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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Christmas Traditions

Stir Up Sunday, the traditional day to make Christmas puddings, falls this year on November 20. 
I can remember, as a child, clamouring for a turn at stirring the mixture - and a lick of the spoon. The highlights were making a wish and watching the silver coin go in. (I still treasure a sixpence from one my Grandmother made.)
Today, with time so precious, the pudding, mince pies and often even our Christmas cake are bought ready-made, with no hidden bounty. They probably taste just as good, but a little of the pre-Christmas magic has vanished.
Some countries, though, still hold proudly to their traditions.
Lucia di Domenico, a chef from Puglia, in the heel of Italy, was in London this week for some cookery demonstrations.

She’s passionate about the quality and variety of her region’s cuisine, and brought with her a selection of 12 different sweets which she and her neighbours would prepare on Christmas Eve (left).

These ranged from a rich chocolate cake to my favourite, calzoncelli (below), said to resemble the cheeks of the infant Christ. There are many local recipes for these little deep-fried treats, but Lucia, who has a restaurant in Orsara, prefers one which includes chickpea puree, cinnamon and orange peel.


Lucia’s demonstrations encompassed several regional specialities, complemented with local wines. Determined the dishes would be authentic, she had packed all the ingredients needed in her luggage. There were even bags of the black flour, Grano Arso, to make the dark pasta found in southern Italy, Cavatelli. It struck me how difficult it could have been, explaining what they all were to UK Customs, but luckily she and her bags had no problems.
Lucia's Orsara restaurant: Posta Guevara
The demonstrations were part of a Puglia promotion organised by Antonio Tomassini

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