The last days of my holiday in Torricella Peligna, my mum’s home-village in the mountains of Abruzzo, are fast approaching.
I always feel a deep sense of sadness at the thought of leaving this charming place.
Every street, every narrow lane and alley, is embedded with strong childhood memories of feeling free, utopistic and adventurous, and utterly in love with one local or the other!
It is as if, each time I say good-bye, I leave a little piece of me there.
I have found particularly moving to witness my 4 year-old boy, Raffi, an aussie-looking and sounding little lad, quickly becoming more and more abruzzese, both in his language and in his mannerisms, and I have loved to watch him play where I used to play, along with my friend’s children.
It has been a great manifestation of life at its best.
Raffi has taken on his heritage so much that one day he insisted we went to visit our neighbour Matilde and ask her to teach us her recipe for Pizza Scima.
Pizza scima basically is an unleavened bread. It literally means “silly pizza”, as it lacks yeast, but there is nothing silly about it.
Far from being complicated to make, its value lies in the tradition it carries.
Pizza Scima is said to have been around the areas of Gessopalena, Torricella and Roccascalegna since the 15th Century and used to be a great staple in everybody’s kitchen as most of the original ingredients were easy to come by.
These days it is still available in bakeries around Abruzzo, but nothing can beat the home-made one Matilde makes.
When we asked Matilde for her recipe, she kindly wrote it down for me, but I know the local villagers far to well to trust a recipe they write. They may indeed list all the right ingredients, but I had to see for myself the way she would mix them together and how she would knead the dough and exactly what “a small glass of oil” would mean…
Matilde is a strong and courageous woman, with small, dark and piercing eyes and hands that carry, in their strength and creases, all the years she devoted working in the fields. She lost her dear husband a few years ago on a freaky tractor accident, but, although still grieving his loss, she hasn’t lost her kind spirit and her generous friendliness towards others.
Pour 800 gr of plain flour (preferably 00) onto a board and make a well in the centre.
Add 1 small glass ( about 65 ml/70ml) of Extra Virgin Olive oil and the same amount of dry white wine. Start mixing in the flour, add the tip of a teaspoon od baking soda and a little salt (about 2 teaspoons, unless you like it very salty). As the dough is coming together pour a little amount (around 150/200 ml) of sparkling water, enough so that the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Flatten it out with rolling-pin to about 2 cm thickness, put the dough onto an oiled oven tray and score it with a serrated knife to create a criss-cross pattern.
Bake at 200 Celsius ( about 390 Farenheit) for around 30/35 minutes, or until the scent of wine and oil is powerful enough to make you want to eat it straight away!
Matilde and I had a nice, chilled Martini with lemon while we were waiting, and I would daresay you ought to do this to if you want to pay tribute to this great abruzzese lady and her treasured recipe.
It keeps for a few days and it stays crunchy and slightly crumbly. Best married with pecorino shavings, salame cacciatorino and ice-cold wine.