Sun, Sea and Spritzer

I have been absent without leave not through a lazy lack of blogging, but through a real absence from the UK for a two week teaching stint in Northern Italy.

La Spezia

La Spezia

As interesting as the food and eating habits have been I have merely been far too tired to do anything other than teach, plan and slot in the odd visit to here and there in those golden snatches of free time not spent sleeping. Not to mention my lack of a computer and limited wireless connectivity. Luckily being backwards with my choice of mobile technology I can freely type this post on the qwerty keypad on my phone. This post is brought to you courtesy of Blackberry (or not as the bloody thing would not let me post it for some odd reason but here it is, regurgitated from my drafts folder).

The aforementioned moments of freedom have consisted of visitations to some of the most beautiful, awe inspiring sights in the world. Italy of course being a place of flagrant natural beauty, you do not have to go out of your way to find something worth seeing, unless visiting  mediocre Milano. In fact, merely waking up here in beautiful La Spezia and looking out of the window instils one of the purest feelings of joy known to humankind, the philosophical acknowledgment that you are alive and truly living in a beautiful world. Something that one often takes for granted in industrial Birmingham.

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Anyway, the whole point of this post and something worth mentioning in my food blog before I get back and write up a backlog of recipes, is the much deserved after work aperitivo in the form of the delightfully refreshing Spritzer. This drink is according to a colleague alike the Campari but thankfully less bitter, I believe made from Aperol (something not so easy to come by back home). Something to be enjoyed after a hard day of the cattle herding or crowd controlling kindly given the euphemism of teaching. For 6 euros each we were not only blessed with a huge glass of the stuff, it came with an accompaniment of snacks and light bites. Nuts, crisps, olives, foccacia, fries and not to mention the classic fish finger, seemingly thrown in as an afterthought as the waiter brings this out last, but certainly not least.

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Quite bizarrely (to my obviously ignorant English brain) this is all brought out before the drink, which makes its way over to us after an expectant and impatient wait. A salty fix to make the palate all the more ready for the Spritz to come? Who knows, but a pleasant surprise to apparent ignorant brits who only bargained for a cheeky after work Spritz. Reminiscent of the free tapas with alcoholic beverage offered in Madrid.

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So for all who choose to venture to idyllic Italy for work or for pleasure be aware of this thrifty, refreshing beverage made only sweeter by the food that accompanies it.

Chocolate crunch/Chocolate concrete!!!!

Another school classic! My food over the last week or so has been the closest I will get to a time machine, transporting me back to those innocent years prior to adulthood corruption . This was the crowning glory of school dinners, served with pink, strawberry flavoured custard, chocolate crunch was the treat that defined those treasured formative years.

Understandably, I underwent feelings of pity, shock and dismay when I found that my manfriend  had never heard of the stuff! Scandalous! Being 3 years younger than myself I thought that perhaps this was one of the things that Jamie got rid of in his butchering of the typical canteen style school dinner. Upon further investigation (in the form of words had with colleagues, friends and family about said subject), I found this to be an invalid conclusion. Those of a similar age to my partner had also experienced chocolate crunch at school with its famous pink partner in crime, some even mention a green peppermint custard companion, something I was never bestowed with.

This led me to thinking. Is chocolate crunch a regional phenomenon? Is it just a Brummie thing? With my manfreind being from Nottingham, further probing of friends from outside of Birmingham found that they had also never heard of it. This explanation was beginning to seem more and more likely. Eventually, further investigation exposed this as an untruth (a friend from the same side of Birmingham had also never heard of it).

Curiouser and curiouser!

This travesty in the form of the depravation of one of childhoods most treasured puds could only be fixed through an accurate dedication to chocolate crunch replication.  I was too lazy to make my own custard so the plain (non pink) tinned stuff would have to do.

In all honesty my friends deprivation was a mere excuse for rustling this up. The truth of the matter is, I wanted something easy and chocolatey that could be whipped up in the time it took for my dinner to go down, this literally takes 30mins from start to finish!

A four ingredient wonder, that is too easy to be true. For those who have never tried it, is not unlike an amalgamation of a cake and a biscuit. I assume granulated sugar should always be used to boost the crunchy texture.

Best eaten warm with custard, but can also enjoyed as a cold crunchy snack!

Chocolate Crunch/ Concrete

200g plain flour

200g granulated sugar

100g butter (melted)

50 cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180.  Line tin with baking parchment (I used 20cm square tin). Mix flour, sugar, cocoa. Finger mix (scrunch) until crumbly. Pour mixture into tin. Pack it down until compact (as with shortbread I like to punch it down because its fun). Cook for 20 mins. Once removed sprinkle with a little granulated sugar.

Bad quality photo courtesy of Blackberry

Bad quality photo courtesy of Blackberry

Please note, this is more crunchy when cold, if you like it softer eat straight from the oven!!!