In Sardinia, we went to a local night market and one of the stands there had me fascinated.
A big strong man with an apron was standing there shouting stuff in Italian. Then with a great big swing of his cleaver he would bang down on his chopping board. How he kept missing his fingers I have no idea.
I stood closer to see what the white stuff was that he was massacring into neat little squares was and to my delight, I saw freshly made nougat! I was mesmerised. The rest of the world zoned out. I stood to the side and watched. How else was I going to figure out how to get some?
I wish I’d taken my camera. He would take these huge bricks of nougat, filled with hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds and violently chop off giant chunks. He’d weigh it, shout something loudly, quickly wrap it up, hand it over and take the money. More shouting, more people, more chopping, more nougat.
Somebody spoke to me, “What?” It was my husband urging me to get over my nerves of not speaking Italian and buy some. He nudged me forward.
Ummm… ummmm…(I had to point and use my hands)…that one. This much? Oh, ok that much. “Division?” Did he say Division? Oh, divide? Nod! Yes please! Si! And he deftly cut up the chunk into bite-sized pieces. “Quattro!” Quattro? ummm… four. Four Euros. Got it!
And that’s how I got handed the best nougat I’ve ever had in my life. It’s packed full of nuts and you can taste the fresh honey. It’s gooey, not spongey. It melts. Smooth, creamy, chunky, crunchy – It’s just divine!
So I came back, googled it and photographed the tiny bit I hadn’t scoffed.
Turns out what we call nougat, isn’t originally from Sardinia, but they have been making it, for centuries using traditional methods and recipes. They think it’s one of the oldest forms of sweets ever made and seems to be related to halva.
In some places it’s called nougat, others torrone or turrone. All that I know is that it’s addictive and very photogenic.