Iota (also Jota) is always a delight to eat and to talk about with friends, many of them surprised to discover that it is a regional and traditional Italian dish from Trieste, a town in the region of Fruili Venezia Giulia and north of Venice.
The fat content in Iota can be high, but there are ways to make Iota less fatty.
Borlotti beans, soaked overnight and then cooked.
Pork Hock, placed in cold water and simmered until soft and used to make broth. Add potatoes about 30 minutes before the end of cooking. Remove the lean meat and use this for the. Skim the fat off the pork hock broth.
Use the broth to cook the sauerkraut . When the sauerkraut is cooked add half the borlotti beans and potatoes and with a potato masher mash the contents.
Add more whole beans the rest of the potatoes (cubed) the pork hock meat and the Wedding Sausage (I like this because it is lean meat).
And there you have it – a lean Iota.
There are other posts for making Iota and these include quantities of ingredients:
As a child, I lived in Trieste with my parents, and Ragusa, Catania and Augusta were the towns in Sicily where my Sicilian relatives lived. Both Trieste (located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste in the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia) and Sicily are at the extreme ends of Italy, and as you would expect, the cuisines are very different.
I grew up with both cuisines and appreciate them both for very different reasons.
Capuzi garbi (or crauti/krauti) is sauerkraut in Triestino (the Triestine dialect) and it is a very popular ingredient in Triestine cuisine especially when mixed in Gulash (made with pork or beef), or with a lump of smoked pork, or luganighe (Triestine) – salsicce di maiale in Italian, and pork sausages for us mere mortals in the English speaking world.
When you look at a map of Italy, it is easy to see why this part of Italy has common roots with the cooking of Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Istria.
I have German and Polish friends and they too are fond of sauerkraut, and like my relatives and friends from Trieste, they tend to overcook it; my mother also did this when she cooked capuzi garbi.
But as we know, cuisine evolves and some of us have taken on new methods of cooking traditional foods.
In my kitchen, I cook sauerkraut for about a quarter of the time as the traditional method and at times, I also like to add a little fresh cabbage to lighten the taste and to add a different texture. A little flour browned in a little oil is added to the sauerkraut towards the end of cooking, but not me, and unlike my Triestine contemporaries I also add caraway seeds, bay leaves and a dash of white wine.
The ingredients are: pork sausages, sauerkraut, bay leaves and caraway seeds. Onion, extra virgin olive oil and pepper (the sauerkraut could be sufficiently salty). Fresh cabbage and a dash of white wine are optional.
Drain the sauerkraut and squeeze out the moisture. Soften some onion in a little oil (in Trieste lard is also common and added to the oil).
Adding a little white or savoy cabbage is optional.
And with the cabbage also add the sauerkraut and the rest. A dash of white wine will keep it moist while it cooks.
Cover and cook for about 15- 20 minutes on low heat until the sausages are nearly cooked and the flavours have had a chance to meld.
Remove the sauerkraut and slightly brown the sausages – only for appearance.
Sousing fish was a way of preserving it before refrigeration by saturating the fish with acid – vinegar in this case which, like salt, prevents the growth of microbes. Sugar is also added and to create an agro dolce dish (sweet and sour). The fish is first fried in olive oil and then marinaded in the vinegar base. Slowly sautéed onions are a common ingredient in soused fish and different flavourings are added to the pickling mix. My Sicilian grandmother would put mint, bay leaves and slivers of garlic in her vinegar marinade (pisci ammarinatu in Sicilian), but the pesse in saor made in Venice and in Trieste where I lived as a child, has raisins and pine nuts in it. Pesse is Triestiane for pesce – fish in Italian.
Soused fish is found all over Italy, for example pesce alla scapace is cooked in central and southern Italy and the Molise version is flavoured with saffron, minced garlic and sage. Pesce in carpione from Lombardy has celery and carrot for flavourings, the Ligurian scabeccio has garlic, whole pepper and rosemary, and the Sardinian marinade has chilli, garlic, and tomato sauce.
Soused fish is also common in other cultures – Nordic countries thrive on soused fish and different versions of escabeche are found in Spanish, Portuguese, French and in North African cuisines. I have a German friend who also cooks soused fish – he adds coriander seeds to his.
My maternal grandmother always had soused fish (in pottery terrines and covered with plates as lids) in her kitchen in Sicily.
When she visited us in Trieste she did the same and our kitchen then also smelt of fish and vinegar. She particularly liked to souse eel – eel was good in Trieste. We would walk to the Pescheria together, she would choose the eel she wanted from a big tank and the fishmonger would kill it and chop it into pieces.
I did not much like this part, but I liked going to the Pescheria on the waterfront in the bay of Trieste. The imposing building is now home to Eataly.
Triestine pesse is mostly made with sardines and is often eaten with white polenta (yellow polenta is usually an accompaniment to meat).
Traditionally, the fish is lightly dusted with flour and salt before it is fried in very hot, extra virgin, olive oil. Although the flour helps to hold the fish together, the oil used to fry the fish will need to be discarded (the sediment will taint the taste of the oil) and the flour coating will often come away from the fish in the marinade.
On my way to Adelaide from Melbourne I drove through Meningie (at the northern end of the Coorong on the shores of Lake Albert) and I bought freshly-caught Coorong mullet. On this occasion I used them instead of sardines to make pesse in saor.
2-3 fish per person /12-16 fresh sardines or small fish (sand whiting, mullet, garfish, flathead, leather jackets), cleaned and filleted with heads and backbone removed.
plain flour and salt for dusting
olive oil for frying
2-3 large white onions, sliced finely
1 cup of raisins
1 cup of pine nuts, toasted
sufficient white wine to soak the raisins
250 ml of white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
Dust the fish fillets in a little flour and salt, shake off as much flour as possible and fry them in plenty of oil until golden and crisp. Place them on kitchen paper to remove excess oil and set aside.
Soak the raisins in the white wine for about 30minutes.
Sauté the onions gently in some olive oil until they are soft. Add the vinegar and pepper and cook the mixture for a few minutes. Set aside.
Select a terrine deep enough to hold the fish, ingredients and vinegar marinade – a narrow, deep terrine is best. Place a layer of fish, add some onions (dig them out of the vinegar mixture), raisins (drained) and pine nuts. Continue layering the ingredients, finishing with a layer of onions, raisins and pine nuts on top. Pour the vinegar over the layers. Cover it, place it in the fridge and allow to marinate at least 24 hours before serving. Serve at room temperature.
There a many posts and recipes on my blog about Easter in Sicily.
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.
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.
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 Triestine 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
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.
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
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.
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.
***Use key words “Easter in Sicily” / enter key words in search button on the blog and you will find many Sicilian recipes.
or Radicchio Triestino, a small-soft-leaf radicchio.
My father grew Radicchio Triestino in his Adelaide garden but I have never seen it for sale in Australia.
These are some of the salad vegetables I am able to purchase at the Queen Victoria Market. Notice the pale coloured beetroot (I also cook the leaves like spinach). The beetroot I ate in Trieste was always pale in colour.
Next to the red radicchio is the head of speckled, pale radicchio (radicchio biondo= blonde/blond).
Fennel and the baby cabbage are also suitable salad vegetables, as is rocket – rucola in Triestine.
Free-range birds are supposed to have room to roam and space to grow and therefore I may be incorrectly assuming that because they move they should not be accumulating as much fat as conventional chickens. Nevertheless, I seem to be spending more and more time removing large amounts of fat from the free-range organic chickens before I cook them.
In this recipe I used a whole chicken divided into sections – perfect for stews and braises with the bones providing great depth of flavour.
I spent my childhood in Trieste and grew up with both Sicilian and Triestan food.
I wrote a recipe for Goulash as made in Trieste in 2012. Goulash is usually made with beef or a mixture of meats but this goulash recipe is made with chicken.
Goulash is spelled gulasch in Trieste; this city in the north-eastern side of Italy was once part of the Austrian – Hungarian and had very strong links with Austria at one time.
The strong red colour is achieved by paprika; no tomatoes or other vegetables are used apart from onions. This reflects the way goulash is made in Austria whereas in other countries where goulash is popular including Hungary, goulash is augmented with other vegetables – green and red bell peppers, tomatoes and carrots are the most commonly used.
I usually make make goulash with beef and because it is lean, I sauté the meat in the oil or fat after I have softened the onions. But because this chicken had sufficient fat in the skin I sautéed it before the onions and skimmed off any unwanted fat that had been released during the sautéing.
1chicken cut into sections
2-3 onions, sliced finely
extra virgin olive oil and if you have it, about 2 tbsp. lard
2-4 bay leaves and a sprig of sage
2 tbsp. sweet paprika and 1/2-1 tbs of hot paprika
¾ cup of red or white wine and 1 tbs caraway seeds (optional, but I like to do this)
water or stock to cover the meat
salt to taste
Sauté the chicken pieces in a minuscule amount of olive oil and if you wish pour off excess fat as the chicken browns.
Remove the chicken from the pan, add more oil/lard to the pan if you wish and sauté the onions until it is golden.
Add paprika, herbs and caraway seeds and return the chicken to the pan.
Add wine and some stock (or water) and salt; cover and simmer on low heat until the meat is tender. Stir occasionally and make sure that the level of liquid is maintained.
In Trieste it is usual to accompany goulash with spatzle (spaezle in German) or polenta or knodel (dumplings made with bread, but some also make them with potatoes) .
I presented the goulash with speatzle, but I did not make it.
To make spaezle mix 2 eggs and as much flour and water it needs to make into a soft dough, leave it for about one hour wrapped in plastic wrap and then press the mixture through the holes of a colander into boiling salted water or into the boiling juice of the gulasch. (Use a colander with largish holes).
I purchased Riesa Spaetzle made in Riesa Germany. It claims to be made with fresh eggs and the best durum wheat; Riesa is a town in the district approx. 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Dresden. Usually the spaezle is tossed in a little butter after it is drained.
I presented it with braised Kale. It was all very enjoyable.
Helping my mother to make Insalata Russa was my job throughout my childhood and teenage years. It was a legacy from Trieste and a reliable appetizer served on special occasions. She kept making it well into the 80s and then it would re-appear intermittently throughout the years. She would present it before we would sit at a table for a meal, as a nibble… she would pass around a spoonful of Insalata Russa on a slice of bread from a French stick. Those of you who are of a certain age may remember Rosso Antico (a red aperitif) or a Cinzano (vermouth) or a martini. Sometimes it would be a straight gin with a twist of lemon. Today you may prefer a different aperitif like Aperol or a glass of Prosecco or a Campari – you get the idea!
It keeps well in the fridge and is an easy accompaniment for drinks – I am thinking of those unexpected guests who may pop in …. a drink, a small plate of Insalata Russa and some good bread. If my mother was still alive she would probably be making it on Christmas eve or Christmas day.
Insalata Russa is made with cooked vegetables: peas, green beans, carrots and potatoes cut ino small cubes and smothered with homemade egg mayonnaise. She always decorated the top with slices of hard-boiled eggs and slices of stuffed green olives. Sometimes she also placed on top small cooked prawns or canned tuna.
***** Modern Times…..Try it sprinkled with Yarra Valley caviar (fish roe) instead.
Ensaladilla rusa is the Spanish version of this salad and it is a very common tapas dish; It was certainly still popular as a Tapas in Madrid and Barcelona when I was there last year.
The Spaniards make it the same way, but the canned tuna is often mixed in the salad rather than being placed on top. Some versions have olives, roasted red peppers or asparagus spears arranged on top in an attractive design or just plain with boiled eggs around the edge of the bowl.
Making it with my mother, we never weighed our ingredients, but the following combination and ratios should please anyone’s palate.
This recipe (and the photos of the pages in the book) are from my second book – Small Fishy Bites.
2-3 medium sized potatoes, waxy are best
1 cup of shelled peas
3 hard-boiled eggs
3/4 -1 cup of green beans cut into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup of Italian giardinieria (mixed garden pickles in vinegar)
1 and 1/2 cups of homemade egg mayonnaise
Cook potatoes and carrots in their skins in separate pans; cool, peel and cut them into small cubes.Cook the peas and beans separately; drain and cool. Hard boil the eggs; peel them and cube 2 of them.Cut the giardiniera into small pieces (carrots, turnips, cauliflower, gherkins).Mix all of these ingredients together with a cup of home made egg mayonnaise.Level out the Russian salad either on a flat plate or in a bowl and leave in the fridge for at least an hour before decorating it by covering it with the remaining mayonnaise.Have a good old time placing on the top slices of hard-boiled eggs, drained tuna or small cooked prawns and caviar. Bits of giardiniera will also add colour.
My mum made maionese with a wooden spoon. I use a food processor or an electric wand to make mayonnaise:
Mix 1 egg with a little salt in the blender food processor, or in a clean jar (if using the wand).
Slowly add 1–1 ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil in a thin, steady stream through the feed tube while the blender or processor is running, Before adding additional oil, ensure that the oil, which has previously been added has been incorporated completely.
Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice when the mayonnaise is creamy. If you are not making the traditional Italian version, it is common to add vinegar instead of lemon juice and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
As an alternative, the Spaniards like to add a little saffron (pre-softened in a little warm water). Add this once the mayonnaise is made.
The red radicchio was made into a salad with canned tuna, cooked borlotti and red onion (Recipe from my book: Small Fishy Bites, Marisa Raniolo Wilkins, New Holland publisher).
The fennel was braised and topped with tapenade.
INSALATA DI TONNO, FAGIOLI E RADICCHIO (Tuna salad with borlotti beans and radicchio)
This very simple salad was popular as an antipasto or a light meal when I was growing up as child in Trieste. In the Triestian dialect this salad is called Insalata di tonno, fazoi, zivola e radiccio.
Trieste is in North Eastern Italy not far from Venice and if you are ever in Trieste you are likely to find this salad in any trattoria (for home style food) especially those trattorie that have a buffet.
No quantities needed for the recipe – the proportions are up to you. I like more beans than tuna and I cook my own (well covered with water, soaked overnight, change the water and cook slowly – no salt – bay leaves or a stick celery, whole carrot or whole onion do add flavour).
If you are using canned beans, a tin is 400g. A tin of tuna 425g.
If the tuna is not packed in oil, drain it before using.
INGREDIENTS AND PROCESS
tinned tuna (packed in oil, the tuna is not drained and is broken up with a fork)
borlotti beans (drained if canned)
red onion, finely cut rings
For the dressing combine extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, a little French mustard and some salt and pepper.
You can combine all of the ingredients together or layer it.
Place red radicchio leaves at the bottom of a bowl as a bed for the salad. Next, put on the beans, then the tuna and onion as the top layer.
Pour over the dressing.
Sometimes a little bit of imagination makes an old favourite look special. This is just baked fennel with black olives but the special touch is that I used tapenade (which I make regularly and usually have some on standby in the fridge – see photo above).
I have written about making tapenade. See: TAPENADE
1-2 fennel bulbs
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup tapenade
¾ cup white wine, stock or water or pernod, a mixture any
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs butter
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
Prepare the fennel:
Remove the fennel stalks that are not worth saving from the bulbs and discard – keep some of the fresher ones (this is mainly done for appearance but may be also be suitable for eating). Trim away any bruised or discoloured portion of the bulbs. Cut the bulbs length-wise (vertically) into eights (or more or less) depending on the size of the fennel. Save the fronds.
Add the sliced fennel to a pan with hot olive oil and butter and sauté for 5-10 minutes, turning occasionally.
Add seasoning and about 1 cup of liquid (see above). Add garlic and fronds.
Cook uncovered on gentle- moderate heat for about 10 minutes, the liquid will reduce but add more if necessary
Add a teaspoon of sugar to help caramelize the juices. Increase the heat to evaporate any liquid left in the pan – this will result with the fennel cooking in the left over oil and butter and turning a deep gold colour. .
Place the fennel on a dish and pour over it any juices. Add a couple of spoonfuls of tapenade to the pan and heat it – only just to take off the chill. Spoon the tapenade onto the fennel and serve. I guess the chives add to the composition, but these are not necessary.
This is a recipe for an apple strudel as made in Trieste. Unlike the very thin pastry common in the Austrian strudel and other European countries that once belonged to the Austrian- Hungarian empire, the pastry in a Triestine strudel is not as thin and therefore easier to roll.
Autumn is a good time for apple desserts and I was asked recently about suitable food to take on a picnic. This apple strudel is nice to eat hot or cold and the pastry does not go soggy.
With Easter coming up and apples been so abundant, a Strucolo de pomi could be the go.
I have written about Strucolo before and as a child it was my job to prepare the apples. Here is the link to the recipe: