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.



I love Flathead. My fishmonger prefers to sell it as fillets, but I prefer to cook it whole especially if I am braising it; it is an ugly looking fish, but the bones and head add taste to the braising liquid. Many eaters dislike picking out bones from whole fish, however if the spine is lifted out carefully and kept whole, this does not have to be a big problem.

For two people I used one Flathead (600g -700g) and this recipe can be adapted for fillets; use large sized fillets to prevent breakage.

Other white fleshed, medium flavoured and textured fish suitable for this recipe are: Snapper, Leatherjackets, Whiting and Garfish.

The fish is cooked very simply and al crudo (using all raw ingredients and all in the pan at the same time); it relies on the fish being fresh and the tomatoes being sun ripened and flavourful. Mint is rarely used in Italian cooking but it is often added to Sicilian cuisine.

These quantities are suitable for 1k of fish. If using whole snapper, which is a larger fish, increase the cooking time and add a little more liquid to the pan.


fish (see above)
tomatoes, 500g peeled, seeded, and chopped
garlic, 4 cloves chopped finely
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground pepper
capers, ½ cup, I prefer to use the salted variety, soaked and washed
fresh mint, 2 tablespoons, cut finely and more sprigs for decoration


Arrange the fish and the tomatoes in a low saucepan so that the fish can be fitted in one layer.
Add seasoning, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, the finely cut mint and capers.
Cover the fish and cook on medium heat for 7-13 mins if you are cooking whole fish and about 5-7 minutes if they are fillets – this time will vary depending on the size of the fish and how much you like your fish cooked. Take off the lid and cook on brisk heat until the tomatoes have thickened. Avoid stirring or turning the fish to prevent breaking.
Decorate with fresh mint sprigs.


SEAFOOD cooked simply, Sicilian style, Sciacca (Misto di pesce in tegame con pomodoro)

Part of extensive fishing fleet in Sciacca

Often readers who wish to travel to Sicily ask me for suggestions about places to visit. One place I am particularly fond of is Sciacca, a small and attractive town in the south of Sicily located west of Agrigento. Sciacca has very ancient origins and throughout the ages it was a principal Sicilian port with a varied and interesting history for trade and for its thermal and mud baths. It still has a large a fishing port with excellent seafood, ceramics and relatively few tourists – these three features especially make it particularly attractive.

Friend sitting on steps made from ceramic tiles

When I stayed in Sciacca I kept on returning again and again to the Trattoria Buongustaio. The family who run the restaurant and especially the father (Pippo) made us feel very appreciated and willingly  prepared for us some of the older traditional Sicilian dishes that were not on the menu. Both Pippo and Mauro (son) appreciated our interest in food and were passionate to engage us in conversation about Sciacca’s local cuisine. Looking at my notes, I see that I relished tripe cooked in broth, the Sciacca version of pasta con le sarde (a little tomato and plenty of wild fennel), maccu (hard to get in restaurants), stuffed artichokes, fried slices of ricotta and not surprisingly, the local fish.

Trattoria Buongustaio is located in Piazza Don Luigi Sturzo, a square in the historical centre of Sciacca, where Porta Palermo is located; this was one of the ancient gateways into Sciacca that was once completely surrounded by a defensive barrier of strong walls.

This following recipe called Misto di pesce in tegame con pomodoro (mixed fish cooked in a pan with tomatoes). It may sound rather ordinary, but the combination of the different fish, all caught early that  morning and delivered to the restaurant by the fisherman, cooked simply with very simple ingredients  was pretty fabulous.

I prefer to use sustainable fish classified as best choice by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and in Melbourne where I live I have access to the following seasonal fish: Sand whiting, King George Whiting, Leatherjacket, Mackerel and Trevally. I like to use a mixture of whole fish and fillets cut into even size pieces.

I estimate the following quantities:

mixed fish, 1.5 kilo,
tomatoes, 300g, fresh, peeled, seeded and chopped
parsley, cut finely ¾ cup
fresh oregano or basil, a few stems
garlic, 1-3 cloves (or more to taste, cut into fine slices)
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place oil in a shallow, wide sauce pan, add the slices of fish in one layer (if possible), top with tomatoes, oregano, some of the parsley and garlic and simmer with the lid on for about 10-15 mins.
Take off the lid and check for ‘doneness’; continue to cook without the lid if necessary.
A few minutes before switching off the heat, add the rest of the chopped parsley.

As a variation I have also added strong tasting black olives and at the same time as the parsley.


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