Tag Archives: Pine nuts

Ways to cook leafy green vegetables. Purslane and Malabar spinach

I have just returned from being away over Christmas and New Year and am pleased to find that purslane plants have sprouted in my various pots on my balcony. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a weed in Australia. It grows in many parts of the world including southern Italy and is very much appreciated in various cuisines especially in The Middle East, Greece, Crete and Mexico.

I rescued a purslane plant from the roadside last summer and planted it in a pot; it soon grew from a single taproot and formed a large, thick mat of stems and leaves. Throughout hat summer I collected the small, fleshy leaves and the most tender parts of the stem for various salads and I also sprinkled leaves on top of cold soups – this added flavor, texture and colour.

The raw leaves are succulent and crisp and have a tart and lemony flavor. Taking notice from some of the Greek traditional recipes I liked them mixed with ingredients such as tomatoes, basil and feta. Recipes are meant to be broken and of course I added my own touches and various ingredients. I also like mixed green leaf salads. Below rocket, purslane, fresh mint leaves, pine nuts, extra olive oil  and lemon juice.

Towards the end of summer the plant had grown far too large and woody and I pulled it out. It is a seasonal plant and by then the mature plant had obviously scattered its small black seeds in my other pots.

I think that if I had a garden I would find Purslane very invasive, hence appropriately called a weed in this part of the world that does not have a long continuous history of foraging. The culture of foraging in Australia has been largely disregarded over the past 200 years. For tens of thousands of years and before European settlers the Aboriginal people foraged native flora and there is also historical evidence pioneers and explorers ate wild greens.

Purslane can also be cooked on its own or added to other greens;I rather like the mucilaginous gel-like consistency it adds to food (like Okra) but many people do not.

This climbing plant above is growing in one of my friend’s back garden in North Adelaide. (The potted plants below are his too.). The plant is Basella rubra, commonly known as Malabar spinach, Vine spinach or Ceylon spinach. This creeping vine is the variety of Basella with purplish-stems and deep-green leaves with pink veins.

Basella is a popular tropical leafy-green vegetable native to south Asia and eaten widely in Asian countries where it is known by a variety of local names, for example and to name a few, it is mostly known as saan choy in China, mong toi in Vietnam, pui saag in parts of India, remayong in Malaysia and alugbati in the Philippines.

This photo above is  Basella alba – unlike my friend’s plant in Adelaide the stems are green and the plant will have a small white (alba) flower rather than crimson (rubra). I bought this bunch with its deep-green, oval to heart-shaped leaves a from the stall where I usually buy my Asian greens at the Queen Victoria Market

Like spinach Basella alba and Basella rubra it is a very versatile vegetable. The young leaves can be eaten raw and the larger leaves are cooked and depending on the regional cuisines it can be added to soups, in stir fries, curries etc. Like purslane the leaves are fleshy and thick, they remain crisp and taste of citrus when raw and when cooked the leaves soften and taste slightly mucilaginous. Basella doesn’t wilt as much as spinach.

Basella leaves remind me very much of Warrigal Greens. (Tetragonia tetragonioides ) is a leafy groundcover also known as Botany Bay spinach, Cook’s cabbage, kōkihi (in Māori), New Zealand spinach,. Although I have cooked this green many times before I do not have any photos.

I cooked the leaves of the Basella alba and sautéed them in extra virgin olive oil with garlic. On this occasion, I wanted a conventional green vegetable side dish to accompany a main of fish. If however, I had wanted to cook them in a Chinese way, I may also add spring onions, fresh ginger, chili, sesame oil, oyster or soy sauce. Maybe for a Japanese recipe I would add mirin or miso. Although I am typecasting some ingredients you will understand what I mean.

And would I have fed these vegetables to my mother?  No way…. but maybe if I had used some typical way of cooking Italian greens she may begin to appreciate them.

Here are some conventional ways of cooking greens the Italian way:

Boiled

Bring a small amount of lightly salted water to boiling Add the greens. Cover the pan and cook until tender or to your liking.
Optional: Cook the greens using only the water still clinging to leaves; cover, and cook until wilted, stirring halfway through.
Drain the greens well in a colander.
Dress with some extra virgin olive oil, adjust the seasoning if necessary (add pepper is optional) and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Sautéed

Heat some olive oil, add the garlic, (chillies and the anchovies are optional).
Add the vegetables sauté for a few minutes until they begin to wilt.
Add white wine (if liquid is needed), cover and cook till softened. (Some cooks pre-cook the greens and then sauté them – this may not be necessary).

Optional: chillies to taste, and /or a few anchovies can be added at the same time as the garlic.

With pine nuts and currants

Soak some currants in a little warm water to plump them (about 10 mins). Drain before using. In a small pan toast pine nuts by tossing them around until light golden. They burn easily, do this quickly. Set aside.
Heat some olive oil, add some garlic, add greens and sauté until wilted. If necessary, drain off any liquid.
Return the greens to the pan. Add currants and pine nuts and sauté a few minutes more.

Optional: add cinnamon or nutmeg and/ or grated lemon peel.
Cook in butter instead of oil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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

This Sicilian recipe – Pipi ca Muddica – begins with roasted peppers.

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I made a large batch of these recently for a gathering (I used 4 k of peppers) but when I am busy I do not always have time to take photos. These are the leftovers so as you can see, they were popular.

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To roast peppers

Roasting peppers is easy and great for the hot weather as they can be roasted (or grilled) over an open flame on a barbecue. I have never used my oven to roast peppers, but some people do.

Select a variety of colours. Peppers should be, whole, firm and unbroken.

Place whole peppers on the hot metal grill over an open flame or coals. Turn them over a few times and the skin should soften and their skin will char after 15-20 minutes of cooking. and you get a nice smoky flavor.

Once you’ve roasted your peppers, you will need to complete the cooking and the softening of the peppers by steaming. This process will help you peel the tough skin. My mother used to place them in a heavy brown paper bag or a plastic bag and seal it. I place them into a casserole with a lid and leave them there for at least 30 minutes.

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Peel the peppers and seed them and tear them into strips. The roasted peppers are now ready to make into a salad. By far the most common Sicilian recipe for roasted peppers is to add a couple of red tomatoes that you have also charred on the open flame and use this to make the dressing.

Remove their skin, mash with a fork add slivers of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, salt, pepper and some lemon juice.  Dress the peppers, mix well and once dressed serve them within an hour.

I say ‘within and hour’ because roasted peppers if left to stand begin to weep their juices and you will find that the dressing has been diluted significantly. An alternative is to leave the peppers (can be stored in the fridge), drain them well and dress them just before serving.

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The recipe for Pipi ca Muddica – Peperoni con la mollica (Italian) uses some breadcrumbs and this is one way to absorb some of the juices that are released.

Breadcrumbs are very important in Sicilian Cuisine and there are many recipes that use either coarse, fried bread crumbs or fine and dry (for coating food to fry).

Use 1-3 day old white bread (crusty bread, sourdough or pasta dura).

Breadcrumbs (Coarse).

These are used as a topping for baked recipes and stuffings. Remove crust, break into pieces, place into a food processor and make into coarse crumbs. They can be grated or crumbled with fingertips.

Fried Breadcrumbs.

These provide greater flavour and texture and are usually sprinkled on cooked foods, for example: Pasta con Sarde or Caponata.Heat about ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and add 1 cup of coarse breadcrumbs (see above). Stir continuously on low temperature until an even, golden brown.

Depending on in what I am using the bread crumbs, I may add all sorts of goodies to these, for example there may be: grated lemon peel, pine nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little sugar.

 

Pipi ca Muddica – Peperoni con la mollica

There are a number of versions of this Sicilian recipe from different parts of the island and the most common are those versions that add fried onion or some raisins, or pine nuts. This version of  Pipi ca Muddica is from the area around Syracuse.

It can be an entrée (as a small course served before a larger one) or as a vegetable side dish.

1.5 k of roasted peppers torn into strips
1 cup of bread crumbs (Coarse, see above)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of capers
3-4 tablespoons wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper

Lightly and gently sauté the chopped garlic in the oil, add the breadcrumbs and stir them around in the hot pan until golden. Add the roasted peppers, the capers and the wine vinegar. Add the seasoning and toss the contents around over moderate- to hot heat until the vinegar evaporates 5-10 mins. Some cooks add a little bit of sugar- the sweet and sour taste is very common in some Sicilian cuisine.

Place the contents into a dish and let cool – Pipi ca Muddica should be served cold. They can be placed in the refrigerator for about 1-2 days. Remove them from the refrigerator about half an hour before serving.

Basil leaves are not compulsory, but I do like this herb.

 

KALE SALAD with Italian Flavours

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Kale was everywhere in the places I visited in the US recently and I made this salad when I was visiting friends  in Okemos, Michigan. I bought a bunch of kale at a Farmers’ Market – it was local, in season, very fresh, and so why not?

When I make any salad I think of flavours and ingredients that I like and have used in other recipes. For example I have always enjoyed the flavours that go with sautéed spinach – pine nuts and dried grapes, usually currants.

With the addition of a little nutmeg this was originally a Tuscan/ Ligurian dish. Pine nuts and dried fruit are also found in Sicilian cooking but this dish is not Sicilian. Various Italian regions have adapted this dish to suit their culinary cultures, for example some Southern Italians may add chilli, in some regions they may add chopped anchovies that have been dissolved by sautéing in a little extra virgin olive oil. Broccoli or other leafy greens (like cavolo nero – Tuscan cabbage – or kale) are cooked in this way also.

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Although in Michigan I could have cooked the kale in the same way as I would have cooked spinach and eaten it as a cold cooked salad, I chose to use raw kale.

This was the US after all and there were plenty of cranberries in the pantry (they weren’t too sweet) so I chose these instead of currants. If I had dried, sour cherries (used in Middle Eastern cooking) I may have used those. Dried figs sliced thinly could have been OK as well.

In the photo, just to show their sizes, from left to right: top – dried sour cherries, muscatels, below – currants, cranberries.

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If I had no pine nuts, I may have used another kind of nut, for example walnuts, hazelnuts or pepitas (green kernels from pumpkin seeds).

On another occasion I may use walnut oil or hazelnut oil instead of extra virgin olive oil or perhaps a mixture of two.

I often use grated lemon peel as an ingredient in either a raw dish or in my cooking (quite Sicilian) so I also added this to the salad.

This salad is so simple that I almost feel embarrassed writing about it. No amounts for the ingredients are necessary, make it to suit your tastes.

For the photo of the ingredients used in the salad, I have used baby kale leaves.

INGREDIENTS

Kale, spring onions, pine nuts (lightly toasted), dried small fruit: such as dried grapes – currants, sultanas, raisins, or cranberries or dried cherries.

Dressing: extra virgin olive oil, grated lemon peel from 1 lemon and juice, a pinch of nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

PROCESSES

Strip the leaves of the kale, removing the tough ribs/ stalks then tear it into small pieces or cut it finely. Slice the spring onions thinly.  Combine kale and onions and add the nuts and dried fruit. Mix  all of the dressing ingredients together and dress the salad.

This salad is quite suitable as a starter and of course, it can be part of a main course.

See also:

Kale (Winter Green Vegetable and How to Cook It)

Cavolo Nero and Three Ways to Cook It

Michigan, Food and Produce. Spare Ribs Recipe

STUFFED MUSHROOMS with pine nuts and fresh breadcrumbs – Funghi ripieni

I am not one for measuring ingredients when I am cooking – Italians call this method of cooking  all’ occhio,( occhio is an eye) that is, I use my eyes and roughly culculate the weights and measures of what I want and employ all my senses (except hearing) to proceed with the preparation and cooking.

These mushrooms were huge! The largest was 19 cm across – perfect for stuffing and baking.

They were very easy to prepare and to cook! No scraping of  the brown underside (unless damaged), no peeling of the mushroom skin (many people peel mushrooms) or pre-cooking any of the ingredients used in the stuffing (many use sautéed onion and the stalks of the mushroom in the stuffing) .

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As you can see I stuffed four mushrooms and I used about:
1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs (made with 1-2 day old good quality bread)
2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped,
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wipe clean or wash mushrooms (depending on how dirty they are) and trim ends of stems.
Heat oven to 180- 200°.
Drizzle olive oil on a baking dish large enough to hold the mushrooms in a single layer.
Combine together the bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, pine nuts, salt and pepper and a big glug of the oil.
Drizzle a little of the olive oil over each mushroom cap.
Fill the mushroom caps with the stuffing.
Drizzle more olive oil over the filling of each mushroom.
Bake until you can smell that they are ready – use your senses – and the filling looks golden on top. Mine took about 20 minutes to cook.
Eat them hot or cold – both good.

Variation: add grated Parmesan cheese to the stuffing mixture.

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I  feel strongly about eating balanced meals  so as a main meal I accompanied them with a salad of green beans, feta, walnuts, egg mayonnaise and pears.

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These little roasted tomatoes wern’t bad either.

SICILIAN MEAT OLIVES (Alivuzzi di carni-Olivette di carne)

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Braciola (singular)

 

Two of my most visited posts are the recipes for Braciole (Meat rolled around a stuffing) and Polpettone (large meat roll made with mince meat and with a stuffing).

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There are many similar recipes of meat rolled around a stuffing, for example the Sicilian farsumagru (falsomagro, in Italian), involtini – or you may know them as saltimbocca or salti in bocca. Smaller  in size are are ucelletti or ucellini (both words mean little birds in Italian) and olivette (little olives).

I found a recipe called Alivuzzi Di Carni (Sicilian for Olivette di Carne – meat olives) in my copy of Cucina Nostra by Maria Consoli Sardo, published in 1978, 1 edition.

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Translating recipes from the Italian always requires a poetic licence – ingredients, times, quantities are often missing, but the following cooking method and amounts of ingredients works for me.

INGREDIENTS
veal or young beef steaks 700g,
white wine, 1 cup
celery, parsley, onion, equal quantities of each to amount to ¾ cup, cut finely
salt and black pepper
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
hot water, ½ cup
For the stuffing:
salame, sliced thinly 150g
formaggio fresco, 150g
pine nuts,150g
spring onion,1, finely chopped

 

PROCESSES
Trim and pound the steaks to about 5mm thick, each 5-6cm in size.
Spread some of the stuffing over each steak. Roll the steak around the filling and secure with netting (I use a toothpick or string). Sprinkle each olivetta (singular for small olive) with salt and finely ground pepper.
Place the olive oil in a large frypan and sauté the celery, parsley, onion until softened (over medium-high heat).
Add the rolls and lightly fry them until lightly browned on all sides.
Add wine to hot pan and evaporate for a few minutes.
Add water and cook gently with a lid until cooked.

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HARE or RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE. Lepre o Coniglio al Cioccolato (‘Nciculattatu is the Sicilian term used)

One of my favourite ways to cook rabbit or hare is with chocolate; chicken can also be cooked in the same way but is less common. If it is chicken it will cook in a relatively short time, a rabbit will take longer and a hare will take much longer – I cooked hare and it took close to three hours to cook.

There are several Spanish and South American recipes where chocolate is used in savoury dishes so the chocolate does not need to be considered unfeasible – Spaniards ruled Sicily over long periods.

Those of you who have been to eastern Sicily may have noticed the Baroque architecture that is especially prevalent in this part of Sicily and you may have visited Modica, the centre for Sicilian chocolate; this is where the recipe is said to have its roots.

In this Sicilian recipe the rabbit (or hare) is cooked in the same way as alla stemperata (in all stemperata dishes the ingredients include celery, carrots, onions, vinegar, sugar, raisins or sultanas, pine nuts, green olives and capers) but fennel seeds and cloves replace the last two ingredients and finally dark chocolate is used to enrich and thicken the sauce. The flavours in the stemperata have been partly accredited to the Arabs and are characteristic of much of Sicilian cuisine.

Hare, like all game benefits from marinading in wine before cooking. I do this when I am cooking rabbit as well, but there is no need to marinate chicken. I always save some of the leftover cooked hare and sauce for a pasta dish – use ribbon pasta, e.g. tagliatelle or pappardelle.

Whenever I buy hare I remember butcher shops in Italy where each beast is often left with a part of its body to make it recognizable – the head or the foreleg complete with fur, hoof, claw or paw.

INGREDIENTS

hare, rabbit or chicken 1.5- 2 k
dark chocolate, 200 g
onion, 1-2 sliced
red or white dry wine, 1 cup
wine vinegar, ½ cup
cloves, 6-8
celery, 4 stalks, sliced finely
carrots, 3 sliced finely
bay leaves, 4-6
fennel seeds,1 large tablespoon
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
chilli flakes and salt to taste
pine nuts,1 cup
raisins or sultanas, ½ cup (naturally sun dried)
sugar, 1 tablespoon

PROCESSES:
Clean the hare or rabbit or chicken and cut it into manageable sections at the joints.

Marinate it in the wine and half of the quantity of the oil and bay leaves for at least 3 hours and turn it occasionally (if cooking rabbit, 1-2 hours is sufficient).
Remove the pieces and drain well; keep the marinade for cooking.
Add the rest of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the pieces until golden. Remove them and set aside.
Add the onions, carrots and celery to the same pan and sauté until soft but not coloured.
Reduce the heat, and add the wine marinade, bay leaves, fennel seeds and cloves, the seasoning and vinegar. Cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is soft. You may need to add some water periodically as it cooks so that it does not dry out (this has always been my experience).
Add the sultanas or raisins, pine nuts and chocolate about 30 minutes before it is cooked. Remove the lid and evaporate the juices if necessary.
More rabbit recipes:
CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)
PAPPARDELLE

 

PESTO GENOVESE CON TRIOFE, FAGGIOLINI E PATATE (Pesto with pasta, green beans and potatoes)

I visited friends recently who have a small, but very prolific vegetable garden – they have chooks, and that means fertilizer. I came home with huge bunches of basil and I made pesto. At this time of year it very handy to have pesto as standby in the fridge – in fact I have fed two lots of visitors pesto this week, this version with beans last night.

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Those of you who grow basil in your gardens probably do not want to hear about pesto ever again, but maybe you do not know about the classic recipe of pesto and triofe (Ligurian classic shape of pasta for this dish), green beans and potatoes (last night I omitted the potatoes – see photo). I was reminded of this dish when I saw the film  Summer in Genova recently. In the film, Colin Firth cooked this dish for his two daughters, a16-year-old and ten-year-old (all the children I know seem to like pesto). Their mother dies in a car accident and the family moves to Genova in Liguria – a new city, new start and a new recipe (one their mother had not cooked). There is probably only one positive thing that I can say about this film, and that is that it reminded me to cook this classic recipe.

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It is very simple to compose this dish – the potatoes and beans are cooked in the same water as the pasta, drained and dressed with the pesto.

Some of you may be aware that pesto alla Genovese can only be made exclusively from ingredients grown in that small area in northwest Italy called Liguria. This is the area where pesto originated and the Ligurians want to give it a D.O.P. status (Protected Designation of Origin) and it cannot be called pesto unless it comes from that part of the world.

However I do make pesto as many of us do with plenty of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, basil leaves and the mixture of parmigiano and pecorino.  (See post called SICILIAN PESTO – Mataroccu for an alternative recipe). If I am storing the pesto in the fridge, I always top it with olive oil to stop the oxidation.

See post called SICILIAN PESTO – Mataroccu for an alternative recipe.

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For 500g pasta I use about 300g of green beans cut diagonally to the length of the pasta (triofe are like penne in length) and 200g potatoes cut into small cubes (if I am using them). Ligurians tend to cook the vegetables and the pasta at the same time, but I like to stagger their cooking time, mainly to preserve some crunch to the beans.

The potatoes may take the longest time to cook, so begin by placing the potatoes into a large saucepan  of cold, salted water.
Bring to the boil and cook the potatoes for about 10 mins before adding the pasta.
Add the beans  about 7 mins before the pasta and potatoes are cooked.
Drain, coat the pasta and vegetables with pesto and add the cheese last of all.

Easy, very fragrant, different, and much appreciated, especially by those who have never made fresh pesto.

SPAGHETTI CA SARSA MURISCA (Sicilian) – Spaghetti with Moorish sauce

IMG_2644Salsa moresca is an interesting name for a pasta sauce. The sauce is eaten in and around the town of Scicli, a beautiful baroque town not far from Modica (also beautiful) which is close to Ragusa (where my father’s relatives live). The ingredients are a combination of the sweet and the savoury and include bottarga (tuna roe), sugar, pine nuts, cinnamon and the juice and peel of citrus.

I was interested in the name – murisca (moresca is Italian for Moorish). The ingredients could well be of Moorish origins but it is also the name of a dance – la moresca. It is still performed in some regions of Sicily, especially on certain religious feast days.

The dance is said to have been introduced by the Moors into Spain and became popular all over Europe during the 15 th and 16th Centuries. Dances with similar names and features are mentioned in Renaissance documents throughout many Catholic countries of Europe – Sicily, France, Corsica and Malta – and, from the times of the Venetian Republic, Dalmatia – also through Spanish trade, Flanders and Germany.

La moresca is remarkably like the English Morris dance (or Moorish dance) a folk dance usually accompanied by music where the group of dancers use implements such as sticks, swords, and handkerchiefs. In Sicily they only use handkerchiefs, but this may have been modified over time. La Moresca and the Morris dance are considered to be one of the oldest traditional European dances still performed and inspired by the struggle of Christians against the Moors, in some places Christians and Turks, in other places between Arabs and Turks. In parts of England, France, the Netherlands and Germany the performers still blacken their faces but it is uncertain if it is because they represent the Moors. This custom is not observed in Sicily.

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Each year in May, there is a sacred performance in Scicli that recalls the historical battle in 1091 between Arabs and Christians. Legend says that “La Madonna delle Milizie” came astride a white horse to champion the Christians. Pasta alla moresca is still cooked to commemorate this event.

Salsa moresca (the sauce for the pasta) is not cooked – it is an impasto – a paste or mixture, and probably traditionally made with a mortar and pestle.

INGREDIENTS: 500g long pasta, (spaghetti or bucatini), 150g grated bottarga, ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, 1-2 chopped red chili, 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, 4 finely cut anchovies, juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon, peel of ½ lemon, ½ teaspoon of powdered cinnamon, 1 large spoonful of sugar and 1 of vinegar,1 cup pine nuts, ½ cup finely cut parsley, 1 cup breadcrumbs ( from 1-2 day old bread) lightly browned in a little extra virgin olive oil.

PROCESSES

Pound all of the ingredients together preferably in a mortar and pestle: begin with the garlic the bottarga and anchovies. Follow with the sugar, cinnamon, pine nuts, breadcrumbs, parsley, peel and chilies – lubricating the paste gradually with the oil and juices as you pound.

Add the vinegar last of all.

And by now, having read about it, you can probably smell it.

Use this to dress spaghetti or bucatini. I scattered basil leaves on top to decorate the pasta dish.
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SARDE A BECCAFICO (Sardines stuffed with currants, pine nuts, sugar and nutmeg)

I am really pleased that the three recipes I sent to SBS have been published on the SBS website.

One of the recipes may be selected as part of upcoming food series My Family Feast. Selected recipes will be cooked by Sean Connolly (chef) in a short website and published online during broadcast of the series.

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This is one of the recipes:

 Sarde a Beccafico

When I invite friends for a meal I like to present something that they may not have tasted before.

A beccafico is a small bird, which feeds on ripe figs – becca (peck) and fico (fig). The sardines when stuffed resemble a beccafico and sarde a beccafico demonstrates a sign of respect for this type of bird, a gourmand who stuffs himself on fresh figs. The beccafichi (plural of beccafico) are also eaten stuffed and cooked in the same way as the sarde (sardines). That is if this bird still exists in Sicily – Italians fancy themselves as great hunters (cacciatori).

There are local variations in the ingredients used for the stuffing, the method of cooking and for the names of the dish in other parts of Sicily. These are my favourite ingredients for this recipe from a combination of local recipes.

INGREDIENTS
fresh sardines, fillets, 700g,
breadcrumbs, 1 cup made with good quality1-3 day old bread
anchovy fillets, 5-8 finely, cut finely
currants, ½ cup
pine nuts, ½ cup
parsley, ¾ cup, cut finely
bay leaves, 10, fresh
garlic, 2 cloves, chopped
lemon, 1, juice and zest
sugar, 1 tablespoon
nutmeg, ½ teaspoon
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup

PROCESSES
Prepare sardines: Scale, gut, butterfly and clean sardines and leave the tail. If you buy fillets, they are sometimes sold without tails – this may not matter, but when the fillet of the sardine is closed around the stuffing, the tail is flicked upright to resemble a bird – and this may be missing. (In the photo there are no tails – photo taken in a restaurant in Monreale, Palermo, December 2007)
Wipe each sardine dry before stuffing.
Preheat oven to 190 C
Prepare the stuffing:
Toast breadcrumbs until golden in about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (I use a non stick fry pan) over a low flame.
Take off heat and cool.
Stir in pine nuts, currants, parsley, anchovies, lemon zest, nutmeg, salt, pepper and garlic.
Add a little more extra virgin olive oil if the mixture is dry.
Place a spoonful of the stuffing in each opened sardine and close it upon itself to resemble a fat bird (any leftover stuffing can be sprinkled on top to seal the fish)
Position each sardine, closely side by side in an oiled baking dish with tail sticking up and place a bay leaf between each fish.
Sprinkle the sardines with lemon juice and any left over stuffing, the sugar the left over oil.
Bake for 20-30 minutes.

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