This site, Great Italian Chefs, is worth looking at. It is part of the Great British Chefs website and on this site you will find information about some of the different regions of Italy and regional recipes.
The recipes are ‘great’ and are by professional chefs.
I too have posted many of these recipes on my blog and a passatempo – pass-the-time, a diversion, you could compare their recipes with mine.
Regrettably I missed Easter in Sicily last year (2013) by one week, but I was in Enna on the following ‘Albis’ Sunday and I saw the procession ( all- male, different ages, sodalities /confraternity, groups from different churches/ fellowships ) who headed from Piazza Mazzini to the nearby Lombard castle in Enna.
From here, the priest blessed the fields while the Holy Trinity looked on – Father, Son and Holy Ghost. God the Father, could easily have been Saint Joseph as he too is associated with drought and fava beans (broadbeans) and the blessing of crops to prevent famine .
Easter (Pasqua in Italian) is a joyous celebration in Italy. It has religious significance but it is also linked to Spring.
Because Italy is a Catholic country, religious celebrations at Easter in certain regions may go on before and after the Easter weekend. Sicily particularly has its share of rituals and traditions and in many parts of Sicily there are processions and solemn religious ceremonies during the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday.
Easter Monday is called Pasquetta (small Easter). Being Spring, this is a popular time to enjoy the countryside and eating food outdoors, perhaps with a picnic or travelling to a nearby country restaurant and dining al fresco in the Spring sunshine (once again to celebrate the season).
Here are links to some of the traditional dishes eaten over Easter in Sicily:
I usually coat my cassata with marzipan and every time I do this people tell me how much they have enjoyed eating the marzipan and how it compliments the flavours of the cassata.
The last time I made cassata with marzipan was Saturday 23 March at Food And Culture In Sicily: Easter Cookery Workshop offered by La Trobe University and once again the people who attended the session liked the marzipan and said that they had never enjoyed eating it in the past.
The session began with a very interesting lecture on the history of food and feasting in Sicily, Italy and the Mediterranean. Dr Gillian Shepherd is Lecturer in Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Director of the A.D. Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies at La Trobe University. During her lecture she focused on the literary and archaeological evidence for food production and consumption in the ancient world.
The lecture was followed with a food workshop and cooking demonstration that reflected the ways Sicilian cuisine has been influenced by the dominant cultures of the Mediterranean from ancient times to the modern day, which includes Greek, Roman, Arabic, French and Spanish cultures.
The cassata was very appropriate for this session, not just because of its derivation, but also because it was essentially and still is an Easter dessert. In time it has also become popular for Christmas.
Sicily produces large quantities of almonds and almond meal is used extensively for making traditional almond sweets and pastries. Marzipan fruit originate from Sicily and Sicilian pastry cooks are esteemed and employed all over Italy.
Marzipan when made in the traditional method is made by cooking a strong syrup of sugar and water and then adding freshly ground almonds. The mixture is kneaded till smooth (like bread dough) and then shaped.
The modern and easiest way is to make it with almond meal, icing sugar and water. It is still kneaded and rolled with a rolling pin. Unless you can buy fresh almond meal it is best to blanch the almonds and grind them yourself.
Over the years I have been making marzipan and adapting a recipe from Bitter Almonds, Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian girlhood. Maria Grammatico has a very famous pastry shop in Erice in Sicily and her recipes have been recorded by Mary Taylor Simeti.
In a food processor, grind the almonds with about 2 tablespoons of the sugar until very fine, almost powdery.
In a food processor or in an electric mixer, combine the nuts, the rest of the sugar, the water, vanilla, and the almond extract.
Process or mix until the paste is very smooth. Remove to a marble slab or other cold work surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar and knead briefly by hand.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Marzipan will keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator.
****This is what I do: I use 2 cups of ground almonds and 1 and ½ cups of pure icing sugar combined with ½ cup of caster sugar – this adds the crunchy texture that compliments the ground almonds.
I really like the taste of natural almonds and if I am using fresh almonds I see no necessity to use vanilla or almond extract.
I usually mix the sugars and almond meal with my fingers and add the water slowly. I am cautious with water because if the mixture is too wet I may need to add more almonds and sugar. I knead it as if I am making bread and if it needs more water I add it to make the mixture pliable.
This is not the first time that I have written about Cassata or Easter or Marzipan and there are many other posts about these three topics on this blog.
FOOD AND CULTURE IN SICILY: EASTER COOKERY WORKSHOP
This is one of the workshops offered as part of the lecture series.
Details of the workshop:
Saturday 23 March, 11.00am–3.00pm
Institute for Advanced Study, La Trobe University
Melbourne campus (Bundoora)
Presented by Gillian Shepherd and Marisa Raniolo Wilkins
Cost: $115 (full), $105 (discount)
Registration census date: Friday 15 March
This session will commence with a lecture on the history of food and feasting in Sicily, Italy and the Mediterranean.
Gillian Shepherd will focus on the literary and archaeological evidence for food production and consumption in the ancient world.
This will be accompanied by a food workshop.
Yesterday I visited La Trobe University at Bundoora to check out the venue and finalise the recipes for a demonstration/cooking class I am giving as part of the university’s lecture series on the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean.
The food that I’ll be talking about and cooking for the class reflects the ways Sicilian cuisine has been influenced by the dominant cultures of the Mediterranean from ancient times to the modern day, which includes Greek, Roman, Arabic, French and Spanish cultures.
Some of the recipes will be from my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking.
Since my cooking demonstration is planned for the weekend before Easter, it was natural to select some foods that would be prepared in Sicily at Easter, which is one of the most significant times of the year for Sicilians. Whether they were ruled by Greeks or Romans, Arabs or Spaniards, Easter in Sicily marks the start of Spring and a time of celebration.
It should be a very interesting session and I hope to see you there.
or contact Sarah Midford
School of Historical and European Studies:
About Gillian Shepherd:
Dr Gillian Shepherd is Lecturer in AncientMediterranean Studies and Director of the A.D. Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies at La Trobe University.
Gillian studied Classics and Fine Arts at theUniversity of Melbourne before going on to complete a PhD in Classical Archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge, followed bya research fellowship at St Hugh’s College,Oxford.
Until her recent return to Australia to take up her position at La!Trobe University, Gillian was Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, UK.
Her research interests are the ancient Greek colonisation of Sicily and Italy, burial customs,and the archaeology and art of Greece and Magna Graecia.