It is happening. The Eucalyptus trees are being cut down.
It is happening. The Eucalyptus trees are being cut down.
There are many who read my posts, apart from Victoria, there are others from other Australian states, Italy and Europe, and many from the US.
But I am not writing recipes this time.
I live in an apartment overlooking the Queen Victoria Market. This time, I want to tell you about the birds that come to my balcony to drink, and how Melbourne City Council are going to fell the trees where these birds nest. The reason is to make way for a development consisting of three block towers in the southern end of the open air car park in the Queen Victoria Market.
I have considered myself to be very lucky to live at the end of Queen Street in the centre of the city of Melbourne, and I have a roundabout in front of my apartment block plus twenty mature trees. This oasis and roundabout once had a sculpture on it that was especially designed and constructed within that green space to compliment the sculpture and provide a compelling entrance to welcome shoppers to the Queen Victoria Market. The market is one of the reason I chose to live here. In Adelaide I also had an apartment very close to the Adelaide market. In Trieste (Italy) where I lived as a child my family of three also lived close to the central market. When I travel, markets are always on my agenda.
Markets and fresh produce are very important to me. And so is greenery.
The roundabout with its specially commissioned art work by Lisa Young was erected over twenty years ago, and the variety of native trees were chosen in collaboration with a landscape gardener of Young’s choice. The trees are Casuarinas and two tall Eucalyptus trees. These trees, especially the Eucalyptus trees house a variety of birds that visit my balcony to drink from the water bowl that I provide. The Casuarinas house smaller birds that only occasionally are seen on my balcony. This one below liked my olive tree. They don’t often visit, but I hear them chirping.
The sculpture unfortunately was removed a couple of years ago, but the trees have remained. Until now.
Because the roundabout with its mature trees has contributed to this part of Queen Street being greener, the bird life has returned. There are roadworks all around my apartment building and partly because of the hot days we have experienced recently and probably in the future, the water bowl I provide for the birds on my balcony and the security has been a haven for the birds.
The Wattle birds have visited my balcony for a number of years. The visiting couple nest as solitary pairs, alone during their breeding season, later in pairs and because breeding conditions must be favourable, they are brooding twice per year. They then visit as family groups of three. I have watched them dip into the water bowl, then preening and flapping their wings before they fly back to settle on the Eucalyptus trees.
The Lorikeets are the most numerous visitors and were the second set of guests after the Wattle birds; I have read that Lorikeets have reappeared in Melbourne CBD after decades of absence.
Interestingly, after some disputes to settle pecking orders the birds seem willing to share the bowl of water except when the Lorikeets bring their young; these rainbow- plumed parrots constantly chatter and perform acrobatic feats and dives into the water bowl keeping me entertained.
The spotted doves and the feral pigeons don’t seem to care about what other birds are drinking, and vice versa. They do a lot of cooing and pacing on the edge of the balcony and, when there is a space around the water bowl, they drink. They are simply ignored by everyone.
The Currawongs are the most majestic, and like the other varieties that visit they too like a dip in the water bowl, except that the bowl is not large enough and they take it in turns to stand in the water that only reaches to the top of their legs. It is very amusing. They make their melodic calls from the surrounding trees. They prefer to come when the sun is beginning to set.
The silent Crows also visit in twos, but not as regularly. Just like when the Currawongs visit, these larger birds have the bath and the balcony to themselves. Their presence is ominous.
Native noisy Miners and Indian Mynas come too, and there is no fighting with each other or with the other species. But how is this so? Aren’t Miners and Mynas supposed to be aggressive?
The black and white Peewees (Magpie-larks) with their distinctive, piping calls are the most recent arrivals to come. Their breeding season is from August to January and I am watching one family unit feeding their fledgling and teaching it to drink and dunk.
There is a grim reason for this accounting of city birdlife. The Queen Street roundabout and the trees that have grown there are to be destroyed within days. My neighbours have everything possible, but all strategies have been unsuccessful.
The trees and roundabout are collateral damage in Melbourne City council’s plan to redevelop the Queen Victoria Market through a land sale to the developer – Lendlease.
The roundabout which has managed the relatively smooth flow of traffic through and around the market will make way for a complicated intersection controlled by traffic lights. Is this a suitable replacement as an entry to our iconic market?
What’s more, as part of its urban forest strategy Melbourne City Council is planning to remove the Plane trees that continue along Queen Street and that border the existing open-air carpark. Within next ten years street trees in the rest of the CBD will reach the end of their useful lives and council is progressively replacing trees (including Plane trees) with new tree species that are more appropriate to the changing climate planted in public land across the Municipality. Removing old trees that are not suitable to our conditions and planting new trees is a positive strategy, but we have left it too long to begin to replace our older trees.
Trees take years to mature. The trees that are to be felled on the roundabout have taken more than twenty years to be old enough to support insects and birds of different species. One of the large Eucalypt trees is a flowering gum and the migratory bats come and feast on the blossoms during the flowering season.
Mature trees provide fantastic canopies and significant environmental benefits in terms of shade, cooling and biodiversity. Melbourne City has a target to reach a 40% green canopy cover by 2040.
How can we achieve this? Why are these trees on the roundabout been removed?
If the roundabout is to go, I will certainly miss it.
I ask myself why can’t Melbourne City Council find ways to save at least some of these trees, especially the two Eucalyptus trees and leave them as part of a nature strip that is within keeping with the rest of Queen Street that leads into the Queen Victoria Market? Too difficult? Don’t care?
Trees and birds need us as friends in difficult times.
Please save the trees, and by doing so, save the birds and the insects.
And how does the sale of the land by Melbourne City Council for a development benefit the Queen Victoria Market?
We cannot expect recipes to remain exactly the same, but there are some culinary traditions when it comes to Italian food. These may influence our thinking.
Just like food has evolved in Australia (and elsewhere) cooks are influenced by new ingredients, the wide exposure to the cooking of others (media, travel, migration/immigration, eating away from home) and perhaps the wider acceptance of not sticking to the rules, except perhaps as do the nonne (plural of nonna) and in my case, it was also the zie (plural of zia=aunt).
One simple example of how traditional recipes have evolved is to consider the range of toppings with Pizza. Once, there was Margheria, Marinara, Quattro Stagioni, Napoletana and Pugliese (if you were lucky.) Modern combination of ingredients are now extensive and I consider some to be excellent and keeping with my tastes (ingredients like – stracciatella, gorgozola, roquette, roasted pumpkin etc), but somehow I can’t come to accept a BBQ PIZZA as described on the web (with smoked cheese, diced chicken breast, peppers, onions, baby plum tomatoes and barbecue sauce) or a TIKKA MASALA PIZZA (spiced chicken, green peppers, natural yogurt, mango chutney and coriander).
My knowledge about Italian cuisine and ingredients just doesn’t allow it.
I like to experiment in the kitchen, but I tend to stick with ingredients that I think are acceptable within tradition and regional culture. I base my cooking of my knowledge and experience. For example, I have seen recipes suggesting fish sauce as a substitute for anchovies in Italian recipes (by chefs and not necessarily Italian). And why not? But not me. Part of me still sticks some culinary regulations.
The following is an account of my thinking before I cooked dinner on a week night (not special).
I had some fennel and some zucchini in the fridge that needed using.
I needed to make some culinary decisions.
I felt like making a pasta dish but knew that I needed to add something else to these vegetables to pep up the flavour. I consider both these vegetables sweet tasting, and because my sweet marjoram plant is doing extremely well on my balcony, I decided to add this, too. Parsley always pairs with both vegetables as does a splash of white wine or/and stock. I could sauté either onion or garlic before adding the vegetables and I could cook them in butter as well as extra virgin olive oil; I would add a large amount of grated Parmesan at the end. Perhaps also a grind of nutmeg which would complement the marjoram and the sweet tastes of the vegetables. This set me thinking about adding a few walnuts too (influenced by the Ligurian pesto made with marjoram and walnuts). Such a recipe would result in a dish with northern Italian flavours.
If I wanted something spicier, I would need to add some of the following ingredients: olives (either black or green), capers, chilli, anchovies, tomatoes or better still tomato paste. Red wine is stronger than white wine and Pernod would complement the fennel in the ingredients.Either Italian pork sausages (with fennel or chilli,) or pancetta would be good, too. Borlotti or cannellini beans would enhance the taste and textures and add protein to the dish. Adding a contrasting bitter tasting vegetable could also work – radicchio, if I wanted to keep with northern Italian influences, chicory or endives, perhaps, would be more southern and wild fennel would be Sicilian or Calabrese.
I decided on anchovies, olives and a dash of white wine.
With strong flavours Pecorino is better than Parmesan. I always have feta marinating in my fridge (in extra virgin olive oil, fennel seeds, dried oregano, fresh bay leaves and peppercorns) and this would be suitable too. Ricotta would be a sweet contrast to the stronger flavours, but perhaps it would be better as a topping to the milder northern Italian influenced version. And least we forget pan fried dry breadcrumbs as a topping, popular in Sicily and Calabria.
Once I decided on the ingredients, cooking was simple.
4 zucchini (in cubes), 1 head of fennel (cut into smaller cubes), 1 onion (sliced) – I only had a red onion, but because of the strong colour I would have preferred a white/ brown one), about 8 – 10 chopped anchovies (to taste), olives (mine were a mixture of green and black), cut parsley and marjoram and a splash of white wine. I used no salt because of the anchovies and olives. Extra virgin olive oil for the cooking.
Different shapes of pasta hold the sauce and ingredients in a different way. An oily, creamy, thin sauce sticks better to long pasta, whereas a short pasta shape is more suited to a sauce where the bits of meat or vegetables can nestle within, for example, shapes that have a hole (penne, rigatoni, shells) or a ridge or twists (farfalle, casarecce, spiralli) I opted for short casarecce pasta to go with this sauce.
Work out at what stage of cooking the sauce, you will need to cook the pasta. This will depend on your speed as a cook.
For the sauce: Dissolve anchovies in a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, then add the onion and sauté until it has wilted. Add the fennel and the anchovies and at the same time as sautéing the ingredients try to dissolve the anchovies. The darker colour in the photo above is red onion. Cook for about 5 minutes until the fennel has softened.
Add zucchini, chopped herbs and olives. Sauté again and perhaps cover with a lid until the vegetables have softened to your liking (I didn’t have to)
Add a splash of white wine to deglaze.
Dress the pasta. Present with grated cheese. I selected Pecorino.
And I wasn’t to miss out about Radicchio and Borlotti, so I made a salad. I used celery rather than fennel because I had used fennel in the sauce, used spring onion and aa vinaigrette dressing.
Some examples of recipes that may have influenced my thinking:
When I first came to Australia with my parents (1956), eggplants (aubergines/ melanzane in Italian) were non-existent commercially in Adelaide and probably in the rest of Australia. I remember friends moving to Canberra in the 80’s and they had to order eggplants from the Sydney markets.
Like so many vegetables that were unfamiliar in Australia, it took a few seed smugglers some time before eggplants were grown in home gardens, and even more years before they were found in produce markets and green grocers’ shops.
Now of course, there are many types of seeds that have been imported legally into Australia and sold in many Italian produce stores.
There are Asian varieties of eggplants as well as the Mediterranean ones in Australia. Trade and migration has made eggplants a typical Mediterranean plant, but they originated from the south-east Asia and in particular from India and China.
Eggplants come in different shapes and sizes – long, thin, wide, round, small and large and they cam be grown commercially as well as successfully in most home gardens . (The eggplant above is grown in my son’s home garden in Adelaide).
The colour of eggplants range from the traditional dark purple types through to violet, lavender, pink, green and creamy-white varieties. There are also variegated types.
When I think of eggplants, I think of Sicily where the most intense cultivation takes place in Italy.
Sicily has the highest numbers of eggplants in terms of cultivation and production; they are available at all times of the year because they can be grown in serre (greenhouses) in all seasons especially in the Ragusa area, where my father’s relatives are based.
And Sicily is where some of the most famous recipes for Italian eggplant dishes initiated, for example: Eggplant Caponata from Palermo, Pasta alla Norma from Catania and Parmigiana di Melazane (Eggplant Parmigiana) with some slight variations from all over Sicily.
Parmigiana is now one of the best-known and widespread dishes of Italian cuisine but its origin is disputed between the regions of Sicily, Campania and Emilia-Romagna. However I have always believed Parmigiana to be Sicilian. Since I was a young child I have eaten many servings of Parmigiana cooked by family and friends, in homes and in restaurants all over Sicily and I support the theory that it is a Sicilian specialty.
Parmigiana is what I am going to write about in this post.
Recently a friend (and an excellent home cook) prepared Yotem Ottolenghi’s Aubergine Dumplings Alla Parmigiana, from the book Flavor. It was a marvellous dinner and I enjoyed eating these vegetarian meatballs very much.
The ingredients for Ottolenghi’s recipe are cubed eggplants, roasted till soft and caramelized, then mashed and mixed with herbs and spices, ricotta, Parmesan, basil, bound with eggs, breadcrumbs and flour. While the mixture rests, a tomato salsa needs to be made, the dumplings are fried and then baked in the tomato salsa.
When I looked at Ottolenghi’s recipe, I was amazed at just how many steps have to be covered compared with the time it would take to cook the traditional Parmigiana. A few days later a friend came to dinner and I made a simple Parmigiana.
I baked the eggplants this time rather than fried them..
Made the tomato salsa.
Proceeded to layer the salsa, eggplants, grated cheese and because the Ottoleghi recipe had ricotta, and because ricotta seems to have become an addition to the traditional Parmigiana recipe all over the web, I also added ricotta between the layers.
What it looked like before I placed it in the oven.
And I presented the Parmigiana with roast peppers and a green salad.
I don’t know how long my version took, but it tasted good.
Parmigiana can also be made with fried zucchini.
Parmigiana can also be made with fried zucchini. It is worth cooking it.
**** I first wrote a post on my blog in 2009 about how the name of the recipe originated and recipe of a traditional Parmigiana. The recipe is also in my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking. The background information about Parmigiana is fascinating. The post is worth reading:
Pasta Con Le Sarde (sardines) can only be a Sicilian dish.
Sardines are plentiful, so is the wild fennel (it is seasonal), and most Sicilians eat pasta in some form, every day.
The flavours and ingredients of pine nuts, saffron and currants are said to have been introduced by the Arabs.
Breadcrumbs toasted in a fry pan with a little bit of olive oil are popular in Sicily as a topping or dressing – called muddica/ mollica/pan grattato, it is sprinkled on pasta instead of grated cheese, and some vegetable dishes like Parmigiana di Melanzane (eggplants), Caponata, fried peppers (Peperonata), and Sfincione (a type of regional pizza) .
And I make Pasta Con Le Sarde when I know I can impress friends, those who appreciate being impressed.
Accept that not everyone likes sardines or fancy the idea of wild fennel. The photo below shows how some bunches of wild fennel are sold in Sicilian markets.
Over the years I don’t just toast the breadcrumbs in the frypan (made bread that’s several days old); I also add a little cinnamon, a tiny bit of sugar and grated lemon peel. The lemon flavour really makes this pasta topping even more special. Sometimes I also add pine nuts to the pan.
Bucatini is the pasta I prefer – it’s slightly larger than spaghetti, long and hollow, like a tube.
But last time I made Pasta Con Le Sarde, I did use spaghetti. You can see how many pine nuts I sprinkled on top before folding them into the pasta. In a traditional dish there would be fewer.
Most of the time my Pasta Con Le Sarde looks like pretty ordinary, but still tastes magnificent. Sometimes I also add chopped, roasted almonds. Looking at this photo below can see that not all the almonds were chopped!
It is sometimes difficult to find wild fennel that is healthy looking or in season, so sometimes I do add a fresh fennel bulb.
Below the photo shows fennel and onion sauté-ing (if there is such a word!)
This is followed by the addition of saffron, wild fennel and currants.
If I can get sufficient wild fennel I use it in the boiling water to flavour the pasta. The stalks from fresh fennel also work. Simply cook the stalks or wild fennel in the water and remove them before adding the pasta to cook.
Although Sardines are easy to clean, sardines are also sold as fillets.
I have written about Pasta Con Le Sarde before.
From my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking.
The greatest component in my diet has always been vegetables, but now and again there is a definite main dish, and duck is what I cooked one night last week for dinner.
Most of my cooking is about “using up” something and I chose duck because I had some left over cumquats in the fridge. Last year when it was cumquat season I preserved some in vodka, and some in brandy. When I remember that I have them I sometimes present them at the end of a meal when I have guests. There were a few cumquats in vodka left over from a dinner with friends recently.
Duck breast does not have to be a dish for important events. It is very quick and easy to cook especially if it is pan fried and the cost is very similar to free range chicken.
An advantage of pan frying duck is that you can quickly and efficiently drain off the fat either to keep for another time or to pan fry potatoes, cooked beforehand and browned in the fry pan.
Pan fried duck is versatile, and you can alter and enhance its taste with the addition of small amounts of other ingredients like pulses, nuts, fruit, herbs and vegetables. Different liquids (alcohol, flavoured stocks) used to deglaze the pan will make delicious sauces.
What is added to the duck is the embellishment and not the vegetable sides. When I cook a protein main (meat, fish, cheese, eggs), I always present it with large quantities of vegetables. On this occasion the accompaniments were sautéed spinach cooked in a little extra virgin olive oil and garlic, and some steamed green beans.
I use mostly wine, vinegar or stock for deglazing but I also like different-tasting alcohols perhaps because there are many bottles left over in my cupboard from past times when serving a nip of spirits instead of a simple aperitivo before a meal or as a digestivo after, was fashionable. I particularly like to use different flavoured grappa, vodka, vermouth, brandy, Pernod and dry marsala. I prefer the sweeter liqueurs for desserts.
I am almost embarrassed to show you this photo but in some ways the “‘using up” priciple applies.
As well as playing around with alcohol, I am a great user of herbs and spices and I greatly enjoy selecting what could pair well with the ingredients I am using.
The recipe below may help clarify what I am discussing above.
I use a non-stick pan, to prevent the duck from sticking during cooking. I used another frypan to cook the potatoes.
Duck – 2 pieces of breast, a couple of spring onions, a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Cumquats in vodka, star anise and some blood orange juice.
Fresh herbs were parsley and thyme.
Score the skin, forming a grid of fairly deep cuts. This assists the speed of cooking and the fat to melt and escape.
Heat a smear of oil in the pan and place the duck pieces on top and always skin side down first, so that the fat melts. I added thyme.
Keep the duck on that skin fat side first and drain the fat off at least a couple of times as you are cooking that side of the duck. This may take about ten minutes.
Turn the meat over, seasoning with salt and pepper and continue cooking for another 6-8 minutes. I like my duck pink and you may wish to cook your duck for longer.
Remove the meat from the pan and rest it while you deal with the sauce and complimentary ingredients. At this stage you may notice that there is still some blood running off the meat but the duck will be added to the sauce once it is made and this will finish the cooking.
Make sure that there is still some grease in the pan (or add some oil) for the next part of the cooking. Begin with some finely chopped shallot or a spring onion or two and toss them around till softened. I then added some parsley.
Now is the time to add some partly cooked vegetable, fruit or pulses to the pan and as you see in my recipe, I added the comquats and I drained them first.
Add a glass of alcohol and on this occasion, mine was vodka, paying close attention to the height of the flame and safety issues. The vodka had some star anise and some blood orange as flavouring I had used for the cumquats.
When the alcohol has completely evaporated, return the duck breasts back in the pan to flavour for a few minutes. Slice the meat and serve them in the sauce.
It looks so elaborate for a weekday dinner, but it was quick and easy.
Preserving cumquats in alcohol is super easy:
Other duck recipes:
It is far too late to write about Christmas recipes, although Christmas melds with New Year Festivities, especially in Australia.
I have to admit that usually my month of December is just so busy that I don’t have time to investigate new recipes. I tend to rely on old favourites that I can cook with my eyes closed. Some of these old favourites are: Pasta con le sarde; baccalà cooked in various ways; a risotto or pasta with squid and black ink with green peas; mussels; tuna steaks also cooked in different ways: insalata Russa; grilled seasonal vegetables like zucchini, peppers and eggplants; and for dessert, there is either Zuppa Inglese with Arkemes (Alchermes) or Cassata.
You will find all of these recipes on my blog.
This year I am in Adelaide for Christmas. I had given my family in Adelaide some options of what I could cook for Christmas Eve, but they all asked for two old favourites – Baccalà Mantecato and Caponata Catanese as antipasti….. same old, same old…
The Baccalà Mantecato is from the Veneto region in Italy and something that was very common in Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) where my parents and I lived when I was a child. The baccalà is soaked in water for 3 days, then poached in milk, bay and a couple of garlic cloves, drianed and creamed with extra virgin oilve oil. It is spread on crostini – bread brushed with oil and toasted. The crostini my mother made were toased in a frypan and never in the oven. Crostini made with polenta are also favourites… but who has the time?
Photo below is the soaked baccalà.
The Caponata Catanese is from Catania in Sicily. Unlike the Caponata from Palermo that is made with eggplants. This version is made with peppers as well as eggplants and the usual caponata ingredients of green olives, celery, a bit of tomato paste and the agro-dolce, (a sweet and sour sauce). This is topped with pine nuts and basil.
So let’s just share a recipe for Christmas, but remember that at this time of year it is hot in Australia (because it is summer), if it is winter where you are, you may not even consider cooking it.
It is braised lentils cooked with Cotechino…..Cotechino con le lenticchie.
Although I would never serve this at midnight as was customary in some parts of Emilia-Romagna where the dish originates, it is an interesting choice. The Cotechino is a rich seasoned pork sausage that I poach with the lentils. The thick sausage is then sliced and served on top of a bed of braised lentils.
The green lentils that resemble the shape of coins are intended to bring you prosperity in the New Year.
Photos of the caponata cooked in Melbourne and brought to Adelaide. once again I used my heavy wok to cook each of the vegetables separately.
I am writing about kid, not goat. Unlike goat, there was very little fat and the meat did not exude that characteristic, heavy smell of game that is present when cutting goat and mutton.
Capretto, Italians call it and it is a meat that is not cooked regularly, but is often cooked on special occasions. I bought it from an Italian butcher. I went in to buy some pork sausages but when I saw what the Italian customers that were lining up at the counter were all buying, I did the same. I bought capretto.
The Italian word for goat is capra and like mutton, goat is not generally eaten in Italy.
I marinaded it overnight with extra virgin olive oil, red wine, fennel seeds, bay leaves, rosemary, onion and sage. As you can see in the photo there is plenty of marinade; I wanted the meat to be quite well covered and intended to use the marinade in the cooking.
Nothing is wasted, the herbs are discarded and replaced with fresh herbs. This is because I have herbs growing on my balcony and I can afford to do this. I added garlic when i ws ready to cook the meat.
The important thing to do in this recipe is to cook the usual soffritto base that is omnipresent in Italian cooking – onion, carrot and celery – in extra virgin olive oil and make sure that the soffritto vegetables are caramilised before combining it with the drained marinaded meat.The meat does not need to be browned before hand making the cooking process easier and quicker. I have a cast iron baking pan that is very convenient for putting directly onto the stove.
The soffritto took about 15 minutes to soften and caramilise the vegetables ad this process adds a much enriched flavour to the dish. A dash of passata or some peeled red tomatoes also adds to the taste and colour to the braise.
Once you have drained the meat and removed the old herbs use the marinade to the capretto. Add fresh herbs and some stock. As you can see in the photo there is enough liquid to almost cover the meat.
Cover the pan with some foil or a lid and leave it to cook in a slow oven. Mine was set at 170C degrees and because I have two similar baking trays the spare one made a good lid.
Remove the foil after an hour. Move the meat around and add more broth or water and cook it uncovered until the meat is separated from the bones. I baked mine for about two hours without the foil, but made sure that if I needed to add more liquid, I had some stock to use.
The results were delicious. The vegetables almost melted, the meat was easily detached from the bone, it smelled great and tasted even better. And yes, it was a special meal.
I presented it with baked potatoes and braised endives sautéed with anchovies.
The kid weighed 2 kilos. as you can see there was very little fat.
This is not the first time I have cooked capretto – kid/goat
It is the season to begin thinking about fish and how to cook it to make it special.
This recipe is from my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking (now out of print) and it is so simple to cook that I could do it with my eyes closed.
The fish is a locally caught sustainable Snapper. You can see that I make slits in the fish’s sides and in the slits I insert a couple of anchovies. If you don’t like anchovies use fresh herbs; good for this fish are wild fennel, thyme, rosemary or tarragon.
I made the marinade and marinaded the fish in your baking tray for an hour before cooking.
In the marinade you can see that I have used chopped parsley, quite a bit of onion and grated lemon peel. The liquid is: extra virgin olive oil, some wine vinegar and some lemon juice. Add a bit of salt and pepper also. I have included some quantities in the recipe below, but really, the fun of cooking is also experimenting.
Mix up the marinade and let the fish steep in it for about an hour. Turn it over a few times before you bake it. You can bake potatoes with it if you wish and the potatoes take on that lemon flavour that often Greek baked potatoes have when baked with lemon (usually cooked with chicken).
The Greeks did settle in Sicily after all!
I usually part- cook my potatoes and put them in to bake with the fish about 15mins before I think the fish is ready. Raw slices of potatoes are used in the recipe but do whatever you think is easier for you.
My partner who does the shopping came home with these artichokes from the Queen Victoria Market.
They were pretty big specimens and nearing the end of aritchoke growing season (when they turn woody and their fibrous chokes develop), but not having eaten artichokes for quite a while, I was excited about them.
They did prove to be quite fibrous – vecchi – Italians would say, but I did clean them as best I could, removing most of the outer leaves and really digging in to remove their chokes. I also cut more of the tops off than I usually do with younger artichokes. Although the stems were long, once I stripped off the outer fibre, I was only able to use very little of them.
Really, I should have taken off all the leaves and used only the base – fondi – Italians call them.
Artichokes can be cooked in many ways and you will find several recipes on my blog, but I particularly like them stuffed. The stuffing was easy – day old breadcrumbs, garlic, grated pecorino, parsley and a good amount of extra virgin olive oil.
Last of all, I added some toasted pinenuts and some grated lemon peel to the stuffing.
And then I stuffed the artichokes.
These are ready to cook. They are nearly submeged in stock, white wine, extra virgin olive oil and a little salt. I always add fresh bayleaves, but this time I also added thyme.
Cover and braise slowly.
And they did cook for much longer than I usually cook artichokes. After about 60 mins of cooking on a slow flame, I added chunks of potatoes and when the potatoes were nearly cooked (about 20 mins) , I added broadbeans and peas (Spring vegetables) and all cooked a further 10 – 15 minutes.
Like most Italians, I rarely do the cooking at the last minute. With braised dishes the flavours need to develop, and resting is a good thing. I cooked these in the afternoon, ready for the evening. This also gave me time to concentrate on accompanying food.
Where would we be without seasonal broadbeans!! My partner even double peeled them, something that I refuse to do.
In spite of all my fears, we chewed on the ends of the leaves and the bases (the fondi) just melted in our mouths…. They tasted pretty heavenly.
Some of these posts were written a long time ago!
There are more recipes for artichokes – use the search button.