The idea for these terra firma inspired treats came about through musing on the idea of mudlarking and truffle hunting, seeking out treasures from the ground. Each ingredient in this subtle combination has a deep relationship with the earth itself. The black chanterelle mushroom only exists by its symbiotic relationship with trees nourished by chalky or sandy earth. Cereals and herbs may be more prosaic fruits of the earth but their very abundance makes them staple ingredients in many recipes.
For the sourdough starter
A very simple, traditional dish from Lunigiana, Tuscany. Originally this mix of pasta/pancake batter was cooked in pans with a flat base made of terracotta and a domed lid called a ‘testo’. This gave the dough its characteristic shape and texture. ‘Terracotta’ in Italian means ‘cooked earth’. In this recipe, two old varieties of grain – spelt and buckwheat – are used, and the testaroli are served with a pesto made from the rustic Piedmontese Castelmagno cheese.
For the testaroli
Pour the water in a bowl. Slowly add both of the flours, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Add the salt. Heat a flat cast iron pan over a high heat. Lightly grease with olive oil. When hot, pour enough batter to form a disc of around 3 – 5mm thickness. Cook for 2 – 3 min.
When the bottom starts to brown, turn with a flat spatula and cook the other side until lightly brown. Remove from the pan and place on a flat surface. Cut into diamond shapes of around 5cm diameter. Heat a large pan with salted water. Once boiled, remove from the heat, add the testaroli and leave them in the water for around 3 minutes. When they start to float to the surface, take them out and drain. For the pesto Blend together all the ingredients until smooth. This is a simple, basic pesto where cooked spelt grains, used as as substitute for the pine nuts, impart their particular nutty taste. If you can’t find Castelmagno cheese, use a mature farmhouse cheddar such as Montgomery. Serve the testaroli with the pesto, decorated with a few torn basil leaves.