FISH BALLS with Sicilian flavours

My last post was about marinaded white anchovies – a great crowd pleaser.  This is easy finger food that can be presented on crostini (oven toasted or fried bread) or on small, cup shaped  salad leaves.

Another small fishy bite which never fails to get gobbled up are fish balls poached in a tomato salsa. I took these to a friend’s birthday celebration recently.

The fish is Rockling.   At other times I have made them with other Australian wild caught fish for example Snapper and Flathead,  Blue-eye and Mahi Mahi.


Here are some photos of the ones I made recently.


Cut the fish into chunks and mince it in a food processor.

You can see the ingredients I use to make these fish balls, mainly currants, pine nuts, parsley and fresh bread crumbs . There is also some garlic and grated lemon rind, cinnamon….. and on this occasion I added nutmeg too.


These ingredients are common in Sicilian cuisine but also in Middle Eastern food. This is not surprising when you look at Sicily’s legacy.

For a variation use other Mediterranean flavours: preserved lemon peel instead of grated lemon, fresh coriander instead of parsley, omit the cheese, add cumin.

Combine the mixture and add some grated Pecorino  and salt and pepper to taste.


Eggs will bind the mixture.


The mixture should be quite firm and hold together. You may need to add more eggs – the number of  eggs you will need  will vary because it will depend on the texture of the fish and the bread.  I always use 2-3 day old sourdough bread.

On this occasion I added 2 extra eggs,(4 small eggs altogether)  however I used 1 k of fish.


In the meantime make a tomato salsa.  I added a stick of cinnamon.


Shape the mixture into small balls and poach them gently in the salsa.


This  is the link to the recipe  that is also in my second book, Small Fishy Bites.


I presented the fish balls in Chinese soup spoons – easy to put into one’s mouth. You can see that there were only very few fish balls left over on the festive table. There are also only five anchovies in witlof leaves left over.


Of course  these fish balls are not just limited to party food. They make a great antipasto or main course.

Spaghetti and fish balls? Why not?

PESCE IN BIANCO (Plain fish). MAIONESE (Mayonnaise)


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.

MAIONESE (Mayonnaise)

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.
Saffron Mayonnaise: