Category Archives: Italian Regional

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)

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 from one of my books about la cucina Triestina.

It is from this book:

The recipe is for Putiza, Panettone ripieno.

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.

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)

In memory of Zia Licia, my aunt from Trieste – recipe for Fritole

My last surviving aunt, Zia Licia, died last week. She died in Adelaide and the funeral was a couple of days ago, but because I live in Melbourne I was unable to attend.

I was visiting friends in Pambula, on the south coast of NSW when my brother rang  last week to give me the news about Zia’s death and since her death, I have been remembering many things.

Zia Licia was from Trieste and was married to my mother’s brother, Pippo.

My mother’s family moved to Trieste from Catania, Sicily, when my mother was five years old.  She lived in Trieste till my father, mother and I come to Australia. I was eight years old but my memories remain strong.

I consider myself very lucky to have roots in Trieste, Sicily and Australia.

Just like my Sicilian aunts, Zia Licia liked to cook.

 

 

When we came to Adelaide we shared a house for a while with my  Zia Licia and her husband, Zio Pippo.

My mum did not cook much in Trieste, my parents went out to eat or  Zia Renata, my other aunt in Trieste would often cook.

When we came to Australia, mum and Zia Licia cooked together. It was a form of entertainment… what else could you do in a new country when things were so different? Of course my uncle also enjoyed cooking and because he worked on weekdays, he joined in on weekends. There were the three of them on a Sunday morning cooking up new things for the guests we often invited for Sunday lunch.  Those lunches were special, and I was required to help in the kitchen.

Maybe that is where my love of cooking comes from?

My Zia Licia had a good sense of humour and a way of laughing that brought fun into any situation; as expected we all  laughed a lot during these cooking sessions.

One of the very first things that I can remember really enjoying  was the making of Fritole (Frittole in Italian, from fritto, fried).

So what are they?

Fritole are fragrant  and flavourful balls of sweet dough. Once fried they are  coated in granulated sugar (and cinnamon, optional); the spoonfuls of batter were once most likely fried in lard but in recent years, olive oil.  Some may use vegetable oil but I think that olive oil has a special fragrance that enhances the taste of Fritole.

The batter is made with flour, yeast, milk, eggs, sugar, lemon zest,  raisins or sultanas soaked in sufficient dark rum (sometimes in grappa) to rehydrate the raisins. In most recipes  pine nuts are also added, but not always.

Frìtole are also a well established sweet in Venezia, especially during  the Carnevale. The Venice Carnivale takes place each year in February. It begins around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French or Martedi Grasso in Italian).

Trieste and Venice are neighbours, so sharing this recipe is not surprising, but in Trieste Fritole are popular at Christmas time. Bakeries, pastry shops and Christmas street markets all have Fritole and they are also made at home.

We had no recipe for Fritole, so we relied heavily on Zia Licia’s memory of making Fritole because Zia  would have helped her mother make them in her Triestinian kitchen. Having eaten them very frequently in Trieste we also relied on our collective memories of how Fritole should look, taste, smell and feel…and always eaten warm and fragrant – so important when it comes to reproducing recipes.

I cannot remember how the adults felt about the Fritole, but I remember enjoying them very much as a child.

In those days we did not add pine nuts to our Fritole; we had no access to them and it was a nut not familiar in Australia at that time.

I found various recipes for Fritole in the large number of books about the cooking of Trieste (in Friuli Venezia Giulia) and in the Veneto regions of northern Italy and  the recipe below is probably  the closest to what we would have made. The instructions in the ancient Italian recipe I’ve chosen, are not very specific because it is assumed that cooks would know what steps to follow, so I  will spell them out.

Ingredients: 3eggs, 30g fresh yeast, 400g plain flour, cinnamon, milk, 50g sugar, lemon peel (grated), rum, 50g raisins (or sultanas), 40g pine nuts.

To the above, add a little salt to the batter. If you wish to use dry yeast, 10g should be sufficient. As for the milk , you will need at least 2 cups, but maybe more – the mixture should be like a thick batter.

Place the raisins or sultanas in a small bowl and pour some dark rum or grappa over them (to cover). Set aside for a few hours or overnight.

Place about a cup of warm milk in a mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Mix well to incorporate the yeast into the milk. Add about half of the flour and mix it in gently. Cover the bowl with a cloth and set aside to rest for half an hour. The mixture will bubble as the yeast activates.

Drain the raisins or sultanas and reserve any rum in a small bowl. Toss them around in a little flour to coat lightly; this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the Fritole as they fry.

When the yeast mixture has risen, use a wooden spoon or spatula to incorporate all the ingredients  – the remaining flour, raisins sugar,  egg, lemon zest, rum and pine nuts (if using).  Add more warm milk as necessary to ensure that the mixture is like a thick batter. Cover the bowl with cloth again and set aside in a warm and draft-free area for at least 30-45 minutes to rest – it should double in size and the batter should be bubbly and airy.

Use a heavy-bottomed pot to heat sufficient oil (for the batter to swim/float in). The oil needs to be hot. Use a spoon to carefully drop the batter into the hot oil. It is better to fry a few Fritole at the time and not overcrowd them in the pan.

Once fried, drain the Fritole  with a slotted spoon or tongs and place them on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Roll them in sugar and cinnamon.

In the last few days I  have  found myself bursting into old Triestinian songs…like Le Ragazze di Trieste and Trieste Mia. I will need to stop myself otherwise i will drive my partner mad!

I have returned to Trieste on many occasions and the photos  of Trieste have been taken over a number of years .

 

 

 

 

BUDINO made of chocolate and Autumn fruit

It all started with my purchases at the Queen Victoria Market and the fabulous autumn fruit.

I love persimmons.

I also bought, feijoas, rhubarbpomegranates and quinces. And then I saw some small pears and bought them too.

Friends were coming to dinner and I was unsure about what to make as a dessert.

I thought about making a fresh autumn fruit salad with walnuts, a persimmon crumble or the always a favourite, baked quinces. I then thought that the pears  could be added towards the end of the baking of the quinces .

A chocolate budino rather than a chocolate sauce would go particularly well with the pears.

 

Budino

In 1957 when I came to Australia with my parents my mother used to make budino for dessert. Unlike my Australian friends who had some form of dessert every night (even if it was tinned fruit and ideal milk instead of cream), my Italian family finished off a meal with fresh fruit.

My father would have his small pairing knife and peel fruit for our little family. Desserts were for special occasions and Sunday lunch was considered special, even when we did not have guests.

Although the English translation for budino is pudding, it is nothing like any form of  English pudding, whether steamed or baked.

Basically, budino is a thick custard, cooked on the stove and then allowed to set. We had no moulds, so my mother used to use a clear glass bowl. Our budino was two tone. She made two budini mixtures, one was vanilla and the other was chocolate. The slightly cooled vanilla budino was poured into the glass bowl first and once it was well on the way to setting it was topped with the slightly cooled chocolate budino. Sometimes she even managed to make some swirls. Later she started making apple strudel – Strucolo de pomi – rather than budino for guests.

When we lived in Trieste, if we were eating at home or had guests we always purchased pastries, as did my Sicilian relatives, but in Australia, we did not have access to the same range of pastry shops (we lived in Adelaide). Over time my mother taught herself how to make sweets of a higher standard and budino disappeared from her repertoire.

The budino as prepared by my mother was made of milk, corn flour, sugar, vanilla essence, butter or cream (to enrich it), and egg yolks. A bit like crème anglaise. Most of the recipes for budino do not include egg(s) and unlike many recipes for budino she did not heat the milk before making the custard. It all commenced in a thick bottom saucepan with cold ingredients.

It is dead easy to make and it tastes great.

The cream and butter enrich the budino and if you prefer a leaner version use  less of each or just one.

Chocolate version of budino

3 cups pf whole milk and 1 cup of cream (4 cups = 1 litre)
2 tablespoons of butter, if using unsalted add a pinch of salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 cup corn flour
1-2 egg yolks
150g + dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (add more if you want a stronger taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In the saucepan, mix the egg yolk(s), sugar, corn starch and cocoa. Add a little milk and stir to make a paste. Pour in the milk, vanilla and cream and continue to mix, trying to prevent any lumps.

Place the pan with the ingredients on the stove and over medium-low heat keep on stirring until the mixture is thick like custard. Add the butter towards the end.

When it begins to cool, place in the bits of chocolate and stir gently. Some of it will melt into the budino.  if you would like to taste firm chocolate, wait until the budino is cooler before you add the chocolate.

Pour into a mould  (or bowl) and when the mixture is cool, cover it and place it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, until completely chilled. If you do not want a skin to form on top, use some baking paper or butter wrapper and cover the surface.

Sometimes I pour the budino into  individual small serving bowls or cups or glasses as I do with a mousse. If you are using a mould, the budino can be turned out onto a plate as I would do with a jelly.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Although budino was always presented plain in my childhood, berries and baked fruit is always a good accompaniment.

It keeps well for a few days.

Above, budino with poached rhubarb and apples. Below, with baked pear.

 

BIANCOMANGIARE and GELO

In Sicily, they make Biancomangiare (Blancmange).

it is also called Gelo. This too  is thickened on the stove and set like a budino. It is simpler to make and much less rich.

AUTUMN FRUIT and baked quinces

A Tale about QUINCES

GELO DI MELONE (Jellied watermelon)

CARRUBA (Carob) and its uses

 

SALAME – all shapes and sizes

You will find salumerie (small goods  shop) decked with all types of salame  

This is a photo in Tropea, Calabria. See what I mean?

Many Australian-Italian families get together during winter for salami making . Once made, the salami are hung to ferment and age in cool dry spaces and  usually in insulated home garages.

In Australia, salame has become very well-liked. There are stalls of salame at almost every Farmers’ Market, courses for making salame, competitions and fairs. There are an ever- increasing number of various salami made by artisans, butchers and many made at home. And what may surprise some of us, is that just like passata makers, many salumi (smallgoods) makers are now from a non- Italian background.

Salame (and types of mettwurst) are also made in Southern, Eastern and Central Europe and I have eaten excellent salame in Hungary, France, Germany and in Spain.

In a Farmers’ Market in Lancefield a little while ago I bought a salame. Lancefield is a small town in the Victorian Shire of Macedon Ranges (about an hour’s drive from Melbourne).

What first caught my eye was the display board in front of the stall listing the types of salame for sale.

I burst out laughing and the young assistant behind the stall knew exactly why I laughed and why I bought the salame called Brucia Culo:

Brucia = burn, Culo = bum and you guessed it, it was hot.

She told me her father was the person who was the bespoke butcher of the range of salami on offer and he had named them all. Clever man!

The salame tasted terrific and we  could not wait to eat it so we took it with a loaf of bread, local extra virgin olive oil and some heritage tomatoes to Macedon National Park for a picnic, and practically ate all of the salame there and then.

You may have noticed that in Australia salame is now an essential ingredient on platters that offer salumi on menus.

Salame (and types of mettwurst) are also popular in other countries – Southern, Eastern and Central Europe and I have eaten some excellent salame in Hungary and in Spain.

All Italians love salame and I am not stereotyping when I say this. Each region of Italy has particular DOP favourites and at least 113 different types of salami have been identified.

I have many photos of salami and salumerie ( shops that specialize in smallgoods) taken all over Italy; I never take photos unless I make a purchase (an Italian thing!) so you can imagine how much salame I have eaten all over Italy! The photo above was taken in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol.

The photo below was taken in Tuscany. The salame is likely to be all local.

Salame can be coarse-grained or have a fine texture, or cut by hand, seasoned for a few days or several months; have a firm or soft texture and some are even spreadable. They can be lean or high in fat, some have fat pieces that remain much thicker and evident when sliced. Some are flavoured with pepper, garlic, chilli or fennel seed, some are marinaded in wine while others are spiced with secret ingredients. Various parts of the animal is used and although pork is the most common ingredient, there are salami made with duck, deer, wild boar, goose.

The above photo was taken in Lombardy.

In Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna, I had Salama da sugo, a bulbous salame that is eaten cooked.

In Abbruzzo I have eaten salamini (small sausage sized) that were kept in jars and they were covered with olive oil to keep them moist. what made them even more special was that I bought them from a road-side stall.

In Calabria I went to the evocative Serre Mountains of Serra San Bruno in the Province of Vibo Valentia in Calabria, and ate one made with wild boar. It tasted marvellous. this was followed by lunch at the restaurant by the Carthusian Monastery where every course contained porcini in some form or another.

Living in Trieste as a child, the Veneto salame was one of the favoured ones. I now find that the Veneto can be particularly fatty and is not always one of my favourites.

In Piedmont and in Tyrol I had a cooked salame. These are usually made with pork and veal or young beef. The texture reminded me of cotechino.

In Loxton, in the Riverland of South Australia, I ate a very delicious home-made version that had chilli on the inside and flakes all around the outside – this was the mechanism used to keep the flies off.

The people who made this were Calabresi and this is not surprising as in Calabria they like a bit of chilli… think of ‘Nduja.

This spreadable salame  is fairly hot!

In 2020 I did not travel but in1919, I spent quite a bit of time in Tuscany especially in the Maremma and I really enjoyed the wild boar versions of salame. I also liked a particular salame called the Cinata Senese especially popular in the province of Siena and throughout the Tuscan territory. The Cinata Senese breed of pork was in danger of extinction but is making a comeback; it is especially favoured by the smaller artisan producers.

Perhaps the most unusual salame I have eaten was one made with asino (ass) in Sicily, a specialty of the region of Ragusa. I also was invited to a BBQ where I ate ass meat – light, delicate and succulent.

For photos of salame made with ass meat in Sicily see  post below:

CHIARAMONTE in South-Eastern and the best butcher in Sicily

NDUJA, a spreadable and spicy pork salame from Calabria

PASTA with ‘NDUJA, CIME DI RAPA and PORK SAUSAGES

NDUJA with SQUID, 

SPAGHETTI with NDUJA, SQUID, VONGOLE AND PAN GRATTATO

COTECHINO AND LENTILS 

WAYS TO COOK RABBIT – with chocolate sauce

 I cooked rabbit in a chocolate sauce and somehow, it seemed appropriate for Easter.  Easter has passed, but rabbit or hare cooked with chocolate can be enjoyed at anytime. 

Religious Easter celebrations in Sicily go back to pagan times – the continuation of ancient rites and traditions.

Easter in Sicily is also a celebration of spring, a time for revival and new beginnings, casting away winter with particular attention to spring produce. Therefore I was not surprised when one of my favourite cousins who lives in Ragusa in Sicily told me that during the Easter lunch they ate: …  le classiche impanate di agnello,  le scacce,  la frittata di carciofo e il risotto agli asparagi.

And, as he also told me: tutto molto buono – it was all good.  For those of you who do not understand menu Italian, these particular Sicilian relatives ate two traditional Easter specialties from Ragusa –  the lamb impanate and scacce, accompanied by an artichoke frittata and an asparagus risotto … the produce is a celebration of spring.

The impanate are focaccia like pies  stuffed with lamb – spring lamb of course. 

The scacce are pastries made with a variety of fillings. The pastry is folded like in a concertina over the filling and my favourite are those that contain sheep’s milk ricotta:  the milk is at its best in spring, after the rich winter pastures. 

But probably, my favourite would have been the frittata made with young artichokes. In Australia it is often difficult to purchase young artichokes unless you grow  them yourself. Sometimes young spring asparagus (also wild asparagus) is cooked  as a frittata, but on this occasion the asparagus went into a risotto.

 He did not mention the sweets, but there would have been cassatedde half-moon shaped pockets of pastry stuffed with ricotta and/or cassata or cannoli, all made with sheep’s milk ricotta. 

I know many of you may  disagree, but for me traditional hot cross buns do not appear to be as appetising as what my Sicilians relatives ate for Easter (see below for the full descriptions and recipes).

Rabbit with Chocolate sauce

Rabbit with chocolate sauce is a Sicilian recipe, probably introduced by the Spaniards who ruled Sicily from 1282 to 1516: the Aragonese and from 1516 – 1713: the Spanish Habsburgs.

Rabbit in chocolate sauce is not traditionally cooked at Easter but in Australia it seemed appropriate.

You  begin with a rabbit(s).

As you can see, the rabbits have been cut into sections – legs and backs. I kept the front legs for another time.

The rabbit pieces have been in a marinade that is mainly a mixture of  extra virgin olive oil, chopped celery leaves,  some fennel seeds, a few cloves,  fresh bay leaves (I like bay) and 1 small chopped onion. In the past on some occasions I have also added cinnamon bark.  I left the meat in the marinade for about 3 hours, however overnight is OK too and judging by the time the rabbits took to cook they could have done with a longer time in the marinade.

You will also need more carrots and onions and celery to add to the rabbit when you cook it.

During cooking, you will  also add good quality dark chocolate, pine nuts, currants, stock, wine, a little sugar and some vinegar.  The rabbit is cooked the same way as if cooked in a sour and sweet sauce but with chocolate to enrich the sauce.

The rabbit needs browning … drain the meat from the marinade and leave as much as the solids behind … don’t crowd the pan.

The rabbit browned quite quickly.

Remove the pieces of rabbit from the pan.

Have ready some chopped celery , carrots and onions.  

Next, make a soffritto –  the aromatic base composed of sautéed carrots, celery, and onion that forms the foundation to many Italian dishes. Sauté the vegetables in some more oil.

Remove the vegetables, add about a dessert spoon of sugar to the frypan and wait for it to melt.

Traditionally only vinegar is added to the sweet and sour rabbit dish, but I also like to add wine; for my quantity of rabbit, I added about a half a cup of white wine and about a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and I also added about a half a cup of red wine that somehow seemed more appropriate with the brown colouring of the dish.

Return all of the meat and vegetables to the pan.  Add currants and pine nuts, broth/stock to cover, salt and some chocolate. I added  half a block and the rest of the chocolate at the very end to enrich the sauce. Taste it, and  depending on how much you like the taste of chocolate, add more if you wish.

Cover and cook  it slowly till the rabbit is cooked. If it is a farmed rabbit  it will take as long as cooking chicken, mine was wild rabbit and it took about three hours of slow cooking.

i served it with sweet and sour pumpkin (fegato di sette cannolli) and pears quickly fried in a little oil and butter.

For a more complete recipe see:

RABBIT, CHICKEN, Easter recipes

Sicilian Pumpkin with vinegar, mint, sugar and cinnamon
RABBIT AND HARE:

HARE OR RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE. LEPRE O CONIGLIO AL CIOCCOLATO (‘NCICULATTATU IS THE SICILIAN TERM USED)

RABBIT with cloves, cinnamon and red wine (CONIGLIO DA LICODIA EUBEA)

ONE WAY TO COOK RABBIT LIKE A SICILIAN

CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)

PAPPARDELLE (PASTA WITH HARE OR GAME RAGÙ)

LEPRE ALLA PIEMONTESE (HARE – SLOW BRAISE PIEDMONTESE STYLE

EASTER SPECIALTIES IN RAGUSA

SCACCE and PIZZA and SICILIAN EASTER

‘MPANATA (A lamb pie, Easter treat)

I  have relatives  in Sicily but  my parents and I lived in Trieste in Northern Italy. Just for interest, here are  the traditional  Easter sweets of Trieste:
Traditional Easter Sweets in Trieste in Friuli Venezia Giulia

CAMPING, Pumpkin risotto

I go camping as often as I can and pumpkin is one of the vegetables (it is actually a fruit) that like potatoes and onions is easy to get, even in the most remote places.. It lasts, does not have to be stored in the fridge (at room temperature and away from moisture is ideal) and is versatile.

I have been camping in Tasmania and those of you who have visited the remote parts of Tasmania know how difficult fresh vegetables are to find, but not pumpkin, and not just one variety. It is March after all, the official pumpkin season. and you may have a choice of Queensland Blue (also called Kent), Japanese pumpkin and Butternut.

When camping most of my cooking is done on a portable gas stove but, as now in Tasmania, I have been travelling in a camper van and on the odd occasion when I stay in a caravan park and have a powered site, pumpkin can also be microwaved on high until tender. Pieces of pumpkin can then be added to salads, soups, to other vegetables, meat or fish dishes; the pulp can be used in anything to add its unique flavour and to thicken and pureed pumpkin makes fabulous dips or a side dish, especially when mixed with mashed potato.

On this occasion, in my camper van’s simple gas stove I made a simple risotto…. and i mean simple! 

When travelling, my biggest problem is not having internet coverage and in the remote areas ofTasmania internet connection has been extremely difficult. I will let the photos tell the story.

You can peel pumpkin if you wish, and most people do, but I often include the skin, especially at this time of year when the skin is relatively soft and unblemished.

I softened some onion in some butter and extra virgin olive oil … either cooking medium will do.

Added cubed pumpkin, sautéed the pumpkin briefly, added water and a good quality stock cube or two depending on the amounts you are cooking (still widely used in Italian cooking). When at home I use stock.

Add some rice and more water to cover the pumpkin and any herb that you have. Smaller supermarkets or produce stores do not often have fresh herbs,  but when travelling  I always help myself to rosemary and wild fennel  when I see it.  Herbs  keep well and for a long time wrapped in a slightly damp cloth . On this occasion, in Richmond Tasmania I found  fresh bay in a park.

It is autumn and I also found a quince tree laden with quinces, unfortunately I still respect fences and did not help myself. I was very tempted.

Let the pumpkin bubble away, there is not much heat control in a camper van’s stove….and only one burner worked.

Risotto  does not ned to be stirred all the time, although many recipes will tell you that this is the only method for making risotto. Put a lid on the pan, turn the heat down and let it cook. Check periodically that there is enough liquid and that it is not sticking to the pan.

If the rice is cooking too fast and there is too much liquid, finish off the cooking without a lid.

Remember risotto needs to be all’onda... like waves, wet!

Place a lump of butter or a drizzle of good olive oil and top and serve it. Let the natural taste of the pumpkin do the talking, but if you  would like to add a little Parmasen cheese  or if you have a little grated nutmeg, both will enhance to sweet taste of the pumpkin even further. 

In case you have not been to Tasmania, it is beautiful!

There are several recipes for risotto on my blog. Here are 3, use search button to find more recipes.

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

RISI E BISI (Risotto with peas)

Melbourne  August: Winter Artichokes in risotto and stuffed

CASSATA Explained with photos

I have written about  making cassata many times and rewriting the recipe is not necessary so I will provide links at the bottom of this post.

I did take a few photos. The photos and a few notes tell the story.

Make or buy a sponge cake.

Slice the sponge and line the mould with the sponge cake. It helps to line the mould with some foil  to ensure that the cassata can be inverted easily. You may also like to use a little apricot jam to stick the different parts of the sponge together. I did not have any apricot jam and I used marmalade… not too much, it should not taste bitter. Honey could be OK too.

Tub ricotta is not very good, both in taste and texture. Buy full cream ricotta from a good deli.

Beat the ricotta with some cream, castor sugar and good vanilla essence. The amount of cream you use will depend on the creaminess of your ricotta. I do not like my cassata sweet and may not add as much castor sugar as someone else would. Taste the mixture and see if it tastes to your liking, then add chopped  pistachio nuts,  citrus peel including some cedro.

Next some cinnamon  powder and some chopped dark chocolate. Fold through.

Dampen the sponge cake with some liqueur, some use marsala, I like an orange based  liqueur and mostly use Cointreau, but do not make it soggy.  Most cooks dilute the liqueur with sugar and water. I do not – give me the full  taste anytime.

Fill the ricotta cream into the mould lined with sponge cake.

Put a slice of the sponge cake on top as a lid. Dampen it with liqueur, cover it with foil and put a weight on top. Keep it in the fridge till ready to decorate. I like to make the cassata  the day before I decorate it and eat it.

Marzipan. Make it the day before and keep it wrapped in foil or baking paper or whatever you use :

As you can see I use  much more almond meal than icing sugar. Mix it with a little water and a little vanilla and knead it to bring it together. Like when baking dough, add more almond meal or icing sugar to make it the correct consistency.

Most cassate are coated with ‘glassa’ made of sugar and water. I find this sickly sweet and prefer the old fashion marzipan. Traditionally the more commonly decorated cassate include a pale green colour. This may have been because the green may have been made with pistachio meal and the white with almond meal. Some people do not like eating marzipan so  do not be surprised if you find some guests struggling to eat it.

I made two lots. of marzipan. The green vegetable dye was far too intense., but i was not going to throw the ingredients away. next time i shall use a dropper.

Roll the marzipan out… rolling it between two pieces of greaseproof paper may help.

Ready to decorate.

I really enjoyed this part, however the way I decorated my cassata may not be like the cassate you are likely to see in Sicily.  Most people buy cassate from pastry shops, they leave it to the experts. This is also the case for cannoli.

My cassata  over all is definitely less sweet. I used every bit of the marzipan. I used toothpicks to keep the flowers in place.

Sicilian cassata coated with  a shiny ‘glassa’ is the most common cassata. Usually glace fruit is used to decorate the top.

Ornate cassate: in noteworthy pasticcerie.

 

I decorate cassate as the mood takes me. Thesa are some cassate I have made in the past:

For greater details and recipes see:

SICILIAN CASSATA and some background (perfect for an Australian Christmas)

SICILIAN CASSATA and MARZIPAN AT EASTER (Food and Culture in Sicily, La Trobe University)

CASSATA (It is perfect for an Australian Christmas)

CASSATA ( Post no. 2) Calls for a celebration!!!