IOTA recipe for SBS ITALIAN (a thick soup from Trieste)

Those who read Italian can tap into the link below for SBS Italian. The link also allows anyone who would like to listen to me discussing the recipe briefly with the SBS Presenter Massimigliano/Max Gugole). This is also spoken in Italian.

Recipe and podcast SBS Italian:

https://rb.gy/50uxy

The following is a rough translation of what is on the SBS Italian website and what Max and I discussed.

Jota /Iota is a very ancient preparation much appreciated in Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia), a territory with a complex history, it was first part of of the Austrian Empire and later of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

When you look at a map of Italy and find Trieste, you see that the location of this city is close to Slovenia, Croatia and further north is Austria and the cuisine of Trieste has been influenced by these countries.

This thick soup is made with borlotti beans, “capuzi garbi” (the local name for sauerkraut), potatoes and smoked pork. For the latter component, sausages or a piece of cooked ham can be used. For meat on the bone, you can use ribs, a hock or ham on the bone.

It is a typical winter dish, rustic and full-bodied, which is eaten as a stand alone dish.

Jota is typical and is eaten not only in Trieste but throughout Friuli.

Like all ancient recipes, every family has its own recipe and there are many variations. Some put barley, polenta or a soffritto of a little oil sautéed with a little flour to make it thicker. Many also add a teaspoon of German cumin seeds (caraway seeds in English) and not to be confused with what we call cumin.

Experiment with this recipe. Feel free to add more meat or more beans or more sauerkraut, depending on your taste! And with a few more potatoes, the soup will be even thicker.

Ingredients (6 people)

400g sauerkraut, drained
400g of dried borlotti beans
400g of potatoes
4 – 6 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
Smoked pork: 2-3 sausages or a whole piece of cooked ham (about 400g), or a hock (about 1k) or ribs, or bone-in ham
extra virgin olive oil or lardpepper and salt to taste2 tablespoons flour (optional)

The night before, put the well-covered beans in a bowl to soak in cold water.

The next day, cook the beans in a saucepan with 2 bay leaves over low heat for about 40 – 50 minutes. Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces, add them to the broth with the beans and continue cooking for 20 – 30 minutes until everything is cooked.

Place half the potatoes and beans in a bowl with the broth, reducing everything to a puree/ mash. Then add the rest of the whole beans and pieces of potatoes.

In another pot, brown the crushed garlic cloves in a little oil or lard. When they are golden, add the sauerkraut and cover them with water. If you want you can add some bay leaves and/or caraway seeds.

Add the hock and/or smoked meat on the bone, and when it is almost fully cooked, add the whole sausages and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Remove the sausages and meat from the pot and slice everything, removing the bones.

Combine the vegetable broth with the beans and potatoes with the sauerkraut, the sliced ​​smoked meat and its broth.Season with salt and pepper to taste.

OPTIONAL: In a small separate pan put two tablespoons of oil or lard, adding a little flour. Stir to avoid lumps. Once the flour has been toasted, add this sautéed mixture to the rest of the soup, mixing carefully.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

This soup should be quite thick. Add more broth or water if it is too thick.

It is even better if prepared a day in advance.

The beans and potatoes can be cooked days beforehand and kept in the fridge.

 To cook a Jota with less fat you can cook the broth with the smoked meat in the water and the bay leaves. When the meat and the broth are cooked, if you have used meat on the bones, remove the bones and when the broth is cold remove the fat.

Sauerkraut can be bought either in jars or glass jars in delicatessen shops and supermarkets.

Smoked meat is part of German, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Slovenian and Croatian gastronomy.

Pork hocks, ribs and cooked ham are readily available and can be found in supermarkets. Sausages can be bought in produce markets, some continental delicatessens and butchers or food specialty shops. In some supermarkets you can find commercial sausages: Polish sausage, Kramsky, Cabonossi and Kabana. I keep away from those wrapped in plastic.

Commercial cooked bacon if cured and smoked properly is cooked first and then smoked, but unfortunately, some manufacturers inject the meat with liquid smoke. (Use a reputable brand).

 N.B. There are smoked products that are made with free-range pork and smallgoods/charcuterie manufacturers that use no artificial additives or preservatives.

There are other recipes for making Iota on my blog. For the SBS recipe I thought that I would simplify the recipe and write it  more in keeping with the many variations of how to cook Iota in Trieste, so I suggested using two saucepans, one to cook the beans and potatoes and in the other the sauerkraut and pork.

Other recipes on All Things Sicilian and More blog:

Pork Hock, Polish Wedding Sausage, Borlotti and Sauerkraut =IOTA (a lean version)

IOTA (Recipe, a very thick soup from Trieste) Post 1

IOTA FROM TRIESTE, Italy, made with smoked pork, sauerkraut, borlotti beans 

 

 

ONLY POOR PEOPLE EAT SOUP (and ZUPPA DI PESCE e VERDURA – Fish and Vegetable Soup)

I have a Brazilian friend who once said to me that: Soup is for poor people. I must have looked stunned so he repeated it in a different way:

Only poor people eat soup.

Especially because I come from an Italian background, I do understand what he is saying. Cucina Povera (poor cooking) is the Italian term for Peasant Cookery.

Soups were the poor dishes of the peasant tradition made from available and inexpensive ingredients. In the kitchen, nothing is thrown away is what we are also adhering to today. And soups have definitely made a comeback.

Poor people did eat soup because they may have not been able to afford to eat anything else or did not have access to other ingredients. Soups were made with what was once considered the poorest of ingredients – Fare qualcosa fuori di niente – Making something out of nothing.

The stock of supplies varied according to climate and conditions.

The fact that every crop is of short duration promotes a spirit of making the best of it while it lasts and conserving a part of it for future use.

Honey from a Weed, Patience Gray.

The contadini (peasants on the land) may have slaughtered and sold their meat but the bits that had no value and couldn’t be sold may have been added to what other ingredients went into the soup: seasonal vegetables from the garden, wild herbs, or once again, other produc no one wanted to buy: grains and pulses, where possible, were added and these were very nutritious.

There are many soups that have old bread added for sustenance and as a thickener and also as a way to follow the motto: In the kitchen, nothing is thrown away. And in these soups, not just bread, but leftovers also contributed to the good flavours. The Tuscan soup Ribollita (re-boiled) is a good example.

There are also many regional recipes for fish soups from the coastal areas of Italy. These were made from what was usually superfluous or discarded fish. Many of the famous Italian fish soups come from peasant stock – both because they originated as peasant cuisine and because fish was simmered to make stock. The transaction may also have been through barter or exchange. Whatever else was available was added. These simple soups were the forebears of the various regional Zuppe di Pesce, now made with expensive fish, but not always.

The limitations imposed by a single pot, a single heat source, local produce, and little or no access to imports are all characteristic of peasant cooking and give it a particular identity.

European Peasant Cooking, Elisabeth Laud

Practical rather than economic factors may also have contributed to what and how food was cooked – the number and size of pots and the heat source were likely to be very limited.

In Italy, Peasant Cooking of course, was not just soup and one could wax lyrical at length on about Italian regional pasta, polenta, rice dishes, and even produce made with chestnut flour or potatoes as food to feed the poor.

I grew up in a household that supped on many a Zuppe and Ministre. Maybe my Brazilian friend did not. Soup is a very significant part of Italian cuisine.There was no stigma attached.

You may have wondered why Italians use the word Zuppa…as in Zuppa di Pesce.. and Minestra… as in Minestra di verdure (vegetable soup).

A zuppa is a soup or broth that is served over slices of bread to soak up (inzuppare) the liquid. Sometimes toast or croutons are floated on the surface.

The Oxford Companion of Italian food, Gillian Riley.

Gillian Riley doesn’t really give an explanation for Minestra, but other sources say that a Zuppa never has rice or pasta. This implies that a Minestra does. Pureed vegetable soups are also classed as a Zuppa.

The Minestra, therefore, could imply “a thicker soup” with rice or pasta … or polenta or some other cereal as a thickener.

 And something that may confuse you even further: A Minestrone is a big soup, a hearty one, and implied by the ending one, and if you see the word Minestrina, the ina implies little soup, a light one. Usually a Minestrina is fed to babies or young children, or sick people. It is never heavy.

I consulted a number of resources and this book: Grande Enciclopedia Illustrata della Gostronamia. It is written in Italian and therefore it is probably not surprising that it has more clarification about Zuppa and Minestra.

About Zuppa

According to many scholars, the term Zuppa derives from the Celtic and means “slice of bread

It goes on to say that since the Middle Ages they have been seen as a food of the people, because they do not contain meat. Indeed, the nobles often replaced the dishes with large slices of bread on which they placed the accompaniment. The leftovers of the loaves were given to the servants who put them to cook in pots with vegetables and cereals.

About Minestra

Derived from the Latin ministrare, meaning “to administer”, the word perhaps reflects the fact that Minestra was served out from a central bowl or pot by the figure of authority in the household.

I like this quote from this book; it is what I think:

Ma benché sia così radicata nella tradizione italiana oggi non è affatto semplice definire che cosa sia esattamente una minestra.

‘But although it (minestra and zuppa) are so rooted in the Italian tradition, today it is not at all easy to define what exactly a soup is’.

And there is so much more to discuss like broth and wet pasta dishes that are neither soup or Pasta Asciutta – dry pasta dishes. There is  Pappa as in Pappa al Pomodoro that is a pureed tomato soup thickened with bread! Pappa means Pap.

I love the Italian language!

ZUPPA DI PESCE e VERDURA (Fish and Vegetable Soup)

Because of my Italian background, if I say ‘fish soup’ I usually think of recipes like those from countries around the Mediterranean like Zuppa di Pesce (Italy), Zarzuela (Spain), Bouillabaisse (France), Kakavia (Greece) or maybe Aljotta (Malta). Some soups are served with bread, others with croutons, some add extra flavour by adding a soffritto, rouille or aioli – which all have garlic as the essential ingredient. There are many local variations to the recipes in each of these countries and the names may differ, but all these soups are really like chunky fish stews.

This fish soup recipe is very different to those. It is made with a variety of vegetables and it could be made in any region of Italy. I like to eat it as a thick soup, packed with vegetables and little fish, but some may prefer it with more broth, less vegetables and more fish.

There is no reason why you could not vary the range of vegetables, for example in spring add some seasonal vegetables – use some asparagus, peas and fresh green beans.

I have used only one fish, a wild caught Victorian rock flathead. This is one of the least expensive, sustainable and great tasting. By using a whole fish you eliminate adding fish stock. Select local sustainable fish – Snapper, Silver Perch, Silver Trevally. Ask your fishmonger.

To make fish stock and cook the fish, cover the whole fish with cold water (5-6 cups to make soup for 6 people), add a little salt, a stalk of celery, a carrot, a small onion and a bay leaf – I leave all of these whole. Bring to the boil and poach until the fish is cooked. Drain the broth, remove the flesh from the fish (keep it in large pieces); keep the broth and the fish and discard the vegetables and the bones.

Alternatively, use a good quality fish stock and fresh, fish fillets (select a non-oily, fleshy fish).

INGREDIENTS

1 whole fish and vegetables: make fish stock as above

 ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic

2 spring onions

2 zucchini

1 carrot

1 celery heart

1 potato

4 outside leaves of lettuce (iceberg, butter or romaine)

1 tomato or 1 tablespoon of tomato paste

½ cup of chopped parsley

salt and 1 chopped, fresh chilli or freshly ground black pepper to taste

PROCESSES

Slice or cube all vegetables into small pieces.

Heat the oil in a saucepan (large enough to hold all of the ingredients) and sauté the vegetables except for the tomato (or paste). Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.

Add fish stock, seasoning and tomato. Cover and cook until the vegetables are soft and to your liking.

Add the cooked pieces of fish, heat through and serve.

If using uncooked fish fillets, cut them into manageable pieces, add these to the hot soup, cover and cook the fish to your liking.

SEASONAL WINTER VEGETABLES in Melbourne, Australia

I really like winter vegetables, the variety is immense, the quality outstanding.

Winter vegetables include: artichokes, Asian greens, avocado, beans, beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cardoons, carrot, catalogna, cauliflower, cavolo nero, celeriac, celery, chicory, cime di rapa, cucumber, daikon, endive, fennel, kale, Kohl Rabi, lamb’s lettuce, leek, lettuces, mushrooms, okra, onion, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, radicchio, radish, rocket, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, spring onions, swede, sweet potato, turnip, watercress and witlof.

When I look at the above list of vegetables I know that I have not included recipes on my blog for the following vegetables: daikon, okra, parsnip, shallots, swede and probably turnip. This is not to say that I don’t use these vegetables, but   I tend to write more about Mediterranean vegetables.

My blog is called All Things Sicilian and More and I have written many recipes for winter vegetables. Although the “and More” in the title of my blog is supposed to imply that I cook more than Sicilian food, I tend to write about Italian cooking because this is my background, the cooking of my childhood and the basis of my cooking.

I use Asian greens in my cooking as well, and I particularly enjoy mustard greens, that I have cooked as I cook cime di rapa with pasta. I cook Chinese green leafy vegetables as I cook European leafy greens: stir fried in extra virgin oil and garlic. Sometimes I add anchovies and sometimes chillies.

During this season, I will revisit some recipes that include winter vegetables and the vegetables I have chosen to begin with are two chicories: Cicoria and Catalogna.

Cicoria – Chicory

Catalogna is a variant of cicoria. In Italy is also called Puntarelle or cicoria di catalogna or cicoria asparago: asparago means asparagus and this name is very appropriate as the plant looks like a head of shoots.

Catalogna (Puntarelle) has leaves that look like large leaves of chicory and dandelions, but more pointy and narrower; its leaves and shoots have the same bitter taste. And I love bitter greens.

Like chicory, the young and tender shoots of Catalogna can be eaten raw in salads. It is common to soak the puntarelle shoots in ice water for a while so that they curl. and then to dress them with a vinaigrette with anchovies and garlic. They are delicious.

Dressing with anchovies: 500g- 1 kilo puntarelle, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 1tbs of vinegar, 3-4 anchovies, 1 clove of garlic. Pound the anchovies and garlic, add the oil and vinegar.

I have been writing about cicoria and puntarelle for a very long time.

This post was published on Nov 9, 2009 and it is worth looking at:

CICORIA and Puntarelle (Chicory)

There are other posts with recipes and information about chicory:

CICORETTA CON SALSICCIA (Chicory with fresh pork sausage)

WANT NOT WASTE NOT- Chicken livers and chicory, twice

 BITTER GREENS and AMARI (Aperitivi and Digestivi)

 

 

 

RISOTTO made with Radicchio

These are the ingredients for a very simple risotto, but you have to like the bitter taste of radicchio that is accentuated by cooking and ensure that you have good quality Italian sausages on hand if you wish to add them.  Some northern Italians use speck or pancetta cut into solid little pieces, but the addition of meat is optional.

Above, in the photo are 4 sausages – 2  chilli flavoured and 2 pork and fennel.  Pork sausages are very versatile, especially when making  pasta dishes or risotto. You can use less, or more sausages, or omit them altogether.

You may also notice in this recipe that I do not stir the risotto continuously, nor add hot stock by the ladle full as I stir ii, this being the most traditional way of making risotto.  I needed to make this risotto quickly; it tastes good and I often make it when I am away camping as radicchio keeps well. The taste and creaminess that is said to come with the common, traditional method of  making risotto can be compensated for and enhanced by adding more butter.

My stock is generally always home made. On this occasion I made a small quantity and used chicken bones with some meat on them, fresh bayleaves, one small onion and a little celery.  When making brodo/stock carrots are also part of the base. When the stock is cooked, I drain it of all solids and degrease it.

INGREDIENTS for 2 people:

4 Italian pork sausages, sliced radicchio (650g), 1 cup of Carnaroli Rice (or Arborio), 600ml chicken stock, 1 cup of red wine, 1  chopped onion, fresh bay leaves, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and butter.  Grated Parmesan to add after the risotto is served.

Although I had picked some fresh parsley, I decided not to use it. My intention was to add it in the final stages of the cooking to add some green colour, but I changed my mind because I liked  the  pink colouring the radicchio gave to the risotto. A little bit of grated beetroot enhances the colour.

Red radicchio, can also be the long shaped variety. Use either type of radicchio.

As you can see by the photos making this is easy and quick.

Place chopped onion with a little extra virgin olive oil  in a saucepan. Soften the onion before adding sausages( I just sliced them, but you can squeeze them out of their casings and separate the sausages into bits).

Once the sausages have coloured, toss in the radicchio. add more oil if it needs it, but take into consideration that sometimes sausages release some fat.

You will need space in the saucepan so that the rice can toast slightly. Make a well in the centre and add the rice and stir it around to coat  before adding the red wine and evaporating it.

Estimate the risotto to cook in 15-20 mins.

Add half of the stock (hot),  the seasoning  and fresh bayleaves.

Cover with a lid and let it cook for 7 mins or so. Add the rest of the stock, stir it through, cover it once again and cook it till it is done to your liking , but check it and stir it now and again to ensure that it does not dry out. Add more stock if necessary (or water if you have run out) and if there is too much liquid and it needs to be evaporated, remove the lid and stir the rice till it is cooked.  My risotto did not need more stock or evaporating , as it happened it was the amount I had made. As Italians say: Risotto  should be all’onda….wavy… so that your spoon can easily shape the rice into soft, slightly sloshy waves.

Add butter, as much as you like.  I like the taste of butter and it makes the risotto taste creamy.

I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to grated cheese. This is a northern Italian dish so I serve it with grated Parmesan, but for southern Italian food I use Pecorino and sometimes salted ricotta for Sicilian dishes. Certain bits of me are still very traditional.

RISOTTO AL RADICCHIO ROSSO

There are also other recipes on the blog that suggest using pork sausages in pasta dishes:

PASTA with ‘NDUJA, CIME DI RAPA and PORK SAUSAGES

PASTA con cavolofiore, salsicce di maiale e ceci (pasta with cauliflower, pork sausages and chickpeas)

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

GLAM COOKING ON THE ROAD – Camping

In the last few months I have spent very little time at home and with no time to write;  I have travelled from one state to another (South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria) in a camper van with little time in between.

But while I have been away I continue to cook.

Cooking whilst camping is all about simplicity and the following dishes (even the duck) may look glam but they were simple to prepare and cook.

FUNGHI AL FUNGHETTO (Braised mushrooms)

MELANZANE; eggplants AL FUNGHETTO or TRIFOLATE

PEPERONATA ; PIPIRONATA (Sicilian) Braised peppers

PEPPERS WITH BREADCRUMBS- PIPI CA MUDDICA – PEPERONI CON LA MOLLICA

CAMPING, Pumpkin risotto

South Australia in Goolwa

SPAGHETTI ALLE VONGOLE (Spaghetti with cockles)

VONGOLE con FINOCCHIO (fennel) e Vermouth

The beauty  of Tasmania

SFORMATO DI RICOTTA E SPINACI and an Italian lesson about sformati

I am unsure what to call this dish in English.

If I were to call this following dish a Ricotta and Spinach Bake, most people would assume that it would be predomintly pasta (or rice?).

If I called it a pie, the assumption would be that it would have a pastry base; a terrine is likely to be cooked in a bain-marie and a frittata is fried and not baked (fritta means fried).

 The Italian label – a sformato – is so appropriate and descriptive.

And yet if one looks at the translation into English of the word sformato it is translated as a flan, a pie, even a quiche. These translations cover a lot of territory in the world of cuisine and they just don’t do it for me!

For me a sformato is something that has eggs to bind some chopped or pureed vegetables (or/and protein, ie meat, small goods, fish) and flavourings. And it is baked. It could contain some pasta, rice or breadcrumbs for thickening. Unlike a souffle, a sformato  may contain less eggs, hence a sformato is not as light and fluffy.

A ‘forma’ is a shape or a mold, therefore a sformato is baked in a vessel that gives it shape. The word and noun sformato comes from the verb ‘sformare’, to unmold, therefore I will assume correctly that a sformato is to be tipped out onto a plate.

Maybe I also need to acknowledge that because I have eaten various sformati (plural) I know what they are. Sformati are made all over Italy so it is an Italian regional dish.

A sformato is one of the perfect ways to use left over vegetables. Maybe the Anglo version was/is  to use left overs in a mornay… remember them?

Ricotta and spinach are good together and a very popular combination in many Italian dishes. Parmigiano or pecorino add a stronger taste and enhance the flavours of these ingredients.

Like most Italian recipes the quantities are an estimation. if you add more spinach add eggs, if you would like to taste the butter, add more.

Ingredients in my sformato:

4 eggs, 700 gms ricotta, 50g butter

400 gms cleaned and chopped spinach

1 spring onion finely chopped, 1 clove of chopped garlic (optional),1 clove minced garlic

½ – 1 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino (stronger taste), some cultures may use feta

salt pepper and a pinch of nutmeg to taste, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds if you wish to add a different layer to the dish (in other cultures dill is popular and you may wish to use this)

a little extra virgin olive oil to saute the vegetables and more butter to grease the mold.

I also had some parmigiano that had gone hard in my fridge and I wanted to use that up so I chopped it into little pieces and added it to the mixture.

Oven to 180 /200C

Pour a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil into a pan and add the onion and garlic and lightly sauté the ingredients.

Add spinach and fennel seeds (if using) and wilt it for 5-7 minutes.

Drain the spinach. Let it cool.

Prepare a mold 20-26 cm/8-10 baking pan by rubbing it liberally with butter on the base and up the sides. Better still, use buttered baking paper to line the pan. I  used an old pyrex dish and had run out of baking paper, and as you will see in my photo below the bottom of my sformato stuck. Maybe, if you are not using baking paper, shake a little flour or breadcrumbs over the buttered baking pan.

Beat the eggs with the ricotta and butter. I used a kitchen hand/ blender.

Mix in the spinach mixture, grated cheese and bits of cheese if using. Decide how pureed you would like the spinach and blend accordingly.

Place the mixture into the prepared baking pan; smooth it over.

Bake for approximately 45-60 minutes or until cooked in the centre. When it is cooked the sformato will spring back when touched.  Mine cooked for 55mins but I think it could have been left for about 10 minutes to set even further.

It cut quite nicely and we had it hot,  but it was also good to eat cold the next day. Like frittata, a sformato is portable and perfect for a picnic.

I had some tomato salsa (what some call Napoli Sauce – peeled, chopped tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt, garlic clove… all cooked together and reduced till thickened).

Other recipes related to this post:

OMLET DI SPINACI (Pancakes ricotta and spinach)

TORTA DI VERDURA (A vegetable flan or pie)

ALL ABOUT MAKING FRITTATA and Podcast with Maria Liberati

The Ugly Ducklings in Italian Cuisine (Scarrafoni in cucina)

Late last year, I was contacted by Massimiliano Gugole from SBS Radio and asked if I would like to contribute to an SBS program on Season 2 of The Ugly Ducklings of Italian Cuisine.              

The idea of the program is to showcase nice tasting but nasty looking Italian dishes. Massimiliano wanted to interview me about a particular dish from South Eastern Sicily that starts out looking gruesome but ends up tasting glorious. I think he must have found me through a recipe I posted on my  blog about this particular dish, which one of my aunts used to make when we visited Ragusa for our Sicilian summer holidays.

My recipe and the Ugly Duckling interviews in English and Italian are entitled Zuzzu, described on the SBS website as an ancient, pork terrine that uses everything of the pig, but the oink!

I mentioned to one of my friends in Canberra that I had been interviewed for this program and with his wicked sense of humour said: “Surely the ugly duckling reference has got nothing to do with you!”

Here’s what SBS had to say about Season 1 followed by Season 2:

About Season 1

SBS has today launched its first ever bilingual podcast series – The Ugly Ducklings of Italian Cuisine (Scarrafoni in cucina) in English and Italian – celebrating the most delicious, non-Instagrammable Italian dishes that might never have come across your plate.

Over the course of six episodes, the series will follow some of Australia and Italy’s most well-known chefs and food critics, including acclaimed restaurateur and food personality Guy Grossi, celebrity chef Poh Ling Yeow, and food blogger and author Emiko Davies, as they explore and celebrate Italy’s least appetizing specialties.

Podcast host Massimiliano Gugole, from SBS Italian, said: “Italy is a country of beauty, with its food celebrated all over the world, but this podcast will introduce listeners to some of our lesser-known culinary treasures, with a healthy dose of irony thrown in for good measure.

About Season 2

SBS’s first bilingual podcast is back for seconds! Season Two of The Ugly Ducklings of Italian Cuisine (Scarrafoni in Cucina) returns in Italian and English to introduce six new dishes for the adventurous eater such as sea urchin gonads, stew with chocolate and wild boar, and risotto with a stinging weed.

A line-up of new guests will share their expertise in the world of Italian food including award-winning Melbourne chef Alberto Fava, Sicilian food truck owner Pino D’Addelfio, TV chef, author and former Food Director of Australian Women’s Weekly, Lyndey Milan, and the inimitable queen of TV cooking, Nigella Lawson.

SBS Italian Producer Massimiliano Gugole said the podcast started from a love of weird and wacky food.

“During the first season I talked about a typical dish from Verona – pearà. Not even people from neighbouring cities knew about it. When they saw a picture, they thought it looked like vomit but I, like all Veronese, love it!” said Gugole.

Looking past the superficial, Season Two of The Ugly Ducklings of Italian Cuisine will delve deeper into how these unique, local dishes became a proudly acquired taste.

“These dishes are not the celebrities – the pizzas and pastas – but they have strong links to families, towns and history. My intention is to tell their stories,” Gugole said.

“On Instagram, all food is perfect: perfect framing, perfect garnishes, but my research shows that’s not what makes food delicious. Nigella Lawson even once said, ‘brown food tastes the best’.”

Episode three in English features TV cooking royalty Nigella Lawson, who talks about stinging nettle risotto and her special relationship with 98-year-old Italian-British food writer Anna Del Conte. Lawson cites Del Conte as her only culinary influence, apart from her mother. In the Italian version of this episode, we hear from the doyenne herself, Anna Del Conte.

Conte and Lawson join guests including blogger and Instagram sensation Emiko Davies, environmental scientist and sea urchin expert Dr Paul Carnell, Italian food writer Chiara Cajelli, and research scientist Dr Maurizio Rossetto from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, as well as restaurateurs from Italy and Australia, university professors, medieval food fanatics and more.

The podcasts in both season 1 and Season 2 are worth listening to and are very entertaining.

BS Italian Executive Producer, Magica Fossati, says differences between the Italian and English episodes on the same topic are an interesting by-product of having the same conversation with bilingual guests, but both versions are worth listening to as they complement each other.

“I heard some Italian language teachers recommended our first season to their students because it’s easier to understand and study Italian with English context,” she said.

Both English and Italian speakers can look forward to hearing a fresh perspective on the world of lesser-known Italian dishes in season two, available on the SBS Radio app and SBS Italian website. Episode one launches on February 1, recipes for the dishes featured in the series can also be found on SBS Food.

My recipe of Zuzzu and is in Italian and English.

I have listened to both podcasts about Zuzzu.
The Italian version is different to the English. One happened before anyone ate it, the other after people tasted it. The Italian version is probably more amusing and includes commentary from Lisa Ferraro, who used to live in Melbourne and one of the two who instigated Bar Idda, a Sicilian restaurant in Brunswick East, Melbourne. Lisa now lives in Rome and organises travel tours in Sicily.

Compliments to Massimiliano Gugole who did an excellent job interweaving other speakers in the interviews.

Listen or follow The Ugly Ducklings of Italian Cuisine in the SBS Radio app or your favourite podcast app, to hear all episodes in the series.

Find a collection of recipes featured in the first series on the

SBS Food website, including this recipe for my Sicilian pork terrine (Zuzzu)

Here are some photos about the preparation of Zuzzu:

The head

The head in the pan

The boiled meat drained

The different parts of meat, separated (2 photos above)

Dealing with the jelly (2 photos above)

Dealing with the terrine (2 photos above)

A tasty sauce to pour on top of the Zuzzu or to serve with it, can be made with a mixture of chopped parsley, extra virgin olive oil, some lemon juice, salt and either pepper or chili flakes. At times, I also like to add a few chopped leaves of fresh garlic or mint in mine, but this is optional. The dressing can be as thick or as thin as you wish to make it.

Links:

https://www.sbs.com.au/language/italian/en/podcast/the-ugly-ducklings-of-italian-cuisine

https://www.sbs.com.au/language/italian/en/podcast-episode/zuzzu-an-ancient-sicilian-pork-terrine-that-uses-everything-but-the-oink/okrixs5gn

The recipe has been called Pork Terrine…. not quite right, but maybe no one would look at a recipe mad with pig’s head. Brawn may have been a better title.

https://www.sbs.com.au/food/social-tags/ugly-ducklings

My original posts about this dish:

GELATINA DI MAIALE. Pork Brawn

GELATINA DI MAIALE and HAPPY BIRTHDAY BAR IDDA (Buon Compleanno Bar Idda).

RICCI, the ‘curly’ ones (SEA URCHINS)

Ricci, they all called and in Italian and this means the ‘curly’ ones. Spiny, perhaps, rather than curly.

At first sight, before they are sliced in half to be displayed or eaten, sea urchins or ricci (in Italian) look most like small explosive mines, covered as they are in dark glossy spikes.

Sea Urchins- Spaghetti chi Ricci – Sicilian

Whatever they are called in either English or Italian, the name of these forbidding looking delicacies is a puzzle.

A riccio di mare is an urchin (Ricci di mare is the plural).

riccio in Italian is also a porcupine. Both of these creatures have spikes and neither are curly so I have yet to fathom why the name ‘riccio’ is applicable to both of these creatures.

 As to why they are called “urchins” in English – who knows?

Richard Cornish in his regular Brain Food column for the Good Food section in the The Age. (February 14 / 2023) has written about Sea Urchins.

His articles always stir up memories and give me an opportunity to use the produce in the recipes he mentions, or refer to recipes I have already written. This time I shall provide links to posts about sea urchins I have written about in the past. His article also alerts me to the fact that sea urchins are available to purchase now and I must buy some again soon.

When ricci are mentioned I always conjure up an image of me as a child walking with my father,  early in the morning on a beach  somewhere in Sicily. My mother and father and I went to Sicily every summer. One of my dad’s brothers who lived in Sicily had driven the three of us there to collect ricci.  On this deserted beach, my father lifted rocks. He wore gloves.  My task was to lift small rocks and alert my dad if I found  a sea urchin.  My uncle had his own bag and he was collecting ricci on another part of the beach. We took them home, sliced them open, and like Joseph Vargetto (as mentioned in Richard‘s article), removed the black bits and we ate them raw like oysters with lemon.  On another occasion more members of the family came to the beach and we ate them at the beach with lemon.  I do not remember ever having ricci in Trieste, where we lived; ricci are popular in some other parts of southern Italy, but not in the north.

The other memories are eating them as an adult in Sicilian restaurants, always with spaghettini with some slight variations in the ingredients.

When I have bought ricci and used them I have found them to be incredible variable in the size and number of tongues of roe.  There are supposed to be five delicate tongues of gonads – the gonads are the roe, these are the edible parts (gonads function as both the reproductive organs and as nutrient storage).

The roe tongues can vary in colour from off-white to a deep orange, but the colour is not necessarily an indication to the taste.

How do I describe the taste? I can’t, it is not a pungent taste like say, anchovies, but it is definitely a marine taste, creamy but tasty.  Pasta is a great recipient for a quickly prepared sauce to dress the pasta. The roe is added raw, the heat of the pasta does the cooking. The pasta is traditionally spaghettini, (the thinner the better, more opportunities for the sauce to coat the greater surface), but hey! Not conventional, but I have also used egg pasta with great success, and I shall definitely experiment with using roe as a topping for steak tartare.

This is Richard’s article:

Everything you need to know about Sea urchins

The spiny armour of these simple sea creatures hides a rich and luscious interior. They’re a delicacy in Europe and Asia. In Australia, chefs are making the most of native species, using umami-rich urchins in pasta sauce and to top steak tartare.

What is it?

Ancient denizens of the sea, sea urchins are endemic to most of the globe’s waters. They live on the sea floor and dine mostly on algae. Inside these prickly, globe-shaped creatures is a simple alimentary canal and five large lobes of roe. The edible roe has a slippery yet creamy, buttery texture and a fresh, salty seafood flavour with a clean finish . Australia has many urchin species but one of particular interest is the long spine sea urchin, which has moved with warmer currents from its home off the NSW coast to Victoria and Tasmania. There, it devastates the kelp (brown algae) forests. These pests are targeted as a food species, alongside indigenous species, and hand-harvested by divers.

Why do we love it?

‘‘ Sea urchin is rich and buttery, a decadent and naughty food,’’ says Pip Pratt, executive chef at The Rover in Surry Hills, Sydney. ‘‘ Most rich food fills you up, but urchin is light. I love it because you
can spread it, eat the roe whole as is or use it in a sauce as a fresh, sea-like flavour enhancer.’’ At The Rover, lobes of roe are draped over a mound of finely chopped steak tartare, the creaminess working with the minerality of the raw beef. Melbourne chef Joseph Vargetto used to dive
for urchins off the beach at Brighton, treating them like oysters and eating the flesh raw with lemon, washed down with a crisp white wine. At his Kew restaurant, Mister Bianco, he serves fine hand-cut fresh spaghettini with a creamy sauce of cultured butter, pureed sea urchin roe and vermouth, garnished with fresh urchin roe.

How do you use it?

If using live urchins, wear a sturdy glove. Find the mouth opening at the base and use sturdy kitchen scissors to make two equal and opposite cuts halfway down the urchin. It will now split apart easily. Remove the five lobes of roe. Wash in salted water and remove darker membrane. The roe is now ready to use. Lay fresh lobes over nigiri rice to make the classic Japanese uni sushi. Serve roe as a side to Spanish cold almond soup. Add to seafood risotto with cold butter for extra creaminess and umami. Whisk raw urchin through eggs and a little cream to make silky smooth, just-set scrambled eggs topped with salmon caviar.

Where do you get it?

Buy live sea urchin from fish markets and fishmongers . Look for fresh processed roe from local processors. Keep live urchins in the fridge for two days if you are going to eat them raw, or five days if you are going to cook them.

The spiny armour of these simple sea creatures hides a rich and luscious interior. They’re a delicacy in Europe and Asia. In Australia, chefs are making the most of native species, using umami-rich urchins in pasta sauce and to top steak tartare.

What is it?

Ancient denizens of the sea, sea urchins are endemic to most of the globe’s waters. They live on the sea floor and dine mostly on algae. Inside these prickly, globe-shaped creatures is a simple alimentary canal and five large lobes of roe. The edible roe has a slippery yet creamy, buttery texture and a fresh, salty seafood flavour with a clean finish . Australia has many urchin species but one of particular interest is the long spine sea urchin, which has moved with warmer currents from its home off the NSW coast to Victoria and Tasmania. There, it devastates the kelp (brown algae) forests. These pests are targeted as a food species, alongside indigenous species, and hand-harvested by divers.

Why do we love it?

‘‘ Sea urchin is rich and buttery, a decadent and naughty food,’’ says Pip Pratt, executive chef at The Rover in Surry Hills, Sydney. ‘‘ Most rich food fills you up, but urchin is light. I love it because you

can spread it, eat the roe whole as is or use it in a sauce as a fresh, sea-like flavour enhancer.’’ At The Rover, lobes of roe are draped over a mound of finely chopped steak tartare, the creaminess working with the minerality of the raw beef. Melbourne chef Joseph Vargetto used to dive

for urchins off the beach at Brighton, treating them like oysters and eating the flesh raw with lemon, washed down with a crisp white wine. At his Kew restaurant, Mister Bianco, he serves fine hand-cut fresh spaghettini with a creamy sauce of cultured butter, pureed sea urchin roe and vermouth, garnished with fresh urchin roe.

How do you use it?

If using live urchins, wear a sturdy glove. Find the mouth opening at the base and use sturdy kitchen scissors to make two equal and opposite cuts halfway down the urchin. It will now split apart easily. Remove the five lobes of roe. Wash in salted water and remove darker membrane. The roe is now ready to use. Lay fresh lobes over nigiri rice to make the classic Japanese uni sushi. Serve roe as a side to Spanish cold almond soup. Add to seafood risotto with cold butter for extra creaminess and umami. Whisk raw urchin through eggs and a little cream to make silky smooth, just-set scrambled eggs topped with salmon caviar.

Where do you get it?

Buy live sea urchin from fish markets and fishmongers . Look for fresh processed roe from local processors. Keep live urchins in the fridge for two days if you are going to eat them raw, or five days if you are going to cook them.

Recipes and information on my blog about Sea Urchins:

SEA URCHINS ; how to clean and eat them (RICCI DI MARE)

RICCI DI MARE ; Sea Urchins

SPAGHETTI CHI RICCI – SPAGHETTI CON RICCI DI MARE (Spaghetti with sea urchins)

I found sea urchins in Footscray Melbourne. The roe is from Tasmania:

A SOUP MADE WITH SICILIAN VEGETABLES and where to buy the seeds

This soup tastes magnificent, but unless you have a Sicilian friend whose mother grows tenerumi you don’t have a chance!

I have only been lucky once and I was able to buy tenerumi from a Sicilian grower who was selling them at a Farmers’ Market. This was a rare and lucky find!

The tenerumi are only part of that soup and they are the green leaves that you can see in the soup and in the photos below. They are the leaves (together with tendrils in the photo) of a long,  snakelike squash (Cucuzza) plant that is grown on trellises. It is a seasonal summer plant.

I have inserted links at the bottom of this post so that you can see what the plants look like and where you can purchase some seeds.  Maybe you can plant them in time for next summer!

The other components for the soup are easily identified: ripe tomatoes, garlic and zucchini. There is also fresh basil in the soup, but somehow I have omitted  them in the photo.

This time, my Sicilian friend did not bring me the Sicilian Cucuzza but she brought me two types of zucchini that  she is growing in her garden and that I have not encountered before – Zucchini Costata Romanesco and Zucchini Tromboncino.

The Zucchini Costata Romanesco are the two at the front of the photo above and in the photo below.

In the main photo, the one behind the Zucchini Costata Romanesco is a Zucchini Tromboncino (means small trumpet in Italian), and you can see why.

And this Zucchino (singular of Zucchini) tasted amazing! It was much longer when my friend brought it but we nibbled away at it raw in salads. It is much sweeter tasting and not at all as watery as the standard Zucchini. It grows on a vine!

Then there was the broth. Interestingly enough adding broth or stock or wine to cooking is not necessarily a common procedure for Sicilian cooking. The broken spaghetti are added to the soup last of all and I need to add, in greater quantities.

So, some links to recipes first. When you read the recipes you will notice that the Tenerumi do not necessarily have to be cooked with the Cucuzza or zucchini, but on this occasion I combined the two.

Tenerumi and Sicilian Zucca

You will need to have, sufficient broth/water in the pan if you intend to cook the pasta in the soup (this is the usual method). I cooked the pasta separately and then added to each dish last of all. Some like more pasta, some do not…. unheard of in Sicily!

A drizzle on top of good extra virgin olive oil, is always a good thing, on any dish!

Each of the recipes below are different versions of the same soup:

ZUCCA LUNGA SICILIANA  long, green variety of squash

MINESTRA DI TENERUMI (Summer soup made with the tendrils of a Sicilian squash)

TENERUMI (and I did not have to go to SICILY to buy it). The Melbourne Showgrounds Farmers Market

KOHLRABI and TENERUMI, shared between cultures of Sicily and Vietnam

MINESTRA ESTIVA CON ZUCCA LUNGA SICILIANA, Sicilian Summer soup made with the long, green variety of squash

Now for the seeds:

For Zucchini Tromboncino and Zucchini Costata Romanesco look them up in:

https://www.diggers.com.au

Zucchini 'Costata Romanesco'

Zucchini 'Tromboncino'

And for the Cucuzza:

https://veggiegardenseeds.com.au

https://veggiegardenseeds.com.au/products/squash-cucuzza-vegetable-seeds

 

 

 

 

THE MANY VERSIONS OF CAPONATE

Any cooking and eating is greatly influenced by the variations in weather especially the temperature and the available seasonal produce. Abundant in summer are eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers/capsicum and at this time of year I like to use this produce as much as possible. Summer is also a time for grilled food.

I particularly like grilled sardines but strangely enough, for the past three weeks at the Queen Victoria Market where I shop, there have not been any,  however they seem to be abundant on restaurant menus.

Squid has been available and tastes fantastic grilled, the charring adds so much flavour and character.  The tentacles are good too and apart from having a more intense flavour they offer a different texture. Squid will not need much cooking, especially if it has been marinading beforehand for an hour or so: cook the squid quickly – about 5 mins on one side, flip it over and cook the other side for less. The marinade can be as uncomplicated as a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and a few herbs of your choice. To the marinade this time, I also added a splash of white wine.

A simple drizzle of good, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice could be sufficient as a finishing dressing, especially it you are accompanying the squid with some flavourful side dishes.

As for the accompanying dishes, I made two different Sicilian caponate (plural of caponata) and a green salad. Not many guests cook caponate themselves and they especially appreciate the different versions of caponata .

Caponate taste better if cooked days before. They are presented at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge about 30 mins before serving. Caponate also make good starters.

I cooked one of the caponate in the oven and used eggplants, onions, celery and peppers/capsicums. To make it different,  apart from baking the vegetables, I also added fennel seeds, plenty of basil and garlic as well as the customary green olives, capers, sugar, vinegar and pine nuts. I definitely prefer the traditional method of sautéing  of each of the vegetables in hot oil. Although I roasted the vegetables at high temperatures, they released far too many juices that I had to evaporate and fiddle excessively with the flavours. In the end it did taste good, but the flavour took far too long to fix.

Place the basil and toasted pine nuts on the caponata at the time of serving and stir them through the cooked ingredients.

The caponata in the photo below is made with celery. This caponata is much quicker to cook and the addition of sultanas accentuate the sweet taste. The vinegar (present in all caponate) provides the sour taste and this cooked salad tastes very much like a pickle.

This celery caponata has the addition of toasted almonds rather than pine nuts.

The celery caponata is very easy to cook because the celery and onions are the only two vegetable ingredients and they can be sautéed in the same pan at the same time. Once they are slightly softened, add the drained and plump sultanas that have been soaking in water for an hour or so.  Add a little sugar and once the sugar begins to caramelise, add a splash of vinegar and evaporate.

The next caponata I intend to present to friends will be a chocolate version. Pieces of dark chocolate are added in the final stages of cooking the eggplant version of caponata that is characteristic of Palermo and its region. The caponata that includes peppers is typical of Catania and its region.

GRILLED CALAMARI (CALAMARI ‘NTA BRACI (Sicilian) – CALAMARI ALLA BRACE (Italian)

*The recipe for squid also has recipes for two accompanying,  Sicilian green, traditional sauces  –  Salmoriglio and Zoggiu

CAPONATA FROM PALERMO (made with eggplants)

CAPONATA Catanese (from Catania) made easy with photos

CAPONATA DI NATALE (Christmas, winter caponata made with celery, almonds and sultanas)

For more recipes for different versions of Caponata, use the search button.