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AGGHIOTTA DI BACCALA` IN BIANCO La Trobe in the City – Ancient Mediterranean Lecture Series, Christmas

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Food And Culture in Sicily: Christmas Cookery Workshop, 7 December 2013

Presented by Dr Gillian Shepherd and Marisa Raniolo Wilkins

Gillian began the presentation with short history of food and feasting in Sicily.  Gillian focused on the literary and archaeological evidence for food production and consumption in the ancient world of Sicily with particular emphasis on festivals, sacrifice and feasting (i.e. pagan “versions’ of Xmas). She described how in ancient times the ordinary people only got to eat meat as the result of sacrificial offerings to the gods (the gods  inhaled the smoke and aromas as the sheep and goats, and less often cattle, were roasted).

Using our dining room wall as a screen, Gillian projected images of temples and townships, altars and cooking implemenents and a map of Sicily to clarify and enrich the presentation. She also showed the guests examples of formelle from her personal collection. Formelle are special, handmade ceramic moulds that were traditionally used to make decorative mostarda (must and ash paste) and cotognata (quince paste, I provided the recipe). Gillian is a compulsive collector of formelle and was able to tell me about a formella that I have inherited from my paternal Sicilian grandmother.

formella

For my presentation, I talked about the similarities and differences between the ancient recipes recorded by  Archestratus and Apicius and what are now traditional Sicilian recipes. The menu I selected for this event reflected the development of the recipes and methods used from the ancient world into the Sicilian recipes, the influences of the seasons, religion and culture of Sicily, which in the course of 3,000 years has layered Christianity over Islam and Roman, Greek and more ancient religions.

As the theme of the presentation was Christmas cookery, I focussed on fish and vegetables since Sicilians observe the Catholic rituals of Advent, which involves a month of fasting. The Christmas meal for Sicilians happens on Christmas eve, when they traditionally eat fish. Gillian helped explain the connection between fish and Christ, referencing the Greek word for fish, icthos, which in the early christian era was the symbol most more closely identified with Christ than the cross and whose letters were used as an acrostic, to spell out in Greek, Jesus Christ Son of God, Saviour.

Snapper dressed - ready to cook @ 300 above

This is my third Workshop organised by The Ancient Mediterranean Studies at La Trobe University.

The Menu:

  • Baked ricotta and marinaded black olives
  • Lentils and chicory soup with a soffritto of garlic and parsley (chili optional)
  • Soused fish with vinegar, garlic and mint
  • Baccalà cooked in bianco with olives and capers, parsley, garlic and potatoes
  • Baked fish inserted with anchovies and marinaded in red onion, lemon, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil
  • Fish balls with pine nuts and dried grapes (muscatels)
  • Asparagus dressed with oil and vinegar
  • Green salad; endive, chicory, frisse,  batavia /roman lettuce and cos lettuce
  • Cuccia (to honour Saint Lucy, patron Saint of Syracuse, mid December)
  • Buccello (bucciddatu in Sicilian), a round ciambella (ring-shaped cake) eaten at Christmas with a stuffing of dried fruits and nuts enclosed in crumbly, short pastry. This was made by pastrychef Marianna from Dolcetti.

We drank Sicilian Wine: Marsala fino, Grillo, Nero d’Avola and Zibbibo,

Marisa-explains-recipe-to-Table-2

Some guests did not eat fish and they were presented: Zucchini in agro-dolce (pinenuts and currants, vinegar and sugar), Tomato salad with feta, Potatoes alla pizzaiola (black olives, oregano, garlic and tomato). These vegetables were unknown before the discovery of the American continent (Christopher Columbus in 1492)

Marisa discusses polenta spoons

Baccalà is traditionally eaten on Christmas eve in Sicily. The ingredients are sufficient for a main meal for 4 people.

A common Sicilian  method of cooking food is ‘alla ghiotta’and it usually contains green olives, capers and celery. Stockfish or Baccalà alla ghiotta in bianco is cooked without tomato and is more commonly cooked in the winter months –culinary term, white — with little seasoning and definitely without tomato.

The cod can usually be bought from Italian or Spanish supermarkets. You need to begin preparations at least two day before. Some salt cod is pre-soaked by the vendors beforehand, so it is best to ask about this when you buy it.

AGGHIOTTA DI BACCALA` IN BIANCO (Baccalà ALLA GHIOTTA and IN BIANCO) Recipe from Sicilian Seafood Cooking

Soak the fish to remove the salt.
Rinse any excess salt off the cod, then put it into a large bowl and cover with cold water.
Leave to soak in the fridge for 3 days, changing the water three to four times a day.
Cut any fins or tails off the cod pieces and remove any obvious bones.

Baccala while soaking

INGREDIENTS

stock fish or baccalà , 1.2kg
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
celery heart, 2-3 pale green stalks and leaves, chopped
onion, 1 large, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
parsley, 4 tablespoons, cut finely
green olives, 1 cup, pitted, chopped
capers, ½ cup salted variety, soaked and washed
potatoes, 500g peeled and cut into large chunks

 

Cut the soaked cod into pieces about 10cm in length.
For la ghiotta:
Add the celery and onion to hot, extra virgin olive oil. Use a pan large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients, and cook until softened (about 5 minutes). Stir frequently to cook evenly.
Reduce the heat to medium; add the capers, olives, parsley and stir well.
Add freshly ground pepper, stir, and cook for about 10 minutes to blend the flavours.
Place the fish in the vegetables (preferably in a single layer) and spoon some of the vegetables over it. Add about ½ cup of water (or wine, optional).
Reduce the heat to very low – the fish should not be stirred or it will flake. Cover, and cook for about 35 minutes before adding chunks of potatoes.
Add 1–2 cups of water and leave undisturbed to cook, but occasionally adding a little more water to keep the ingredients moist and until the fish and potatoes are cooked to your liking.
This dish is always served hot, but can easily be reheated; the flavours improve if cooked beforehand.
Marisa shows salad to Gillian & American

Gillian Shepherd
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.Gillian studied Classics and Fine Arts at the University of Melbourne before going on to complete a PhD in Classical Archaeology at Trinity College, Cambridge, followed by a 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.

 

SICILIAN CASSATA and MARZIPAN AT EASTER (Food and Culture in Sicily, La Trobe University)

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.

cassatacutonthebench

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.

This is the original recipe:
2 cups (300 g) whole blanched almonds
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar *
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
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.

This post has the recipe for making cassata:

MA2SBAE8REVW

FOOD AND CULTURE IN SICILY: EASTER COOKERY WORKSHOP

La Trobe in the City is designed for anyone with an interest in history, literature and / or ancient cultures.

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Click on the link bellow for full details of the Lecture Series:
 Full details of the Program

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.

Agrigento

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.
Marisa

Course code: SC03
Online registration is available at:
latrobe.edu.au/humanities/litc

or contact Sarah Midford
School of Historical and European Studies:
s.midford@latrobe.edu.au

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.

MA2SBAE8REVW

La Trobe in the City – Ancient Mediterranean Lecture Series, FOOD AND CULTURE IN SICILY: MENU FOR EASTER COOKERY WORKSHOP

This was one of the workshops offered by La Trobe University as part of the 2013 lecture series. It was held on Saturday 23 March 2013.

Marisa displays cime

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.

I accompanied the lecture 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 recipes I cooked were:
Maccu (pulses)

Caponata (eggplants, peppers, nuts, breadcrumbs). Will be eaten with bread.

IMG_3247

Pasta che sardi – Pasta con le sarde (Sardines, breadcrumbs, currants, pine nuts, wild fennel)

Pasta con sarde 1

Ficatu ri setti cannola – Fegato di sette cannoli (Pumpkin, sweet sour sauce, mint)

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For the workshop I collected some wild greens and the audience was able to see the differences between the wild variety and the cultivated species; wild fennel is one of the ingredients in Pasta Con le Sarde.

Marisa La trobejpg

Cassata (pan di Spagna/sponge cake, ricotta, nuts, marsala, citrus peel, chocolate and marzipan)

SEE:
SICILIAN CASSATA and MARZIPAN AT EASTER (Food and Culture in Sicily, La Trobe University)

FOOD AND CULTURE IN SICILY: EASTER COOKERY WORKSHOP

 

La Trobe University- Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Conference: South Italy, Sicily and the Mediterranean at COASIT

la trobe

The Ancient Mediterranean Studies Centre at La Trobe University conference: South Italy, Sicily and the Mediterranean.

Hosted by the Centre for Greek Studies and the A.D. Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, this conference will focus on the movement of people and interactions of culture in the region of Southern Italy and Sicily from antiquity until the present. The conference will run from 17th to the 21st July 2012.

Cooking demonstration for this Conference was held at COASIT  in Carlton, Melbourne (A non-profit organisation for Italians and Australians of Italian descent).

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South Italy, Sicily and the Mediterranean: Cultural Interactions conference.

Greek and Roman Cultural Interactions: Teacher Professional Development Day

Sicilian Cooking Workshop’ – presented by Marisa Raniolo Wilkins, author of the book Sicilian Seafood Cooking. Sicilian cuisine has been shaped over centuries by Greek, French, Arab and Spanish influences. In this class, participants will cook fish in the traditional Sicilian. Marisa will share her experience in the kitchen and love of Sicilian cuisine so that participants learn about Sicilian culture while they cook a delicious meal to share after the class.

This conference has been convened by La Trobe University’s Centre for Greek Studies and the A.D Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies and will be held at the Museo Italiano in Carlton. On the last day of the conference a professional development day has been integrated into the program which will be of particular relevance to teachers of Italian, Greek, History, Ancient History, Philosophy and Classics. The conference and the professional development day both seek to explore the connections between Roman and Greek cultural and ethnic identity and the movement of people in the Mediterranean region of Southern Italy and Sicilian antiquity until the present.

During the morning participants will attend lectures delivered by academics on the cultural interactions between ancient Greece and Rome. After lunch participants have the option to either attend a material culture workshop or a Sicilian cookery workshop.

The menu for this worshop included:

Baked ricotta
Marinaded sardines
Olive salads and marinaded olives
Crostata di sarde
Pasta with cime di rape and pecorino/ salted ricotta.
Trigle (red mullets) in marinade, cooked on BBQ and presented with salmoriglio
Stuffed artichokes
Baked fish with anchovies
Baked fish with meat broth
Edible weeds
Green salad with Italian leafy greens