Category Archives: Pasta, Soups and Rice

KOHLRABI, as eaten in Sicily

As usual, I look forward to reading Richard Cornish’s regular column Brain Food in The Age on Tuesdays and today he is writing about Kohlrabi (September 7, 2021).

Just as listening to music has the power to bring up memories, reading about produce brings up memories of recipes for me.

When Richard chose to write about Sardines in his weekly column (August 24, 2021) I wrote about PASTA CON SARDE, an iconic Sicilian dish more common in Palermo then elsewhere, but now cooked in different regions of the island with local variations.

Below are recipes from my blog that use Kohlrabi quite differently to the chefs that Richard mentions in Brain Food including David Moyle, the creative director of Harvest Newrybar near Byron Bay, and Rosalin Virnik from Anchor Restaurant in Melbourne’s Elwood.

Here’s my bit about Kohlrabi and a couple of recipes below.

Just to be perverse, Kohlrabi are called cavoli in Sicily and in Italian it is cavolo rapa.

In Italian cavoli are cauliflowers, cavolo verza is a cabbage.

Just to confuse things even further, Sicilians call cauliflowers broccoli.

As well as the purple coloured Kohlrabi roots there are light green ones; the root is always sold complete with the leaves and the whole plant is eaten.

One way Kohlrabi is eaten in Ragusa (Sicily) where my father’s family is from, is boiled as a vegetable side dish with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, but the preferred way is to cook it with pasta, as a wet pasta dish.

The pasta is homemade and is called Causunedda.

See recipe and photos:

A WET PASTA DISH WITH KOHLRABI

I have also seen Kohlrabi in markets in Vietnam

KOHLRABI and TENERUMI, shared between cultures of Sicily and Vietnam.

Not Sicilian, but a good salad:

KOHLRABI, FENNEL, CELERIAC AND DAIKON MAKE A GOOD SALAD (AND OTHER RECIPES)

PASTA CON LE SARDE recipes:

PASTA CON LE SARDE, Iconic Sicilian made easy

PASTA CON LE SARDE (Pasta with sardines, from Palermo, made with fennel, pine nuts and currants)

PASTA CON LE SARDE, an iconic Sicilian recipe from Palermo. Cooked at Slow Food Festival Melbourne

RISOTTO AL RADICCHIO ROSSO

I have not made a Risotto al Radicchio Rosso for a long time.

So, why now?

First of all, I had some red Radicchio in the fridge. It is more or less a regular staple which I use mainly for salads.  However, I do  enjoy it cooked as well .

Secondly, I had some freshly made chicken broth. I received an email from my brother who lives in Adelaide beginning with:

I read that your lockdown has been extended for another 7 days.
I am so sorry. There is not much that one can say to provide comfort.

So, I wrote back an email beginning with:

You could make me a good chicken broth and send it over… broth always fixes things.

And with that, I took my own advice and made some chicken broth for myself.

Thirdly, a friend left a jar of Radicchio sotto aceto pickles on my doorstep – it literally translates as radicchio under vinegar. This revived my interest in  the versatility of radicchio. 

We ate some of the radicchio pickle with the boiled chicken and it was all very good.  As I often do, I then boiled the bones from the cooked chicken to make some more stock  which I added to the left-over broth and stored it in the freezer.  P.S. Using cooked chicken bones to make stock, is not an Italian thing.

Although I am very familiar with how to make Risotto di Radicchio (or Risotto al radicchio rosso), I wanted to tap into my bookshelves to see what recipes I had. Radicchio grows in Northern Italy and the recipes are Northern Italian.

I found recipes by Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer (remember that they both spent time in Tuscany), Sky Mc Alpine (with a nice addition of gorgonzola), Tessa Kiros, Jamie Oliver, Jennifer Mc Lagan (Jennifer sweetens the risotto with pumpkin), Diana Henry (she adds borlotti; radicchio and borlotti go well together and I have cooked many dishes with these two ingredients), Marcella Hazan (very traditional and simple), Jacob Kennedy (Barolo and bone marrow), Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Charles Nardozzi (he added pink grapefruit).Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, who is closer to  the origins of risotto and radicchio, adds bacon. This is acceptable as her birth place is close to Trieste in Pola, just before the city was assigned to Yugoslavia in September 1947.

I  particularly liked Risotto with red wine in Joanne Weir’s : From Tapas to Meze. She specifies the wine – Amarone from Veneto or Barolo from Piedmont – and adds some radicchio. She also adds nutmeg. Radicchio is bitter, nutmeg adds sweetness, which I think is a good addition, much like Jennifer Mc Lagan’s in Bitter where she suggests adding pumpkin to  the risotto, also a sweetener.

There were other recipes in some of my cookery books written in Italian, all very simple and traditional recipes and using mostly white wine. There were also  a few recipes for Risotto Rosso or Risotto all’ Amarone . None of the red wine recipes included radicchio.

Amarone is a full-bodied wine that tastes rich and fruity. Barolo is more floral and earthy, but both are strong tasting wines with a high alcohol content. I was interested to read  on the web that both wines go well with dark chocolate, a bitter taste.

In the end my preferred recipe was one by Julia Della Croce in Veneto – Authentic recipes from Venice and Italian Northeast.

Did I vary the recipe?

I never weigh ingredients and I always vary recipes to suit my tastes. I did not vary from Julia Della Croce list of ingredients very much and maybe this is why I liked her recipe. The ingredients I have at home is also a factor. For example, I can see how red onions would add to the colour, but I only had white onions.

I added nutmeg; used a white onion instead of a red one; red wine instead of white, and used more than a 1/2 cup; added thyme and bay leaves. I only used 1/2 a large radicchio. I thought that the walnuts were a good addition as once again, they provide a contrast to the bitterness of the radicchio. 

I did vary the process slightly,  but only slightly. This is what I did:

I sautéed  the onion and garlic in the oil and butter, then added the radicchio and removed it once it was softened.

I toasted the rice in butter and oil.

Once the rice was toasted, I added  seasoning , the red wine and some stock. Once the liquid was evaporated I returned the radicchio to the pan with a couple of bay leaves and thyme.

I continued to cook the risotto by adding stock a couple of ladles at the time and stirring it until the rice was ready… loose… ie cooked all’onda (like waves, not dry and gluggy).

When the rice was cooked, I added  freshly ground nutmeg , dished it out, sprinkled a few walnuts and grated some Parmigiano Reggiano on top and ate it.

This is the photo (below) as used in the book. My photo (above) did not do the dish justice! Come to think of it, this photo doesn’t either. It is over decorated … I see walnuts, but it is hard to see the riso.

 

There are other recipes with cooked radicchio on the blog and I can assure you they are good combinations or radicchio and other ingredients.

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

COOKED RADICCHIO

Pan fried radicchio with pickled pears, walnuts, beetroot and gorgonzola

RADICCHIO (Treviso) with polenta and tomato salsa

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

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)

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

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

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

Over the last 10 days there has been little time to write or to take photos of all the food consumed over this period.

Not all the food has been elaborate, but here is one simple dish that I prepared for friends.

Pasta with pork fennel sausages, chickpeas, cauliflower,  fennel seeds, fresh bay leaves, saffron and marinated feta.

Short pasta is preferable and I used penne. Pecorino, being a stronger tasting cheese is better with these ingredients than Parmesan, but although feta is not an Italian cheese I often use it as a topping for pasta .

This pasta dish is simple to make.

Begin with sausages (out of casings) and onion sautéed in a little extra virgin olive oil.

Soak a big pinch of  saffron in a little water and set aside.

To the sautéed sausages add cauliflower, separated into smaller pieces,  fennel seeds and fresh bay leaves and toss around in the hot oil.  Add the saffron (that  has been soaking in a little water).

Add chickpeas and a little chickpea stock, cover and cook on moderate to gentle heat.

Combine it with cooked pasta and top with the feta. The feta will soften and will make  the pasta more creamy.

Marinated feta comes in handy for nibbles as well as using it as a creamy substitute for grated cheese.  Like marinated olives, capers and preserved lemons, this is something that is nearly always in my fridge.

Ingredients: feta, dry oregano, fennel seeds, whole black peppercorns, bay leaves  and extra virgin olive oil. The cheese must be  totally submerged. Store it in the fridge.

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

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

Victorian fresh mussels are always fabulous and they go a long way. There are two people in my household and we usually buy 2kilos. Sometimes we eat them all and at other times I use the left over mussels to make something else. There is usually some mussel broth left over and I store this in a glass jar in my freezer.

My partner likes to do the shopping and off he goes with his list, his bag and his mask and shops at the Queen Victoria Market. This time he cam home with 3kilos.  We are in lockdown here so no inviting someone to join us.

I really like mussels and from a 3kilo batch my partner and I had  three meals. Very frugal, but by the third day we were a little sick of mussels.

For the first meal, I cooked the mussels steamed in their own broth. In Italian this is called  In brodetto.. brodo is broth.

I begin with a soffritto of chopped carrots, celery, onion and garlic, with the help of a little white wine, then add the mussels, put on a lid and let them steam open and I sprinkle a little chopped parsley towards the end. We ate these with good quality, home baked bread, rubbed with oil and garlic and toasted in the oven.

On the second day we made some home made egg spaghetti. I made a salsa, first by dissolving a few anchovies in a little hot extra virgin  olive oil, then I added a can of chopped tomatoes, a whole clove of garlic, a sprig of fresh oregano (because there is no basil growing on my balcony in this cold season) and a little of the mussel broth. I let it cook with no lid, to reduce and thicken. I added the cooked mussels to the sauce just to heat up and dressed the pasta. I keep the garlic whole so that I can remove it, this is my preference but maybe not yours.

Next day, a risotto, and very simple once again.

This time I used a fresh fennel and some of the left over mussels out of their shells that I kept in a jar in the fridge with yet again some of their broth. But this time I also used some mussel broth I had in the freezer from the time before. That mussel broth comes in handy and there always seems to be plenty of it.

There are three types of rice you can use for making risotto. Arborio is the most common and easily available in Australia, but carnaroli  has more starch as does vialone nano; these two varieties make a risotto creamier. However, when I make a seafood risotto I prefer to use aborio because with seafood I like the risotto to be less gluggy. Don’t let this confuse you… all three varieties are suitable and it is just personal preferences. Perhaps I like to taste the flavour of the sea. Perhaps this is also why I do not  generally add butter to a seafood risotto.

You may be remembering that you have read many recipes that indicate that you stick to the stove while you cook risotto. Sicilian rice dishes are interesting.  I have watched  my Sicilian aunties cook rice and have read numerous recipes where some stock is added, the lid is put on and it is left to absorb for about 5 minutes or more,  then more stock is added and once again it is not continually stirred. The stirring happens in the last 5-7 minutes.

Making risotto is so simple, quick and easy.

I used 2 thinly sliced spring onions, 2  chopped cloves of garlic and once again began the cooking process by tossing it around in some extra virgin olive oil in a hot pan.

Then I added a finely sliced fennel and some parsley and tossed this around,  added 1.5 cup of rice (this is sufficient for 2 people but you can add more). Toss it around to coat, add a splash of  white wine. I added saffron, a generous pinch soaked beforehand in a little bit of water.

Keep on adding hot fish or mussel broth as you cook the rice until it is nearly cooked. This is when you add the shelled mussels. Cook the risotto until it is cooked all’onda…till the risotto looks wavy like the sea, and still moist.

I do not wish to eat mussels again for a couple of weeks.