As a child, I lived in Trieste with my parents, and Ragusa, Catania and Augusta were the towns in Sicily where my Sicilian relatives lived. Both Trieste (located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste in the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia) and Sicily are at the extreme ends of Italy, and as you would expect, the cuisines are very different.
I grew up with both cuisines and appreciate them both for very different reasons.
Capuzi garbi (or crauti/krauti) is sauerkraut in Triestino (the Triestine dialect) and it is a very popular ingredient in Triestine cuisine especially when mixed in Gulash (made with pork or beef), or with a lump of smoked pork, or luganighe (Triestine) – salsicce di maiale in Italian, and pork sausages for us mere mortals in the English speaking world.
When you look at a map of Italy, it is easy to see why this part of Italy has common roots with the cooking of Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Istria.
I have German and Polish friends and they too are fond of sauerkraut, and like my relatives and friends from Trieste, they tend to overcook it; my mother also did this when she cooked capuzi garbi.
But as we know, cuisine evolves and some of us have taken on new methods of cooking traditional foods.
In my kitchen, I cook sauerkraut for about a quarter of the time as the traditional method and at times, I also like to add a little fresh cabbage to lighten the taste and to add a different texture. A little flour browned in a little oil is added to the sauerkraut towards the end of cooking, but not me, and unlike my Triestine contemporaries I also add caraway seeds, bay leaves and a dash of white wine.
The ingredients are: pork sausages, sauerkraut, bay leaves and caraway seeds. Onion, extra virgin olive oil and pepper (the sauerkraut could be sufficiently salty). Fresh cabbage and a dash of white wine are optional.
Drain the sauerkraut and squeeze out the moisture. Soften some onion in a little oil (in Trieste lard is also common and added to the oil).
Adding a little white or savoy cabbage is optional.
And with the cabbage also add the sauerkraut and the rest. A dash of white wine will keep it moist while it cooks.
Cover and cook for about 15- 20 minutes on low heat until the sausages are nearly cooked and the flavours have had a chance to meld.
Remove the sauerkraut and slightly brown the sausages – only for appearance.
Albacore tuna is sustainable, cheap in price and much under rated in Australia. It is not sashimi grade so the Asian export market does not want it and therefore in Australia we also tend to undervalue it. It is denser in texture but still excellent for cooking (lightly or cooked for longer). As in Australia, Blue fin tuna is the preferred tuna in Sicily; if it is sustainable depends on how and where it is caught – it should be wild caught and aquaculture is not an option.
Unfortunately I rarely find albacore tuna where I live in Melbourne and if I do, I always grab it when I can and cook it as I would cook blue fin tuna.
I like tuna seared and left rare centrally but my Sicilian relatives eat tuna very well done and this is also how it is presented in the traditional home-style restaurants in Sicily.
In Sicily there are numerous ways tuna but Tonno alla stemperata is one of the favourites in the south eastern part of Sicily. It was first cooked for me by one of my cousins, Rosetta, who lives in Ragusa. She and her husband have a holiday house on the beach at Marina di Ragusa, and she usually buys most of her fish from the fishermen on the beach.
Although Rosetta prefers to use tuna in this recipe, any firm-fleshed fish, thickly sliced, is suitable. She prefers to cut the tuna into large cubes – this allows greater penetration of the flavours in the sauce and of course, it will cook to a greater degree and more quickly.
Rosetta cooked the fish in the morning and we ate it for lunch, at room temperature…in Australia you may find this unusual but eating it at room temperature and some time after it has been cooked allows the flavours time to develop.
A version of this recipe is also in my first book: Sicilian Seafood Cooking.
I have used Albacore tuna,trevally,mackerel or flathead (better choice category) successfully in this recipe.
tuna or firm-fleshed fish, 4 slices
sliced white onions, 2
capers, ½ cup, salted variety, soaked and washed
white wine vinegar, about 2 tablespoons or for a milder taste use 1 tablespoon of white wine and one of vinegar
extra virgin olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
salt, black pepper or red chilli flakes (as preferred by the relatives in Ragusa),
celery heart, 2 or 3 of the pale green stalks and young leaves, chopped finely
green olives, ½ cup, pitted, chopped
bay leaves, 4
Soften the onion and celery in about half of the extra virgin oil, and cook until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the fish, olives, capers, seasoning and bay leaves and sear the fish. The pieces of fish only need to be turned once.
Add the vinegar and allow the vinegar to evaporate and flavour the dish.
Remove the fish from the pan if you think that it will overcook and continue to evaporate.
Optional: Decorate (and flavour) with mint just before serving.
You can tell I am in South Australia by some of the photos of the fabulous varieties of fish I am able to purchase in Adelaide when I visit.
I very much enjoyed all of the food I ate during my first and recent trip to Japan – I went to Kyoto and Tokyo. Like Italian Cuisine, Japanese cuisine has a huge diversity of regional and seasonal dishes and the Japanese people seem just as passionate about their food.
Below is an oden dish, in a special oden restaurant -it is mainly daikon, I could also taste turnip, boiled eggs served in stock made from dried bonito, konbu and soy sauce. Of course there were pickles and rice.
We accompanied the oden dish with bean curd prepared in different ways… and I do like beancurd. Below is a photo of another beancurd dish I had in another restaurant -silken tofu (Agedashi) in a flavorful tentsuyu broth of dashi, mirin and soy. This one had some other ingredients as well as tofu and broth. The red on top was a mild chili paste.
Whether it be in my home town or elsewhere, I always place great effort in selecting the ‘right’ places to eat. I look closely at menus (in Japan, glossy pictures and the plastic replicas of food helped). I suss out the ambience and then take a plunge, and practically all of the time my senses do not fail me.
Japanese food is as much about the preparation and presentation as it is the food itself.
One place in Kyoto particularly stands out – no menus with pictures or models of food here – a tiny place with fabulous décor, a flamboyant, entertaining and creative chef (Mr. Fujita) and his courteous assistant who had a tiny sprinkling of English. We (my partner and I) got by, participated mainly with sign language, much laughter with the other eight guests and we ate extremely well. We pointed to particular ingredients that he had available – duck, fish, eel, eggs, mushrooms (what other guests were eating and via photos in an album) and left it up to him to come up with the food. We watched him slice and prepare top quality and seasonal ingredients and proudly come up with a variety of delicious offerings. Watching the chef prepare the food was as much fun as eating it.
This was a strongly flavoured stock with eel, spinach and egg. We were given bowls and spoons.
A form of Yakiniku? – duck cooked on a hot stone. We could have had tongue as well.
I am particularly fond of good tableware and the food was presented with as much care of good quality crockery and lacquerware – with a variety of shapes, textures, colorful patterns, and colors.
And the chef came to see us off.
I will not go on about all the food I tried in Japan – there were far too many of the traditional popular Japanese dishes – the steamed, simmered or grilled dishes, sliced raw, the sushi, tempura, yakitori, ramen etc, but I would like to mention a couple of things I particularly enjoyed or was less familiar with.
I particularly enjoyed the very fresh fish prepared in various ways.
In a different eatery in the backstreets of Kyoto I particularly liked the tomato tempura – small explosions of sweet and acid flavour.
I also had burdock tempura – a distinctive and slightly bitter, crunchy and chewy( fibrous) root vegetable that also reminded me of the texture of meat.
At the same restaurant I also ate pickled sardines. These were lightly floured first and fried and then pickled in a sweet and sour marinade which strangely enough reminded me very much of the varieties of Italian pickled sardines like the Sicilian Soused Fish recipesor the Sarde al Saor popular in Trieste and Venice. One large difference of course, was the grated fresh ginger, not a common ingredient in Italian cuisine.
I am not a great lover of sweets but in Tokyo I watched two people prepare street food – waffles shaped like a fish called Taiyaki. The pancake batter forms the fish shaped outer shell. The filling was sweet red bean paste or sweet potato.
I like persimmons – both the vanilla type and the squashy ones, both fresh and dried. I found quantities of Mochi in the Food halls in basements of famous and grand Department Stores. I particularly like the texture of the outer layers of Mochi that are made with sticky rice: the rice is pounded into a smooth paste and molded around a filling of usually sweet red bean paste .The outer layer is chewy and soft and sometimes flavoured with green tea.
I also liked the pumpkin ice cream, and the one made with spinach.
For the first time I ate Kamameshi – rice is cooked in an iron pot, with different flavourings such as soy sauce, mirin, stock and other ingredients. Ours also had minced chicken, a few vegetables . I liked it – homely.
The burnt rice around the pot of Kamameshi is particularly flavourful.
I tried different types of sake and Japanese beer (I am a wine drinker so both were new experiences for me). I also drank good wine (grapes) made in Japan.!!!
I did come cooking at home too – I like my vegetables and I never get enough when I am away from home and I especially purchased different types of mushrooms – it is autumn after all and they came in many colours, shapes, textures and flavours.
In a Tokyo market I did try some street food – takoyaki (a dough-like wheat flour dumpling, with small pieces of octopus mixed in the batter, smothered with a brown sweet sticky sauce and topped with bonito fish flakes) The batter is poured into a special hotplate with small half-circle molds and when the bottom half is cooked, the half-circle dumplings are turned over and become full spherical dumplings in the end.
I had eaten these in Melbourne and they did not appeal to me then. They did not appeal to me now, but I always like the taste of bonitofish flakes and I like to watch them dance.
I very much liked all the countless varieties of seaweed and pickles. Pickles are called tsukemono. Japanese food would not be the same without pickles that frequently accompany all meals in Japan providing flavours and pro-biotic cultures that promote digestion. They also provide a variety of colors, aromas and textures.
Food markets are full of unpackaged pickles in vats of fish, fruit and vegetables. I particularly like the common umeboshi (pickled plums). Common vegetables that are pickled are: daikon, ginger, Japanese cucumbers, carrots, bamboo, turnips, Chinese cabbage, gobo (burdock root) and Japanese eggplant.
Imagine the smells of these ingredients with their pungent smells of pickling ingredients like rice bran, vinegar, miso, soy sauce, sake. And seasonings like mirin, garlic, seaweeds, herbs and spices, konbu, chilies, honey and sugar.
I also enjoyed the lightly pickled vegetables. I had these only in one of the restaurants in Tokyo and on this occasion I was in the company of a local so we were able to discuss how pickles are easily made at home.
Now home in Melbourne, I did some research and found some recipes for making pickles in an old book I have about Japanese cuisine, Japanese Vegetarian Cookery, Lesley Downer, Jonathan Cape Press, 1986.
I used to use this book to make pickled plums and simple pickled vegetables…a long time ago. Although many types of tsukemono are available commercially many people make pickles at home.
Here is a recipe adapted from this book.
Vegetables are salted and the pressure that is placed upon them causes them to release their liquids – this results in brine that pickles the vegetables. Each type of vegetable is usually pickled separately to keep flavours distinct.
Downer suggests that particularly suitable are:
2 Daikon (peeled, quartered, cut into 2.5 cm lengths),
1 Chinese cabbage halved, quartered 2.5 cm chunks,
4 Small cucumbers, halved, scrape out seeds, cut into 2.5cm lengths
30g sea salt
Rub salt into vegetables, place them in a ceramic bowl (narrow is preferable).
Cover vegetables with a small plate that will fit neatly inside the bowl.
Place a weight on top- perhaps a stone or a jar of water.
Leave the bowl in a cool dark place for 3-4 days– the brine will raise (or it should) above the vegetables.
To serve, remove vegetables, gently squeeze and cut into bite size pieces…… Taste a bit before you cut them and rinse them if necessary to remove excess salt.
My Variations and suggestions:
Once there is sufficient brine covering the vegetables, add a dash of Japanese vinegar (low in acid) and a small glug of Sake for extra flavor. A little Mirin or sugar will also help to sweeten the vegetables.These ingredients also help with the fermentation. It is worth experimenting with flavours.
Making pickles can produce smells, especially if you are using cabbage or daikon. A large wide mouthed ,glass jar or ceramic pot with a tight fitting lid is useful. If you are using a jar or pot make sure that you can apply pressure with a heavy weight on top of the vegetables to produce the brine.
Other vegetables can be used– unpeeled Japanese eggplant…halved, quartered etc , peeled turnips and carrots…halved, sliced etc.
“Sicily is the pearl of this century for its qualities and its beauty, for the uniqueness of its towns and its people […] because it brings together the best aspects of every other country.”
This was written almost a thousand years ago by an Arabian geographer, Muhammed Al-Idrisi, in his book of “pleasant journeys into faraway lands” for the Norman King of Sicily, Roger II.
As Al-Idrisi discovered, Sicily may be small, but it has the best of everything and although I may visit some places again and again, I always manage to discover something new. And this is what brings me back to Sicily again and again. I grew up in the far north of Italy in Trieste but each summer as a child, I would travel to Sicily for our summer holidays – both of my parents have relatives in Sicily. For me Sicily was an exotic place of sunshine, colour and warmth, the outdoors and the sea. Wherever I go in Europe, I always visit Sicily as well.
On my latest trip I concentrated on Southeastern Sicily and went to little towns and villages that I had not been to before as well as familiar places where I’m always interested to see what’s changed and what has stayed the same.
Next time I visit I plan to spend more time in the city that is the essence of Sicily – Palermo. While Al-Adrisi called Sicily a “pearl” Roberto Alajmo, a journalist and blogger born and raised in Palermo compared his home town to an onion, una cipolla – its multiple layers have to be peeled to be appreciated.
Once you start peeling back the layers of Palermo what you find is a city where history meets infamy and splendor encounters squalor, antiquities stand beside modernity. All of it evidence of a fantastic overlay of cultures from Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French and Spanish. This cultural fusion shows up in the food and drink, the art and architecture, the palaces, the temples and churches and the entire Sicilian way of life.
Last time I visited Palermo was three years ago, but each time I go I’m always happy to revisit the historic quarter with its Arabo-Norman monuments.
Among my favourites are the Palazzo dei Normanni and its Cappella Palatina with their dazzling Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. There’s also King Roger II’s La Martorana, where the spectacular mosaic of Christ the Pantocrator overlooks Olivio Sozzi’s baroque Glory of the Virgin Mary, painted six centuries later. I enjoy admiring the simple, geometric shapes of the Norman palaces, La Cuba and La Zisa, built entirely by Arabic craftsmen and the distinctive Arabo-Norman red domes on San Cataldo and San Giovanni degli Ermiti.
On my not-to-miss list is the Cattedrale which is another masterpiece of overlaid period styles, begun by the Normans in the 12th Century, with 15th Century Catalan Gothic porch, capped off with a neo-classical 18th Century neo-classical dome. The timeline continues inside with tombs of Norman and Swabian kings and queens: Roger II and his daughter, Costanza d’Altavilla and their son Frederick II and his wife of Costanza of Aragon. You can admire her imperial gold crown in the cathedral’s treasury.
Palermo also has a fountain to rival the best of Rome. La Fontana Pretoria was once prudishly called the “fountain of shame” because of the multiple nude statues. Judge for yourself!
The baroque also makes a grand stand in the four elegant palazzo facades of the Quattro Canti, framing the intersection of Palermo’s two main boulevards.
I know I’m at the heart of the onion that is Palermo when I enter the labyrinth of laneways in the city’s sprawling markets – especially La Vucciria and Ballarò – with their clustered stalls that remind me of an Arabic souk. I like to listen to the clamour of the traders’ shouted Sicilian dialect. Sheltered from the sun under red canvas awnings you find the fish stalls. In his book, Midnight in Sicily Peter Robb described how the diffused red light of the market “enhanced the translucent red of the big fishes’ flesh and the silver glitter of the smaller ones’ skins”.
Wandering the old quarters of Palermo, you’ll pick up the aroma of traditional street-food fried in large vats such as panelle (chickpea flour fritters), cazzilli (potato croquettes) or meusa (spleen) which are typical dishes of the friggerie. You will smell char-grilled peppers. And if I want to eat these treats in doors I go to classic restaurants like L’Antica Foccaceria San Francesco which has been cooking the same thing for decades.
I find it interesting to see how traditional cuisine has developed and one of my favourite things to do in Palermo (or anywhere I go in Sicily) is to find restaurants that re-invent traditional dishes and present them with contemporary twists. And if I want to contrast the old-style dishes with contemporary versions there are still typical trattorie like La Casa del Brodo that have classic Palermo dishes like sarde a beccafico, caponata, pasta con la sarde.
I’m also seriously interested in discovering the ever increasing new hip bars that serve glasses of Sicilian wine varieties like grillo and nero d’avola and boutique beers matched with interesting snacks that reflect modern Sicilian cuisine.
When the time comes to escape the close-quarter hustle of the city, I can catch a bus to the north-west side of Palermo to admire the Liberty-style residences of the capital’s once-wealthy merchants. I can travel to the picturesque seaside town of Mondello, where I can dine out on the waterfront, drink in the view, scoop up a granita or gelato, eat a cannolo or a slice of cassata. It is definitely a place to eat fish and enjoy a drink or two.
Back in town I can always book a ticket to the opera or ballet at the Teatro Massimo and eat a delicious cold treat on my way back to where I am staying.
Palermo’s gardens are another escape. I love to wander in the greenery of the Villa Giulia or the Piazza Marina with its massive fig trees, which are spectacular. The modern art galleries are another diversion. There’s the GAM (La Galleria d’Arte Moderna), Francesco Pantaleone Arte Contemporanea, Nuvole Incontri d’Arte and Palazzo Riso which I was told about on my last visit to Palermo, when I saw an exhibition of works by Francesco Simeti.
Palazzo Riso is a baroque neo-classical edifice built in the 1780s. It was Mussolini’s temporary headquarters in World War II and bombed by the Americans in a failed attempt to kill the Italian dictator (who had left town only days before the air-raid). For years the Palazzo stood in ruins and when it was finally restored during the late-1990s, the restorers preserved some of the damage as evidence of its history.
Although I have seen Guttoso’s painting of the Vucciria Market hanging in the Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri, I have yet to see the basement where thousands of prisoners accused of heresy through the Holy Inquisition were imprisoned. These prison walls are covered in prisoners’ simple etchings, which were plastered over in the 19th Century.
I take great pleasure in returning to a place as rich and varied as Sicily and why revisiting a city as layered as Palermo is top of my European travel wish list. It may not have the reputation of Rome (the eternal city) or Florence (la serenissima) but it has depth and diversity.
One week ago today I was having lunch in Templo, an Italianate, very small restaurant in Hobart.
Duck Polenta. On the side some pickled red radicchio.
Twelve days before that I was in Berlin. Four days before Berlin I was in Rome and before that Sicily, and prior that London and Nottingham.
And why go to Tasmania three days after I returned to Melbourne after seven weeks in Europe?
Tasmania had been arranged before Europe because our friend Valerie Sparkes was part of an exhibition curated by Julianna Engberg called TEMPEST at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). It was part of MOFO. Two whole walls of this type of imagery – wallpapers.
I ate well in Tasmania, but I manage to eat well wherever I go.
I work hard at it – researching via books and web (I do not take much notice of Trip Advisor), taking note of restaurants I pass that look as if they may suit and looking at menus displayed, but most of all taking advice from others whose opinions I think I can trust (strangers as well as friends).
I feel that I should start with Nottingham, my first destination, but I have decided to start with Tasmania – my most recent experience.
View from Mt. Wellinghton.
The evening before I had lunch at Templo in Hobart, I was at Aloft, that has an Asian inspired menu and is a totally different dining experience to the Italian-ate Templo.
I am not a food critic and as you may have noticed in my posts I do not elaborate or philosophize about what I eat, but I will say that although I enjoyed the ambiance, service and some of the food in Aloft, I often thought that some of the dishes were overwhelmed by strong, salty flavours, whether they were garnishes, pickles or sauces.
I like robust flavours and certainly I had some at Templo but the flavours were well rounded…. the varioustastes are balanced. Check the wine list too!
The food originated from humble beginnings – regional Italian on this occasion – but was adventurous, modern in taste and presentation. And not at all fussy – whether in name/ description or presentation.
Templo is a very small restaurant with only one engaging waiter – very personable and knowledgeable . As you can see by the menu on the board, there is little choice.
Below, Broccoli and Bagna Cauda. (Recipe below for Bagna Cauda).
This was described as Beef, celeriac…. I picked what type of cut the beef was as soon as I cut it and put it in my mouth – heart!!! Fantastic stuff… lean, great taste, all muscle. Waiter was impressed that I knew what it was. My father used to cook it for me- how could I forget!
We ate other stuff but how many photos can I include!
I love Tasmania – the scenery and the bountiful produce.
I did eat and drink well at other places in Hobart and on Bruny Island.
And, as on any trip I cooked in the places I stayed in , in Tasmania.
I appreciate the high-quality fresh produce along with the locally-produced meats, cheeses and fish.
I ate so much cheese.
And there is MONA. I could go on and on.
Bagna Cauda (it is Piedmontese)
I am amazed that I do not have a recipe for Bagna Cauda on my blog.
Bagna Cauda, translated as “hot bath,” is a dip for any combination of firm vegetables- cooked or uncooked.
A fondue-style fork will help. Slices of quality bread can be held underneath to catch the drippings and eaten also, if liked.
Here is a very simple recipe:
2 heads of garlic – separate cloves, peel
enough milk to cover garlic cloves in a small saucepan
about 25 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
300g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
300ml extra virgin olive oil
about 1 tablespoon double cream
Place the garlic cloves into a small pan, cover with milk. Gently simmer on very low heat until the garlic is soft.
Crush/mash the garlic into the milk (I use the back of a spoon), add the anchovies and dissolve them in the milk and garlic over gentle heat, stirring all the time. Add the butter and olive oil, bits and slurps slowly and stir gently to combine (without boiling).Take off the heat and mix in the cream.
Pour the mixture into a fondue dish or similar container that can be kept warm over a lighted candle or an appropriate burner.
I use this. I have a choice of two containers.
Place in centre of the table and dip in the vegetables.
In a restaurant in London recently I ordered a plate of Spaghetti alla Chitarra – square cut spaghetti that was cooked with some very spicy pork sausage. Square cut spaghetti are popular in Abruzzo, but also in Molise, Lazio and Puglia and obviously can now be found elsewhere in the world.
I had also found them on a menu in Marin County a year before London. There I ordered Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarrawith Manila clams, Pacific squid and ‘Nduja with anchovy and breadcrumbs (this is how it was written on the menu).
There is a little bit of Italian regional fusion in this dish:
The pasta is from Rustichella d’Abruzzo – a pasta manufacturer in the central region of Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast, famous because it uses traditional methods for quality pasta production and quality ingredients. For example the durum wheat is from growers in Italy as well as Canada and Australia. The Italian square-cut spaghetti was originally shaped by the dough being rolled over a box strung with guitar strings (chitarra= guitar) to create the straight edges. Now of course, it is all machine made.
‘Nduja is a spicy, soft spreadable salame from Calabria.
The use of toasted breadcrumbs as a topping for pasta is both Calabrese and Sicilian.
I do not have a recipe from the restaurant for Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarra with Manila clams, Pacific squid, ‘Nduja and anchovy and breadcrumbs, however, I have a pretty good palate and a sharp sense of smell. This is my interpretation of this recipe.
The estimation of amounts and is based on my tastes and preferences.
Recipe for 6 people
Breadcrumbs, anchovies and garlic mixture (often called pangrattato in Italian) is used to sprinkle on top of the dish instead of cheese.
1 cup bread crumbs made from 1-2 day old good quality bread
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more if needed
6 anchovies, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
In a fry pan (I use a non stick one) heat the oil, add the anchovies and toss them around for about 30 seconds before adding the garlic. Stir over medium heat until fragrant – the anchovies will break up and ‘dissolve’ into the oil.
Add breadcrumbs and continue to stir them until the crumbs are golden and toasted. Remove from the pan when they are ready otherwise they will continue to cook; set aside until you wish to use them.
700g of squid sliced into rings (optional – add 200g of vongole or clams without their shell per person )– adjust to your tastes.
150g of’ ‘Nduja (add more if you like more spice)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 red onions, sliced thinly
2-3 tablespoons of passata
In a frypan sauté the onion in the olive oil. When it is soft and golden add the ‘Nduja and stir gently on low heat until it is dissolved. Add the squid and toss it around till it is transparent and cooked (I do not cook squid for long). Add the passata half way through cooking, stir over medium-low heat until you have the consistency of a thick tomato sauce. You may need to add a little more liquid if necessary.
400 g spaghetti. Use good quality durum wheat spaghetti. The recommended amount on packets is 100 g per person. I always think that this is far too much especially for a first course, but adapt amounts accordingly. If you increase the amount of pasta you could also increase the amount of squid.
Cook the pasta, drain it and dress it with the sauce.
Dish it out into separate plates or into a large serving plate, top with the breadcrumb mixture and serve.
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 Triestine 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.
In the last 10 years Sicily has become a very popular destination and many friends, acquaintances and readers of my book (Sicilian Seafood Cooking) and my blog (All Things Sicilian and More), who plan to travel to Sicily, ask me for advice:
What should we do … where should we go … what must we eat … how do we get from point A to B?
Recently, I was contacted by a member of the marketing Team at GoEuro, a travel search engine that combines and compares rail, bus and air travel in one site. GoEuro was preparing a blog feature about Sicily, with tips from well-travelled bloggers and had found my site. They asked if I’d be interested in sharing some of my recommendations within the region.
I looked at the GoEuro site, liked it and thought that this would be a site I would use to help me plan my travel (I will be travelling to UK, Sicily, Rome, Berlin soon). I also thought it would be a useful site to refer my enquirers to visit.
My blog had already been mentioned by two other tourism companies – Sicily Local Expert Award and Sicily Tourism, but these two companies provided a general list of Sicilian blogs. The difference between them and GoEuro was that GoEuro’s is a compilation of the different tips given by the bloggers who were approached – made comprehensive, more personal, more useful.
Sicilian Wine and Food Experience, Thursday 1st October 7pm An intimate event that will see you not only eat and drink in a Sicilian manner but learn as you go.
The event will be conducted by Phil Smith, owner and creator of The Wine Depository.
The Wine Depository is a Melbourne-based bespoke wine retailer and consultancy here to challenge how and when we drink wine. We offer a hand picked (and rigorously tested) range of wines to either enjoy now or tuck in the cellar. We’re known for rare and hard to find wines, lesser known varietals and smaller producers.
The Wine Depository and Phil provide: Wine Cellar Advice Wine Sales Private Tastings Corporate Wine Services **Wine Events and Education Sicilian Wine and Food Experience is one of these events.
From The Wine Depository’s website: Phil knows that every time you taste a wine it is an event and it can be educational. He effortlessly brings these elements together in his wine tasting events, whether a casual tasting or a Masterclass over dinner. The emphasis is on good wines that will broaden your wine drinking knowledge or at the very least be extremely yummy. The Wine Depository often brings a knowledgeable and engaging speaker to take you through the wine selection.