Il Signor Coria (Giuseppe Coria, Profumi Di Sicilia) will tell you that ducks are not standard fare on Sicilian dinner tables. The eggs may be used to make pasta all’uovo (egg pasta) but ducks in Sicily are few and far between.
In his book Profumi Di Sicilia, I found one duck recipe and this was for a braised duck cooked with anchovies plus garlic, parsley, heart of celery, white wine, rosemary and green olives. The thought of braised duck does not appeal to me very much, unless I make it the day before so that I can skim off the fat the next day.
I decided to roast 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….. and it was pretty marvellous.
A couple of days later I used the leftover sauce with the stock made from the carcase/carcass and some mushrooms in a risotto, and this tasted exceptionally fantastic, even if I say so myself.
All I can say is that I am glad that living in Australia ducks are pretty easy to find – more so in the last few years and not just for special occasions.
Here is the duck roasting in the oven. I stuffed it with some rosemary. I placed some potatoes in the fat, and in the pan to roast (to fry really) about 30 minutes before the end of cooking…..and I do not need to tell you how delicious they were.
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 2kl so I roasted it for 2×40 minutes= 1hr 20mins.
And this is the sauce:
Remove the duck, drain the fat (use it to roast potatoes, it also makes good savoury pastry, just like lard).
Reserve any juices that are in the bottom of the pan.
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.
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.
In Trieste my zia Renata used to make what she called Gallina Imbriaga (in dialect of Trieste- braised chicken in red wine), but as a child I thought that she called it by this name to make me laugh, and it did. I thought that the concept of a drunk chicken was hilarious.
Recently I decided to investigate the origins of this recipe and it seems that Friulani (from the region of Friuli Venezia Guilia, in a northeastern region of Italy) and i Triestini (who are part of this region) claim it as their own, but so do those from Padova (in the neighbouring Veneto region) and those from Central Italy particularly those in Umbria and Tuscany.
The recipe in each of these regions, whether it is a pollo ubriaco (drunk) and pollo in Italian being the generic word for gallina (hen) or a galletto (young cock or rooster) seem to be cooked in a very similar way with the same ingredients – chicken cut into pieces, red wine and the following vegetables – carrot, celery, onion, garlic and parsley – all common ingredients for an Italian braise. Some marinate the chicken pieces beforehand, and as expected the wine needs to be from their region, i.e. if it is a Tuscan recipe the wine must be a Sangiovese or Chianti and if from Umbria, the choice of wine must be an Orvieto or Montefalco.
One recipe from Friuli browns the chicken in butter and oil and also add brandy as well – drunken indeed if not paralytic.
Other variations are in the type of mushrooms: fresh or dry porcini or cultivated mushrooms. Rosemary is the herb most favoured and parsley; some use sage and/ or thyme. The recipe is beginning to sound more and more like Coq Au Vin. So which came first… is it the French or the Italians ?
But I also found a recipe called Gadduzzu ‘Mbriacu (rooster) in Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi di Sicilia, and what I like about this recipe is listed as a variation – it is the addition of a couple of amaretti (almond biscuits) at the very end to flavour and thicken the sauce. Now that is a great addition!!
Coria suggests 1 onion, 1 carrot, heart of celery, 100g of porcini …. I added greater amounts of vegetables and used chicken legs (called coscie di pollo in Italian). Corai does not suggest using Nero D’Avola but this would be the preferred Sicilian wine to use.
1 chicken, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
200 g. mushrooms.
2 onions, sliced finely
2 carrots, diced
3-4 sticks from the centre of the celery, sliced thinly
½ litre of red wine
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dry the chicken pieces with kitchen paper and brown them in the oil evenly. Remove them and set aside.
Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until golden in the same pan and oil .
Add the chicken, herbs, seasoning and the red wine, cover and simmer for about 20 mins.
Add mushrooms and cook everything some more till all is cooked (30-40 mins altogether).
Break up the amaretti into crumbs and add it to the sauce before serving.
Saint Joseph’s Day (Festa di San Giuseppe) is celebrated in Italy on March 19.
Italy double dips and combines this ancient and religious tradition with Father’s Day – La Festa del Papà – the feast (celebration) for father, the event imported from America in the early 20th century. In the USA it is held on the third Sunday of June.
Saints’ name days are more significant in the south of Italy. My father, who was born in Ragusa but lived in Trieste, used to receive phone calls from his family who lived in Sicily wishing him well, “auguri” on March 19.
San Giuseppe was reputed to be a humble carpenter who looked after his family (Mary and Jesus) so it is easy to see why the Catholic church has made him the patron saint of carpenters, workers, protector of the church and of fathers, but he is also patron saint of the poor and, more mysteriously, of pastry cooks.
I have partly explained (to myself) how pastry cooks fits under Saint Joseph’s umbrella by thinking about what happens in Sicily. The feast of Saint Joseph although in Lent (a time of fasting in the Catholic liturgy) also marks the end of the long unproductive season of winter. His feast day is close to the equinox and since pagan times spring has been celebrated big time in various ways.
Wheat (grains, seeds and legumes) were unequivocally the metaphorical seeds of life and through germination and regeneration they invoke the powers of fertility. In many parts of Sicily there are banquets to celebrate the bounty of the harvest (known as La Tavola di San Giuseppe – Saint Joseph’s Table). The main food is a collection of breads of odd shapes and sizes, many sprinkled with seeds. The food and breads on display were once shared and offered to the poor, now they are shared within the community.
Fried sweets are traditionally made in Sicily on Saint Joseph’s day. Sfinci (made with flour) and Crispeddi di Risu (made with rice) seem to be the most common and as in all Sicilian recipes there are many local variations. Sfinci are the most common and are found in the north, south and west of Sicily; some are filled with custard cream or ricotta.
In my copy of Maria Consoli Sardo’s book Cucina Nostra (1978) there is a recipe for sfinci made with semolina. She also provides a recipe for sfinci made with rice without yeast. I like her recipes because they seem genuinely authentic – uncomplicated and, as I imagine, an example of cucina povera (poor kitchen) as cooked by many Sicilians especially those living away from the larger cities on the land (see her recipe below).
Crispeddi di risu are more common in the east of Sicily, from Messina in the north; Catania on the central coast and Syracuse in the south east. I have found many recipes for crispeddi and all involve cooking rice in milk or milk and water and adding eggs or flour. Some contain yeast and others are very complicated and involve forming balls of the cooked rice and dipping them into batter before deep-frying them.
Maria Consoli Sardo calls her recipe Sfinci Di Risu (Fritelle Di Riso, in Italian).
I have used Arborio rice.
200g rice, ½ litre of milk, 200g of flour, lard for frying (how else can you make them crisp?), sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling.
Boil rice in water (does not say how much water, I used 500 ml= ½ litre. There is no mention of salt but this is common sense, as a Sicilian you would know to add a pinch.)
Halfway through cooking, add milk and finish cooking (it will have the consistency of risotto…having said this, my risotto is all’onda, ie, in waves … it should have some moisture).
Place the cooked rice in a bowl and leave it for 24 hours, add flour, mix well and let it rest. Spread the mixture out (such as on a marble slab) and after 2 hours cut it into batons and fry them in plenty of lard. After they have been fried, sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon.
My variation to the above: I used extra virgin olive oil to fry them and dressed them with Chestnut Honey and cinnamon. (I usually have Orange Flower Honey (Sicilian) in my pantry but I have run out! The Chestnut Honey however was great!)
This second recipe for crispeddi di risu is adapted from Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi di Sicilia, Il libro della cucina Siciliana. It is also a simple recipe and this one has yeast. Judging from his quantities Signor Coria must have always cooked for large numbers!
1 kg of rice
1 litre of milk
1 litre of boiling water
½ tsp of salt
2 tbs of sugar
500 g of plain flour
150 g of fresh yeast (or equivalent) dissolved in ½ cup warm water
grated zest of 2 oranges and 2 lemons,
honey, cinnamon powder to coat.
Mix the milk with water, add salt and sugar and add the rice. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer on low heat stirring occasionally until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and looks like a risotto.
Cool, mix in the flour and yeast. Add the grated peel. Mix it well, cover, and let rise for 2-4 hours.
Shape the rice with a spoon and slide them into the hot oil.
When golden, place them on paper to drain for about 30 seconds and then dress them with honey and cinnamon powder.
I use honey when braising apples or pears for a tarte tatin – it adds a deep colour to the fruit and intensifies the flavour. For the same reason, I also like it when I slowly bake quinces and I like it drizzled over fresh figs which I bake and serve with ricotta whipped with honey and cinnamon. I prefer this to using plain fresh cream (the usual accompaniment to many desserts in Australia).
I like to make honey and cinnamon ice cream and sometimes I use honey instead of sugar when making panna cotta. I flavour rice puddings with it and soak candied citrus peel in water and honey with a dash of orange blossom flavoured water – the taste the honey imparts to the peel reminds me of Grand Manier. I frequently do the same with dessert recipes that require raisins or sultanas.
I always add honey when I make lemon drinks, either to drink cold (with a mint leaf) or to enjoy hot. When I have a sore throat I let the hot drink slide slowly over my throat.
I visited Tuscany and Umbria a couple of years ago and I was introduced to eating fresh pecorino cheese spread with honey – very enjoyable especially with miele i fiori d’arancio (orange honey) or miele di castagno (chestnut honey), and it is amazing how different these honeys taste from one another. It is just as easy to see the variation in colours and taste in Australian honey, for example honey from Iron bark is usually dark and highly flavoured, Acacia honey is clear and has a mild delicate floral taste and Leatherwood honey has a unique scent and strong floral flavour.
I am very lucky to have my very own honey supplier. Libby lives in Eden Hills in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia and has hives in her garden. The honey that she has given me over the years also varies in colour and taste; she expect her bees to be good pollinators for her garden as well as to travel far and wide so as to provide her with different tasting honeys. Her garden is full of nooks and the varieties of plants and trees are enormous. Libby’s honey is so good that she has won prizes at the Adelaide Royal Show and she very generously shares it with me.
Bee on echium
She is very passionate about her bees and bees in general and I remembered signing a petition that Libby had sent me some time ago to eradicate Asian Bees from Australia. Recently I read Richard Cornish’s article Sting in the tailin Epicure, The Age and sent it her.
Libby loves bees so much that she has stencil and painted bees, swarming down one of the walls in her house.
Honey from the Iblei Mountains in Sicily is highly prized – when it is collected in July and August it has the taste and aroma of thyme and in September of calamintha (mint family). as for other Sicilian honey, Sortino (Syracuse) has a honey festival each October, the Agadi and Madonie Islands are also recognized for honey production as is Agrigento.
Recently I had a conversation with friends who had just been to Italy for the first time and they were telling me how difficult they found ordering food in restaurants because of their lack familiarity with the language. They eventually found a restaurant where they felt comfortable and returned each night to eat various versions of bistecca (steak)– they knew this word.
Pollo can be a young rooster (or cock) or a chicken (or chook) and pollo arrosto is the generic term for a roast chicken. My son Alex, as a teenager would order pollo arrosto each time we ate in a restaurant and all over Italy. He ordered this not necessarily because it was his favourite food, but because he was confused by the choices, and irrespective of what was written on the menu or we discussed beforehand, he blurted out ‘pollo arrosto’.
Interestingly pollo arrosto is not necessarily what many of us recognize as roast chicken; for a start, there are always odori, (smells=herbsas Italians call them), secondly it is likely to be pot roasted or grilled over a fire, or if cooked in the oven it may have a slurp of chicken broth and wine added to keep it moist and be cooked covered for part of the time.
Alex had trouble ordering roast chicken in restaurants in Sicily, in fact I have eaten very little chicken with my Sicilian relatives. If you are sick there is always gallinainbrodo (the chicken in broth) or as a pasta sauce made with a young rooster (galletto) cooked in tomato, and if you know someone from Ragusa you may have eaten gallina ripiena in brodo (stuffed chicken in broth) at Christmas.
Here is an unusual recipe for roast chicken reputed to be from Messina, (right, northern corner of Sicily); I found this same recipe in two sources: Anna Pomar’s La Cucina Tradizionale Siciliana and Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi Di Sicilia. Both are sketchy and I have filled in the details.
1.Pre-cook the chicken. Use only enough water to cover the chicken. Add odori (common for broth are celery leaves and a few sprigs of parsley, one carrot and an onion). Add a little salt, bring to the boil and cook the chicken for 20-30 minutes.
2.Drain the chicken. Cool it so that you can handle it. Save the broth and use elsewhere.
3.Butterfly the chicken: either cut away the chicken’s back bone or cut it along its back, spread the chicken flat (skin side up) and using your hands, press firmly to flatten it.
4.Brush the inside and the outside of the chicken with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and chopped parsley. Make about 1 cup altogether, 1 lemon is sufficient.
5.Place on a hot grill and cook on both sides for 15-20 minutes (a moderate flame). An outside BBQ is perfect as there will be smoke. Keep on brushing the marinade over the chicken while it cooks.
POLLO ALLA DIAVOLA
The recipe above reminds me of pollo alla diavola, my favourite way to eat chicken when I was a child growing up in Trieste and eating in country restaurants. I have also seen it called pollo al mattone (chicken cooked under a brick).
Use a small chicken (younger and small in size – approx 1 k). It does not need pre-cooking. Once butterflied, marinade it for at least an hour. Alla diavola means ‘as the devil cooks it’, therefore add about 1 teaspoon of ground pepper. Once it is on the grill, to keep the chicken flat by placing a weight on top – a brick or wide frypan with a heavy bottom. The chicken will cook more quickly and evenly.
I love the Italian language – polpettine, polpette, polpettone, much better than small meatballs, meatballs and meatloaf. (Polpette from polpa, meaning flesh). The Sicilian word for meatballs is purpetti, and even better.
I had bought some beef mince (my butcher selects the meat, shows it to me and then puts it through his mincing machine in front of me – no additives, no preservatives) and I was going to use it to make a fausu magro – a large braciola stuffed with hard boiled egg, mortadella and cheese and braised in tomato passata).
Usually this dish is made with a large slice of beef topside, (a lean cut of beef I buy in Australia) but some Sicilians use mince and I wanted to see what amount of stuffing the mince would tolerate without falling apart in the cooking. My mother used to cook a large unstuffed meatloaf which was partly based on the cuisine from Trieste where we lived. She called it a polpettone (Italian name for meatloaf) and rightly so because sometimes she braised or baked it using a little white wine and some stock for moisture rather than using tomatoes.
Then a friend arrived unexpectedly from interstate and I had no time to prepare the fausu magru so I made large meatballs instead. It only took about 15 minutes to make the meatballs – they were great.
If you look at recipes for making meatballs, they are always sealed (sautéed in hot extra virgin olive oil) before the braising liquid is added (passata or tomato paste and water) but not this time. A Sicilian friend of my mother’s once told her that where she came from (Agrigento) meatballs were dropped unsealed in the hot tomato based sauce – this results in a much lighter dish. The other thing I did was to add cinnamon sticks and bay leaves to the braising liquid.
As a teenager I had a friend who was from Calabria and her mother would always add sultanas to her polpette. For a short time I also lived next door to a family from Naples. The signora added sultanas and cinnamon to her mixture – my mother was even more horrified about this – obviously this was not part of the Sicilian cuisine that my grandmother knew (my grandmother was born in Catania, on the east coast of Sicily). Both the Calabrese and Napoletana women seemed to add a large proportion of bread to their mixture, much more than I was used to in my mother’s kitchen.
I have checked my many resources and there are Sicilian recipes that list ground cinnamon, dried grapes (currants or raisins or sultanas) and pine nuts in the meatball mixture, as well as the usual ingredients used to make meatballs all over Italy: breadcrumbs (usually soaked in water or milk beforehand and squeezed dry), grated cheese (parmesan or pecorino, depending which part of Italy you come from), salt, pepper, nutmeg, raw egg and a little chopped parsley.
I even found a version in Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi Di Sicilia which lists amaretti biscuits, whole pine nuts and ground pistachio nuts, cinnamon and sultanas as part of the meatball mixture (I can see more meatballs coming!)
Meatballs, of course, were eaten throughout Italy way back in time, and in many other parts of the world, too (maybe not always shaped like a ball) – think of the Greek (sometimes with powdered cloves) and the Middle Eastern lamb variations with coriander and cumin; Swedish meatballs with a cream gravy (tomato-less and much like my mother’s version of polpettone); Vietnemese meatballs with pork mince, water chestnuts and fish sauce; or the Chinese lion head and the oversized pork meatballs from Shanghai cooked in a clay pot. (I could go on, but it is not appropriate for a blog.)
minced beef, 600g
fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices good quality sourdough white bread, crusts removed)
cinnamon sticks, 2
grated pecorino cheese, a small handful
salt and pepper
nutmeg, grated, a pinch
parsley, 1-2 tablespoons, sliced finely
bay leaves, 2-3
sun dried sultanas, a small handful
pine nuts, a small handful
extra virgin olive oil, a good splash
passata, 1-2 bottles( or tomato paste and water or tinned tomato)
garlic, 1-2 large cloves, whole
oregano, dried, a pinch
Mix minced meat, cheese, eggs, bread, parsley, salt and pepper and nutmeg together, add pine nuts and sultanas and shape into balls (mine were large- tennis ball size – I was in a hurry).
Place passata, oil and garlic, a little salt and pepper, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and oregano (or fresh basil which I try to do without in winter) in a pan and bring to the boil.
Drop the balls in gently, turn down the heat and do not stir or turn them over for at least 10 minutes (prevent breakage). I like to have the meatballs completely covered with liquid.
Poach them on low heat until cooked (approx. 30mins).
They smell good too and unsurprisingly, the sauce can be used to dress the pasta, the meatballs are presented as second course.
Lately, I have fallen in love with the delicious Sicilian pastries from Dolcetti made by Marianna Di Bartolo.
DOLCETTI, handmade sweet things (223 Victoria St, West Melbourne).
Dolcetti means little sweets in Italian (it implies exquisite little morsels) and my frequent visits to this pasticceria has revived my desire for that distinctive, strong citrus taste present in many Sicilian desserts.
Sicilians produce a large range and quantities of citrus. One of the citrus is the cedro (citron). Cedri (plural) look like very large lemons and they have very thick skins. Sicilians use them fresh to make a salad (dressed with salt, extra virgin olive oil), but most of all they are candied (used for making cassata) or made into a sweet conserva (conserve/ jam/marmalade), especially common for flavouring desserts and placing in the centre of almond pastries.
These may not be cedri, but the size and amount of pith on these lemons is comparable (each lemon weighed approx. 700g each). I decided to treat the lemons like cedri and make a conserva.
Finding a recipe can be an interesting process. I do not think that I have ever followed a recipe from start to finish; I always enjoy finding and comparing recipes in the various publications, adding what I know and then modifying it to suit my tastes.
Each of the numerous times I have visited Sicily (and Italy), I have bought cookery books – not only by the greats of Sicilian cuisine and highly recognized writers and publications (Coria, Correnti, Taylor Simeti, Tasca Lanza, ….I could go on), but also by the less known ones (Maria Consoli Sardo, Di Leo, D’Alba,….I could go on).
The variations in the recipes (quantities and methods) I found in the different publications for making this preserve were many. Some recipes directed peeling the fruit first, others boiled the peel several times and discarded the water and some added sugar after boiling the pulp; there were almost as many variations for making marmalade as I found in my old Australian publications (for example The older South Australians may remember the Green and Gold Cookery book).
The two recipes I ended up liking the most were: Marmellata di Limone (in Bitter Almonds, Maria Grammatico and Mary Taylor Simeti) and Conserva di Citru (in Profumi di Sicilia, Giuseppe Coria).
Maria Grammatico and Mary Taylor Simeti suggested pricking all of the lemons with a fork, putting them in water and letting them soak for 5 days, changing the water every day.
In Coria’s recipe the lemons were soaked (un-pricked) for 24 hours.
One recipe suggested mincing, the other grating the fruit.
Grammatico / Taylor Simeti suggested weighing the pulp and using 1¼ their weight in sugar. Coria suggested adding 2 kilo of sugar for every 3 kilo of pulp and 1 cup of water, but what I liked about his recipe was the addition of a cinnamon stick which was also mentioned in many other of my older Italian publications (most that do not include amounts of ingredients).
What I did was:
pricked the lemons and soaked them for 3 days. I thought that pricking the lemons would soften the skins and it did
used a mandoline to slice the lemons into medium sized julienne pieces – I decided I liked texture
reduced the amount of sugar to 1kilo of sugar to 2 kilo of pulp, added 3 cinnamon sticks and no water
cooked the pulp until set – mine took about 40 minutes. (You know the old trick about testing jam/ marmalade by placing a little on a cold saucer, cooling it, and if adequately set it should wrinkle and feel firm)
placed the conserva into hot sterilized jars.
The flavour of my conserve is very intense and very lemony, but the texture is a little rubbery (maybe I cooked it too long). I am also disappointed that I am unable to taste the cinnamon and noticed that the sticks also break up during the cooking. I expected the conserve to be a lighter colour – the cinnamon may have contributed to the darker shade.
I wanted my conserva to be perfect and to give a jar of it to Marianna. It seemed a fair exchange – my labour of love, for many of hers.
Cedro is used in Cassata and Panforte (not Sicilian).
This photo of cardi (cardoons); it was taken in France in LaPlace St-Michel, Bordeaux in the square in front of the Eglise St-Michel”.
We were there on a Saturday morning. There are grower market stalls, live chickens and rabbits, bread and pastry stalls as well as textile, clothes and secondhand stalls (bric a brac) – the usual produce and goods one finds in markets. There were the cardi; they looked very much like overgrown celery.
Carduna Chini (Cardi ripieni)
I found this recipe in Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi di Sicilia. Apparently this is one way of cooking cardi in Enna (centre of Sicily). They are stuffed and then braised.
Cut into 6-10cm pieces (sticks – they are shaped like celery). The stuffing will be in between 2 sticks and will resemble a baguette. Select a wide, shallow saucepan that will hold the stuffed cardi in one layer.
Once the cardi have been pre cooked and drained, stuff half of the number of sticks with in an anchovy and small cubes of cheese (does not say what kind but I would use provola in the traditional pear shape).
Soften some onion until golden. Place each of the stuffed cardi on top of the bed of onions. Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper and heat gently till warmed through.