ARTICHOKES and how we love them – CAPONATA DI CARCIOFI

This week, Richard Cornish’s regular column is about artichokes. (September 21, Brain Food in The Age). His commentary has certainly provided me with an excess  amount of food for thought – artichokes are one of my very favourite vegetables and I have written many recipes for artichokes on my blog.

Artichokes in Acireale Sicily

I have included some recipes in this post and more can be found on my blog. In Italian artichokes are called carciofi, in Sicilian they are cacocciuli. As Richard says, artichokes are thought to have originated from Sicily, and therefore Sicilians have had plenty of time to appreciate their versatility and have come up with some excellent recipes for artichokes cooked in many interesting ways.

This is not to say that the other regions of Italy don’t have their own local recipes for artichokes, but Sicilians seem to have the lot.

Artichokes in Italy are eaten as appetizers, contorni (sides), first and second courses, and stand-alone dishes. Artichokes can be stuffed with a wide variety of fillings, fried whole or sliced, and crumbed before being fried, sautéed, boiled, baked, braised and stewed, roasted in ashes, used in frittate (plural of frittata), pasta and risotti (plural of risotto).

When they are young, they are sliced thinly and eaten raw in salads. They are canned commercially and, at the end of plant’s life, the last of the artichokes that will never mature but will stay small and underdeveloped, are conserved, mostly in olive oil. When they are old, they are stripped of all the leaves and the bases are eaten.

CARCIOFINI SOTT’ OLIO (Preserved artichokes in oil) 

It is spring in Australia now and the very best time to celebrate artichokes when they can be combined with other spring produce such as broad beans, peas, asparagus and potatoes.

A couple of recipes in my blog make a special feature of spring flavours:

A QUICK PASTA DISH for Spring: asparagus, artichokes, peas

CARCIOFI IMBOTTITI (Stuffed artichokes)

ASPARAGUS and ARTICHOKES PASTA ALLA FAVORITA (Pasta with artichokes, broad beans, peas alla favorita)

FRITTEDDA (A sauté of spring vegetables)

Different varieties of artichokes are also available in autumn, but somehow pairing them with spring seasonal produce, deserves extra applause.

CARCIOFI (Artichokes and how to clean them and prepare them for cooking) 

In his Brain Food column about artichokes Richard says that artichokes contain a compound called cynarin which inhibits your tongue’s ability to detect sweetness. You don’t notice it until you have a bite or a drink of something else: the cynarin gets washed off the tongue, and suddenly, your brain tells you that what you have in your mouth is sweet, even when it is not!

Hence Cynar, one of the many Italian bitter alcoholic drinks (of the amaro variety) and made predominantly with artichokes. Cynar is classed as a digestive and it is said to have stomach-soothing qualities and cleansing and restorative properties for the liver. It can be drunk as an apéritif or after dinner drink.

BITTER GREENS and AMARI (Aperitivi and Digestivi)

Richard mentions how Richard Purdue, executive chef at Margaret in Sydney’s Double Bay, beams when the word artichoke is mentioned. ‘‘One of my favourite dishes is one I picked up in Sicily, where the artichokes are cooked in a kind of caponata – tomatoes, celery, pine nuts, currants, red wine and sugar.’’ So to finish off here is a recipe adapted from my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking for a caponata made with artichokes.

The recipe in my book suggests using 9 -10 artichokes and I intended the amount to be for 6 -8 people. Caponata di Carciofi (Artichoke Caponata) can only be made with young artichokes. It is also worth noting that you will need to remove the outer leaves and only use the tender centre, therefore reducing the amount of artichokes significantly.

CAPUNATA DI CARCIOFFULI – Caponata Di Carciofi  (Artichoke caponata)

I sauté each of the vegetable ingredients separately as is the traditional method of making caponata (as in a well-made, French dish Ratatouille). Frying the vegetables together does save time, but the colours and the flavours will not be as distinct. However, I have provided this method as a variation (see bottom of this recipe). Remove the outer, tougher leaves of the artichokes by bending them back and snapping them off the base until you come to the softer, paler leaves.

  • Prepare artichokes for sautéing. The artichokes need to be sliced thinly and vertically into bite size pieces. Keep them in acidulated water as you work. The cleaned stalk is one of my favourite parts of the artichoke and will add flavour to the caponata. Trim the stalk with a small sharp knife to pull away the tough, stringy outer skin (just like the strings of celery) and leave the stem attached to the artichoke. This will expose the light-coloured, centre portion, which is very flavourful and tender and much appreciated by Italians.
  • Drain the artichokes from the acidulated water and squeeze dry (I use a clean tea towel).
  • Select a large, shallow, saucepan to sauté the artichokes. They should not be crowded and if you do not have a large enough pan, sauté them in batches – you want to create as little liquid as possible.
  • Place some of the extra virgin olive oil in the pan and sauté the artichokes on low heat until they are tender. This may take up to 10 minutes or more depending on the freshness and age of the artichokes (add a little water or white wine if the ingredients are drying out).
  • Remove the artichokes and set aside.
  • Add a little more, extra virgin olive oil to the pan (and/or you may be able to drain some from the sautéed artichokes) and sauté the other vegetables in the same pan, separately. Proceed as follows:
  • Sauté the onion until it begins to colour, remove from the pan and add to the artichokes.
  • Add a little more extra virgin olive oil and sauté the celery.
  • Add the olives, capers, salt and tomatoes to the celery. Simmer gently for about 5-7 minutes. Add a little water if needed (this mixture should have the consistency of a thick sauce.)
  • Remove the mixture from the pan and add it to the sautéed artichokes and onions.
  • To make the agro dolce (sweet sour) sauce:
  • Add the sugar to the pan and caramelise the sugar by stirring it until it melts and begins to turn a honey colour.
  • Add the vinegar and swirl it around to collect the flavours of the sautéed vegetables and evaporate it (2-3 minutes).
  • Place all of the sautéed vegetables and artichokes into the pan with the agro dolce sauce and gently toss the ingredients, as you would do a salad.
  • Simmer on very gentle heat to amalgamate the flavours for about 3-5 minutes.
  • Place caponata into a sealed container or jar and store in the fridge. Leave it to stand at least a day but preferably longer.

Now, for the easier version:

  • To make caponata, where the ingredients are not fried separately, proceed as follows:
  • Prepare and sauté the artichokes as in the proceeding recipe.
  • Add a little more extra virgin olive oil and heat it. Add the onion and the celery and sauté until they begin to colour.
  • Add the olives, capers, sugar, salt, vinegar and tomatoes. Cover and simmer gently until tender (5-10 minutes or more depending on the freshness and age of the artichokes).

KOHLRABI, as eaten in Sicily

As usual, I look forward to reading Richard Cornish’s regular column Brain Food in The Age on Tuesdays and today he is writing about Kohlrabi (September 7, 2021).

Just as listening to music has the power to bring up memories, reading about produce brings up memories of recipes for me.

When Richard chose to write about Sardines in his weekly column (August 24, 2021) I wrote about PASTA CON SARDE, an iconic Sicilian dish more common in Palermo then elsewhere, but now cooked in different regions of the island with local variations.

Below are recipes from my blog that use Kohlrabi quite differently to the chefs that Richard mentions in Brain Food including David Moyle, the creative director of Harvest Newrybar near Byron Bay, and Rosalin Virnik from Anchor Restaurant in Melbourne’s Elwood.

Here’s my bit about Kohlrabi and a couple of recipes below.

Just to be perverse, Kohlrabi are called cavoli in Sicily and in Italian it is cavolo rapa.

In Italian cavoli are cauliflowers, cavolo verza is a cabbage.

Just to confuse things even further, Sicilians call cauliflowers broccoli.

As well as the purple coloured Kohlrabi roots there are light green ones; the root is always sold complete with the leaves and the whole plant is eaten.

One way Kohlrabi is eaten in Ragusa (Sicily) where my father’s family is from, is boiled as a vegetable side dish with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, but the preferred way is to cook it with pasta, as a wet pasta dish.

The pasta is homemade and is called Causunedda.

See recipe and photos:

A WET PASTA DISH WITH KOHLRABI

I have also seen Kohlrabi in markets in Vietnam

KOHLRABI and TENERUMI, shared between cultures of Sicily and Vietnam.

Not Sicilian, but a good salad:

KOHLRABI, FENNEL, CELERIAC AND DAIKON MAKE A GOOD SALAD (AND OTHER RECIPES)

PASTA CON LE SARDE recipes:

PASTA CON LE SARDE, Iconic Sicilian made easy

PASTA CON LE SARDE (Pasta with sardines, from Palermo, made with fennel, pine nuts and currants)

PASTA CON LE SARDE, an iconic Sicilian recipe from Palermo. Cooked at Slow Food Festival Melbourne

MY ITALIAN KETTLE and “Russian tea”

This is a kettle. It is an Italian kettle and it is very stylish.

I have a number of teapots of different sizes for different tea blends and to use at different times of the day.

But I like to use a large tea pot in the morning, because that is when I have about three to four cups of tea while I grow into the morning and this is my largest.

My large teapots has a cracked sprout. It has been mended, but it may not last long.

My very classy Italian kettle is about thirty years old, but like my fellow Australians, I have been using an electric kettle for many years.

The Italian kettle is a beautiful object that sits on one of my shelves, but it wants to be used as well as admired.

When I was an Italian child growing up in Italy, my parents made tea in a little saucepan that  was also used to be used to heat milk. Once the water boiled, tea was added to the boiling water and allowed to boil for a few minutes. The tea was then poured into cups through a dainty tea strainer. A slice of lemon was  always added to the brew. Never milk. we called this Tè alla Russa . Now that I know how Russians make tea and the ritual that is followed, I know that my parents and their friends were making pretend Russian tea. I expect that like the rest of the world, most Russians now use tea bags.

Not me! I prefer a tea pot.

When my family came to Adelaide in South Australia, we continued to make tea by this method and used the same saucepan that we brought with us  from Trieste. That is, until I began to visiting my Australian friends in their homes. They boiled water in different shaped saucepans with spouts! I went home and spread the news so we bought a kettle, boiled water in the kettle, added tea, boiled it some more, and then used the kettle as a teapot. Tè alla Russa once again. We thought we were so very with it!

This little memory prompted me to think about using my very attractive kettle as a tea pot. Not to boil tea in, but to use it as a conventional tea pot. Of course, there is the added advantage of being able to boil the water in the kettle-to-be-tea pot (or heating the water sufficiently for making green or white tea) and then making the tea. This would also do away with “warming” the tea pot before adding the tea.

Bingo! It works, but I shall have to use an oven mit for the handle.

I now shall need to sort out the accompanying, beautiful objects that sat on the same shelf.

My Italian relatives still seem to boil water for tea making in a saucepan. They use tea bags. Milk still seems unpopular, a slice of lemon is still preferred.

See:

Do I take making coffee at home too seriously?

 

RISOTTO AL RADICCHIO ROSSO

I have not made a Risotto al Radicchio Rosso for a long time.

So, why now?

First of all, I had some red Radicchio in the fridge. It is more or less a regular staple which I use mainly for salads.  However, I do  enjoy it cooked as well .

Secondly, I had some freshly made chicken broth. I received an email from my brother who lives in Adelaide beginning with:

I read that your lockdown has been extended for another 7 days.
I am so sorry. There is not much that one can say to provide comfort.

So, I wrote back an email beginning with:

You could make me a good chicken broth and send it over… broth always fixes things.

And with that, I took my own advice and made some chicken broth for myself.

Thirdly, a friend left a jar of Radicchio sotto aceto pickles on my doorstep – it literally translates as radicchio under vinegar. This revived my interest in  the versatility of radicchio. 

We ate some of the radicchio pickle with the boiled chicken and it was all very good.  As I often do, I then boiled the bones from the cooked chicken to make some more stock  which I added to the left-over broth and stored it in the freezer.  P.S. Using cooked chicken bones to make stock, is not an Italian thing.

Although I am very familiar with how to make Risotto di Radicchio (or Risotto al radicchio rosso), I wanted to tap into my bookshelves to see what recipes I had. Radicchio grows in Northern Italy and the recipes are Northern Italian.

I found recipes by Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer (remember that they both spent time in Tuscany), Sky Mc Alpine (with a nice addition of gorgonzola), Tessa Kiros, Jamie Oliver, Jennifer Mc Lagan (Jennifer sweetens the risotto with pumpkin), Diana Henry (she adds borlotti; radicchio and borlotti go well together and I have cooked many dishes with these two ingredients), Marcella Hazan (very traditional and simple), Jacob Kennedy (Barolo and bone marrow), Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Charles Nardozzi (he added pink grapefruit).Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, who is closer to  the origins of risotto and radicchio, adds bacon. This is acceptable as her birth place is close to Trieste in Pola, just before the city was assigned to Yugoslavia in September 1947.

I  particularly liked Risotto with red wine in Joanne Weir’s : From Tapas to Meze. She specifies the wine – Amarone from Veneto or Barolo from Piedmont – and adds some radicchio. She also adds nutmeg. Radicchio is bitter, nutmeg adds sweetness, which I think is a good addition, much like Jennifer Mc Lagan’s in Bitter where she suggests adding pumpkin to  the risotto, also a sweetener.

There were other recipes in some of my cookery books written in Italian, all very simple and traditional recipes and using mostly white wine. There were also  a few recipes for Risotto Rosso or Risotto all’ Amarone . None of the red wine recipes included radicchio.

Amarone is a full-bodied wine that tastes rich and fruity. Barolo is more floral and earthy, but both are strong tasting wines with a high alcohol content. I was interested to read  on the web that both wines go well with dark chocolate, a bitter taste.

In the end my preferred recipe was one by Julia Della Croce in Veneto – Authentic recipes from Venice and Italian Northeast.

Did I vary the recipe?

I never weigh ingredients and I always vary recipes to suit my tastes. I did not vary from Julia Della Croce list of ingredients very much and maybe this is why I liked her recipe. The ingredients I have at home is also a factor. For example, I can see how red onions would add to the colour, but I only had white onions.

I added nutmeg; used a white onion instead of a red one; red wine instead of white, and used more than a 1/2 cup; added thyme and bay leaves. I only used 1/2 a large radicchio. I thought that the walnuts were a good addition as once again, they provide a contrast to the bitterness of the radicchio. 

I did vary the process slightly,  but only slightly. This is what I did:

I sautéed  the onion and garlic in the oil and butter, then added the radicchio and removed it once it was softened.

I toasted the rice in butter and oil.

Once the rice was toasted, I added  seasoning , the red wine and some stock. Once the liquid was evaporated I returned the radicchio to the pan with a couple of bay leaves and thyme.

I continued to cook the risotto by adding stock a couple of ladles at the time and stirring it until the rice was ready… loose… ie cooked all’onda (like waves, not dry and gluggy).

When the rice was cooked, I added  freshly ground nutmeg , dished it out, sprinkled a few walnuts and grated some Parmigiano Reggiano on top and ate it.

This is the photo (below) as used in the book. My photo (above) did not do the dish justice! Come to think of it, this photo doesn’t either. It is over decorated … I see walnuts, but it is hard to see the riso.

 

There are other recipes with cooked radicchio on the blog and I can assure you they are good combinations or radicchio and other ingredients.

BIGOLI NOBILI (Bigoli pasta with red radicchio, borlotti and pork sausages)

COOKED RADICCHIO

Pan fried radicchio with pickled pears, walnuts, beetroot and gorgonzola

RADICCHIO (Treviso) with polenta and tomato salsa

CASSOULET? Not quite

Did I use mutton? Pork rind? Pork hock?
Not even goose?
Breadcrumbs on top? Confit of duck?
No, not any of these.

Cassoulet? Not quite. Perhaps I can call my recipe Cassoulet inspired.

Melbourne is in lockdown and I cooked this just for the two of us, and with no guests to impress, I took an easy option. Many writers have written about Cassoulet and I enjoyed leafing through some of the numerous books on my bookshelves.

It takes a lockdown! I have not leafed through books for a very long time.

I found recipes for Cassoulet in books by: Claudia Roden, Paula Wolfert, Joyce Goldstein, Stephanie Alexander, Guy Grossi and Jan McGuiness, Alice Waters, Clifford A Wright, Julia Child, Raymond Oliver, Elizabeth David and Rick Stein. If I had kept looking I may have found more.

The most comprehensive recipes are in this book:

The best photo for ingredients are in this book:

There is very little fat in my version of this dish; this is yet another reason why it cannot be called a Cassoulet. I used chicken legs and thinly cut pancetta because they needed using up. Instead of the pancetta, that I had in my fridge, I would have preferred to have used cubed pieces of speck, fatty prosciutto or raw bacon.

Ingredients

I used duck pieces, chicken legs , good-quality garlicky pork sausages, pork steaks from the neck, some pancetta and chicken stock. 

1 onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic, cannellini beans (soaked over night and cooked), 1/2 can of peeled tomatoes, thyme, bayleaves, parsley, bit of celery with leaves, pepper and salt.

Processes

I used a Dutch oven (thick bottom pan, suitable for slow cooking). This allowed me to brown the meat on the stove and to transfer the pan to the oven. . 

The cannellini beans can be cooked beforehand and stored in the fridge: Soak over night (about 3 centimetres above the beans). Drain the beans , cover with fresh water, add some bay leaves and celery then simmer till nearly cooked/almost tender, but retain a slight bite, 30 – 40 minutes.

Brown the meat: Begin with the duck, and use the rendered fat from the duck to brown the other meat. Remove the duck, add the  pancetta, seal it and set aside. Add some extra virgin olive oil or duck fat or lard if you need more fat and continue to brown the chicken,  pork and sausages, turn occasionally until well-browned on both sides.  Remove each piece of meat when it has browned and set it aside with the duck. It is best not to overcrowd the meat whilst browning.

Add onions, stir and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add beans with some of the broth from the beans, garlic,  thyme, parsley, bay leaves and tomatoes. Cover with stock.

Arrange the meats on top of the beans with the skin facing upwards.  Make sure  that the meat is almost completely submerged. with the stock.

Transfer to oven (155C) and cook, uncovered, until a thin crust forms on top (about 2 hours). The crust is a combination of the fat and collagen  from the meat and bones and the homemade chicken stock I used. The beans need to be covered with liquid and the meat mostly submerged. The liquid will evaporate so add more water or stock as it cooks – pour it carefully and gently down the side of the saucepan so as not to break the crust that forms on top as the ingredients cook. 

Continue cooking undisturbed until the crust is deep brown and thick (at least 3 hours). Usually a real cassoulet is cooked for longer, but the meat was very tasty,  soft and succulent.

Definitely not a Cassoulet, but I had fun dipping into some of my old books, cooking, eating and writing about it.

 

 

 

CIME DI RAPE (or Rapa) with pasta, anchovies and lemon peel

It is the season to demonstrate again my recognition and enjoyment  for  Cime di rape (Cime di rapa is the singular). Also known as Rapini or Broccoli Rabe in some other parts of Italy and of the world. This exceptional, slightly bitter, mustard tasting, green vegetable is a brassica and a winter green and I make the most of it while it is in season.

I cooked a bunch last night of “Cime ” as they are generally called, with anchovies for a pasta dish.

Cime di rape are not easy to buy, for example there are only three stalls that sell it at the Queen Victoria Market and you cannot rely on all three having it,  but if it is available, it comes home. Some good green grocers also sell Cime di rape, especially those businesses with Italian heritage or that are in locations where Italians shop.

The flower heads are green at the moment, but they will have yellow petals later in the season as demonstrated in the photo below.

Cime di rape, are traditionally cooked with orecchiette (little ears shaped pasta) originating in Puglia, but these  green leafy greens are also grown extensively in the Italian regions of Lazio and Campania and further south; they are not as traditionally popular in northern Italy.

I cook the greens as a  pasta dressing or as a side dish to gutsy dishes of meat or fish or pulses. They are not a delicate tasting green and therefore need  strong flavours – garlic, chillies, strong tasting cheese.

As a pasta sauce they can include the flavours already mentioned and / or be enriched by the addition of pork sausages,  a few slices of a strong tasing salame or ‘Nduja (a soft, spreadable, pork salame originating from  Calabria and with a high content of  chilies.)

Another strong taste  to add are anchovies. I like to add a substantial amount, but I am careful about adding salt to the greens when I sauté them in strong tasting extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and chilli.

The whole bunch can be used and not just the leaves and flowers. Like when cleaning broccoli, the tougher stems/stalks can be stripped of their tough, green layer. There is little wastage.

When I made the orecchiette with Cime di Rape last night I also added grated lemon peel. A friend had  just picked some very fresh lemons from her friend’s property. They were so fragrant, I could not resist them.

The anchovies have to be cut finely and tossed about in some extra virgin olive oil to dissolve/ melt. This happens quickly.

The melted anchovies can either be added to the sautéed  greens  after the pasta and greens have been tossed together and are ready to serve, or at the beginning i. e. sauté the anchovies, add the garlic and chillies in the oil for a couple of minutes before adding the greens and cook.

use strong tasting grating cheese like pecorino. Last night I used some Aged Goat Gouda cheese instead. Sometimes I top the pasta with feta, this is not traditional, but it is good to experiment.

The lemon peel can be added either during cooking or at the end.

There are other posts with information and recipes on my blog about Cime di rape. I hope that you too will enjoy them :

EDIBLE WEEDS: Orecchiette e Broccoletti Selvatici (and cime di rape)

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE VEGETABLES Cime di Rape

PASTA with ‘NDUJA, CIME DI RAPA and PORK SAUSAGES

CIME DI RAPE (A winter green)

PRESERVED LEMONS

This week there was an article by Richard Cornish in his regular column: Brain food with Richard Cornish (Everything you need to know about…preserved lemon).  The Age 20/7/20210.

I made a jar of preserved lemons recently to take to Adelaide for when and if I’m able to visit  my son . My daughter and he meet for lunch now and again and swap produce and recipes. He lives in an Asian neighbourhood, so he brings her Asian produce. She is in an African and Middle Eastern neighbourhood and she brought him some preserved lemons. He told me how much he was enjoying them. So I reminded him that I have been preserving lemons for years and he asked me to make him some and bring them over when we come to SA. I have them packed in a jar ready for when we can travel.

This morning I sent him a copy of Richard Cornish’s article and i thought that I would also find him a simple recipe from the web, mail him the link – it’s the easiest way to send recipes these days. My son and friends expected me to have a recipe on my blog, but with so many recipes  for preserved lemons on the web I have never bothered.

I was very surprised by the variations and how complicated the recipes seem on the web.

Making preserved lemons is the simplest thing! The only ingredients you need are lemons, salt and boiled water. You need to pack the lemons in a sterilized jar and leave them in a cupboard to mature.

So many recipes on the web  add embellishments like cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, star anise, vanilla pods or other spices and herbs. Although a  very popular recipe  by Stephanie Alexander suggests embellishments, I prefer to preserve them plain. This allows me more flexibility, more opportunities to add them to different cuisines. For example, if I’m making an Italian lemon  or  a seafood risotto and wish to enhance the recipe with a little preserved lemon, I would rather not have the risotto taste of various spices. And, by the way, they are not an Italian ingredient!

I have added some of the preserving juice when I have pickled olives. A reader once told me that he adds some when he is stewing rhubarb, I have added some when baking quince. They are also great in salads made with grains or pulses, beetroots, Middle Eastern dishes, dressed olives… experiment!

I have read in various publications that in Morocco where preserved lemons are very common,  that they do not traditionally add embellishments such as cinnamon, bay leaves or other spices and herbs. I have been to Tunisia and this seemed to be the same there.

I then started thinking when and why I had begun to make and use preserved lemons in the first place, and I remembered!

I found the dusty recipe book by Robert Carrier on one of my shelves, together with some other very dusty recipe books that I haven’t opened for years. There was the recipe for preserved lemons and the food that inspired me to make them.

The book was published in 1987! How time flies!

Claudia Roden also has recipes- for preserved lemons – same as Carrier, lemons and salt, no spices.

Here is a simplified version or the recipe:

You will need a large jar with a wide neck, the size of the jar to accommodate the number of lemons you intend to use. Keep in mind that the lemons will be compressed in the jar.

When I make a large jar, I use about 10 -14 lemons.

The jar I made for my son has 5 lemons + the juice of 1 more lemon.

I use all-natural rock salt, from evaporated sea water.

Wash and dry the lemons. Partially cut through them from top to bottom to make four attached wedges. Fill the crevices of the cut lemons with a rough tablespoon of salt.

Squeeze the salted lemons shut and pack them into the jar. Wedge them in as tightly as possible so they can’t move around. Some juice will be released in the process. When the jar is as full as it can be with tightly packed lemons, add a little more salt to the top of the jar. All the lemons need to be fully submerged in liquid, so top them off with some more lemon juice and some boiled water. I always add  a layer of extra virgin olive oil on top. I do this with all my preserves to keep the mould out.

Close the jar and place in a cupboard to cure for at least two months. My large jar has lemons in it that were made last year. They become darker, softer in texture and more mellow and intense in flavour the  longer they sit undisturbed.

Once opened, you can store the lemons in the fridge. The large jar does not fit in my fridge and it is stored in a cupboard. You may notice that I have added some netting and weight on top to keep the remaining lemons submerged.

Richard Cornish’s article:

Subject: The The Age Digital Edition: Everything you need to know about… preserved lemon
This article is from the July 20 issue of The Age Digital Edition. To subscribe, visit “https://www.theage.com.au“.

What is it?

Preserved lemons are ripe lemons transformed through lactic acid fermentation and the action of salt into aromatic, sharp and salty slices of citrus. Washed, unblemished lemons are trimmed, sliced into quarters or eighths depending on their size, and covered with salt. They are packed tightly in jars and squashed to release juice. More juice is added to ensure the lemons are covered. The jars are closed and kept at room temperature for several days to help kickstart lactic acid fermentation. Meanwhile, the sea salt draws liquid from the lemon and helps create an environment in which pectin from the rind and pith thickens the liquid. Most commonly associated with North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, the art of pickling lemons was not unknown to 17thcentury Britons. Lemons are pickled for traditional medicine and culinary uses in China and Vietnam.

Why do we love it?

Perhaps because they are so easy to make using simple recipes and equipment. A jar of homemade preserved lemons also makes a great gift. With their bright colour, sweet and salty tang, and smooth citrus aroma, they give dishes a burst of summer, even in the depths of winter. Preserved lemons will last for years, the rind becoming softer and softer and flavours mellowing.

Who uses it?

In his new book, All Day Baking, baker and author Michael James has a recipe for kangaroo, preserved lemon, prune and sweet potato pie. He also says the pulp and skin are useful in the kitchen, from salads and sauces to braises and mayonnaise. In the second edition of The Cook’s Companion (the one with the striped cover), Stephanie Alexander presents a beautiful recipe for Moroccan-inspired chicken, with chickpeas, swedes, pumpkin, saffron and cumin slowly cooked to make a rich gravy that is finished with coriander and pieces of preserved lemon.

How do you use it?

With respect. Preserved lemons are potent and can easily overpower a dish. Think of them as two parts – the pieces of lemon and the syrup they are in. Use the lemon rind as culinary punctuation, where small morsels can add colour, an acidic tang and a nice whack of salt. Preserved lemons love Middle Eastern spices such as cumin, saffron and coriander seed, and legumes such as chickpeas and lentils. Expect to use them in tagines, Middle Eastern stews, grilled and stewed lamb and chicken, and innovative dishes such as cracked wheat, prawn and lemon salad. You can add the syrup to dishes as a seasoning or brush over meats as they grill.

Where do you get it?

With lemons in season, you can try making your own. Or look for preserved lemons at farmers’ markets and food stores. Supermarkets carry good brands such as Raw Materials Preserved Lemons or buy Arabian Nights lemons preserved in Morocco from Essential Ingredient.

Suggest an ingredient via email to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @foodcornish.

PASTA RIMESTATA COI CAVOFIORI – Pasta with cauliflower, sultanas, pine nuts and anchovies

The recipe for this pasta dish is from my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking (now out of print).

In the Sicilian  language the recipe is called : Pasta chi brocculi arriminata. In Italian = Pasta rimestata coi cavolfiori.

Rimestata, seems like a fancy word, but it just means stirred

In English, I have described this as Pasta with cauliflower, sultanas, pine nuts and anchovies. 

In Italian the word for cauliflower is cavolfiore. Just to be different, the Sicilian name for cauliflower is brocculi.  

In Sicily coloured cauliflowers are the most common (unfortunately most of the colour fades when they are cooked). As well as the familiar white or cheddar (pale yellow) varieties, there are beautiful purple ones (cavolofiore viola in Italian) that range in colour from pink through violet to dark purple. A friend  in Australia is growing a variety called purple cape cauliflower and one that is light green and pink called cavolfiore romanesco precoce

There are also the bright, pale green ones and a sculpted, pointy pale green variety called Roman cauliflower; I have seen these in Rome and throughout Tuscany.

Every time I cook this pasta dish, there is great applause from guests.

Over time recipes evolve and each time I make it I  may vary it slightly, mainly by increasing the amounts of some of the ingredients, for example: I tend to use more bayleaves (or rosemary), pine nuts, anchovies (for people who like them and remove them for those who do not).

I also like to add some fresh fennel (at the same time as I place the cauliflower into the pan) and a little stock and white wine.

I present the pasta with both pecorino cheese and breadcrumbs. Sometimes I add cubes of feta or ricotta whipped with a little pepper. Feta is Greek, but I like it as it adds creaminess to the dish.

The ingredients and the method of cooking the pasta with cauliflower below is how the recipe appears in the book. The recommended  amount of pasta is 100g per person. In our household this is far too much and 500g of pasta is OK as first course for 6-8 people. As with all recipes I hope that you  vary it to suit your tastes. 

500g dry, short pasta

2 tablespoons sultanas or currants 

1 medium cauliflower

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4–5 anchovies, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 small teaspoon saffron soaked in a little warm water

grated pecorino or toasted breadcrumbs

salt and crushed dried chillies to taste

Soak the sultanas or currants in a cup of warm water. To prepare the cauliflower, remove the outer green leaves and break the cauliflower into small florets.

In a frying pan large enough to accommodate all the ingredients, saute the chopped onion in the olive oil. Add the anchovies and let them melt in the oil, stirring with a wooden spoon. Then add the cauliflower florets, bay leaves and the fennel seeds. Stir gently over the heat to colour and coat the vegetable with oil.

Add the pine nuts, the saffron (and water) and the sultanas or currants with the soaking water, salt and crushed chillies.

At this stage I add a splash of white wine and a little stock). Cover, and allow to cook gently for about 20 minutes, until the florets are soft.

Cook the pasta. Drain and toss with the cauliflower sauce. Coat the pasta evenly and allow to absorb the flavours for about 5 minutes. Serve with toasted breadcrumbs or grated pecorino cheese.

The breadcrumbs add texture and flavour.  Over time, instead of tossing coarse breadcrumbs, (100 grams made with day old, quality bread  – sourdough/pasta dura) lightly fried in some oil, I also add grated lemon peel, a little cinnamon and sugar to the breadcrumbs while they are being toasted.

Below: Saffron

PUTIZA, from La Cucina Tipica Triestina

One of my readers has asked for this recipe and because she does not seem to be very familiar with the English language, I am providing a screen shot of the recipe from one of my books about La Cucina Triestina.

Trieste, Ponte Rosso

It is from this book:

The recipe is for Putiza. It is described as a Panettone ripieno (filled).

Putiza is called Potica in Slovenia.

It is a delicious, rich, yeast bread dough stuffed with walnuts, chocolate, pine nuts and  sultanas soaked in rum. It can be made at home, but is easily found in many pastry shops especially during Easter and Christmas.

There are no photos in the book, but this is what it looks like:

See also:

PRESNIZ and GUBANA (Easter cakes in Trieste)

Traditional Easter Sweets in Trieste in Friuli Venezia Giulia

RISOTTO AL TALEGGIO – risotto made with Taleggio cheese

I had forgotten just how good risotto made with Taleggio tastes.

Taleggio is is a Northern Italian cheese with a semi-soft, washed rind  named after the Alpine valley of Taleggio. The cheese has a thin crust and a strong, distinctive aroma, but its flavour is comparatively mild when compared with other washed rind cheeses. It is a DOP product (Protected Designation of Origin) . It is produced in Lombardy, Piedmont and the Veneto region. The Igor I used is from Lombardy, butI Taleggio is also produced in Lombardy, Piedmont and the Veneto region.

Taleggio is described as being Smear-Ripened Cheese. I had to look this up and all it means is that the bacteria (Brevibacterium linens) is smeared onto the rind of the cheese and while the cheese is aging, the rind is washed (washed rind) to discourage mould growth and provide moisture to encourage growth of the bacteria.

Making the risotto is very simple and you will be able to see  this from the photos.

I used Carnaroli rice, but sometimes I use Aborio. You will need butter, oil, stock, some herbs (parsley and thyme), spring onion (or white onion) and white wine – nothing different to making  risotto. At times I have used vodka instead of white wine and on one occasion a shot glass of grappa instead . All good.

I do not usually weigh produce when I cook, but if you are cooking for 4-6 people, use 300g rice, 40ml wine/ 20ml is using vodka or grappa, 1L hot stock.

On this occasion I also added chopped fresh fennel. On other occasions I may add some red radicchio.

Above there is extra virgin olive oil and butter, chopped parsley and thyme. Heat  this and sauté some spring onion in the mixture. I like to use spring onion  –  it is milder tasting.

Add some chopped, fresh fennel and some fonds if there are any.

Add rice and have some good stock ready.

Toast the rice slightly, add wine, evaporate, cover with hot stock and stir. Add more stock as required.

Have some cubed Taleggio ready (you can decide  just how cheesy you want it).

Add the cheese when the rice is cooked (rice has good body but is not crunchy and there is still some liquid in the pan.) called all’onda.

Stir the cheese into the risotto until it is smooth and creamy.

Rather than grinding black pepper on this occasion I ground some pink peppercorns onto the top of the risotto .

Risotto recipes :

CAMPING, Pumpkin risotto

MUSSELS, three ways: in brodetto, with spaghetti and in a risotto with saffron

BACCALÀ MANTECATO, risotto

RISI E BISI (Risotto with peas)

Special emphasis on Sicilian recipes within Italian regional cuisine in an Australian context