratelli, or small wooden casks containing 50 l. or 100 l. only for upwards of three years or more, is Tuscany's wine of hospitality, always offered to guests and friends, whatever the time of day. It can be exquisite with cantuccini biscotti, of course, as well as with other typical Tuscan sweets and desserts. Kim made panforte, the exquisitely simple Sienese speciality, the other night to enjoy with friends (together with one of our few remaining bottles of Vin Santo di Calavria) in front of the fire, and the aroma of spices and honey and roasted nuts immediately transported us back in time and place to happy memories with friends. The recipe comes from our first book, The Wine and Food of Europe.


100 g/ 4 oz shelled almonds

100 g/ 4 oz shelled hazelnuts

50 g/ 2 oz flour

25 g/ 1 oz cocoa

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

100 g/ 1/4 lb honey

4 tbsp sugar

250 g/ 1/2 lb candied fruit, finely chopped

1 tbsp grated orange rind

1 tbsp grated lemon rind

Juice of one lemon

Icing or powdered sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 150° C/300° F. Put almonds and hazelnuts in a greased shallow pan, and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, sift flour together with cocoa, cinnamon and allspice. Mix well. Put honey and sugar in a saucepan and cook over a low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and mix into flour mixture. Then add candied fruit, orange and lemon rind and juice, and roasted nuts, combining them together well. Grease a round baking tin and turn the mixture into it. Bake in a slow oven, 140° C/275° F, until it is firm, about 50 minutes or longer (test with a skewer). Remove from the oven, turn out, and sprinkle liberally with icing or powdered sugar.

Wine Suggestion: The only wine to drink with panforte is Vin Santo, preferably from a small traditional grower. Such wines, made always in minute quantity, are not easy to get a hold of, and the best, from Avignonesi, Isola e Olena, Capaccia, and others, can command high prices due to the scarcity and the time involved in producing traditional Vin Santo. However, take my word for it: this is a rare and exquisite wine that is like nothing else and is truly worth trying. Alternatively, serve panforte with strong espresso coffee.

Copyright © Marc Millon 2000


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Copyright © Marc and Kim Millon 2000