Category Archives: Entrée /Antipasto/Starter

ANTIPASTO – GRILLED SUMMER VEGETABLES AND A SCOOP OF SALADS

You really cannot beat a plate of grilled vegetables, especially when eggplants and peppers are so prolific at this time of year.

Zucchini, although not in this selection are also a good choice.  Grilled vegetables are perfect as an antipasto but they can just as easily be part of a main course.

The vegetables can be grilled on a BBQ or Grill press or in the oven.

To the array, throw in some of the cooked green beans, asparagus or broccolini (that perhaps are left over from the night before), add a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, some chopped garlic, a little parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

You could also add to the cooked vegetables different textures with a bit of crunch – some of that celery, fennel, cucumbers and apples that are probably in your fridge. Or it could be tomatoes, celery, spring onions and fresh basil leaves, once again a drizzle of that good olive oil that will add fragrance as well as taste.

So easy, so simple.

Just recently, in two different restaurants I ordered versions of grilled vegetables and they both were presented with Romesco sauce dolloped separately on the side of the vegetables.  In one of the restaurant it was grilled asparagus, topped with fried breadcrumbs. In the other it was eggplant. This had been grilled and rather than presenting it in slices it was pulped to a medium texture. Bread is a perfect accompaniment for scooping up the eggplant and the Romesco sauce. A drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil is a must.

Recipes in earlier posts:

 

PEPPERS WITH BREADCRUMBS- PIPI CA MUDDICA – PEPERONI CON LA MOLLICA

SALSA ROMESCO (Romesco sauce, this recipe is made with roasted peppers, tomatoes and almonds)

In this version of this sauce almonds are added to the the vegetables (garlic, peppers and tomatoes). These are roasted/chargrilled on a BBQ or Grill press:

Roast/chargrill the peppers whole, peel, remove seeds and break them into strips. If using fresh tomatoes cut them into pieces. If you are roasting / chargrilling the peppers do them at the same time.
*Click on above link to see a list of ingredients and how to make it.

A different Recipe for Romesco sauce made with hazelnuts

This recipe uses hazelnuts instead of almonds. Also the vegetables are roasted. in the oven rather than grilled.

Use the same ingredients as the recipe above, substitute the hazelnuts for the almonds, but roast the vegetables:

Place the tomatoes, peppers and a whole head of garlic in a roasting tray with a little oil and roast in a 190C oven. Take the vegetables out as they become soft, i.e. the tomatoes will take about 10 minutes,  the peppers and the garlic could take about 30-40 minutes..

 

FISH BALLS with Sicilian flavours

My last post was about marinaded white anchovies – a great crowd pleaser.  This is easy finger food that can be presented on crostini (oven toasted or fried bread) or on small, cup shaped  salad leaves.

Another small fishy bite which never fails to get gobbled up are fish balls poached in a tomato salsa. I took these to a friend’s birthday celebration recently.

The fish is Rockling.   At other times I have made them with other Australian wild caught fish for example Snapper and Flathead,  Blue-eye and Mahi Mahi.

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Here are some photos of the ones I made recently.

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Cut the fish into chunks and mince it in a food processor.

You can see the ingredients I use to make these fish balls, mainly currants, pine nuts, parsley and fresh bread crumbs . There is also some garlic and grated lemon rind, cinnamon….. and on this occasion I added nutmeg too.

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These ingredients are common in Sicilian cuisine but also in Middle Eastern food. This is not surprising when you look at Sicily’s legacy.

For a variation use other Mediterranean flavours: preserved lemon peel instead of grated lemon, fresh coriander instead of parsley, omit the cheese, add cumin.

Combine the mixture and add some grated Pecorino  and salt and pepper to taste.

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Eggs will bind the mixture.

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The mixture should be quite firm and hold together. You may need to add more eggs – the number of  eggs you will need  will vary because it will depend on the texture of the fish and the bread.  I always use 2-3 day old sourdough bread.

On this occasion I added 2 extra eggs,(4 small eggs altogether)  however I used 1 k of fish.

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In the meantime make a tomato salsa.  I added a stick of cinnamon.

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Shape the mixture into small balls and poach them gently in the salsa.

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This  is the link to the recipe  that is also in my second book, Small Fishy Bites.

FISH BALLS IN SALSA – POLPETTE DI PESCE (PURPETTI in Sicilian)

I presented the fish balls in Chinese soup spoons – easy to put into one’s mouth. You can see that there were only very few fish balls left over on the festive table. There are also only five anchovies in witlof leaves left over.

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Of course  these fish balls are not just limited to party food. They make a great antipasto or main course.

Spaghetti and fish balls? Why not?

A NEW LIFE for shop bought MARINADED WHITE ANCHOVIES

Out with the old marinade of vinegar, sunflower oil, tired sliced garlic and herbs.

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And in with the new marinade – extra virgin olive oil, fresh parsley, garlic and a little dry oregano (optional).

Sounds better already. New life, fresh taste!

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These are handy to have in the fridge to dip into at anytime, or to present as an antipasto on fresh bread or crostini , or inside a leaf from the centre of a small cos lettuce or radicchio or witlof – in fact any salad green that has cone shaped head and cup shaped leaves that can hold a few marinaded anchovies.

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The pictures tell the story. Simple to make, good to eat.

Leave in marinade at least one day but as long as you keep them under oil they will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

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I used :

500g of white marinaded anchovies ( alici fresche marinate  are usually packed in Sicily or Liguria… and the Spaniards call them boquerones),
2-3 cloves of garlic ½ cup chopped parsley, both finely chopped.
extra virgin olive oil to cover – the amount will depend of the container you use. I always  use glass.

Drain the anchovies and discard the old marinade and the solids.

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Layer the anchovies with the herbs and the garlic and top with the oil.

Store in the fridge until ready to use. If you are taking some  anchovies out,  make sure to once again cover them with oil.

If you are presenting the anchovies inside leaves use a colander to drain the anchovies and then place 1-3 inside each leaf- this will depend on the size of the leaf and how much you (or your guests) like anchovies.

If you are presenting them on bread, there is no need to drain them with a colander – the oil tastes good too.

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As you can see, finding small suitable leaves and keeping them whole can be time consuming.

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I first wrote about Marinaded Anchovies in 2011.

They have remained as  one of my favourite things to do for a large gathering. The recipe is also in my second book  Small Fishy Bites as Zucchini and Mint Fritters with Marinaded Anchovies.

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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TASMANIA, FOOD, ART, HOBART and Bagna Cauda

One week ago today  I was having lunch in Templo, an Italianate, very small restaurant in Hobart.

Duck Polenta. On the side some pickled red radicchio.

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Twelve days before that I was in Berlin.  Four days before Berlin I was in Rome and before that Sicily, and prior that London and Nottingham.

And why  go to Tasmania three days after I returned to Melbourne after seven weeks in Europe?

Tasmania had been arranged before Europe because our friend Valerie Sparkes was part of an exhibition curated by Julianna Engberg called TEMPEST at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). It was part of MOFO. Two whole walls of this type of imagery – wallpapers.

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I  ate well in Tasmania, but I manage to eat well wherever I go.

I work hard at it – researching via books and web (I do not take much notice of Trip Advisor), taking note of restaurants I pass that look as if they may suit and looking at menus displayed, but most of all taking advice from others whose opinions I think I can trust (strangers as well as friends).

I feel that I should start with Nottingham, my first destination, but I have decided to start with Tasmania – my most recent experience.

View from Mt. Wellinghton.

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The evening before I had lunch at Templo in Hobart, I was at Aloft, that has an Asian inspired menu and is a totally different dining experience to the Italian-ate Templo.

I am not a food critic and as you may have noticed in my posts I do not elaborate or philosophize about what I eat, but I will say that although I enjoyed the ambiance, service and some of the food in Aloft, I often thought that some of the dishes were overwhelmed by strong, salty flavours, whether  they were garnishes, pickles or sauces.

I like robust flavours and certainly I had some at Templo but the flavours were well rounded….  the various tastes are balanced. Check the wine list too!

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The food originated from humble beginnings – regional Italian on this occasion – but was adventurous, modern in taste and presentation. And not at all fussy – whether in name/ description or presentation.

Templo is a very small restaurant with only one engaging  waiter – very personable and knowledgeable . As you can see by the menu on the board, there is little choice.

Below,  Broccoli and Bagna Cauda. (Recipe below for Bagna Cauda).

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This was described as Beef, celeriac…. I picked what type of cut the beef was as soon as I cut it and put it in my mouth – heart!!! Fantastic stuff… lean,  great taste, all muscle. Waiter was impressed that I knew what it was. My father used to cook it for me- how could I forget!

We ate other stuff but how many photos can I include!

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I  love Tasmania – the scenery and the bountiful produce.

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I did eat and drink well at other places in Hobart and on Bruny Island.

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And, as on any trip I cooked in the places I stayed in , in Tasmania.

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I appreciate the high-quality fresh produce along with the locally-produced meats, cheeses and  fish.

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I ate so much cheese.

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And there is MONA. I could go on and on.

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Bagna Cauda  (it is Piedmontese)

I am amazed that I do not have a recipe for Bagna Cauda on my blog.

Bagna Cauda, translated as “hot bath,”  is a dip for any combination of firm vegetables- cooked or uncooked.

A fondue-style fork will help. Slices of quality bread can be held underneath to catch the drippings and eaten also, if liked.

Here is a very simple recipe:

2 heads of garlic – separate cloves, peel
enough milk to cover garlic cloves in a small saucepan
about 25 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
300g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
300ml extra virgin olive oil
about 1 tablespoon double cream

Place the garlic cloves into a small pan, cover with milk. Gently simmer on very low heat until the garlic is soft.
Crush/mash the garlic into the milk (I use the back of a spoon), add the anchovies and dissolve them in the milk and garlic over gentle heat, stirring all the time. Add the butter and olive oil, bits and slurps slowly and stir gently to combine (without boiling).Take off the heat and mix in the cream.
Pour the mixture into a fondue dish or similar container that can be kept warm over a lighted candle or an appropriate burner.

I use this. I have a choice of two containers.

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Place in centre of the table and dip in the vegetables.

Link to post CELERIAC (Sedano Rapa)

Sicily Culture and Conquest at The British Musem

I am in London and I will be in Sicily next week.

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I have been to see  the exhibition Sicily Culture and Conquest at The British Musem.

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The exhibition was excellent.

The  British Museum also offered a Sicilian Inspired menu to experience the flavours of the island.

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Here is some of the food.

Stuffed squid: Calamari Ripieni ( was the antipasto). Bread crumbs are usually  used for stuffing but this was stuffed with Freekeh,  a modern  touch as this ingredient does not feature in Sicilian cooking.  

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In my recipe ** Calamari Ripieni the squid is stuffed with fresh cheese ( Formaggio Fresco).

Stuffed squid capers & arugula

Rigatoni **alla Norma: (** link to my blog)

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Grilled fish and **Caponata and **Salmoriglio: (**links to my blog)
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The last of my pickled olives

This year’s  olives…… hardly worth it.  Larger than last year’s crop, but probably just as few.

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I think that my tree is refusing to produce many olives because it is objecting to being in a pot. It gets root bound and every year we pull it out of the pot and trim the roots – this probably traumatizes it.

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It has given me many years of pleasure and I have certainly experimented with processes for curing the olives and dressing them.

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Once pickled, my olives do not keep their colour – I pick them when they are a green- violet colour but the pickling process turns them into a uniform light brown colour.

I was horrified when I read this article in The Age (Melbourne news paper):

Olives painted with copper sulphate top largest-ever Interpol-Europol list of fake food

A statement by Interpol on Wednesday said a record 10,000 tonnes and 1 million litres of hazardous fake food and drink had been recovered across 57 countries, with Australia also making the list.

Italian olives painted with copper sulphate solution, Sudanese sugar tainted with fertiliser, and hundreds of thousands of litres of bogus alcoholic drinks top Interpol’s annual tally of toxic and counterfeit food seized by police agencies across the world. The haul of bogus diet supplements, adulterated honey and ……….etc.

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I have often been asked about the colour of Sicilian Olives (those bright green ones as in photo above) and I really do not know how they are pickled and how the bright green  colour eventuates.

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My tree has given me a great deal of pleasure and I have certainly experimented with processes for curing its olives and dressing them.

There are many posts written about pickling olives and recipes using olives on my blog…. key in OLIVES in the search button. I have just tried this and there are 72 posts about olives! Here is one of them:

Various Ways to Pickle Olives

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The olive trees in Agrigento are among the oldest in Sicily. This photo was taken in the Valley of the Temples.
Oh, to be in Agrigento now!

IL MIO FRUTTIVENDOLO, my fruit and vegetable stall at The Queen Victoria Market

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Carmel and Gus are my greengrocers. They are my fruttivendoli (plural as there are two of them). Frutti+ vendelo= fruit+ seller = fruttivendolo. Below are the grapes I bought from them.

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I have been shopping at their stall in The Queen Victoria Market throughout the thirteen years that I have been residing in Melbourne. Before that I lived close to the Adelaide Market.

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As you can see in the photos the range and quality of the vegetables and fruit is vast and I am able to purchase some produce that is not available anywhere else in the market. I love  Fichi d’India (prickly pears).

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My Fruttivendolo is open on Thursday to Saturday.

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Here are some of the dishes I have prepared with their produce:

Fichi d’india (prickly pears in a salad with pumpkin, purslane, labneh and black tahini).

Entry with Fici d%22india & pumpkin #2

Fig tart. I cannot resist figs. A layer of short sweet pastry, mascarpone and fresh figs with a drizzle of orange and dates whipped together with a little Cointreau .

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Salad of watercress, black grapes, beetroot etc.

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Prickly pears have prickles and need to be handled carefully. For how to peel prickly pears, see:

Prickly Pears Fichi D’india and A Paste Called Mostarda

Mascarpone:

Mascarpone and Its Many Uses. How to Make It at Home

Labneh:

Watermelon, Labneh and Dukkah Salad

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.

 

 

 

GELATINA DI MAIALE. Pork Brawn

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My father’s relatives live in Ragusa in Sicily.  Ragusa and Modica are very attractive historic Baroque towns in south-eastern Sicily. Modica is  and very close to Ragusa.

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Chiaramonte Gulfi is also in this part of Sicily and Gelatina di maiale (Pork Brawn) is very popular. It is sold in butcher shops and markets, but it can also be made at home.

In Gelatina di maiale the pork’s head provides the gelatinous component. Usually the tongue is included in the head and this adds texture and extra flavour.

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Meat also needs to be included and apart from half of a pig’s head I bought 1.500 kilo of lean pork (cut into large pieces) and four pig’s feet.

Over time, I have adapted this recipe and I include bay leaves and peppercorns to the mix.  I boil the meats without vinegar for about 3 hours (until I can see the meat falling off the bones).

Once it is cooked, I leave it to rest overnight.

The next day I remove the meat from the jelly, I add ½ cup of vinegar and the juice of a couple of lemons to the broth and reduce the liquid down to a third of the original amount.

I remove the bones, shred the meat ( not too finely) and place it into a terrine lined with a few bay leaves and cover it with the cooled reduced stock.

Any fat will rise to the surface and can be scraped off when it is cool (in fact, it acts as a seal).

Great as an antipasto or as a main, especially in summer. Gelatina is sold by most butchers in southeastern Sicily.

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