Rationale – CULINARY TRADITIONS

We cannot expect recipes to remain exactly the same, but there are some culinary traditions when it comes to Italian food. These may influence our thinking.

Just like food has evolved in Australia (and elsewhere) cooks are influenced by new ingredients, the wide exposure to the cooking of others (media, travel, migration/immigration, eating away from home) and perhaps the wider acceptance of not sticking to the rules, except perhaps as do the nonne (plural of nonna) and in my case, it was also the zie (plural of zia=aunt).

One simple example of how traditional recipes have evolved is to consider the range of toppings with Pizza. Once, there was Margheria, Marinara, Quattro Stagioni, Napoletana and Pugliese (if you were lucky.)  Modern combination of ingredients are now extensive and I consider some to be excellent and keeping with my tastes (ingredients like – stracciatella, gorgozola, roquette, roasted pumpkin etc), but somehow I can’t come to accept a BBQ PIZZA as described on the web (with smoked cheese, diced chicken breast, peppers, onions, baby plum tomatoes and barbecue sauce) or a TIKKA MASALA PIZZA (spiced chicken, green peppers, natural yogurt, mango chutney and coriander).

My knowledge about Italian cuisine and ingredients just doesn’t allow it.

I like to experiment in the kitchen, but I tend to stick with ingredients that I think are acceptable within tradition and regional culture. I base my cooking of my knowledge and experience. For example, I have seen recipes suggesting fish sauce as a substitute for anchovies in Italian recipes (by chefs and not necessarily Italian). And why not? But not me. Part of me still sticks some culinary regulations.

The following is an account of my thinking before I cooked dinner on a week night (not special).

I had some fennel and some zucchini in the fridge that needed using.

I needed to make some culinary decisions.

I felt like making a pasta dish but knew that I needed to add something else to these vegetables to pep up the flavour. I consider both these vegetables sweet tasting, and because my sweet marjoram plant is doing extremely well on my balcony, I decided to add this, too. Parsley always pairs with both vegetables as does a splash of white wine or/and stock. I could sauté either onion or garlic before adding the vegetables and I could cook them in butter as well as extra virgin olive oil; I would add a large amount of grated Parmesan at the end. Perhaps also a grind of nutmeg which would complement the marjoram and the sweet tastes of the vegetables. This set me thinking about adding a few walnuts too (influenced by the Ligurian pesto made with marjoram and walnuts). Such a recipe would result in a dish with northern Italian flavours.

If I wanted something spicier, I would need to add some of the following ingredients: olives (either black or green), capers, chilli, anchovies, tomatoes or better still tomato paste. Red wine is stronger than white wine and Pernod would complement the fennel in the ingredients.Either Italian pork sausages (with fennel or chilli,) or pancetta would be good, too. Borlotti or cannellini beans would enhance the taste and textures and add protein to the dish. Adding a contrasting bitter tasting vegetable could also work – radicchio, if I wanted to keep with northern Italian influences, chicory or endives, perhaps, would be more southern and wild fennel would be Sicilian or Calabrese.

I decided on anchovies, olives and a dash of white wine.

With strong flavours Pecorino is better than Parmesan. I always have feta marinating in my fridge (in extra virgin olive oil, fennel seeds, dried oregano, fresh bay leaves and peppercorns) and this would be suitable too. Ricotta would be a sweet contrast to the stronger flavours, but perhaps it would be better as a topping to the milder northern Italian influenced version. And least we forget pan fried dry breadcrumbs as a topping, popular in Sicily and Calabria.

Once I decided on the ingredients, cooking was simple.

INGREDIENTS

4 zucchini (in cubes), 1 head of fennel (cut into smaller cubes), 1 onion (sliced) – I only had a red onion, but because of the strong colour I would have preferred a white/ brown one), about 8 – 10 chopped anchovies (to taste), olives (mine were a mixture of green and black), cut parsley and marjoram and a splash of white wine. I used no salt because of the anchovies and olives. Extra virgin olive oil for the cooking.

Different shapes of pasta hold the sauce and ingredients in a different way. An oily, creamy, thin sauce sticks better to long pasta, whereas a short pasta shape is more suited to a sauce where the bits of meat or vegetables can nestle within, for example, shapes that have a hole (penne, rigatoni, shells) or a ridge or twists (farfalle, casarecce, spiralli) I opted for short casarecce pasta to go with this sauce.

METHOD

Work out at what stage of cooking the sauce, you will need to cook the pasta. This will depend on your speed as a cook.

For the sauce: Dissolve anchovies in a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, then add the onion and sauté until it has wilted. Add the fennel and the anchovies and at the same time as sautéing the ingredients try to dissolve the anchovies. The darker colour in the photo above is red onion.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the fennel has softened.

Add zucchini, chopped herbs and olives. Sauté again and perhaps cover with a lid until the vegetables have softened to your liking (I didn’t have to)

Add a splash of white wine to deglaze.

Dress the pasta. Present with grated cheese. I selected Pecorino.

And I wasn’t to miss out about Radicchio and Borlotti, so I made a salad. I used celery rather than fennel because I had used fennel in the sauce, used spring onion and aa vinaigrette dressing.

Some examples of recipes that may have influenced my thinking:

PESTO DI NOCI (Walnut pesto/ sauce for pasta)

PASTA CON FINOCCHIO (Pasta and fennel; preferably wild)

PASTA WITH BREADCRUMBS, anchovies and fennel (Pasta cca muddica)

PASTA CON LE SARDE (SARDINES)

RADICCHIO and Borlotti salad 

AND BORLOTTI SALAD and BRAISED FENNEL WITH TAPENADE

HAPUKA(fish)WITH SICILIAN FLAVOURS

I used Hapuka, but any fish will do.

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The Sicilian flavours are simple – grated lemon peel, lemon juice, anchovies, fresh mint and parsley.

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Once you have pan fried one side of the fish, turn it over, top with the chopped herbs, anchovies cut into small pieces. Wait till the underside is cooked to your liking – do not overlook it as the fish will be flipped on the same side again for a very short time.

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Turn the fish over once again and salt that side slightly and add lemon juice. Evaporate the lemon juice and it is done. The anchovies should have “melted” a bit.

YEARNING FOR VITELLO TONNATO

Now and again I feel nostalgic for the “old” food. From my childhood, I often hanker for Vitello Tonnato. It is eaten cold, can be easily prepared beforehand and is a perfect dish as a starter or as a main meal. Left overs make a perfect panino.

There is an earlier post with the recipe for Vitello Tonnato,  but this time I will let the photos guide the cooking.

I used a grirello – the eye round steak. The vegetables are onion, celery, carrots, garlic and herbs. I have tied the herbs (bay, rosemary, thyme) with string so that they can be easily removed at the end of cooking. Usually I like to include sage, but I have none growing at the moment.

I insert slices of garlic into the meat.

Some recipes indicate that the vegetables and meat can be boiled. I do not always repeat what my mother did but like her I lightly brown the vegetables and meat and this does add to the taste.  I used a fish kettle for the cooking.

There is a bottle of white wine and some chicken stock ready to add. I added about 1 cup of wine and 2 cups of stock.

The liquid will add flavour and keep the meat moist. I always evaporate the juices at the end to concentrate the flavours of the sauce. Add seasoning.

Cook the meat to your liking. My mother always cooked it till it was very well done – that is how the older generation cooked meat in those times. My meat is lightly pink, but could have been rarer –  on this occasion I had guests who prefer their meat well done.

Cool the meat and slice thinly.

Now for the sauce: egg mayonnaise, drained tuna (packed in oil), capers, anchovies and some of the vegetables that were used in the cooking of the meat. If the reduced sauce has cooled and jellied, add a little of the sauce.

Blend  the ingredients. before adding the mayonnaise.

Add the mayonnaise and this is the sauce.

Build the layers – slices of meat, topped with the sauce. I made it the day before I served it. The sauce penetrates and softens the meat.

I have had modern versions of this dish in a number of places, both in Australia and Italy and the preference seems to be to place the sauce on top of some slices without covering each layer of meat.

I  like the meat to be smothered with the tuna sauce.

Decorate it as you wish. This time was not my best, I used the left over carrots, topped them with strips of anchovies, stuffed olives cut in half and pink peppercorns. My mother probably would not have approved.

SEE:
VITELLO TONNATO

CHICKEN LAYERED WITH A TUNA AND EGG MAYONNAISE,  A cold Chicken dish

INSALATA RUSSA (Party time – Russian salad)

PESCE IN BIANCO (Plain fish). MAIONESE (Mayonnaise)

POLLO ALLA MESSINESE (A cold chicken dish similar to Vitello Tonnato from Messina)

 

TROTA CON OLIVE VERDI, LIMONE E ACCIUGHE – Pan fried trout with green olives, lemon slices and anchovies

Anchovies are often added to fish in Sicilian cuisine – they are either stuffed in the slashes made on the sides of the fish or gently melted with a little oil and added to the fish whilst it is cooking. Trout has flaky, delicate flesh and slashing it is not a good idea so I chose to do the latter.

I always use herbs for all my cooking and this time I selected sage that is often associated with veal and pork but I quite like it with trout. Sage is not a common herb in Sicilian cooking and you may prefer to use rosemary instead.

  • whole fish, one large trout (for 2-3 people)
  • lemons, 1-2 whole – ends trimmed, sliced into thick circles
  • extra virgin olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • anchovies, 3-6 cut finely
  • green olives, a couple of tablespoons, well drained
  • sage or rosemary

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  • Prepare the fish – clean, dry and stuff a few herbs in the cavity.
  • Add a little oil (about one tablespoon depending on your pan) to the frying pan and over medium heat. Add the lemon slices and pan fry them until lightly browned – turn once. In order to brown the lemon slices they should not be overcrowded so you may need to pan fry them in two batches.
  • Remove the lemon slices from the pan with the oil and any of the juices.

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  • Add a little more oil to the fry pan, heat it and add the anchovies. Stir them around in the pan over medium-low heat until they dissolve.
  • Add the trout. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (remember that the anchovies are salty) and add the sage. Pan fry the fish on both sides and only turn once.
  • Add the olives half way the cooking.
  • Toss the slices of lemon and the juices back in the pan and heat through.

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When I was in Paris a couple of months ago I saw this  hand painted Fridge in a store window. This fridge is part of  Sicily is my Love, a colourful collaboration by Smeg fridges and Dolce&Gabbana’s signature decorative style. Each of the 100 fridges illustrate Sicilian folklore in bold, vibrant colour and are hand-painted by Sicilian artists.  They were released during the Milan Design Fair, Salone del Mobile di Milano in 2016.

 

PASTA CON SARDE – the baked version, Palermo, Sicily

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.

Wild fennel

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

  • bucatini, 500g
  • sardines, 500g
  • 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.

LINKS:
WILD FENNEL, link with photos
PASTA WITH ANCHOVIES , wild fennel and breadcrumbs recipe
EASTER IN SICILY
SCACCE, Focaccia stuffed bread

 

 

Sicilian Duck with green olives and anchovies – Anatra a Papparedda cu l’ulivi

Ducks are not standard fare on Sicilian dinner tables. Ducks in Sicily are few and far between.

I am glad that living in Australia where ducks are pretty easy to find  and more so in the last few years.

In Giuseppe Coria,’s book – Profumi Di Sicilia, I found one duck recipe

It is for a braised duck cooked with the following ingredients: Anchovies, garlic, parsley, heart of celery, white wine, rosemary and green olives.

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I roasted 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.

Here is the duck roasting in the oven. I stuffed it with some rosemary. I  placed some potatoes in the fat that had dripped in the pan about 30 minutes before the end of cooking.

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INSTRUCTIONS

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 2k so I roasted it for 2×40 minutes= 1hr 20mins.

For the sauce:

Remove the duck, drain the fat (use it to roast vegetables, it also makes good savoury pastry, just like lard).

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Reserve any juices that are in the bottom of the pan.

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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.

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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.

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A couple of days later I used the leftover sauce with the stock made from the duck carcase/carcass ( water, onion, carrot, celery, whole peppercorns and salt) and some mushrooms to make a risotto, and this tasted exceptionally good.

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TAPAS MET VIS – Small Fishy Bites: CROCHETTE DI PATATE (Potato Croquettes)

My second book Small Fishy Bites is now translated into Dutch (Tapas Met Vis) and this set me thinking about my friend Lily and how the Dutch like potato croquettes.

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The French call them croquettes, Italians know them as crocchette.

When I was in primary school and living in Adelaide I used to have a friend called Lily. She and her family were Dutch and her mother used to call them Kroket.

My mother also cooked crochette di patate (potato croquettes) and sometimes when we came home from school there would be a snack waiting for us if they had been on the menu and were left over from the night before.

Lily’s mum fried her croquettes in vegetable oil whereas my mum fried hers in olive oil so I could always taste a difference.

Sometimes my mum used to put a little ham or a cube of cheese in the centre.

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In Small Fishy Bites, there is a recipe for crocchette di patate and being a book about fish these croquettes have anchovies or smoked eel in them; the fish can be spread throughout the potato mixture or inserted into the centre. Great with drinks!

In the photo above you can see the two potato ricers I use. The one on the right is very old and came from Trieste where I lived as a child.

To stop the potatoes becoming soggy, I boil the potatoes whole and then peel them once they are cool.

24oz/700 g potatoes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
4 anchovies, cut into small pieces (or 4 oz/100 g flaked smoked eel)
salt and freshly ground pepper
a little flour or breadcrumbs to coat the crocchette
extra virgin olive oil for frying

 

Instead of the anchovies you could also use 3½ oz/100 g of smoked eel.
Cook the potatoes until soft (boil or use a microwave). Peel when cool enough
to handle and use a ricer or a Mouli grater (a hand-operated cooking tool
designed for grating or pureeing small quantities of food) mouler to mash
them. Let cool completely.
Add the eggs, garlic, parsley and seasoning and the fish last of all.
Shape the mixture into egg shape patties and just before frying roll them in
a little plain flour.
Fry until golden and only turn once.
 
 

TONNO AL AGRO DOLCE – Sweet and sour tuna, Sicilian – ALBACORE TUNA

In Australia we have different types of tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Southern Bluefin and Yellowfin tunas. Bonito and mackerel as well as tuna are part of the same family (Scombridae).

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 I think that this is the reason why in Australia we tend to undervalue it. It is denser in texture but excellent for braising (lightly or cooked for longer).  Generally it is sold as a wheel but I have also been able to buy it as a fillet – perfect for  baking and braising  in one piece.

When I see Albacore tuna I grab it. It is caught in winter on the coast of Southern New South Wales but unfortunately not many fish vendors stock it.

Michael displays albacore right #1

This is Mike holding one of the Albacore tuna at his stall in the Queen Victoria Market. He looks very noble in this photo.

In this recipe the tuna is lightly braised and has slivers of garlic and mint studded throughout the pieces of fish. The rest of the ingredients and cooking style are Sicilian through and through.

I prefer to use a large round piece of Albacore tuna for this dish, which can be separated into 4 portions.

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The following recipe is for 4 people

INGREDIENTS and PROCESS

fish, 4 pieces
onion, 1 chopped thinly
garlic, 2 cloves, cut into halves (or thinner)
fresh mint, 4+ leaves (or sage leaves in winter because mint is not doing well)
4 anchovies
green olives, 8 -10
extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup
salt and chilli flakes to taste
red wine vinegar, 1 splash – about 1 tablespoon
sugar, ¾ tsp
orange, 4 slices , these are optional and a modern take on this recipe. If you are going to add them sauté them before you add the sugar and vinegar
 
Cut the 4 portions of tuna from the round piece. Discard the skin around the outside.
Use a thin, sharp knife with a long blade and make 2-3 deep, regularly spaced slits into each hunk of fish (I made 3-4 slits in the biggest pieces of fish).
Insert into each split half a clove of garlic and in another a mint leaf.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate the fish in one layer.
Sauté the fish, turn once (until it colours), remove and set aside.
Sauté the onion in the same pan until it becomes golden and soft.
Add the anchovies and stir them around over moderate heat – they will dissolve.
Add olives and the seasoning. Add the orange slices (optional). Add the sugar, watch it melt (still over medium heat) then add the vinegar and evaporate it.
Return the tuna to the pan it and cook gently until it is cooked to your liking – this will depend on the size of your fish and how you prefer to eat it. For my tastes I return the tuna to the sauce mainly to reheat it as I do enjoy my tuna fairly underdone (this is in comparison to how Italians generally eat tuna).

I have also cooked the slice of tuna whole.

 

CARCIOFI FARCITI (Stuffed artichokes: with meat and with olives and anchovies)

Stuffed artichokes, I can’t get enough of them.

Carciofi  are artichokes; farciti, imbottiti and ripieni all mean STUFFED in Italian.

If you are invited at my place for dinner during artichoke season it is very likely that one of the courses will be stuffed artichokes.

I braise stuffed artichokes in stock and white wine and all the stuffings  have a proportion of breadcrumbs (1- 2day old good quality bread).

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There are two  other recipes on other posts for stuffed artichokes:

Two lots of friends last week, two lots of artichokes and two more recipes. Although I braised the artichokes in stock and white wine, tomato pulp (canned or passata) are an option and would compliment the flavours of the following stuffings.

The cooking time will depend on the type and maturity of the artichokes. Sometimes I have found that they take 40 minutes and at other times almost double the time. To test if the artichokes are cooked, pull on one of the outside leaves – it should detach easily.

There may or may not have a fuzzy choke, depending on the maturity of the plant. If there is, remove it with a teaspoon, carefully turning it without snapping the sides of the vegetable.

 

STUFFED WITH MINCE MEAT

2 medium – large artichokes
stock/ white wine/water/tomato pulp
bay leaves
 
Stuffing:
1 egg
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup of good quality lean ground beef
1tbs parsley, cut finely
1 garlic clove, chopped
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for the stuffing and ½ cup to cook the artichokes
½ cup pine nuts
ground nutmeg; I also added a bit of cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the stuffing: Place all of the ingredients together in a bowl and combine them with your fingers. The mixture is the same as when making meatballs.
 

Clean the artichokes, see: CARCIOFI (Artichokes and how to clean them and prepare them for cooking).

Trim the stalk with a small sharp knife to pull away the tough, stringy outer skin (just like the strings of celery). Keep the artichokes and the stem in acidulated water (water and lemon or water and a little white vinegar) until ready to stuff.
Drain the artichokes, remove the outer leaves of the artichokes and cut off the top. Use your fingers to spread out the leaves; the stuffing will go mainly in the centre of the artichoke. Sprinkle a little salt between the leaves.
Stuff the centre of the artichokes – I use my fingers; press the stuffing firmly into the centre.
Pour the rest of the olive oil in a pan and heat it. 
Place the artichokes upside down into the hot oil – this will brown the meat stuffing.
Turn the artichokes the right way up i.e. standing upright so that they can cook in an upright position (choose your pan carefully).
Add braising liquid. The level of the braising liquid should be about 1 cm below the top of the artichokes. Add a little salt to the braising liquid.
Cover and cook artichokes over low-medium heat for about 50- 80 mins. The cooking time will depend on the type and maturity of the artichokes.

 

VARIATION

Peas can be added during the braising – add these about 20 minutes before the cooking is finished.

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STUFFED WITH BLACK OLIVES AND ANCHOVIES AND A CUBE OF CHEESE

Cheese: I used pecorino fresco but a sharper cheese like provolone or mature pecorino or parmigiano would also be suitable.

Artichokes with olives, parsley & cheese 2

2 medium – large artichokes
stock/ white wine/water/tomato pulp
2 cubes of cheese
 

 (In  the photo above, the artichokes are ready to be cooked.)

Stuffing

1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbs of one herb: parsley or fresh oregano or mint, cut finely
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for the stuffing and ½ cup to cook the artichokes
½ cup stoned black olives
¼ cup chopped anchovies

 

Prepare the stuffing: Place the breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs and the drizzle of oil in a bowl. Combine them with your fingers. Add the olives and anchovies and mix them through lightly. (I do not use extra salt – I find that the salt in the olives, anchovies and cheese is sufficient.)
 

Clean the artichokes, see: CARCIOFI (Artichokes and how to clean them and prepare them for cooking)

Trim the stalk with a small sharp knife to pull away the tough, stringy outer skin (just like the strings of celery). Keep the artichokes and the stem in acidulated water (water and lemon or water and a little white vinegar) until ready to stuff.
There may or may not have a fuzzy choke, depending on the maturity of the plant. If there is, remove it with a teaspoon, carefully turning it without snapping the sides of the choke.
Drain the artichokes, remove the outer leaves of the artichokes and cut off the top. Use your fingers to spread out the leaves; the stuffing will go mainly in the centre of the artichoke. Sprinkle a little salt between the leaves.
Stuff the centre of the artichokes – I use my fingers; press the stuffing firmly into the centre.
Press one cube of cheese into the centre the stuffing so that it is covered.
Place the rest of the oil in the pan and arrange the artichokes standing upright so that they can cook in an upright position (choose your pan carefully).
Add braising liquid. The level of the braising liquid should be about 1 cm below the top of the artichokes. Add a little salt to the braising liquid.
Cover and cook artichokes over low-medium heat for about 50- 70 mins. The cooking time will depend on the type and maturity of the artichokes.
Present with cooking liquid around them.
 
 

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TRIGLE (Red Mullet) AND ORECCHIETTE (pasta)

Red Mullet 2

In this recipe I am using Red Mullet, also known as Goatfish; they are called Trigle in Italian. In Australia this little fish is very underrated, but travel to any country around the Mediterranean and southern Europe and you will find that it is highly esteemed.

Orecchiette, (pasta shaped like little ears) are popular in Puglia, a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east and the Ionian Sea to the southeast.

Replace the Red Mullet with any other sweet tasting white fish, such as whiting or try crabmeat – both are sustainable. Pink Ling, Red Snapper and Red emperor  are also suitable for this dish and all have an attractive pink skin; they are all fished in Australia and/or New Zealand and both countries aim to manage for a sustainable and productive stock (overfishing has occurred in the past and stocks in certain locations still require rebuilding – in Think Twice Category by The Australian Marine Conservation Society).

Gurnard

I always select less than the standard recommended 100g of pasta per person, especially if it is not for a main course. The following amount will feed 5-6 people in my household.

Red snapper fillets

300g fish: red mullet or similar cut into bite size pieces
300g broccoli or cauliflower or broccolini ( separated or cut into small pieces)
400g orecchiette
150g anchovies
¾ cup of olive oil,
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 cup of chopped parsley
4 chopped tomatoes
1-2 chillies, remove the seeds if you do not want the dish to be hot

salt to taste

 Sauté the garlic and chillies in about ½ cup of oil, add the broccoli and toss them around in the pan until they are well coated. Add the chopped anchovies and cook until softened. You may prefer to leave the broccoli with a little crunch – if not – add a splash of water and cook for longer.
Remove the contents from the pan and set aside.
Pan-fry the fish lightly in the same pan with the rest of the oil.
Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes have softened.
Mix the two cooked components and reheat.
Dress the cooked pasta with the above sauce and serve.