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.
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.
In the hot weather, I often prepare a chicken salad.
I like this style of cooking – one that I can prepare the day before I present it. These days, the easier, the better.
I have made this salad over many years and each time, I vary the amount of flavours and it is a little different.
When I first made this dish many years ago, I adapted it from a Bugialli recipe called Insalata di cappone – the book was published in 1984 and Bugialli says that his recipe comes from a restaurant in Mantova (Mantua) and is the typical sweet and sour dish from the Renaissance period. In his recipe the capon is poached in broth and then pickled in the marinade for at least twelve hours. It is served cold.
Several years ago I found a very similar recipe in a book about Southern Italian cooking. The writer had eaten Piperata Chicken in Trapani (Sicily) and acknowledges that it was probably not a traditional recipe. Her recipe was made with chicken breasts and along with other things, the zest and juice from a lemon, pine nuts and currants – the same flavours used in Bugialli’s recipe.
Using chicken breasts indicates that it is a modern recipe and even if these flavours were those of the Renaissance period they are still present today in Sicilian cooking – the agrodolce (sweet and sour), the lemon juice, the peel, the currants, the pine nuts. I always add cloves, cinnamon and sometimes nutmeg. The agrodolce and use of spices is attributed to the Arabs, but also to the Romans, and both of these peoples were in Sicily. Throughout the ages strong sauces were often used to disguise spoiled food, especially meat, and vinegar and sugar are still used as a preservative. (Caponata contains vinegar and sugar and in ancient times caponata because of its long lasting properties was a useful dish to take to sea by fishermen.)
I also found a recipe for Chicken in pomegranate juice in Barbara Santich’s book: The original Mediterranean Cuisine, medieval recipes for today.
In the recipe, the chicken is simmered in pomegranate juice and almond milk (made from blanched almonds) and flavoured with cinnamon and sugar. In the accompanying text Santich states that the origins of this dish can be attributed to the Arabs, the recipe probably arriving in western Europe through early translations of Arab dietetic writing and appearing in most early Mediterranean collections and also early thirteenth century Andalusian text.
I began to investigate the origins of the recipes.
From Pipirata, to piperatum, and in ancient Rome this was the “peppered broth” or “the water in which beef has been cooked in”. The broth contained garum and pepper. Garum was made through the crushing and fermentation in brine of the innards of fish. It originally came from the Greeks and was very popular with the ancient Romans. Garum was a seasoning preferred to salt and when added to other ingredients like vinegar, wine, oil and pepper it became a condiment used for meat, fish and vegetables – a type of fish sauce similar to the Asian fish sauces of countries like Thailand and Vietnam.
Pevere in the Veneto (dialect spoken in the region of Northern Italy) means ‘pepper’ and peverada is a sauce used as a common condiment in modern, Italian cooking (mostly northern Italian). It is a sauce for game, excellent with duck or poultry and roasted meats. The most well-known peverada originated in the Veneto area and it usually contains garlic, oil, pepper, parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, livers (from the fowl being cooked), soppressa (salame), anchovies and pomegranate juice. The ingredients are minced and then sautéed adding the liver last. These ingredients are gently poached in broth. Lastly lemon juice, pomegranate juice and wine vinegar are added, and the sauce is reduced
In Medieval times, especially in the cooking of France most kitchens would have used vinegar or verjuice, lemon juice, or the juice of sour oranges, or pomegranate to add acidity to sauces. This would have been balanced with sweet ingredients, sugar or honey, dried fruit or concentrated grape juice or sweet wine. Meat was also preserved in a mixture of stock and vinegar. The sweet and sour taste and the use of strong spices were also popular in Renaissance times these sauces were popular with the French. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the nobility of southern Italy and Sicily employed a monsu’ – a monsieur – a French or French-trained cook who could have used elaborate sauces to dress game or roast fowl.
Chicken and the prized spices used in the recipes were once rare and expensive and the dish is not likely to be considered a poor person’s dish.
Bugialli does not use pomegranate in his recipe, but I have often decorated the dish with pomegranate seeds. I have also sometimes used minced anchovies and both of these ingredients are popular in Sicilian cooking.
And just when I thought that the chicken salad dish could be Sicilian after all, I found one recipe called Jadduzzedi e Puddastri ca sarsa pipirata in Pino Correnti’s book: Il libro d’oro della cucina e dei vini di Sicilia.
Correnti describes the dish as young chickens and roosters, pot roasted in oil, butter, bay leaves, rosemary, salt and pepper and deglazed with a little marsala (the dry variety). These were then served with a reduced salsa pipirata consisting of the following ingredients: vin cotto, broth flavoured with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and rosemary, grated lemon peel and pomegranate juice.
Apparently this particular dish was appreciated by a noble in Palermo in the eighteenth century. Unfortunately then Correnti goes on to say that this dish was revealed to him by a medium, and that he has never found any basis or documentation for this recipe.
I could not come to any definite conclusion – all cuisines have cultural origins, but the cooking methods and flavours have altered and evolved throughout history to become what they are today.
Here is one of my versions of Puddastri ca pipirata.
Prepare this dish at least the day before you serve it – this allows the flavours in the marinade to achieve the required results.(I have learned through experience that this dish tastes even better if left to marinade for at least 24 hours).
If using chicken fillets use a wide, shallow sauce pan which allows the fillets to be placed in a single layer (if possible). If the chicken is in a double layer, ensure that during the poaching process you swap the ones on top with the ones in the bottom layer to allow even cooking.
The following recipe is sufficient for 6 people and I first published this recipe in a post on: Jan 11, 2010.
Chicken fillets, skinless or with skin. I use organic and depending on how large they are, estimate 1 per person.
Or I sometimes use a whole chicken is in the photos.
For the poaching liquid: chicken stock, sufficient to cover the fillets (made beforehand) celery, 2 stalks left whole carrots, 3 young, scraped and left whole onion, 1 sliced into thick slices spices, 5 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 6 pepper corns bay leaves, 3 parsley, 4-5 sprigs rosemary, 1 sprig
For the marinade: extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup spices, 1/2 teaspoon of each, ground cloves and cinnamon (I used whole cloves once and watched my friends picking them out from their mouths – not a good feel or look so if you wish to use whole cloves you could wrap them in muslin), bay leaves, 3- 4 (fresh leaves look great as well as doing their job) chilly flakes or black pepper, to taste (I use plenty) sugar, 1 small teaspoon salt, to taste red wine vinegar 1/3 cup lemon or orange, the juice of 1, and the peel , peeled with a potato peeler and kept in strips so it can easily be removed
For the salad: celery, 2 of the tender stalks sliced thinly, and some of the light green leaves, chopped cooked chicken and carrots spring onions, 3 chopped or cut lengthwise into thin , short pieces pine nuts, 3/4 cup seedless muscatels (or raisins or currants), 3/4 cup previously soaked in a little wine or marsala
Prepare the poaching liquid – I really like to make this strongly flavoured. Use sufficient chicken stock to cover the chicken fillets or the whole chicken. (I usually have some stock in the fridge or stored in the freezer made with chicken with bones, carrot, onion and celery stick, a little salt, boiled and then reduced). Strain the stock through a colander, empty it into the saucepan and add the ingredients listed for the poaching liquid above. Bring the stock with added flavourings to the boil. Place the fillets or the whole chicken gently into this poaching liquid – it should just cover the meat. Adding the meat to the hot stock will seal the meat and preserve the flavour. Adding the meat to the cold liquid will enrich the taste of the broth. Because the meat is the focus, add the chicken to the hot liquid. Cover with a lid and bring slowly to the boil again on medium heat. Leave the chicken fillets to poach gently for about 7 minutes (I do not like to overcook them – they need to be white in colour and when pricked with a fork still have some resistance). If using a whole chicken, cook the chicken for about 60 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the chicken in the poaching liquid till cool – the chicken will keep on cooking in the poaching liquid and be kept moist till you are ready to marinade it.
Mix all of the ingredients together in a container and set aside till you are ready to assemble the salad.
To assemble the salad:
I like to use a deep glass bowl to see the chicken and salad ingredients in layers. Take out chicken fillets and cut each fillet into thick slices or separate the flesh from the bones and cut it into thick slices. Strain the poaching liquid, discard the solids but keep the carrots – these can be sliced into batons and added to the salad. Place the chicken fillets and carrots in layers and cover with a little marinade and other ingredients as you go. The peel and bay leaves can be at the bottom of the dish and between the layers. Sprinkle pine nuts and drained dried muscatels, the spring onions, celery and carrots between the layers. Top the whole dish with any remaining marinade and some of the cooled poaching liquid until all the chicken is covered (this will keep it moist and a good colour). Leave the chicken to pickle in the fridge. Shake the dish occasionally to amalgamate the flavours.
Remove it from the fridge about an hour prior to serving.
Prior to presenting the dish you may like to drain off some of the liquid to make it more manageable. Ensure that each person receives some of the other solids as well as the chicken and serve some of the liquid separately if you wish.
It is at this stage that on numerous occasions I have taken more liberties with dish by:
• adding one or more extra ingredients to the marinade: 1-2 chopped anchovies , 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses instead of the sugar (molasses is definitely not Sicilian) or a little vin cotto.
• scattering pomegranate seeds on top of the salad.
Save any left over liquid to use as a stock to flavour braised rabbit, chicken, pork and venison dishes.
A bit of trivia:
I read recently that pomegranate juice has anti-inflammatory compounds, cancer-killing isoflavones and antioxidant properties. Italians call it melograna, melograno granato, pomo granato, or pomo punico. The generic term, punica, was the Roman name for Carthage, and the best pomegranates came to Italy from Carthage.
The skorthalia (skordalia) I am familiar with, is Greek in origin (originally called scoradalme, from scoradon, Greek for garlic). The modern versions are made mainly with potatoes, oil and garlic. The garlic with salt is placed in a mortar and using a pestle it is pounded into a paste.
This Sicilian scurdalia is made with bread, potatoes and almonds and I suspect its origins may be Greek, however, picada (Catalan garlic sauce) and ajo blanco (from southern Spain) are very similar. I think these examples help to illustrate how Sicilians may have responded to the flavours and inspirations of the different people who settled in Sicily but added their particular twists to make it their own – much like we do In Australia.
This sauce is particularly suitable for poached, sweet water fish. I have presented it with steamed or baked trout or Murray cod or as on this occasion with prawns. Pino Correnti’s version in Il Libro D’Oro Della Cucina E Dei Vini Di Sicilia is made with poppy seeds, but if you present this version to your guests tell your guests what is in the sauce – the black colour can be a little disturbing.
I use a food processor to almost pulverise the almonds (or walnuts). The poppy seeds I use whole, crushed lightly.
Use a mortar and pestle to make the sauce. The ingredients are added gradually to achieve a smooth purée like texture; as a variation I add some blanched ground almonds. Warm water is added to make the mixture smoother. I also know that in various parts of Greece, walnuts are used and that sometimes skordalia is made with bread instead of potatoes.
potato, 2 cooked, peeled and cubed
2-3 cloves of garlic,
½ cup extra virgin olive oil,
¼ cup blanched and ground almonds
salt to taste
juice of 1 lemon or 1 tbs white wine vinegar
Begin by pounding the with salt in the mortar and pestle.
Gradually add small amounts of almonds, potato and some of the oil, lemon (or vinegar) and continue to pound until all of the ingredients are finished and you have a smooth paste (add some hot water to thin as necessary).
I have cooked rabbit a few times lately – there seems to be plenty of it about. They are breeding like rabbits seems a very appropriate term,given the excellent breeding conditions for them in most of Australia – good rainfall and abundant vegetation of good nutritional value.
Where possible I buy wild rabbit. I like to think that helping to reduce the rabbit population is a good thing for the environment – wild rabbits have contributed to the extinction of many plant species and by their selective grazing they deplete the high-quality feed for some native species and livestock. The loss of vegetation also contributes to soil erosion.
I found a version of this recipe in Pino Correnti’s Il Libro D’oro della Cucina e dei Vini di Sicilia. As is often the case in Sicilian recipes, there is very little detail about the method of cooking and there are no quantities given, but the following combination works for me. The recipe is from Licodia Eubea, a small town in the province of Catania. It is close to Vizzini and not far from Caltagerone – all are north of Ragusa.
In this recipe the rabbit is marinated in red wine before cooking. If I am cooking a wild rabbit I marinate it overnight, if it is a farmed rabbit 3 hours are plenty.
I have cooked this rabbit several times and each time I have added more personal touches – whole mushrooms or whole onions, more spices. On one occasion I presented it with fregola – this is the Sardinian version of couscous that is common in Southern Sardinia around Cagliari. It is cooked like pasta in boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes and drained. (I am not sure that the Sicilians would approve, or the Sardinians for that matter.)
I use one rabbit to feed four people (usually weighs just below 1 kilo).
red wine, 1½ cups
bay leaves, 4-6
garlic, 2 cloves, each cut into halves
cinnamon sticks, 1-2
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and pepper to taste
tomato paste, 2 tablespoons, dissolved in a little water
rosemary sprigs, fresh 3-4
mint, fresh, 6-8 leaves
onions, whole,1-2 per person
PROCESSES: Clean the rabbit and cut it into manageable sections at the joints.
Marinate it in the wine, some of the oil, bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves and turn it occasionally.
Remove the pieces of rabbit from the marinade and drain well. Keep the marinade with the bay, cinnamon and cloves for cooking.
Cut small slits into the flesh of the rabbit and insert the garlic into the slits (the recipe just lists garlic in the list of ingredients). Add the rest of the extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the pieces until golden. Remove them and set aside.
Reduce the heat, add the whole onions to the oil and toss them around until golden.
Add salt and pepper, the diluted tomato paste, mint, rosemary, the wine marinade with the bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves (if you want to accentuate the taste of the aromatics you may wish to discard the old bay leaves and cloves in the marinade and add new ones).
Cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is cooked (wild rabbit will take twice as long to cook as the farmed rabbit and you may need to add extra liquid).
Remove the lid and evaporate the juices if necessary.
I bought some chicory at the Queen Victoria Market this morning – it is a winter vegetable but obviously still around and in good condition, even in November. As you can see in the photo this particular type of chicory has scarlet stalks.
Well, I call this chicory. There is so much confusion about chicory; it gets confused with endives, escarole, radicchio (especially the green coloured radicchio, often called radicchio biondo or radicchio di Trieste) and even witlof. They all have a distinctive bitter taste, but to me chicory is this one, the one with the long serrated leaves.
I have found puntarelle salad in some Italian restaurants in Australia. These are chicory shoots of a variety of chicory called catalogna. The shoots are either picked while the plant is very young and tender but more commonly when the plant is going to seed and sends out shoots. The word puntarelle (from punta) means small shoots or points.
I cook the outer leaves as I do leafy greens – softened before I braise them in oil, garlic and a little chilli .(see CAVOLO NERO).
The tender lighter coloured green leaves from the centre (or the sprouting shoots at this time of year) I use in salads, either as part of a green leaf salad, or to contrast a sweeter tasting ingredient, for example, beetroot, borlotti beans or fennel and orange.
A favourite way to use the centre is to use it like Sicilians use cicorino (chicory, often wild and found in spring in Sicily and also called la prima – the first). Pino Correnti, a respected food authority about Sicilian food thinks that this salad is eaten in Troina, in north – central Sicily.
chicory (see below for amounts and type)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
hard boiled eggs
Wash and cut into small pieces the chicory.
Make the vinaigrette with the oil, vinegar, lemon and seasoning.
Add a few chopped anchovies to the dressing and dress the salad.
Add hard-boiled eggs cut into quarters.
Accompany it with bread.(I like it as a first course as well. For this option I add more eggs and whole anchovies).
FEATURE PHOTO Puntarelle with soft drained ricotta. Creamed goats’ cheese would be OK as well.