Discover how to make Biancomangiare, an elegant almond pudding flavoured with orange blossom water.
Have you ever thought about the colour of your food?
From the bright orange of a pumpkin tart to the deep green goodness of kale, spinach or Swiss chard, the pale spring-like green of a chilled pea and mint soup or the ruby red of a jewelled pomegranate salad. Colours often inspire recipes, matches and whole menus.
Think for a second now about white, the pale lunar white. Nowadays it is quite common to find elegant cakes decorated with pure white laces, milky white vanilla icecream or pearly fragrant basmati rice, but back in the Medieval times it was quite a rarity to spot white food.
Biancomangiare, translated as "white dish", has a long history, it was by the end of the 14th century a refined item of most European noble banquets.
It was made with white meat, usually chicken breast, white starch and sugar. It would stand among colourful or brownish food for its colour and obvioulsy also for its costly ingredients.
Biancomangiare was a generic name, it could also be made with ground almonds, rice, expensive white sugar, white breadcrumbs and spices such as ginger and cinnamon.
The Sicilian biancomangiare is the most famous and traditional white food we have nowadays in Italy, it is probably derived from these medieval recipes mixed with an Arab influence.
It is an elegant almond pudding flavoured with orange blossom water, which can be substituted with rosewater or vanilla essence, thickened with corn starch. Corn starch is used quite commonly as a natural thickener to make some of the most traditional Sicilian desserts, as it may be found in the fresh gelo di mellone, a sweet gelatine pudding made with watermelon juice.
Once you make your biancomangiare you can decide whether to decorate it traditionally, with cinnamon, candied orange peel or pistachios, or just free your imagination: orange marmalade, passion fruit, dark chocolate sauce. Just consider that biancomangiare is sweet and elegant, so try to meet its delicate nature with ingredients which could exalt rather than completely cover it, it would be a shame!
Biancomangiare (Almond Milk Pudding)
Makes 12 puddings
1 litre of almond milk
Grated zest of an organic lemon
200 g of caster sugar
1 pinch of cinnamon
120 g of corn starch
6 passion fruits
Keep aside a glass of almond milk and pour the remaining milk in a small saucepan over slow flame. Add the caster sugar, the grated lemon zest and one pinch of cinnamon.
Melt the cornstarch into the reserved glass of almond milk and add it into the saucepan, pouring it through a sieve.
Keep stirring with a wooden spoon and as soon as it starts boiling or thickening remove from the heat.
Pour the almond custard into single portion moulds or into a bigger one. Let it cool down and when it is cold keep in the fridge until thick.
When the biancomangiare is thick, unmould into small platters and decorate them with cinnamon if you want to be traditional, orange marmalade if you have a sweet tooth or a fresh passion fruit, just opened and scooped generously over the pudding.
If you want to make your super fresh almond milk, follow this recipe
For about 1 l of almond milk:
300g of peeled almonds
1.5 l of fresh water
Soak the almonds for a few hours into 1.5 l of water, than drain them and keep the soaking water.
Transfer the soaked almonds in a blender jug and turn on the blender to the maximum power, pouring in slowly all of the soaking water. When the almonds are pulverized and the water has turned into a white liquid, pour the milk into a strainer lined with a fine kitchen towel and allow a few hours to let all the milk drip down. Squeeze the kitchen towel to obtain more milk.
Do not throw the remaining almond paste, make cookies instead!
Inspired? For more delicious dessert recipes visit Great British Chefs' collection.