Agghiotta di pisci a Missinisa – Fish alla ghiotta from Messina
This recipe contains Sicilian flavours in excess, and it is sure to satisfy the gluttons.
It is intended for piscispata (Sicilian for
swordfish; pescespada is the Italian) but any
cutlets or thick fillets of fish are suitable
(and preferable because swordfish is not sustainable).
It is said that the Sicilian fishermen used to talk to
the swordfish in Greek to lure them closer to
the boats and make them easier to catch. They
believed that if Italian or Sicilian were spoken,
the fish would not approach – it was a foreign
language for the swordfish accustomed to
being caught by the ancient Greeks.
Fish steaks or cutlets of firm, large fish cut into
thick slices. The fish I use are: flathead, trevally,
kingfish and albacore tuna, snapper, mackerel
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 x 200g (7oz.) fish steaks or
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 onion, finely sliced
½ cup salted capers, soaked and washed
1 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup currants, soaked in a little warm water
for about 15 minutes
½ cup pine nuts
2 – 3 bay leaves
500g (17oz.) tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a wide pan,
large enough to accommodate the fish in one
layer. Shallow-fry the fish for a couple of
minutes on both sides over medium-high heat
to seal. Remove from the pan and set aside.
For la ghiotta, add the celery and onion to the
same oil, and cook until softened, about five
minutes. Stir frequently. Reduce heat to
medium, then add the capers, olives, garlic,
currants, pine nuts and bay leaves and stir well.
Add tomatoes, season, stir, and cook for about
ten minutes until some of the juice from the
tomatoes has reduced.
Arrange the fish in the sauce in one layer and
spoon some of the sauce over it. Cover, and
cook on moderate heat until the fish is done.