Tag Archives: Mint

One way to cook Rabbit like a Sicilian

Hare seem hard to come by and most of the time I have to make do with rabbit, however the way I cook rabbit is the same as when I cook hare.

I always marinade the rabbit before I cook it, perhaps for a shorter time, and the cooking time is reduced significantly especially for farmed rabbits.

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I have recipes on the blog for cooking rabbit and hare and most of the recipes for cooking chicken can also be used to cook rabbit.

This time I took more photos while I was cooking the rabbit with cloves, cinnamon and red wine – you will recognize spices that are characteristic of some Sicilian cooking due to significant influences from the Arabs.

Pino Correnti in his book IL Libro D’oro della Cucina e dei vini do Sicilia calls this recipe CONIGLIO (rabbit) DA (from) LICODIA EUBEA

I have driven through Licodia Eubea on my way from Piazza Armerina to Calatagirone and then Ragusa but did not take any photos. I have photos from nearby Grammichele with its hexagonal shaped piazza in front of the main church.  There is a large unusual sculpture in the middle that is one of the largest sundial in the world. Like in Licodia Eubea there seem to be very few people around and it appeared that we had the town to ourselves.

Recipe: RABBIT with cloves, cinnamon and red wine (CONIGLIO DA LICODIA EUBEA)

Other Sicilian Recipes for cooking rabbit:

CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)

RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE (Lepre o Coniglio al Cioccolato -‘Nciculattatu is the Sicilian term for in chocolate )

 

Sicilian Pumpkin with vinegar, mint, sugar and cinnamon

Fegato di sette cannoli

It is autumn  in Australia and  there are plenty of pumpkins around. I like cooking pumpkin this way because it has unusual flavours and it can be made well in advance. I have presented it both as an antipasto and as an accompaniment to main dishes.

I cook this dish quite often and I am surprised that I have not written about it on my blog.

The following text is a condensed version from my first book  Sicilian Seafood Cooking. The photograph is also from the book. This all took place in my kitchen – I cooked it , Fiona Riggs styled it and Graeme Gillies photographed it.

This  Sicilian specialty  is sometimes called zucca in agro dolce (pumpkin in sweet and sour sauce) but I prefer the more colloquial Sicilian name, ficato ri setti canola – literally, ‘liver of the seven spouts (or reeds)’.

It is a colourful and aromatic dish. There is the strong colour of the pumpkin, tinged brown at the edges, and contrasted with bright green mint. The sweetness   of the pumpkin is enhanced by the flavours and fragrance of garlic, cinnamon and vinegar. It is better cooked ahead of time – the flavours intensify when left at least overnight, but it can be stored in the fridge for several days.

The dish is said to have originated among the poor, in what is known as one of the quartieri svantaggiati (‘disadvantaged suburbs’) of Palermo.

Sicilians are colourful characters and like stories. It is said that the pumpkin dish was first cooked and named by the herb vendors of the Piazza Garraffello a small square in Palermo. These were the days before refrigeration and balconies and windowsills were often used to cool and store food, especially overnight. As the story goes, the herb sellers could often  smell the aroma of veal liver coming from the balconies of the rich. At home, they cooked pumpkin the same way as the well-to-do cooked liver (fegato) and, wanting to create a bella figura, they hoped the fragrance of their cooking would mislead the neighbours into thinking that they too were well-to-do and could afford to eat liver.

The typical way of cooking liver is to slice it thinly, pan-fry it and then caramelise the juices in the pan with sugar and vinegar to make agro dolce (sweet and sour sauce).

As for the seven spouts (sette cannoli), they are the short cane-shapedspouts of an elegant 16th-century fountain in the piazza. Below – cathedral in Palermo.

In Australia I generally use the butternut or Jap pumpkin,The pumpkin is sliced 1cm (.in) thick and traditionally fried in very hot oil (if thicker, they take too long to cook).

Although baking the pumpkin slices is not traditional, I prefer this method .It certainly saves time in the preparation (see variation below). Serve it at room temperature as an antipasto or as a contorno (vegetable side dish).

1kg (2lb 4oz) pumpkin
10 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil (1. cup
if frying 1/3 cup if baking)
3 teaspoons sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
small mint leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper

Fried Method

Peel and remove the seeds of the pumpkin and cut into 1cm (in) slices.
Peel and slice 4 cloves of garlic.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan. Add the garlic cloves.
Remove when it has coloured and fry the pumpkin slices, turning them only
once in case they break, until they become soft and begin to colour around
the edges. Add salt to taste. Remove the pumpkin and discard some of the oil,
but keep any juices.
Use the same frying pan for the agro dolce sauce: add the sugar, stir it around
the pan to caramelise it, and then add the vinegar and cinnamon.
Stirring constantly, allow the sauce to thicken slightly as the vinegar evaporates.
Add the remaining garlic cloves and few sprigs of mint to the warm sauce.

Add the pumpkin to the sauce, and sprinkle with pepper. Allow the sauce
to penetrate the pumpkin on very low heat for a few minutes. Alternatively,
pour the sauce over the pumpkin and turn the slices a couple of times. Cool
and store in the fridge once cool. Eat at room temperature.

When ready to serve, arrange the slices in a serving dish, remove the old
mint (it would have discoloured). Scatter slices of fresh garlic and fresh mint
leaves on top and in between the slices.

 

Baked version

Cut the pumpkin into thicker slices, about 2–3cm (1in).
Sprinkle with salt and place on an oiled baking tray.
Bake the pumpkin and garlic in a 200C (400F) oven (discard the garlic when the pumpkin
has cooked).
Make the agro dolce sauce (see the above) in the baking tray
instead of a frying pan.

I also add fresh bay leaves – like the look and the taste of it.

The mint must be fresh.

SLOW COOKED LEG OF GOAT WITH HOT MINT SAUCE

My friends all seem to enjoy good food and are good cooks; Mandy is no exception. Not all of my friend’s cooking has been represented on my blog; this is not because I have not enjoyed their food, warmth and hospitality, but more because I may not have had a camera or it was inappropriate to take photos when food was about to be served.

This is a photo of a leg of goat that had been marinating in a chemoula my friend Mandy made with a mix of ghee, extra virgin olive oil, some of her own preserved lemons and harissa.  She purchased the goat from friends who like her live on a property near Cowra in New South Wales. Goat is a lean meat and benefits from being larded or having some extra fat added.

 

Mandy placed the meat on a rack in an old fashioned, baking dish (which is a delight in itself). She kept the lid on throughout the cooking time and ensured that there was a bit of water below the rack in the bottom of the baking dish; this provides a bit of steam and keeps the meat from drying out. Marinating the meat beforehand and this method of cooking prevents shrinkage; the meat was very tender, moist and tasty.

Score the surface of the meat in a 1 cm criss-cross pattern to help the marinade penetrate the meat. Preheat the oven to 160c and cook for 6 hours.

Add about ½ cup of water to the pan after the first 30 minutes and then every hour. The juices and the scrapings from the pan made an excellent gravy.

But it is not just the meat that makes a good meal. We ate the meat with silver beet grown in her garden. This was mixed with whole chickpeas and sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, onion, garlic, chilli and cumin.  A tahini dressing (tahini, garlic, salt, oil, lemon juice, cumin and a little warm water) accompanied this dish.

 

We had unpeeled kiffler potatoes roasted in extra virgin olive oil and a bowl of cucumber mixed with yogurt, mint and garlic.

Mandy also made a hot mint sauce using a recipe from Sam and Sam Clark’s Casa Moro, The Second Cookbook. I too have this book and here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS
4 tablespoon’s extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons good quality sweet red wine vinegar (add a pinch of sugar to normal red wine vinegar or use balsamic)
salt & black pepper
½ a teaspoon caster sugar (optional)

PROCESSES
Place a small saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When it is hot, but not smoking, add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes until golden brown – stir once or twice to ensure it colours evenly. Add half the mint and all of the cumin. Cook for a further minute then add the red wine vinegar and simmer for 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining mint. Season and add sugar if needed to balance the flavours. Serve hot.

Goat (capra in Italian), like mutton is the mature beast; kid (capretto in Italian) is the young animal. As a rule Italians prefer to eat kid.

For other kid or goat recipes see previous posts:
KID WITH ALMONDS (SPRING IN SICILY, CAPRETTO CON LE MANDORLE)
SLOW COOKED GOAT IN NERO D’AVOLA

 

And there was more food. We finished off the meal with a rhubarb cake (the rhubarb is also grown in her garden) and accompanied by some of her saffron ice cream made with eggs from her hens. This fantastic meal was prepared by this very busy woman, who could have been spending more time in her studio painting (you can see some of Mandy’s paintings on the wall behind her).

Thank you Mandy, another memorable meal.

MA2SBAE8REVW

PASTA CON SPADA E MENTA (Pasta with swordfish and mint)

Coinciding with the Long Weekend in October on Saturday Beachport had one of their regular Market Days, which are held at various times through the year.

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Beachport is a small seaside town in the South East of South Australia close to Robe and Millicent. Anyone familiar with South Australian wine would know about the Limestone Coast and the Coonawarra wine regions. Both are close by. Neighbouring wine regions include Wrattonbully and Mount Benson.

On the foreshore at Beachport there is a large, impressive landmark. It is an historic property called Bompas, formerly Beachport’s original hotel. Bompas has been through many changes, but since April 2012 Sarah and Jeremy are bringing life back into this independent, boutique hotel that serves as a cafe, restaurant and bar with unique accommodation and function facilities.

The reason I am writing about Bompas is that on the October Long Weekend the menu at Bompas featured Pasta with swordfish and mint, one of the recipes in Sicilian Seafood Cooking.The weekend was also the launch of their Asian menu which proved to be very popular.

Sarah and Jeremy now have Trish, an enthusiastic, local and young chef who is very happy to be there and they are equally pleased with her.

In the traditional Sicilian recipe swordfish is the preferred fish, a dense textured fish. I prefer to use sustainable fish and use, mackerel, burramundi, flathead, rockling, yellowtail kingfish or Mahi Mahi. Shell fish also enhances the sweetness of the dish and Sarah, Jeremy and Trish used scallops. They are also looking forward to using local fish on their menu (the fishing season has just started).

Trish did an excellent job of preparing the dish, but what it taught me as the writer is that it may have been useful to include extra hints in the recipe to clarify the process of cooking. Chefs may know how to do it, but what about the person who is not familiar with Italian cooking?

There is so much more advice that the writer of recipes may need to give. For example:

The recipe contains zucchini. What I wish to say is that Italians do overcook vegetables by our standards and in this case it is fairly important that the zucchini are sliced thinly and sautéed till soft – the recipe does not say this. The cooking releases the sweet juices of the zucchini and these are also added to the pasta and contribute to the flavour the dish.

There is also a fair amount of mint, this is added in the cooking process and at the end.

An other thing is that the wine needs to be evaporated so as to caramelize the juices released by the fish when this is sautéed.

And finally, all of the ingredients need to be hot when they are mixed together; this enables the fresh cheese to soften.

For 4-6 people

INGREDIENTS
pasta, 500g, ribbed, tubular like rigatoni or similar
fish, 400g, cut into pieces (4cm)
extra virgin
olive oil, ¾ cup
white wine, ½ cup
garlic, 3 cloves, chopped
mint, fresh, 15-20 leaves
salt and pepper to taste
formaggio fresco or fresh mozzarella or bocconcini, 300g,
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

PROCESSES
Cut the cheese into small cubes and set aside.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil; add the fish or shellfish and sauté it till it      is lightly coloured.
Add the garlic, wine, about a third of the mint and seasoning to the fish. Cover and cook gently till the fish is ready.
Combine fish, cheese and extra mint leaves (large leaves can be cut into smaller pieces).
Add the sauce to cooked and drained pasta, mix and and serve.

VARIATION
Add slices of 2-3 lightly fried zucchini (cooked separately in some extra virgin olive oil and added at the end). Add any juices left over from the zucchini.
To complement the green colour of the dish I sometimes sprinkle pistachio nuts on top.

I contribute a recipe for Seafoodnews a monthly publication.This is the same recipe and photo of the dish I submitted for the October issue.

MA2SBAE8REVW

PESCE CUCINATO AL CRUDO FISH COOKED SIMPLY WITH TOMATOES AND MINT

I love Flathead. My fishmonger prefers to sell it as fillets, but I prefer to cook it whole especially if I am braising it; it is an ugly looking fish, but the bones and head add taste to the braising liquid. Many eaters dislike picking out bones from whole fish, however if the spine is lifted out carefully and kept whole, this does not have to be a big problem.

For two people I used one Flathead (600g -700g) and this recipe can be adapted for fillets; use large sized fillets to prevent breakage.

Other white fleshed, medium flavoured and textured fish suitable for this recipe are: Snapper, Leatherjackets, Whiting and Garfish.

The fish is cooked very simply and al crudo (using all raw ingredients and all in the pan at the same time); it relies on the fish being fresh and the tomatoes being sun ripened and flavourful. Mint is rarely used in Italian cooking but it is often added to Sicilian cuisine.

These quantities are suitable for 1k of fish. If using whole snapper, which is a larger fish, increase the cooking time and add a little more liquid to the pan.

INGREDIENTS

fish (see above)
tomatoes, 500g peeled, seeded, and chopped
garlic, 4 cloves chopped finely
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground pepper
capers, ½ cup, I prefer to use the salted variety, soaked and washed
fresh mint, 2 tablespoons, cut finely and more sprigs for decoration

PROCESSES

Arrange the fish and the tomatoes in a low saucepan so that the fish can be fitted in one layer.
Add seasoning, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, the finely cut mint and capers.
Cover the fish and cook on medium heat for 7-13 mins if you are cooking whole fish and about 5-7 minutes if they are fillets – this time will vary depending on the size of the fish and how much you like your fish cooked. Take off the lid and cook on brisk heat until the tomatoes have thickened. Avoid stirring or turning the fish to prevent breaking.
Decorate with fresh mint sprigs.

MA2SBAE8REVW

CAPONATA and CATANIA (General information and recipe for Caponata di patate)

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I am very pleased that one of my recipes (Caponata, Perfect for Christmas) has been published in the latest issue of Italianicious (Volume 5 issue 4, Dec 2009 -Feb 2010). This magazine is published in Sydney and has an Italian/Australian specific content with many recipes, articles and information about food, restaurants, wine and travel.

That particular recipe of caponata published in Italianicious is from my mother’s family originally from Catania (a city on east coast of Sicily) and it is interesting that my father’s family, who are from Ragusa (two hours drive from Catania), do not cook caponata at all. The photo is of Via Bellini in Catania.

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Caponata personifies Sicilian cuisine and as you’d expect, there are many regional variations of this recipe. Some of you may be surprised that this version of caponata contains peppers as well as eggplants. The most common recipes for caponata only use eggplants as the principal ingredient, but the inclusion of peppers is an authentic, local variation in many parts of Sicily especially from Catania. On my trips to Sicily I always sample as much caponata as possible and was very pleased to find that the best tasting versions of caponata all contained peppers – this I found in restaurants in Syracuse, Catania, Sciacca, Mazara del Vallo, Agrigento, Ragusa Ibla and Caltagirone.

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There are other Sicilian caponate (plural of caponata) made with other vegetables, for example, caponata di carciofi (artichokes) caponata di verdura verde (green leafy vegetables) and caponata di patate (see recipe below). The principal and most common flavourings that characterise a Sicilian caponata remain the same: the celery, capers, green olives and the sweet and sour caramelised sauce made with vinegar and sugar (agro dolce).

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Other traditional caponate recipes made with eggplants or eggplants and peppers use tomato paste rather than chopped tomatoes, some add garlic, others chocolate (or cocoa). Many recipes contain nuts – almonds or pine nuts or pistachio, used fresh in some recipes, in others they are toasted. Frequently herbs are added – sometimes basil, at other times oregano or mint. Certain recipes also include raisins or currants and some, fresh pears. Several include fish, singly or in combination of canned tuna, prawns, octopus, salted anchovies and bottarga.

To make caponata I always sauté (on high heat) my vegetables separately and then combine them at the end in the agro dolce (sweet and sour) sauce.

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CAPONATA DI PATATE
(Potato caponata)

This caponata can be eaten hot or at room temperature. It also keeps well refrigerated for several days.

The potatoes in this caponata are fried until lightly golden. The ingredients commonly used to make caponata – onions, celery, olives, capers, tomatoes and the vinegar and sugar for the agro dolce – are cooked together separately. The potatoes are then added to the other cooked component.

INGREDIENTS
potatoes, 1.5 kg
celery, 1 heart (the centre pale green stalks and some of the fine leaves)
onion, 2, large, chopped
capers, ½ cup, salted or in brine
green olives, ¾ cup , stoned, chopped
white vinegar, ¾  glass
sugar, 3 tablespoons
extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup (or more)
salt and freshly ground pepper
parsley, 1 cup, cut finely
tomato passata, 1 cup

PROCESSES
Peel and cube the potatoes and place onto a clean tea towel (or paper) to dry.
Fry the potatoes in hot extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt – do not crowd the potatoes and if needed use a wide frypan or cook in batches.
Turn occasionally until they are cooked and golden. Drain the potatoes and set aside. You can use this same oil to braise the vegetables (purists would use new oil).
Heat the oil and add the onions and the celery. Stir frequently and cook over a moderate heat until the onion is golden and the celery has softened. Add seasoning and parsley.
Add the tomatoes, capers and olives and toss the ingredients together for about 5 minutes.
Add sugar and vinegar and increase the heat to high to evaporate some of the vinegar.
Add the potatoes, cook for about 4-5 minutes to blend the flavours.
Serve at room temperature.

VARIATIONS
Add either chopped, toasted almonds or pistachio before serving (either on top or through the caponata) and scatter with fresh mint leaves.