Eating fresh fish is a serious business in Sicily – it is eaten cooked in many ways but also raw (called pesce crudo).
Traditionally, Sicilians did not serve raw fish without marinating it first in lemon juice and then dressed with olive oil and referred to as condito (in Italian) or cunzato (in Sicilian). For example fresh anchovies are gutted, cleaned and have their heads removed. They are then left in lemon juice for at least a few hours. Sometimes, the anchovies are referred to in Sicilian as anchiva cotti d’a lumia, that is, anchovies cooked by the lemon juice, and that is exactly what has happened – the acid in lemon in the marinade has done the cooking. The anchovies are then drained and dressed with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
In Sicily, tuna and swordfish used to be the other most common types of fish eaten raw (especially as a starter) but eating other types of pesce crudo (raw fish) is becoming much more fashionable as Sicilian chefs respond to the inspirations and influences of the wider world and appreciate tastes and trends from other cultures.
Recently, I was commissioned to write an article about Sicily’s pesce crudo by Great British Chefs, a food multimedia company that publishes recipes and other cooking-related material via its website. Great British Chefs, has expanded into Italy . . . Great Italian Chefs and the article published on their website is called PESCE CRUDO.
I have always enjoyed fish markets in Sicily and this is a small segment from the article PESCE CRUDO
Fish markets and marinas
Walking through the fish markets in Sicily is always a joy; the hustle and bustle of locals seeking out the best produce among the colourful stalls and traders is what makes the island such a charming place. There is more than one fish market in Catania, but the principal market in the southwest of the Cathedral Square is one of the largest in Sicily. However, wherever you are on the island will never be too far from fresh fish.
Sicily’s fish markets have vast, colourful, varied displays of exotic specimens such as sea urchins and edible algae to the more conventional octopus, squid, tuna and swordfish. Small, live fish swim circles in buckets of sea water, snails crawl about and all types of shellfish, especially the gamberi rossi (red prawns of Sicily), look dazzling. You know the fish is fresh – their shells and scales glisten in the sun.
Swordfish and tuna, the traditional staples of Sicilian cuisine, are the centrepieces of the market stalls. They are often displayed whole, the swordfish bill like a spear thrusting upwards. At other times, their massive round carcasses lie like a trunk on the fishmonger’sbench, while the tuna is sliced vertically and horizontally before being filleted along the length of its spine, while all its parts are laid out, testifying to its freshness.
It is autumn in Australia and there are plenty of pumpkins around. I like cooking pumpkin this way because it has unusual flavours and it can be made well in advance. I have presented it both as an antipasto and as an accompaniment to main dishes.
I cook this dish quite often and I am surprised that I have not written about it on my blog.
The following text is a condensed version from my first book Sicilian Seafood Cooking. The photograph is also from the book. This all took place in my kitchen – I cooked it , Fiona Riggs styled it and Graeme Gillies photographed it.
This Sicilian specialty is sometimes called zucca in agro dolce (pumpkin in sweet and sour sauce) but I prefer the more colloquial Sicilian name, ficato ri setti canola – literally, ‘liver of the seven spouts (or reeds)’.
It is a colourful and aromatic dish. There is the strong colour of the pumpkin, tinged brown at the edges, and contrasted with bright green mint. The sweetness of the pumpkin is enhanced by the flavours and fragrance of garlic, cinnamon and vinegar. It is better cooked ahead of time – the flavours intensify when left at least overnight, but it can be stored in the fridge for several days.
The dish is said to have originated among the poor, in what is known as one of the quartieri svantaggiati (‘disadvantaged suburbs’) of Palermo.
Sicilians are colourful characters and like stories. It is said that the pumpkin dish was first cooked and named by the herb vendors of the Piazza Garraffello a small square in Palermo. These were the days before refrigeration and balconies and windowsills were often used to cool and store food, especially overnight. As the story goes, the herb sellers could often smell the aroma of veal liver coming from the balconies of the rich. At home, they cooked pumpkin the same way as the well-to-do cooked liver (fegato) and, wanting to create a bella figura, they hoped the fragrance of their cooking would mislead the neighbours into thinking that they too were well-to-do and could afford to eat liver.
The typical way of cooking liver is to slice it thinly, pan-fry it and then caramelise the juices in the pan with sugar and vinegar to make agro dolce (sweet and sour sauce).
As for the seven spouts (sette cannoli), they are the short cane-shapedspouts of an elegant 16th-century fountain in the piazza. Below – cathedral in Palermo.
In Australia I generally use the butternut or Jap pumpkin,The pumpkin is sliced 1cm (.in) thick and traditionally fried in very hot oil (if thicker, they take too long to cook).
Although baking the pumpkin slices is not traditional, I prefer this method .It certainly saves time in the preparation (see variation below). Serve it at room temperature as an antipasto or as a contorno (vegetable side dish).
1kg (2lb 4oz) pumpkin
10 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil (1. cup
if frying 1/3 cup if baking)
3 teaspoons sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
small mint leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
Peel and remove the seeds of the pumpkin and cut into 1cm (in) slices.
Peel and slice 4 cloves of garlic.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan. Add the garlic cloves.
Remove when it has coloured and fry the pumpkin slices, turning them only
once in case they break, until they become soft and begin to colour around
the edges. Add salt to taste. Remove the pumpkin and discard some of the oil,
but keep any juices.
Use the same frying pan for the agro dolce sauce: add the sugar, stir it around
the pan to caramelise it, and then add the vinegar and cinnamon.
Stirring constantly, allow the sauce to thicken slightly as the vinegar evaporates.
Add the remaining garlic cloves and few sprigs of mint to the warm sauce.
Add the pumpkin to the sauce, and sprinkle with pepper. Allow the sauce
to penetrate the pumpkin on very low heat for a few minutes. Alternatively,
pour the sauce over the pumpkin and turn the slices a couple of times. Cool
and store in the fridge once cool. Eat at room temperature.
When ready to serve, arrange the slices in a serving dish, remove the old
mint (it would have discoloured). Scatter slices of fresh garlic and fresh mint
leaves on top and in between the slices.
Cut the pumpkin into thicker slices, about 2–3cm (1in).
Sprinkle with salt and place on an oiled baking tray.
Bake the pumpkin and garlic in a 200C (400F) oven (discard the garlic when the pumpkin
Make the agro dolce sauce (see the above) in the baking tray
instead of a frying pan.
I also add fresh bay leaves – like the look and the taste of it.
Italy is a Catholic country and on Good Friday most Italians eat fish. Pasta con le Sarde is made with bucatini (thick long tubes of pasta) and the main ingredients are sardines (buy fillets for ease), wild fennel (or fennel bulbs) pine nuts, saffron and topped by fried breadcrumbs.
as you can see I have made this dish at other times.
Muslim Arabs took control of North Africa from the Byzantines and Berbers and began their second conquest of Sicily in 827 from Mazara, the closest point to the African coast and by 902 they well and truly conquered Sicily. The Muslims, were known as Moors by the Christians and by the time of the Crusades, Muslims were also referred to as Saracens.
The Muslim Arabs, via North Africa ruled Sicily till 1061 A.D.
This recipe can only be Sicilian and is particularly common in Palermo.
The origins of pasta chi sardi (Sicilian) are said to be Arabic. When a band Arab troops first landed in Sicily via North Africa, the Arab cook was instructed to prepare food for the troops. The cook instructed the troops to forage for food. He made do with what they presented – plentiful was the wild fennel and the fish (sardines). To these he added exotic ingredients and flavours of Arabs and North Africans – the saffron, dried fruit and the nuts and so Pasta con le Sarde was born.
At this time of year, just before Easter, many readers look at my blog searching for Easter food ideas. The baked version is fancy enough to present on Easter Sunday – if you are that way inclined.
Pasta con le Sarde can be eaten hot or cold and it can be baked…..made into a tummàla (Sicilian word from the Arabic) – Italian timballo and French timbale – a dish of finely minced meat or fish cooked with other ingredients and encased in rice, pasta or pastry. The dry breadcrumbs are used to line and cover the contents in the baking pan, the long bucatini can be coiled around the pan and the sardine sauce becomes the filling.
The recipe for Pasta con le Sarde is from my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking. This is a slightly modified version of the recipe.
I found very little wild fennel this time of year so I used fennel bulbs – there were a few available at the Queen Victoria Market. Because I only found a very small quantity of wild fennel I added some ground fennel seeds and a splash of Pernod to enhance the fennel taste.
If you can get wild fennel, place it into some cold, salted water (enough to cook the pasta) and boil it for 10-15 minutes (it can be left in the water for longer). The green tinged, fennel-flavoured water is used to cook the pasta — it will flavour and colour the pasta. Reserve some of the tender shoots of wild fennel raw to use in the cooking of the sauce.
Drain the cooked fennel and keep the fennel-flavoured water to cook the pasta. Some of the cooked fennel can be added to the pasta sauce.
The recipe using bulb Fennel
fennel a large bulb of fennel with the green fronds cut finely, a teaspoon of ground fennel seeds or a dash of Pernod
extra virgin olive oil, about ½ cup
onions, 1, finely sliced
anchovies, 4, cut finely
pine nuts, ¾ cup
almonds, ¾ cup, toasted
currants, ¾ cup, or seedless raisins or sultanas soaked in a little water beforehand
saffron, ½ – 1 small teaspoon soaked in a little water beforehand
salt and freshly ground black pepper or chili flakes to taste
coarse breadcrumbs, 100 grams made with day old, quality bread (sourdough/pasta dura) lightly fried in some oil. I added pine nuts (pine- nuts-overkill), grated lemon peel, a little cinnamon and sugar to my breadcrumbs.
Slice the fennel into thin slices and cut fronds finely.
Cut about two thirds of the sardine fillets into thick pieces. Reserve whole fillets to go on top and provide visual impact.
Heat oil in shallow wide pan.
Sauté the onions over medium heat until golden. Add the fennel and cook till slightly softened.
Add pine nuts, currants (drained) and almonds. Toss gently until heated.
Add the sliced sardines, salt and pepper or chili. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring gently. Add ground fennel seeds or a splash of Pernod to enhance the fennel taste – I did this because I only found a very small quantity of wild fennel.
Add the anchovies (try to remove any bones if there are any) and as they cook, crush them with back of spoon to dissolve into a paste.
Add saffron (and the soaking water) and continue to stir and cook gently.
Boil bucatini in the fennel water (if you have it) until al dente.
Fry the whole fillets of sardines in a separate frying pan, keeping them intact. Remove them from the pan and put aside.
Drain the pasta.
Mix the pasta with the sauce, sprinkle with some of the breadcrumbs and top with the sardine fillets.
The photos are of left over pasta that I made into a timballo. It was only for my household, nothing fancy and was a way of using leftovers.
Oil a baking tray or an ovenproof dish (traditionally a round shape is used) and sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs to prevent sticking.
Place a layer of the dressed pasta on the breadcrumbs – I coiled the bucatini around the baking pan, then added the sauce (solids- sardines, nuts etc) and placed more coiled bucatini on top.
if you want a deeper crust you will need greater quantities of breadcrumbs.
Cover with more breadcrumbs, sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, cover with foil and bake in preheated 200°C for approximately 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. When the dish is baked, the breadcrumbs form a crust.
Because one of the books that I have written is called Sicilian Seafood Cooking and because my blog is called All Things Sicilian And More many of my readers assume that at Christmas I will be cooking Sicilian food.
And what is the norm in Italy or Sicily for Christmas?
As many have stated before me, there is no point in restricting the menu to a few common dishes because the food in Italy is very regional and depending where you live is likely to determine what you eat on Christmas day. When I was celebrating Christmas in Trieste (in Northern Italy), Brodo (broth) was always the first course on Christmas day. When I celebrated it in Sicily I had entirely different food – home made gnucchiteddi ( small pasta gniocchi) or Ravioli di ricotta were the norm.
Sicily is relatively a small island, yet the food in Sicily is also very regional. All you need to do is look at the posts that I have written about Christmas food in Sicily to see that. For example when I celebrated Christmas in Ragusa, they always made and continue to make scacce,( baked dough with various fillings) and they make these during other festive occasions as well. Are Sicilians living in Australia likely to have scacce for Christmas? Not likely. They may be part of Christmas fare for those Sicilians coming from Ragusa and the province of Ragusa, but the menus from any Sicilian living in Australia is going to be influenced by other offerings of either Sicilian or Italian origin and by Australian culture and the Summer climate.
Time and time again I am asked what am I cooking for Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. The answer is that I do not know yet. I can say is that on Christmas eve I like to eat fish as is traditionally observed in Italy and on Christmas day I usually cook something that I do not normally cook or have not cooked for a while, for example for first course I may cook Spaghetti/ Pasta with sea urchin (ricci) or bottarga or squid with black ink or crayfish or crab.
So for this Christmas fare post, I am going to provide links to some of my posts which highlight sauces and dressings. This is because, irrespective of whether you are presenting a seafood salad, baking a turkey, or using a BBQ for fish or meat you can always vary the sauce you present a- Let’s face it, sauces can make a lot of difference and if you wish, you can enliven any food with a new sauce.
Here are some sauces. that are suitable for Savoury food.
It was a sauce which dates pre-Renaissance time and went out of fashion because lemons became popular in cooking and superseded the use of green grape juice. The recipes suggested that the juice of the green grapes can be extracted by using a mouli or a juicer. It is very good for any hot meat. Verjuice can be used instead and white wine works as well.
Walnuts and almonds are blanched to remove as much skin as possible. My sources indicated that there may have been more walnuts used than almonds in these sauces.
Onions, garlic and parsley and a few breadcrumbs are pounded together with the nuts. Add a bit of sugar, some chopped parsley and sufficient grape juice to make the amalgamated ingredients soft – like a paste.
Heat these ingredients and add a little broth as the sauce will thickened because the bread crumbs.
Salsa verde can be used to jazz anything up – vegetables, roasts, cold meats, smoked fish, crayfish etc. I sometimes use it to stuff hard boiled eggs (remove the yolk, mix with salsa verde and return it to the egg). It is mainly parsley, anchovies, capers, green olives.
There may be times when an accompanying sauce for steamed, baked, grilled or fried fish will bring you greater compliments.
The sauce is called sarsa di chiappareddi in Sicilian and it is made with capers and anchovies.
For me it is most essential to use quality, extra virgin, olive oil. This is especially important for cold sauces, – when the cold sauce hits the hot food, the fragrance of the oil will be strongly evident.
Salsa Romesco is said to have originated from Tarragona, a town close to Barcelona in north-eastern Spain. It is an old Roman town so I can understand why you might think the sauce originated from Rome.
This sauce is usually associated as a condiment for shellfish and fish. It is also good with grilled and roasted vegetables (especially cold, left over ones that need dressing up the next day). Recently, I have been to two restaurants and this sauce was presented with cold asparagus. Garlic, red peppers, almonds and paprika are the main ingredients.
Last time I roasted a duck I made a special sauce for it and it tasted great – green anchovies, parsley, the pale centre of a celery, garlic, stock and wine added to the roasting pan made an excellent gravy.
This is a recipe from Sam and Sam Clark’s Casa Moro, The Second Cookbook. I had this sauce at a friend’s house accompanying roast goat. It is made mainly with mint, cumin and garlic and red vinegar (or balsamic).
Time and time again I am asked what am I cooking for Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. The answer is that I do not know yet. I can say is that on Christmas eve I like to eat fish as is traditionally observed in Italy and on Christmas day I usually cook something that I do not normally cook or have not cooked for a while, for example for first course I may cook Spaghetti/ Pasta with sea urchin (ricci) or bottarga or squid with black ink or crayfish or crab.( SEE links to recipes at the bottom of this post.)
Traditionally my immediate family always ate brodo (broth) on Christmas day and lately I have been thinking about something that I have not made since 1984. I know it is this date because the recipe was in a book which was published in 1984 andI bought it the year it was published = Giuliano Bugialli, The Taste Of Italy.
And so the other night when I pulled out of my freezer some strong duck broth, I decided to experiment with making some home-made pasta cut into squares with parsley embedded in the centre. I had made it many years ago on several occasions . Only my daughter was coming for dinner, so if the results were not satisfacory, it did not matter so much. I am always in a hurry (I once had a friend who used to call me (Ms sempre in fretta – always in a hurry) and had no time to find the recipe. Besides I could not remember what the recipe was called or in in which Bugialli book would I find it, so I just went ahead and made it.
Because there were just the three of us eating the brodo I only wanted to make small amounts and use a rolling pin; there was no way I wanted to get out/ dirty/ and clean my pasta rolling machine….I was in a hurry.
And it was great. How could I go wrong? It is just homemade pasta with whole parsley leaves added to the dough. The parsley pasta is then cut into squares. The thinly rolled pasta with the whole parsley leaves are very attractive and resemble embroidery.
I had some asparagus (now in season) and I wanted to add a light summery feel to the brodo. Perfect for an Australian Christmas?
I found the recipe and not surprisingly Bugialli calls them Quadrucci – small squares. A quadro is Italian for square.
In Bugialli’s recipe, he suggests making the broth with Turkey- meat and bones. My duck stock was made with the carcase/carcass of a duck – I had removed the breast and legs for another dish.
WHAT I DID
good meat broth, fat skimmed off, solids passed through a fine mesh strainer,
sprigs of Italian parsley (I also tried some with basil leaves),
home-made pasta = *1 large egg per 100 grams of hard flour (like unbleached, bread making flour, high in protein) is sufficient for 3 persons. Double or triple accordingly.
Sift the flour and place it in a large bowl or on a bench (depending how you like to mix flour to make into a dough).
Make a well in the centre and add the egg and a little salt.
Begin to knead with your fingers; I begin by adding flour from the edges into the centre. Mix everything well. At this stage you may need to add a little bit more of flour if the mixture is too wet or a tiny bit of water if it is too dry. This is because of the differences in the size of the eggs and the absorbency of the flour. Work the dough till the pasta feels elastic.
Shape the dough into a ball, cover it (cloth or plastic wrap) and leave it for about one hour.
Using a rolling pin (or a pasta machine especially if making greater quantities) roll/ stretch the pasta quite thin.
Place whole parsley leaves on top of half the length of the layer of pasta. Fold the other half of the layer of pasta over the parsley, and press the layers together.
Roll it again until it is very thin and you will see the parsley through the top layer of the pasta – sandwiched in the centre and looking like embroidery. I also used basil leaves for some quadri (squares).
Cut the pasta into squares ( like ravioli). These do not need to be of regular size and shape. trim off irregular bits of pasta.
Bring the broth to a boil and add the pasta squares. Cook for 1-3 minutes- they will rise to the surface when cooked.
Once I added the pasta to the broth I added the asparagus. The ingredients were cooked in a very short time.
This is what my version looked like:
I did find Bugialli’s recipe and he adds grated Parmigiano and black pepper to his pasta dough. He also says that this is a representative dish from Puglia. Bugialli is from Florence.
Here is Bugialli’s recipe:
FOR THE BROTH:
900g/2lbs dark turkey meat, with bones
1 medium-sized red onion, peeled
1 stick celery
1 medium-sized carrot, scraped
1 medium-sized clove garlic, peeled but left whole
1 cherry tomato
4 sprigs Italian parsley
3 extra large egg whites
FOR THE PASTA:
40g (1 1/2 oz) (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan
pinch of salt
6 twists black pepper
450g (1 lb) (3 1/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
30 sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
Prepare the broth: put the turkey, coarse-grained salt to taste, the whole onion, celery, carrot, garlic, tomato, and parsley sprigs in a large stockpot. Cover with cold water and put the pot over medium heat, uncovered. Simmer for 2 hours, skimming off foam from the top.
Remove the meat from the pot and reserve it for another dish. Pass the rest of the contents of the pot through a fine strainer into a large bowl, to remove the vegetables and impurities. Let the broth cool, then place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight to allow the fat to rise to the top and solidify.
Use a metal spatula to remove the solidified fat then clarify the broth. Pour 4 tablespoons of the broth into a small bowl and mix it with the egg whites. Pour the broth and egg white mixture into the rest of the cold broth and whisk very well. Transfer the broth to a pot and place it on the edge of a burner. Bring to the simmering stage, half covered, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the egg whites rise to the top with the impurities, and the broth becomes transparent.
Meanwhile, place a clean, wet cotton tea towel in the freezer for 5 minutes. Then stretch the tea towel over a colander and strain the broth through it to clarify it completely. The broth should be absolutely clear.
Prepare the pasta with the ingredients listed, placing the grated Parmesan, salt, pepper, and eggs in the well in the flour. With much care and patience, gradually work the eggs into the flour until you have a slab of dough. Shape this into a ball and leave under a towel or in cling film (plastic wrap) to rest.
Stretch the pasta as thinly as possible by hand or with the pasta machine. Place the whole parsley leaves on top of half the length of the layer of pasta. Fold the other half of the layer of pasta over the parsley, and press the layers together. Continue to roll out the layer of pasta until it is very thin. Using a scalloped pastry cutter, cut the pasta into squares of about 5cm/2in.
Bring the broth to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 1-3 minutes, depending on how dry the pasta is. Serve hot, without adding cheese, which would spoil its purity.
This is what Bugialli’s pasta looked like. With a little more effort and a pasta machine, mine will look like that too.
Il Signor Coria (Giuseppe Coria, Profumi Di Sicilia) will tell you that ducks are not standard fare on Sicilian dinner tables. The eggs may be used to make pasta all’uovo (egg pasta) but ducks in Sicily are few and far between.
In his book Profumi Di Sicilia, I found one duck recipe and this was for a braised duck cooked with anchovies plus garlic, parsley, heart of celery, white wine, rosemary and green olives. The thought of braised duck does not appeal to me very much, unless I make it the day before so that I can skim off the fat the next day.
I decided to roast the duck (on a rack so that the fat drains off) and make an accompanying sauce using the same ingredients as Coria suggested for the braise….. and it was pretty marvellous.
A couple of days later I used the leftover sauce with the stock made from the carcase/carcass and some mushrooms in a risotto, and this tasted exceptionally fantastic, even if I say so myself.
All I can say is that I am glad that living in Australia ducks are pretty easy to find – more so in the last few years and not just for special occasions.
Here is the duck roasting in the oven. I stuffed it with some rosemary. I placed some potatoes in the fat, and in the pan to roast (to fry really) about 30 minutes before the end of cooking…..and I do not need to tell you how delicious they were.
Pre heat oven to 190C.
Dry duck with paper to obtain a crispier skin
Ensure the opening at end of the duck is open to allow even cooking
Place duck on a rack in a roasting tray
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and roast it.
My duck was 2kl so I roasted it for 2×40 minutes= 1hr 20mins.
And this is the sauce:
Remove the duck, drain the fat (use it to roast potatoes, it also makes good savoury pastry, just like lard).
Reserve any juices that are in the bottom of the pan.
Using the baking pan, add a little extra virgin olive oil and over a low flame melt 4-6 anchovies in the hot oil.
Add 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely (or minced as some say). Stir it around.
Add about 1 cup of finely chopped parsley and 2-3 stalks from the pale centre of a celery also sliced finely. Stir it around in the hot pan for about 2 minutes…add salt and pepper to taste.
Add ½ cup of white wine and evaporate. Add the juices of the duck, or if you did not save them, add some meat stock – about ½ cup.
Add some chopped green olives last of all. I had stuffed olives so I used them….probably about ¾ cup full.
Heat the ingredients through, and there is your accompanying sauce.
And it looks much better in a gravy boat than it does in the pan.
My last post was about marinaded white anchovies – a great crowd pleaser. This is easy finger food that can be presented on crostini (oven toasted or fried bread) or on small, cup shaped salad leaves.
Another small fishy bite which never fails to get gobbled up are fish balls poached in a tomato salsa. I took these to a friend’s birthday celebration recently.
The fish is Rockling. At other times I have made them with other Australian wild caught fish for example Snapper and Flathead, Blue-eye and Mahi Mahi.
Here are some photos of the ones I made recently.
Cut the fish into chunks and mince it in a food processor.
You can see the ingredients I use to make these fish balls, mainly currants, pine nuts, parsley and fresh bread crumbs . There is also some garlic and grated lemon rind, cinnamon….. and on this occasion I added nutmeg too.
These ingredients are common in Sicilian cuisine but also in Middle Eastern food. This is not surprising when you look at Sicily’s legacy.
For a variation use other Mediterranean flavours: preserved lemon peel instead of grated lemon, fresh coriander instead of parsley, omit the cheese, add cumin.
Combine the mixture and add some grated Pecorino and salt and pepper to taste.
Eggs will bind the mixture.
The mixture should be quite firm and hold together. You may need to add more eggs – the number of eggs you will need will vary because it will depend on the texture of the fish and the bread. I always use 2-3 day old sourdough bread.
On this occasion I added 2 extra eggs,(4 small eggs altogether) however I used 1 k of fish.
In the meantime make a tomato salsa. I added a stick of cinnamon.
Shape the mixture into small balls and poach them gently in the salsa.
This is the link to the recipe that is also in my second book, Small Fishy Bites.
I presented the fish balls in Chinese soup spoons – easy to put into one’s mouth. You can see that there were only very few fish balls left over on the festive table. There are also only five anchovies in witlof leaves left over.
Of course these fish balls are not just limited to party food. They make a great antipasto or main course.
Out with the old marinade of vinegar, sunflower oil, tired sliced garlic and herbs.
And in with the new marinade – extra virgin olive oil, fresh parsley, garlic and a little dry oregano (optional).
Sounds better already. New life, fresh taste!
These are handy to have in the fridge to dip into at anytime, or to present as an antipasto on fresh bread or crostini , or inside a leaf from the centre of a small cos lettuce or radicchio or witlof – in fact any salad green that has cone shaped head and cup shaped leaves that can hold a few marinaded anchovies.
The pictures tell the story. Simple to make, good to eat.
Leave in marinade at least one day but as long as you keep them under oil they will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
I used :
500g of white marinaded anchovies ( alici fresche marinate are usually packed in Sicily or Liguria… and the Spaniards call them boquerones),
2-3 cloves of garlic ½ cup chopped parsley, both finely chopped.
extra virgin olive oil to cover – the amount will depend of the container you use. I always use glass.
Drain the anchovies and discard the old marinade and the solids.
Layer the anchovies with the herbs and the garlic and top with the oil.
Store in the fridge until ready to use. If you are taking some anchovies out, make sure to once again cover them with oil.
If you are presenting the anchovies inside leaves use a colander to drain the anchovies and then place 1-3 inside each leaf- this will depend on the size of the leaf and how much you (or your guests) like anchovies.
If you are presenting them on bread, there is no need to drain them with a colander – the oil tastes good too.
As you can see, finding small suitable leaves and keeping them whole can be time consuming.
“Put very simply, sourdough is made by mixing flour milled from the whole grain – dark rye or wholemeal, say – with water and leaving it for a few days until you see the first pinhead-sized bubble of life, as the yeast cells and bacteria exhale and start to puff tiny pockets of carbon dioxide into the mixture.” (Dan Lepard, baker, food writer and more)
This potent wild yeast mixture is sometimes known as the “mother”… otherwise plainly called the “starter”. The starter is what imparts the flavour and bubbles that go to making sour dough bread.
And this is the beginning.
Inspired by a visit to a friend, Randy, who lives in Nottingham, England, my partner Bob decided to try his hand at making sour dough bread. And so he started with the starter, which bubbled away quietly but was fed regularly.
It was mixed with good quality organic flour, left, fed and fed again. From this a “sponge” was made by mixing the starter with flour and water. The sponge is also known as the leaven.
Add more flour to the sponge and then there is sticky dough.
And more sticky dough.
And more dough. Perhaps it was too sticky?
So there was more dough proving.
And there was more bread.
There were breads of different shapes. There was even bread in our freezer.
Some loaves lacked salt. Others were too dense. Some looked like cake.
The smells of bread proving and bread baking wafted through our apartment. This must have made our neighbours very jealous.
This dough looked right!
Given enough time, it was worked into a shape that could be pulled into a loaf .
The loaf was placed into a basket to prove.
It rested, and then rose and rose again.
Bob placed the dough on a heated pizza stone and made a couple of slashes on top of the dough: this is also called “scoring”. Breaking the surface of the dough creates a weak spot in the bread as it expands and prevents the bread from splitting. It also helps to make the bread attractive.
The loaf looked great in our oven.
SUCCESS….and it was just right.
Bob’s passion for bread making began in a kitchen in Nottingham.
Randy has adapted recipes from Dan Lepard’s book, The Handmade Loaf.
He uses a basket with a liner to prove his bread. It is heavily coated with flour.
Randy is no ordinary bread maker.
He is Randy of the Bagel Boys who once baked great bread in North Adelaide.
This is before he went to live in Nottingham. Now he bakes good bread for himself, his household and his house guests in his kitchen.
While the bread making demonstration went on, one of the dogs slept. She’s used to this baking.
Randy uses a Le Creuset cast iron saucepan to bake the bread. It starts off with a lid. The lid is removed towards the end of baking so that the top of the bread can brown. Here is the bread in the oven. It is nearly ready.
As you would expect, Randy has perfection every time.
Thank you Randy for the demonstration in your kitchen and all of the tutorials and the bread-making advice you provided to Bob by email from Nottingham to our apartment in Melbourne.
And you are correct Randy, bread making is just practice, persistence and patience.
No doubt, Bob will make more bread in our kitchen.
Bob says: In baking my loaves, I have adapted the recipes and techniques of my friend and long-time baker, Randy Barber the former Bagel Boy, with that of sourdough virtuoso Dan Lepard, followed by some further advice from a book by Yoke Mardewi, particularly in relation to creating and maintaining the starter, and topping it all off by watching a Youtube video published by Danny McCubbin which showed off the techniques of his baking buddy, Hugo Harrison. After all that, I’ve got to say my baking is still a work-in-progress, every loaf I’ve turned out so far is something of a surprise, mostly pleasant. My latest effort was closest to what I’ve seen Randy do in his Nottingham (UK) kitchen. First, I created a “sponge” made from: 200g of starter 250g of quality white flour 325g of natural spring water I left the sponge to mature overnight. The next morning, I added: 330g of flour [ultimately, I think I could have added a little more] 2 teaspoons of salt I mixed this by hand and let it rest in the bowl for 10 minutes. I next went through a sequence of mixing, by pulling the dough over itself (here the McCubbin/Harrison Youtube video was instructive) and resting it for 10 minutes another two times. Then, I turned, pulled and slapped the dough together on an oiled surface for several minutes before letting it rest for 30 minutes. I repeated the turning, slapping and pulling process, before letting it rest for another hour. Next step, I turned the dough out onto a floured work-surface, where I did the traditional folding into thirds and turning process, until using the technique demonstrated by Harrison, I worked the dough into a loaf shape which I gently placed in a floured proving basket. I left that to double in size. When it had risen, I preheated the oven and a pizza stone to about 230°C. Other times, I’ve used a Le Creuset casserole dish. I gently up-ended the proving basket to tip the loaf on to the heated pizza stone and returned it to the oven to bake for about 35-40 minutes above some water in tray for steam.
Once cooked, I left the loaf to cool on an oven rack.
There is much information from Dan Lepard about bread making on the web.
Dan Lepard’s book, The Handmade Loaf, contains many illustrations and step by step recipes.
This link for making sourdough bread is from The Guardian:
There a many posts and recipes on my blog about Easter in Sicily.
This time, I am writing about Presniz, a rolled pastry sweet that is eaten at Christmas and Easter. Presniz comes from Trieste where I spent my childhood. My parents were Sicilian but lived in Trieste and this is where I lived before I came to Australia.
Trieste is in the north-eastern region of Italy called Friuli-Venezia Giulia: you may recognize some of the cities and towns in this region – Udine, Pordenone, Cividale, Gorizia, Trieste.
Trieste was once the main port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia has Germanic, Slavic and Latin cultures so it is no surprise to find that the food from this region can be very different to other Italian regions.
At Easter, when we lived in Trieste, we bought Presniz from a Pasticceria (pastry shop) and it was only when we came to Australia and where the traditional food we were used to was not available, that my mother began to make Presniz with my aunt (from Trieste) at Easter. More common in my household and made all year round was another favourite – a Stucolo de Pomi, (an apple strudel). Also common in Friuli-Venezia Giulia is Gubana (often called Putiza in Trieste. Gubana and Putiza may have started off as being different but over time have melded to become the same thing).
All three popular dolci (pastry/sweets/ desserts) from Friuli-Venezia Giulia are made with pastry and rolled around a filling – the strudel has mainly apples, the Preznis and the Gubana/Putiza have a predominant filling of nuts.
Pinza is also a very common Easter treat in Trieste – this is a sweet brioche like bread made with many eggs and butter and similar to the consistency and colour of a panettone, but devoid of any dry fruit or nuts. Pinza is usually eaten with ham especially on Easter morning – strange but true.
There are many variations in the fillings of both the Presniz and the Gubana but basically in Trieste, the Presniz is more likely to have short pastry and mixed nuts in the filling (variations of walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts and almonds), whereas the pastry of the Gubana has yeast and the filling was once predominately made of of walnuts. Over time even flaky pastry is used for Presniz by some pasticceri (pastry chefs) in Trieste. Recipes evolve and the filling for the two have become similar; chocolate and candied citrus are also often added.
The Gubana originated and is popular in the Natisone valley in Friuli, on the border with Slovenia and in the towns of Gorizia, Cividale and Udine. The origins of Gubana has attracted many researches, both in terms of its origin as the name in Austro-German literature or literature of the Czech Republic. As you can guess, there are still no conclusions.
I have looked at many sources for information and recipes for Presniz and they differ significantly, especially for making the pastry. I have two bibles of Triestian cooking – La Cucina Tipica Triestina by Accademia Italiana della Cucina delegazione di Trieste (1983) and La Cucina Triestina Maria Slelvo (1987) and the recipes could not be less alike.
I have provided two recipes for making pastry – these are by far the simplest.
PASTRY FOR PRESNIZ
From Culinaria Italy: Pasta, Pesto, Passion, the ingredients.
Ingredients are: 250 flour, 250 butter, 5-6 tbs milk, juice of one lemon, 1 egg and salt.
The instructions are: Rub the butter into half of the flour and leave the mix to stand overnight. Mix the remaining flour with the rest of the ingredients. Leave to stand for1 hour and then mix the two together. Roll out thinly on a cloth.
From: La Cucina Tipica Triestinaby Accademia Italiana della Cucina delegazione di Trieste
Ingredients are: 250 flour, 250 butter, 4 tbs milk, juice of one lemon, 2 eggs and salt.
The instructions are as above.
If anything I think that my mother and aunt always added a bit of grappa to the pastry. As for the filling: Many of the recipes do not provide amounts for the nuts, but this combination should be sufficient for the amount of pastry. It is interesting to see that in La Cucina Triestina, Maria Slelvo (1987) does not suggest hazelnuts – one of her recipes suggests using either walnuts or almonds, another has walnuts and pine nuts and a third recipe just walnuts.
Most of the recipes suggest blanching all of the nuts – blanching almonds is fine, but I am unsure that I want to spend time blanching walnuts of hazelnuts.
This combination below is to my taste, but with all Italian recipes, vary it to suit your tastes.
Nuts: mixed 300g = use a greater amount of walnuts than hazelnuts or almonds, i.e. ½ walnuts, ¼ hazelnuts, ¼ almonds.
60g pine nuts
100g raisins and/or sultanas
grated peel from lemon and orange
100g of fresh breadcrumbs lightly toasted (in a fry pan) in about 60g butter
60g dark chocolate, broken into little pieces
3 tablespoons rum or grappa
To brush on the pastry:
1-2 eggs to paint on top of the pastry
2 tbs jam
2 tbs butter
Soak the raisins/ sultanas in the rum or grappa and leave them to plump for about an hour or more.
Grind the nuts (not to a powder). In L’Artusi, La scienza di Cucina e L’Arte di Mangiare Bene, Pellegrino Artusi suggests cutting each nut into three and crushing the pine nuts into pieces as large as a rice grain (Go for it!). He also suggests adding cinnamon and some powdered cloves to the mix.
Roll out the pastry into a long strip (about 15 cm wide) and 0.5 cm thick. I use baking paper to roll the pastry on. Leave the pastry to rest while you mix the filling.
Mix all of the ingredients together (not the ingredients to brush on the pastry). The filling will be moist. Taste the mixture and see if you would like it sweeter – add more sugar.
Brush the pastry with beaten egg (not all of it, leave some for the top once it is rolled, this will add gloss) and then with a little warmed jam. Add bits of solid butter on top.
Spread the filling over this, but leave an edge of pastry all round- about 2 cm. Roll it on to itself and make a long shape – about 10 cm in circumference. Seal the ends. Coil it into a loose snail shape/ spiral and place it on some baking paper. Arrange it on buttered and floured baking tray. See pictures – a Gubana is snail shape, coiled closer together and usually baked in a tin, a Presniz is not quite joined together.
Brush the rest of the egg over the pastry, sprinkle it with a little sugar.
Bake in 180°C for about 60 minutes.
Let cool before serving. It stores well (wrapped in metal foil) for about a week.
***Use key words “Easter in Sicily” / enter key words in search button on the blog and you will find many Sicilian recipes.