TROTA CON SALSA SARACINA (PAN FRIED TROUT with Saracen, green olive sauce)

Once upon a time in Australia, Tartare sauce was about the only sauce that was served with fish and usually this was battered. Generally the ingredients for Tartare sauce included gherkins, chives, parsley and mayonnaise. If you were lucky, there may have been capers and or tarragon.

These days Tartare sauce continues to be very common in Australia, however increasingly so Australian cuisine reflects the cultural influences of the diverse cultures that have settled in Australia. For example, it is now not unusual to have one of the following sauces as an accompaniment, a charmoula (Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian) or a Nuoc Cham Gung (Vietnamese) or a salsa verde (Italian).

The less fiddling with this trout the better so I pan fried it and simply presented it with a dollop of a Sicilian sauce called Salsa Saracina; this sauce is particularly suitable for plainly cooked fish.

Salsa Saracina (Saracen sauce) is a cooked sauce made with that particular set of ingredients which are so common to Sicilian cooking – olives, sugar, pine nuts, saffron and sun dried sultanas. Apart from the olives, the other ingredients are attributed to the Arabs who settled in Sicily and at one time in history they were referred to as Saracens.

This sauce keeps very well for a few weeks when stored in the fridge. Place the sauce into a clean jar and press the contents down to eliminate air bubbles. Top it with a little extra virgin olive oil to seal it and always repeat the process if you remove some from the jar. This sauce is always served cold.

I hardly ever cook without using herbs and on this occasion I used the tops of a bulb of fennel and some spring onions. Other favourite herbs when pan-frying fish are fresh bay leaves, rosemary or thyme.

If the trout is a large one and you feel that it may need more cooking, once you have added the wine cover the fish with a lid and cook it until it is cooked to your liking. Once the fish is cooked, remove the lid and if there is too much liquid, evaporate it.

trout, as many as you need
herbs, fresh
white wine, ¼ cup per fish
extra virgin olive oil,to fry the fish
spring onions, left whole with a part of the tops removed

See: SALSA SARACINA (Saracen sauce)

Make the sauce before hand.

For the fish:
Dry the trout, sprinkle with a little salt and pan-fry the fish in a little extra virgin olive oil and the herbs.
Turn once and about a minute before it is cooked to your liking add the wine and evaporate. This will result in a small amount of sauce, which you can dribble on the plate before placing the fish on it.
Present the fish with a dollop of Salsa Saracina on the side.

This one fish was sufficient for 2 people – it is easily filleted at the table.


GULASCH (Goulash as made in Trieste)

I bet that you have never seen gulasch spelt like this…unless you are from Trieste. Trieste was part of the Austro- Hungarian empire and much of its cooking reflects this.

Gulasch in Trieste is made with meat, onions and paprika. It does not contain tomato or potatoes or peppers or other spices. I have seen recipes that include a few winter herbs – rosemary or marjoram, but this is not common.  My touch is to also add some red wine and caraway seeds; some cooks do this, some do not.

In Trieste gulasch can be made with beef or pork and may have a mixture of meats: beef shin, pork and maybe horse meat. I do not wish to put you off; I make mine just with beef, either shin, bolar or oyster blade, and it tastes wonderful.
Like all meat stews or braises it is best made the day before to allow the flavours to develop even further.
It needs to cook slowly – I cooked mine for about three hours and the slow cooking is essential.

2 k beef (shin, bolar, oyster blade) cut into large squares
2-3 onions, sliced finely
extra virgin olive oil and if you have it, about 2 tbsp. lard (no mucking around with this recipe)
2-4 bay leaves
2 tbsp. sweet paprika and 1/2-1 tbs of hot paprika
¾ cup of red wine and 1 tbs caraway seeds (optional, but I like to do this)
water or stock to cover the meat
salt to taste

Sauté the onions in hot oil till golden.
Add beef and paprika and sauté the beef.
Add  wine and some stock (or water), caraway seeds and salt; cover and simmer on low heat until the meat is tender.  Stir occasionally and make sure that the level of liquid  is maintained.

In Trieste, i triestini (the people from Trieste) may accompany their gulasch with spatzle (egg, flour, water made into a soft dough and the mixture is pushed through the holes of a colander into boiling salted water or into the boiling juice of the gulasch). Some like to have it with knodel (dumplings made with bread but some also make them with potatoes) others with polenta.

I like to have it with polenta – plain, ordinary (not Instant) polenta cooked in salted water and stirred until it begins to detach itself from the sides of the pot, then baked in an oiled tin till it forms a nice crust. Love it, and I doubt very much if my Sicilian relatives would enjoy it.

For other recipes from Trieste, see:

Iota (a thick soup – borlotti, sauerkraut and smoked  pork)
Strucolo de pomi (apple strudel)
Gnocheti de gris (semolina gnocchi in broth)
Patate in teccia (potatoes braised with onions)
Dolomiti – baccala mantecato (creamed baccala)
Risi e bisi (rice and peas- risotto)


PASTA con SALSICCE (Pasta with pork Italian sausages and broccoli)

Salsicce di maiale (those Italian pork sausages, made with good quality ground pork) help make great pasta sauces. Some butchers also add fennel seeds and /or chillies to Italian pork sauces, these are also good to use


When eating in Italy you will find (have found) that sauces do not ‘drown’ the taste of the pasta (Italians like to taste the pasta) and it is always al dente,, cooked so that it is still firm when bitten.

I always buy cheese in one piece and like to grate my own – an inferior tasting cheese can spoil a pasta. In the photo the grating cheese I have used is ricotta salata (salted, hard ricotta used for grating and popular in Sicily).

I am a bit of a purist.

For 4 people

4 Italian pork sausages, remove casings and cut into bite size pieces
400g dried rigatoni, penne, or fusilli pasta (those shapes that have twirls or cavities so that the sauce can be trapped inside)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
300g broccoli, cut into florets
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
chilli pepper flakes or fresh chillies to taste, I used ½  teaspoon full
½  teaspoon of fennel seeds
½ cup of white wine
anchovies to taste – I used 5 chopped finely
grating cheese to serve

Add the olive oil to a large frypan and over medium sauté the cut sausages until they begin to colour. Remove from the pan and set aside. The sausage meat will remain in compact shapes unless you break it up with a spoon as it cooks – the choice is yours.
Add broccoli, garlic and chilli to the same pan and sauté the contents for about 5 minutes. If you prefer your broccoli more cooked, add a splash of water or wine, cover and cook till the broccoli is cooked to your liking.
Increase heat, add the sausage meat, wine and anchovies and reduce the liquid – this should take about 5 minutes.
Cook pasta in salted boiling water.
Drain and mix with the sauce. (Return the pasta to the saucepan that it has been cooked in and add the sauce). Mix well and serve with grated pecorino cheese (more authentic for Southern Italian food) or parmesan ( in Northern Italian cooking).



Left over braises make excellent pies.

Over many years I have cooked with one of my friends who now lives in Queensland. I help her cook, she helps me, and we respect each other’s taste in food and manner of working in the kitchen. We can chose to work together or ignore each other completely and do our own thing, but together over the many years we have prepared some excellent meals

Recently I spent time with her in Queensland and this fish braise was her idea – she thought it had Sicilian flavours, and it does. I thought that she was using far too much garlic and too many chillies in her recipe for it to be Sicilian, but she carried on regardless. I have to admit that the resulting fish braise tasted great; the flavours melded into a mild, sweet flavoured sauce with subtle tastes. We ended up with a thick fish soup (Zuppa Di Pesce) and ate it with bread .

Ingredients for each pie

I complemented her dish with some roasted peppers – they are in season in Queensland and I was able to purchase red, yellow and green peppers. These complimented the fish braise very well.

Both of us always cook too much food (just in case people are hungry), but also because we can both use leftovers creatively and needless to say we had fish braise and peppers left over, hence individual pies for the next day – these were my idea.

Some people hate anchovies; omit them all together, or use white anchovies if you prefer a milder taste (called boquerones).

For the fish braise:

1k fillets of firm white-fleshed fish (we used Flathead)
10-12 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
8-10 long, red chillies (remove the seeds), sliced finely
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
800g red tomatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces (or use tinned)
4- 6 anchovies chopped finely,
¾ cup of chopped parsley, fresh oregano and basil.
Cut fish fillets into serving size pieces, rub with a little salt and pan-fry them in a in a large frying pan with a little of the oil. Remove them and set aside.
Heat the rest of the oil and over medium heat sauté the garlic and chilli until the garlic begins to soften – leave some of the seeds in the chillies if you like hot food.
Stir in chopped anchovies until they dissolve.
Add the wine and evaporate for 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, herbs and a little salt and cook the sauce until it is reduced. (Remember that the anchovies will be salty).
Add the fish pieces and gently press them into the sauce. Ensure that the sauce covers them, and heat through.
Check that the fish is cooked to your liking.
Spoon the fish braise onto plates and serve with some crusty bread.
Use the left over fish to make pies. We also included a layer of roasted peppers on top of the fish before topping with the pastry.
For the pastry:
250g plain flour, 120g cold butter cut into small cubes, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 1-2 tbs cold water, a little salt.
Put flour and salt into a bowl, add butter and oil and rub it into the flour until it resembles bread-crumbs. Alternatively use a food processor.
Add just enough cold water to bind the dough together – use the blade of a knife to do this.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 10-15 minutes before rolling out and cutting it into the shapes that will cover the pies.
Spoon cold fish braise into oven-proof bowls (we made 4 individual pies). Do not include too much of the braising liquid – see photo above.
Top with strips of roasted peppers (optional).
Cover with pastry.
Bake in preheated oven, 200C until golden (15-25 minutes), then cool pies on a wire rack.

We accompanied the pie with this salad.


MERCATO, Sicilian Seafood Cooking, Cooking class



625 – 627 Lower North East Road CAMPBELLTOWN

Mercato is market in Italian.
If you are in Adelaide, you must visit this store. It provides all lovers of things Italian with a wide selection of small goods and cheeses, grocery items and produce, packaged sweets and biscuits, wine, cooking implements, crockery, cookery books and cookery classes and more. It is the perfect store for cooks and lovers of food and wine .
I will be conducting a cookery class at Mercato in November.

See link:


The Mercato shop

Last year we had the wonderful Marisa Raniolo Wilkins launch her new cookbook
“Sicilian Seafood Cooking” at Mercato, to rave reviews.

We had such a great response to Marisa’s book that this year she is coming back to
Mercato for an exclusive cooking class to be held just for our valued customers!

Sicilian Seafood Cooking Class

Join us on
Friday, 9th November 2012
in the Mercato Demo Kitchen
625 – 627 Lower North East Road CAMPBELLTOWN
as Marisa cooks up a Sicilian storm!
She will be showcasing some of her favourite recipes from the cookbook
such as Pasta con la Sarde and even a Cassata for dessert.

Please call Mercato on (08) 8337 1808
or you can simply book online by clicking on the link below
Have you joined us on Facebook or Twitter?
A great fun way to keep up to date with what’s happening
at Mercato on a regular basis.



Trading hours:
Mon-Fri 8.30am – 6.30pm
Sat-Sun 8.30am – 5pm
Public Holiday 9am – 3pm





OLIVE NERE FRITTE (Fried Black Olives)

Sometimes a small bowl of olives are all that one needs for an antipasto or as a nibble with one’s first drink.

These are processed black olives (have been pickled in brine), tossed into a hot frypan and presented warm. I used kalamata olives, but you could use any black olives including the wrinkled sun/salt-dried olives for this recipe.

500 grams of black olives.
½ cup of vinegar
1 onion, finely chopped or 2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh herbs: oregano or mint or fennel fronds or parsley
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Saute the onion in the oil, add black olives and cook them over high heat for five minutes. This will intensify the flavours and fragrance of the olives.
Add the vinegar and evaporate.
Place the hot olives into a serving plate add herbs and serve always warm. On this occasion I used fresh mint – the plant on my balcony is just beginning to sprout new leaves as we move closer to spring.



I usually cook mussels in white wine with herbs, garlic and orange peel, but it is so easy to achieve a totally different taste by using different herbs and adding a few different vegetables.

These mussels that were cooked for me by my friend who lives in Queensland. She added a leek, a fennel bulb and julienne zucchini; the result is a thick soup and we ate it with crusty bread.

She used oregano as the herb but thyme or tarragon would also work –these are the herbs of Provence. Because fennel was used in her recipe I have suggested using Pernod or Ricard (anise-flavoured alcohol) rather than wine or adding some crushed fennel seeds to enhance the anise taste. This is optional.

On the day that we cooked the mussels we had gone to a market and we had purchased some very good red carrots and small Brussels sprouts. Although I would not usually accompany a soup with side dishes of cooked vegetables, on this occasion we did – we wanted to eat them while they were so fresh.

I do not just cook Sicilian, and on this occasion I cooked the Brussels sprouts with garlic and apple and the red carrots with spring onions, caraway seeds, orange peel, some Puy lentils (left over from the night before) and some pomegranate molasses. We ended up eating these as a starter.

black mussels, scrubbed, bearded (these were vacuum packed,1.2k)
600g ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 leek, sliced
2 zucchini, cut julienne (thin, long strips)
3 spring onions or shallots, cut finely
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 orange, juice and peel
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tablespoons dry white wine or 2  of Pernod or Ricard
fresh oregano leaves, tarragon or thyme (to taste)
pinch of saffron threads (soaked in a little hot water for 2 mins)
½ cup olive oil
500m (2 cups) fish or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley to decorate.

Sauté garlic, leek, fennel and spring onions over low heat until the vegetables have softened.
Add wine (or Pernod), fennel seeds, herbs, saffron and tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes.
Add stock, cover and cook on low heat (as you would cook a soup) for about 30 mins.
Blend the soup – it should be quite thick. Reheat and bring to the boil.
Add the orange peel and orange juice and zucchini and cook for a few minutes.
Add the mussels, cover and cook until the mussels open.
Sprinkle some parsley on top.
Place into soup bowls and serve with some crusty bread.



This is an intensely flavoured and heavily fragrant soup that can be served warm or chilled.

In some recipes the peppers (also called capsicums) are charred or grilled and then cooked in the soup.

Peppers 1010078

There are many variations to this soup, some use butter or cream to thicken and enrich the soup. Different herbs like tarragon, basil, coriander, or fresh oregano can replace the thyme and I have seen recipes that include an additional vegetable, for example a bulb of fennel, leek or a couple of red tomatoes, but whatever the recipe you are aiming for a very concentrated, soup with Mediterranean flavours – you could almost choose one of the countries and vary the ingredients to suit (for example for Italian tastes, I would chose olive oil in preference to butter and select basil or oregano as my herbs, for a Middle Eastern flavours, coriander etc).

My friend made this very simple soup that relies heavily on the flavours of the peppers. We are staying with her on the Gold Coast in Queensland and red peppers are very much in season here. Our soup was accompanied with slices of toasted, crusty bread spread with a paste made of feta, olive oil, a little lemon juice and thinly sliced spring onion. I liked this more than adding a dollop of cream or yogurt at the point of serving. Goat’s curd (chevre) could also be used instead of the feta.


large red peppers, 6 cut into small pieces
large onions, 2 chopped

extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup


vegetable or chicken stock, 4 cups

fresh thyme, to taste

salt and black pepper to taste

cloves of garlic, 3 large crushed


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions the red peppers and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add garlic and wine and cook quickly on high heat, to evaporate the wine. Add stock, thyme, salt and pepper, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Puree the mixture with a blender/ food processor until smooth.

Add a few chopped herbs for colour – we ran out of thyme and in this instance added a little chopped parsley and coriander – maybe a little bit too much of a melange and fusion of flavours, but it was delicious.



Review of Sicilian Seafood Cooking from PSnews by Christine Salins:

A Sicilian-born Australian cook creates a deliciously hearty winter soup, writes Christine Salins

Seafood feast by Christine Salins

I’ve only just discovered Marisa Raniolo Wilkins’ blog, All Things Sicilian and More, but I’ve had great fun reading about her passion for food, especially the cuisine of Sicily, the island of her birth.
Marisa spent her early childhood in Trieste before moving to Australia with her Sicilian parents, but clearly the childhood memories have never left her.
She is, by all accounts, a generous home cook who is passionate not only about using fresh produce but also about sharing her knowledge of food and its traditions.

Food photography Graeme Gillies, stylist Fiona Rigg


Sicilian Seafood Cooking by Marisa Raniolo Wilkins.

Her mother’s surname was Leone, or lion, and there’s a Sicilian proverb that, loosely translated, says “every dog feels like a lion in his own house”.
Marisa describes herself as a lion in control of her own kitchen and she is certainly a fierce advocate of Sicilian cuisine and culture.
So much so that she has now produced a beautiful book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking (New Holland, $45) celebrating the great diversity of Sicilian food and the role that seafood plays in both Sicilian cooking and its economy.
Not only does she draw on her own personal recollections and family traditions, she also takes readers on an historical journey, showing how the cuisine has been shaped by Greek, French, Arab and Spanish influences.
She canvases some of the issues around the sustainability of seafood, and there are some wonderfully evocative illustrations of dishes and Sicilian scenes.
But it’s the recipes, along with the huge number of immensely knowledgeable tips and suggestions, that are the real star, and if you love seafood, you’ll be delighted as I am to join in her culinary journey.
The following recipe reproduced from her book is a deliciously hearty soup for winter. Zuppa di pesce from Syracuse is reputed to be the best in Sicily. Here it is
baked, leaving the fish undisturbed so it does not break up.
You need large chunks of boneless fish – either buy a whole fish, fillet it
yourself and use the heads and bones for the stock, or make the stock from fish carcasses.

Rich Fish Soup from Syracuse Cooked in the Oven

  2kg mixed seafood
 1 cup dry white wine
 2 cups fish stock
 500g tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
 ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
 2–3 celery hearts (pale green stalks and leaves), chopped
 3–4 bay leaves
 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
 2 tablespoons finely cut flat-leaf parsley
 Fronds for fennel, finely cut
 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
 Zest of 1 orange, peeled thinly and cut into large pieces
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cut the boneless fish into chunks.
Clean shellfish, molluscs and squid and cut the squid into mouth-sized pieces.
Arrange the fish in an ovenproof pan that will fit all the ingredients.
Add the wine and cover the fish with the strained stock. Add all the other
ingredients. Cover the pan (use foil if you do not have a lid) and place in a
200°C oven for 30 minutes.
Serve with oven-toasted bread.

To find out more about Christine Salins click here.


GIORGIO LOCATELLI’S SICILY RE-PACKED – Sarde a Beccafico, Caponata, Maccu

Those of you who live in the UK may have already watched Sicily Unpacked with London based historian Andrew Graham-Dixon and chef Giorgio Locatelli. We have viewed two episodes in Australia and have one to go. I always find great pleasure in seeing Sicily promoted. In these two episodes we have seen some beautiful scenes mainly of Palermo, Noto and Modica and I have included a few of the photos I have to remind you of how beautiful Sicily is.

I have Giorgio Locatelli’s Made In Italy and have enjoyed it. Giorgio’s book on Sicily was released at the same time as mine (Sicilian Seafood Cooking). I have yet to buy his book on Sicily, but I will, as it is always good to compare one’s recipes with someone else’s.

In the two episodes that I have watched Giorgio has cooked three recipes, but although you saw preparing these he did not provide them (a good strategy to motivate you to buy the book).

When I cook I always like to look at more than one recipe of the one dish and then decide how I am going to cook mine. You may wish to do the same.

The three recipes that Giorgio cooked are on my blog and from what I could see they were quite different to mine. To view these recipes on my blog click on the links below. Those of you who have a copy of my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking will find two of these recipes written in greater detail.


Sean Connolly selected to cook my recipe for the SBS website during his Family Feast series. You may wish to view this video on SBS website:


My recipe for Caponata Catanese was published in ITALIANICIOUS magazine and I have written about this in CAPONATA (general information)


A thick soup made with pulses. Click link above for recipe.

I hope that we will all enjoy episode 3 of Sicily Unpacked.