The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Liguria - Food Heaven

Except for its pesto, many people may not know that Liguria is a real gourmet place. At every corner you find a bakery with the most inviting delicacies, both sweet and savoury. And patisseries that crop up almost at every street with alluring cakes and pastries...ah! I really don't know how locals keep fit. Or perhaps I do... the hills!

It is difficult to decide which one is the prettiest village. If you decide to travel by train, which, for many reasons is advisable (firstly because of the lack of parking and secondly because of the closure to traffic in many centres) you will pass gem after gem. And there cannot even be the temptation to skip one or the other on the excuse *after all they are all the same*. They all have a different character and their own reason to stop (No, the Liguria region hasn't paid me...yet).

But if you really do twist my arm then I could probably say Camogli e Manarola.
Camogli is on the "Riviera di Levante" (aka eastern coast) while Manarola is one of the "Cinque Terre". If you are really short of time, go for only these two.

The food won't disappoint you either.

Camogliesi are a soft pastry filled with a special custard (the recipe is so secret that you won't find it anywhere on the web and I couldn't even extract it from any patissiere) flavoured either with rum (the originals), hazelnut, coffee or amaretto and then coated in cocoa and chopped nuts. I've heard that they have become so renowned that they appear even in Tokyo!

In other words, you cannot miss it. Either with your espresso, mid-morning cappuccino, after lunch or dinner, practically at any time of the day, they are heavenly!

Fish is of course the other queen of all Ligurian dishes. Being so damn close to the sea, you can bet that what you find on your plate is fresh! La Buridda di seppie is a stew of squid cooked with peas, tomatoes and capers, while the Cappon Magro is a salad with sea bass, prawns, mussels and, if particularly "posh", lobster mixed with a green sauce made of parsley, capers and boiled eggs. It might not sound appetizing, but it is delicious as the herbs bring out the flavours of the fresh fish. It is also a special dish for Christmas.

And of course every place has its own "revendications". Who "owns" Pita bread or Mousaka for example? Greece or Turkey? And who invented a chick-pea bread? Ligurians or Tuscans? Difficult to affirm. Farinata or, as we call it, Cecina, is a flat unleavened pancake of chickpea flour. Whatever the origin is, it is delicious!

It is extremely easy to make, filling, and versatile as you can have it as a snack, accompaniment to vegetables and cheese, or nibbles for a Summer apritif - mind, if it is too hot many restaurants/vendors stop making it as it makes a huge amount of heat.

For a medium round tray

300g chick-pea flour
1.5l water
1 glass of oil
1 tsp salt

1. Pour the water in a large bowl. Combine the salt with the flour and then slowly mix the flour to the water making sure there are no lumps.

2. Add the oil and stir to combine well the ingredients.

3. Leave to rest for at least an hour. If it makes a froth, simply scoop it out with a spoon.

4. Cook in the oven in a pan which you have previously greased with olive oil at 200C for 20 minutes. You can serve it warm or cold. Personally I think it is a lot better warm.

Many might miss Savona. Big mistake. It is strategically located to visit both the western and eastern coast, close to some of the prettiest villages of the region, and very pretty itself.

If you make Savona your base, don't miss "Vino & Farinata" on via Pia. It has been there for ever and is a real institution among the locals - the constant queue confirms! Don't expect anything fancy but true, honest Ligurian flavours and a genuine farinata (white, with the addition of wheat flour, or yellow, entirely of chick-peas).

They have even dedicated a poem to it!


  1. The photos of this article are great... Even if I am a ligurian citizen some places are incredible because I don't understand where the eye of francesca takes the picture. The first one for wxample seems a picture from Greece... It is incredible....

  2. Thank you Gianluca! The first photograph is actually Verezzi which I have mistakenly omitted from my post. It is a lovely hamlet only 20 minutes away from Savona, perched up on hills and where every Summer there are theatrical shows in the main (and only!) square. Very peaceful!