Category Archives: Italian Regional

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!!!

 

RICETTE per capretto (e capra) – Recipes for slow cooked kid and goat

Quite a bit of cooking went on over the Christmas and the New Year period and there was no time to write about it. Most of the time I do not  even manage to take photos, however for this dish, I did.

This is a slow cooked goat with mushrooms. The Sicilian bit in this dish is that the goat pieces were marinated in Marsala Fine (semi dry) and cooked with Marsala too. Most recipes eventuating from the rest of Italy would use wine – red and perhaps white.

I used the goat ragout to dress egg  pappardelle.

I hope the photos tell the story.

I bought a leg and a shoulder of capretto… the italian word for kid and the etto at the end of the word makes it diminutive…however, judging by the size of it, it was a capra…a goat.

There were seven of us for lunch and I also bought a kilo of mushrooms.

Below is the photo of the marinade:

Marsala Fine,  extra virgin olive oil, herbs – bay,  cloves, rosemary –

these herbs are used in sicilian cooking but I also used nepitella and sage  –  herbs that are more common in the north and central Italy.

I cut most of the meat off the bone but kept the bones in with the meat to marinade overnight.

Drain the meat and bones and sauté  the meat in some extra virgin olive oil in small batches.

Place the sautéed meat aside and finish sautéeing all the meat and the bones.

Prepare the sofritto – white onion, carrot and celery, chopped pretty small.

Use the same pan.

Sauté the onion first in some extra virgin oil,  then add the carrots and celery and sauté some more.

Add the meat and bones.

Add the marinade, the herbs (and some new ones too).

Add salt and pepper and some good meat stock and more Marsala.

Cover  and cook on slow heat. Check level of moisture regularly and if needed add more stock. I cooked mine for just below four hours. Remove the bones….they should be clean.

Add sliced mushrooms, cover and cook for 20 – 30 minutes more.

Dress the cooked pasta with the ragout.

Present  the pappardelle with grated pecorino and fresh mint leaves.

See:

RAGU` DI CAPRETTO Goat/ kid ragout as a dressing for pasta

SPEZZATINO DI CAPRETTO (Italian Goat/ Kid stew)

SLOW COOKED LEG OF GOAT WITH HOT MINT SAUCE

KID/GOAT WITH ALMONDS (SPRING IN SICILY, CAPRETTO CON LE MANDORLE)

SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING, ITALIANICIOUS and READER’S FEAST Bookstore. Recipe for Slow cooked goat in Nero D’Avola

Marmellata di cigliege (Cherry jam) and Zuppa Inglese

When your partner comes home from the market with an abundance of cherries, pick out the best looking ones to place on the table (the glossy ones that have fresh green stems) and make jam with the rest of them.

And the jam turned out very well, so good in fact that I used some of the cherries as a topping for a Zuppa Inglese, an iconic Italian dessert. I will also use the jam as a topping for ice cream or to make ice cream.

The cherries: remove the stems and wash them. cut out any blemishes.

Weigh the cherries.

Place the cherries in a heavy based saucepan.

Use a potato masher to crush about 2/3 of the cherries to release their juices. Add the zest and juice of 1 lemon to the potand place over low heat ( I had about 500g of cherries, add more lemon  and zest if you have greater amounts). Cook them on low to medium heat until the cherries are tender

If you look at recipes for making cherry jams, most  advice is to use equal amount of sugar to the weight of the fruit.  Commercial jams may use even a greater ratio of sugar to the fruit. I like to use less sugar – which is usually half the quantity of fruit. If I have 500g of fruit I add 250g of sugar.

Add the sugar and cook on moderate heat, stirring, for  about 20 minutes (or longer) until sugar dissolves and you have a jam like consistency…. test the setting point by placing a little jam  on a saucer that has been in the freezer .

Remove the jam from the heat and set aside for 10 -15 minutes.

Choose glass jars with an airtight lids  and sterilize them. There are different ways to do this but I usually do this by pouring boiling water in them and submerging lids in boiling water. Washing them in a dishwasher is also effective but you will need to coordinate the time of cooking the jam and the wash cycle.

Ladle hot jam into jars; I always use jars when they are still hot.

And here is the Zuppa Inglese with the cherries on top.

Zuppa Inglese is one of the easiest and most decadent desserts to make BUT without Alchermes liqueur it cannot be Zuppa Inglese.

Alchermes is a Florentine ancient liqueur, red in colour and specifically used for making certain desserts.

In the photo above you see savoiardi (sponge fingers), egg custard and Alchermes.

The Zuppa Inglese is layered, just like a trifle – biscuits soaked in Alchermes, custard, biscuits… 3 layers.

Top with  a layer of whipped cream (with a little caster sugar and vanilla = Chantilly cream)… and the cherries.

See more detailed recipes for:

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert

LONG LIVE ZUPPA INGLESE and its sisters

ALCHERMES/ALKERMES (The liqueur used to make Zuppa Inglese)

Parco Nazionale Degli Iblei – a documentary – and recipes from this part of Sicily

Corrado, one of my relatives in Ragusa (in the south eastern corner of Sicily) has sent me a link to watch Storie e luoghi di un Parco (Stories and places of a Park) on Vimeo. It’s a documentary by Vincenzo Cascone.

I sat for over an hour mesmerized, and although not all of you will understand the Italian dialogue, the visuals are sufficient to get the gist of what is being presented.

The soundtrack is also evocative.

Storie e luoghi di un Parco is striking and very comprehensive documentary mainly about the preservation and restoration of biodiversity in a nature reserve to be established in south eastern Sicily.

The park is referred to as the Parco Nazionale Degli Iblei. The Hyblaean Mountains (Italian: Monti Iblei) is a mountain range in south-eastern Sicily, Italy. It straddles the provinces of Ragusa, Syracuse and Catania.

I need to tell you that it is over an hour long, but you can fast forward  bits,  perhaps  the speaking parts , especially if you do not understand Italian.

Establishing and maintaining wildlife reserves and giving nature the space and protection it needs is an obvious solution to preserving biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. For each nature reserve, there are legislated rules, regulations and penalties established to restrict the types and amount of human activities or mismanagement by the community so as protect the habitats, fauna, flora and the geology of the natural area.

This documentary is made even more compelling by the representation of a group of diverse professions supporting and involved in the implementation of this project. The interviews with this group of specialists provide insights and observations on the archaeological, natural, scientific, cultural, historical and aesthetic features of this region of Sicily.  These individuals are continuing to conduct studies and research that aim to restore a healthy biodiversity and promote better understanding of our natural heritage.

The team of professional scientists that are exploring this ecosystem explain how biodiversity can only have occurred over millions of years of evolution and by the different cultural groups who settled in this part of Sicily.

Biodiversity and ecosystems that are undamaged, healthy and finely balanced, contribute to a healthy, sustainable planet.

We all have a responsibility to revitalize our planet and it is up to all of us to prevent widespread ecological damage.

Now for the disappointing bit.

After having given the project a glowing report I decided to do some research. Unfortunately, this worthy project is at a standstill. After all of the support from many noteworthy people and local residents in this area of Sicily, Sicilian bureaucracy has stalled the project.

I do hope there will be sufficient support to make it happen.

Storie e luoghi di un Parco (Stories and places of a Park).

Un documentario di Vincenzo Cascone.

https://vimeo.com/163017225

Some recipes from this part of Sicily:

SCACCE (focaccia-like stuffed bread)

KOHLRABI with pasta (Causunnedda )

CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)

RAVIOLI DI RICOTTA e MULINO DI CEREALI A PIETRA (Ricotta ravioli and stone ground flour in Chiaramonte)

MURRAY COD, AN ICONIC AUSTRALIAN FISH – information and fish recipes

I have just spent the weekend in Albury (Victoria). I will mention Wodonga (NSW) in the same breath as I see them as being one city. The Murray River separates the two locations.

Inevitably some of the conversation was about fishing and it was good to hear that once again there seem to be some pretty big Murray Cods in the Hume Weir.

Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) are found in freshwater rivers and creeks in eastern South Australia and west of the Great Dividing Range in NSW, Victoria and southern Queensland.

It is close to Christmas and many are planning to cook fish, especially for Christmas Eve. Those living in Australia may be able to purchase this beautiful tasting fish – Murray Cod but it will probably need to be preordered.

I wrote this piece for a fishing magazine called Fishing Lines in 2012. The magazine died years ago, but as we sat around discussing fishing in Albury I remembered that I had a copy of the writing. Here it is.

My fascination with Murray cod began when I first moved to Moorook in the early 1970’s, a small community near Barmera  and Berri in South Australia. For three years I taught at Glossop High School and in that time I got to know some of the people in the towns sprinkled along a string of lakes and lagoons of the Murray River floodplain, commonly called The Riverland.

I have always been interested in sourcing food locally and although I had heard stories about incredibly large fish caught in various parts of the river, I wondered why a fish so large and once so abundant was not around any more.

Sometimes, local recreational fishers sold redfin (introduced species) and catfish to the Moorook General Store and many of them had stories to tell about their fathers and grandfathers who had caught Murray cod and were amazed by its size, exquisite taste and beauty. The most spectacular catches were often celebrated by photos of fisherfolk posing with their catch in homes, hotels and the local press.

The Aboriginal people along the length of the river also revered and respected the Murray cod. There are several local names for this spirit fish in their mythology and creation stories.

The cod was perfectly adapted to the cycles of the Murray, while the river ran free in times of flood and drought. But the stories of miraculous catches of this remarkable fish dried up as the river became increasingly regulated with weirs and locks to serve irrigated agriculture in the Murray Darling Basin.

The Riverland locals may have lamented the decline in cod stocks, but they saw it as a regrettable price of progress. Irrigation was the way to go. It enabled the growing of a range of crops and brought prosperity to the area. It provided jobs in a range of industries and population growth to their local area and throughout the Riverland.

The flows in the Murray were increasingly regulated to allow more consistent water extraction for the irrigation schemes. There were even projects to remove snags from the river, which were a critical part of the cod’s habitat, especially important in the fish’s breeding cycle. Murray cod are carnivores and snags also support a healthy food chain of algae, bacteria and fungi necessary to sustain an abundant supply of shrimps, yabbies, mussels, tortoises, reptiles, other fish, small mammals and frogs – all of which were food for cod. There are stories of Murray cod eating water hens as well.

This print of the Murray Cod by Melbourne artist Clare Whitney beautifully expresses all that this magnificent fish represents for us in Australia. I bought it soon after I moved to Melbourne.

The image of the Murray cod in the centre of a map of Australia gives the fish its due. It is a national icon, a very ancient fish and a symbol of the Murray Darling River system. In the past the fish was a marvel and a valued food source in natural abundance.

Clare Whitney has placed the cod in a map from the Commonwealth bureau of Meteorology, which shows the average annual evaporation in inches, based on observations for seventy stations with records ranging from 5-82 years. There is no doubt that there are climatic factors contributing to the Murray cod’s decline.

The cod is an indicator of a healthy river. The vulnerability of the Murray cod reflects the environmental and ecological crisis across the Murray-Darling river system. Contributing significantly to the cod’s decline is the degradation of our waterways: the reduced quantity and quality of the water, pollution, the introduction of alien species of fish, overfishing and illegal fishing. Hard-hoofed animals, especially cattle, destroy riverbanks and the vegetation, demolishing the structure of the river. Our methods of agriculture and food production have played a major part in the destruction of the riverine ecosystem and threatened the survival of the Murray cod. State and Commonwealth Governments, and pastoral and agricultural interests are still struggling to establish an agreement that will allow viable environmental flows in the Murray-Darling basin. Faced with this, there is some small consolation in seeing that a number of sustainable cod aquaculture projects are being established and developed in different locations across Australia. But it would be far more preferable for us to change the way we manage our river catchments and water allocations to ensure the long term survival of the Murray cod in the wild, especially those projects which enable healthy breeding of this iconic fish.

Murray Cod is pretty hard to get and the best thing you can do is call  your favourite fresh fish supplier and see if they can  sell you one.

Failing that, there is information about Murray Cod on the Sydney Fish Market website and that suggests Leatherjackets, Pearl Perch and West Australian Dhufish as alternatives – these fish will have the same texture and sweetness. Leatherjackets however, are a small fish.

Recipes suitable for  Murray Cod and large fish :

PESCE IN PADELLA (Pan fried fish, MURRAY COD)

FISH POACHED IN A FISH KETTLE in bouillon

PESCE GRATINATO (Baked fish topped with almonds and pistachios)

PESCE CON FINOCCHIO E ROSMARINO (Fish with fennel and rosemary)

COOKING WITH GRAPPA, cosce di gallina (chicken upper thighs)

I use alcohol in my cooking very frequently. Cooking with alcohol enhances the taste and smell of many dishes.

In savoury foods I mostly add wine or wine-based beverages and spirits. Liqueurs are mostly for desserts, although I rather like the orange taste in Cointreau for pan fried duck breasts, duck or chicken livers and pork fillets. When I want a taste of fennel or anise, as for example in fish, Pernod is a favourite.

Using different herbs and spices are also very apparent in my cooking to impart different flavours and aromas.

One of the most common and simplest ways I use alcohol is to deglaze the pan after pan frying or sautéing meat, fish, vegetables or fruit. For example when cooking chicken or duck livers, once cooked, I remove the contents from the pan, pour in the alcohol and start scraping the sides and bottom of the pan – this dislodges all the tasty, caramelized bits ….I evaporate the liquid and the result is a very flavourful sauce.

Generally my most common types of alcohol for deglazing are wine, vermouth, brandy, Marsala Fine or Cointreau. Each of these beverages will add different flavours.

I need to say that my Sicilian relatives do not use much alcohol in cooking.

This brings me to my use of Grappa in cooking adding a subtle complexity to food. It is equally effective in savory and sweet dishes. Worth doing.

Grappa, the Italian spirit is produced from distilling the skins, seeds and stalks of grapes after making wine. It  is drunk and used widely in cooking in the northern regions of Italy.

In Trieste it was a favourite drink for many Triestines and it was a common ingredient when making pastries and sweets like frittole, crostoli and apple strudel.

When my family arrived in Australia there was no Grappa, but we soon met some people from Trieste and found that they were using hot water units with copper piping to distil Grappa in their homes. A very slow process, but how ingenious.

Illegal of course, but we were able to buy flagons of Grappa from these people.

Being interested in my roots  – Northern Italian and Sicilian –  I have recently reintroduced Grappa in some of my cooking.

Here is a simple recipe:

You can see  from the photo, the ingredients are what they call Lovely Legs (chicken), Italian pancetta, sage, rosemary,  Grappa, extra virgin olive oil and butter, and although Juniper berries go well with gin, I thought they would be good with Grappa as well.

The process is very simple.

Marinade the chicken legs (there were 5) in some oil, herbs, juniper berries and pancetta cut into smaller bits for about 2 hours or longer.

Add butter to a pan, place the marinated legs and contents in the pan and  gently brown the contents. Add a splash of  stock or water, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked.

Remove the contents, add a liqueur glass (about 2 tablespoons) of Grappa. Scarpe the solids from the sides and bottom of the pan and let it bubble for a minute or two to amalgamate the liquids.

Place the contents back in the pan to coat  them with the flavourful sauce, and there you are.

 

Staples in my fridge – olives, capers, anchovies and nuts

In my fridge you are likely to always find green and black olives, anchovies, capers and nuts, especially almonds, pine nuts, pistachio, hazelnuts and walnuts.  I consider these as staples and frequently add these ingredients, common in Italian cooking, to much of my cuisine.

In my freezer you will always find jars of stock and pulses of some kind, usually chickpeas, borlotti, cannellini or even black-eyed beans. I say “even” because they are not considered a common bean in Italian cuisine.  I do not bother storing frozen lentils  because they cook so quickly and don’t need  soaking.

I have not mentioned how important fresh herbs, spices and extra virgin olive oil are in my cooking – but they are.

What  you will also find  in my fridge are some jars of homemade  pastes  – always harissa and maybe a couple of jars of other pastes  that contain a combination of three or more of these ingredients: olives, anchovies, various fresh herbs, capers or nuts.

For most of this year, my partner has been doing the shopping. Perhaps he enjoys having this time on his own and to chat with his favourite stallholders at the Queen Victoria Market.

Someone once asked me if I trusted him with the shopping.  I do, but sometimes he buys too much….  last week it was too much squid, this week he came home with two large freshwater trouts.

There is no inviting friends around! We are in lockdown in Melbourne.

We eat a lot of vegetables and I can easily turn excess vegetables into soup or pickles. Meat I can freeze, but I do not  like to freeze fish, so we had trout for two nights in a row.

The first night I simply fried  the trout in butter and a substantial amount of  fresh sage. Good, but ordinary.

In my fridge I had a jar of a combination of ground toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, nutmeg, black pepper and Za’atar.

You could say it was a version of dukkah that I had used for something else and I sprinkled some of this on the trout once  the trout was filleted at the table.

The second night I cooked the trout on a bed of  sautéed shaved fennel and parsley and  at the very end of cooking I added some green olive paste. I had this in the fridge. The sauce was plentiful and went beautifully with the braised lentils and endives.

And once again I was able to add a different taste to something that was pretty good in the first place but was made even better.

I do not measure ingredients when I am making a paste, but for the sake of the recipe, I have made an estimation of  the ingredients.

My combinations of ingredients vary, but for this particular green olive paste I used:

200g of pitted green olives,
100g capers, either drained if in brine or soaked and rinsed a number of times if using the salted capers,
100g of toasted almonds,
4 anchovies,
1 garlic clove,
grated orange peel from one orange,
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of chopped parsley
juice from half a lemon.

Making pastes is dead simple. Blend all of the ingredients together except for the olive oil that you can add at the very end….slowly… until you have a paste to your liking. You can make it as smooth as you wish; I prefer some crunch.

Place in a clean glass jar, top with some more extra virgin olive oil and keep it in your fridge.

This is the first time that I have taken a photo of inside my fridge, but you can see what I mean!

COOKED RADICCHIO

Depending on where you live in Australia red radicchio has only been popular in Australian households in the last ten years. Even if you have experienced radicchio in a restaurant, you have probably eaten it raw and most likely in a salad, but you can also cook radicchio. Just like any other leafy vegetable it can be grilled, braised, baked, or sautéed.  I particularly like to eat grilled radicchio on polenta with a little tomato salsa,  it is great sautéed in a risotto, or a pasta dish.

In Australia it is relatively easy to buy round or the elongated red radicchio.

One of my favourite ways is to enjoy it with pasta .

Sauté some Italian pork and fennel sausages (out of their skins) in a little extra virgin olive oil, then add some radicchio cut into slices. Sauté it  while moving it about until the sausage meat is cooked. Add a dash of  wine and evaporate it. Use red or white wine as the colour from the cooked radicchio can be quite dark.

I know a few people who do not like radicchio because it is bitter and when it is cooked the bitter taste intensifies. The bitterness is perfect as a foil for fatty dishes.

Roasted radicchio and pan fried radicchio is very easy to prepare.

I prefer to  cook my radicchio on the stove because I feel more in control.

Cut a large radicchio into quarters.

Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a frypan that has reasonably substantial sides, add the radicchio to the hot oil, add  salt, a little rosemary and thyme and  watch it wilt. Turn it over once and towards the end add a little balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of citrus marmalade. The marmalade is home made so it is not too sweet.

It  will be cooked in about 10 minutes.

It was the  accompaniment to pan fried duck breast so you can see why these flavours go well together.

It may not look appealing (maybe as cooked red cabbage) but it tastes good.

Although my radicchio was cooked plainly, it is easily seen that adding different ingredients, will modify the taste. Try:  nuts,  a few slices of sautéed onions , bay leaves,  caraway or fennel seeds, crisp fried pancetta,  a little blue cheese at the end.  It is a versatile dish.

The next day, the leftover radicchio made a nice topping for some toasted bread.

There was a cacciatore in the fridge and this, and the combination the radicchio worked well. Any pork or beef salumi, smoked fish or meat and a strong tasting cheese is perfect.

Once again, it does not look like much, but gosh, it was good.

More recipes with cooked radicchio
Pan fried radicchio with pickled pears, walnuts, beetroot and gorgonzola
BIGOLI NOBILI (Bigoli pasta with red radicchio, borlotti and pork sausages)
RADICCHIO (Treviso) with polenta and tomato salsa

ALL ABOUT MAKING FRITTATA and Podcast with Maria Liberati

I was very surprised when one of my friends said that she had baked a zucchini frittata following a recipe in Ottolenghi’s Simple. I opened my copy of the cookbook to see if Ottolenghi really had baked a frittata. Afterall he has Italian heritage! It is not called a frittata for nothing!(I am joking here – I really like and respect Ottolenghi – but all jokes aside, if I were to bake a mixture of zucchini and eggs, I would call it a Zucchini Bake.

Fritta, means fried (feminine) and fritto, as in Fritto Misto is fried (masculine) and misto means mixed. I would enjoy continuing with a lesson in Italian grammar, but this post is about frittata.

Recently I was contacted by Maria Liberati and invited to participate in an interview about Frittata, for a podcast. So there I was  from Melbourne in lockdown chatting to Maria Liberati in Pennsylvania.

Maria asked me to speak about frittate (plural), she found of a post I had been invited to write by Janet Clarkson’s very popular blog called ‘The Old Foodie’. The post was called An Authentic Frittata (December 2008). I had forgotten that I had written it, but what I said then still stands.

Apart from discussing frittate in general and providing a  Sicilian recipe for frittata I made a comment about Claudia Roden. She is one of my heros,  but I disagreed with what she must have said at some stage:” Frittate are common throughout Italy but not Sicily and Sardinia’.

But just how popular are frittate anyway? When do we eat frittate? and could it be that frittate are such ordinary fare that they do not appear in cookery books very often?

In An Authentic Frittata, my first sentence is:
‘Every National Cuisine has certain rules and customs.’

Baking a frittata in Italy is not one of them.

But I can understand why frying a frittata is scary.  This is a simple zucchini and cheese frittata. It is spring in Melbourne and we had some new season’s zucchini tossed quickly in a frypan with some extra virgin olive oil, a little parsley and garlic. I turned the leftovers  and some grated pecorino cheese into a simple frittata. 

Frittata is cooked on one side before being inverted onto a plate and then slid into the frypan again  to cook on the other side. It is not that scary.

Pour the mixture of beaten eggs (a fork will do),  zucchini, salt, pepper into hot oil. Use the spatula to press the frittata gently on top and lift the edges tilting the pan. This allows some of the runny egg to escape on the side to cook. when there is no more egg escaping you are ready to turn it over.

As Maria said in the interview, perhaps cooks could try this with a smaller pan. I think it is worth it.

When making frittata, using a round frypan makes sense, and not making it a huge frittata makes it more manageable.

Depending on the quantities of the other ingredients to be added to the frittata, I think about 8 eggs is the maximum.

Maria and I certainly agreed about how the cooking of Italy is very regional and how this may also apply to frittata. I grew up in Trieste (the north eastern Italian cooking of Friuli Venezia Giulia is similar to the Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige) but I also have a Sicilian heritage.

Cuisine is localised , each region has prepared specialities based on their produce and cultural influences. Sicily was an important trade route in a strategic location in the Mediterranean and was settled by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians,  Arabs, Normans, French, Spaniards. Trieste was a very important port  for much of that north eastern part of Italy that  were part of the Austro – Hungarian Empire. Surrounding countries that influenced the history and culture were Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany,and Croatia are not too far away.

Here are some basic differences  between the making of frittate in the north and the south , some are no longer hard and fast rules, for example:

  • butter or butter and oil is used for frying in the north, oil in the south,
  • use of local produce in both – I have had quite a few frittate with ricotta in Sicily and made with fruit in the north, especially with apples,
  • because left-overs are good ingredients for a frittata, you may see more vegetable based frittate in the south and more smallgoods based ones in the north, e.g. prosciutto, different cheeses,
  • breadcrumbs are common additions to a frittata in the south (to soak up liquid from vegetables), a little flour and even a dash of milk is evident in many northern recipes,
  • a little grated cheese is common in all frittate, Parmigiano in the north, pecorino or aged caciocavallo or ricotta salata in Sicily.

Like language, cooking evolves and when I cook, I do not invent or modify recipes without knowing what came first – what is the traditional recipe?  What are the ingredients and how was it cooked? Experimentation can only come after respect for the ingredients and method of cooking that traditional recipe, and accepting that although the recipe may have been right for the time, there are changes that i would like to make. When I modify a recipe I ask myself if modifying it will improve it, is it a healthier way to cook it, quicker? And this applies to all traditional recipes.

A very simple example is how my mother always overcooked her vegetables, but she found my sautéed vegetables very undercooked. She either used onions or garlic, never the two together, meat and fish in the same recipe? Never.

Using Warrigal Greens (Australian bush tucker,  like English spinach). Do not even think about that, I am definitely breaking the rules. These are growing on my balcony.

I am looking forward to using other spring produce to make frittate , especially artichokes, spring peas/snow peas, zucchini and zucchini flowers.

Maria and I talked amicably about many things, and there were many details that I had intended to say, but we ran out of time.

Thank you Maria for giving me this opportunity.

Below is a frittata I cooked with  wild asparagus.

Some links:

  • Recipes on my blog for making Frittata:

ASPARAGI DI BOSCO and FRITTATINA (Wild Asparagus continued, and Frittata)

WILD ASPARAGUS IN SICILY AND TUNIS (ASPARAGI SELVATICI)

BOOK SIGNING OF SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING AT READINGS (and Fennel Frittata)

FRITTATA: SAUSAGE and RICOTTA

The recipe I provided in this post is a version of Giuseppe Coria’s but variations of this same recipe are in a couple of Sicilian cookbooks written in Italian. I do wonder if that recipe is still made now.

Podcast: A Sicilian Frittata Story
 54 mins

This week Maria discusses the power of food to take us to new places – this time, to Sicily – where we’ll enjoy a simple frittata. Joining her today is Marisa Raniolo Wilkins, a passionate food writer, blogger and recipe developer from Sicily.

To hear this podcast, click HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

A special Birthday menu for my friend, in the cloud

It is one of my friend’s birthday today and I am wishing him well, there in the cloud. I have cooked him some of his favourite food.

I hope that he will enjoy the homemade pappardelle dressed with a duck ragù.

I

I was not able to buy him boar (cinghiale) or hare (lepre) as you can in Greve from that butcher who has a stuffed boar in front of his Macelleria. But I know that he is quite fond of duck; he will be just as pleased.

I have kept some of the dough from the pasta to fry and make into crostoli.  I will sprinkle them with caster sugar. We can crunch on these later.

Now he’s no longer unwell, he can once again enjoy the Barolo and the Amarone I have selected for this occasion. I know that he is fond of Sicily and I have a bottle of Nero d’Avola. Perhaps we could have a little of this with our cheese?  We will try to drink in moderation. I can return the wines from the decanters to bottles and put stoppers in them…I will be happy to drink them tomorrow.

I was able to find some early spring produce and I have stuffed some zucchini flowers with some stracchino, rather than the ricotta I usually use,  a little egg with a few fresh breadcrumbs to bind the stuffing, and some fresh marjoram ... not chervil, I am afraid, as it is not in season, this being  his favourite herb.  He particularly liked it on scrambled eggs.

I almost forgot!  I was able to order a great bottle of Riesling from the Barossa. Peter Lehman’s son – David Franz – Makes it. I love his wine and I am very fond of David’s colourful labels. I think my friend shared a bottle of this wine when I last saw him. This will be a perfect accompaniment for the zucchini flowers.

I have a bottle of Cynar for when he arrives and a little Averna for those who wish, right at the very end. 

There will be no second course, the pasta will be enough. The ragù smells fabulous and will be quite rich. Perhaps a little Mâche , or matovilc as we called it in Trieste…. lamb’s lettuce for others.  I can add some thinly sliced fennel too – this could be the palate cleanser before the dessert.

My friend does like a good Zuppa Inglese. I think that it’s the savoiardi soaked with Alchermes that he likes, although the delicate egg custard is also a winner. He will understand that I was unable to get the gooseberries or the greengage plums that he is so fond of. They are out of season. My friend was able to buy these for a very limited time of they year from one stall in the Adelaide Market. Gosh, that was a few years ago! The stall holder was a gentle and kind Sicilian man who used to grow most of his produce. I will never forget when the stall holder found out who my father was, he almost hugged me. My dad was liked by so many people my friend was popular too, and liked a chat or two. 

Idid find some Josephine pears at the Queen Victoria Market today, so I have purchased some to present with some cheeses I selected ripe, juicy pears, just as he likes them. He always expressed his dissatisfaction about fruit that was picked too green.

I have not forgotten the cheese to go with the pears. He is fond of a little cheese. Walnuts too. He likes to crack his own. I know he quite likes a little aged Parmesan with pears and I was also able to buy a good selection of  Italian and French Cheeses, some are quite smelly and I had to put them out on my balcony overnight.


Bob has baked some bread, my friend prefers to eat cheese with bread. I do too,  perhaps I learnt this from him.

So my friend, up in the cloud, I hope you enjoy what I have prepared for you. Happy Birthday from all of us, here below. We all remember you fondly and miss you.

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare or game ragù)

ZUPPA INGLESE, a famous, Italian dessert

STUFFED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS 

SALAD GREEN: matovilc, also called lamb’s lettuce and mâche

ALCHERMES/ALKERMES (The liqueur used to make Zuppa Inglese)

LONG LIVE ZUPPA INGLESE and its sisters