This is the first recipe and piece of writing from one of our new contributors, Jorgina Catala. Jorgina hails from Barcelona and recently moved to The Netherlands. We hope you enjoy this piece and we look forward to more contributions from Jorgina in the near future.
Biancomangiare, a sweet treat from the Middle Ages.
With a presence in several European countries, known as blanc manger in France, or menjar blanc in Catalonia, biancomangiare is the Sicialian version of what we could consider one of the most celebrated and well known medieval recipes. It’s name litteraly means “white dish” and emphasizes the whiteness of this sweet pudding based on almonds and white sugar.
Have you ever thought about the meaning of colour in food?
During the Middle Ages, food banquets where often used to display the power of the high classes; being able to prepare recipes with rare and expensive ingredients would give a hint of the hosts power to all the banquet attendants.
Serving biancomangiare to your guests would mean that the powerful host had access to the extremely expensive and refined white sugar, very difficult to obtain in the XIV century and would also symbolize good values as purity and refinement. The name biancomangiare was a generic name given to different kinds of savory and sweet recipes, based in chicken breast, rice, milk almond milk and other ingredients that gave the dish its characteristic white color.
Today, we are sharing with you the most traditional Sicilian sweet version, a delicious almond pudding, with a delicate almond flavour, lemony fragrance and of course, with its elegant snowy white presence.
1 litre of almond milk (you can buy it or do it yourself using 300gr of peeled almonds and 1,5 litres of water)
Zest of 1 untreated/organic lemon (avoid the white, it will make it bitter)
200g refined sugar
120g of corn starch (Maizena)
a pinch of cinnamon
Keep aside a glass of almond milk.
Pour the rest of the almond milk in a saucepan and heat over a low flame. Add the lemon zest, pinch of cinnamon and the refined sugar.
Meanwhile mix the corn starch with the almond milk you kept aside. Once the corn starch is dissolved, add the mixture to the saucepan through a sieve.
Keep stirring the mixture, preferably with a wooden spoon, till it starts boiling. When it will starts to thicken remove the saucepan from the fire.
Pour the mixture into moulds of your preference. You can choose single portion moulds or a large one. Let it cool down to room temperature and only then put it in the fridge until thick.
The pudding will be ready after around 4 hours. You can then unmould it and decorate as you please. Its delicious eaten on its own, but you can also add some of your favourite jam, some chocolate sauce or cherries and syrup. Just remember that the biancomangiare has a very subtle taste that shouldn’t be over-powered by a strong sauce.