ACETO DI VINO FATTO IN CASA (Home Made Wine Vinegar)

A friend of mine has just returned from a holiday in France. For some of the time she stayed in Aix en Provence and caught up with her old pen friend who makes her own vinegar. I think I would like this woman.

I too used to make wine vinegar years ago – it is really quite easy and I did not buy a special culture.

The best vinegar I ever made was when a friend who had been to a wine tasting of good quality French wines brought all these partly filled bottles to my house. We drank and I used as much as I could in cooking and with the rest of it (there was far too much of it) I made vinegar. I used a clean crock-pot (the old fashion type used by many to store flour) and in it I emptied all of the left over red wine – there may have been the equivalent of four wine bottles. To this I added about a cup of good wine vinegar and a piece of good bread – the sourdough variety (provides the yeast). I covered it with the lid and basically left it in a cool place. It then formed ‘the mother’- a thick gelatinous mass of jelly-like consistency that completely covered the top. I once did some reading on ‘the mother’ and I think that it is called that because it gives birth to the vinegar.

I left it for a couple of months undisturbed and then removed the vinegar very carefully (I used a ladle) by pushing the mother to one side.  I removed about one wine bottle worth per time. I always made sure that I left about 3 cups of vinegar in the crock – pot and then added left over wine and the mother did the rest.

It is not  just people in the South of Italy that make vinegar. My aunt in Trieste always made vinegar by leaving an open, filled bottle of wine (about ¾ full) by the side of her stove. I cannot remember what her vinegar tasted like but when I tried to make vinegar this way I had to deal with the vinegar flies and the smell.

My Sicilian friend says that her brother makes vinegar, he inherited his father’s old wooden wine vat and he pours the dregs of left-over wine into it. That’s the only technique he uses and has never added anything else to it since his dad’s death.

I am going to try to make some more. It is time to resurrect that old crockpot where I now store onions. I will wash it with very hot water before I tackle the vinegar.

 

CARCIOFI (Artichokes)

We are now well into autumn and the green artichokes have been in season for a few weeks now in Victoria (see photo above) and soon we will also have the purple tinged ones – all Victorian produce.

artichokes

Good news for carciofi lovers. They can be eaten in so many ways. Here are some of the ways that I have enjoyed eating artichokes:
• raw, as a salad, the centre of young, tender artichokes, sliced very thinly and dressed,
• thin slices of raw artichokes dipped in batter (or in egg and then breadcrumbs) and then fried,
• small ones preserved in oil,
• boiled and dressed in a salad,
• cooked and almost disintegrated in a pasta sauce,
• grilled over hot coals,
• as the principal ingredient of a caponata,
• in a frittata,
• an ingredient in a tart or pie,
• boiled and once cooked, leaf by leaf is dipped into a dressing (one’s teeth extracting the soft part found at the bottom of each leaf)
• stuffed in a variety of ways, then baked or braised.

There are many ways to eat artichokes, but when friends come they always ask me for stuffed artichokes. During artichoke season I seem to be stuffing artichokes very often . See recipe:

CARCIOFI IMBOTTITI (Stuffed artichokes)

Photo below: Photographer Graeme Gillies, food stylist Fiona Rigg. Both worked on my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking.

My brother who lives in Adelaide uses egg and no cheese in his bread and herb stuffing so when I visit him I am pleased that they are a little bit different. Last time I ate artichokes at his house he added peas (which I often do) and we had the peas, stalks and juice as a pasta dressing and the stuffed artichoke as a second course.

I have written recipes about artichokes on this blog before. See:

CARCIOFI (Artichokes and how to clean them)

CANNULICCHI A LA FAVURITA – CANNOLICCHI ALLA FAVORITA (Pasta with braoadbeans, peas and artichokes alla favorita)

 

artichokesMelbourneblog-300x201

Cardoons will also be in season in winter.

CARDOONS (Cardoni or Cardi in Italian)

CARDOONS/CARDI continued

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GNOCHETI DE GRIES (as called in Trieste), GNOCCHETTI DI SEMOLINO (Italian), SEMOLINA Small GNOCCHI.

When I lived in my parent’s house we ate brodo (broth) once per week. Sometimes it was made with chicken, sometimes with yearling beef and at other times it was a mixture of the two meats; a few bones were always included.

We always had brodo as the first course and the boiled meat as the second course, and this was always accompanied with salsa verde.

Brodo is popular all over Italy and is considered essential when a member of the household is feeling unwell. It is seen as a restorative food in many other cultures as well.

Often we would have tortellini in brodo, but at other times, my mother added pastina (small pasta); these were either capelli d’angelo (angel’s hair) or thin egg noodles or stelline (small stars) or quadretti (small squares). Most of the time we had or favourite: gnocchetti di semolino floating in our brodo – these are small gnocchi, a specialty from Trieste. Because I spent my childhood there I became an expert gnocchetti maker from an early age.

Lately, with winter colds I have been making brodo and last week I also made gnocchetti. Although making them was second nature to me but next time I make them I will use a coffee spoon to make them smaller.

IMG_0194

To make brodo, see:  BRODO DI GALLINA
INGREDIENTS (4- 6 people)
brodo (broth),
50 g of butter,
1 egg,
100g of semolina,
pinch of salt,
grated Parmesan cheese (1 tbs in the mixture and some to present at the table)
PROCESSES
Make the brodo:
Beat softened butter and egg with a small wooden spoon until soft and well mixed. Use a small jug, milk saucepan or a bowl with steep sides.
Add the semolina and grated cheese slowly and continue to mix vigorously until perfectly smooth.
Bring the broth to the boil.
Use a wet teaspoon to shape the gnocchetti. Take small quantities of the mixture and slip small oval shapes off the spoon into the boiling broth. Keep the broth on a gentle boil.

Continue shaping the gnocchetti and poaching them until the mixture is finished. The gnocchietti rise to the surface when cooked (about 5 minutes). If cooking large quantities of gnocchetti, to prevent over cooking, take the cooked ones out with a slotted spoon before slipping in the new ones, but with the above amounts this will not be necessary.

Ladle broth and a few gnocchetti into each bowl and present with grated cheese.

NB

IMG_3404

The pasta I use is commercially made, but when I eat brodo in Sicily at my zia Niluzza’s (my father’s sister) makes fresh quadrettini (little squares) – she cuts the fresh pasta amazingly quickly.

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BUDINO DI PANE, An Italian version of Bread And Butter Pudding

My partner loves bread and butter pudding. Most of the time he makes it with a good quality fruit loaf – sourdough with plenty of fruit.
I found two small ponettoni (plural) in my cupboard (90g each). These are uneaten presents from Christmas and need to be used up and were used for this pudding. The characteristic smell of panettone brings back many memories for me – as a child I used to dunk it into hot chocolate.

It is a simple recipe and pretty standard in the UK and Australia. Sometimes  he makes it with bread and he also adds a little vanilla and some good home made jam between the layers of bread.

 

INGREDIENTS
panettone, 180g cut into slices
butter, 50g spread on the panettone slices
milk, 1 litre (full cream)
eggs, 3
sugar, 2 tablespoons
PROCESSES
Preheat the oven to 160C
Grease a casserole dish with a little butter. Layer the slices of pannettonein the casserole dish.
Mix together the eggs, milk and sugar with a fork – use a jug.
Pour the liquid mixture evenly over the layers of panettone.
Bake for 30- 35 minutes until set.
Budino Di Pane

I inherited a recipe book called Millericette from my mother (A thousand recipes Aldo Garzanti editore, published 1965). I found a recipe for budino di pane – literally translated aspudding of bread.
INGREDIENTS and PROCESSES
Use 400g soft bread crumbs; soak in 1 litre of milk. After a couple of hours rub through a sieve, add 250g of sugar, 6 beaten eggs, 500g of sultanas and raisins, 1 cup full of orange peel chopped finely and 1 glass of rum.  Mix well.
Transfer contents to a well buttered mold or one lined with buttered paper. Bake in a moderate oven for 30 mins.
Serve with orange sauce.
 
Notice that there is no butter in the Italian recipe. ( I think that I would add 50- 75g.)
 
Orange sauce:
Use orange jam (sweet orange marmalade), press the jam through a sieve, add a couple of spoon fulls of boiled water and sugar, add gin or Grand Marnier and mix well.


Italians do like their alcohol in sweets!!

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SBRISOLONA, SBRISOLOSA OR SBRISOLINA (Biscuit- like crumble cake)

This has to be one of the easiest and fun desserts that I have made in a long time.
It is so incredibly simple and you can make it with your fingers if you want to. It reminds me of making shortbread, simply and gently combining the basic ingredients of flour, butter and sugar and gently pressing it into shape. Sbrisolona has polenta in it as well, and it was once made with lard instead of butter. Modern recipes like this one, include egg yolk, lemon peel and coarsely chopped almonds. I am liking the new season’s Victorian walnuts and used these instead.
When you hear or see the word polenta you know that this means Northern Italy and in fact we are talking about peasant food of Montova and Cremona.
What I like about it is that it is not cut, it is broken into pieces so it becomes a talking point at the table.

 

Sbrisolona, Sbrisolosa or Sbrisolina is all the same thing, just different names and written in dialect. Sbriciola is the Italian word and it comes from sbriciolare, to crumb.
INGREDIENTS
finely ground polenta/ cornmeal, 1 cup
plain flour, 2 cups
sugar, 1 cup
butter, 225 g
almonds are traditional, I used walnuts , coarsley chopped, 1 cup
egg yolks, 2 large
grated lemon zest from 1 large lemon
salt, ½ teaspoon (if using unsalted butter)
pure vanilla extract, to taste
PROCESSES
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Butter a 28 cm springform pan or line it with baking paper – the paper will make it easier to remove from the tin and help it not to break.
Combine flour, cornmeal and salt.
Rub in butter, either by hand or in a food processor/ with pastry hook.
Add sugar and mix through.
Mix the egg yolk, lemon zest and vanilla together and add it to the dry mixture. Combine it gently; it will resemble coarse meal. Do not to over mix.
Add the chopped nuts.
Place the crumbs loosely into the baking tin and help it to stick together mostly around the edges by pressing it very gently.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until it is golden brown on top.
Transfer to a rack and cool completely before taking it out of the tin. Handle carefully, but if it breaks just reshape it.
It not cut like a cake. Break it into serving pieces or guests can break it into pieces themselves.
It’s pretty good served with a glass of liqueur or sweet wine.

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WILD MUSHROOMS – Saffron Coloured, Pine Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks

 

Pine mushrooms

Foraging is a buzz activity lately (in Melbourne) and foraging for wild mushrooms has increasingly become very popular. In the last two years the frequency of groups that are conducting wild mushroom hunts have increased significantly and so too have the number of cooking classes or special menus in restaurants and wineries; Mornington Peninsula in Victoria seems to be where wild mushrooms are found in large quantities.

Pine mushroom haul

Unfortunately for me, this may mean finding less wild mushrooms for myself, but over the years I have been extremely spoilt with the number of wild mushroom feasts I have had. During my latest foraging experience a couple of weeks ago my partner and I collected as much as we wanted of saffron coloured, pine mushrooms( photos above of the bag full and a small selection). We also could have collected slippery jacks but chose not to – we much prefer the taste and texture of the saffron coloured, pine mushrooms. If the slippery jacks are picked young and there has not been rain, they are firm and compact and very pleasant to eat.

 Photo = Slippery jacks

 

I was speaking to a friend who had attended a class on wild mushrooms recently and she showed me photos of two other edible fungi – unfortunately I am not familiar with these as I am always open to new tastes. Like many others who had tasted the slippery jacks, my friend was saying that she finds this variety rather mushy and slimy to eat. I used to collect the slippery jacks in South Australia and dried them (I moved to Melbourne about 10 years ago). This is very easily done: wipe them dry, cut them into slices, spread them out on wooden trays lined with paper and old tea towels and leave them to dry in a warm room. Turn them over a couple of times. They stored well and were certainly very edible; I used them as I would if they were dry porcini – not as strong in taste but certainly worth eating.

The only problem with collecting the saffron coloured, pine mushrooms is that they bruise very easily and they really need to be cleaned and cooked as soon as possible.

I turned this lot of saffron coloured, pine mushrooms into a pasta sauce (saffron coloured, pine mushrooms = First photo).  If you do not collect your own you can buy them in The Queen Victoria Market at the Fresh Generation, for $40+ per kilo. I have also seen slippery jacks on the odd occasion at Gus and Carmel’s stall (61-63) .

INGREDIENTS
500 g of mushrooms are sufficient for 500 g of pasta and in my household it is sufficient for 6 people as a (primo) first course
garlic, 2 -3 cloves
parsley, ½ cup finely chopped,
white wine,½ cup or dry marsala,
fresh bay leaves and some marjoram  to taste
a good quality stock cube,
grated nutmeg, a pinch
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste,
tomato paste, 1 tablespoon
cream or butter, ½ cup at the end of cooking
Parmesan cheese to grate on top
PROCESSES
Clean the mushrooms, scrape away any bad bits or patches that are too discoloured. Strangely enough the discoloured patches do fade during cooking. Watch out for bugs that like to live in the stem. Slice each mushroom into thick strips.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil, add the mushrooms garlic and the herbs and sauté over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.
Add wine, nutmeg, seasoning, stock cube (dissolved in about ½ cup of hot water) and tomato paste. Add more water or wine if the mixture looks too dry.
Cover and cook over low heat for about 5-7minutes. Add cream or butter at the very end to enrich the sauce.
Use this sauce as a dressing for cooked pasta. Add grated cheese at the table.

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PASTA E FAGIOLI (Thick bean soup with pasta)

These colourful beans are fresh borlotti; their pods look even more amazing. They are not in season in Victoria, they are coming from Queensland, but I bought some last week at Stall 61-63 in The Queen Victoria Market – this is where I buy all of my Italian vegetables. In Italy, when the fresh beans are available they are considered to be a treat.

Probably every region of Italy has a version of pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) or minestra (soup) di fagioli. It is called pasta e fasoi in Trieste, pasta e facioli in Calabria, pasta ca fasola in Sicily and mnestra di fasö in Piedmont; the list goes on.

There may be a slight difference between the two dishes in the amount of liquid used, but they are both thick soups, and in fact so thick that they are also referred to as wet pasta dishes.

This version of the recipe is pretty universal all over Italy, but probably the greatest variation is that in various parts of Italy the cook places sufficient liquid in the soup to cook the pasta in it, whereas in other regions the pasta is cooked separately, drained and dressed with the cooked beans. Rice instead of pasta is more commonly used in the north of Italy.

Not every greengrocer sells fresh borlotti nor are they always in season but dry borlotti  (soaked overnight)are also widely used for this dish. Do not add salt to the water when cooking dry pulses – it makes them tough.

Fresh borlotti beans do not need to be soaked, but lose their colour when cooked. Soak beans in cold water overnight – they will swell so it is important to put them in plenty of water.

1 kilo of fresh beans will shelled left me with 450g; this is sufficient quantity for a plate of soup for 2-3 people.
Wet pasta dishes with pulses are commonly cooked plain and presented with a drizzle of oil.
INGREDIENTS
borlotti beans, shelled, 450g
carrots, 2 finely sliced
celery stalks, 2 in bite-sized slices
fresh bay leaves, 2
short pasta, 300 – 400g ( depending on how wet you like the soup)
onion, 1 finely chbut preferably keep them whole – this will depend on how fresh the dried beans are, but fresh borlotti will take much less cooking time. Add salt to taste.
Cook the pasta.
Either add more water to the pan and cook the pasta in the soup or cook the pasta separately – I like to add stock or water with a good stock cube, salt and freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
PROCESSES
Drain the beans if they have been soaking.
Place sufficient water to cover the pulses and add the carrot, the tomato, celery and bay leaves (this will be the broth).
Bring the soup to the boil. Add the parsley. Cook the pulses until soft (20– 40 mins), but preferably keep them whole – this will depend on how fresh the dried beans are, but fresh borlotti will take much less cooking time. Add salt to taste.
Cook the pasta.
Either add more water to the pan and cook the pasta in the soup or cook the pasta separately – I like to add stock or water with a good stock cube at this stage and cook the pasta in the soup.If you are cooking the pasta separately combine the cooked pasta and use the soup to dress the pasta.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground pepper or chili flakes (as is more common in the south of Italy) and serve.
SOFFRITTO
I sometimes like to garnish this soup with a soffritto:
Heat about ¾ cup of olive oil in a wide pan, add a clove of finely chopped garlic and the parsley (use the parsley in the soffritto instead of cooking it in the soup).
Sauté on high heat – it should sizzle and the parsley turn bright green – then pour over the soup.

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POTTED CHEESE, like in the olden days

Just recently I made a chicken liver pâté and it tasted great. I made it with the leftover chicken livers that I cooked on the previous night for our dinner (saute’ livers in extra virgin olive oil and some butter, add herbs such as sage, thyme or rosemary, salt and pepper. Remove the livers, add white wine or dry Marsala or brandy to deglaze the pan and evaporate. Blend everything till a fine paste. Place it in a ramekin. Cover with melted butter).
IMG_4289
I had not made pâté  for many years and it reminded me of other nibbly things I used to make years ago, like potted cheese – a cheese pâté.
This is definitely not Sicilian or Italian – left over cheese is used in cooking, but not converted into a spread.
cheesepateplate4-greenwalnut
Potted cheese was traditionally made with left over bits of cheese (coarsely grated); Cheshire or strong cheddar are usually given as examples in recipes and it usually made with two or more cheeses. Softened butter makes it spreadable, and for extra flavouring recipes suggest a dash of Port, maybe some paprika, Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce or mustard. All this is mixed together and covered with clarified butter, like potted meat or potted fish.
In my potted cheese I used semi firm cheeses: Gruyère, Montagio and Asiago; Raclette or Fontina or Gouda are other semi firm, medium-tasting cheeses). I added dry Marsala rather than port which is too strongly flavoured for these cheeses. I have some new season’s walnuts so I thought that these would be a good addition, a little nutmeg goes well with nuts and black pepper.
Chop up the cheeses in a food processor until it looks as if it has been coarsely grated. Combine with marsala and the softened butter. Add some chopped walnuts,  grated nutmeg and some coarsely ground, black pepper corns and mix thoroughly. Add more butter if necessary – it is a spread. Transfer spread into small bowls, press down to eliminate air bubbles and smooth out the top. Melt a little butter to pour on top to seal the potted cheese. Cover and refrigerate.
 
Potted cheese can be prepared days ahead and left in the fridge. Bring spread to room temperature before serving.
I topped mine with more walnuts before serving (I made individual ones for my guests).
Spread on bread, toast or crackers.
I particularly like my green walnut cracker (see photo above) – a special gift from a friend.

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IN PRAISE OF SEASONAL VEGETABLES

I love eating vegetables and a meal without them is unimaginable. The photos in this post are of some of the produce I bought last Saturday at my regular vendors stall in The Queen Victoria Market. I did not bother to put in potatoes, celery, carrots, herbs and the other fruit that I bought – I wanted to show in the photos the seasonal produce I am buying now and very much enjoying.

Vegetables have always been an important part of the Italian diet. There may be several reasons for this and without going into too much detail, Here are a few of them.

Culturally Italians have cooked vegetables in interesting ways: braise, grill, fry, boil and dress, roast, etc. whereas Anglo-Australians tended to primarily boil, steam, roast.

Historically Italians have cultivated and eaten a large variety of vegetables. The following vegetables are relatively new in Australia: fennel, chicory, broccoli, zucchini, eggplants, peppers, leafy vegetables for salads e.g. radicchio, romaine lettuce.  When I arrived in Australia the only common vegetables were cauliflowers, cabbages, carrots, pumpkins, peas and string beans.

Italians are very health-conscious. The Romans learned a great deal from the Ancient Greeks. Illnesses and other health problems were treated with herbal remedies and there was an interest with what one ate and when, the combination of foods and its effects on the body. This interest has continued and Italians are still very particular about their health especially the digestive system.

Economically vegetables are cheaper to grow than meat, which means they are also cheaper to buy and many Italians in years gone by could not afford to eat large quantities of meat; although fish was cheaper, some could still not afford to eat fish, either. Australia is said to ‘have ridden on the sheep’s back’ by the late 1830’s there were sheep in every colony and raising and eating meat is embedded in the Australian culinary culture.

Increasingly, ethical dilemmas and health concerns have caused many people to become vegetarians and I have many friends who are. I have had many conversations with people who are making an effort to eat less and less meat and I too, seem to be cooking meat less frequently – not that we have ever eaten very much meat in my house.

For a variety of reasons and perhaps coincidence being vegetarian is also getting some attention in the media and at events. As part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, I attended an event at the Melbourne Town Hall where six speakers debated the topic Animals Should Be Off the Menu. For the proposition:  Peter Singer, Philip Wollen, Veronica Ridge. Against the proposition: Adrian Richardson, Fiona Chambers, Bruce McGregor. Those who attended were able to vote to decide the outcome of the debate and perhaps not surprisingly, the side arguing that animals should be off the menu, clearly won.

IQ2 Debate: Animals Should be Off the Menu:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCmwlQWgI8w

A few weeks after the debate Richard Cornish, a well-respected Melbourne journalist held in high esteem for his integrity, announced in The Age Epicure (Tuesday publication of The Age Melbourne newspaper) that he had given up eating flesh and had lost an incredible amount of weight. A photo of his healthy-looking face and beaming smile accompanied the article and said it all.

Grabbing the vegie might:

http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/cuisine/grabbing-the-vegie-might-20120407-1whk3.html

The Old Foodie also published a post on her blog about a picnic held by The Vegetarian Society of New York in June 1899. I do not think that the journalist who reported the event in The New York Times was in favour of vegetarians – I found this amusing and I hope that some of these views about vegetarians have changed.

http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2012/05/vegetarian-picnic-1899.html

There are many posts on this blog about vegetables, how to clean and how to cook them, but far too many to list here.

Use the search buttons to find recipes for: artichokes, broadbeans, cardoons, cavolo nero, chicory, cime di rape, celeriac, fennel, indivia (escarole, endives) kohlrabi, salad greens – frisee, romaine, radicchio, radish etc.
Let’s not forget summer vegetables: eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini….

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CUP CAKES BUTTERFLY CAKES and FAIRY CAKES, Sicilian style

My friend John bought these little beauties around to my place when I invited him for dinner recently. I love the little silicon cups: this was the first time that he had used them; the cups not only look attractive and are functional, but they are also ‘cup’ cakes. And like his mother he placed a teaspoon of flavour inside each one – a teaspoon of apricot jam or sweetened passionfruit.

 

Like his mother he cut the top of each cake,  placed a dollop of whipped cream on top, divided each top in half and returned the two halves to the cake: these looked like wings.  Being Australian she appropriately referred to them as called them Butterfly cakes or Fairy cakes and it is easy to see why. These cakes were very popular at children’s parties and were never called Cup cakes (cupcakes), this perhaps is an American or British term. Cupcakes is what we call them in Australia now. Have they lost their wings?

John asked me if Sicilians make cupcakes and they do not,  but there is no reason why his very simple recipe cannot be infused with Sicilian flavours.

This is how John’s mother wrote the recipe. The mixture is simple and very Anglo:

3 oz butter
3 oz sugar
2 eggs
4 oz SR flour
1 tbs milk
essence of vanilla
bake 475 for 15 minutes.

Because the above only makes a small quantity, the following recipe could be more useful.  John also found that his cup cakes were a little dry, so we have reduced the amount of flour in the following recipe.

For your interest:
3 oz =113.398g,
4 oz = 113.6 g
250g= 8.8 oz
 
INGREDIENTS
250g butter, softened (add a bit of salt if using unsalted)
4 large eggs or 6 small ones
160 g castor sugar
250g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tablespoon of milk
PROCESSES
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla essence till light and fluffy.
Mix in eggs, one at a time, beat well after each addition.
Fold flour gently into cake mixture. Mix well.
Fill each cup with 1 tbsp of cake batter and using a teaspoon make a small well in the middle of the batter.
Spoon 1 tsp of strawberry jam into the well.
Place in it a teaspoon of jam. Top with another tbsp of cake batter.
Bake in the centre of oven (pre-heated 160C) for 15 to 20 minutes.
Cool cupcakes before cutting off the top.
Fill with whipped cream, cut the to that you have removed in half and replace it  to the top of the cake again.

To make Sicilian type cup cakes, I would add the following ingredients:

150 g of chopped pistachio nuts or blanched almonds (both are grown in Sicily and very common in sweets).
Use sour cherry jam (sour morello cherries are popular in Italy/ Sicily).

If the cake appears too dry after it is baked, sprinkle a little Maraschino liqueur on the top (adding liqueur to moisten cooked cakes is definitely Italian/ Sicilian).

Instead of  whipped cream, use ricotta whipped with a little vanilla flavoured sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon. Add a little cream if the mixture is too dry.

I would also place a sour cherry or a pistachio on top.

Presto, Ecco, Fatto… Here they are. Bake them in tea cups, call them Dolcetti fatti in tazza (small cakes made in cups) and they do sound exotic!.

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Sicilian food and culture