There are still a few spots left in our Abruzzo Forage and Cook Retreat in Italy this coming October! We thought we would talk a bit more about the vegan menu that we were able to develop for this retreat, as well as share a traditionally vegan cookie recipe from Abruzzo.
Traveling through Italy as a vegan (and in some cases even as a vegetarian) can be rough. Sure, you will be able to get by ok, but you will also inevitably miss out on a ton of truly authentic and delicious dishes, and may even end up eating more than a few mediocre vegan meals. We’re speaking from experience. That’s why we initially planned our retreat to be strictly vegetarian – we didn’t think we could pull off a vegan menu in such a remote region as Abruzzo. But so many of you expressed an interest in a 100% vegan menu, that we had to rethink the whole thing.
Thankfully, our partner Anna is an Abruzzo local. She was able to take a deep dive into the food traditions of Abruzzo and search for any and all plant-based options. She consulted with local farmers, food artisans, and restaurant owners, and it became very clear that a vegan menu is totally possible (we are still offering a vegetarian option, too). A wealth of plant-based ingredients grows in Abruzzo: ancient grains, indigenous pulses, organic fruit and vegetables, wild greens and herbs, truffles and porcini mushrooms. We will be cooking and tasting them all! It’s going to be so magical, and it’s truly an opportunity of a lifetime.
Read on for more about the retreat and, of course, the super cute cookies :)
Book Now! Click here to book your stay on our retreats website :)
Why come to our Vegan Abruzzo Forage and Cook retreat?
Plant-based menu. We have researched and prepared traditional, plant-based menus, filled with naturally vegan and vegetarian recipes that the locals have enjoyed for centuries. Ancient grains, indigenous pulses, organic fruit and vegetables, wild greens and herbs, truffles and porcini mushrooms – you will get to taste the best of the traditional local cuisine, virtually unheard of abroad. Click here to see a sample menu.
Immersive cultural experience. We forage and cook our way through mountain villages that are mostly untouched by tourism and offer an incredibly authentic, immersive cultural experience. We partner with locals to learn about their crafts and traditions, like foraging for fresh truffles and herbs, as well as wine and olive oil production. Click here to see a sample itinerary.
Affordable, discounted rates. Thanks to our local partner, Abruzzo With Gusto, our guests stay in incredible, 5-star places at discounted rates. We will be staying at Sextantio in the medieval village of Santo Stefano and Pietrantica, a farmhouse guesthouse in Decontra.
Learn traditional recipes. We host hands-on cooking classes, led by Abruzzo locals, where you can gain unforgettable skills, like pasta-making with heritage grain flour, cooking with wild foraged greens, and making local herb cocktails and tea.
Cook with Anya. Inspired by the Abruzzese traditions, I will be teaching a cooking class, where you’ll get to cook through several of my recipes based around fresh, seasonal ingredients, with a modern twist.
Get in touch with your inner wanderer. The retreat is a perfect opportunity to slow down, recharge, make things with your hands, explore, and get in touch with your inner wanderer.
Book Now! Click here to book your stay on our retreats website :)
And these cookies! These are just one great example of a traditionally vegan recipe from Abruzzo that we’ll be serving up at the retreat. Celli Ripieni translates as ‘stuffed birds’ – not a very vegan-friendly name, we know, but it sounds so much better in Italian :). They are made with a very simple, eggless and dairy-free olive oil dough that’s a true pleasure to work with. They are traditionally filled with grape jam and nuts. Since grapes are not in season right now, we thought we would instead fill ours with everyone’s favorite pink plant that is in season – rhubarb.
Anna told us that it’s hard to find these cookies in the traditional bird shape nowadays, and that the cookies are mostly shaped as less elaborate, jam-filled dumplings. We thought it would be fun to recreate the authentic bird shape, and it turned out to be pretty easy. Just take a peek at the gif above, where we demonstrate how to shape one. We love how old-school these feel.
The pastry tastes lovely, almost like shortbread, and it plays so well with the maple-stewed rhubarb and walnut filling. You could basically fill these with any stewed fruit that’s in season, or any jam that you have on hand. We hope you’ll give them a try!
- 3⅓ cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup plus 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup plus 4 tablespoons white wine
- 2-3 tablespoons coconut sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- 5 medium stalks of rhubarb - sliced into small pieces
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- splash of vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot
- 1 tablespoon purified water
- zest from 1 organic orange
- ½ cup raw walnuts - chopped
- small walnut pieces, cacao nibs or raisins - for the birds' eyes
- powdered sugar or more arrowroot powder - for dusting the finished cookies (optional)
- Mix all the pastry ingredients in a bowl until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Make sure not to overwork it. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic and let rest while preparing the rhubarb filling.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, maple syrup, and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and let simmer for 10 minutes, until the rhubarb turns into a uniform, jam-like mixture. Turn off the heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the arrowroot with 1 tablespoon of water. Add the mixture to the rhubarb and mix it in vigorously, until the rhubarb jam starts to thicken. Let the jam cool completely.
- Mix in the orange zest and raw walnuts, and you're ready to assemble your cookies.
- Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Prepare 2 parchment paper-covered baking sheets.
- Divide your dough into two halves. Wrap one of the halves tightly with plastic wrap and set aside. On a well-floured surface, roll out the other half of the dough into a sheet about ⅛" in thickness.
- Use a round cookie cutter or a glass/bowl about 3½"-4" in diameter to cut out rounds. Reshape the remaining dough and cut out more, until you've used up all the dough. Keep the dough rounds covered with a kitchen towel while you work.
- Place about 1 tablespoon of rhubarb jam in the center of a dough round. Fold it in half and pinch together the edges, like a dumpling. Shape one of the dumpling edges into a bird's head with a pinched out beak. Press a walnut piece, cacao nib, or raisin into the head, where the bird's eye would be. Shape the opposite edge of the dumpling into a tail by flattening it. Use kitchen scissors to cut the beak in half, cut some feathers into the tail, as well as cut some wing marks along the bird cookie's body. Refer to the instructional gif above for a visual. Place the cookie on the prepared baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough.
- Bake the cookies, one tray at a time, for about 30-40 minutes, until lightly golden. Start checking at 20 minutes. Let cool. Dust the cookies with powdered sugar or arrowroot powder, if desired, and serve.