Liquorice cupcakes, anyone? Only (if at all) with the finest liquorice in the world, which of course grows in Italy, on the Ionian coast of Calabria. There, in Rossano, the Amarelli family has been dealing in the plant since around 1500 and extracting its bittersweet flavour for almost 300 years. So they know what they’re doing.
The magic is this: they select the roots, extract the juices, and boil them down to the right concentration to produce a dense, glistening black paste, which solidifies into those aromatic little black pellets you either love or hate. These they pop into diminutive tin boxes, very retrò, and ship all over the world.
Those are just the basics, of course. These days, Amarelli offers a whole range of liquorice-based products: from the pure and unsweetened in various shapes to soft comfits laced with orange or violet; from 20g tins to 1kg boxes; from liqueur to cologne.
Factory and offices are still located in the family seat, a fortified mansion dating back to the 15th century. And there, too, is the award-winning Liquorice Museum, with guided tours which need to be booked.
Now back to the cupcakes, which weren’t a joke. You’ll find the recipe, and many others just as unlikely, here on the Amarelli website, though unfortunately – or mercifully, depending on your passion for liquorice – only in Italian for the time being.