Italian cuisine is great, everyone knows it, but sometimes it’s also not super accessible to vegans or to people with allergies etc. It is overall considered to be quite healthy, but some of the tastiest recipes are traditionally heavy and inundated with the amazing olive oil and friends.
I cannot say I am an expert when it comes to Italian recipes from my region of origin, especially the savory ones, because in northern Italy they try to stash meat everywhere. However, it’s also easy to replace with seitan, tempeh and other deliciousnesses 🙂 (think of polenta and seitan or with soy mince or also with a mushroom mix!).
That being said, in northern Italy we have one of the best treats I can think of: the Sbrisolona “cake”. It’s more like a crumble and it’s quite hard, it literally means “crumbly one” in dialect, and people use to eat it with a few drops of grappa poured on and I promise that it’s great. However, it requires eggs and butter but it is super easy to make it work with vegan butter and no egg at all, as long as everything is balanced correctly.
Also, since grappa in the UK is quite difficult to find, I think it tastes great with spiced rum but also on its own and with tea – well, everything goes well with the right tea, so this is a no brainer.
I am sharing my vegan version of the sbrisolona because I really love it and I am sharing the doses for a medium-small sbrisolona because my husband begged me not to make a huge one and then leave him alone with it as I tend to do to prevent my waistline from growing as large as the gran raccordo anulare (a very large highway entrance with a circular shape situated in Rome on which there is also a very nice and very fellinian documentary called Sacro Gra, in case anyone was interested in watching something bizarre :)).
For a 18 cm cake tin:
- 80 gr ancient grain flour
- 80 gr corn flour (the yellow type, like the polenta one)
- 80 gr almond flour
- 80 gr butter
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 80 gr brown sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- Some almonds to decorate – with the peel on
Mix well the dry ingredients together and then add the cubed butter until you reach the consistency of breadcrumbs, as if you were doing the shortcrust pastry. When you get the crumbs it’s time to stop and add the whole almonds and press the crumbly dough in the cake tin. It should be quite a thin layer, but even if it’s a bit thicker it’s okay.
The sbrisolona MUST be baked in a STATIC oven at 180 C for the first 20 minutes in the mid level of the oven. Then move it to the lowest part of the oven to have that lovely crunchy base.
You can leave it some more minutes if you prefer it more biscuity (I do!), as long as you cover the top with some aluminium foil to prevent it from going too brown.
When it’s baked, let it cool completely before eating. Eat it however you like, but breaking it with hands (and pouring some alcholohic drops on it) is the way I was exposed to and there are so many cakes you have to slice to eat, I think it’s just fun to treat this like a large biscuit. In addition, breaking it with hands makes you fully understand what the name means 🙂