Like most children growing up with two languages, my son, Luca, was slow to speak. Then, when he did, slowly, he mixed them. Not so much confused but resourceful; when he couldn’t find the word in one language he just used the other, creating Italian and English word-sandwiches, which, despite knowing better, made me smile – or worse, laugh, and he would scowl at me. But no scowl was greater than the one when I told him he was lucky that he was half-Italian and half-English. He scrunched his face up, but didn’t make any noise – just stared – then walked away. A few minutes later, he came back into the kitchen, reinforced with a toy. “I am half nothing,” he told me. “Sono tutto Italiano, and all English.”
This was a few years ago now, but I flash back often, especially when something I say or do is met with a dark scowl. Aged nine, he not only speaks two languages, but he is now the one laughing: at my imperfect Italian and Vincenzo’s great but accent-soaked English, but also at himself; his intentional mixing, bi-lingual swearing, his choice of two words from both languages.
The choosing is particularly noisy around food and at the table, the setting for so much laughter and silent scowling. Also when he helps me cook, which happens less often as I’d like to say, because I am so often impatient, or working to a deadline. In fact, this is not a column about me encouraging my child to cook, but about Luca asking me to let him spezzare (break) the chocolate for the pudding, il budino. Why use only one good-sounding word when you have two?
The Vocabolario Treccani notes that budino comes from the English “pudding”, under the influence of the French boudin. The origins are uncertain, but it certainly meant a sausage; originally a blood one. In the same way that English black pudding is related to pudding, Italian sanguinaccio – blood sausage – is related to sweet sanguinaccio: a rich, dense budino made with blood and chocolate. While in England pudding signifies a universe of different and wondrous forms, the Italian budino signifies a softly set preparation, which can be made of various things. The Vocabolario Treccani goes on to describe budino as prepared with flour or other ingredients (rice, semolina, potatoes, ricotta, almonds, chocolate, milk, eggs, sugar) and cooked in a mould in the oven, a bagnomaria, or simply over a low heat, which is what I, what we, do.
The magazine La Cucina Italiana promises you can make this budino in a mould and invert it on to a plate. It is my failing, I’m sure, that I have never had success in doing this, unless I double the cornflour, which means I lose the soft, tender wobble, which is part of the pleasure of this untroubled budino. And I like it served in a big bowl in the middle of the table, ready to be dolloped into bowls. It is even better served with thick cream. Just remember there are many words, in both languages, to describe this budino or pudding – many of them funny, all good, all whole.
Budino di cioccolato – chocolate pudding
Prep 5 min
Cook 10 min
Chill 5 hr+
1 litre whole milk
200g caster sugar
200g dark chocolate, chopped
In a pan, heat the milk until it almost boils. Meanwhile, in another pan, melt the butter and sugar over a low flame until they turn to liquid, remove from the heat and whisk in the cornflour, making sure there are no lumps.
Still off the heat, gradually add the milk to the butter/sugar/cornflour mixture, whisking constantly.
Put the pan back over a low flame and, always stirring, bring it back to an almost-boil, which should take about six minutes. Add the chocolate and whisk strongly for another minute so it melts. Scrape into a bowl or mould, or six individual glasses or cups, and chill for at least five hours.