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 antipasto 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 into 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) or cetriolini (small pickled gherkins)
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:
My friend called them Vanille Kipferl, I recognised them instantly as Chifeletti (‘ch’ sound is pronounced as k in Italian and ‘letti’ at the end of words in Italian means small.). Same recipe, different name. But it is not surprising that we share the same recipe – my friend is from Vienna and I came from Trieste and both cities were part of the Austo- Hungarian empire.
The Vanille Kipferl (or Chifeletti) are frail, crescent-shaped, little biscuits dusted with icing sugar. They are popular at Christmas time in Austria and together with her much-loved cherry cake they were my friend’s contribution to our shared Christmas eve dinner. I ate the last of the kipferl recently; they last well and the flavour is said to improve when stored well.
I have found slight variations in the different Triestine and Austrian recipes sighted, (for example some add egg yolks to the mixture), but the ratio of ingredients seems to be the same. In Trieste, rather than adding vanilla to the dough they use icing sugar that has been flavoured with vanilla beans.
Chifeletti in Trieste are also called Lunette (small moons) or Curabiè, perhaps from Kourabiès, which are the Greek version of these biscuits. Interestingly enough there is an eastern Greek Community in Trieste and when visiting this very pleasant Italian city, it is worth seeing the Greek Orthodox church – Church of Saint Nicolò. There is also a Serbian – Orthodox church called San Spiridione, but this is another story and very telling of the historical culture and racial mix in Trieste’s population.
In my mother’s pantry, the jar used to store her icing sugar always had vanilla beans buried in it. Vanilla infused icing sugar for dusting is optional but if you want the real deal: Place vanilla beans in a jar of icing sugar, seal it and leave it for at least a week.
300g plain flour
100g finely ground almonds
vanilla (a little paste or essence)
1 pinch salt
icing sugar for dusting
Rub the butter into the flour, sugar, ground almonds and salt and form it into dough. Shape the dough into a ball, cover it with plastic film and leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Divide and shape the dough into finger thick long rolls and cut each roll into 2 cm pieces. Curve each small piece of dough into small moon shapes.
Place the biscuits on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake in a pre-heated oven at 150°C for 10-15 minutes (They should be pale golden in colour and must not brown).
Remove them carefully from the oven and from the baking tray and when they are still warm dust them with plenty of icing sugar (vanilla flavoured).
When they are cold store them carefully in layers, in a tin with plenty of icing sugar.
The photo of my friend’s Cherry cake is below. As you can see, the batter is like pastry and there are many cherries in the centre.
Other pastries also called Chifeletti popular in Trieste are made with potato dough. These are fried and then rolled in sugar; my mother and Triestine aunts used to make these with the same dough as gnocchi…..gnocchi for lunch, followed by Chifeletti made with some left over dough.
I bet that you have never seen gulasch spelt like this…unless you are from Trieste. Trieste was part of the Austro- Hungarian empire and much of its cooking reflects this.
Gulasch in Trieste is made with meat, onions and paprika. It does not contain tomato or potatoes or peppers or other spices. I have seen recipes that include a few winter herbs – rosemary or marjoram, but this is not common. My touch is to also add some red wine and caraway seeds; some cooks do this, some do not.
In Trieste gulasch can be made with beef or pork and may have a mixture of meats: beef shin, pork and maybe horse meat. I do not wish to put you off; I make mine just with beef, either shin, bolar or oyster blade, and it tastes wonderful.
Like all meat stews or braises it is best made the day before to allow the flavours to develop even further.
It needs to cook slowly – I cooked mine for about three hours and the slow cooking is essential.
2 k beef (shin, bolar, oyster blade) cut into large squares
2-3 onions, sliced finely
extra virgin olive oil and if you have it, about 2 tbsp. lard (no mucking around with this recipe)
2-4 bay leaves
2 tbsp. sweet paprika and 1/2-1 tbs of hot paprika
¾ cup of red wine and 1 tbs caraway seeds (optional, but I like to do this)
water or stock to cover the meat
salt to taste
PROCESSES Sauté the onions in hot oil till golden. Add beef and paprika and sauté the beef. Add wine and some stock (or water), caraway seeds 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, i triestini (the people from Trieste) may accompany their gulasch with spatzle (egg, flour, water made into a soft dough and the mixture is pushed through the holes of a colander into boiling salted water or into the boiling juice of the gulasch). Some like to have it with knodel (dumplings made with bread but some also make them with potatoes) others with polenta.
I like to have it with polenta – plain, ordinary (not Instant) polenta cooked in salted water and stirred until it begins to detach itself from the sides of the pot, then baked in an oiled tin till it forms a nice crust. Love it, and I doubt very much if my Sicilian relatives would enjoy it.
When I lived in my parent’s house we ate brodo (broth) once per week. Sometimes it was made with chicken, sometimes with yearling beef and at other times it was a mixture of the two meats; a few bones were always included.
We always had brodo as the first course and the boiled meat as the second course, and this was always accompanied with Salsa verde.
Brodo is popular all over Italy and is considered essential when a member of the household is feeling unwell. It is seen as a restorative food in many other cultures as well.
Often we would have tortellini in brodo, but at other times, my mother added pastina (small pasta); these were either capelli d’angelo (angel’s hair) or thin egg noodles or stelline (small stars) or quadretti (small squares). Most of the time we had or favourite: gnocchetti di semolino floating in our brodo – these are small gnocchi, a specialty from Trieste. Because I spent my childhood there I became an expert gnocchetti maker from an early age.
Lately, with winter colds I have been making brodo and last week I also made gnocchetti. Although making them was second nature to me but next time I make them I will use a coffee spoon to make them smaller.
Beat softened butter and egg with a small wooden spoon until soft and well mixed. Use a small jug, milk saucepan or a bowl with steep sides.
Add the semolina and grated cheese slowly and continue to mix vigorously until perfectly smooth.
Bring the broth to the boil.
Use a wet teaspoon to shape the gnocchetti. Take small quantities of the mixture and slip small oval shapes off the spoon into the boiling broth. Keep the broth on a gentle boil.
Continue shaping the gnocchetti and poaching them until the mixture is finished. The gnocchietti rise to the surface when cooked (about 5 minutes). If cooking large quantities of gnocchetti, to prevent over cooking, take the cooked ones out with a slotted spoon before slipping in the new ones, but with the above amounts this will not be necessary.
Ladle broth and a few gnocchetti into each bowl and present with grated cheese.
The pasta I use is commercially made, but when I eat brodo in Sicily at my zia Niluzza’s (my father’s sister) makes fresh quadrettini (little squares) – she cuts the fresh pasta amazingly quickly.