Broth, boiled rice, boiled chicken, steamed white fish are considered to be mangiare in bianco – literally translated, food in white, in other words cooked plain, without colour and hence, without spices and is considered the perfect food for those of us who are feeling unwell.
I can remember my then my teenage son and I being violently ill after eating prawns in a restaurant in Puglia, in southern Italy. We were travelling from Trieste and making our way to Ragusa. In Australia, for this type of ailment the common procedure is to stop eating; he and I did just that.
When we arrived in Ragusa, my aunties, zia Mariannina and zia Niluzza were horrified that we had gone so long without food (six hours) and immediately wanted to feed us. Food seems to be considered the cure for everything by Sicilians. Salvo, my cousin’s son, had just graduated from medical school but was out when we arrived. We were looking forward to his return, thinking he too would agree with our decision to fast as a remedy, but this was not the case – when Salvo arrived, he immediately confirmed the aunties’ recommendation to begin the cure by eating in bianco.
Vindicated, the aunties stood around grinning. Salvo seemed very surprised that in Australia the cure for an upset stomach was to stop eating. Soon after, we were presented with riso in bianco (boiled rice with a little salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil). My son and I continued to eat an array of different foods cooked in bianco for a couple of days and the symptoms abated, either by the passage of time or by the diet.
The other prescribed remedy was cotognata (quince paste) and there was plenty of cotognata in their pantry – homemade, of course.
I bought this fillet of fish in the photo as ‘Rockling’ and I was told that it has come from Tasmania; if I can I prefer to buy local fish, but Tasmania is not far from Melbourne and this fish seems to be more plentiful in their waters.
Because of its mottled pink and orange skin I think that it is Pink Ling. Rock Ling and Pink Ling are closely related and apparently it is often sold in Melbourne under the name ‘Rockling’; the grey skinned variety is more sustainable than the pink variety.
As you can see the fish has thick, firm, white flesh and it is well suited to most cooking methods; I chose to cook it in bianco. Even if you are in perfect health you can enjoy fish in bianco because this method of cooking will enhance the delicate, fresh taste of both these fish.
If your digestive system is not as good as it should be, Italians (this includes Sicilians) would only dribble a little extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon juice onto the fish, but for those of us who are healthy an excellent accompanying sauce is maionese – egg mayonnaise.
In this recipe the fish is poached just below boiling point and retains its delicate flavour and moisture. It can be eaten hot or cold.
The fish needs to be cooked in a pan with a lid and in a single layer to prevent the liquid from evaporating.
white fleshed fish, estimate 1 portion per person (200-220g each)
onion, 1 cut in half
salt to taste
fresh parsley or a little celery (complete with leaves) for the poaching water.
Place the onion, parsley (or celery) and a little salt in a pan, which will accommodate the fish.
Position the fish on top of the vegetables; add a little salt and sufficient water to barely cover the fish.
Cover with a lid and cook on a very low temperature (just below boiling if possible) until the fish is cooked to your liking.
Remove the fish from the poaching liquid and coat with a drizzle your finest extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Save the stock for one other time and discard the vegetables.
Italians make mayonnaise with egg yolks, a little lemon juice and good quality extra virgin olive oil. My mother has never used a food processor to make mayonnaise; the mayonnaise will absorb about 1 cup of oil.
The way my mother makes mayonnaise:
Place 2 egg yolks (removed from the fridge – at room temperature) in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt.
Use a wooden spoon and always moving in the same clockwise direction, stir the yolks and while stirring drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil slowly into the yolks until creamy. Ensure that the previously added oil has been incorporated completely before adding additional oil.
Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice once all of the oil has been incorporated.
I use a food processor or an electric wand to make mayonnaise:
Mix 1 egg with a little salt in the blender food processor, or in a clean jar (if using the wand).
Slowly add 1–1 ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil in a thin, steady stream through the feed tube while the blender or processor is running, Before adding additional oil, ensure that the oil, which has previously been added has been incorporated completely.
Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice when the mayonnaise is creamy. If you are not making the traditional Italian version, it is common to add vinegar instead of lemon juice and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
As an alternative, the Spaniards like to add a little saffron (pre-softened in a little warm water).Add this after the mayonnaise is made.