Tag Archives: Garlic

FISH STUDDED WITH SICILIAN FLAVOURS

As you can see this fish steak is cut vertically from a largish sized fish  and it is the perfect size to stud the four different sections with  different flavours.  On this occasion I used fennel, cloves, garlic and mint. I vary the flavours and I may use rosemary, a bit of cinnamon stick or lemon peel.

I was pleased and surprised to find that the Trevally had been cut into steaks because it is usually only available whole or as fillets. It is pleasing to see that there is a growing awareness that fish, like meat, can be partitioned into different cuts that lend themselves to different styles of cooking. Silver Trevally is also called White Trevally and has a firm, dense texture when cooked. It benefits from  a little liquid to deglaze it after it has been seared and can taste dry if it is overcooked.

I used a combination of white wine and Sicilian Marsala Fine – semisecco (semi dry). At other times I have used just white wine or fresh orange juice (with a little grated peel) or dry vermouth. I like to use dry vermouth particularly when I use tarragon – this is not a Southern Italian or Sicilian herb but it is used in the North and known as dragoncello -little dragon. Sage (salvia) is also good to use, but once again it is not widely used in Sicilian cooking.

Silver Trevally is fished in estuaries and coastal waters of southern Australian states and most of the Australian commercial catch is taken in NSW and eastern Victoria.

Other fish I have studded with flavours has been wild caught Barramundi shoulders

and Albacore tuna.

Not much detail is needed in this recipe – the photos tell the story.

Use a thin, sharp knife with a long blade and make slits into four sections of the slice of fish.  
Insert into each split half a clove of garlic and three other different flavours. Select from:  fennel, cloves, mint, sage, rosemary, a bit of cinnamon stick or lemon peel. .
Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a  frying pan that can accommodate the fish in one layer.
Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper. Sauté the fish, turn once (until it colours).
Add Marsala and white wine (about 1/2 cup) and evaporate the liquid leaving the fish in the pan.
 
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Above  – One Fish, One Chef, presentation by Josh Niland, and part of Melbourne Good Food Month. Josh butchered a large fish, head to tail  – that is correct, almost every part of the fish, innards as well are edible. (Mr Niland, Fish Butchery) 
 
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A bit of fish butchery at a fish market in Sicily where butchery has been going on for  centuries.
 
Swordfish display in LxRm5

PEPPERS WITH BREADCRUMBS- PIPI CA MUDDICA – PEPERONI CON LA MOLLICA

This Sicilian recipe – Pipi ca Muddica – begins with roasted peppers.

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I made a large batch of these recently for a gathering (I used 4 k of peppers) but when I am busy I do not always have time to take photos. These are the leftovers so as you can see, they were popular.

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To roast peppers

Roasting peppers is easy and great for the hot weather as they can be roasted (or grilled) over an open flame on a barbecue. I have never used my oven to roast peppers, but some people do.

Select a variety of colours. Peppers should be, whole, firm and unbroken.

Place whole peppers on the hot metal grill over an open flame or coals. Turn them over a few times and the skin should soften and their skin will char after 15-20 minutes of cooking. and you get a nice smoky flavor.

Once you’ve roasted your peppers, you will need to complete the cooking and the softening of the peppers by steaming. This process will help you peel the tough skin. My mother used to place them in a heavy brown paper bag or a plastic bag and seal it. I place them into a casserole with a lid and leave them there for at least 30 minutes.

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Peel the peppers and seed them and tear them into strips. The roasted peppers are now ready to make into a salad. By far the most common Sicilian recipe for roasted peppers is to add a couple of red tomatoes that you have also charred on the open flame and use this to make the dressing.

Remove their skin, mash with a fork add slivers of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, salt, pepper and some lemon juice.  Dress the peppers, mix well and once dressed serve them within an hour.

I say ‘within and hour’ because roasted peppers if left to stand begin to weep their juices and you will find that the dressing has been diluted significantly. An alternative is to leave the peppers (can be stored in the fridge), drain them well and dress them just before serving.

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The recipe for Pipi ca Muddica – Peperoni con la mollica (Italian) uses some breadcrumbs and this is one way to absorb some of the juices that are released.

Breadcrumbs are very important in Sicilian Cuisine and there are many recipes that use either coarse, fried bread crumbs or fine and dry (for coating food to fry).

Use 1-3 day old white bread (crusty bread, sourdough or pasta dura).

Breadcrumbs (Coarse).

These are used as a topping for baked recipes and stuffings. Remove crust, break into pieces, place into a food processor and make into coarse crumbs. They can be grated or crumbled with fingertips.

Fried Breadcrumbs.

These provide greater flavour and texture and are usually sprinkled on cooked foods, for example: Pasta con Sarde or Caponata.Heat about ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and add 1 cup of coarse breadcrumbs (see above). Stir continuously on low temperature until an even, golden brown.

Depending on in what I am using the bread crumbs, I may add all sorts of goodies to these, for example there may be: grated lemon peel, pine nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little sugar.

 

Pipi ca Muddica – Peperoni con la mollica

There are a number of versions of this Sicilian recipe from different parts of the island and the most common are those versions that add fried onion or some raisins, or pine nuts. This version of  Pipi ca Muddica is from the area around Syracuse.

It can be an entrée (as a small course served before a larger one) or as a vegetable side dish.

1.5 k of roasted peppers torn into strips
1 cup of bread crumbs (Coarse, see above)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of capers
3-4 tablespoons wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper

Lightly and gently sauté the chopped garlic in the oil, add the breadcrumbs and stir them around in the hot pan until golden. Add the roasted peppers, the capers and the wine vinegar. Add the seasoning and toss the contents around over moderate- to hot heat until the vinegar evaporates 5-10 mins. Some cooks add a little bit of sugar- the sweet and sour taste is very common in some Sicilian cuisine.

Place the contents into a dish and let cool – Pipi ca Muddica should be served cold. They can be placed in the refrigerator for about 1-2 days. Remove them from the refrigerator about half an hour before serving.

Basil leaves are not compulsory, but I do like this herb.

 

PISCI ALL’ AGGHIATA – PESCE ALL’AGLIATA (Soused fish with vinegar, garlic and bay)

In the period before Christmas my fishmonger at the Queen Victoria Market seemed to be stocking a large quantity of what I call festive fish – mainly lobsters (called crayfish incorrectly), bugs, prawns, scallops and sashimi grade tuna – not the type of fish that I am interested in purchasing.

He always seems to have sardines, and squid but there seem to be no room in his display cabinet or fridge for these. He had run out of the small supply of King George whiting and flathead so I walked away with Snapper. I felt uncomfortable with this choice because I knew that although the Department of Primary Industries in Victoria (Fisheries) lists snapper as a sustainable species, in Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide (AMCS) it is considered to be overfished and environmentally limited in VIC.And that is just the issue; it can be relatively difficult to find information about making ethical choices and to purchase sustainable seafood.

This being the first week in January I was even more disappointed to find large supplies of swordfish, marlin and shark (marketed as flake, particularly in Victoria). He also had blue grenadier, blue warehou, snapper again, all classified as not sustainable by AMCS.

However he did have trevally a relative cheaper and tasty fish that is also sustainable. It is a strong tasting fish and a very suitable choice for making Pisci All’ Agghiata – soused fish with complimentary strong flavours – vinegar, garlic and bay. Aglio is the Italian word for garlic (agghiu in Sicilian), so it is easy to guess what ingredient is the defined flavour.

I had some Cippolata (a thick sauce made with onions, sugar and vinegar) in my fridge that I had previously made for another dish and presenting this as an accompaniment seemed perfect.

PISCI ALL’ AGGHIATA
INGREDIENTS
fish, 1-3kg
garlic, cloves, 6-10, cut into halves
bay leaves,
white wine vinegar, ¾ cup
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
flour to coat the fish (optional)
PROCESSES
Coat the fish lightly in flour with little salt (optional and traditional).
Fry the fish in hot extra virgin olive oil, until all the sides are golden. Remove the fish and set aside.  Use the same oil or replace it (if you have coated the fish with flour). Heat the oil.
Add the garlic and when it becomes golden add the vinegar and evaporate for a few minutes.
Place the fish in a bowl deep enough to hold the fish and vinegar marinade.
Intersperse the fish with fresh bay leaves.
Pour the marinade over the fish. Cool it, cover and let the fish rest for several hours before serving at room temperature (or store in the fridge until ready to serve, and remove it from the fridge about an hour beforehand).
 
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) (read more)

Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide Online – the first online sustainability guide in Australia. Developed in response to growing public concerns about the state of our seas, it is designed to help you make informed seafood choices and play a part in swelling the tide for sustainable seafood. Visit www.sustainableseafood.org.au to learn more about sustainable seafood and buy your copy of the guide today.

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BAKED STUFFED TOMATOES – POMODORI RIPIENI (PUMARORI CHINI in Sicilian)

These stuffed tomatoes were cooked by my friends. They are hydroponic tomatoes and I was very surprised to find that they were very flavoursome – in fact, they tasted almost as good as real tomatoes. Of course, the stuffing helped.

I am even more surprised by the quality of the photo, which was taken with my friend’s mobile phone.

I usually never buy hydroponic tomatoes. As it happens, I used not to buy any tomatoes when they were out of season, until those growers in Murray Bridge (South Australia) and Mildura (Victoria) miraculously extended their growing season and arranged transportation to one particular stall in the Queen Victoria Market. We shall probably have to wait for the heirloom varieties and local tomatoes till late December.

Pomodoro is tomato in Italian. Interestingly, they were first called pomo d’oro (meaning golden apples) and apparently tomatoes were yellow when they were first introduced to Europe – it is said to have originated in Central America. Maybe the oro (gold) reflects its golden status in cuisine.

My friends used Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for stuffed tomatoes from Plenty, his latest book.

Ottolenghi has several take–home food shops in London. His cuisine reflects contemporary Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours; I had the pleasure of attending one of his sessions at The Sydney international Food Festival in October this year.

In his recipe he uses a mixture of breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, black olives, capers, oregano, parsley and mint. The tomatoes are baked in olive oil. He calls it a Provincial-style starter and suggests serving them with a little salad of seasonal leaves and a few broken pieces of robust goat’s cheese.

Stuffing tomatoes was one of my childhood tasks therefore Ottolenghi’s recipe bought back many memories. We ate them warm or cold as a contorno or as an antipasto.

Although adding black olives, garlic, grated cheese and anchovies and mint are common regional variations, but my family preferred to keep the flavours simple. Grated cheese, anchovies or black olives (and just one of these ingredients) were only added when the stuffed tomatoes were to accompany a dish of strong flavours for example, a heavily spiced fish stew or sardines, (hence Ottolenghi’s suggestion to present them with some robust goat’s cheese seems appropriate).

INGREDIENTS

tomatoes, firm and ripe, 6 (estimate 1 per person and depending on their size)
extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup
garlic, 3 cloves, chopped finely
bread crumbs,  1 cup made from fresh 1-3 day bread
parsley, ½  cup , cut finely or fresh basil
oregano, dried, ½ teaspoon, or 1 tablespoon cut finely if fresh
capers, ½ cup, rinsed and soaked, if salted
salt  and freshly ground black pepper

PROCESSES

Cut the tomatoes, into halves. Scoop out the seeds and leave them upside down to drain.
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Sauté the garlic in a little of the oil. Let cool.
Add the sautéed garlic and herbs to the breadcrumbs and mix with some of the oil, seasoning and the capers.
Fill the tomatoes with the mixture but don’t press it down– it will expand as it cooks.
Arrange the stuffed tomatoes in an oiled baking pan and dribble a little olive oil over each.
Bake for about 30 mins, or until the tomatoes are soft and the breadcrumbs are golden.

 

CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)

Corrado lives in Ragusa and he tells me that it is the Feast of San Giorgio (the patron saint of Ragusa).  There are always large festivities for this yearly event celebrated in Ragusa Ibla on the last Sunday in May and Corrado and Barbara (his wife) are going there to take part of the celebrations.

Oggi qui a ibla c’è la festa di San Giorgio, e questa sera scenderò a ibla con la mia vespa e con Barbara. La serata è calda è quasi estate…….”

There is no need for me to describe this event because I found a fabulous little film on YouTube (check link). Watching it, reminded me that I had some old photos that were given to me by my brother. One shows the main square of Ibla in celebration mode, and the other is of the statue of San Giorgio; it is kept in the church, but paraded every year in the small streets of Ibla.

‘……non ti saprei dire cosa si mangia in queste occasioni,’ 

Naturally I am always interested in the food, but Corrado disappointed me by telling me that he is not able to tell me what is eaten on these occasions. And this too reminds me that for a long time I have wanted to write about coniglio a partuisa, a very common way to cook rabbit in this south-eastern part of Sicily. Coniglio alla stemperata is also a local recipe and I will write about this at another time.

The foto of the cooked rabbit was taken In Zia Niluzza’s kitchen the last time I was in Sicily. Unfortunately the foto does not do it justice; the taste of the rabbit is exceptionally good. As you can see it is cooked in a heavy frypan to allow the juices to evaporate and caramelize.

If it is a wild rabbit, to remove the wild taste it is usually soaked in water and vinegar for at least an hour before it is cooked. This will also bleach the flesh.

To make it more visually appealing, I add fresh mint at the time I present it to the table.

INGREDIENTS:

1 rabbit cut into smallish pieces, ½ cup green olives, ½ cup capers, 4 cloves garlic, a few sprigs of mint leaves, 3 bay leaves, 1 glass of red wine mixed with ½ cup of red wine vinegar, ½ cup extra virgin oil, salt and pepper to taste. Extra mint leaves for decoration.

PROCESSES:In a large frying pan sauté the rabbit in the hot extra virgin olive oil until golden. Add the seasoning, the olives, garlic, capers and mint.

Reduce the heat, and add the mixture of wine and vinegar gradually while the rabbit is cooking.

If it is a tender rabbit and if it is cut into small enough pieces, the rabbit may be cooked by the time all of the liquid has evaporated. If the rabbit is not as young or as tender as you had hoped, and you feel that it needs to be cooked for longer (this has always been my experience), add a little water, cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is soft – keep on adding the wine and vinegar. Remove the lid and evaporate the juices. Ensure that the rabbit is that deep golden brown colour when you serve it.

Decorate with fresh mint (for appearance and taste).

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MAIALINO ARROSTO (Roast, suckling pig)

Cooking large pigs roasted on a spit is a festive dish in many parts of Italy. Ariccia is a town south of Rome famous for its maiale (pork) especially popular at festivals and sold as street food.

Smaller versions of this dish are cooked in homes – the piglet is called a maialino di latte (it is still being fed by its mother’s milk) and the cooked dish is called porchetta (roast suckling pig) a popular dish in in the Lazio region of Italy and Rome is its principal city.

This maialino di latte- milk fed /suckling (and one other piglet) was cooked by a chef at Libertine, a French restaurant in North Melbourne. It was one of the courses for a festive occasion – a farewell lunch for friends who were going to live overseas for six months. It was also their twentieth wedding anniversary.

The piglet needs a fair sized oven. In villages in rural Italy the piglet was often roasted in the local baker’s large wood-burning oven – this would be made available to the local residents usually on a Sunday when the baker was not likely to be working.

In Italy some cooks bone the piglet before cooking – this makes carving and stuffing easier (usually a flavourful mixture of minced meat and often the organs of the pig).

The piglet can also be stuffed simply with herbs (regional Italian variations exist – in Sardinia it is called porceddu and it is likely to be flavoured with myrtle leaves, in Rome it could be rosemary and garlic and in other parts of Italy fennel seeds are used. Grated lemon rind also goes well.

Maialino is not something I cook, but I am familiar with this dish which is often cooked as the celebratory meal at New Year by some Italian families living in Australia (Porchetta). If you intend to use your oven, make sure that the piglet fits.

Begin preparations a day before cooking – the piglet will benefit from steeping in the herb mixture overnight.
Cooking time is approx. one hour per kilo (piglets available for sale in Australia are usually 7-10 kilos in weight or larger).

INGREDIENTS
1 small suckling pig
extra virgin olive oil,1 cup for basting
wine (or water) approx 2 cups

Mixture to rub into piglet:
About 1 cup of fresh rosemary leaves cut finely, 3-4 tablespoons of crushed fennel seeds, 6-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed, salt
(liberal amount), and black pepper, 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil.

PROCESSES
Ensure that the cavity of the piglet is clean with organs removed.
Make the mixture that you will use to rub into the pig.
Make slashes on its skin (at least two over the hips and two over the shoulders and others evenly spaced elsewhere) and insert some of the mixture into the slashes and on the inside cavity.
Place the piglet on a wire rack, over a tray, cover it with a large plastic bag and place it in the fridge overnight (keeping the outside skin of the piglet dry will help the crackling to form).
Preheat your oven with the fan on to 220 C.
Place the piglet in an oiled roasting pan (belly down, with its legs close to its body and tied together with string).
To prevent burning wrap the ears and tail in foil.
Place about 1 cup of white wine in the bottom of the pan to create steam and keep the meat succulent.
Rub the skin with more oil all and sprinkle salt over it (for crackling).
Place into the oven and roast it at 220C for 30 mins.
Lower the temperature to 200 C and cook it for the required number of hours. Turn the pan (but not the piglet – handle it gently) around every 30 mins and baste it with more oil and place some more wine
(or water) in the bottom of the pan each time.
Increase the temperature to 210-220 C in the final 30 minutes of cooking – remove the foil from the ears to allow the whole piglet to brown. The piglet should be a golden brown
Take the piglet out of the oven and leave to rest for 20-30 minutes to set.
Add more water or wine to the roasting pan and make a sughetto (gravy)
Carve it and serve with the sughetto.

See posts:

PORK SALUMI  (smallgoods). Tasting Australia 2010

NOT QUITE PORCHETTA