Known more commonly as just Friuli, this region’s cuisine reflects its very individual history .Known more commonly as just Friuli, this region’s cuisine reflects its very individual history. Large areas of the region were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and were only ceded to Italy as part of the post-war Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1919. Culturally and gastronomically this means that the region retains strong links with Austria and German is the first language in many parts. Its position in the north of the country and its proximity to the Alps results in some hearty, warming dishes.
Nothing illustrates this culinary cross-fertilization better than jota. This is, at its heart, a Venetian bean soup in which sauerkraut has been substituted for the pasta. The result is a dish in which the acid sharpness cuts through the creaminess of the beans and with the addition of potatoes and possibly bacon produces something closer to a hotpot than a soup – definitely a dish ideal for its climate.
In the south, on the Adriatic, is the port of Trieste and from this city comes capesante gratinate, a dish that is now popular all over Italy. Simple to prepare it is, at its essence, scallops under breadcrumbs baked in the oven.
The Slovenian origin of ajvar lies in the name – this is a wonderful chutney made from charred peppers, roast aubergine and garlic blended together to produce a flavoursome accompaniment to cold meats and cheeses. Another dish from Friuli whose name reveals its non-Italian roots is presnitz. It seems to have been made for the first time in 1832 to honour the visit of the first Austro-Hungarian emperor, Francesco, and his consort to the city of Trieste when it was part of the Empire. There are numerous variations on the theme but they all feature puff pastry, either as a circle or spiral, stuffed with grated chocolate and hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds with raisins, sultanas and apricots. This is a very rich confection ideal for a cold winter’s day.