Sunday, March 22, 2009

Torrone catanese at the market

What do you usually do when you need to get inspired?
Ops, I'm not getting mad, don't worry, no knives :)

When I need inspiration I like wandering about Catania, aimlessly, just look at the people, the places and wait to be brighted with a brillant flash of illumination. Usually, it works. My camera is always with me, you'll never know!

I don't know why but these wandering often lead me to one of my favourite places in Catania: the market. Well, I should say there are two main markets who are worth to visit: the fish market (what a terrific place! I promise I will tell about it soon) and the "fera 'o luni", the central market where you can find almost everything, food, beverages, clothes, shoes, accessories, dress-materials, detergents, soaps of any kind. What do you need? Be sure you can find it there! Any traveller visiting Catania should stop at both markets: you will never forget the people, their shouts, the colours, the smells. You might be shocked or better delighted, in both cases a unique experience.
So, I was there last week and I was lucky enough to find something it is not easy to see: the torrone making.

What's the torrone? It's a kind of noughat made basically of almonds and honey and is very common in Sicily as a sort of dessert, sometimes even a sort of distraction, when you've got that yen to eat something or for pangs of hunger. It's part of the inheritance left by the Arab domination in Sicily (a lot of the Arab tradition is in our food and recipes).

I stood bewitched by the maker: his figure quite dramatic, a typical middle-aged Sicilian man of Mediterranean origins, his movements gentle and speed, his eyes dark and brilliant. I'd never seen torrone making before, I was ravished!

I asked him to give me his recipe to make the torrone at home. He was very nice !

1 kg of almonds
1 kg of sugar
4 spoons of honey
Some orange rind finely cut up
Olive oil
Half a lemon

1. Dip the almonds in hot water for a couple of minutes, peel them and then wipe carefully.
2. Pour the almonds, the sugar and the honey into a large pan and cook on a very low flame, stirring continuously to avoid sugar to stick.
3. Prepare the top, preferably a marble one, and wet it with some olive oil. Use a spatula and damp it with the lemon.
4. Wait until the sugar is melted, pour the mixture on the marble top and use the spatula to level it.
When it is cold, cut it in reatnular pieces with a strong knife.

Buon appetito!

© Text and picture by Doriana Briguglio


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the recipe. My family in New York has been making this for years. I remember watching Mom make this at home when I was a child, and I have a pretty good recollection of the process. There is a minor difference between what you describe and the process used in my family. Firstly, no honey is used. Also, we did not use orange peel. In regard to the forming process, rather than creating a massive slab and then cutting it, Mom used to take a wooded spoonful of the hot mixture and place it on the marble. Then she used two halves of a lemon, one in each hand, to mold individual pieces into roughly 1 inch by 2 inch chunks. Fianlly, I would use vegetable rather than olive oil to coat the marble so as not to impart that flavor into the torrone.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that Mom used to slice the almonds in half or thirds lengthwise to give the melted sugar more surface area to bond onto the almonds. Also, we are not Sicilian. We hail from Giovinazzo, a small coastal town near Bari. Like the regional dialects in Italy, recipes tend to vary as one moves about the country. That's what I love about being Italian. We take good things and create countless variations, all uniquely delicious.