Ingredients for about 8 people:3 eggs1 tbsp Anise liqueur3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil300 g wholegrain soft wheat flour250 g acacia honey50 g chestnut honey sugar2 lemon100 g almonds Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cicerchiata is a sweet delicacy from central Italy, typically made in the Carnival period (in February or early March), in which honey and oil encounter each other. The name very probably comes from the “cicerchia” (grass pea), an “ancient” legume similar to the chickpea, the shape of which is similar to the little fried balls in the recipe. We hope you enjoy the recipe: it’s “slightly” high in calories and a bit time-consuming, but colourful, unusual, cheerful and just right for dispelling the grey dreariness of winter!
In a bowl, beat the eggs with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. When the mixture has become light and frothy, add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the grated rind of 1 lemon. Then gradually incorporate the quantity of flour required to obtain a smooth but not sticky dough. Together with the flour, add the aniseed liqueur (according to taste) a drop at a time, so that it combines with the other ingredients. Carefully knead the dough on a work surface or pastry board and shape it into a ball. Set it aside to rest for 30 minutes, covered with a bowl. After this time, break off a piece of the dough and, on a worksurface dusted with flour, roll it into a rope about 1 cm in diameter. Continue in this way until you have used up all the dough. Cut the ropes into small pieces and roll them on the floured work surface to form little balls (the “cicerchie”). To eliminate any excess flour, gently transfer them into a large metal sieve and rotate it until they are “clean”. Fry the little balls in a shallow, wide pan, in plenty of hot oil (test it first with a small piece of dough: the oil must sizzle well… but it mustn’t burn). Cook them evenly all over, stirring constantly (do not fill the frying pan too full of cicerchie: this would lower the temperature of the oil too much). When they’re golden brown (you need to watch them carefully and work quickly) remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on absorbent kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil. Repeat the procedure until all the balls have been fried.
Now put the two types of honey in a large, heavy-bottomed pan (the chestnut honey, which is darker, will give the dessert a lovely amber colour and attenuate the sweetness of the lighter coloured acacia honey). Add 50 g of sugar and, without stirring it in, put the pan over moderate heat. Wait until the honey and sugar begin to dissolve, forming a little froth on the surface, then stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. Tip in the fried balls, together with a “ribbon” of yellow zest from the other lemon, and the almonds chopped in half. Turn the heat up a little and stir very delicately with a wooden spoon, scooping up the honey from the bottom of the pan and drizzling it over the little balls. After a few minutes, remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir until they no longer tend to all stick together (remove the lemon rind before the honey solidifies too much). Now pour the “cicerchiata” onto a well-oiled surface (the ideal would be marble). For convenience, you can pour it directly onto a round, well oiled serving dish. Try to shape it into a sort of small mountain, using wet hands, half a lemon – if you like a sharper taste – or half an orange. Let the cicerchiata rest for a few hours before serving so that the honey cools down and sets. The surface can be decorated with a few almonds cut in half; there are also those who like to “sprinkle” it with pieces of mixed candied fruit (about 20 g), while the more refined version of the cicerchiata is decorated with little candied violets.