October 28, 2017 10:30 am
At this time of year when numerous celebrations are happening worldwide, you can discover plenty of delicious festive dishes from around the globe to whet your appetite. For this reason, we decided to share our traditions for both Halloween and All-Souls’ Day food. This week’s Food Term of the Week post will tell you the stories behind some classic festive dishes from this time of year, with a focus on three European countries: Ireland, Malta and Italy.
Known as barmbrack in English, this sweet bread with raisins or sultanas is a favourite in Ireland every Halloween. The name Báirín Breac translates literally as ‘speckled loaf’ and this is due to the dotted appearance it gets from the raisins inside it.
It can be eaten fresh, toasted or buttered and traditionally contains a small object that is said to bring either good or bad fortune to the person who finds it when eating. The small items, which are added to the mixture and baked into the loaf, can include a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a coin or a ring.
According to the old superstitions, receiving the pea meant that you would not get married for a year, the stick signified an unhappy marriage, the cloth represented poverty and the coin riches. The ring, which is the typical item found in most loaves nowadays, meant that the person would be wed within a year.
Għadam tal-Mejtin or Dead Man’s Bones
Cuisine in Malta is very much related to the time of the year, with multiple holidays and religious festivities to influence our food choices, be it Christmas, Easter, or the Maltese Festa season.
A large number of people would be eagerly waiting for the start of the month of November for countless different reasons. Students (and teachers) would be thrilled to have their first few days of vacation, Halloween enthusiasts would be enjoying their favourite days and cold weather fans would be cheering as their favourite season would be fast approaching. However, one thing is common amongst all of these people. They all look forward to the second day of November remembering our dearly departed on All Souls’ Day, to get their hands on some ‘Għadam tal-Mejtin’ or literally, ‘Dead Man’s Bones’.
Even though it might sound morbid, the ‘Għadam tal-Mejtin’ are actually delicious almond-filled cookies in the shape of a bone. Even though they are not too difficult to make, they are only available to buy between the last week of October and mid-November in basically all confectioners’ shops.
This treat is essentially a ground almond mixture sandwiched between two pieces of rectangular pastry and then shaped to resemble a bone, covered in white icing to further the resemblance.
Italy has some traditions to share as well. Typical dishes are different throughout the peninsula, but many regions share the custom of having very sugary pastries and desserts on November 2nd, All Souls’ day. They can be quite varied, combining various ingredients and different preparation methods, and usually they bring to mind creepy images such as bones or flesh. Even though this may seem slightly distressing, they all taste delicious and they enjoy worldwide appeal when served!
Moreover, one thing they all have in common is the creepy name!
Fave dei Morti
This is a dessert which is popular in the regions of north-east and central Italy: Fave dei Morti. Literally meaning dead mans’ broad beans, a lugubrious name which recalls the shape they take; they are made with almond dough covered with powder sugar, and can be compared to the Maltese ‘Għadam tal-Mejtin’.
Torrone dei Morti
If we move a little bit further south, in Campania, the region that’s home to Napoli, we find the Torrone dei Morti, dead mans’ torrone, a nougat sweet composed of hazelnut cream and covered with dark chocolate. It also resembles a bone, especially when it is cut, revealing the white filling inside. According to tradition, in the past it used to be prepared to relieve the journey of the dead men towards the afterlife, and it which they in turn offered to heaven.
Surprise your family and friends by trying to prepare these Halloween and All Souls’ Day specialties from around Europe!
Do you have any particular food in your country which is prepared specifically for this time of year?
- The Telegraph, Rachel Allen’s Barmbrack recipe. Available here [Accessed on 26/10/17].
- Food Ireland, Barmbrack – Báirín Breac. Available here [Accessed on 26/10/17].
- Dougall, A.B. Klabb tat-Tisjir, available here [Accessed 24 October 2017]
- AIFB Associazione Italiana Food Blogger, Il torrone dei morti, available here [Accessed 27 October 2017]
- Il Giornale del Cibo, I 10 dolci più buoni e inquietanti della festa dei morti, available here [Accessed 26 October 2017]
Liam Kennedy – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate of Journalism with a Language (French) at Dublin Institute of Technology. Currently completing a Masters in Translation Studies at University College Cork;
Veronica Lynn Mizzi – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate in the Maltese Language and Communication, and Master’s graduate in Translation and Terminology Studies from the University of Malta;
Carolina Quaranta – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Student of Master in Public and Political Communication in the University of Torino, Italy; freelance journalist.
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