Vitello tonnato (vitello = veal, tonno = tuna, tonnato = refers to the style of cooking or preparation) is a perfect dish for this sort of occasion. It can be prepared the day before or assembled in the morning to allow the flavours to combine but what I particularly like, is that I can drink and talk and laugh and eat with my guests rather than being busy in the kitchen!!
What is also important is that I can buy pole-caught, sustainable, tinned tuna from Aldi. Now isn’t that good?
There are various ways to make vitello tonnato. Several recipes boil the veal, I have always pot-roasted it – my mother always did and this method of cooking the veal intensifies the flavours. Some cooks use the vegetables and jellied stock to combine with the tuna, capers and anchovies to make the sauce; others add egg yolk from hard boiled eggs to the sauce. I combine the jelled sauce from the pot roast and some of the vegetables with the tuna, anchovies and capers with egg mayonnaise – this is also what my mother always did. It makes the sauce smoother and more creamy. I do this way because I like the taste of it and not because it’s how my mother did.
Some say that vitello tonnato originated in Piemonte (Piedmont) and maybe this is why my Piedmontese aunt, who lived in Genova, used to make it for us (she was married to my uncle, my dad’s Sicilian brother – what a culinary combination that was!). Maybe it did originate in Piemonte, but as a child growing up in Trieste in the 50’s it was often an acceptable entrée on special occasions.
One thing is certain, vitello tonnato obviously gets around. A variation using chicken (pollo) is served in the Sicilian port of Messina as pollo alla Messinese.
For this recipe see:
For the pot roasted veal:
girello, (topside or nut, or silver side of yearling veal – girello is lean) 800g-1k
extra virgin oilive oil, ½-¾ cup
onion, carrot, celery stick, 1 of each, left whole
white-wine, 1 cup
salt, black pepper, to taste
broth, 1 cup, or broth cube dissolved in 1 cup water
bay leaves, sage leaves, sprig of rosemary
For the Sauce:
canned tuna in oil 200 g
anchovy fillets, 2
capers, 2 tablespoons
mayonnaise, 1½ cups (see link below)
jellied stock – the liquid the meat was cooked in, 1 cup
vegetables: ½ of the cooked onion or cooked celery or carrot, some of the sage leaves – it all depends on the consistency. The sauce cannot be runny , it should be smooth but thick.
Lightly sauté the veal (in one piece) in the hot oil. Add everything else, Cover and simmer over a low heat for 1½ – 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
Leave everything to cool until you are ready to assemble it.
And this is what I like about this dish, I often cook the veal the day before. Sometimes I have eaten the veal as a pot roast (hot) and used the left over veal to make vitello tonnato – depending on how much veal you have left, you could prepare an entrée or lunch for 2 people.
Make the egg mayonnaise.
For this recipe see:
Process the drained tuna with the rest of the ingredients until it is smooth, – I use a blender, mixing through the mayonnaise last of all.
To assemble the dish:
Remove the meat from the pan with the vegetables and the jellied juices. Slice the meat thinly.
Arrange one layer of the meat on a serving dish and spoon over some of the tuna sauce. Continue to do this, building up the layers until the meat runs out (no more than 3-4 layers).
Garnish the vitello tonnato with capers, anchovies or slices of hard-boiled eggs or as the on this occasion, slices of carrot from the pot-roast.
Leave for a few hours if not overnight for the flavours to mingle before serving.
Slice it – use a sharp knife. Using a spatula, lift it onto plates like a cake.
Serve it a green salad, or one made with cooked green beans, good bread – complete!
What is it about zeppole that has everybody drooling?
Lidia, Marianna’s mother from Dolcetti, had customers lining up for hers at the Sweets Festival held recently at the Immigration Museum.
She began mixing her first batch of dough with ricotta – this is very traditional when making the sweet version of zeppole. The next batch had fennel seeds and a pinch of chilli; what was interesting about hers is that even this batch was rolled in caster sugar – I love that mix of savoury with the sweet that Sicilians are particularly proud of. By the end of the day someone was sent out to buy more flour and the zeppole were just plain dough rolled in castor sugar infused with vanilla bean and still the customers lined up and were prepared to wait for their order.
|Dolcetti stall – frying zeppole at Immigration Museum Sweets Festival|
Now the funny thing about zeppole is that they are called by different names in various parts of Sicily – sfinci, sfinci di San Giuseppe, sfingi, crispeddi, sfincia: Whatever they are called, they are traditionally eaten at the feast of Saint Joseph – who looks after the poor, and San Martino – he looks after wine. Some Sicilian variations include a ricotta filling (rather than in the mixture).
Different versions of these fritters are found all over Italy. In Trieste and Venice they are called frittole – this version has sultanas (soaked in rum beforehand) and rolled in cinnamon in the castor sugar. When the Triestini side of my family made them, they also added lemon or orange peel to the mixture – these are traditional at the time of Carnevale. In Naples they call theirs graffe. Older people living in Adelaide may remember Asio from Asio’s Restaurant. He was from Tuscany and he called his frati. I knew Asio when I was a child and he used to make these for my family.
The traditional dough is basically a sloppy bread dough made with yeast and warm water with a little sugar and a little salt.
*You could cheat and use self raising flour and no yeast. They taste pretty good but remember that although you are making the easy version, they will not be traditional.
This is a small pasticceria in Polozzi Generosa, in the Madonie Mountains, not that far from Palermo. I have misplaced the photos of the pascal lambs I found in this shop, but they were beautiful.
These are Pascal lambs from Dolcetti. It will give you an idea of what I mean.
In Sicily, the traditional pascal lambs (agnellini pasquali) are made with marzipan, however I have found a recipe for making the lamb out of pasta garofolata (dough flavoured with cloves/ cloves are chiodi di garofano in Italian). This same dough is used to make ossa dei morti (bones of the dead, customary Nov1st/ 2nd, the day of the Dead/ All saints Day).
Here is another version from a different Pasticceria in Sicily.
For those of you who may wish to try making a pascal lamb (could be fun to make with children), here is the recipe from: Culinaria Italy, Claudia Piras, 2004:
NB. There are many recipes for making ossa dei morti; many use almond meal and egg white.
In Sicily, the dessert has to be cassata – not the Neapolitan one made with ice cream, but with ricotta, and Sicilians use sheep’s milk ricotta because they can.
Each time I make a cassata it always looks different, but they always taste good. on occasions I have even made made marzipan with pistachio nuts – a long process peeling off their skins!
I always cover the cassata with marzipan. See:
|A slice of cassata|
In pastry shops many cassate are covered with glassa (fondant):
There are many recipes where icing sugar is melted in water over a stove and then poured over the cassata – I find this too hard to work with and far too sweet. The following fondant is much easier to work with:
Beat 1 egg white till stiff, add 350 g of icing sugar (which has been infused with a vanilla bean). Add juice of one lemon and a few drops of green colouring. Beat till smooth. Spread over cassata. Many pasticcerie use white and green fondant.
Marianna demonstrated how to make giuggiulena to a group who attended the Sweets Festival at the Immigration Museum (18th March). Eager participants filled the small theatre, they watched as she made it, smelt it, sampled it and took home her recipe, which I will share with you (see below). There was plenty of interaction with the group and it was a pleasure to field questions and to participate in the comments and discussions. Towards the end of the session Lidia, Marianna’s mother also participated.
In some parts of Sicily giuggiulena is also known as cubbaita. e seeds). You may be familiar with torrone (nougat) which is common all over Italy and is made with almonds, eggwhites and sugar. Marianna and I had a discussion on stage about some versions also including honey – I know that a Sicilian friend of my mother’s adds this.
The Festival was an amazingly successful day and it drew a very large crowd. People came to see great performances, eat glorious food, attend cooking demonstrations and see the exhibition on Sweets: Tastes and Traditions of Many Cultures (Indian, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, Mauritian). As well as Marianna there were cooking demonstrations on how to make Japanese wagashi and moshi sweets and Indian sweets. Members of the Turkish, Mauritian communities demonstrated how to make halva (helva).
The range of food for sale from the participating communities was of extremely good quality.
Marianna’s Dolcetti stall was stocked with an array of Sicilian sweets from her pasticceria in Victoria Street, West Melbourne. There were people lined up all day to buy samples of her cakes, pastries and biscuits. Her mother Lidia was making batch after batch of Sicilian fritelle (also called sfinci) and those who worked on the stall did not have time to have a break, from the moment they set up until they had sold out of everything. I believe this was the case for most of the stall-holders with many saying that they did not get time to see the exhibition on the first floor of the Museum. Like me, they are going back. Although the festival was a one off event, the Exhibition (at The Immigration Museum, Melbourne) goes on and is really worth seeing (15 March 2012 to 7 April 2013).
One cannot help but see the Arab influence on Sicilian cuisine – the Arabs ruled Sicily for two centuries (in medieval times they were sometimes called “Saracens” or “Moors”) and contributed to the development of Sicilian culture, the agriculture and architecture, and had a profound influence on the cuisine of Sicily. They are credited with bringing or contributing to the development of certain produce used in sweets: sugar, pistachio, sesame seeds, citrus, dates, cinnamon and cloves are some of the produce considered they made ices and pastries stuffed with nuts and dried fruit. Sicily is a blend of cultures and obviously, one cannot give the Arabs all the praise, there were the Spaniards, French, as well as the Normans, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks and original settlers as well as them.
Sicilian pastry chefs are renowned all over Italy and Marianna is no exception. Marianna’s little pastry shop is filled with handmade delicacies made with natural and fresh ingredients. Her dolcetti (little sweets) are a work of art and she is very proud of her Sicilian heritage.
As you would expect when giuggiulena (or cubbaita) is made in the various parts of Sicily, there are variations in the recipes – some use all sugar or all honey, some omit almonds. My relatives in Ragusa add cinnamon and I have seen recipes where a pinch of cumin is added.
This is Marianna’s recipe for giuggiulena.
250gms sesame seeds
250gms orange blossom honey
250gms whole raw almonds
zest of 1 orange (not too finely grated)
Combine the honey and sugar in a pot and stir until it begins to melt and soften.
Add the sesame seeds and almonds and cook, stirring continuously until it begins to bubble.
Let it cook and darken to a dark golden brown color.
Add the orange zest.
Pour onto a sheet of baking paper lined with a touch of oil or oil spray or onto a lightly greased marble or granite surface.
Flatten it slightly with an oiled rolling pin.
Let it cool before cutting it into pieces
Keep stored in airtight container.
Giuggiulena is usually made for Christmas and more recently at Easter but because it keeps well, it is often served to visitors at other times of the year – it is particularly useful to have on hand in case unexpected guests come – one would not want to make a brutta figura. My relatives wrap each piece of giuggiulena in cellophane or greaseproof paper.
300 g of biscuits (We used any type of plain sweet biscuits. Most of the time it was a way to use up broken biscuits).
50g of cocoa, (the Italian or Dutch brands are particularly strong and flavourful)
100 g chopped almonds
20 g, chopped pistachios
30g butter (unsalted)
1/2 glass rum or other liqueurs like Amaretto.
Separate the yolk from the white.
Beat the egg yolk with the sugar until creamy and the sugar is dissolved. In another bowl beat the white until soft peaks form.
Make course crumbs from the biscuits.
Incorporate all of the ingredients one at the time. Stir gently .The mixture should be firm.
Shape it into a salame (log shape – we used to make it about 2 centimetres in diameter)
Place it in some greaseproof or baking paper. (We used to use the paper wrapper from the butter.)
Leave in the fridge until ready to slice approximately 20mm thick.
Both my grandmothers always added baking soda (bicarbonato) to the soaking water when cooking chickpeas (ceci in Italian). Mind you, they also dissolved bicarbonato in water to help their digestion.
Old habits die hard: just because her mother had done this, my mother also did this, but by the time I was old enough to cook chickpeas these unnecessary habits stopped.
Evidence found in archaeological sites all around the Mediterranean indicate that chickpeas have been around for a very long time – since Neolithic times and in the early Bronze Age. These legumes were important food sources in countries like in Cyprus, Iraq, India Turkey, Egypt, Crete and Southern Italy – they were grown in Pompeii to feed the Roman empire.
Chickpeas are mentioned in the Iliad by Homer and by Pliny, and continued to be a popular food source in all of these countries.
In more recent times ceci have a prominent place in Sicilian history. On Easter Monday, March 30, 1282 in Palermo, Sicilians were waiting to attend Vespers (church service). Here occurred the beginning of a rebellion which had been brewing for a long time – Sicilians were against the rule of Charles I of Anjou, ruler of Sicily and they took the opportunity to use a trivial event to massacre the Frenchmen who were identified by their inability to pronounce the word for chickpeas without their inevitable lisp.
On the anniversary of this Sicilian Vespers event it is time to celebrate another recipe for chickpeas, this time not with a Sicilian recipe, but one from Florence – baccalà e ceci.
This dish of course of is also be suitable for Good Friday – a day of fasting and abstinence in the Catholic Church.
And why a recipe from Florence? This came about because my brother and sister in law visited Spain last year; we recently discussed how they particularly had enjoyed eating bacalao in Spain with chickpeas and how many of the Spanish recipes seem very similar to the Italian ones.
I was in Florence a couple of years ago and ate baccalà in a small trattoria; it was not the usual baccalà alla fiorentina which is made with tomatoes, parsley and garlic and of which different variations exist and with different names, all over Italy and not just in Tuscany.
There are a number of particularly similar Catalan and Florentine recipes of salt cod and chickpeas; the following recipe is from Florence and although there are many variations in the cooking of baccalà con ceci, the following has the flavours that work for me. It is also a complete course and pretty balanced.
Thick pieces of salt cod (cut from the centre) are best. Leave the skin, but cut away fins and obvious bones. Cut into pieces (7- 10cm). Rinse well in running water before soaking for 36-48 hours (over soaking will not spoil the fish, especially if the pieces of baccalà are thick). Keep it covered in a bowl in the fridge. Change the water at least 4-5 times.
1 k of baccalà serves 4-6 people.
Soak the chickpeas in water overnight for 8 – 12 hours. Cover the chickpeas with fresh water, cover and bring them to the boil, Cook until tender.
chickpeas, 500g, cooked extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
freshly ground, black pepper and maybe a little salt leeks, 3, sliced into rings sage, rosemary, (use fresh if possible), a few sprigs chillies 1-2, chopped garlic, 2 cloves white wine, 1 cup red tomatoes, 400 g, peeled and chopped silver beet (chard) or spinach, 500g, pre-cooked PROCESSES Drain the cod and squeeze out excess water. Skin the fish and pat dry. Cut it into serving pieces (5cm each). Add some oil to the pan and lightly fry the cod on both sides. Remove from the pan and discard the oil. Soften the leeks and the herbs in the rest of the oil – use a thick bottom pan that will hold all of the ingredients. Add the tomatoes, chillies, garlic, and wine and stir these ingredients to incorporate the flavours. Add the cod and pepper and cook slowly for about 20 mins. Add chickpeas, taste for salt and add it if necessary. Cook slowly for another 20mins. At this stage the cod should be cooked and the sauce and chickpeas should have a creamy consistency. Cook for longer and add more liquid if necessary.
Add cooked and drained silver beet (chard) or spinach or serve the baccalà and chickpeas with a separate contorno of spinach (first blanched and then tossed in some hot oil and garlic or hot oil, toasted pine nuts and a few pre-soaked sultanas).
I have been part of a committee which has helped to develop Sweets: Tastes and Traditions from Many Cultures exhibition and the related one day festival event on 18 March 2012.
Sweets: Tastes and Traditions from Many Cultures exhibition and the related one day festival event on 18March 2012 at The Immigration Museum.
Represented in the exhibition are the Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mauritian and Turkish communities of Victoria.
To promote the Sweets: Tastes and Traditions from Many Cultures exhibition and the related one day festival event on 18March 2012, The Immigration Museum invited a group of Melbourne’s most celebrated bloggers to sample a large array of sweets from the communities represented in the exhibition. These are the Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mauritian and Turkish communities of Victoria.
Rosaria Zarro and I were the representatives for the Italian Community.
The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar <http://theveryveryhungrycaterpillar.com/2012/03/04/sweets/>
Sweets: tastes and traditions from many cultures exhibition
I received congratulatory email today informing me that my website has been recognised in the Sicily Local Expert Award- Charming Lady.
I feel very pleased and hope that you will look at some of the other websites that have been chosen for this award.
This is the email:Dear Marisa I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to drop you an email to let you know that your website has been recognised in the Charming Italy Local Expert Awards, as we think your website offers some good information and advice for people looking to visit Sicily. At Charming Italy we are constantly on the lookout for blogs and websites that offer incredibly useful information for visitors. We thought it was about time that these sites were given the recognition they deserve, and so we created the Local Experts Awards which covers Sicily, Puglia and Sardinia.
Click here to see the full list of winners:
Photo above: Marisa in Via Bellini, Catania.
The majority of people love SWEETS and even those who are not gluttons for all sweet things are tempted by some sweets.
For example I am not a great fan of cakes nor large quantities of puddings but I do like dolcetti (Italian for little sweet things) like biscuits, especially Sicilian almond biscuits and torrone.
|Pasticceria Erice (Sicily)|
How many of you have tried giuggiulena or know what it is? What about pignolata? I love small moist ricotta filled cannoli …. All Sicilian, all exceptional, traditional and exquisitely made….and where else (Melbourne and the world!!) besides Sicily will you be able to sample these sweets?
|Pistacchio treat from Dolcetti in Melbourne|
You can taste them in Melbourne at the small and brilliant pasticceria, Dolcetti, where Marianna di Bartolo carries on a Sicilian tradition of exquisite sweet-making inherited from her family. But you will also be able to taste and purchase her sweets at the Sweets Festival at the Immigration Museum on Sunday 18 March 2012 (11am to 4pm).
|Dolcetti’s Marianna Di Bartolo, her sweets are ‘to die for’|
And Marianna will not be the only one offering her sweets and demonstrating some of her craft. This one-day festival of food and culture is a feast of toothsome sweet (and savoury) food stalls, film, music and dance performances, cooking demonstrations and workshops. along with Marianna’s sweets there will be baklava, mochi, moti choor ladoo and napolitains as well as numerous other delicious treats, along with flavoured teas, coffee and sherbet.
During the day there will be short tours of the Sweets: Tastes and Traditions from Many Cultures Exhibition – this exhibition begins on 15 March 2012 to 7 April 2013.
For the past six months I have been part of a group coordinating the Sweets Exhibition at the Immigration Museum. This is a Museum Victoria project and is also part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. 2012.
The Museum worked collaboratively with a number of Victorian communities to produce an exhibition and festival themed around sweets, highlighting shared cultural traditions, rituals and contemporary practices.The Italian, Indian, Mauritian, Turkish and Japanese communities have been invited to participate. Obviously I am a member of the Italian group.
These communities were chosen because of their differences in food traditions and their geographical diversity. I have always been interested in the historical and cultural significance of ingredients and cooking methods and the culinary variations between cultures and even within the same culture.
Readers of my blog and my book will know about my interest in the origins of Sicilian recipes shaped by the Greeks, Arabs, French and Spaniards. Mauritius, Turkey, Japan and India all have unique histories and very different cultural and climatic influences that are reflected in what they eat.
|Cannoli in Palermo (Sicily)|
There will be performances throughout the day at the Sweets Festival at the Immigration Museum on Sunday 18 March. Naturally there will be Italian performers but these are only some of the performances from the other cultures represented:
Tara Rajkumar Natya, Sudha Dance Company. The performance explores treats of two of the Hindu Gods – Ganesha’ s modakam dumplings and Krishna’s favourite pudding pal payasam.
A dance theatre performance by the Turkish Ekol School of Arts. Discover the importance of baklava at an Anatolian wedding.
A musical concert with a Japanese shiobue flute and taiko drumming from the Fuefukuro trio.
Sego Lebrasse and dancers will present a Mauritian sega.
The Bumbroo Dance of the Bumblebee by the Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Association.
A Japanese tea ceremony demonstration with the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Melbourne Association.
|Small cassate Ragusa (Sicily)|
I have just returned from a trip to Vietnam and loved sampling different foods and flavours from the street stalls to traditional eateries to sophisticated dining rooms. Desserts, as we know them, are not generally eaten in Vietnam. Meals are most likely to be finished with a selection of fabulous fresh fruit, if anything. But sweet snacks are available on the street all day long. Sweet cakes, snacks and specialties such as coloured glutinous rice enclosing sweet bean paste, are also made for special occasions, Buddhist festivals and other celebrations.
|Sweet stall in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)|
It seems that wherever you go, there is always something sweet to eat. They may not always be nutritious but they always nourish some part of us.
|Sweet stall in Market in Hanoi(Vietnam)|