When guests tell me that they have a couple of extra days before coming to join us in Tuscany and ask my opinion about whether to fly into Milan or Rome, my response is a breathless, enthusiastic: Rome! Rome! Rome! What’s not to like about spending time in a spectacular open-air museum, full of breathtaking art and architecture?
We spent 6 days in the Eternal City over New Year a couple of weeks ago and found it as bewitching as always. And it was fun to see it through the eyes of our 11 and 9 year-olds, who caught the mood and were thrilled to be there too. Our 9 year-old spotted this beautiful parrot in a window in the Jewish Quarter. It lived just above the most amazing Jewish bakery which Manuela’s husband Silvio had told us was a place we had to try. Apparently the amaretti and the ricotta and chocolate tart are amazing too, but we tried their speciality, the “pizza ebraica” (Jewish pizza”). This is not pizza at all, but an eggless, unleavened pastry crammed full of whole almonds and candied fruit and cooked until it looks rather burnt but is in fact just perfect, with the nuts crunchy and aromatic.
If you go to Rome’s Jewish Quarter, do try it! It’s unmarked, but is at Via Portico D’Ottavia, 1. Closed Friday afternoons and all Saturday. Open the rest of the week. Look for the parrot in a window above the bakery.
And if you can’t wait, make some!
- 250g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 250g (2 cups) peeled blanched almonds, coarsely ground
- 120g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
- 120 ml (half cup) sunflower oil, warmed
- 1 (or more) cups sweet white wine (sherry or marsala are fine too), warmed
- 100g (3/4 cup) whole almonds, unpeeled and lightly toasted
- 100g (3/4 cup) raisins
- 130g (1 cups) candied fruit (cherries, oranges, lemons, green squash), chopped
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour and the ground almonds.
- Add the warmed oil gradually and mix it in well.
- Add all the other ingredients to the bowl and mix well.
- Add the warmed wine gradually, mixing as you go. You may not need it all. Add enough to form a dough that is moist, but that can be worked with your hands without sticking too much.
- Compact the dough with your hands quickly.
- Arrange on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, squashing the dough down a little to be an inch and a half high (2 to 3 cm).
- Bake in a preheated oven at 180º C (220ºF) for 30 minutes, until firm on the top but still soft inside. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack before cutting and serving.