FEBRUARY is here already and with it brings two dates that feature food at their hearts - Valentine’s Day and Pancake Day.

In Italy Valentine’s Day is known as La Festa Degli Innamorati (the day of lovers). Some believe the tradition  dates back to the Roman Empire, when the day celebrated the Queen of Roman gods and goddesses, Juno. 

Another theory says Valentine’s Day is thanks to St. Valentine, a priest who defied the Roman emperor’s order banning marriage during wartime.

The story behind Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday as it is formally known, isn’t all that cheery either.

Shrove Tuesday is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Italians don’t celebrate Pancake Day as we know it, but they do celebrate the start of Lent, the six-week period leading up to Easter.

Lent is a time of solemn observance and preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. To do this Catholics will abstain from certain things for 40 days. These days it can be anything, but,traditionally it would be food.

Pancakes were the perfect food for using up eggs and fats before the period of Lent began. Traditionally Catholics will abstain from consuming meat, eggs and fats, as a re-enactment of Jesus’s suffering during the 40 days and 40 nights he spent in the desert being tempted by Satan.

While Italian recipes can often be very healthy, that isn’t always the case. Italian food can often be temptingly indulgent - certainly not the sorts of foods you will be eating during Lent.

One such indulgent food, often consumed by Italians on Valentine’s Day, are Baci di Cioccolato, which translates into English as chocolate kisses.

Baci di Cioccolato are biscuits. Little chocolate sandwiches that originated in Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, one of the most famous love stories in the world. In fact, in some places they are referred to as Juliet’s Kisses, thanks to their close connection with the Shakespeare play.

The bite-sized chocolate biscuits have a delicious nutty flavour thanks to their ingredients. They are usually made with either ground almonds or ground hazelnuts, and are usually sandwiched together with a generous dollop of Nutella.

So if you’re planning on giving up chocolate in anticipation of Easter, why not give these little chocolate biscuits a go? If not for yourself, then for the one you love.


For the biscuits

2 eggs

150g caster sugar

90g dark chocolate, grated

20g unsweetened cocoa powder

75g plain flour

100g ground almonds

For the filling

300g hazelnuts

100g chocolate

1 tablespoon hazelnut oil

3 tablespoons icing sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 190 C/Gas 5 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

2. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat with the sugar until a pale and creamy mixture forms. Stir in the grated chocolate, cocoa, plain flour and the ground almonds. Mix the contents of the bowl until a dough is formed. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

3. Form the dough into small balls, and place on the prepared baking tray. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.

4. Bake in the oven until firm to the touch, which should take about 15 minutes. Leave the oven on to make the filling.

5. While your biscuits cool prepare the filling. Take the hazelnuts and spread them out in a single layer across a baking tray. Roast the hazelnuts in the oven until they are brown. This should take approximately 10-15 minutes.

6. While the hazelnuts are still warm, place them inside a food processor and blitz until a paste is formed. Remove the paste from the food processor, scraping the sides with a spatula.

7. Place the chocolate in a bowl and melt above a pan of simmering water. Alternatively, you can melt your chocolate in the microwave until smooth.

8. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, the vanilla, sugar, cocoa powder and salt to the hazelnut mixture and return to the food processor. Blitz until the mixture is smooth. Add in the melted chocolate and blitz the mixture again. Ensure it is well blended. If it is too thick add a little more oil.

9. Transfer the mixture to a container and leave in the fridge to cool and thicken. If your mixture firms up too much in the fridge, simply microwave for a few seconds to soften it again.

6. When the filling is ready take a biscuit and spread a generous dollop of the filling inside and then use another biscuit to make a sandwich. Repeat until you have used up all of the biscuits and enjoy.