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PANETTONE AND PANFORTE for an ITALIAN CHRISTMAS

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Photo by Patrick Varney, Raglan Images for  Italianicious ( magazine) Nov- Dec 2010

I first posted the content of this post on Dec 20th, 2010. I called it: PER NATALE, COSA SI MANGIA? At Christmas, what do you eat?

I am able to view the stats for each of my posts and all of the posts about Christmas have been viewed many times, but this one has not been popular. Is it the title?

It contains some general information about the food that is common in Sicily around Christmas time but it also contains information about Panettone and Panforte – both popular at Christmas. There is also a recipe for Panforte.

Now, on Dec 15, 2014, it is time to post it again and give it another title:

PANETTONE AND PANFORTE for an ITALIAN CHRISTMAS

 

CHRISTMAS IN SICILY

You are probably wondering what Sicilians eat for Christmas in Sicily.

When the respected writer Mary Taylor Simeti (an expatriate American, married to a Sicilian organic wine maker and farmer and most importantly, one of the greatest authorities and writer about Sicilian food) visited Melbourne recently, she and I and pastry cook Marianna De Bartoli, who owns Dolcetti, a pasticceria in North Melbourne, were all asked this same question during an interview for Italianicious Magazine (Nov-Dec issue 2010).

We all gave the same answer, which is that there is no one answer since the cuisine and traditional food of Sicily is very regional. Sicily may be a small island, but the food is very localised and very different from region to region.

The three of us also agreed that Christmas Eve was more important than Christmas day – it is a meatless occasion and fish is the first choice. In some places Sicilians eat stoccofisso (stockfish) or baccala, where in others they eat eel. Usually families wait up and go to midnight Mass. And for those that do, Christmas lunch will often begin with a light first course. For example, chicken broth with maybe some pastina (small pasta suitable for broth) or polpettine (small meatballs) made with shredded cooked chicken meat, egg, a little fresh bread and grated cheese.

In Ragusa, where my father’s family comes they tend to eat the same foods as they do at Easter: scacce and large ravioli stuffed with ricotta dressed with a strong ragu (meat sauce) made with tomato conserva (tomato paste) and pork meat.

These are followed by some small sweets like cotognata (quince paste), nucateli  and giuggiulena (sesame seed torrone).

In other parts of the island gallina ripiena (stuffed chicken cooked in broth) is popular, while others may eat a baked pasta dish, for example: anelletti al forno. timballo di maccheroni or lasagne made with a very rich, strong meat ragu. This may be followed by capretto (kid) either roasted or braised.

There may be cassata or cannoli for dessert or the wreath shaped buccellato made with dried figs, almonds, walnuts, sultanas and spices (from Latin buccellatum meaning ring or wreath).

There are links to recipes for all the words in blue above.

PANFORTE or PANETTONE FOR CHRISTMAS

Both panettone and panforte are popular Christmas sweets in Italy.

In recent years panforte has become popular in Australia, but you are probably more familiar with panettone. This may be because there are so many different brands of panettone available and they are exported to many parts of the world, especially in countries where Italians have migrated.

Italians are very happy to buy both of these Christmas sweets and the big brands are of excellent quality. Generally Italians where ever they live would rather buy these than make them at home. I have never tried to make panettone but I have made panforte several times very successfully.

PANETTONE

This Christmas sweet bread is now popular not just in northern Italy where it originated.

It is said that the early version of panettone ( means bread big) was not the light textured, yeast perfumed, fruit bread we are familiar with, before it was made common by industrial production. It was a type of heavy, enriched, Milanese fruit bread baked at home and not just eaten at Christmas time. Panettone was made famous and affordable when it was commercially produced (from the 1920’s) and railed all over Italy. As a child growing up in Trieste the most famous panettone was the Motta brand (and still a well known brand in Italy) and part of the charm was opening the box and releasing the fragrance.

Popular brand of Panforte

PANFORTE

Panforte is from Siena (within Tuscany) and contains exotic spices of ancient times. It is made with dry fruit and nuts – candied orange peel, citron, chopped almonds, spices, honey, butter and sugar and very little flour to bind the ingredients; it has no yeast, has a very solid texture and is shaped like a disc. Panforte (from pane forte) means strong bread and in earlier times it may have been derived from the Tuscan pane pepato (peppered bread), meaning strongly peppered with spices.

Just like panettone there are some excellent varieties of imported panforte. I like Panforte Margherita (the light coloured version developed in honour Queen Margaret of Savoy’s visit to Siena). Panforte Nero is the dark variety made with dark chocolate.

Being a purist (or as my daughter used to refer to me as a food fascist) I cringe when I see ”gourmet” versions of panforte for sale, some of these contain glace cherries, or glace ginger; I even hesitate at the inclusion of pistachio or macadamia, not the norm, but could be more acceptable.

My favourite recipe is from The Italian Baker by Carol Field (recipe below).

In spite of writing recipes, I am not one for following recipes closely. I always improvise and adapt amounts of ingredients to suit my taste. For example I double the amount of pepper, nutmeg and coriander.  On occasions I have also included walnuts and pine nuts which were included in panpepato, a predecessor.

If I make Panforte Nero I add unsweetened cocoa (Dutch cocoa powder about 2-3 tablespoons) and some bittersweet chocolate.

 Ingredients:
1 cup whole hazelnuts,
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup candied orange peel and citron, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
¼ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon cloves, ground
¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg, ground
½ teaspoon black pepper, ground
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup honey
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Method:
Heat the oven to 180c.
Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet until the skins pop and blister, 10 to 15 minutes.  Rub the skins from the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet until very pale golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Chop the almonds and hazelnuts very coarsely. Mix the nuts, orange peel, citron, lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, nutmeg and pepper together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.
Use a 9 inch springform pan; line the bottom and sides with baking paper Heat the sugar, honey, and butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until the syrup registers 242 to 248 on a candy thermometer (a little of the mixture will form a ball when dropped into cold water). Immediately pour the syrup into the nut mixture and stir quickly until thoroughly blended.  Pour immediately into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  The batter will become stiff and sticky very quickly so you must work fast.
Bake about 30 to 40 minutes.  The panforte won’t colour or seem very firm even when ready, but it will harden as it cools. Cool on a rack until the cake is firm to the touch. Remove the side of the pan and invert the cake onto a sheet of paper. Peel off the baking paper. Dust heavily with confectioners’ sugar.
Love this stuff!!

 

CULINARY JEWELS OF SICILY – A Spring event at Waratah Hills Vineyard

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On Saturday, 20 September 2014  I will be at Waratah Hills Vineyard conducting a lunch time masterclass of Sicilian cooking .

Waratah Hills Vineyard is located on the road to the iconic Wilsons Promontory National Park. It is one of the southern most vineyards on the Australian mainland. The cool, maritime climate wine region is acknowledged as one of the best Pinot Noir producing areas in Australia.

Waratah Wine & hills 1

The owners are Judy and Neil Travers. They have a  simple philosophy is to do everything possible to produce grapes of the highest quality. The artisan approach to detail involves hand picking by clones in small batches at just the right intensity of ripeness.

Waratah Wine & hills 2

Waratah Hills Vineyard was planted 17 years ago in the burgundy style of low trellising and close planting.

It is a beautifully sited vineyard with two acres of Chardonnay planted on a north south slope and seven acres of Pinot Noir separated by a band of trees into two distinctly different areas of the property.

In 2012 Judy and Neil Travers we were delighted to receive the Victorian Tourism Minister’s Encouragement Award for New and Emerging Tourism Businesses.

Waratah Wine & hills 4
This is the information on the flyer:

Culinary jewels of Sicily

On Saturday, 20 September Waratah Hills Vineyard is hosting a lunch time masterclass of Sicilian cooking conducted by Marisa Raniolo Wilkins.

Marisa has written two books on Sicilian cooking; Sicilian Seafood Cooking and Small Fishy Bites.

She is a vivacious fusion of cultures and experience. Her food is very much driven by a curiosity of exploring her cultural origins. The recipes and ingredients of Sicily reflect the influences of the Mediterranean from ancient times to the modern day.

Born in Sicily and raised in Trieste before migrating to Australia with her parents, she regularly visits her extended family in Italy and Sicily; each visit adding to her knowledge of first-hand wonderful food experience.

Places are limited for this hands on three-course cooking, eating and drinking experience at $120 per head. Course notes and recipes are provided for you to take home.

Email vineyard@waratahhills.com.au or phone 03 5683 2441 to reserve your seat at the table.

Marisa portrait 2

The 20th September is in Spring and the menu will feature Spring produce and recipes.

I hope to see you there.

What could be better than a very pleasant experience in this beautiful  part of the world!

Check out their wines – you will not be disappointed:

Waratah Hills Winery

http://waratahhills.com.au/

Marisa

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RADICCHIO, TUNA AND BORLOTTI SALAD and BRAISED FENNEL WITH TAPENADE

Continued from: IN PRAISE OF WINTER VEGETABLES

The red radicchio was made into a salad with canned tuna, cooked borlotti and red onion (Recipe from my book: Small Fishy Bites, Marisa Raniolo Wilkins,  New Holland publisher).

The fennel was braised and topped with tapenade.

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INSALATA DI TONNO, FAGIOLI E RADICCHIO (Tuna salad with borlotti beans and radicchio)

This very simple salad was popular as an antipasto or a light meal when I was growing up as child in Trieste. In the Triestian dialect this salad is called Insalata di tonno, fazoi, zivola e radiccio.

Trieste is in North Eastern Italy not far from Venice and if you are ever in Trieste you are likely to find this salad in any trattoria (for home style food) especially those trattorie that have a buffet.

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No quantities needed for the recipe – the proportions are up to you. I like more beans than tuna and I cook my own (well covered with water, soaked overnight, change the water and cook slowly – no salt – bay leaves or a stick celery,  whole carrot or whole onion do add flavour).

If you are using canned beans, a tin is 400g. A tin of tuna 425g.

If the tuna is not packed in oil, drain it before using.

INGREDIENTS AND PROCESS

tinned tuna (packed in oil, the tuna is not drained and is broken up with a fork)
borlotti beans (drained if canned)
red radicchio
red onion, finely cut rings
 
For the dressing combine extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, a little French mustard and some salt and pepper.
 
You can combine all of the ingredients together or layer it.
Layer it:
Place red radicchio leaves at the bottom of a bowl as a bed for the salad. Next, put on the beans, then the tuna and onion as the top layer.
Pour over the dressing.
 
 

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BRAISED FENNEL

Sometimes a little bit of imagination makes an old favourite look special. This is just baked fennel with black olives but the special touch is that I used tapenade (which I make regularly and usually have some on standby in the fridge – see photo above).

I have written about making tapenade. See: TAPENADE

1-2 fennel bulbs
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup tapenade
¾ cup white wine, stock or water or pernod, a mixture any
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs butter
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper 
 
Prepare the fennel:
Remove the fennel stalks that are not worth saving from the bulbs and discard – keep some of the fresher ones (this is mainly done for appearance but may be  also be suitable for eating). Trim away any bruised or discoloured portion of the bulbs. Cut the bulbs length-wise (vertically) into eights (or more or less) depending on the size of the fennel. Save the fronds.
 
Add the sliced fennel to a pan with hot olive oil and butter and sauté for 5-10 minutes, turning occasionally.
Add seasoning and about 1 cup of liquid (see above). Add garlic and fronds.
Cook uncovered on gentle- moderate heat for about 10 minutes, the liquid will reduce but add more if necessary
Add a teaspoon of sugar to help caramelize the juices. Increase the heat to evaporate any liquid left in the pan – this will result with the fennel cooking in the left over oil and butter and turning a deep gold colour. .
Place the fennel on a dish and pour over it any juices. Add a couple of spoonfuls of tapenade to the pan and heat it – only just to take off the chill.  Spoon the tapenade onto the fennel and serve. I guess the chives add to the composition but these are not necessary.

SPAGHETTI CHI RICCI – SPAGHETTI CON RICCI DI MARE (Spaghetti with sea urchins)

Sicilian 289 Sphaghetti w Sea Urchins.tif.p
When in Sicily eating Spaghetti With Sea Urchins (Spaghetti chi Ricci) is a must.

They are relatively unknown culturally in Australia and have been next to non-existent commercially.
Sea urchins have a unique taste – they are considered a delicacy by Italians and are popular particularly with the Japanese, French, and Greeks. The gonads of both sexes of sea urchins are referred to as roe (which sounds nicer than testes and ovaries).

They are called ricci in Italy (means curly, the spines of sea urchins are curly at the ends) and when I was a child visiting Sicily, I remember finding sea urchins under rocks on the beach — family and friends wrapped their hands in newspaper and went looking for them at low tide. Most of the time it was very easy to find 4 to 6 sea urchins for each of us to eat raw — the urchins were simply cut in half using a very sharp knife, revealing the yellow-orange roe that was easily removed with a teaspoon and eaten from the spoon with a squeeze of lemon juice.

The next favourite method of eating them was as a dressing for pasta.

In my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking there is a recipe for this. I had great trouble finding sea urchins to cook (and to be photographed) for my book that was published November 2011.

Sicilian 285 Sphaghetti w Sea Urchins.tif.p

At the time I found it surprising that there are about 42 species of sea urchins found in Australian waters and although they can be found in many locations, only a few are good tasting. Most are exported to Japan. The market price for fresh, chilled sea urchin roe varies considerably depending on colour and texture.

The Tasmanian sea urchin fishery is now the largest in Australia and I purchased Tasmanian roe from a specialist sea-food vendor (Ocean Made) who deals mainly with restaurateurs. I found some whole sea urchins at the Preston Market but when I opened them I found them very inferior in quality.

In the photographs (from my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking) you see the work of the photographer Graham Gilles and food stylist Fiona Rigg. I was the cook. The photo of the boats at Mondello is by Bob Evans.

Spaghetti are traditionally used for this recipe, but I also like ricci with egg pasta, either fresh or dry  — narrow linguine  — a delicate taste, which in my opinion complement the sweet, fresh taste of the roe.

I ate my best ever pasta with sea urchins in a restaurant in Mondello (close to Palermo) and I am sure that this included lemon – grated peel and juice so I have included these in the recipe.

And one last thing — the sea urchins are not cooked and are mixed with the hot pasta at the time of serving. The aroma is indescribable. Bottarga is sometimes grated on top of the pasta and anchovies are commonly added to the sauce to accentuate the taste, but this is optional.

For 6 people

spaghetti, 500g. If I am using fresh pasta, I use 600g
sea urchins, 3-8 per person
garlic, 4-5 cloves, chopped finely
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground black pepper or chili flakes
parsley, ¾ cup cut finely
anchovies, 3 cut finely (optional)
1-2 red fresh chilies cut finely

finely grated lemon peel of 1 lemon, and the juice

½ cup of your best quality, extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top of the pasta at the end.
If you have purchased whole sea urchins, using a short and very sharp knife or scissors cut into the shell and enter the riccio di mare via the mouth (you will see the opening).
Split the sea urchins in half and remove the soft urchin flesh using a spoon. Place the roes into a bowl and discard all the rest. Break up the sea urchins into smaller pieces – they are soft so use a spoon.
Cook the pasta and while the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce.
Heat the ¾ cup of olive oil, add the garlic and over slow heat cook the garlic slowly until it becomes translucent.
Add chili and anchovies – the anchovies will dissolve in the hot oil.
Add this mixture of oil to the hot just drained pasta at the same time as the sea urchins and toss quickly to coat.
Add the parsley, lemon peel and the juice. Toss well to combine. Serve immediately and top each portion with a drizzle of your best olive oil – this is best done at the table.
Finally there has been some interest in eating Sea Urchins:
Date with plates sends chills down urchins spine:
 
Sea urchins, sometimes called sea hedgehogs, are the black, spiky creatures that lurk at the bottom of the ocean.
They prey on the kelp beds that are a vital habitat for the rock lobsters and abalone of the north-east coast of Tasmania and are considered one of the state’s worst marine pests. But have you ever thought of eating them?

Diver and seafood exporter Dave Allen has helped pioneer the sea urchin export industry in Australia and, in the process, has set about saving the reefs from being stripped bare by these pests.

Laura Banks. From Sunday Age, March 2, 2014.

I was pleased to see that sea urchins will be featured in a dinner called The Delicious Pest at The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival on March 9, 2014.

Sea Urchin Roe is seasonal and as mentioned above, it is available from (Ocean Made), fresh  and frozen when it is not in season.

It is also available from David Stringer at Kina Sea Urchins Australia:

We deliver all over Melbourne and Australia wide. We use air freight and provide the freshest sea urchin roe available across the country. All our processing is done with the highest degree of care in order to make our product the best and we pride ourselves on excellent customer service and quality of product. Last year we won a Victorian seafood of the year award for best customer service and quality of product.
We have a minimum order of 20 X 100gram or 150 gram punnets.
If that seems too much then you could suggest our products to friends to see if they would like to be included in the order. Please also note that when we have further shops open in Victoria then we will list them on our website. Customers can also sign up to our newsletter and stay informed of seasonal conditions, new products or anything regarding sea urchins.
Our new prices for 2015 are being implemented as we speak.
Welcome to Sea Urchins Australia.

 

 

LEPRE ALLA PIEMONTESE (HARE – SLOW BRAISE PIEDMONTESE STYLE)

This is a photo of a segmented hare ready to braise. The hare has been sitting in my freezer for about 6 weeks, but because it is very hard to find, I buy when I see it, irrespective of whether I am ready to cook it or not.

I chose an Ada Boni recipe for cooking hare in the Piedmontese style (recipe from Italian Regional Cooking, Bonanza Books 1995).  Boni’s recipe is slightly different to other Piedmontese style recipes recipes I looked at and it includes cognac; other recipes may also contain any of the following ingredients, for example: cinnamon, garlic, rosemary and juniper berries.

I use recipes as a guide and I alter quantities and ingredients to suit my tastes. I like spices and herbs and increased the quantities; I prefer and used fresh herbs rather than the dry suggested in the recipe. Both Barolo and Barbera are wines of Piedmont and understandably Boni suggests using Barbera for the marinade wine, but I used a good quality Australian red wine and chose to drink the Italian. Chocolate smooths out the sauce and I used a greater amount than suggested and rather than adding 4 teaspoons of sugar I added very little sugar; I like using stock and added some to the braising liquid.

I have not used Ada Boni’s words, but the procedure for preparing the hare is more or less what she suggests.

In Australia I have yet to purchase a hare with its liver, heart, little alone its blood – these are used to thicken the sauce towards the end of cooking.

I have written about hare before. See:

HARE or RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE. Lepre o Coniglio al Cioccolato (‘Nciculattatu is the Sicilian term used)

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare Sauce)

Interestingly enough, Alex the small friend in the photograph is now very much grown up.

PAPPARDELLE Continued…

Use an earthenware bowl for the marinade and a heavy bottomed saucepan with a well sealing lid to braise the hare.

Hare ready to serve no garnish

Being a Piedmontese recipe, plain polenta makes a good accompaniment.

1 hare cut into pieces (4 legs, back cut into 3 pieces, ribs into 3),
1 and 1/2 bottles of red wine- use enough to cover the hare (Barbera is preferable),
2-3 carrots,
2 large onions (1 for marinade, 1 for sautéing)
3 stalks of celery,
2 bay leaves,
3-4 black peppercorns,
3 cloves,
pinch of marjoram, and pinch of thyme,
salt to taste,
2 tablespoon of butter,
¼ cup of olive oil,
2 tablespoons of bacon fat cut into small pieces (I think that lardo or speck is intended – I used the fat from prosciutto, same taste and texture),
1 square of bitter chocolate, grated,
4 teaspoon of sugar,
3-4 tablespoons of cognac.
 
PROCESSES
Chop one onion, carrots and celery and put them in an earthenware bowl  with the segmented pieces of hare. Add the herbs cloves and peppercorns and a little salt. Cover with the win and let it marinate for 2-3 days in the fridge.
Drain the hare (take the pieces from the marinade and drain them) and then drain the vegetables separately. Keep the wine for cooking the hare.
Heat oil, lardo and butter and brown the hare pieces – use high heat. Remove the hare from the pan and any juices.
Add the onion to the same pan and sauté it gently in a little oil. Add the drained vegetables and sauté these for a few minutes.
Return the hare (and any juices) to the saucepan, pour in the wine (from the marinade), add a little salt. Make sure that the lid is on tightly. Simmer for about 2-3 hours until the meat is cooked. I also added about 1 cup of stock.
Remove the cooked hare and put aside. Remove the bay leaves and if you have used sprigs of herbs remove any of the remaining small sticks (If you can see the pepper corns and cloves remove these as well).
Rub the vegetables in the sauce through a sieve, use a mouli or blend the vegetables in the sauce.
Return the sauce to the saucepan, stir in chocolate, add the hare and taste the sauce – if you think it needs a little sugar add this.
Add the cognac last of all (I only used about 2 tablespoons).
Serve with plain polenta.

Polenta and wild asparagus 2

TRIGLE (Red Mullet) AND ORECCHIETTE (pasta)

Red Mullet 2

In this recipe I am using Red Mullet, also known as Goatfish; they are called Trigle in Italian. In Australia this little fish is very underrated, but travel to any country around the Mediterranean and southern Europe and you will find that it is highly esteemed.

Orecchiette, (pasta shaped like little ears) are popular in Puglia, a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east and the Ionian Sea to the southeast.

Replace the Red Mullet with any other sweet tasting white fish, such as whiting or try crabmeat – both are sustainable. Pink Ling, Red Snapper and Red emperor  are also suitable for this dish and all have an attractive pink skin; they are all fished in Australia and/or New Zealand and both countries aim to manage for a sustainable and productive stock (overfishing has occurred in the past and stocks in certain locations still require rebuilding – in Think Twice Category by The Australian Marine Conservation Society).

Gurnard

I always select less than the standard recommended 100g of pasta per person, especially if it is not for a main course. The following amount will feed 5-6 people in my household.

Red snapper fillets

300g fish: red mullet or similar cut into bite size pieces
300g broccoli or cauliflower or broccolini ( separated or cut into small pieces)
400g orecchiette
150g anchovies
¾ cup of olive oil,
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 cup of chopped parsley
4 chopped tomatoes
1-2 chillies, remove the seeds if you do not want the dish to be hot

salt to taste

 Sauté the garlic and chillies in about ½ cup of oil, add the broccoli and toss them around in the pan until they are well coated. Add the chopped anchovies and cook until softened. You may prefer to leave the broccoli with a little crunch – if not – add a splash of water and cook for longer.
Remove the contents from the pan and set aside.
Pan-fry the fish lightly in the same pan with the rest of the oil.
Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes have softened.
Mix the two cooked components and reheat.
Dress the cooked pasta with the above sauce and serve.

SALAMURRIGGHIU – SALMORIGLIO (Dressing made with oil, lemon and oregano)

Grilled vegies best

I cannot believe that although I have suggested salmoriglio as a dressing many times I have never provided a recipe for this very simple, Sicilian dressing which is excellent with grilled food……. fish, meat and all types of grilled vegetables – and perfect for the hot weather. In the photo above there are zucchini, eggplants and pumpkin. Peppers and mushrooms are also very good.

This is the most common of the Sicilian dressings. Salmoriglio is made with salt (sale), lemon (limone), oregano (origano), hence sal + mo + riglio. It is also called salmorigano. In Sicilian, there are many variations to the spelling of the sauce — sammurigghiu, sarmurigghiu, sarmuriggiu.

Squid+double+on+od+table+copy

The origins of salmoriglio are Greek and traditionally the cold dressing is poured over hot, grilled meat, fish or vegetables. The heat releases the aromas and stimulates the appetite. It is also a marinade, or a basting liquid for grilled meat or fish.

grilled fishDSC_0159

INGREDIENTS

oregano, fresh, 2 tablespoon cut finely or 1 teaspoon dry
salt and pepper or chilli flakes, to taste
extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup
lemons, juice of 2

PROCESSES

Use a fork to whip the above ingredients together in a glass or narrow jug.

VARIATIONS

Add a little hot water to the dressing. Heat in a bain marie for about 5 minutes The heating of the sauce accentuates the fragrances of the ingredients.

I have seen a recipe where fresh oregano (4 tablespoons) is pounded with salt (1 tablespoon) in a mortar and pestle. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 8 of oil and some black pepper.

My family has always added ½ cup of parsley and 1 clove of mashed garlic.

 

 

PESCE GRATINATO (Baked fish topped with almonds and pistachios)

Almonds and pistachios as often used in Sicilian cooking as both are grown extensively in Sicily. The parsley and capers accentuate the attractive green colour of the pistachios.

The breadcrumbs are made with 1-2 day old bread – use good quality bread, for example sour dough or a pasta dura. Remove the crusts and make crumbs.

INGREDIENTS
fish, 100g-150g for each piece
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the bread and nut paste:
80g pistachio (unsalted), chopped finely (but not too powdery)
80g almond meal or blanched almonds chopped finely
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup capers, chopped
½ cup of finely chopped parsley
½ cup of fresh breadcrumbs
2 cloves of garlic, mashed
a little salt and freshly ground pepper
PROCESSES
Make the paste by mixing all of the ingredients together – use a mixer if you wish.
Heat the oven to 225C
Line a baking tray with baking paper and coat it with a little extra virgin olive oil.
Sprinkle a little salt on each piece of fish and drizzle a little olive oil on each.
Place some paste on each piece of fish and spread it over each piece of fish – use your fingers.
Cook for 10-15 mins (according to taste). This will depend on the size of the fish, the thickness and how cooked you like your fish to be. If you cook your fish for longer you may need to place some baking paper on top of the fish to stop the topping from burning.

 

 

FISH SLIDERS WITH FRESH HERB PASTE

If you prefer to present them warm, the patties can also be warmed either in an oven or a microwave before your place them into small hot rolls, warmed in an oven beforehand. For the burgers presented at room temperature, you can add soft green salad leaves in the roll (young arugula/rocket leaves or cress or very finely sliced lettuce)

This  is a recipe from Small Fishy Bites, my new book. Release date Oct 1, 2013

During my most recent trip to Italy I was amazed to see how many hip bars specialise inmaking burgers. They are considered a fashionable snack to accompany wine or beer.
Burgers, like pizza are now universal and have been miniaturised and these mini burgers are
known as sliders.
Sliders are perfect food for when you’re entertaining—they are the perfect size to hold and so easy to slide into your mouth.

6 small rolls suitable for miniburgers
170 oz/500 g fish, salmon or a mixture, see above
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 small egg
1/2 cup fresh bread breadcrumbs
extra virgin olive oil for frying

Herb paste

1 cup finely chopped fresh herbszest of 1 lemon or the skin of
1 preserved lemon, finely chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3–4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and freshly ground black
pepper, to taste

Cut the fish into chunks and mince using a meat grinder or food processor—I do not like the mixture to be too fine. Combine all of the ingredients except the oil—the mixture should be quite firm and hold its shape. You may need a few more breadcrumbs, depending on the type of fish you use.

Shape into 6 balls and flatten them slightly. Fry them in hot oil and drain them on some kitchen paper. Stuff the patties into rolls and place a dollop of herb paste into them before serving. Hold the rolls together with a toothpick or a small metal skewer.

Herb paste

A simple paste can be made with any of the following fresh herbs: coriander, basil, mint, tarragon or chervil. My preferred method is to chop the herbs finely and mix all of the ingredients by hand. Rather than using olive oil, you can use egg mayonnaise.

CALAMARI RIPIENI CON FORMAGGIO FRESCO E MARSALA (Stuffed calamari with fresh cheese and braised in marsala)

I use marsala fina or secca (dry) for my cooking. It is nothing like marsala all’uovo – unfortunately this has given marsala a bad name.

Marsala is the fortified wine of Sicily. Like sherry, there are various blends and some is aged in wood for longer than ten years; it is called marsala stravecchia and as noble as any good liqueur. Those of you who have been to Sicily and have visited the Cantine Florio in Marsala, in the province of Trapani would know what I am talking about.

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The squid are stuffed with fresh cheese. Being a Sicilian/ Italian recipe, the soft cheese used for the stuffing can be one of the following: tuma, pecorino fresco, mozzarella, fior di latte, bocconcini and even ricotta….and not the tub variety! On this occasion I used Danish feta – definitely not traditional, but I had some marinading in extra virgin olive oil, dry oregano and fennel seeds in the fridge.

There were other liberties I took with this recipe: Instead of the parsley, I used fresh marjoram, once again, because I had some growing and because I like the sweetness of this herb – it goes well with nutmeg and with soft cheese. Not Sicilian either! My mother would never have approved of the “fusion” ingredients – Italians are a bit like that, they stick to what is correct and proper. I have come a long way! You may be wondering about the dark colour on the body of the squid – it is because I do not bother to strip each squid meticulously  – what comes off, comes off.  ( The same with octopus!)

 

For a main course estimate 1 squid per person – these are medium sized squid – usually the smaller the better as large squid can be a bit rubbery.  For an antipasto the squid can be cut into slices and feed 6 people.

INGREDIENTS

4 medium squid 1 cup breadcrumbs (small), made from good-quality day-old bread 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely cut ¼–½ teaspoon nutmeg 150g fresh cheese cut into small cubes (see above) 1 cup dry marsala 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

PROCESSES

Clean the squid: pull off the head and the inside of the squid and discard. Cut off tentacles and save them for another time. Toast the breadcrumbs in a little oil. Cool. Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley and nutmeg together and add the seasoning. Stuff the squid and secure each end with a skewer. Sauté each squid in olive oil. When golden, add the marsala, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes (depending on size). Uncover and evaporate the juices as necessary.

 

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