Category Archives: Cheese, Eggs and Savoury Pastries

Pan fried radicchio with pickled pears, walnuts, beetroot and gorgonzola

You must admit the combination above sounds pretty good – the contrasts of flavours, differences in textures, the bitter taste with the sweet.

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You probably have eaten grilled radicchio. I was mentioning to friends that my mother was cooking grilled radicchio back in the 80’s and was presenting it with a tomato salsa and polenta. And now in 2016, I have been seeing it and eating it once again, both in Australia and in Italy.

The photo below was taken in a restaurant in Rome in June. I ate it as a contorno (a vegetable side dish).

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Instead of grilling the radicchio I pan fried it – easier and less smelly.

I wanted a variety of ingredients so I poached some Rosella pears in red wine, pepper corns, a dash or red vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar.

Next beetroot. I really enjoy the sweetness of beetroot with radicchio in a salad at any time, so why not ad it to a lightly sautéed radicchio.

I love Gorgonzola dolce. Cheese pairs well with walnuts and so I added these components as well.

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It did not take long to prepare. I poached the pears early in the day so as to leave them steeping in the poaching liquid and the rest was prepared in about 30 minutes.  I cooked the beetroot the day before and kept it in the fridge. My type of cooking these days….. especially if this was the entrée and I had three more courses to prepare.

For 4 people

Quantities for gorgonzola and walnuts to taste.

Cubed gorgonzola dolce – creamier, less sharp than straight Gorgonzola.
Walnuts, and make sure that they are not rancid.
Cooked beetroot…at least one per person.

2 pears – not soft – I ended up only using 1 – a quarter on each plate
2 cups dry red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 heaped tablespoon of sugar
5 cloves
about 10 black pepper corns
1 pinch of salt

Combine the wine, vinegar and spices in a small saucepan which will hold the pears and almost- if not entirely- cover them. Cook pears cut into quarters in the liquid, lid on and poach on low heat. I still wanted some crunch and cooked them for about 30 min.
Leave pears in poaching liquid to cool and until you wish to use them.

1 large round head of radicchio, quartered, so that each quarter has a bit of the stem end holding it together. I also used satay skewer to ensure that it stayed together. If using the Treviso vaviety of radicchio ( long shape) you may need 2 heads and cut it in half.

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¼ cup olive oil
salt and black pepper

Lightly sauté the radicchio in the oil over moderate heat uncovered. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn once. I did not want the radicchio cooked- I wanted a warm salad with radicchio that was softened on the outer.
Remove the radicchio. Distribute onto separate plates.
Drain/ strain the pears and use that wine/liquid to add to the pan. Discard the spices. Add the beetroot (to warm and to glaze). Turn up the heat and reduce the liquid to about half the quantity.

To serve distribute pears and beetroot . Dribble liquid on the radicchio. Scatter gorgonzola and walnuts on top.

Done. Compliments all round.

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Radicchio Recipes:

BIGOLI NOBILI (Bigoli pasta with red radicchio, borlotti and pork sausages)

RADICCHIO (Treviso) with polenta and tomato salsa

Radicchio, celery beetroot salad – as ingredients below with a simple vinaigrette – Extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, red wine vinegar. 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil.

Fresh herbs if you wish.

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Sicilian Cheese and more cheese

I was in Sicily in May and spent days in Ragusa  where my father’s family still live.

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While I was there, my aunt invited the extended family to go to a masseria – a farm where they make local cheese.

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We ate warm ricotta, sampled some of their other cheeses…

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…..and ate scacce with a variety of fillings – too many.

Recipes: See – SCACCE (focaccia-like stuffed bread)

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Ragusani ( people from Ragusa) are very fond of local cheeses and over my many visits to Ragusa I have eaten large quantities of cheese.

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I found an early post about Cheese and a visit to a masseria. Habits  do not change very much in Ragusa.

See: SICILIAN CHEESE MAKING. A VISIT TO A MASSARO (farmer-cheese maker) IN RAGUSA. and with a recipe for pan fried cheese with oregano, garlic, a bit of sugar and vinegar. Formaggio all’argentiera.

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In Melbourne we have La Latteria….worth a visit if you wish to eat cheese made by a  Sicilian.

See: La Latteria

 

OUT AND ABOUT IN SICILY

It is always good to visit Sicily  in May 2016 and this time I spent most of my time mainly in  South-eastern Sicily.  But we did wander elsewhere – distances are not that great.

As usual, the relatives in Ragusa and Augusta made sure that I was well fed, but I do enjoy getting out and about and seeing the changes and trends that are evident in their food culture. I do that here in Australia as well, or for that matter any place I revisit.

Below are some photos of Sicily and links to existing recipes from the blog … more writing and more recipes soon.

Stunning scenery

Acireale

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And Granmichele,

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A Nature Reserve near Donna Fugata

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Antiquity

A very old church in Modica.

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Inside this old church that has been a stable for many years.

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Area Archeologica di Cava d’Ispica

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The old stone walls, some being repaired or rebuilt.

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Wandering around in Baroque towns

Ragusa Ibla

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Noto

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Modica

 

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Caltagirone

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Brushes with fame

Moltalbano’s apartment in Punta Secca

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Some traditional food from S.E. Sicily

*Links to these recipes:

*Maccu

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*Ravioli con ricotta

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*Scacce

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New ways of preparing old recipes

*Marinaded Fish

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*Sarde a beccafico

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Deconstructed cannolo

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Festive Occasions Infiorata in Noto

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And more carpets of flowers,

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Catania  Fish Market below

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Various cuts of Tuna.

Key in the word “Tuna “and you will find many recipes, but suggesting sustainable fish.

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*Zucca Lunga

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MASCARPONE and its many uses. How to make it at home.

I have been making different batches of mascarpone at home and I have been using it in all sorts of dishes.

I have stuffed fresh figs with it (as a non sweetened savoury cheese), added zabaglione to it and used it to accompany stuffed peaches with raspberries scattered on top (stuffing made with amaretti and crushed almonds), spooned dollops of it into cold cream soups, thickened and enriched sauces, used it in a baked plum tart (like a cheesecake), enjoyed it with fresh berries, mixed it into dips, blended it with gorgonzola or with feta and used it as a spread …..and have made the most of having it as a staple in my fridge.

IMG_2645Mascarpone is a cheese, originally from Lombardy but now used extensively in savoury and sweet dishes elsewhere in Italy and of course in other parts of the world. It can be difficult to find and making it at home is so easy.

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Cheese is made with creamy milk but mascarpone is made from cream that thickens when coagulated with cultures (like those used to make sour cream) .

You will find various explanations of how it is made. The most common is that the cream is heated, then acidified with citric acid or lemon juice and then kept at a high temperature for 5 or 10 minutes.

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However, I use a much simpler way – I do not heat the cream nor do I coagulate it with lemon juice (this can also impart an unwanted lemon taste).

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I mix fresh cream with soured cream. The sour cream introduces the bacterial culture to  the cream and after leaving it for 2 days or more it thickens. The result is a very thick cream with a slightly sharp, sour taste – and very much like the commercially made Mascarpone. Buttermilk can also be used to introduce the culture to the cream.

Mascarpone is very much the consistency of clotted cream, but this has a higher fat content and it is thickened by heating with no cultures added.

Crème fraiche is also cultured cream; to make this I add a higher amount of sour cream to the cream and make it slightly more acidic in taste.

I like to use double cream and do not use thickened cream because it contains a thickener.

DIRECTIONS

Combine one carton of cream and half of that amount of sour cream in a glass container. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.

 

When stored in the fridge, the cream will continue to mature and thicken; it keeps well for about one week.

 

 

 

LEFTOVERS, PAN FRIED DUCK WITH DRIED CHERRIES, PARSLEY OIL recipes

Leftovers imply something that is superfluous, redundant and unneeded, but frankly my cooking and food presentation would not be the same without them.

It does not mean that I never cook something entirely with fresh ingredients – of course I do – but I welcome using up something from a previous meal to convert into something new. It allows me to be creative and I feel saintly about not wasting food.

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The duck breasts were cooked very simply and quickly and I used some dried sour cherries (Middle Eastern produce) that I steeped in some red wine and a dash of vin cotto (slightly sweet) for the sauce. If I did not have cherries I may have used some green or black olives or slices of orange with perhaps a little marsala or white wine.

Pan fried duck

Score the skin of the duck and sprinkle with salt; leave them for about 20 minutes.
Pan fry the duck breasts over gentle-medium heat with some spring onions and bay leaves. Turn the breasts over a couple of times to help the fat to melt and raise the heat when you are ready to brown the duck. This whole process should take no longer than about 12-15 minutes.

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Remove the duck breasts from the pan, cover with foil or a plate so that they can keep on cooking and remain warm  . Drain the fat off  but try to keep the brown meat juices that will stick to the bottom and sides of the pan.
Add the cherries and liquid to de-glaze the pan. Heat and evaporate the liquid slightly. Return the duck and any juices to the pan and heat through.

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I cooked three duck breasts and  the one that was leftover I carefully stored in my fridge. This became a duck salad the night after. The sliced breast went on a bed of thinly cut fennel, spring onions and batavia lettuce, some shaved kohlrabi, leftover roasted pumpkin which I had cooked to go with the duck and some pumpkin seeds.

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I had braised some artichokes with small whole potatoes and peas during the week. These potatoes were sliced and added to the duck salad and contributed an extra layer of flavour (of artichokes). In the fridge I also had some ready made parsley oil. The parsley oil was drizzled over some yogurt that I had drained (labna/labneh) – it made the labna look spectacular and contributed to the taste. To the leftover parsley oil I added lemon juice and salt and pepper and this became the dressing for the duck salad.

The duck fat that I had drained off the duck  was used to sau the vegetables that went into the soup (rather than olive oil) and the leftover sauce from the duck went into the making of a minestrone (which by the way means ‘big soup’ because it usually contains pulses and therefore makes it a thick soup). I had some cooked borlotti beans  – I usually cook extra and store containers of them in the freezer. The vegetables were onion, celery, carrots and kohlrabi, both the bulb and the green tops.

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With the very flavourful artichoke braising liquid, some artichoke stalks and the peas I will make some eggs taste very special.

Poached eggs  with peas

Bring the liquid and peas to the boil and clear little spaces in the peas – just large enough enough to gently slide in some eggs to poach. In order to keep the yolk soft and nicely shaped, turn off the heat, cover the pan with a lid and rest until the eggs are set just right.

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Not much is wasted in my kitchen.

Parsley oil

You will find that most recipes for making parsley oil suggest that you cut the parsley (stems and all) into smaller bits, and plunge them them into some boiling water for about 10 seconds to soften. Then you drain the parsley and cool them by plunging into cold water. (And there go most of the vitamins?)

When I make parsley oil I don’t blanch my parsley. My parsley oil does not taste particularly grassy – this happens sometimes when parsley is chopped in a food processor rather than cut by hand. Perhaps the blades of my food processor are sharp – this always help.

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Place everything in a food processor (with sharp blades) and blend completely.
Pour the paste into a clean glass jar, cover and store it in the fridge overnight. The parsley paste will settle to the bottom of the jar.
Line some muslin in a funnel to act as a filter and place the funnel into a clean jar.
Carefully pour the parsley oil through the filter into the jar and keep it in the fridge.

I also used some of the parsley oil to flavour some thick yogurt- it makes a change from using mayonnaise and I used it to dress some boiled new potatoes. Ground pink peppercorns looked good too.

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I did make use of those leftovers!

WANT NOT WASTE NOT- Chicken livers and chicory, twice

This week on Wednesday I was reading about Massimo Bottura’s Italian upbringing: his never-throw-anything-away attitude in the kitchen and his – seasonal, humble and delicious food – and then I thought about my cooking and how I maximise how I use my produce.

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On Sunday night I pan fried some chicken livers with onions, sage, a little grated nutmeg and deglazed them with red wine – simple, humble and delicious. I accompanied them with a little home made Harissa…always a staple in my fridge.

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I also cleaned the outside leaves of two bunches of chicory and braised them = you know how Italians do this, in extra virgin olive oil and garlic.  No chili this time because of the harissa with the livers.

It is winter in Melbourne and chicory is in season. I had two bunches, one bunch with red stalks and one all green. They taste similar, but perhaps the red tinted stalks are more bitter.

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On Monday night I used the left over chicken livers and turned them into a salad.

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I used the juices of the livers as a base.

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I hard-boiled some eggs, made a simple mustard and extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar dressing, used the inside, softer, lighter green leaves to make a salad.

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I added a little left over beetroot and some cooked brown lentils that I had in the fridge; I like sweetness and bitterness together.

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Like Bottura, I have that never-throw-anything-away attitude in the kitchen and this – seasonal, humble and delicious.

And I forgot to say – simple-easy- quick-fresh and healthy. Although I did not say that the livers and the eggs were free range, of course they were!!!

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Chicory, see earlier posts:

Cicoria (chicory)

Cicoretta con Salsiccia (Chicory with Fresh Pork Sausage)

In Praise of Seasonal Vegetables

Harissa (a Hot Chili Condiment)

SCACCE and PIZZA and SICILIAN EASTER

It always seems a time for scacce in Sicily, but particularly at Easter.

I  have  already written about scacce (focaccia-like stuffed pastries) and for suggestions of fillings and the recipe and ways to fold the pastry, see the post called: Scacce (Focaccia-like Stuffed Bread).

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One of the most difficult things if you are a novice at making the traditional shaped scacce is the folding of the pastry. So, why not try just forming them into these shapes below instead. Use the same fillings and pastry as described in the post Scacce ( Focaccia- like Stuffed Bread) above.

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This scaccia (singular of scacce and not a misspelling) in the photo below is round and pie shaped. The filling is made from lamb and ricotta.

The braised greens on the side could also be used in a filling – spinach or chicory or broccoli- softened/ wilted and then sautéed in garlic, chili and extra virgin olive oil (but drain well).

There is a post for impanate with a lamb filling – a typical dish for Easter.

(link)‘Mpanata (A Lamb Pie, an Easter Treat)

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The photos for these scacce (and pizza) are from a small eatery in Catania. The filling is made from slices of fried eggplant, a little bit of tomato salsa and a little bit of caciocavallo ( Sicilian cheese) –  you could try provolone (cheese) instead.

Or you could try small pasty shapes as in the photo below (circle of dough = filling  on one side= fold over to make a half moon). The pastries in the photo below are  cooling on the racks in Dolcetti pasticceria (pastry shop  in Victoria Street Melbourne). Marianna is the pastry chef and her mum is Lidia –  and she is all Sicilian. Lidia visits Dolcetti  each Saturday to make these pastries. She calls her pastries impanate.  They are fabulous and she uses a variety of fillings.

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 What about just a pizza ….. These pizzas (in the photo below) are  from Pizza D’Asporto (Rifle Range Shopping Centre, Williamstown). They are made by Sicilians and are very good – worth a visit.

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Or what about a Sfincione?

(link) Sfincione di Palermo (a pizza/focaccia type pie)

There are other Easter type recipes on my blog….just key in Easter or Pasqua in the search space.

Go for it! Buona Pasqua!

SICILIAN CASSATA and some background (perfect for an Australian Christmas)

I first  wrote about cassata in Dec 2009. I have revisited the post and added new photos. I keep on making cassata for special occasions and in cooking classes and this recipe is successful every time.

It is perfect for Christmas.

Many believe that a cassata is an ice cream cake made out of assembled layers of ice cream. But no Sicilian believes this. The Sicilian cassata is made with ricotta.

In the early 19th century, the ice cream makers of Naples were famous for making moulded, opulent, ice cream layered cakes and these were called cassate.

Cassata was once more popular at Easter (when the ricotta is at its best – the cows are feeding on lush green pastures in spring), but cassata is now eaten at any festive occasion in Sicily including Christmas.

Some people differentiate between the two cassate by referring to the one made with ice cream as Neapolitan cassata – this may be because it is very much like Neapolitan ice cream composed of three different layers of contrasting colours and flavours: one of chocolate, a pink which sometimes can taste like strawberry and a vanilla one that is usually mixed with glace fruit (usually red and green glace cherries).

In Australia there is a particular ice confectionery  called a cassata that is sold in individual portions. It has a pink layer in the centre that  is made of cake soaked and flavoured with a pink cordial like essence (Alchermes essence).

The Sicilian cassata, has much older roots than the ice cream cakes popular with the Neapolitans.

The Sicilian cassata is a round, moulded cake shaped in a bowl lined with layers of sponge cake, the chief ingredients are sheep’s milk ricotta (it is sweeter and more delicate than ricotta made with cows milk), mixed with sugar, small bits of dark chocolate and candied citrus and zuccata (candied pumpkin). Within Sicily there are some variations which vary by location and family tradition, for example some recipes include an additional layer of sponge cake in the centre as well as the casing.

Some say that the word cassata may have come from the Roman name for cheese, caseus (the Sicilian word for cheese is casu or caseata).

Many believe that its origins are Arabic – the Arabs occupied Sicily for several hundred years – the invasion began in 827 AD and they conquered Sicily in 902 AD. They introduced the cultivation of sugar, very sweet desserts and the use of nuts and dried fruit in pastries. It is also likely that the name cassata may have come from Arab word qas’ah, a deep terra-cotta bowl; that may even have been used to shape the cake.

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The sponge cake is called pan di spagna in Italian (bread from Spain) and may have been a Spanish addition – the Spanish ruled Sicily intermittently for may years (Angevins, Aragonese, Viceroys and Bourbons from 1282 until the end of the reign of Ferdinand the second in 1859).

Usually Sicilians order their cassata from a pasticceria – it is left to the experts to make, mainly because cassate are usually elaborately decorated by pasticceri. There are baked versions of Sicilian casssate and these are often made at home. The uncooked version of cassata can also be made at home successfully but will not look as elabarate. Some of the cassate in pasticcerie are often very baroque and white and green striped fondant is used. They are then decorated with ribbons of zuccata (candied pumpkins) and are often sprinkled with silver sugar balls.

Once the cassata is turned out of the mould it is left to set and it is spread with apricot jam. It can then be covered with a sugar fondant (this is often coloured pale green. Cassata is often covered with striped covering – green and white ). My preferred option is to cover it with marzipan and candied fruits and I have no trouble making the marzipan.

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I first made cassata using Ada Boni’s recipe from Italian Regional Cooking  – this is a very fine and old publication which has been out of print for some time. My cassata recipe, through the ages, has developed to the following and it always seems to taste good, even if it is not as professionally decorated as the images above.

I always buy the solid ricotta, usually sold in large rounds –  vendors slice it to the required weight. I never buy the ricotta sold in the tub – it is far too watery (and often tasteless). If this is the only ricotta that you can purchase, it is a good idea to drain it overnight.

The sponge cake and marzipan can be made well ahead of time. See: Pasta di Mandorla (how to Make Marzipan Recipe)

I have also made marzipan fruit and used it as decoration (this is not traditional: Marzapane Also Called Pasta Reale (marzipan)

Also see: Cassata (post No 2)

Cassata 2

INGREDIENTS
fresh ricotta, 700g and a little bit of fresh cream to make beating easier
caster sugar, 120 g
dark chocolate, 60g
pistachio nuts, 100g chopped
candied citrus peel, 60g (of good quality and if possible lemon, orange and cedro – candied citron)
vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon (I use vanilla bean paste)
cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon
liqueur, 1/2- 3/4 cup to taste. I have used one of the orange (Cointreau or Grand Marnier) or mandarin flavoured ones.
marzipan to cover the cassata (see earlier post)
glace fruits for decoration
apricot jam, 1/2 cup
sponge cake, approx 250 g (if bought).

If you make a sponge cake:
Use 5 eggs, 120 g of sugar, 100 g of sifted flour, grated lemon peel and/or vanilla (I use vanilla bean paste or flavour my sugar with vanilla pods) and butter to grease the cake tin.
Process: Beat egg yolks with sugar until creamy. Fold in beaten egg whites (until very firm). Slowly fold in the flour, then add vanilla. Bake sponge cake in moderate oven for approx. 40 minutes.

PROCESSES
Line a deep round mould with layers of foil or plastic wrap or baking paper.
Cut the sponge into thin layers. Use them to line the sides of the mould. Leave enough sponge to cover the top of the cassata.
Sprinkle the sponge with liqueur to moisten.
Blend the ricotta with the sugar (some use a syrup made with sugar dissolved over heat in a little water, allow the syrup to cool before using.) You may need to add some cream to make blending easier. Slowly stir in the vanilla, cinnamon and a dash of liqueur.
Fold in the nuts, small pieces of chocolate and candied peel.
Press the ricotta mixture into the lined mould, smooth the top and cover with a layer of sponge cake. Sprinkle with more liqueur. I usually refrigerate the cassata overnight (to set) and cover it with marzipan about 2-3 hours before I serve it.
Make the marzipan and roll it out into a thin round shape.
Turn the cassata out of the mould (when it is ready to cover) and spread the outer with a thin layer of apricot jam.
Cover with the marzipan and decorate it with the fruit.

Keep it in the fridge until ready to serve.

Cassata slice

ARANCINI (where else… but in Hong Kong!)

The Trinacria (a three-legged figure) is the emblem of Sicily and I spotted it on a restaurant’s window in all places, in SOHO, Hong Kong. The bar and restaurant is called Posto Pubblico. Before spotting the Trinacria, I had no intention of going to an Italian (or Sicilian) restaurant in Hong Kong!

The strange thing was that this restaurant did not even know what or why they had a Trinacria on their window.

I enjoyed the food very much but most of all I enjoyed instructing the personable and affable waiter about Sicilian matters. The restaurant is classed as Italian and judging by the reviews on the net, no-one has made any association with Sicily, yet much of the food on the menu is Sicilian.

We ordered small plates from the menu… spuntini or tapas-style of Arancini, Rotolini- little roll ups of eggplants (also known as Involtini- see photo above), a marinated tuna dish and because the restaurant make their own mozzarella, a Caprese.

By the end of our meal the waiter knew quite a bit about Sicily and the food of Sicily, how Arancini are shaped and presented alone and not covered by ragù (which by the way was excellent), how it would be best not to flour or crumb the eggplant when making the eggplant involtini (in order to keep the flavours fresh and accentuate the delicate fresh-cheese taste in the stuffing) and most important of all what the emblem on their window represented. The waiter said that he would pass on the information about the trinacra to the staff and the culinary advice to their chef.

Is it arancini or arancine?  You will see this word spelled both ways.The Italian word for orange is arancia (feminine) and the word for orange tree is arancio (masculine). Arancina is a small orange and arancine is the plural. It therefore may make more sense to call them arancine as many Sicilians do, however over time arancini seems to have become the most popular name for these rice balls especially in other parts of Italy and the world.

Arancini covered with ragù (not as Sicilians would serve them). This is a photo of the arancini we ate in the restaurant.

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I solved the problem of why a Trinacria was on their window: It turned out that there were two original owners, one was from from New York City and the other from New Jersey.

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Both had grandparents who had migrated to NY from Southern Italy – one lot from Naples (and that would explain the mozzarella) and one from Licata, that of course is in SICILY.

So all in all….. a very good time was had by all.

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TRINACRA

Homer referred to Sicily as Thrinakie (or Thrinakrie), which means Isle with a triangle’s shape. The name then changed to Trinakria, a reference to the three promontories on the island: Capo Peloro (Messina) in the north-east, Capo Boéo or Lilibéo (Marsala) and Capo Passero (an island 75 kilometres from Siracusa) or Capo Spartivento in the south-east. The name later became Trinacria, which the poet Dante Alighieri used to refer to Sicily in his Divine Comedy. It is also the name of the three-legged figure that is now the symbol of Sicily.

Below, Arancini shape in Sicily. The ragu is on the inside of the arancino.

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My thoughts on Sicilian arancini- variations to the recipe below:

Arancini as made in Sicily are made with boiled rice (in plain salted water) and the rice is not cooked in stock and nor are they made with left over risotto. The saffron is added after the rice is boiled for colour and taste.

Some Sicilians add eggs to bind the rice, others insist that by cooking the rice by the absorption method in the correct amount of liquid and cooled overnight, the rice will be sticky enough not to require eggs.

In Sicily traditionally they are always stuffed with ragù (the meat-based sauce) and peas. In Rome, rice balls are called Suppli and they are ball shaped, made with risotto and have a cheese and often ham stuffing in the centre.

I prefer my arancini shaped as they are in eastern Sicily – they have a more conical shape rather than a ball…. like a small hill. As they are shaped in the palm of the hand , it is easy to see why they can be conical in shape.

 

I also like the idea of dipping each arancino into a batter before frying – this helps keep them together and gives a crunchy coating, which I like: Beat together 1 egg, some flour and enough water to make a thick batter. Dip each arancino into the batter, then into breadcrumbs.

Although some ragù (the meat-based sauce) sometimes contains pancetta as made in Bologna (and not the bacon used for breakfast), most Sicilians tend not to add it. Also Thyme is not very common in Sicily….oregano or basil is more likely to be used. Tomato paste rather than Passata is also common and if celery and carrot are used it must be chopped very finely.

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The following recipe for arancini was printed in the TSAA Newsletter, May 2012 Edition (The Sicilian Association of Australia).  Written by Sebastian Agricola.

Arancini, one of the signature foods of Sicily, are also a compact and delicious edible historical record of Sicily.

Few dishes can tell as much about the peoples who have contributed to Sicily over the centuries. The canestrato fresco (a fresh, mild, firm cheese that’s generally replaced with mozzarella off the Island) comes from the Greeks, the rice and saffron from the Arabs, the ragù from French, and the tomato sauce from the Spanish.(Pino Correnti; Il Libro d’Oro della Cucina e Dei Vini Della Sicilia).

Arancini originated in Sicily around the tenth century A.D (that about 1,000 years ago readers!) reportedly during the Kalbid rule, a Muslim dynasty that ruled Sicily from 948 to 1053. The Kalbids also introduced lemons, seville oranges, sugar cane, as well as cotton and mulberries.

The name is a variant of the Italian for orange (arancia) which describes both their shape and colour. There are various recipes for arancini in Sicily and every little paesetto (village) claims to produce the original recipe and the best arancini. The TSAA has its preferred recipe which was used in one of TSAA cooking classes and here it is:

BOLOGNESE SAUCE

1 Kilo Minced Veal
1 Kilo Minced Pork
2 Medium Onions, finely chopped
4 Celery Sticks, finely chopped
1 Litre Tomato Puree
2 Medium Carrots, finely chopped
1 Cup Dry White Wine
5 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced 1 Cup of Water
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 tsp.
Fresh Thyme
Salt and Pepper

*200gms Pancetta, diced (see my note above)

  1. Cook the onions celery, carrots and garlic in oil in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened; about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the pancetta, veal and pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps until browned; about 6 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomato puree, white wine and the thyme and gently simmer covered, until sauce is thickened; 3/4 to 1 hour.
  4. Add salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Allow sauce to cool.

RICE FOR THE ARANCINI

500 gms Arborio rice
Several ladles of sauce to make the filling
100gms grated pecorino cheese
2 Eggs, lightly whisked
  1. Add grated pecorino cheese to rice.
  2. Add enough sauce to rice to make it turn orange in colour.
  3. Add eggs to rice mixture and combine mixtur
  4. Cook the rice (absorption method.) Allow rice to cool.

FILLING

1/2 Fiore di latte mozzarella, cubed into small pieces
250gms Frozen Peas
1/2 Onion, chopped
Fine Breadcrumbs for Crumbing
Salt and Pepper
  1. Sauté onion for 5 minutes, add peas and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste.
  2. Form Arancini by first filling the palm of your hand with rice mixture, then adding a teaspoon of peas and Bolognese sauce and a cube of mozzarella.
  3. Enclose filling with more rice by forming a ball with mixture contained inside. Roll balls in breadcrumbs and deep fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
 

 

TAPAS MET VIS – Small Fishy Bites: CROCHETTE DI PATATE (Potato Croquettes)

My second book Small Fishy Bites is now translated into Dutch (Tapas Met Vis) and this set me thinking about my friend Lily and how the Dutch like potato croquettes.

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The French call them croquettes, Italians know them as crocchette.

When I was in primary school and living in Adelaide I used to have a friend called Lily. She and her family were Dutch and her mother used to call them Kroket.

My mother also cooked crochette di patate (potato croquettes) and sometimes when we came home from school there would be a snack waiting for us if they had been on the menu and were left over from the night before.

Lily’s mum fried her croquettes in vegetable oil whereas my mum fried hers in olive oil so I could always taste a difference.

Sometimes my mum used to put a little ham or a cube of cheese in the centre.

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In Small Fishy Bites, there is a recipe for crocchette di patate and being a book about fish these croquettes have anchovies or smoked eel in them; the fish can be spread throughout the potato mixture or inserted into the centre. Great with drinks!

In the photo above you can see the two potato ricers I use. The one on the right is very old and came from Trieste where I lived as a child.

To stop the potatoes becoming soggy, I boil the potatoes whole and then peel them once they are cool.

24oz/700 g potatoes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
4 anchovies, cut into small pieces (or 4 oz/100 g flaked smoked eel)
salt and freshly ground pepper
a little flour or breadcrumbs to coat the crocchette
extra virgin olive oil for frying

 

Instead of the anchovies you could also use 3½ oz/100 g of smoked eel.
Cook the potatoes until soft (boil or use a microwave). Peel when cool enough
to handle and use a ricer or a Mouli grater (a hand-operated cooking tool
designed for grating or pureeing small quantities of food) mouler to mash
them. Let cool completely.
Add the eggs, garlic, parsley and seasoning and the fish last of all.
Shape the mixture into egg shape patties and just before frying roll them in
a little plain flour.
Fry until golden and only turn once.