Easter is a lovely time to take a cheap flight and visit Italy. Not only is the weather generally sunny and warm, but the shops will be full of beautifully decorated Easter eggs. And they’re not the only Easter specialities on sale. As the Italian chef Antonio Carluccio mentions in his book Italia: The Recipes and Customs of the Regions (pub. Quadrille £14.99) different parts of Italy have their own traditional Easter foods. In Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a small region in the mountainous north of Italy, the cuisine is influenced by neighbouring Austria and the former Yugoslavia. Take a holiday in Friuli-Venezia and you’ll find a cuisine that has many influences. Antonio Carluccio explains that the cooking merges Venetian, Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav traditions.
In the city of Trieste, coffee houses serve Austrian-style cakes and strudels, including gubana, which Carluccio says is rather like a strudel. Made with puff pastry, gubana is filled with walnuts, dried fruits (like figs, raisins and prunes), pine nuts, candied orange and lemon peel, and pieces of chocolate. It used to be an Easter speciality and is usually eaten with a drizzle of grappa on top. Presniz is a similar sweet treat from Friuli-Venezia and is traditionally eaten over Easter. It’s filled with rum-soaked dried fruit and nuts, and is believed to have Yugoslav origins. This recipe for Presniz comes from Carluccio’s Italia and appears here with permission.
Presniz – Recipe
Friulian pastry with rum-soaked fruit and nuts
Ingredients – Serves 6-8
● 100g raisins
● 100ml dark rum
● 40g butter, diced and softened, plus extra to grease
● 140g biscuits (such as digestives)
● 70g pine nuts, toasted
● 70g walnut halves, toasted
● 70g blanched almonds, toasted
● 80g quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
● 60g candied orange and citron peel, diced
● Grate zest and juice of 1 lemon
● 1 egg, beaten
● 500g ready-made puff pastry
● Flour to dust
● 3-4 tbsp icing sugar
- Soak the raisins in the rum for 1-2 hours. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4 and lightly grease a baking tray. Drain the raisins, reserving the rum.
- Crush the biscuits, using a pestle and mortar, then tip the crumbs into a bowl. Add the butter and mix until evenly combined. Add the raisins, pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, chocolate, candied peel and lemon zest and juice. Stir well, then mix in the beaten egg and some of the rum to make a moist filling.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 60 x 40 cm rectangle, about 2 mm thick. Spoon the filling along the middle and brush the pastry edges with water. Fold one long side over the filling to enclose it and make a sausage, then press the edges together to seal.
- Coil into a circle and place on the greased baking tray. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the pastry to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold, sprinkled generously with icing sugar. Carluccio suggests that you eat it with a good glass of Picolit or Torcolato wine.
You might also like to try Carluccio’s recipe for Gnocchi with Porcini Sauce, another regional Italian dish.