LAUNCH OF SICILIAN SEAFOOD COOKING AT MERCATO (Baccalaru ‘o fornu – Sicilian and Baccalà al forno- Italian).


After the excitement and satisfaction of the successful launch of my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking, in Melbourne on 6 November, and book signing event at Readings Hawthorn on 17 November, I drove to Adelaide, for the launch of my book in South Australia.

The launch was hosted and organized by the team at Il Mercato, the Italian providore in the north-eastern suburb of Campbelltown, which is where my family settled after migrating from Italy. The local member and the State Minister for Education, Grace Portolese, MP introduced the South Australian event on Sunday, 20 November.

I was thrilled and honoured that respected cook and cooking teacher, Rosa Matto, agreed to launch the book in my former hometown. Rosa and I have known each other for over many years and I have always admired her cooking skills, her generosity and her commitment to sharing her knowledge of food through her cooking classes.

The launch at Il Mercato was very well attended. John Caporosa, the owner of the providore, had ordered 100 copies of Sicilian Seafood Cooking and on the day 99 were sold and signed.

Book signing queue at il Mercato

I am immensely grateful to John and his team, especially Cynthia and Lina who helped to make the event a success and prepared a selection of food:  there were white anchovies and arancini and Lina selected and cooked two recipes from Sicilian Seafood Cooking, the Caponata from Catania (pg 362) and the Baked baccalà (pg 193). It was presented on a ceramic spoon – practical and attractive and very suitable for this occasion.

Baccalà is cooked in many ways but this is probably my favourite – It is full of flavours and colours that can only be Sicilian. It can be presented as a main dish or as an antipasto. At Il Mercato it was served on spoons and everyone loved it.

Baccalà. has to soak for a couple of days before it is cooked, so begin preparations beforehand ( min. 24 hours but if  it is extra salty it will need extra time. It can be purchased pre soaked in some stores which sell Italian and Spanish food.


1–1.2 kg (2lb 4oz–2lb
12oz) baccalà, soaked
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup finely cut parsley
500g (17.oz) tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
(or canned)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
mixed with ½ cup water
flour for coating
½ cup salted capers, soaked and washed
½ cup sultanas or currants
½ cup pine nuts
1 cup white wine
½ cup black olives, pitted and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper


Cut the baccalà into square portions and leave to dry on a paper towel.
Heat ½ cup of oil in an ovenproof casserole. Add the onion, garlic and
parsley and cook until the onion is pale golden. Add the tomatoes, the tomato
paste and seasoning and cook until thickened.
Lightly coat the baccalà with flour and fry in hot oil.
Arrange the baccalà in the casserole with the capers, sultanas, pine
nuts and ½ cup of wine. Bake in a preheated 180C (350 F) oven for
30–45 minutes. Add the rest of the wine and the olives and bake for another
15–30 minutes until cooked (the fish should flake). During cooking, check to
see if it is dry and either add more wine or water.
  • Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves or extra pine nuts and serve with chopped chilli and a dribble of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Cook any firm-fleshed fish this way. Large thick pieces are best.


PORK, SALUMI (Smallgoods). Tasting Australia



Some of you may remember the film/documentary about bizarre local rituals called Mondo Cane (literally translated as a dog’s world – 1962). This is a collection of disconnected snippets from around the world on rather repellent cultural customs and ritual practices, among which there is one showing the slaughter of pigs in New Guinea and an other of Asians who eat dog meat.

In Adelaide I attended a Tasting Australia event called Mondo Di Carne, held at Rosa Matto’s cooking school – Rosa has been the queen of Italian cooking in Adelaide for many years.

Vincenzo Garreffa is a famous butcher from Western Australia and Mondo Di Carne is the name of his business. Vincenzo seems to have a good sense of humour (having spent five hours with him at the workshop) and I hope that he intentionally named his business with the film in mind, however he is also very serious about his meat – he bought all of his own meat to the event including a small suckling pig which was 3-4 weeks old and weighed 5.2 kilos.

As a participant I learned the fundamentals of Italian smallgoods manufacturing – how to make and prepare fresh sausages, capocollo, pancetta, salamini – these are small dried sausages, also called cacciatori (a cacciatore is a hunter and this type of small sized salami were ideal for a long day’s hunt).

I was not expecting a piglet, but there it was. Vincenzo boned it and stuffed it with three whole pork fillets (it had to be flesh as tender as the piglet), blanched almonds and a few slices of pork liver. Salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and rosemary are a must. I have written about roasted suckling pig once before (a different recipe). As you can see he had trouble fitting it in the oven; there is a drip plate underneath.

And we all ate it and it tasted wonderful, and I kept on telling myself that there is no difference between slaughtering and eating a mother pig and a baby pig.  Those of you who may be thinking that you might like to try cooking a baby pig, can have one dispatched to you by Vincenzo within 24 hours. As for the price, it will cost you as much as a large pig, so you may think again.

Here are some of the photos:

It was a piggy weekend. On Sunday I also attended A Word of Mouth session called: Is Spanish the new French?

And pork features strongly in Spanish cuisine. I heard chef and co-owner Frank Camorra from Movida ( in Melbourne) and his travelling companion and writer Richard Cornish (books = Movida and Movida Rustica) discuss the delights of travelling and eating pork with writer John Barlowe . John, an Englishman, lives in Galicia, with his Spanish wife and two sons and in the book we encounter his travels and his experiences of eating every bit of the pig. (Book = Everything  But the Squeal, recently republished by Wakefield Press.)

I feel all pigged out.