Anchovies are often added to fish in Sicilian cuisine – they are either stuffed in the slashes made on the sides of the fish or gently melted with a little oil and added to the fish whilst it is cooking. Trout has flaky, delicate flesh and slashing it is not a good idea so I chose to do the latter.
I always use herbs for all my cooking and this time I selected sage that is often associated with veal and pork but I quite like it with trout. Sage is not a common herb in Sicilian cooking and you may prefer to use rosemary instead.
whole fish, one large trout (for 2-3 people)
lemons, 1-2 whole – ends trimmed, sliced into thick circles
extra virgin olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
anchovies, 3-6 cut finely
green olives, a couple of tablespoons, well drained
sage or rosemary
Prepare the fish – clean, dry and stuff a few herbs in the cavity.
Add a little oil (about one tablespoon depending on your pan) to the frying pan and over medium heat. Add the lemon slices and pan fry them until lightly browned – turn once. In order to brown the lemon slices they should not be overcrowded so you may need to pan fry them in two batches.
Remove the lemon slices from the pan with the oil and any of the juices.
Add a little more oil to the fry pan, heat it and add the anchovies. Stir them around in the pan over medium-low heat until they dissolve.
Add the trout. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (remember that the anchovies are salty) and add the sage. Pan fry the fish on both sides and only turn once.
Add the olives half way the cooking.
Toss the slices of lemon and the juices back in the pan and heat through.
When I was in Paris a couple of months ago I saw this hand painted Fridge in a store window. This fridge is part of Sicily is my Love, a colourful collaboration by Smeg fridges and Dolce&Gabbana’s signature decorative style. Each of the 100 fridges illustrate Sicilian folklore in bold, vibrant colour and are hand-painted by Sicilian artists. They were released during the Milan Design Fair, Salone del Mobile di Milano in 2016.
This year’s olives…… hardly worth it. Larger than last year’s crop, but probably just as few.
I think that my tree is refusing to produce many olives because it is objecting to being in a pot. It gets root bound and every year we pull it out of the pot and trim the roots – this probably traumatizes it.
It has given me many years of pleasure and I have certainly experimented with processes for curing the olives and dressing them.
Once pickled, my olives do not keep their colour – I pick them when they are a green- violet colour but the pickling process turns them into a uniform light brown colour.
I was horrified when I read this article in The Age (Melbourne news paper):
Olives painted with copper sulphate top largest-ever Interpol-Europol list of fake food
A statement by Interpol on Wednesday said a record 10,000 tonnes and 1 million litres of hazardous fake food and drink had been recovered across 57 countries, with Australia also making the list.
Italian olives painted with copper sulphate solution, Sudanese sugar tainted with fertiliser, and hundreds of thousands of litres of bogus alcoholic drinks top Interpol’s annual tally of toxic and counterfeit food seized by police agencies across the world. The haul of bogus diet supplements, adulterated honey and ……….etc.
I have often been asked about the colour of Sicilian Olives (those bright green ones as in photo above) and I really do not know how they are pickled and how the bright green colour eventuates.
My tree has given me a great deal of pleasure and I have certainly experimented with processes for curing its olives and dressing them.
There are many posts written about pickling olives and recipes using olives on my blog…. key in OLIVES in the search button. I have just tried this and there are 72 posts about olives! Here is one of them:
Any time you see Italian dishes described as alla contadina, alla paesana,alla campagnola………do we really know what is meant by these terms?
These all translate as of the peasantry – peasant style – and as those who live on the land would cook these dishes. They imply to be dishes that are healthy, nourishing, unsophisticated, hearty, country-style and as cooked at home. In these dishes you would also expect some common vegetables – onions, carrots, celery, some common herbs and wine (someone living on the land usually makes their own wine).
Carne – meat, or coniglio – rabbit, or pollo or gallina, seem to be cooked alla contadina, alla paesana,alla campagnola very frequently in home kitchens. The method of cooking is braised or stewed.
What is meant by pollo and gallina, and is there a difference?
Pollame are farmyard birds, therefore pollo is derived from this word.
Gallina is chicken and female. Gallo is the masculine, i.e. a rooster and would probably be not as tender as a gallina and would require more cooking.
Once a pollo would most likely have been considered a male, but in modern times there is no difference between the terminology or the gender and especially in Australia, UK and US, it is what we commonly refer to as chicken. Usually chicken is 6-12 months old when it is killed.
A gallina vecchia would be the description of a chicken used to make broth/ stock and would be older than 12 months.
Proverb: Una gallina vecchia fa buon brodo…. An old hen makes good broth
Cappone is a capon and is a castrated male – this is likely to be sold as a larger bird as it will be fattened intentionally; the implication is that it will be tasty. I doubt if I could purchase a capon in Australia.
Recipes for pollo or gallina (chicken) alla contadina etc. cooked with these simple ingredients and braised are found in every region of Italy; the only variations may be the addition of a few tomatoes or mushrooms or a pepper (capsicum) or two. The wine can be red or white.
In Sicilian recipes you may find the addition of olives. More common would be the green, olive schacciate (cracked olives) as they have no stone. (The photo below was taken in Palermo. I have so many photos of Sicily and do not necessarily add them in my posts – silly me.)
I always buy whole chicken for a braise. My mother and relatives always did and I guess I just do without question.
Although I always buy free range, there is always some fat and I remove as much as possible before I cook it. I also always skim fat from the top of the braise once it is cooked.
As you can see by the way I dissect the chicken into pieces, I am no butcher, but if it is peasant style after all so I get away with it being roughly cut. I usually cut rough the vegetables as well. And who needs exact measurements if the recipe is home style.
2-3 celery stalks
1 large onion
2-3 red tomatoes (peeled fresh or canned)
½ -1 glass of white or red wine
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
rosemary, parsley or sage
1 cup green olives (no stones)
Cut the chicken into pieces and remove the fat (unless you like fatty chicken).
Brown the chicken in a tiny amount of oil – one side and the other. Remove from the pan. I like to drain off any fat before I continue cooking the rest.
Use the same pan, add the olive oil. Sauté the onion.
Add celery and carrots and sauté some more.
Add the chicken, herbs, tomatoes, seasoning and pour in the wine. Do not use much salt as the olives are likely to be salty.
Add some water to almost cover the chicken, cover and braise the contents (on low heat) for 40-60 minutes, stirring now and again. Add the olives about 10 minutes prior to the finish.
If there is too much liquid and you wish to concentrate the flavours, remove the chicken, increase the heat and evaporate the liquid lid until it has thickened. At this stage I skim more fat from the top if it is necessary. Add the chicken, mix, cover and leave until ready to serve.
Remember, Italian food is not usually presented at the table piping hot; the flavours are left to mature for at least 30 minutes.Italians like to savour their food and not have scalded palates!
Just recently one of my Adelaide friends made a salsa verde to accompany some lightly roasted sirloin and roasted vegetables. Most enjoyable.
Making salsa verde was one of my tasks as a teenager in the family kitchen.
There always seemed to be some salsa verde in our fridge; it was used specifically as a condiment for our frequent serves of pesce lesso, (poached or steamed fish) and bollito (boiled meat). Broth (and hence boiled meat) was a weekly affair. Traditionally it was intended to accompany plain tasting, boiled food.
I was very surprised that I have not included a recipe for salsa verde on my blog as I make it often.
I have never measured or weighed ingredients when making sauces, but these estimations seem to produce what I am after. Allow this salsa to rest for at least an hour so that the flavours become better balanced.
Traditionally the consistency of the sauce is semi liquid, especially if you wish to pour it over fish or meat. However, by adding larger amounts of solid ingredients, this sauce can be presented as a large blob on the side of the meat or fish.
To serve the salsa verde with fish, I sometimes use lemon juice instead of vinegar. In latter years I also started to add grated lemon peel.
Recipes evolve and over time, especially in other parts of the world where salsa verde has been become popular and different herbs have been added. For example I have noticed that mint or tarragon or oregano or rocket have snuck in. These herbs are not common in the traditional Italian recipe that originated in the north of Italy but has spread all over Italy. In Sicilian it is called sarsa virdi .
Salsa verde can be used to jazz anything up – vegetables, roasts, cold meats, smoked fish, crayfish etc. I sometimes use it to stuff hard boiled eggs (remove the yolk, mix with salsa verde and return it to the egg).
I had someone ask me recently about using it with left over Christmas turkey. Why not?
parsley, 1 cup cut finely,
wine vinegar, 1 ½ tablespoonful
anchovies, 3-4 cut finely
capers, ½ cup, if the salted variety, rinse, soak to remove salt
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
freshbread, the white part of 1 slice
egg, 1, hard boiled, chopped finely
garlic, 2 cloves chopped
green olives, chopped, ½ cup
Soak the bread briefly in 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and squeeze dry.
Combine all of the ingredients and stir them gently together in a wide mouthed jar or jug.
The anchovies generally provide sufficient salt, but taste the sauce and season to taste.
When I lived in my parent’s house a little of the mixed garden pickles (called sotto aceti or giardiniera) was a must. Select a couple of small pieces of the white root (turnip) or green (small gherkins). Omit the ½ tablespoon of vinegar.
This is the type of sauce where you can vary the ingredients. Add different amounts of ingredients – more or less anchovies or capers.
In Australia we have different types of tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Southern Bluefin and Yellowfin tunas. Bonito and mackerel as well as tuna are part of the same family (Scombridae).
Albacore tuna is sustainable, cheap in price and much under-rated in Australia. It is not sashimi grade so the Asian export market does not want it and I think that this is the reason why in Australia we tend to undervalue it. It is denser in texture but excellent for braising (lightly or cooked for longer). Generally it is sold as a wheel but I have also been able to buy it as a fillet – perfect for baking and braising in one piece.
When I see Albacore tuna I grab it. It is caught in winter on the coast of Southern New South Wales but unfortunately not many fish vendors stock it.
This is Mike holding one of the Albacore tuna at his stall in the Queen Victoria Market. He looks very noble in this photo.
In this recipe the tuna is lightly braised and has slivers of garlic and mint studded throughout the pieces of fish. The rest of the ingredients and cooking style are Sicilian through and through.
I prefer to use a large round piece of Albacore tuna for this dish, which can be separated into 4 portions.
The following recipe is for 4 people
INGREDIENTS and PROCESS
fish, 4 pieces
onion, 1 chopped thinly
garlic, 2 cloves, cut into halves (or thinner)
fresh mint, 4+ leaves (or sage leaves in winter because mint is not doing well)
green olives, 8 -10
extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup
salt and chilli flakes to taste
red wine vinegar, 1 splash – about 1 tablespoon
sugar, ¾ tsp
orange, 4 slices , these are optional and a modern take on this recipe. If you are going to add them sauté them before you add the sugar and vinegar
Cut the 4 portions of tuna from the round piece. Discard the skin around the outside.
Use a thin, sharp knife with a long blade and make 2-3 deep, regularly spaced slits into each hunk of fish (I made 3-4 slits in the biggest pieces of fish).
Insert into each split half a clove of garlic and in another a mint leaf.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate the fish in one layer.
Sauté the fish, turn once (until it colours), remove and set aside.
Sauté the onion in the same pan until it becomes golden and soft.
Add the anchovies and stir them around over moderate heat – they will dissolve.
Add olives and the seasoning. Add the orange slices (optional). Add the sugar, watch it melt (still over medium heat) then add the vinegar and evaporate it.
Return the tuna to the pan it and cook gently until it is cooked to your liking – this will depend on the size of your fish and how you prefer to eat it. For my tastes I return the tuna to the sauce mainly to reheat it as I do enjoy my tuna fairly underdone (this is in comparison to how Italians generally eat tuna).
Once upon a time in Australia, Tartare sauce was about the only sauce that was served with fish and usually this was battered. Generally the ingredients for Tartare sauce included gherkins, chives, parsley and mayonnaise. If you were lucky, there may have been capers and or tarragon.
These days Tartare sauce continues to be very common in Australia, however increasingly so Australian cuisine reflects the cultural influences of the diverse cultures that have settled in Australia. For example, it is now not unusual to have one of the following sauces as an accompaniment, a charmoula (Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian) or a Nuoc Cham Gung (Vietnamese) or a salsa verde (Italian).
The less fiddling with this trout the better so I pan fried it and simply presented it with a dollop of a Sicilian sauce called Salsa Saracina; this sauce is particularly suitable for plainly cooked fish.
Salsa Saracina (Saracen sauce) is a cooked sauce made with that particular set of ingredients which are so common to Sicilian cooking – olives, sugar, pine nuts, saffron and sun dried sultanas. Apart from the olives, the other ingredients are attributed to the Arabs who settled in Sicily and at one time in history they were referred to as Saracens.
This sauce keeps very well for a few weeks when stored in the fridge. Place the sauce into a clean jar and press the contents down to eliminate air bubbles. Top it with a little extra virgin olive oil to seal it and always repeat the process if you remove some from the jar. This sauce is always served cold.
I hardly ever cook without using herbs and on this occasion I used the tops of a bulb of fennel and some spring onions. Other favourite herbs when pan-frying fish are fresh bay leaves, rosemary or thyme.
If the trout is a large one and you feel that it may need more cooking, once you have added the wine cover the fish with a lid and cook it until it is cooked to your liking. Once the fish is cooked, remove the lid and if there is too much liquid, evaporate it.
trout, as many as you need
white wine, ¼ cup per fish
extra virgin olive oil,to fry the fish
spring onions, left whole with a part of the tops removed
For the fish: Dry the trout, sprinkle with a little salt and pan-fry the fish in a little extra virgin olive oil and the herbs. Turn once and about a minute before it is cooked to your liking add the wine and evaporate. This will result in a small amount of sauce, which you can dribble on the plate before placing the fish on it. Present the fish with a dollop of Salsa Saracina on the side.
This one fish was sufficient for 2 people – it is easily filleted at the table.
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.
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).
I have a Brazilian friend who is still discovering the delights of Anglo–Saxon food in our Australian food culture and a true blue, born and bred, Australian friend who misses his mother’s cooking. They are coming to dinner tonight, so as a surprise I am cooking them corned beef (I managed to buy low salt, low saltpetre). Probably I have not eaten this since my English Mother in law last cooked it for me, and she died a long time ago.
Of course there will be the boiled vegetables and mustard. And I will present it with some of the homemade chutney that another friend has given me. But it is so very much like bollito (boiled meat) that it could be accompanied with a little salsa verde on the side – chopped parsley, capers, green olives, boiled eggs, extra virgin olive oil, anchovy and a little white bread with vinegar to thicken it as much as I like and on this occasion I want it thin.
Part of me remains Italian to the core. Will I sauté the carrots in a little onion with dry marsala and raisins? Or will I present it with sweet and sour pumpkin? ( Sicilian and called FEGATO DI SETTE CANNOLI).
Of course I will add peppercorns, a carrot, onion and some celery to the beef whilst it cooks, after all this is what I add when I make carne in brodo (meat cooked in broth). I will add the cloves to the broth (Sicilians use cloves in their savoury cooking) but I will not add the malt vinegar or the sugar.