From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Cicerchiata is a typical Italian carnival cake, recognized as a traditional food product for Abruzzi, Marches, and Molise, and spread in Umbria and internal immigration from these regions, in Rome.
It is similar to the Neapolitan struffoli, a Christmas sweet with balls a bit bigger than the cicerchiata.
According to the Atlas of traditional products of Abruzzo (ARSSA – Abruzzo Region, 2004), the origin of the product is to be found in Abruzzo, in particular in the area of Sangro “thanks to the development of beekeeping that, yesterday as today, made available honey of excellent quality.” The origin of the name in those areas is the dialectal words used for the circle shapes, as well as there is a musical instrument called vatta-cicerchie (circle beater)
According to others, instead, referring to more ancient times, it would originate from the historical Umbria (roughly, the Umbria east of Tiber river and Marche). Only it is subsequent spreading from Umbria to central Marche, to Abruzzo, and finally to Molise would have contributed to the opinion that it is sweet from Abruzzo.
According to others, cicerchiata is instead a sweet from the Marches.
The cake uses a dough of flour, eggs, and olive oil, in some butter and sugar, liqueur, or lemon juice. This dough is obtained with small balls of about one centimeter in diameter fried in olive oil or lard. Drained, they are mixed with hot honey and arranged in a circle. As the honey cools, it cements the balls together and gives solidity to the structure. As it often happens with traditional and ancient sweets, some variants add different ingredients to the basic recipe.
The etymology of the name
A very similar sweet is mentioned in the tables of Gubbio as ritual and sacrificial food with the name, in ancient Umbrian language, of strusla. It is the continuation of sruikela, diminutive of struex, a variant of the most common strues, that means “mucchio.” The most excellent current scholar of the Umbrian language, Prof. Augusto Ancillotti, also states that the Italian “costruire,” that is “ammucchiare insieme.”
In all probability, the name cicerchiata has medieval origins. It is supposed to derive from cicerchia (Lathyrus sativus), a legume similar to peas (Pisum sativum) and to chickpeas (Cicer arietinum), very common at that time in the Umbrian – Marches area and also in southern Italy; still today, it is cultivated in Latium, Marches, Umbria, Molise, and Apulia, not on a large scale, but as a typical specialty. According to what has been said, the meaning of “cicerchiata” would therefore be that of “pile of cicerchie.”
There is a remarkable resemblance with Neapolitan struffoli, which would derive the name from the Greek adjective στρόγγυλος (stróngylos), meaning “of roundish shape.” Linguistically they have the same root from the Umbrian word strusla and therefore probably a common Indo-European origin.
In Greece, there is a similar cake called Λουκουμάδες (Lukumádes). Similar to cicerchiata are also Kurdish Loqme, Turkish Lokma, and Persian Lvkvmandas.
Regional Recipe from Abruzzo, Marche, Molise
Production area Abruzzo Frentana area, Marche region (all the regional territory and in particular the Ancona area), Foligno mountains
Cicerchie is one of the most ancient legumes of history: there’s proof of cicerchie beans in the Fertile Crescent archaeological sites dating back to 8000 BC. They have an incredible resistance to droughts, so people relied on cicerchie as their main sustenance for months in tough times.
Forgotten for a long time, they are being rediscovered little by little, mainly thanks to the extraordinary nutritional values that turn this rustic legume into a wholesome meat alternative that is an excellent energy source and protein source. Chock full of vitamins, minerals like phosphorus and calcium, and edible fibers, it is no surprise that cicerchie called “the meat of peasants”.
They are a wild variety of chickpeas, very similar in taste and shape, with a more assertive personality and more earthy and rich notes—recipes for cicerchie range from warm soups and stews to salads bruschette.
Serves 10 people
Compared to other legumes, cicerchie need a longer cooking time at higher temperatures, especially to reach high digestibility.
- Soak in fresh water overnight or for as long as 24 hours
- Discard the soaking water and place cicerchie in the heaviest and thickest pot you have
- Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil
- Add aromatic herbs or leek to the boiling water.
- Cover with a lid and cook on a low flame; water has to be simmering.
- Cicerchie will be cooked when they have an evenly tender texture but still have a bite. Approximately 45 minutes / 1 hour
- You can salt cicerchie while they are boiling or at the end of cooking, while they cool down in their own juices.
- Once cooled, drain* and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve it on a slice of toasted bread as a flavorful side dish, or add a little additional broth and serve as a soup
*The cooking water of legumes is extremely rich in flavors and nutrients: it makes an excellent broth or base for any recipe. Do not discard and store in the refrigerator or freezer for further use.