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 ice cream 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 obviously 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!
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