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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PASTA ALLA NORMA (Pasta with tomatoes, and eggplants)

I ate at a friend’s house recently and she cooked one of my fish recipes from Sicilian Seafood Cooking; she apologized for using tinned tomatoes instead of fresh and asked me if it had altered the taste of the recipe. There was no need to make an apology – the fish tasted great and I told her that I only use red, fresh tomatoes in cooking when they are sold ripe and at a reasonable price; the tins of whole, peeled tomatoes I buy are a perfectly suitable substitute, and quick too. I try to buy Australian tomatoes.

There are some summer pasta dishes which call for uncooked, ripe tomatoes and I would never substitute tinned ones for this recipe – Pasta alla Norma.

long eggplants P1010074 (1)

Pasta alla norma is one of those dishes Sicilians are extremely fond of   especially in late summer when the tomatoes are ripe, the basil is abundant and the eggplants are at their best.

All it is = a  salsa of fresh tomatoes , pasta and fried eggplants added last of all – usually cubed. Ricotta salata tops it all off.  Easy stuff – see recipe below.

The dish originates from Catania, the city that my mother’s family comes from. Many presume that the dish is named after the opera, La Norma, by the composer Vincenzo Bellini who was born in Catania (1801-1835), but there are others who think that the expression ‘a norma’ (in Sicilian) was commonly used in the early 1900s to describe food that was cooked true to form (i.e. as normal, as it should be) according to all the rules and regulations specified in the recipe.

I ate a version of Pasta alla Norma in a seafood restaurant in San Leone (on the coast, near to Agrigento). The tagliatelle were presented on top of half an eggplant, (which had been cut in half and then fried). The sauce also contained a few currants and a few anchovies, thin slices of bottarga (dry, salted tuna roe) and cubes of ricotta salata. It does look very spectacular, but if you intend to do this, and are using a large round eggplant, cut the eggplant horizontally and remove a slice from the centre of it to make it thinner – the eggplant it will cook more evenly.

Recipe for Pasta alla Norma

INGREDIENTS
I have used casarecci, 500g

eggplants, 500g or more
extra virgin olive oil, 1 ½ cups ( ½ cup for the tomato salsa,1 cup to fry the eggplant) 
garlic, 3 cloves
ripe tomatoes, 1k, peeled and chopped
salt (a little) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
basil, fresh leaves (10-15) some for the salsa and some for decoration
PROCESSES
Remove the stem end of eggplant and without peeling and slice or cut into cubes. Soak in salted water if you wish. Pat-dry the eggplant and fry in 1 cup of olive oil until golden. Drain on paper towels.
Make the tomato salsa: place the tomatoes in the pan with garlic, oil, salt and some basil leaves: cook uncovered on medium heat till it is thick.
Cook pasta and drain.
Mix the pasta with the tomato sauce, place in a serving bowl (s) and top with the eggplants and the remaining basil.
Present with grated cheese, preferably ricotta salata.
 

 

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VIETNAM, LANTERN TOWN, HOI AN

This post is well overdue – I travelled in Vietnam for most of February and enjoyed Vietnamese food from both the simple street stalls and the more sophisticated “fusion” food served in many restaurants.
This post is a tribute to the kindness of strangers. It concerns a proprietor and Chef called Son Tran. His restaurant is called Lantern Town and it is in Hoi An on the central Vietnamese coast.
 Fresh spring rolls, pomelo salad with prawns, seared tuna (long tail).
Just like the rest of the world, simple traditional Vietnamese recipes have responded to trends and outside influences. With easier access to books and the internet, more opportunities to travel and engage with travellers, Vietnamese chefs are adapting and elaborating on age-old staples.
Long tail tuna.
 These are some photos of what Son cooked for us. The entire Lantern Town experience – the cooking and the eating – is one of the most enduring memories I will keep of Vietnam.
 Before cooking – fresh pieces of mango, wrapper in lattice rice paper.
Son’s specialises in adaptations of traditional Vietnamese dishes, applying modern twists to conventional ingredients.
Mango rolls dipped into batter made with coconut milk, rice flour, sugar, chocolate powder and then deep fried.
I met Son Tran in his restaurant over a lunchtime dish of his version of stuffed squid. My passion for food was evident and I told him about my Sicilian version of stuffed squid. Mine is stuffed with the principal ingredients of ricotta and almonds and is cooked in marsala, his was stuffed with cellophane noodles and prawns. He responded to my enthusiasm by offering to take me on a tour of the local Hoi An market and to personally cook a special dinner for me and my partner.
Buying prawns at the Hoi An market
Buying the fish, Son chose a piece of long fin tuna saying he prefers it to blue-fin or yellow-fin tunas because of its clear flesh and its flavour. He explained that long-fin (or Pacific albacore) is much paler than either of the other tunas. More importantly for me, it is sustainable, not threatened by over-fishing. It was a small fish and Son selected a section of fish towards the tail, weighing about 1kg, which he carefully carved off the bone, creating four individual fillets; he also removed the skin.
Filleting tuna.
The pomelo salad was made with segmented pomelo, carrots and prawns and had a dressing made with passion fruit pulp. The fresh spring rolls had prawns, carrot, cucumber mint, noodles and passionfruit pulp; they were accompanied by a pineapple, sugar and vinegar dipping sauce. The tuna was marinaded in lemongrass, shallots, basil, ginger, soy, oyster sauce; it was then seared over high heat; it was presented with a celery sauce. What I particularly like about Vietnamese food is the use of fresh herbs. 
 Son buying herbs.
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SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING, book review, SA Life

Sicilian Seafood Cooking cover
From the publication: SA Life, Adelaide, April 2012
SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING
By Marisa Raniolo Wilkins
Published by New Holland
RRP $45 (hbk)
As a passionate Sicilian-born
foodie (evident in her popular food blog, All Things Sicilian
and More) Melbourne resident Marisa Raniolo Wilkins
has produced a veritable encyclopedia of authentic
Sicilian seafood recipes – 400 pages and more than I50
recipes covering all manner of starters and main courses,
but also explaining how to make pasta  (from scratch) and
vegetable dishes to accompany the seafood.
To tell this story with authority, Raniolo Wilkins delves
deep into the island’s history, infused with a personal
perspective. She explains the influences of many cultures
on specific Sicilian flavour melds, and events such as the
annual mattanza off the island of Favignana, the ritual o[
netting and gaffing massed migrating tuna.
Importantly, she assesses the issue of sustainability especially
with bluefin tuna and swordfish, and the historical Sicilian practice of selling and eating juvenile and infant fish – and offers alternatives to several traditional recipes to veer away from threatened fish species.
Other traditions are more straight forward, such as the
essential starter pasta chi sardi, the Sicilian staple from
the town of Palermo of pasta topped with sardines fennel,
pine nuts and currants. lt’s a very informative book,
brimming with pride and purpose.- DPS

MARISA

VITELLO TONNATO

We have been having such beautiful autumn weather here in Melbourne, perfect for Sunday lunches and picnics. In the northern hemisphere some of you are experiencing spring weather, so you can enjoy the following dish as well.

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!!

vitellotonnato-2

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:

Pollo Alla Messinese (a Cold Chicken Dish Similar to Vitello Tonnato From Messina)

INGREDIENTS
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.

PROCESS
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.

Sicilian 321 Mayonnaise.tif.t

Make the egg mayonnaise.
For this recipe see:

Maionese (mayonnaise)

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!

IMG_1268

ZEPPOLE, FRIED SWEETS

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).

Caretti+dolcetti-150x150

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.

INGREDIENTS
plain flour, 3 cups
warm water, 2 cups (or more- the dough should be soft)
eggs, 3
yeast, 2 g active dry yeast,3 g compressed fresh yeast
salt , ½  teaspoon
sugar, 1 tablespoon
extra virgin olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons added to the dough
oil for frying – enough so that the zeppole to float (I always use olive, some use vegetable oil)
salted anchovies to taste ( 5-10, chopped)
fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon
salt and pepper – sprinkled on top at the end.
PROCESSES
Mix 1 cup of flour with ½ -¾ cup of warm water, sugar and the yeast. Add more water if necessary to make a sloppy dough.
Cover it and leave to rise in a warm place for about 45- 90 mins – the dough should be spongy and double in size. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the anchovies and the fennel seeds. Mix well; the mixture should be soft and pliable. Add the anchovies and the fennel seeds and gently mix through.
Heat frying oil, drop into the oil one tablespoon full of dough (cook only a few per time – do not over crowd the pan). To see if the oil is hot enough, test it by dropping small bits of dough into it – the dough should begin to cook and begin to gently bounce around. Turn the zeppole once to fry on both sides – they should be golden brown when cooked.
Sprinkle with a little pepper and salt.

 

Zeppole di san Giuseppe:

 

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Sicilian food and culture