Kohlrabi, can be green or purple. it is a root vegetable with dark green leaves that shoot out from the top. All parts of the kohlrabi can be eaten, both raw and cooked.
In Ragusa where my father’s family is from, they make a wet pasta dish. In the days when fresh pasta was made at home and when my elderly aunt was still alive they use to make a short pasta shape called causineddi. The younger members of the family sometimes make this pasta on special occasions.
I bought two kohlrabi recently and ate the green leaves braised and mixed with kale . I later regretted this because when I decided to make the wet pasta dish I had to substitute kale for the green component.
Under the circumstances may be forgiven for substituting kale or cavolo nero for the green kohlrabi leaves , however I also used a strong chicken stock instead of the pork rind for flavouring ….I cannot therefore call this a Sicilian traditional recipe.
The drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil as the finishing touch makes this dish very fragrant and tasty.
Let’s make the most of simple, healthy food. Let’s not panic about not having fully stocked pantries.
There are always chickpeas and other pulses in my pantry and freezer. I soak pulses overnight, change the water and then cook them on low heat. Once cooked, I transfer the surplus into glass jars and store them in my freezer. Easy, nutritious and on hand.
Here are two things that I cooked recently using chickpeas.
Pasta with cauliflower, short pasta and chick peas:
The other, chickpeas, saffron, mushrooms and eggplants:
I really enjoy making the most of the ingredients I have on hand. This is one of the reasons why I like camping or preparing a meal in Airbnbs in fabulous parts of the world….You do not have everything…cannot pop into a particular store to buy things so you have to be creative and use what you have.
The pasta dish was very simple. In the photo you see chickpeas, passata, herbs and chillies. The herb I used is nepitella that grows on my balcony and is ultra plentiful at the moment. You may have oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram or just plain parsley on hand.
The vegetable is common, white cauliflower…easily available, keeps well in the fridge for a long time. I like to use spring onions, rather than onions, but the choice is yours. There is garlic and stock. Stock is always in my freezer. Like I cook and store pulses, there are jars of broth or stock on hand.
The method is nothing novel. Most of my cooking begins with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onion (if using both), sautéed. Add main ingredients. In this case cauliflower, sauté again, add stock, herbs, seasoning and passata (not much, just to colour). Cover and cook. Very Italian.
I cooked the short pasta separately, but I could have added more stock and cooked the pasta in the cauliflower concoction. You can tell by the photos that I intended this dish to be a wet pasta dish.
Now for the other. I cannot call it anything because I had no background for this recipe. Once again it was making use of what I had in my fridge. It tasted great and I may not make it again, but if I do it could be different. It all depends what you have on hand.
A spring onion, sautéed. Add mushrooms, I left them whole. Sautéed once again. Add chickpeas, eggplant (I cut it lengthwise) saffron, herbs, seasoning and the chickpea broth. The chickpeas are stored in their cooking liquid, and this is the broth. I used marjoram as the herb this time (the plant on my balcony needed trimming) and decorated the dish with fresh mint.
Is it regional Italian?
Certainly the basic cooking methods and ingredients could be Italian or Mediterranean at least. Like all of us, as a cook we rely on our experiences and knowledge of particular cuisines. Is it something that my mother would have made? Maybe the cauliflower pasta has common roots.
Being creative in my kitchen gives me much pleasure.
Baccalà Mantecato is a Northern Italian specialty and when I make it I poach the baccalà in milk.
So what to do with the left over milk?
I made a risotto.
I had two jars of baccalà flavoured milk, far too much to make a risotto, so I reduced it to concentrate the flavour, and this worked well.
I used this antique gadget given to me a very long time ago by a friend. it is called a milk saver. She used to find all sorts of treasures at the Stirling dump in the Adelaide Hills and this was one of them. It does work!
Just using the milk would not be enough to flavour the risotto. I wanted texture and more flavour and I had some Mantecato left over in the fridge.
Ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, carnaroli rice, spring onions, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, grated lemon peel, Baccalà Mantecato and roasted almonds to spring on top.
Method is nothing out of the ordinary when making risotto.
Check the taste of the milk to see if it is salty and you may not need to add any more seasoning.
Saute the spring onion in the extra virgin olive oil, add the rice and coat it in the oil -at this stage you may like to add a little white wine and evaporate it. Add thyme and bay leaves and gradually add the milk in stages, just as you would add stock when making a risotto. If you do not have sufficient milk you may need to add a little water. Remember that rice is supposed to be presented “all’onda”, as Italian would say. “Onda” means wave….all’onda is wavy, therefore the risotto should be moist, with waves on top and not solid.
Add the parsley, grated lemon and the Mantecato last of all and stir through. The Mantecato will make the rice very creamy.
Sprinkle with roasted almonds when ready to serve.
There are several recipes for baccalà on the web and also for risotto.
As you can see this poached whole Atlantic Salmon looks very impressive and it tasted fabulous.
The method of slowly poaching a whole fish in a fish kettle is easy. The poaching liquid in this case was salted water, whole parsley – leaves and stalks, black peppercorns, lemons and onions cut into thick slices.
The poaching liquid (bouillon) can be a combination of salted water and white wine and contain some aromatics of your choice to flavour the stock. Common are whole black peppercorns, fresh fennel, or fennel seeds, dill stalks or seeds, carrots, celery, fresh bay leaves, thyme, but it is important not to use too many ingredients to flavour the liquid because the strength of cooking the fish in this way is to taste the natural taste of the fish.
The greatest advantage in using a fish kettle is that it contains a perforated insert on which the fish sits, enabling it to be easily lowered into and raised from the poaching liquid. Placing some of the ingredients (if not all) to flavour the fish underneath the perforated insert can be advantageous and keep the bottom side of the fish from being over flavoured. Some of the flavourings can also be placed in the centre of the fish.
I do not have a photo of the fish kettle that was used to poach the Atlantic Salmon (it belongs to my friend), but in this photo below is of my fish kettle. It is much smaller but it can easily hold two fish. The 1k flathead is sitting on the perforated insert.
Unfortunately giving precise information is not possible because it depends on the size and species of the fish and how cooked you like it. We are talking about poaching the fish on low heat. Don’t bring your pot to a boil, or to simmer. It needs to reach the required temperature slowly.
If you have thermometer the fish will need to be poached at a temperature of 80-85 °C.
If you do not have a thermometer observe how small bubbles will gently rise and break on the surface. This is your indication that it has reached the required temperature. .
Place aromatics into the fish kettle, place the fish on the perforated insert, add the liquid to cover the fish (it must be covered). Cover with a lid and wait till the temperature reaches of 80-85C or till the small bubbles rise to the surface. Leave it for about 5 minutes.
This large fish was about 4k and it took about 30 mins for the bubbles to rise to the surface or to reach the poaching temperature.
Switch off the heat and allow the fish to stand in the water until it is at room temperature.
Test the fish by inserting a skewer or fork into the thickest part of the fish – undercooked fish resists flaking and is translucent, cooked fish is opaque and flakes.
Remove it from the poaching liquid and the fish will be ready to eat. It is best eaten at room temperature.
A herb salad or a simple dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs is perfect. Any of the following soft herbs: parsley, dill, tarragon, chervil, fennel.
If you need to refrigerate the fish or have fish left over and want to serve it the next day it could be served with a stronger sauce.
I was at the Alphington Melbourne Farmers’ Market yesterday and found these beauties at the Sennsational berries stall.
It is not often that one finds such mature lemons. And what to do with large lemons?
Make a Sicilian salad like my father used to make (he grew up in Ragusa, Sicily before relocating to Trieste). I did wonder if it was a cedro rather than a lemon, but was told it was a lemon and it tasted like one.
I removed the skin and squeezed out some of the juice….this lemon was certainly juicy and the salad should not be too acidic.
This salad likes fresh garlic and I still had some in the fridge that I had bought the week before from the same market, however this time I bought some garlic shoots, added fresh mint, a little parsley and some of the fresh oregano I have growing on my balcony. This oregano plant came from my father’s garden in Adelaide. He died years ago.
The last time I bought garlic shoots was earlier this year when I was in the Maremma, Tuscany.
In our Airbnb in Castiglione della Pescaia I cooked them with zucchini and zucchini flowers as a dressing for Pici, the local pasta shape in Tuscany.
Back to the lemon salad in Melbourne, Australia:
Some good extra virgin olive oil and salt are a must. The salt brings out the sweetness of the lemon.
So, so good for summer. Think about it accompanying some seafood…BBQ fish? Very good. I took it to my friends place and we had it with a simple roast chicken, a succulent free range chicken.
I have written about lemon salad before. That post also explains what is a cedro and has a photo of a cedro from a Sicilian market.
This pork was simply and quickly cooked but delicious. The meat was tender and flavourful.
This Berkshire pork comes from Brooklands Free Range Farms in Blamfield, in the central highlands of Victoria.
If you live in Victoria, the pork is sold in some of Farmers Markets – see list on the photo below, it is on the back of their business card.
I used sage, thyme and juniper berries, northern Italian flavours. There are a couple of Sicilian recipes at the end of this post.
When I use juniper berries I like to deglaze the pan either with dry vermouth or gin rather than white wine. Juniper berries are a spice used in a wide variety of culinary dishes and best known for the primary flavouring in gin – you will not need much and it will enhance the taste of the sauce.
A little extra virgin olive oil at the bottom of a frypan, put in the meat, a little salt, herbs and some juniper berries. I used about 8. And look how lean and pink the pork is!
Turn them over when they are coloured on one side, cover and cook on low heat for about 6 minutes.
Turn again, deglaze. Turn off heat, rest for a few minutes before serving.
Thank you Brooklands Free Range Farms for producing top quality produce and what i particularly like is that these pigs not only frolic on rich volcanic soils but that other local producers contribute to feeding these pigs- local grain, vegetables and whey. The pigs also eat seasonal acorns…very European.
Two of my friends have been spending time in Piemonte (Piedmont) and as a welcome home dinner I made three Piedmontese favourites: Bagna Cauda with an array of fresh vegetables cut into batons for dipping, Vitello Tonnato, Hazelnut cake with a homemade and delicately flavoured, vanilla ice cream.
I too visited Piedmont a few years ago and have very fond memories of of driving around Piemonte and Valle D’Osta. I stayed in Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Asti, Bra and Alba.
I make it different ways but this time I poached the garlic cloves in cream, using low heat. This process softens the taste of the garlic. Notice the tall sided pan…this prevents the cream from boiling over. You can use milk instead.
I added the extra virgin olive oil, heated it and added the anchovies. They soon dissolve with the heat. (Photo below)
Then the butter and mixed the ingredients with a hand whisk. The sauce is kept hot.
I bought a cut of yearling girello. This is a lean, round strip of meat….giro=one of the words for “round” in Italian.
I always seal (lightly brown) my girello in some extra virgin olive oil, add some onion, carrot, celery and herbs.These are referred to as “odori” in Italian. Always dry white wine and chicken stock and I poach the meat for a short time. This is the same method and ingredients I use when I make Vitello Arrosto…a pot roast.
I want the meat to stay a little bit pink. Some recipes suggest not sealing the meat but poaching it in water or stock. I much prefer my method, the flavour is stronger and I do not do it this way just because my mother did.
I make an egg mayonnaise, add drained tuna packed in olive oil, hard boiled eggs, some lemon juice, capers, anchovies and a few of the poached vegetables that were used in the poaching of the meat. I blend all this and use it to make a stack ….about three layers of sliced meat interspersed with the tuna sauce.
Roasted hazelnuts, skins rubbed off. Ground to resemble fine breadcrumbs, but not a powder.
A splash of Frangelico to accentuate the hazelnut taste.
Eggs and sugar, beaten (3 eggs, 180g of sugar)
Flour….SR or add baking powder to plain flour (200g)
Strong black coffee (1 small espresso cup). In the photo below, are some of my coffee making macchinette, the smallest is for making one small cup.
Butter, melted (150g).
A dash of milk if the mixture seems too dry. Mix all of the ingredients and place the batter in a buttered, spring-form tin.
Everyone should have a Polish friend. In Adelaide recently, I stayed with my Polish friend and during the first two days of being back in Melbourne I have already made two Polish inspired dishes.
Not only that, I came home with a bunch of sorrel from her garden and I made an omlette (sorrel = bottom right hand side of photo). When i am fortunate enough to have some sorrel I usually braise it with potatoes, or make a green borscht, or add it to it to a braise of meat.
My friend celebrates Christmas eve with some of the traditional Polish foods that her parents used to enjoy. She and her two sisters get together and make Pierogi stuffed with sauerkraut and dried porcini mushrooms.
She knows how much I like sauerkraut and if I am visiting her after Christmas I know that she would have saved some Pierogi for me in her freezer.
This time (October) she prepared the sauerkraut and dried porcini mushrooms as a side dish for duck breasts, a green salad , steamed herbed potatoes and beetroot….potatoes and beetroot are almost a must in all Polish meals. The dried mushrooms make the sauerkraut a darker colour.
Having lived in Trieste, I am very used to eating and preparing sauerkraut and it is one of my favourite ingredients, but I generally I do not add dried mushrooms nor do I cook sauerkraut as long as she does.
Like all who have cooked a particular recipe for a long time, she does not measure quantities.
Vary the amounts of mushrooms, sauerkraut and cooking times as you wish.
1/4- 1/2 cups dried Porcini mushrooms soaked in water to cover
splash of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1k-900g sauerkraut, jars are usually 900g – drained, rinsed and squeezed
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Leave mushrooms too soak at least for a couple of hours or combine water and dried mushrooms in a saucepan over low heat, simmer,and cook until tender – about 10 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving cooking water. Slice the mushrooms into smaller pieces if necessary.
Heat olive oil in a saucepan and over medium heat sauté onion until soft. Add mushrooms and drained sauerkraut and mix well. Add salt and pepper.
Add mushroom water, cover, and simmer until sauerkraut is soft. Add more water as it cooks if necessary. My friend cooks it for over an hour.
The second Polish thing I did in the last two days was to add a beetroot to the chicken broth I cooked. I have done this before and what it does is to colour the broth…not red, but a rich, golden colour as is evident in the photo above.
I make chicken broth the Italian way, adding a whole onion, celery sticks, carrots, whole peppercorns and salt.
My mother also added a little tomato, and perhaps this was done to colour, but I only do this when tomatoes are in season. My Polish friend had recommend adding a beetroot years ago.
I use a whole, free range chicken and eat the meat.