March 16th, 2010


Slow questing

A classic Italian treat of winter, at least in Venice, is pan d'oro, a soft, fluffy, sweet yeast bread accompanied with mascarpone and mostarda. (Mostarda, or "mustard fruits", are spiced, soft, candied fruits; how it's made is very regional.) If need be, the accompaniaments work quite nicely with panettone too, which is very similar to pan d'oro, but full of candied fruits, and usually sold in a different shape, loafier.

In early winter, I had a panettone, brought by my parents from Italy. Mascarpone is easy, sold by my local grocery store. Mostarda however, as far as I could tell from my local grocery shelves and lack of time to go to central London and specialty shops. (Mind you, I tried Selfridges, and they didn't have it.) I ransacked the web for UK-based mail-order places which had the "right" kind of mostarda. Venice has taught me that puréed quince mostarda is the way to go, not these random assorted whole fruit ones available from elsewhere. But no quince mostarda was to be found - so random assorted fruit ones it was.

I ordered it over two weeks before leaving for Christmas travels. Over a week later, it shipped. I hadn't paid for express shipping since I hadn't expected it to need so much time. It was delayed by Christmas post, and didn't arrive until afterwards, when it waited for me to come back for several weeks with a neighbor. It was vaguely stressful waiting for it, the suspense of the undelivered package, and, in the end, we had to eat the panettone while it was still fit. Before the mostarda arrived.

By the time we returned, local shops were sold out of the pan*s; it's a relatively recent Christmas food in this country. So we had mostarda, but nothing to eat it with. (Well, it would go well with meat, but I had bought it for such a specific reason!) Recently, I saw it for sale at the semi-local Waitrose; had I known - were they out before? - I could have saved myself shipping costs.

Easter is the other season of panettone. (And perhaps pan d'oro too?) An email arrived today from the company which took forever the first time around to send me my mostarda. They're having a major sale on panettone and pan d'oro. Most are £2.99 or £3.99. I gave in. Sometime in the next few weeks, if all goes well, there will be pan d'oro. Mascarpone is still easily acquired. Now if only it were the right kind of mostarda....