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Panforte di Siena, an Italian Christmas Favourite for Meatfree Monday

December 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

I am in love with Christmas.  Yes, every year I be-moan the Herculean pile of tasks that seem to grow daily.  Yes, I curse the queues in the supermarket and yes, I whack myself between the eyes every time I realise that ANOTHER of my purchases is keeping some Chinese Sweat Shop filled with starving children chained to machines, thriving.  But I just love the smells and the ritual of it all. 


I am a firm believer in rituals though and feel that they are the conjoined twin of that other fave of mine, namely tradition.  I grew up in a traditional English home that had a few too many rules for my liking.  Mum and Dad each had THEIR respective chairs at the dinner table and in the lounge that we dared never to occupy – rather like Kings and Queens have thrones.  I vowed that in my home one day, when I had children, that it would be a democracy and I like to think that I run my home a bit like a benevolent dictatorship!   


La casa Tripepi is a multi-cultural affair to say in the least.  Christmas day has one foot in Italy and one foot in England as breakfast is always hot chocolate, cappuccino and Panetone and lunch is always an Italian starter of either Antipasti or Pasta followed by a glazed gammon and turkey with all the trimmings.  One Christmas we went totally South African and opted for a magnificent prawn and crayfish braai but we all missed our traditional Ital-ish meal.


Panforte is one of the accoutrements of Christmas in an Italian household.  I just love it and decided that this year I would try and make my own.  I am very pleased with the outcome and have kept two of the three that I made to give to some special people as part of a hamper from la casa Tripepi.


Traditionally, Panforte is a ‘cake’ if you can call it that.  It originated in Siena in Italy and in around the 13th Century and is sometimes referred to as Pan Pepato on account of the pepper in it.  It’s a rich cake made from oodles of nuts, honey, fruit, spices and a smidgen of flour.  It’s incredibly rich and is best served with a nice espresso and grappa! 


This is the first time that I have made this and decided to use Nigella Lawson’s recipe because like me, Nigella is not afraid of butter and nuts and rich hip hugging ingredients – the link to her website can be found here






•150 g almonds, coarsely chopped

•75 g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

•75 g pistachio’s, coarsely chopped

•100 g candied orange peel, chopped * I added in some other glace fruits but altogether making 100g of fruit

•75 g flour

•30 g cacao powder

•1/4 tsp cloves

•1/2 tsp cinnamon

•1/2 tsp nutmeg

•1/2 tsp white pepper

•150 g sugar

•150 g clear honey

•35 g butter icing sugar



 Serves: 6

1.Preheat the oven on 150*C.

2.Mix the nuts with the orange peel.

3.Sift the flour, cacao and spices and mix through the nuts.


4.Gently heat the sugar, honey and butter in a pan till the sugar have dissolved and let it cook on higher heat for 3-4 minutes.




5.Quickly mix the syrup through the dry mix, scoop in a round tin (covered with baking paper) and press in in with youth fingers.


I used three small tuna tins (which i soaked with bleach for 3 days to remove any odour)

as I wanted to give dinky small ones as gifts!



6.Let it bake in the oven for 40 minutes and cool down in the tin. Remove the paper and dust with icing sugar.

*I gave them a small dusting with Allspice first and then with sifted icing sugar.




As I am giving two of mine away as gifts I wanted to gift wrap them nicely.

First I cut 2 dinner plate circles of grease proof paper – and two of nice thick Christmas gift wrap

I lay a piece of greaseproof paper on each piece of wrap, enclosed the panforte and decorated with

some pretty ribbon.


7.Serve tiny portions. The cutting will asksome force of you, but it’s soooo worth it.





A great gift to share with family and friends this Christmas.


How about these Christmas recipes:


Fruit Squares – the EASY alternative to mince pies that

Make an excellent gift.


As always

Buon Appetito