Galleries

COTECHINO AND LENTILS -NEW YEAR’S EVE and CHRISTMAS

IMG_0491-800x800

It is hot in Australia at this time of year and I am certainly not going to cook this popular and traditional Italian, New Year’s Eve dish – Cotechino e lenticchie – but some of you who are steeped into tradition may consider cooking this in hot or cold weather. If you do, make sure that as you dig into that sausage, you make a wish for the new year (it must be before midnight).

I cooked it last winter. Perfect for the cold weather. I first published this post on Dec 9th 2015 and it is time to publish it once more.

Cotechino is rather a large sausage which has a proportion of it made with some of the gelatinous meat from the pig trotter.  Lenticchie are lentils- the ordinary green lentils. Cotechino e lenticchie is a dish that is more common in the north of Italy. I do not think that it is very common in Sicily, however as a result of media and recipe books and travel, food habits change, recipes evolve.

IMG_2490-800x598

Just as we have adopted Panettone and Panforte at Christmas time in Australia, I gather that it is fairly hip to cook Christmas Pudding in Italy. So what do we think of that!
You will ned to visit an Italian delicatessen or butcher to buy a Cotechino sausage. If you live in Melbourne I go to Fairfield or Carlton. If you live in Adelaide Marino Food and Meat store at the Central Market. I know about and have visited Eataly in New York and they would definitely have it.

Cooking Cotechino and Lentils is very simple, and delicious. The onion, carrot and celery are the Italian usual suspects when making broth or a soffritto (from soffriggere – to lightly fry – the soffritto refers to the sautéed vegetables that are the basis for most braises, pot roasts and soups.)

This is definitely one of those dishes where you can add 1 kilo of lentils if you wish – it depends what proportion of lentils to cotechino that you prefer. Have a look at my photo and decide.

1 cotechino sausage
700 g of lentils
1 onion
1 stalk of celery
1 carrot
¼ cup olive oil
2-3 peeled tomatoes
2-3 bay leaves – I always prefer fresh, but i have a bay tree growing in a pot on my balcony  – you may not be as lucky.

Soak the lentils in water for 30 minutes.
Sauté the chopped celery, carrot, onion in the hot oil till golden. Drain the lentils and add cold water to cover them well.
Add peeled tomatoes and bay leaves, cover and cook them and cook over low heat until cooked.
In a separate pan add the sausage to cold water- sufficient water to cover the cotechino, bring it to the boil and then simmer it until it is cooked but not split – say 50 minutes.
Skim some of the fat off the broth, cut the sausage into thick slices, add them to the lentils with as much of the broth as you wish and serve.

IMG_2488-598x800

The flavours will intensify over the next few days so appreciate the leftovers – you could add more of the broth (from the cotechino) and eat it as soup. Great stuff, especially for those who are living in a cold climate!

IMG_1675-598x800

I have mentioned Panforte ( sweet). For recipe see:

Other Christmas recipes for sweets:

Fish for Christmas (especially Christmas Eve):

Meat and other Christmas specaialties:

My family always had brodo at some stage on Christmas day:

And there are so many other seafood, meat, vegetables and pasta recipes on my blog.

 

 

Gnocchetti Sardi dressed with a Tomato and a Pork Sausage Ragú and Differences between Ragú, Sugo and Salsa

I ate at a Sardinian restaurant in Melbourne recently and ordered Malloreddus Campidanese – Homemade traditional semolina pasta with slow cooked sausage ragú, wild fennel, chili and Sardinian pecorino cheese.

IMG_3916

Another name for Malloreddus are Gnocchetti Sardi (small, gnocchi shaped pasta). These are made with hard wheat flour (durum wheat), salt and water…no eggs. The mixture is kneaded for a long time and then shaped into small concave gnocchi with the help of one’s thumb and a small tool to make the ribs/ grooves– the indentation traps the sauce.
IMG_2782-800x800 (1)

Campidano is the name of the vast plain in Sardegna (Sardinia) so the dish originates from that part of Sardegna.

Pecorino Sardo – is strong tasting and obviously local and the preferred grating cheese. Wild fennel grows freely in Sardegna.

Sardo (masculine, singular), Sardi (masculine, plural) = Sardinian.

RAGÚ and SUGO
The ragú implies that the sauce was reduced, i.e. the flavours are concentrated and the ingredients are usually cooked for a long time. The resulting sauce is used to dress pasta, fregola, polenta, rice.  The Italian expression ‘ragú’ is derived from the French ‘ragout’-it is a thick stew of meat, poultry or fish with or without vegetables.

A ‘sugo’ is often used interchangeably with ‘ragú’- different regions of Italy prefer one term above the other, but generally a ragú is cooked on low heat for a long time and the flavours are concentrated.

Because sausages cook quickly I would probably hesitate to refer to this pasta dressing as a ragú, unless I had added some pieces of pork meat which would benefit with longer cooking.

I had some commercially bought Gnocchetti Sardi in my pantry. I also had crushed tomatoes. I bought some Italian pork sausages. I also know where to collect wild fennel, but if you purchase Italian pork and fennel sausages (and perhaps add a few fennel seeds) you will have similar results.

The dish is so easy to replicate.

6 Italian pork sausages or pork and fennel sausages (hot or mild)

1 onion, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of dry white or red wine
800g crushed tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, whole
seasoning: salt and crushed chili flakes, or pepper to taste
some wild fennel sprigs or ½ tsp fennel seeds
fresh basil (optional)

100g of pasta per person. I cooked 400g of Gnocchetti Sardi
grated Pecorino (of good quality). I sometimes use Pecorino Pepato (has pepper corns in it)

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, and allow to soften over a moderate heat.
Remove the casings from the sausages and crumb the meat, separating it into small pieces. Add the sausage meat, brown, add the wine and evaporate.
Add the crushed tomatoes, seasoning, garlic, fennel and basil.
Cover and cook slowly on  low heat until thickened for about 30- 40 minutes.
Remove the garlic before dressing the pasta.

Cook the pasta, dress and present with grated pecorino.

SALSA
As an alternative you could make a simple tomato salsa…  so what is the difference between a tomato based sugo and a tomato salsa?

To an Italian this is important.

A tomato salsa is made quickly with pureed tomatoes…. No meat or vegetables, easy, fragrant and perfect for summer as a dressing for pasta:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
800g crushed tomatoes (fabulous with fresh tomatoes, peeled)
2 garlic cloves, whole
fresh basil
salt and pepper

Put all of the ingredients together in a pan and cook uncovered until thickened.
Remove the casings from the sausages and crumb the meat, separating it into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the sausage meat, brown it and add this (meat and juices) to the prepared salsa.

Check out one of my old posts, great photos of my Sicilian aunt making Sicilian Gnocchetti:

Gnucchiteddi (Making Small Gnocchi Shapes Using My Great Grandmother’s Device)

 

The last of my pickled olives

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

k04467491 (1)

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

FullSizeRender-762x800 (1)

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

FullSizeRender[1]

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

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

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

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

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

Green+olives+3 (1)

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

IMG_1136-e1420784758116-800x800 (1)
My tree has given me a great deal of pleasure and I have certainly experimented with processes for curing its olives and dressing them.

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

Various Ways to Pickle Olives

olive-tree-DSC_0039-537x800 (1)

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

EASTER SICILIAN SPECIALTIES …. Cuddura cù ll’ova, Pecorelle Pasquali

Cuddura cù ll’ova

These are typical traditional Sicilian Easter pastries – variations of these are made all over Sicily.  They are called cestini (Italian for baskets) or if you are Sicilian you are likely to call them cuddura cù ll’ova (there are some slight variations in what they are called in other regions of Sicily).

IMG_2759-800x800 (1)

These baskets carry hard boiled eggs – eggs being the symbol of fertility and birth, new beginnings –It was an important part of ancient festivals to celebrate Spring and it continued to be the symbol of new beginnings when it was embraced by Christians and associated with Easter; the belief – Jesus was resurrected from death into life, he died for our sins and we were given the opportunity to to be saved… death – life.

IMG_2757-800x800 (1)

Notice the colomba (dove) on the basket made of pastry, the symbol of peace. One cestino is sweet, the other is savory. Pleasing everybody!

The good thing is that these cestini (in the photos) are available from Dolcetti Pasticceria- Pastry shop in Melbourne).  Isn’t this wonderful?

If you key in the word Dolcetti in the search box on my blog you will find many posts praising the sweets from Dolcetti.

I have fond memories of my brother and I dyeing our hard boiled eggs and my mother would plait pastry around them. I continued the egg dyeing with my children and it all seems such a long time ago.

Apart from cestini (baskets) there are different shapes that hold the hard boiled eggs.

DSC_2266 (1)

Pecorelle Pasquali

Another particular specialty at Easter time in Sicily are the pecorelle pasquali (marzipan lambs). In Sicilian they are called agneddi (lambs)or pecuredde (small sheep) di pasta riali (marzipan).  Marianna from Dolcetti tells me that she is hoping to have some marzipan Easter lambs and Marzipan eggs available at Dolcetti. And she went ahead with this.

IMG_2764-copy

Those of you who do not live in Melbourne and not able to visit Dolcetti may find this video very amusing.

The video, Un dolce pasquale tipico siciliano.

Persevere with the young women in the supermarket, they then go on to cook Cuddura cù ll’ova. Then watch (or enjoy if you speak Sicilian) the elderly woman and the child ….. this is the introduction of making Cuddura cù ll’ova. In brief, the elderly woman has not heard of the Simpsons that her nipote (her grandchild) is telling her about and proceeds to tell her how after fasting in Lent, Catholics look forward to eating eggs, hence Cuddura cù ll’ova!

It will give you an idea of what is possible.

No English translation is needed… the video says it all (this time it is spoken in Italian).

Farina= flour, zucchero= sugar, burro= butter,1 glass of latte (milk), orange peel, 1½ bustina di lievito = lievito is baking powder, 1 bustina packet/ envelope= 7gm).

*8 eggs, but 4 are hard boiled so that they can be wrapped in pastry.

Love it!

Do not forget Cassata -the queens and princesses of Sicilian desserts (assuming that Cannoli being masculine, are the kings and princes).

One of the many posts about Sicilian Cassata and Marzipan at Easter:

Sicilian Cassata and Marzipan at Easter

Traditional Easter Sweets in Trieste in Friuli Venezia Giulia

There a many posts and recipes on my blog about Easter in Sicily.

Presnitz-triestino-1 (1)

This time, I am writing about Presniz, a rolled pastry sweet that is eaten at Christmas and Easter. Presniz comes from Trieste where I spent my childhood. My parents were Sicilian but lived in Trieste and this is where I lived before I came to Australia.

Trieste is in the north-eastern region of Italy called Friuli-Venezia Giulia: you may recognize some of the cities and towns in this region – Udine, Pordenone, Cividale, Gorizia, Trieste.

Trieste was once the main port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia has Germanic, Slavic and Latin cultures so it is no surprise to find that the food from this region can be very different to other Italian regions.

penso_0004_Livello-6 (1)

At Easter, when we lived in Trieste, we bought Presniz from a Pasticceria (pastry shop) and it was only when we came to Australia and where the traditional food we were used to was not available, that my mother began to make Presniz with my aunt (from Trieste) at Easter. More common in my household and made all year round was another favourite – a Stucolo de Pomi, (an apple strudel). Also common in Friuli-Venezia Giulia is Gubana (often called Putiza in Trieste. Gubana and Putiza may have started off as being different but over time have melded to become the same thing).

All three popular dolci (pastry/sweets/ desserts) from Friuli-Venezia Giulia are made with pastry and rolled around a filling – the strudel has mainly apples, the Preznis and the Gubana/Putiza have a predominant filling of nuts.

Pinza is also a very common Easter treat in Trieste – this is a sweet brioche like bread made with many eggs and butter and similar to the consistency and colour of a panettone, but devoid of any dry fruit or nuts. Pinza is usually eaten with ham especially on Easter morning – strange but true.

There are many variations in the fillings of both the Presniz and the Gubana but basically in Trieste, the Presniz is more likely to have short pastry and mixed nuts in the filling (variations of walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts and almonds), whereas the pastry of the Gubana has yeast and the filling was once predominately made of of walnuts. Over time even flaky pastry is used for Presniz by some pasticceri (pastry chefs) in Trieste. Recipes evolve and the filling for the two have become similar; chocolate and candied citrus are also often added.

The Gubana originated and is popular in the Natisone valley in Friuli, on the border with Slovenia and in the towns of Gorizia, Cividale and Udine. The origins of Gubana has attracted many researches, both in terms of its origin as the name in Austro-German literature or literature of the Czech Republic. As you can guess, there are still no conclusions.

You will find a recipe for Gubana, in a post from 7/4/2009:
Presniz and Gubana (Easter Cakes in Trieste)

I have looked at many sources for information and recipes for Presniz and they differ significantly, especially for making the pastry. I have two bibles of Triestian cooking – La Cucina Tipica Triestina by Accademia Italiana della Cucina delegazione di Trieste (1983) and  La Cucina Triestina Maria Slelvo (1987) and the recipes could not be less alike.

I have provided two recipes for making pastry – these are by far the simplest.

PASTRY FOR PRESNIZ

  1. From Culinaria Italy: Pasta, Pesto, Passion, the ingredients.

Ingredients are: 250 flour, 250 butter, 5-6 tbs milk, juice of one lemon, 1 egg and salt.

The instructions are: Rub the butter into half of the flour and leave the mix to stand overnight. Mix the remaining flour with the rest of the ingredients. Leave to stand for1 hour and then mix the two together. Roll out thinly on a cloth.

  1. From: La Cucina Tipica Triestinaby Accademia Italiana della Cucina delegazione di Trieste

Ingredients are: 250 flour, 250 butter, 4 tbs milk, juice of one lemon, 2 eggs and salt.

The instructions are as above.

If anything I think that my mother and aunt always added a bit of grappa to the pastry.
As for the filling: Many of the recipes do not provide amounts for the nuts, but this combination should be sufficient for the amount of pastry. It is interesting to see that in  La Cucina Triestina, Maria Slelvo (1987) does not suggest hazelnuts  – one of her recipes  suggests using either walnuts or almonds, another has walnuts and pine nuts and a third recipe just walnuts.

Most of the recipes suggest blanching all of the nuts – blanching almonds is fine, but I am unsure that I want to spend time blanching walnuts of hazelnuts.

This combination below is to my taste, but with all Italian recipes, vary it to suit your tastes.

  • Nuts: mixed 300g = use a greater amount of walnuts than hazelnuts or almonds, i.e. ½ walnuts, ¼ hazelnuts, ¼ almonds.
  • 60g pine nuts
  • 100g raisins and/or sultanas
  • grated peel from lemon and orange
  • 100g of fresh breadcrumbs lightly toasted (in a fry pan) in about 60g butter
  • 60g dark chocolate, broken into little pieces
  • 50g sugar
  • 3 tablespoons rum or grappa

To brush on the pastry:

  • 1-2 eggs to paint on top of the pastry
  • 2 tbs jam
  • 2 tbs butter

Soak the raisins/ sultanas in the rum or grappa and leave them to plump for about an hour or more.

Grind the nuts (not to a powder). In  L’Artusi, La scienza di Cucina e L’Arte di Mangiare Bene, Pellegrino Artusi suggests cutting each nut into three and crushing the pine nuts into pieces as large as a rice grain (Go for it!). He also suggests adding cinnamon and some powdered cloves to the mix.

Roll out the pastry into a long strip (about 15 cm wide) and 0.5 cm thick. I use baking paper to roll the pastry on. Leave the pastry to rest while you mix the filling.

Mix all of the ingredients together (not the ingredients to brush on the pastry). The filling will be moist. Taste the mixture and see if you would like it sweeter – add more sugar.

To Assemble:

Brush the pastry with beaten egg (not all of it, leave some for the top once it is rolled, this will add gloss) and then with a little warmed jam. Add bits of solid butter on top.

Spread the filling over this, but leave an edge of pastry all round- about 2 cm. Roll it on to itself and make a long shape – about 10 cm in circumference. Seal the ends. Coil it into a  loose snail shape/ spiral and place it on some baking paper. Arrange it on buttered and floured baking tray. See pictures – a Gubana is snail shape, coiled closer together and usually baked in a tin, a Presniz is not quite joined together.

Brush the rest of the egg over the pastry, sprinkle it with a little sugar.

Bake in 180°C for about 60 minutes.

Let cool before serving. It stores well (wrapped in metal foil) for about a week.

Buona Pasqua.

***Use key words “Easter in Sicily” / enter key words in search button on the blog and you will find many Sicilian recipes.

****Strucolo De Pomi, Apple Strudel:
Strucolo De Pomi (apple Strudel From Trieste, Common at Christmas and Suitable for Our Autumn)

Apple Strudel (Trieste: Strucolo De Pomi)

 

18 Secrets of Sicily Revealed by Top Travel Bloggers

 

Cefalu harbour & La RoccaIn the last 10 years Sicily has become a very popular destination and many friends, acquaintances and readers of my book (Sicilian Seafood Cooking) and my blog (All Things Sicilian and More), who plan to travel to Sicily, ask me for advice:

What should we do … where should we go … what must we eat … how do we get from point A to B?

Ragusa-steps-to-Ibla_ (1)

Recently, I was contacted by a member of the marketing Team at GoEuro, a travel search engine that combines and compares rail, bus and air travel in one site. GoEuro was preparing a blog feature about Sicily, with tips from well-travelled bloggers and had found my site. They asked if I’d be interested in sharing some of my recommendations within the region.

I looked at the GoEuro site, liked it and thought that this would be a site I would use to help me plan my travel (I will be travelling to UK, Sicily, Rome, Berlin soon). I also thought it would be a useful site to refer my enquirers to visit.

St-Christina-Cathedral-Palermo (1)

My blog had already been mentioned by two other tourism companies – Sicily Local Expert Award and Sicily Tourism, but these two companies provided a general list of Sicilian blogs. The difference between them and GoEuro was that GoEuro’s is a compilation of the different tips given by the bloggers who were approached – made comprehensive, more personal, more useful.

And this is the result, and I like it:

18 Secrets of Sicily Revealed by Top Travel Bloggers

http://blog.goeuro.co.uk/

Thank you GoEuro for inviting me to participate.

Temple-ruins-Selinunte

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

IMG_2707

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

IMG_2684

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

IMG_2710-e1457330854185

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

IMG_2686

My Fruttivendolo is open on Thursday to Saturday.

IMG_2706-1

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

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

Entry with Fici d%22india & pumpkin #2

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

IMG_2698

Salad of watercress, black grapes, beetroot etc.

IMG_2688-1

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

Prickly Pears Fichi D’india and A Paste Called Mostarda

Mascarpone:

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

Labneh:

Watermelon, Labneh and Dukkah Salad

MASCARPONE and its many uses. How to make it at home.

I have been making different batches of mascarpone at home and I have been using it in all sorts of dishes.

I have stuffed fresh figs with it (as a non sweetened savoury cheese), added zabaglione to it and used it to accompany stuffed peaches with raspberries scattered on top (stuffing made with amaretti and crushed almonds), spooned dollops of it into cold cream soups, thickened and enriched sauces, used it in a baked plum tart (like a cheesecake), enjoyed it with fresh berries, mixed it into dips, blended it with gorgonzola or with feta and used it as a spread …..and have made the most of having it as a staple in my fridge.

IMG_2645Mascarpone is a cheese, originally from Lombardy but now used extensively in savoury and sweet dishes elsewhere in Italy and of course in other parts of the world. It can be difficult to find and making it at home is so easy.

Plum tart #2

Cheese is made with creamy milk but mascarpone is made from cream that thickens when coagulated with cultures (like those used to make sour cream) .

You will find various explanations of how it is made. The most common is that the cream is heated, then acidified with citric acid or lemon juice and then kept at a high temperature for 5 or 10 minutes.

Figs stuffed with cheese

However, I use a much simpler way – I do not heat the cream nor do I coagulate it with lemon juice (this can also impart an unwanted lemon taste).

IMG_2653

I mix fresh cream with soured cream. The sour cream introduces the bacterial culture to  the cream and after leaving it for 2 days or more it thickens. The result is a very thick cream with a slightly sharp, sour taste – and very much like the commercially made Mascarpone. Buttermilk can also be used to introduce the culture to the cream.

Mascarpone is very much the consistency of clotted cream, but this has a higher fat content and it is thickened by heating with no cultures added.

Crème fraiche is also cultured cream; to make this I add a higher amount of sour cream to the cream and make it slightly more acidic in taste.

I like to use double cream and do not use thickened cream because it contains a thickener.

DIRECTIONS

Combine one carton of cream and half of that amount of sour cream in a glass container. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.

 

When stored in the fridge, the cream will continue to mature and thicken; it keeps well for about one week.

 

 

 

POLLO OR GALLINA ALLA CONTADINA, ALLA PAESANA. Braised Chicken with Olives, Sicilian style.

IMG_2667Any time you see Italian dishes described as alla contadina, alla paesana, alla campagnola………do we really know what is meant by these terms?

These all translate as of the peasantry – peasant style –  and as those who live on the land would cook these dishes. They imply to be dishes that are healthy, nourishing, unsophisticated, hearty, country-style and as cooked at home. In these dishes you would also expect some common vegetables – onions, carrots, celery, some common herbs and wine (someone living on the land usually makes their own wine).

Carne – meat, or coniglio – rabbit, or pollo or gallina, seem to be cooked alla contadina, alla paesana, alla campagnola very frequently in home kitchens. The method of cooking is braised or stewed.

What is meant by pollo and gallina, and is there a difference?

Pollame are farmyard birds, therefore pollo is derived from this word.

Gallina is chicken and female. Gallo is the masculine, i.e. a rooster and would probably be not as tender as a gallina and would require more cooking.

Once a pollo would most likely have been considered a male, but in modern times there is no difference between the terminology or the gender and especially in Australia, UK and US,  it is what we commonly refer to as chicken.  Usually chicken is 6-12 months old when it is killed.

A gallina vecchia would be the description of a chicken used to make broth/ stock and would be older than 12 months.

Proverb: Una gallina vecchia fa buon brodo…. An old hen makes good broth

Cappone is a capon and is a castrated male – this is likely to be sold as a larger bird as it will be fattened intentionally; the implication is that it will be tasty. I doubt if I could purchase a capon in Australia.

IMG_2654

Recipes for pollo or gallina (chicken) alla contadina etc. cooked with these simple ingredients and braised are found in every region of Italy; the only variations may be the addition of a few tomatoes or mushrooms or a pepper (capsicum) or two. The wine can be red or white.

IMG_2659

In Sicilian recipes you may find the addition of olives. More common would be the green, olive schacciate (cracked olives) as they have no stone. (The photo below was taken in Palermo. I have so many photos of Sicily and do not necessarily add them in my posts – silly me.)

Statues+at+Palermo (1)

I always buy whole chicken for a braise. My mother and relatives always did and I guess I just do without question.

Although I always buy free range, there is always some fat and I remove as much as possible before I cook it. I also always skim fat from the top of the braise once it is cooked.

IMG_2655

As you can see by the way I dissect the chicken into pieces, I am no butcher, but if it is peasant style after all so I get away with it being roughly cut. I usually cut rough the vegetables as well. And who needs exact measurements if the recipe is home style.

1 chicken
2 carrots
2-3 celery stalks
1 large onion
2-3 red tomatoes (peeled fresh or canned)
½ -1 glass of white or red wine
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
rosemary, parsley or sage
1 cup green olives (no stones)

Cut the chicken into pieces and remove the fat (unless you like fatty chicken).
Brown the chicken in a tiny amount of oil – one side and the other. Remove from the pan. I like to drain off any fat before I continue cooking the rest.

IMG_2660

Use the same pan, add the olive oil. Sauté the onion.
Add celery and carrots and sauté some more.
Add the chicken, herbs, tomatoes, seasoning and pour in the wine. Do not use much salt as the olives are likely to be salty.

IMG_2666

Add some water to almost cover the chicken, cover and braise the contents (on low heat) for 40-60 minutes, stirring now and again. Add the olives about 10 minutes prior to the finish.
If there is too much liquid and you wish to concentrate the flavours, remove the chicken, increase the heat and evaporate the liquid lid until it has thickened.  At this stage I skim more fat from the top if it is necessary. Add the chicken, mix, cover and leave until ready to serve.

Remember, Italian food is not usually presented at the table piping hot; the flavours are left to mature for at least 30 minutes.Italians like to savour their food and not have scalded palates!

MINESTRA ESTIVA CON ZUCCA LUNGA SICILIANA, Sicilian Summer soup made with the long, green variety of squash

 

Zuccone+%2526+tendrils+2

In Sicilian this squash is called a cucuzza and in Italian I will call it a zucca lunga (long squash), which is what it is, a long serpent like squash. The tender leaves and tendrils of this plant are called tenerumiand I have written about these previously because both are typically loved by Sicilians and commonly used to make a refreshing summer soup (it could also be classified as a wet pasta dish).

zucca26zuchini_0069

The zucca tastes a little like zucchini (from the same family) and like all squashes it is a summer crop.

As a vegetable, this very long, pale green marrow is rather bland, but to a Sicilian it is referred to as delicate; it is the combinations of flavours that give this soup the unique, sweet, fresh taste – Sicilians say the soup is rinfrescante – refreshing and will reconstitute balance in the body.

Unless you live in Sicily you are unlikely to be able to purchase these. Do not despair if you do not know a nice Sicilian who grows this produce – you can use zucchini and a greater amount of basil to make a similar soup – it will not be the same, but very pleasant.

tenerumi-1

See previous Posts:

MINESTRA DI TENERUMI (Summer soup made with the tendrils of a Sicilian squash)

KOHIRABI and TENERUMI, shared between cultures of Sicily and Vietnam

FRESH PRODUCE (and I did not have to go to SICILY to buy it). The Melbourne Showgrounds Farmers Market

According to Giuseppe Coria in Profumi di Sicilia, the origins of the simple soup are probably from Ragusa and the southeastern part of Sicily. Here it was (and maybe in some households it still is) made only with boiled squash, its leaves, broken spaghetti, salt and pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

According to Coria, it is the people from Palermo who embellished the soup by adding garlic or onion, tomatoes and basil. And this is how I have always cooked it and eaten it in various homes in Sicily.

It is not surprising that this is a soup much appreciated by Inspector Montalbano, the principal character in Andrea Camilleri’s books that have also been made into a successful television series – the stories are set in this very region.

There are variations on how this soup is made: some add a generous sprinkling of pecorino cheese at the end (as in Palermo); others add red chillies during cooking. Diced potatoes are also common in some parts of Sicily.

The next day, we ate the leftovers as a cold soup; it was just as good….and as traditional. It is summer after all.

INGREDIENTS
zucca lunga siciliana (mine was about 25 cms long)
1 large spring onion, sliced
2-3 tomatoes, roughly cut
3 cups of vegetable broth (I used a broth cube, optional) or water
fresh basil leaves, a good handful
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil,
1 cup of spaghetti (broken in small pieces)
Cut the zucca in half, get rid of the seeds and cube it.
Chop the tomatoes.
Sauté the onion in some olive oil for about 1 minute, add the zucca and continue to sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes.
Season with salt and pepper, add 2 cups of the stock, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the tenerumi, the rest of the stock and some of the basil; bring the contents to the boil.
Cook the pasta in the same pot; add the pasta and cook it until it is al dente.
Add more basil, a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil and serve.
I appreciate this soup’s fresh taste and only sprinkle only a few chilli flakes on top (or black pepper and I definitely do not use grated cheese; my Sicilian heritage is not from Palermo.