Sea urchins and they are now available (July) at the Queen Victoria Market at George The Fish Monger.
They are called ricci in Italy (di mare means from the sea) and are considered a culinary delicacy – the two most common ways to eat them are very fresh and raw with a squeeze of lemon juice (like oysters) or in a dressing for pasta. The roe (the edible part) is never cooked directly – it is much too delicate in flavor and consistency. In the pasta dish it is the hot, cooked pasta that warms (and ‘cooks’) the roe – flip and toss the roe over and over until all of the ingredients of the pasta sauce are evenly distributed.
Time and time again I am asked what am I cooking for Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. The answer is that I do not know yet. I can say is that on Christmas eve I like to eat fish as is traditionally observed in Italy and on Christmas day I usually cook something that I do not normally cook or have not cooked for a while, for example for first course I may cook Spaghetti/ Pasta with sea urchin (ricci) or bottarga or squid with black ink or crayfish or crab.( SEE links to recipes at the bottom of this post.)
Traditionally my immediate family always ate brodo (broth) on Christmas day and lately I have been thinking about something that I have not made since 1984. I know it is this date because the recipe was in a book which was published in 1984 andI bought it the year it was published = Giuliano Bugialli, The Taste Of Italy.
And so the other night when I pulled out of my freezer some strong duck broth, I decided to experiment with making some home-made pasta cut into squares with parsley embedded in the centre. I had made it many years ago on several occasions . Only my daughter was coming for dinner, so if the results were not satisfacory, it did not matter so much. I am always in a hurry (I once had a friend who used to call me (Ms sempre in fretta – always in a hurry) and had no time to find the recipe. Besides I could not remember what the recipe was called or in in which Bugialli book would I find it, so I just went ahead and made it.
Because there were just the three of us eating the brodo I only wanted to make small amounts and use a rolling pin; there was no way I wanted to get out/ dirty/ and clean my pasta rolling machine….I was in a hurry.
And it was great. How could I go wrong? It is just homemade pasta with whole parsley leaves added to the dough. The parsley pasta is then cut into squares. The thinly rolled pasta with the whole parsley leaves are very attractive and resemble embroidery.
I had some asparagus (now in season) and I wanted to add a light summery feel to the brodo. Perfect for an Australian Christmas?
I found the recipe and not surprisingly Bugialli calls them Quadrucci – small squares. A quadro is Italian for square.
In Bugialli’s recipe, he suggests making the broth with Turkey- meat and bones. My duck stock was made with the carcase/carcass of a duck – I had removed the breast and legs for another dish.
WHAT I DID
good meat broth, fat skimmed off, solids passed through a fine mesh strainer,
sprigs of Italian parsley (I also tried some with basil leaves),
home-made pasta = *1 large egg per 100 grams of hard flour (like unbleached, bread making flour, high in protein) is sufficient for 3 persons. Double or triple accordingly.
Sift the flour and place it in a large bowl or on a bench (depending how you like to mix flour to make into a dough).
Make a well in the centre and add the egg and a little salt.
Begin to knead with your fingers; I begin by adding flour from the edges into the centre. Mix everything well. At this stage you may need to add a little bit more of flour if the mixture is too wet or a tiny bit of water if it is too dry. This is because of the differences in the size of the eggs and the absorbency of the flour. Work the dough till the pasta feels elastic.
Shape the dough into a ball, cover it (cloth or plastic wrap) and leave it for about one hour.
Using a rolling pin (or a pasta machine especially if making greater quantities) roll/ stretch the pasta quite thin.
Place whole parsley leaves on top of half the length of the layer of pasta. Fold the other half of the layer of pasta over the parsley, and press the layers together.
Roll it again until it is very thin and you will see the parsley through the top layer of the pasta – sandwiched in the centre and looking like embroidery. I also used basil leaves for some quadri (squares).
Cut the pasta into squares ( like ravioli). These do not need to be of regular size and shape. trim off irregular bits of pasta.
Bring the broth to a boil and add the pasta squares. Cook for 1-3 minutes- they will rise to the surface when cooked.
Once I added the pasta to the broth I added the asparagus. The ingredients were cooked in a very short time.
This is what my version looked like:
I did find Bugialli’s recipe and he adds grated Parmigiano and black pepper to his pasta dough. He also says that this is a representative dish from Puglia. Bugialli is from Florence.
Here is Bugialli’s recipe:
FOR THE BROTH:
900g/2lbs dark turkey meat, with bones
1 medium-sized red onion, peeled
1 stick celery
1 medium-sized carrot, scraped
1 medium-sized clove garlic, peeled but left whole
1 cherry tomato
4 sprigs Italian parsley
3 extra large egg whites
FOR THE PASTA:
40g (1 1/2 oz) (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan
pinch of salt
6 twists black pepper
450g (1 lb) (3 1/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
30 sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
Prepare the broth: put the turkey, coarse-grained salt to taste, the whole onion, celery, carrot, garlic, tomato, and parsley sprigs in a large stockpot. Cover with cold water and put the pot over medium heat, uncovered. Simmer for 2 hours, skimming off foam from the top.
Remove the meat from the pot and reserve it for another dish. Pass the rest of the contents of the pot through a fine strainer into a large bowl, to remove the vegetables and impurities. Let the broth cool, then place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight to allow the fat to rise to the top and solidify.
Use a metal spatula to remove the solidified fat then clarify the broth. Pour 4 tablespoons of the broth into a small bowl and mix it with the egg whites. Pour the broth and egg white mixture into the rest of the cold broth and whisk very well. Transfer the broth to a pot and place it on the edge of a burner. Bring to the simmering stage, half covered, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the egg whites rise to the top with the impurities, and the broth becomes transparent.
Meanwhile, place a clean, wet cotton tea towel in the freezer for 5 minutes. Then stretch the tea towel over a colander and strain the broth through it to clarify it completely. The broth should be absolutely clear.
Prepare the pasta with the ingredients listed, placing the grated Parmesan, salt, pepper, and eggs in the well in the flour. With much care and patience, gradually work the eggs into the flour until you have a slab of dough. Shape this into a ball and leave under a towel or in cling film (plastic wrap) to rest.
Stretch the pasta as thinly as possible by hand or with the pasta machine. Place the whole parsley leaves on top of half the length of the layer of pasta. Fold the other half of the layer of pasta over the parsley, and press the layers together. Continue to roll out the layer of pasta until it is very thin. Using a scalloped pastry cutter, cut the pasta into squares of about 5cm/2in.
Bring the broth to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 1-3 minutes, depending on how dry the pasta is. Serve hot, without adding cheese, which would spoil its purity.
This is what Bugialli’s pasta looked like. With a little more effort and a pasta machine, mine will look like that too.
When in Sicily eating Spaghetti With Sea Urchins (Spaghetti chi Ricci) is a must.
They are relatively unknown culturally in Australia and have been next to non-existent commercially.
Sea urchins have a unique taste – they are considered a delicacy by Italians and are popular particularly with the Japanese, French, and Greeks. The gonads of both sexes of sea urchins are referred to as roe (which sounds nicer than testes and ovaries).
They are called ricciin Italy (means curly, the spines of sea urchins are curly at the ends) and when I was a child visiting Sicily, I remember finding sea urchins under rocks on the beach — family and friends wrapped their hands in newspaper and went looking for them at low tide. Most of the time it was very easy to find 4 to 6 sea urchins for each of us to eat raw — the urchins were simply cut in half using a very sharp knife, revealing the yellow-orange roe that was easily removed with a teaspoon and eaten from the spoon with a squeeze of lemon juice.
The next favourite method of eating them was as a dressing for pasta.
In my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking there is a recipe for this. I had great trouble finding sea urchins to cook (and to be photographed) for my book that was published November 2011.
At the time I found it surprising that there are about 42 species of sea urchins found in Australian waters and although they can be found in many locations, only a few are good tasting. Most are exported to Japan. The market price for fresh, chilled sea urchin roe varies considerably depending on colour and texture.
The Tasmanian sea urchin fishery is now the largest in Australia and I purchased Tasmanian roe from a specialist sea-food vendor (Ocean Made) who deals mainly with restaurateurs. I found some whole sea urchins at the Preston Market but when I opened them I found them very inferior in quality.
In the photographs (from my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking) you see the work of the photographer Graham Gilles and food stylist Fiona Rigg. I was the cook. The photo of the boats at Mondello (Sicily, close to Palermo) is by Bob Evans.
Spaghetti are traditionally used for this recipe, but I also like ricciwith egg pasta, either fresh or dry — narrow linguine — a delicate taste, which in my opinion complement the sweet, fresh taste of the roe.
I ate my best ever pasta with sea urchins in a restaurant in Mondello (close to Palermo) and I am sure that this included lemon – grated peel and juice so I have included these in the recipe.
And one last thing — the sea urchins are not cooked and are mixed with the hot pasta at the time of serving. The aroma is indescribable. Bottarga is sometimes grated on top of the pasta and anchovies are commonly added to the sauce to accentuate the taste, but this is optional.
For 6 people
spaghetti, 500g. If I am using fresh pasta, I use 600g
sea urchins, 3-8 per person
garlic, 4-5 cloves, chopped finely
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground black pepper or chili flakes
parsley, ¾ cup cut finely
anchovies, 3 cut finely (optional)
1-2 red fresh chilies cut finely
finely grated lemon peel of 1 lemon, and the juice
½ cup of your best quality, extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top of the pasta at the end.
If you have purchased whole sea urchins, using a short and very sharp knife or scissors cut into the shell and enter the riccio di mare via the mouth (you will see the opening).
Split the sea urchins in half and remove the soft urchin flesh using a spoon. Place the roes into a bowl and discard all the rest. Break up the sea urchins into smaller pieces – they are soft so use a spoon.
Cook the pasta and while the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce.
Heat the ¾ cup of olive oil, add the garlic and over slow heat cook the garlic slowly until it becomes translucent.
Add chili and anchovies – the anchovies will dissolve in the hot oil.
Add this mixture of oil to the hot just drained pasta at the same time as the sea urchins and toss quickly to coat.
Add the parsley, lemon peel and the juice. Toss well to combine. Serve immediately and top each portion with a drizzle of your best olive oil – this is best done at the table.
Finally there has been some interest in eating Sea Urchins:
Date with plates sends chills down urchins spine:
Sea urchins, sometimes called sea hedgehogs, are the black, spiky creatures that lurk at the bottom of the ocean.They prey on the kelp beds that are a vital habitat for the rock lobsters and abalone of the north-east coast of Tasmania and are considered one of the state’s worst marine pests. But have you ever thought of eating them?
Diver and seafood exporter Dave Allen has helped pioneer the sea urchin export industry in Australia and, in the process, has set about saving the reefs from being stripped bare by these pests.
Laura Banks. From Sunday Age, March 2, 2014.
I was pleased to see that sea urchins will be featured in a dinner called The Delicious Pest at The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival on March 9, 2014.
Sea Urchin Roe is seasonal and as mentioned above, it is available from (Ocean Made), fresh and frozen when it is not in season.
We deliver all over Melbourne and Australia wide. We use air freight and provide the freshest sea urchin roe available across the country. All our processing is done with the highest degree of care in order to make our product the best and we pride ourselves on excellent customer service and quality of product. Last year we won a Victorian seafood of the year award for best customer service and quality of product. We have a minimum order of 20 X 100gram or 150 gram punnets. If that seems too much then you could suggest our products to friends to see if they would like to be included in the order. Please also note that when we have further shops open in Victoria then we will list them on our website. Customers can also sign up to our newsletter and stay informed of seasonal conditions, new products or anything regarding sea urchins.
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