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.
Eating fresh fish is a serious business in Sicily – it is eaten cooked in many ways but also raw (called pesce crudo).
Traditionally, Sicilians did not serve raw fish without marinating it first in lemon juice and then dressed with olive oil and referred to as condito (in Italian) or cunzato (in Sicilian). For example fresh anchovies are gutted, cleaned and have their heads removed. They are then left in lemon juice for at least a few hours. Sometimes, the anchovies are referred to in Sicilian as anchiva cotti d’a lumia, that is, anchovies cooked by the lemon juice, and that is exactly what has happened – the acid in lemon in the marinade has done the cooking. The anchovies are then drained and dressed with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
In Sicily, tuna and swordfish used to be the other most common types of fish eaten raw (especially as a starter) but eating other types of pesce crudo (raw fish) is becoming much more fashionable as Sicilian chefs respond to the inspirations and influences of the wider world and appreciate tastes and trends from other cultures.
Recently, I was commissioned to write an article about Sicily’s pesce crudo by Great British Chefs, a food multimedia company that publishes recipes and other cooking-related material via its website. Great British Chefs, has expanded into Italy . . . Great Italian Chefs and the article published on their website is called PESCE CRUDO.
I have always enjoyed fish markets in Sicily and this is a small segment from the article PESCE CRUDO
Fish markets and marinas
Walking through the fish markets in Sicily is always a joy; the hustle and bustle of locals seeking out the best produce among the colourful stalls and traders is what makes the island such a charming place. There is more than one fish market in Catania, but the principal market in the southwest of the Cathedral Square is one of the largest in Sicily. However, wherever you are on the island will never be too far from fresh fish.
Sicily’s fish markets have vast, colourful, varied displays of exotic specimens such as sea urchins and edible algae to the more conventional octopus, squid, tuna and swordfish. Small, live fish swim circles in buckets of sea water, snails crawl about and all types of shellfish, especially the gamberi rossi (red prawns of Sicily), look dazzling. You know the fish is fresh – their shells and scales glisten in the sun.
Swordfish and tuna, the traditional staples of Sicilian cuisine, are the centrepieces of the market stalls. They are often displayed whole, the swordfish bill like a spear thrusting upwards. At other times, their massive round carcasses lie like a trunk on the fishmonger’sbench, while the tuna is sliced vertically and horizontally before being filleted along the length of its spine, while all its parts are laid out, testifying to its freshness.
At this time of year basil is plentiful and many of us enjoy pasta with pesto, so it is time to revisit a post I first wrote in February, 2009 about the Sicilian pesto called Mataroccu (and also Ammogghia in some parts of Sicily).
The name pesto comes from the word for pestle or to pound. The ingredients are pounded in a mortar and the results are much sweeter than ingredients chopped in a food processor – the differences are much the same as the results obtained from chopping herbs by hand and using a food processor fitted with the steel blade (will taste grassy).
Most associate pesto with the traditional combination of basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and good quality grated cheese; pesto originates from the region of Liguria.
Some of us would be amused about the way that Ligurians discuss a genuine pesto- Ligurian pesto can only be made with basil grown in Genoa and close environs (region of Liguria) and that Ligurians generally use as the cheese component, half Parmigiano and half Pecorino sardo – Sardinian (sardo) Pecorino is a much sweeter tasting and less salty than other pecorino. As it should be, Pecorino is made from sheeps’ milk – the word pecora is Italian for sheep.
To dress pasta, also like to make a Sicilian alternative, a pesto from around Trapani – Mataroccu or Ammogghia and sometimes Pesto Pantesco (if it is from the island of Pantelleria, south-west of Sicily).
As expected there are different regional versions of the same pistu (Sicilian word for pesto) It contains similar ingredients as the Ligurian pesto but also raw, fresh, ripe tomatoes, which at this time of year, like basil, should not be a problem. Some Trapanesi prefer to use blanched almonds instead of the pine nuts.
I never weigh ingredients when I make pesto, but the following amounts should provide a balanced sauce for pasta. As I may have written at other times, in Australia we tend to overdress our pasta – the pesto should coat the pasta (and it is assumed that you will use good quality, durum wheat pasta) but not overpower the taste.
almonds or pine nuts, 1 cup
garlic, 8-10 cloves,
ripe tomatoes, 400g, peeled, seeded, and chopped
basil, 1 ½ cups loose leaves
parsley ½ cup, cut finely
extra virgin olive oil (your most fragrant), about 1 cup or as much as the pesto absorbs
salt, and red pepper flakes to taste
Pound garlic in a mortar with a little salt to obtain a paste (I like it fine but with some uneven bits).
Add some of the tomato, some herbs and a little oil and pound some more.
Keep on adding a few ingredients at the time, till they have all been used and until you have a homogeneous, smooth sauce.
Because we live in a modern age you may wish to use a food processor. First grind the nuts. Add the rest of the ingredients gradually and process until creamy.
I have had a request from a reader for how to cook stockfish (stoccafisso or pescestocco in Italian and piscistoccu in Sicilian). She plans to cook it for Good Friday.
There are two recipes for how to cook salt cod (baccalà) on the blog already (see links below) and these recipes can also be used for stockfish (stoccafisso).
What I have not done on my blog is to say what the differences are between stoccafisso and baccalà. The photo above was taken in Syracuse. The seller is selling baccalà (the large fillets of white fish).
Stoccafisso and baccalà are popular all over Italy, from north to south.
Baccala`is cooked all over Sicily, but stoccafisso is particularly popular in Messina (n0rth-eastern corner of Sicily).
Although at times stoccafisso and baccalà are used interchangeably in recipes, they are different.
Stoccafisso is air-dried, without salt, and the fish can be cod, haddock or hake. It is dry and hard and usually sold as a whole fish, complete with bones and skin.( In the photo above Stockfish is hanging from the top of the counter at Mercato in Adelaide).
Baccalà is salt-cured cod. In Spanish it is bacalao, in Portuguese bacalhau, in French morue, and it is made from various varieties of cod: cod, ling, saithe and tusk. It is relatively moist and tender and usually sold cut into sections rather than a whole fish. It is skinless, boneless and white. Although baccalà may appear initially to be more appealing, there are no added ingredients in the processing of stoccafisso and it has a more delicate flavour than baccalà.
Stoccafisso and baccalà can be cooked many ways and were usually eaten on days of abstinence (Fridays and during Lent, especially on Good Friday ) when meat was not to be eaten by Catholics. Christmas Eve is also a very popular time to eat stoccafisso or baccalà .
To prepare both the stoccafisso and baccalà rinse well and soak it in cold water for 20–24 hours, minimum, depending upon its thickness (refrigerate it in hot weather). Change the water 2–3 times daily. I have seen recipes that suggest soaking the fish for 48 hours – time you soak it depends on the quality and age of the fish, but it will not suffer too much if it is soaked for longer.
Once it has soaked, rinse the fish well. If it is stockfish, skin it, pick out the bones and cut it into large pieces (130mm) and it’s ready for use.
Baccalà generally takes longer to cook than stoccafisso but it will depend on the thickness of the fish.
Stoccafisso and baccalà require soaking in water before cooking: stoccafisso needs soaking for several days to rehydrate it and baccalà requires an equal amount of time to remove the salt. Most Italian and Spanish food stores sell pre-soaked stoccafisso or baccalà and is ready to use.Remove cartilage, bones and skin of the stockfish before cooking.
This photo was sent to me by a friend. They are the racks used to dry stockfish near Honningsvåg in Norway.
Carmela, one of my parents’ friends, cooked stoccafissoalla ghiotta for me many years ago in Adelaide. Originally from Messina, Carmela came to Australia as a young woman. Her version had tomatoes in it, but it can be cooked without tomatoes as well and called in bianco (white/ without tomatoes).
stock fish, 1 kg
tomatoes, 500g peeled, seeded, and chopped (or 1 cup passata)
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
celery heart, 2-3 pale green stalks and leaves, chopped
onion, 1 large chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
flat leaf parsley, cut finely, 4 tablespoons
green olives,1 cup, pitted, chopped
capers, ½ cup salted variety, soaked and washed
potatoes, 500g peeled and cut into large chunks
Soak the stockfish and prepare it according to the instructions above.
For la ghiotta:
Add the celery and onion to hot, extra virgin olive oil. Use a pan large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently to cook evenly.
Reduce the heat to medium; add the capers, olives, and flat leaf parsley and stir well.
Add the tomatoes, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, stir, and cook for about 10 minutes to blend the flavours.
Place the fish in the sauce (preferably in a single layer) and spoon some of the sauce over it.
Reduce the heat to very low – the fish should not be stirred or it will flake. Cover, and cook for about 20 minutes before adding large chunks of potatoes. If you are using baccalà instead of stoccafisso you may need to cook it a little longer.
Add 1–2 cups of water and leave undisturbed to cook, but occasionally adding a little more water to keep the ingredients moist and until the fish and potatoes are cooked to your liking.
This dish is always served hot, but can easily be reheated if cooked beforehand.
Recipes are from my first book: Sicilian Seafood Cooking: Baked baccalà Aggiotta di baccalà in bianco
Photo below was taken in Macau where I saw many baskets of cod drying in the street.
On Saturday, 20 September 2014 I will be at Waratah Hills Vineyard conducting a lunch time masterclass of Sicilian cooking .
Waratah Hills Vineyard is located on the road to the iconic Wilsons Promontory National Park. It is one of the southern most vineyards on the Australian mainland. The cool, maritime climate wine region is acknowledged as one of the best Pinot Noir producing areas in Australia.
The owners are Judy and Neil Travers. They have a simple philosophy is to do everything possible to produce grapes of the highest quality. The artisan approach to detail involves hand picking by clones in small batches at just the right intensity of ripeness.
Waratah Hills Vineyard was planted 17 years ago in the burgundy style of low trellising and close planting.
It is a beautifully sited vineyard with two acres of Chardonnay planted on a north south slope and seven acres of Pinot Noir separated by a band of trees into two distinctly different areas of the property.
In 2012 Judy and Neil Travers we were delighted to receive the Victorian Tourism Minister’s Encouragement Award for New and Emerging Tourism Businesses.
This is the information on the flyer:
Culinary jewels of Sicily
On Saturday, 20 September Waratah Hills Vineyard is hosting a lunch time masterclass of Sicilian cooking conducted by Marisa Raniolo Wilkins.
Marisa has written two books on Sicilian cooking; Sicilian Seafood Cooking and Small Fishy Bites.
She is a vivacious fusion of cultures and experience. Her food is very much driven by a curiosity of exploring her cultural origins. The recipes and ingredients of Sicily reflect the influences of the Mediterranean from ancient times to the modern day.
Born in Sicily and raised in Trieste before migrating to Australia with her parents, she regularly visits her extended family in Italy and Sicily; each visit adding to her knowledge of first-hand wonderful food experience.
Places are limited for this hands on three-course cooking, eating and drinking experience at $120 per head. Course notes and recipes are provided for you to take home.
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.
Our new prices for 2015 are being implemented as we speak.
Welcome to Sea Urchins Australia.
Wendy is a friend who lives in Ardrossan, a small town on the east coast of the Yorke Peninsula (about 150 km from Adelaide). She and her husband have a boat and they often go fishing. I too have gone fishing on their boat and watched them catch fish, mainly King George Whiting, Squid and Garfish.
To make me jealous and as a subtle way to suggest I should go to visit them, she sent me a photograph of a large Australian Salmon she caught recently; she then sent me more photos of how she cooked it.
Australian Salmon belongs to the perch family (surprisingly it is not a salmon). As you can see from the photo Wendy has filleted the fish. Some people find this fish very fishy, but it lends itself to recipes with strong accompanying flavours.
Wendy chose a recipe from my book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking. The recipe is Fish alla ghiotta from Messina and is cooked with tomatoes, green olives, capers, pine nuts and currants (AGGHIOTTA DI PISCI A MISSINISA – PESCE ALLA GHIOTTA ALLA MESSINESE).
There are many variations of this dish and this one contains Sicilian flavours in excess – it is sure to satisfy the gluttons.
Sicilians use piscispata (Sicilian for swordfish; pescespada is the Italian), but any cutlets of firm, large fish cut into thick slices or thick fillets are suitable. I like to buy sustainable seafood and have used: Flathead, Trevally, Kingfish, Snapper, Mackerel and Barramundi. Obviously Australian Salmon can now be added to this list but in Victoria I have not seen much of this fish.
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 x 200g (7oz.) fish steaks or
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 onion, finely sliced
¾ cup salted capers, soaked and washed
1 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup currants, soaked in a little warm water for about 15 minutes
½ cup pine nuts
2 – 3 bay leaves
500g (17oz.) tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (tinned are OK)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a wide pan, large enough to accommodate the fish in one layer. Shallow-fry the fish for a couple of minutes on both sides over medium-high heat to seal. Remove from the pan and set aside.
For la ghiotta, add the celery and onion to the same oil, and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir frequently. Reduce heat to medium, then add the capers, olives, garlic, currants, pine nuts and bay leaves and stir well. Add tomatoes, season, stir, and cook for about ten minutes until some of the juice from the tomatoes has reduced.
Arrange the fish in the sauce in one layer and spoon some of the sauce over it. Cover, and cook on moderate heat until the fish is done.
Thank you Wendy for all of these wonderful photos and I am so glad that you enjoyed it.
Mercato is market in Italian.
If you are in Adelaide, you must visit this store. It provides all lovers of things Italian with a wide selection of small goods and cheeses, grocery items and produce, packaged sweets and biscuits, wine, cooking implements, crockery, cookery books and cookery classes and more. It is the perfect store for cooks and lovers of food and wine .
I will be conducting a cookery class at Mercato in November.
Last year we had the wonderful Marisa Raniolo Wilkins launch her new cookbook
“Sicilian Seafood Cooking” at Mercato, to rave reviews.
We had such a great response to Marisa’s book that this year she is coming back to
Mercato for an exclusive cooking class to be held just for our valued customers!
Join us on
Friday, 9th November 2012
in the Mercato Demo Kitchen
625 – 627 Lower North East Road CAMPBELLTOWN
as Marisa cooks up a Sicilian storm!
She will be showcasing some of her favourite recipes from the cookbook
such as Pasta con la Sarde and even a Cassata for dessert.
Please call Mercato on (08) 8337 1808
or you can simply book online by clicking on the link below BOOK NOW Have you joined us on Facebook or Twitter?
A great fun way to keep up to date with what’s happening
at Mercato on a regular basis.
I’ve only just discovered Marisa Raniolo Wilkins’ blog, All Things Sicilian and More, but I’ve had great fun reading about her passion for food, especially the cuisine of Sicily, the island of her birth.
Marisa spent her early childhood in Trieste before moving to Australia with her Sicilian parents, but clearly the childhood memories have never left her.
She is, by all accounts, a generous home cook who is passionate not only about using fresh produce but also about sharing her knowledge of food and its traditions.
Sicilian Seafood Cooking by Marisa Raniolo Wilkins.
Her mother’s surname was Leone, or lion, and there’s a Sicilian proverb that, loosely translated, says “every dog feels like a lion in his own house”.
Marisa describes herself as a lion in control of her own kitchen and she is certainly a fierce advocate of Sicilian cuisine and culture.
So much so that she has now produced a beautiful book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking (New Holland, $45) celebrating the great diversity of Sicilian food and the role that seafood plays in both Sicilian cooking and its economy.
Not only does she draw on her own personal recollections and family traditions, she also takes readers on an historical journey, showing how the cuisine has been shaped by Greek, French, Arab and Spanish influences.
She canvases some of the issues around the sustainability of seafood, and there are some wonderfully evocative illustrations of dishes and Sicilian scenes.
But it’s the recipes, along with the huge number of immensely knowledgeable tips and suggestions, that are the real star, and if you love seafood, you’ll be delighted as I am to join in her culinary journey.
The following recipe reproduced from her book is a deliciously hearty soup for winter. Zuppa di pesce from Syracuse is reputed to be the best in Sicily. Here it is
baked, leaving the fish undisturbed so it does not break up.
You need large chunks of boneless fish – either buy a whole fish, fillet it
yourself and use the heads and bones for the stock, or make the stock from fish carcasses.
Rich Fish Soup from Syracuse Cooked in the Oven
2kg mixed seafood 1 cup dry white wine 2 cups fish stock 500g tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped ½ cup extra virgin olive oil 2–3 celery hearts (pale green stalks and leaves), chopped 3–4 bay leaves 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 tablespoons finely cut flat-leaf parsley
Fronds for fennel, finely cut 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed Zest of 1 orange, peeled thinly and cut into large pieces Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cut the boneless fish into chunks.
Clean shellfish, molluscs and squid and cut the squid into mouth-sized pieces.
Arrange the fish in an ovenproof pan that will fit all the ingredients.
Add the wine and cover the fish with the strained stock. Add all the other
ingredients. Cover the pan (use foil if you do not have a lid) and place in a
200°C oven for 30 minutes.
Serve with oven-toasted bread.
To find out more about Christine Salins click here.