If you’ve visited my site in the past few weeks, whether you are one of my regular followers or a casual visitor, you’ll have noticed that the blog has been inactive and is now stripped of images. That’s because I have been caught up in the traumatising process of changing hosts and migrating the content. I was told it would be simple. I was told it would be easy. I was told it would take almost no time at all. Instead, it has been complex and difficult and incredibly time consuming. I have slowly been able to add some photos but because I started this blog in 2008, you can imagine that it will be a slow process. Fortunately one of my very good and generous friends in Adelaide has been advising me and assisting me. He has been suffering along side of me.
Tomorrow, I fly out for a trip to the UK and then I visit to Sicily and and right now I’m feeling like this poor statue, looking miserable, standing with his arms bound on the edge of La Fontana Pretoria, in Palermo.
If all is well, I will try to write some posts while I am away on my new-look blog!
Those of you who have been to Ragusa Ibla will recognize these shots. The baroque church is that of San Giuseppe, a much loved saint in Sicily (not as much loved as San Giorgio who is the patron saint of Ragusa and has a church which is much larger Duomo- cuppola in photo above- more beautiful and not far from this one).
March 19 is the Feast of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph), which in the Northern hemisphere coincides with the spring solstice. This feast day is a major religious celebration in Sicily.
San Giuseppe is the patron saint of pastry cooks and among the many celebratory dishes are special breads shaped in varying shapes and sizes. On this day pulses are also eaten in many parts of Sicily; some of you may be familiar with maccu made with dried fava beans, which is especially common in southeastern Sicily. Several of these present day traditions have developed from very ancient origins – both legumes and wheat are considered to be seeds of life and are metaphorical foods from pre-Christian times.
In many parts of Sicily there are banquets to celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph, which coincides with the end of Lent, a period of fasting in the Catholic liturgy. But it is also a celebration of the end of the fast imposed by nature – this was more so before the days of fast travel and transport or refrigeration when the provisions kept from summer over winter were depleted by this time of the year.
In some communities especially in small villages large altars and tables are built and filled with large quantities of local cuisine: fish dishes, cooked vegetables, breads, many sweets, but no meat is prepared. Once, in many Sicilian towns and villages the food was also shared with the poor.
One of the recipes cooked on this day are the Sfinci di San Giuseppe. The translation to fritters doesnot necessarily sound very appealing, but maybe if I tell you that they are made from the same dough used to make Pâté à Choux or Bigné or creampuffs, you may be more enticed. They are fried rather than baked.
If you have ever made cream puffs you would know that the dough is cooked before being baked. For making the sfinci a little sugar is added to the mixture.
There are many recipes to make Choux Pastry and the following recipe works pretty well:
eggs, 4 large
water,1 cup (230 cc)
unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons (55 g)
salt, a good pinch
plain flour, 1 cup (140 g)
sugar, 1 tablespoon
oil, to fry the batter (I use extra virgin olive oil for everything- but not my best olive oil which I use to dribble on hot food or salads)
Place water, salt and sugar in a saucepan (large enough to hold all of the ingredients) and bring the water to a boil. Add the butter.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Beat the mixture immediately with a wooden spoon and work quickly. Stir till the dough is smooth – the flour and water will form a ball and no longer stick to the sides of pan. Allow the dough to cool for about 10-15 minutes, but stir it often to allow the steam to escape and to cool at a greater rate.
Add eggs one at a time, stirring each egg completely into the dough before adding the next. (The dough should be pliable but not be runny).
Heat some oil to frying temperature – there should be sufficient oil to nearly cover the level tablespoonfuls of dough, which will be dropped into it.
Fry only a few at the time or the sfinci will broil rather than fry. Turn each sfinci once or twice until they are golden brown and have swelled in size.
Some Sicilians eat them warm and coat the sfinci with honey, others use a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon.
Some allow them to cool, split them open and fill them with pastry cream or with whipped ricotta flavoured with a little sugar and cinnamon. In some parts of Sicily they are called Zeppole.
If you have watched the Inspector Moltabano television series, you will recognize the building that was used as the police station; it is in Ragusa Ibla. To the right of the building you can see the corner of the Chiesa di San Giuseppe (church of). Some of my male Sicilian relatives are posing for the photo. They live in Ragusa.
My relative Corrado lives in Ragusa and he tells me that it is the Feast of San Giorgio (the patron saint of Ragusa). There are always large festivities for this yearly event and celebrated in Ragusa Ibla on the last Sunday in May. and Corrado and Barbara will take advantage of the warm weather and ride their vespa.
‘Oggi qui a ibla c’è la festa di San Giorgio, e questa sera scenderò a ibla con la mia vespa e con Barbara. La serata è calda è quasi estate…….”
There is no need for me to describe this event because I found a fabulous little film on YouTube (check link).
‘……non ti saprei dire cosa si mangia in queste occasioni,’
Naturally I am always interested in the food, but Corrado disappointed me by telling me that he is not able to tell me what is eaten on these occasions so I will take the opportunity to write about one of my aunt’s favourite ways to cook rabbit:. coniglio a partuisa, a very common way to cook rabbit in this south-eastern part of Sicily.
Coniglio alla stemperata is also a local recipe.
The foto of the cooked rabbit was taken In Zia Niluzza’s kitchen the last time I was in Sicily. Unfortunately the foto does not do it justice; the taste of the rabbit is exceptionally good. As you can see it is cooked in a heavy frypan to allow the juices to evaporate and caramelise.
If it is a wild rabbit, so to remove the wild taste it is usually soaked in water and vinegar for at least an hour before it is cooked. This will also bleach the flesh.
To make it more visually appealing, I add fresh mint at the time I present it to the table.
1 rabbit cut into smallish pieces, ½ cup green olives, ½ cup capers, 4 cloves garlic, a few sprigs of mint leaves, 3 bay leaves, 1 glass of red wine mixed with ½ cup of red wine vinegar, ½ cup extra virgin oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Extra mint leaves for decoration.
In a large frying pan sauté the rabbit in the hot extra virgin olive oil until golden. Add the seasoning, the olives, garlic, capers and mint.
Reduce the heat, and add the mixture of wine and vinegar gradually while the rabbit is cooking.
If it is a tender rabbit and if it is cut into small enough pieces, the rabbit may be cooked by the time all of the liquid has evaporated. If the rabbit is not as young or as tender as you had hoped, and you feel that it needs to be cooked for longer (this has always been my experience), add a little water, cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is soft – keep on adding the wine and vinegar. Remove the lid and evaporate the juices. Ensure that the rabbit is that deep golden brown colour when you serve it.
Decorate with fresh mint (for appearance and taste).