Tag Archives: Ark of Taste

PASTA CON BOTTARGA ( Pasta with Grated Bottarga)

Just recently I was speaking to a group of lovers of Sicily (TSAA-The Sicilian Association Of Australia) about recipes from my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking (Reprint edition, Released date 1 Dec 2014) that are easy to cook and very suitable for festive occasions. One of these recipes was Pasta con bottarga – it is special.

 

Si vo viviri gustusu, ova di tunnu e cacocciulu spinusu (Sicilian proverb).
Se volete vivere di gusto, uova di tonno e cardi spinosi (Italian translation).
If you wish to live like a gastronome, eat tuna eggs and prickly cardoons.

I first wrote this post in March 2009. I cooked Pasta con bottarga on Good Friday (day of abstinence). My mother, brother and sister in law visited us in Melbourne. I had bought the bottarga from Enoteca Sileno.

Bottarga (from the Arab word botarikh – salted fish eggs) features strongly in Sicilian food. It is called buttarga or buttarica in Sicilian and it is the name for the cured roe sacs harvested from the females of the grey mullet (bottarga di muggine) and tuna (bottarga di tonno.) The tuna roe is the most common in Sicily and pasta with bottarga is a Sicilian specialty well worth eating on special occasions.

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In Sicily almost every part of the tuna is eaten, either fresh or processed – canned, salted, air dried and smoked. These days, the skills and traditions of locally processing and preserving some parts of the tuna are at risk of disappearing. Some of these processes tuna products are listed as endangered tastes in the Slow Food compendium of The Ark of Taste.

Making bottarga is labour intensive. It was once made by dipping the sac in beeswax and leaving it to dry in the sun. In more recent times the roe sac is treated with sea salt, dried for up to two months and hand pressed into a solid mass.

Bottarga is relatively expensive in Australia (and not cheap in Sicily) and is available in specialty food stores that specialize in Italian products. It has a distinctive flavour and is rather salty, so it is used sparingly to flavour dishes. Anchovies are used much the same way, but substituting anchovies for bottarga, would be like replacing truffles with mushrooms.

Before it is grated over the pasta, the outer membrane of the roe sacs needs to be removed and then it is either grated (using the courser part of a cheese grater) or shaved very finely and soaked in extra virgin olive oil to soften before use. Bottarga is also a popular product of Sardinia where it is presented with fresh pasta made in the shape of malloreddusgnocchetti or small gnocchi. Long pasta such as spaghetti or spaghettini or bucatini are traditionally used in Sicily.

long pasta 400g (spaghetti, bucatini),
bottarga, 100g
garlic 5 cloves finely chopped,
parsley 1 cup, cut finely cut,
basil 10-12 leaves,
extra virgin olive oil 1 cup,
red chili, (to taste).

Heat the olive oil, add garlic parsley and chili and over high heat cook it until the garlic is lightly golden and the parsley has wilted.
Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce.
Add grated bottarga and the basil leaves, stir and serve.

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BRACIOLI DI MAIALI O’ VINU (Sicilian for Pork Chops Cooked In Wine)

Unfortunately the camera did not capture the image I wanted to use – I needed a video camera to record the action. The piglets’ mother seemed very gentle-natured and was allowing the piglets to climb all over her. The piglets were frolicking, leaping into the air, chasing one another, tripping each other over. I had never imagined that piglets were as playful as puppies or a litter of kittens.

These photos were taken in the North Island of New Zealand, on the way to Napier. They were not the only pigs we saw in pastures, foraging freely with plenty of space. We returned to take a photo of other pigs close to Greytown but unfortunately it started to rain and the pigs retired to their ‘kennel’ to shelter from the rain and cold.

The photo below was taken in Mondello, close to Palermo in Sicily.

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Sadly, when my thoughts turned to food, I did think that the pigs would be supreme in taste and tenderness; as cute as these piglets are, I know that eventually they will have to face the butcher’s knife. Quality meat is achieved through keeping pigs in a stress free environment, able to graze their whole lives and free to roam. The care and quality of life that appears evident for these pigs points to a more humane end than what is apparent for the live cattle or sheep that are being  sent to brutal and cruel slaughters in some other countries.

Last time I ate these braciole (Italian spelling) I was in Ragusa at the country house of one of my relatives – these are the equivalent of Australian holiday or beach houses or weekenders. At that time I can remember us discussing “il suino nero dei Nebrodi,” the Sicilian Black Swine from Sicily’s Nebrodi Mountains in northeastern Sicily, which are very similar in appearance to wild boars: they are small and black and bristly. My partner and I had just returned from Monreale (near Palermo) where we ate some salame (photo) made from Nebrodi swine which still graze and forage in wooded areas. On that particular visit to Sicily I was very interested in Carlo Petrini and the Slow Food Movement and the Nebrobi pig is listed in the Ark of Taste, an international catalogue of heritage foods in danger of extinction.

The recipe for cooking the pork chops is easy, but when made with proper pig, the chops are very tasty.

INGREDIENTS
pork bracioli (chops) 6
fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon
red wine, 1 glass
water, 1 glass
rosemary or oregano, fresh, 6 small sprigs
lemon juice, 2 lemons
salt, and freshly ground pepper
PROCESSES
Make a small incision in each chop and insert either rosemary or fresh oregano.
Place chops in a fry pan in one layer with a little water and the salt.
Braise the chops (without a lid) and when the water has evaporated and they begin to colour, add the wine, fennel seeds and pepper.
Evaporate the wine, add lemon juice and serve.
If the meat is too lean, you may need to mix a little olive oil with the lemon juice (salmoriglio).

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