Tag Archives: Sicilian

Sicilian Pumpkin with vinegar, mint, sugar and cinnamon

Fegato di sette cannoli

It is autumn  in Australia and  there are plenty of pumpkins around. I like cooking pumpkin this way because it has unusual flavours and it can be made well in advance. I have presented it both as an antipasto and as an accompaniment to main dishes.

I cook this dish quite often and I am surprised that I have not written about it on my blog.

The following text is a condensed version from my first book  Sicilian Seafood Cooking. The photograph is also from the book. This all took place in my kitchen – I cooked it , Fiona Riggs styled it and Graeme Gillies photographed it.

This  Sicilian specialty  is sometimes called zucca in agro dolce (pumpkin in sweet and sour sauce) but I prefer the more colloquial Sicilian name, ficato ri setti canola – literally, ‘liver of the seven spouts (or reeds)’.

It is a colourful and aromatic dish. There is the strong colour of the pumpkin, tinged brown at the edges, and contrasted with bright green mint. The sweetness   of the pumpkin is enhanced by the flavours and fragrance of garlic, cinnamon and vinegar. It is better cooked ahead of time – the flavours intensify when left at least overnight, but it can be stored in the fridge for several days.

The dish is said to have originated among the poor, in what is known as one of the quartieri svantaggiati (‘disadvantaged suburbs’) of Palermo.

Sicilians are colourful characters and like stories. It is said that the pumpkin dish was first cooked and named by the herb vendors of the Piazza Garraffello a small square in Palermo. These were the days before refrigeration and balconies and windowsills were often used to cool and store food, especially overnight. As the story goes, the herb sellers could often  smell the aroma of veal liver coming from the balconies of the rich. At home, they cooked pumpkin the same way as the well-to-do cooked liver (fegato) and, wanting to create a bella figura, they hoped the fragrance of their cooking would mislead the neighbours into thinking that they too were well-to-do and could afford to eat liver.

The typical way of cooking liver is to slice it thinly, pan-fry it and then caramelise the juices in the pan with sugar and vinegar to make agro dolce (sweet and sour sauce).

As for the seven spouts (sette cannoli), they are the short cane-shapedspouts of an elegant 16th-century fountain in the piazza. Below – cathedral in Palermo.

In Australia I generally use the butternut or Jap pumpkin,The pumpkin is sliced 1cm (.in) thick and traditionally fried in very hot oil (if thicker, they take too long to cook).

Although baking the pumpkin slices is not traditional, I prefer this method .It certainly saves time in the preparation (see variation below). Serve it at room temperature as an antipasto or as a contorno (vegetable side dish).

1kg (2lb 4oz) pumpkin
10 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil (1. cup
if frying 1/3 cup if baking)
3 teaspoons sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
small mint leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper

Fried Method

Peel and remove the seeds of the pumpkin and cut into 1cm (in) slices.
Peel and slice 4 cloves of garlic.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan. Add the garlic cloves.
Remove when it has coloured and fry the pumpkin slices, turning them only
once in case they break, until they become soft and begin to colour around
the edges. Add salt to taste. Remove the pumpkin and discard some of the oil,
but keep any juices.
Use the same frying pan for the agro dolce sauce: add the sugar, stir it around
the pan to caramelise it, and then add the vinegar and cinnamon.
Stirring constantly, allow the sauce to thicken slightly as the vinegar evaporates.
Add the remaining garlic cloves and few sprigs of mint to the warm sauce.

Add the pumpkin to the sauce, and sprinkle with pepper. Allow the sauce
to penetrate the pumpkin on very low heat for a few minutes. Alternatively,
pour the sauce over the pumpkin and turn the slices a couple of times. Cool
and store in the fridge once cool. Eat at room temperature.

When ready to serve, arrange the slices in a serving dish, remove the old
mint (it would have discoloured). Scatter slices of fresh garlic and fresh mint
leaves on top and in between the slices.

 

Baked version

Cut the pumpkin into thicker slices, about 2–3cm (1in).
Sprinkle with salt and place on an oiled baking tray.
Bake the pumpkin and garlic in a 200C (400F) oven (discard the garlic when the pumpkin
has cooked).
Make the agro dolce sauce (see the above) in the baking tray
instead of a frying pan.

I also add fresh bay leaves – like the look and the taste of it.

The mint must be fresh.

PASTA CON SARDE – the baked version, Palermo, Sicily

Italy is a Catholic country and on Good Friday most Italians eat fish. Pasta con le Sarde is made with bucatini (thick long tubes of pasta) and the main ingredients are sardines (buy fillets for ease), wild fennel (or fennel bulbs) pine nuts, saffron and topped by fried breadcrumbs.

as you can see I have made this dish at other times.

Muslim Arabs took control of North Africa from the Byzantines and Berbers and began their second conquest of Sicily in 827 from Mazara, the closest point to the African coast and by 902 they well and truly conquered Sicily. The Muslims, were known as Moors by the Christians and by the time of the Crusades, Muslims were also referred to as Saracens.

The Muslim Arabs, via North Africa ruled Sicily till 1061 A.D.

This recipe can only be Sicilian and is particularly common in Palermo.

The origins of pasta chi sardi (Sicilian) are said to be Arabic. When a band Arab troops first landed in Sicily via North Africa, the Arab cook was instructed to prepare food for the troops. The cook instructed the troops to forage for food. He made do with what they presented – plentiful was the wild fennel and the fish (sardines). To these he added exotic ingredients and flavours of Arabs and North Africans –  the saffron, dried fruit and the nuts and so Pasta con le Sarde was born.

At this time of year, just before Easter, many readers look at my blog searching for Easter food ideas. The baked version is fancy enough to present on Easter Sunday – if you are that way inclined.

Pasta con le Sarde can be eaten hot or cold  and it can  be baked…..made into a tummàla (Sicilian word from the Arabic) – Italian timballo and French timbale – a dish of finely minced meat or fish cooked with other ingredients and encased in rice, pasta or pastry.  The dry breadcrumbs are used to line and cover the contents in the baking pan, the long bucatini can be coiled around the pan and the sardine sauce becomes the filling.

The recipe for Pasta con le Sarde is from my book Sicilian Seafood Cooking. This is a slightly modified version of the recipe.

I found very little wild fennel this time of year so I used fennel bulbs – there were a few available at the Queen Victoria Market. Because I only found a very small quantity of wild fennel I added some ground fennel seeds and a splash of Pernod to enhance the fennel taste.

Wild fennel

If you can get wild fennel, place it into some cold, salted water (enough to cook the pasta) and boil it for 10-15 minutes (it can be left in the water for longer). The green tinged, fennel-flavoured water is used to cook the pasta — it will flavour and colour the pasta. Reserve some of the tender shoots of wild fennel raw to use in the cooking of the sauce.

Drain the cooked fennel and keep the fennel-flavoured water to cook the pasta. Some of the cooked fennel can be added to the pasta sauce.

The recipe using bulb Fennel

  • bucatini, 500g
  • sardines, 500g
  • fennel a large bulb of fennel with the green fronds cut finely, a teaspoon of ground fennel seeds or a dash of Pernod
  • extra virgin olive oil, about ½ cup
  • onions, 1, finely sliced
  • anchovies, 4, cut finely
  • pine nuts, ¾ cup
  • almonds, ¾ cup, toasted
  • currants, ¾ cup, or seedless raisins or sultanas soaked in a little water beforehand
  • saffron, ½ – 1 small teaspoon soaked in a little water beforehand
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper or chili flakes to taste
  • coarse breadcrumbs, 100 grams made with day old, quality bread (sourdough/pasta dura) lightly fried in some oil. I added pine nuts (pine- nuts-overkill), grated lemon peel, a little cinnamon and sugar to my breadcrumbs.

Slice the fennel into thin slices and cut fronds finely.
Cut about two thirds of the sardine fillets into thick pieces. Reserve whole fillets to go on top and provide visual impact.
Heat oil in shallow wide pan.
Sauté the onions over medium heat until golden. Add the fennel and cook till slightly softened.
Add pine nuts, currants (drained) and almonds. Toss gently until heated.
Add the sliced sardines, salt and pepper or chili. Cook  for about 5-7 minutes, stirring gently. Add ground fennel seeds or a splash of Pernod to enhance the fennel taste – I did this because I only found a very small quantity of wild fennel.
Add the anchovies (try to remove any bones if there are any) and as they cook, crush them with back of spoon to dissolve into a paste.
Add saffron (and the soaking water) and continue to stir and cook gently.
Boil bucatini in the fennel water (if you have it) until al dente.
Fry the whole fillets of sardines in a separate frying pan, keeping them intact. Remove them from the pan and put aside.
Drain the pasta.
Mix the pasta with the sauce, sprinkle with some of the breadcrumbs and top with the sardine fillets.

The photos are of left over pasta that I made into a timballo. It was only for my household, nothing fancy and was a way of using leftovers.

Oil a baking tray or an ovenproof dish (traditionally a round shape is used) and sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs to prevent sticking.


Place a layer of the dressed pasta on the breadcrumbs – I coiled the bucatini around the baking pan, then added the sauce (solids- sardines, nuts etc) and placed more coiled bucatini on top.

if you want a deeper crust you will need greater quantities of breadcrumbs.

Cover with more breadcrumbs, sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, cover with foil and bake in preheated 200°C for approximately 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. When the dish is baked, the breadcrumbs form a crust.

LINKS:
WILD FENNEL, link with photos
PASTA WITH ANCHOVIES , wild fennel and breadcrumbs recipe
EASTER IN SICILY
SCACCE, Focaccia stuffed bread

 

 

SAINT JOSEPH’S FEAST DAY (La Festa di San Giuseppe) 19 March

Saint Joseph’s Feast Day (Festa di San Giuseppe) is celebrated in Italy on March 19.

photo-12-e1426641501350 Because Saint Joseph is considered as a symbol of compassion and kindness and because he is the father of Jesus, Father’s Day is ‘Festa del Papa’ is also celebrated in Italy on this day.

The Feast day is celebrated big time in the majority of Sicily. As well as being a symbol of generosity especially to the poor, he is also is associated with harvests. People pray to him so as to have abundant crops; his statue is often used in religious ceremonies (the blessing of the crops) to prevent famine.

The statue on the right is that of Saint Joseph. Saint Anthony is also considered a significant saint in the Catholic Church and he is also often depicted holding the child Jesus.

In many parts of Sicily there are banquets to celebrate the bounty of the harvest (known as La Tavola di San Giuseppe – Saint Joseph’s Table). The main food is a collection of wheat based breads of various shapes and sizes, many sprinkled with seeds (grain and seeds are symbols of life). The food and breads on display were once shared and offered to the poor, now they are shared within the community.

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In some of the villages in Sicily especially in the provinces of Enna, Caltanissetta, Trapani, Agrigento and the Aeolian islands the tradition of setting up an altar-like, multi-tiered table and the religious celebratory ceremony that accompanies this banquet is still practiced by some in varying forms in these communities.

But what may surprise you is that the photos of the Saint Joseph’s table in this post was taken at an exhibition called Donne di Sicilia (Women of Sicily) by Rosetta Pavone. She is a Mebourne -based Artist who was born in Valguarnera, a town in Sicily near Enna. The female members  of all ages of the Valguarnera Social Club in Melbourne prepare the breads and have carried on this significant, cultural tradition which is still undertaken in Melbourne by male and female members.

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The photo below is of Sicilian women in Melbourne making a particular type of Sicilian biscuits (called Scannati) and it is not associated with this event. I am including it in this post because it shows how scissors are used to make that particular pattern on the edges of dough which is often included on the wreath shaped votive breads.

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Rosetta’s exhibition was held in the Kingston Art Gallery Moorabin in 30 October – 20 November 2014. She has also captured on film the women making the bread and the accompanying ceremony where selected members of the club  and a Catholic priest participate. At this ceremony (and as can be seen in her film) the Holy Family is represented by an elderly man, a young woman, and a young male child. There are also twelve men or boys who represent the Apostles (Saints). A priest blesses the food, then the Holy Family is served before the apostles. The attendants viewing the ceremony must wait until family and saints have eaten before participating in the banquet.

In Rosetta’s film the Votive bread was auctioned to the community members to raise funds – I cannot remember if it was for the poor via the Church or the Valguarnera Social club. I am inclined to think that it was for a worthy charitable cause as the Catholic Priest blessed the food and conducted the ceremony.

There are two earlier posts about Saint Joseph with recipes for making two versions of the traditional sweets called Sfinci di San Giuseppe that are eaten in Sicily to celebrate this feast day.

It seems fitting that the Church also made St Joseph the patron saint of pastry cooks.

Festa di San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph) and sweets called Sfinci di San Giuseppe

Sfinci and Crispeddi di Risu, for the Festa of San Giuseppe (fritters for St Joseph’s Feast Day)

 

 

 

ROSE LIQUEUR (Rosoliu/Liquore di rose)

Glass++biscotti+232+++cloth

I am partial to a cup of rose flavoured tea, add rose water in some of my cooking and I particularly like my Sirop de roses (Rose syrup, mine is made in Lebanon) which I sometimes use to give a pink tinge and rose flavour to some of my desserts: home made ice creams, panna cotta, stewed fruit compotes (especially rhubarb or figs, or pears) or fresh fruit salads.

The Old Foodie has been writing about rosewater again this week and this has reminded me about a recipe for making a rose flavoured liqueur.

I too am a lover of rose flavoured foods.

Rosolio di rose (Rosoliu in Sicilian) dates back to the 15th century and was a popular cordial, originally made from rose petals. By the 18th century it had progressively became an alcoholic drink and lemon become more favoured over rose as flavouring. The pink colour was likely to have been enhanced with cochineal.Many of the ancient Sicilian recipes use rosoliu as the generic name for liqueur, several of which are made with oranges, mandarins or lemons and some are sometimes flavoured and coloured with a little saffron.

There are recipes for making Liquore Di Rose (Rose Liqueur) – this has been popular in other parts of Italy and in other countries. Some of the recipes include other flavourings for example lemon peel, cloves or orange blossoms.

My zia Niluzza (who lives in Ragusa, Sicily) gave me this recipe for Rosoliu, a long time ago.

For extra flavour I use ½ cup of rose water (as part of the 2 cups of water) and a dash of rose syrup (coloured pink and it is sweet, therefore reduce the amount of sugar and a little cochineal. I will need to wait for a generous friend and the right season before I make my next batch, but I have thought about adding a little grated beetroot with the petals rather than using cochineal.

INGREDIENTS
4 cups of rose petals from a highly scented rose (I used a black rose for mine)
2 cups very strong vodka or grappa (we cannot buy 95° spirit in Australia as they do in Italy)
2 cups sugar
2 cups of water
PROCESSES
Place rose petals a clean jar, add alcohol, close and keep in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks.
Prepare the sugar syrup: boil water and sugar. Cool.
Filter the alcohol mixture and add syrup. Keep it for least 3 months before using.
Glass+bottle+++jar
Glass of filtered  Rosoliu, bottle of Sirop de roses and the jar I use to make the Rosoliu.

 

In some recipes the petals are left in the alcohol/syrup mixture and then strained at the time of serving. I left some petals in my last batch of rose liqueur and the petals partly dissolve and this is why you may notice a layer of sediment in the jar in the photo.

This is not the only liqueur I make. See my recipe for making Alchermes (or Alkermes) that I use to make the famous Italian dessert Zuppa Inglese.

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KID/GOAT WITH ALMONDS (SPRING IN SICILY, CAPRETTO CON LE MANDORLE)

In Sicily, spring is the celebration of life, which in cultural and religious terms is expressed in Easter; Primavera (Spring) and Pasqua (Easter) are synonymous – a fusion of nature, culture, family and food.

When it is spring in Australia, it is autumn in Sicily. but we seem to be able to buy goat in Australia during both seasons.

A popular spring meat and Easter Sunday lunch treat is kid or lamb, commonly roasted or braised, and all depending on how one’s mother cooked it.

My relatives in Ragusa traditionally eat mpanata ri agnieddu a focaccia type pie made with very young lamb (complete with bones) and enveloped with a bread dough crust, and this is because it is what my grandmother made at Easter and probably her mother before her.

In Australia the meat I buy is likely be considered as goat in Italy.

Saanen goat

The kid recipe I have chosen to write about is a variation of capretto con le mandorle (kid with almonds), a recipe from the north western area of Sicily which includes Trapani, Marsala and Mazara del Vallo.

It is from the book La Cucina Tradizionale Siciliana by Anna Pomar, published in 1984. The book was given to me by Rosetta my cousin on one of the many occasions when I visited her home in Ragusa – this was her own copy and has her annotations all over it…. a bit like the books I inherited from my mother.

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I love the texture that the almonds provide in the thickening of this dish.

I always like to make recipes my own and modify them to my tastes.

To this recipe I added more onions, bay leaves, stock rather than water and dry Marsala. Is it still the same recipe?

INGREDIENTS

3k kid/goat, the younger the better, compete with some bones,
2 onions, finely sliced,
3-4 bay leaves,
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil,
½ cup Marsala Fina (dry version, if not substitute with white wine)
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or cannned)
300g almonds, blanched and ground to powder,
broth/ stock or stock cube and water (approx. 3 cups of liquid)
salt and pepper to taste

 

PROCESSES

Cut the goat into medium sized pieces (so that you have to use a knife and fork to cut it on your plate). Trim off access fat and wipe the meat dry.
Heat the oil, add the goat and the onion and brown it lightly.
Add the Marsala and deglaze the contents in the pan.
Add the tomatoes, herbs,  broth and seasoning.
Cover and cook on low heat and until meat pulls off the bone. Pomar’s recipe suggests cooking it for 45 minutes, my goat (rather than kid) can take up to 2 hours of cooking.
Add the almond meal and reheat gently. If the sauce is too dense, add a little more broth.

 

Although Sicilians and Italians tend to eat their food lukewarm, the recipe states to eat it hot.

 

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GELATINA DI MAIALE and HAPPY BIRTHDAY BAR IDDA (Buon Compleanno Bar Idda).

The happy chefs of Bar Idda (photo).

Lisa and Alfredo (right) are the proprietors of Bar Idda in Lygon Street. They have returned from their holiday in Sicily full of ideas and enthusiasm for their small, Sicilian restaurant.

See previous posts:

 

On the 5t of July they celebrated their first birthday and their new menu strongly influenced by their recent discoveries of different recipes experienced while in Sicily.

Anthony is the bar person and after discussing the wine with him we selected a bottle of ROSSOJBLEO, a bio-organic, Sicilian Nero d’Avola from Chiaramonte Gulfi (Ragusa). My partner and I then ate our way through many very enjoyable Sicilian specialties. These included:

Hot ricotta soup with home made pasta. Ricotta is very much appreciated by Sicilians especially when it has just been made.  Particularly in Ragusa and the environs people visit cheese makers (sometimes on farms) and watch the ricotta being made. Ladles of hot, fresh curds and whey are usually poured on broken pieces of bread and eaten like soup.  See earlier post:

SICILIAN CHEESE. A VISIT TO A MASSARO (farmer-cheese maker) IN RAGUSA. 

Gelatina di maiale (brawn, made with pork- see recipe and photos below) and some affettati (a selection of cold cuts of salumi). An eggplant caponata was also included in this antipasto.  (See recipe CAPONATA SICILIANA).

Farsumagru (il falsomagro is a beef, meat roll stuffed with hard boiled egg and can include cheeses , salamini and mortadella).  It is braised in a tomato sauce and presented sliced. In this case it was made with minced beef and Alfredo’s version included a little zucchini for colour and variety of textures. Farsumagru translates into false–lean. It contains delectable ingredients including meat, so this is a pun on ‘lenten’ food – during the liturgical seasons Catholics were required to eat simple food and to abstain from eating meat. These laws have relaxed over time.

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The farsumagru was accompanied by a warm potato salad with capers and comichons, and a fennel and orange salad with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

We then had a glass of Malvasia a very rich flavoured dessert wine made by drying Malvasia grapes (bianche– white variety)  before crushing.  It was an excellent accompaniment to the small fried pastries called cassateddi. There are many local variations to this recipe, and in this version the dough was stuffed with ricotta, cinnamon, and honey. I could taste some alcohol too. (Honey is used instead of sugar in the Ragusa area).

Thank you Bar Idda, for a very enjoyable meal. Auguri e complimenti and may there be many years to come.

 Recipe and photo of the Gelatina I make



Gelatina (means gelatine or jellied). It is sold as a Smallgoods food.

In various parts of Sicily the gelatina di maiale is called by a variety of names: jlatina di maiali, Suzu, suzzu, or zuzu.

I found a recipe for gelatina scribbled in one of many notebooks which I use to record recipes when I visit Italy. In this particular notebook from 1980, there are many Sicilian recipes, but on this particular trip I must have visited the relatives in Genova (a Piedmontese aunt married to my father’s brother and living in Genova and her daughter Rosadele who is an excellent cook also). There were  also some recipes written in Trieste (my zia Renata was from Rovigo and married my mother’s brother).

I have not made gelatina di maiale for many years but I have always included a half of a pork’s head – this provides the jelly component. The tongue adds texture and extra flavour (you can throw out the eyes).

It is always a good idea to pre-order a pork’s head beforehand and I was not able to purchase one. I used pork feet instead (as you can see by this photo) and fortunately it turned out very well. In this gelatina I included approx 1.500 kilo of lean pork (cut into large pieces) and four pig’s feet.
INGREDIENTS AND PROCESSES
The recipe is one of my zia Niluzza’s who lives in Ragusa (Sicily) and it simply says:
1 part vinegar to 3 parts of water, red chilli flakes or whole pepper corns and salt. Use a mixed selection of pork meat, including the head.
Place in cold water mixture, cover meat.
Boil for 6 hours (covered) on slow heat.
Filter broth, remove some of the fat and reduce, remove bones, shred meat.
Lay meat in earthenware bowl, cover with cooled broth and leave to set.

Over time, I have altered the recipe and include bay leaves and peppercorns and I boil the pork without the vinegar only for about 3 hours (until I can see the meat falling off the bones).

Once it is cooked, I leave it to rest overnight.

The next day I remove the meat from the jelly, I add ½ cup of vinegar and the juice of a couple of lemons to the broth and reduce the liquid down to a third of the original amount.

I shred the meat and place it into a terrine and cover it with the cooled reduced stock. Any fat will rise to the surface and can be scraped off when it is cool (in fact, it acts as a seal).

 Recipe and photo of the FARSUMAGRO I make.

I call it Polpettone.

Polpettone 4

 

TAGLIOLINI CU SUCU RI SICCI –TAGLIERINI COL SUGO DI SEPPIE (Pasta with a cuttlefish sauce and carrot and potato)

Calamari is the Italian word for squid and it refers to those species of squid with long side fins; those with relatively shorter side fins are seppie (cuttlefish).

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Calamari, cuttlefish and squid

This recipe is for seppie, but  squid is much easier to buy in Australia although the two species are sometimes sold interchangeably and sold as calamari.  They are found right around the Australian coast and are available year round.

Commercially they are wild-caught mainly by seafloor trawling and many end up as bycatch in nets. Squid jags are a favourite with recreational fishers. They generally are a fast growing species and for this reason are considered sustainable.

In Australia squid was once only used for bait and be very cheaply priced, but unfortunately, too many people have come to appreciate it and the price has gone up significantly.

Many of the rings and tubes sold are imported. There is also local product and this may not have been frozen, but the flesh can be tough – usually they are from much bigger squids than I would generally buy. Unfortunately the tentacles (very tasty) are generally removed for easier processing and packing in ice, ready for export.

 

I am very spoiled when I buy squid  from my fish vendor at Happy Tuna in the Queen Victoria Market where I shop.  It is so fresh that it could easily be eaten raw or needs very little cooking. My favourite vendors always select for me small and medium sized squid, which they know I prefer. The photo is from the fish market in Siracusa, Sicilia and it shows the common size for squid sold in Italy.

This recipe is a wet pasta dish – a common consistency for Sicilian soups which generally contain a large amount of pasta. What I like about this recipe (from Mazara del Vallo, on the west coast of Sicily) is the addition of carrot and potato – two very popular ingredients in Australia, but not so popular in pasta dishes in Sicily.  The squid used are young, small cuttlefish or squid – the smaller ones are considered more tender.

In the original recipe the taglierini (fresh pasta cut into thin strips, tagghiarini is the Sicilian term). These are made without eggs, perhaps this was once due to poverty or scarcity, rather than choice, but the practice of making pasta without eggs In Sicily has remained. If buying commercially made pasta, use thin ribbon pasta. (When the pasta is coiled like in the photo, the shapes are sometimes called nidi – nests of pasta.)

 

INGREDIENTS
taglierini, 600g
squid or cuttlefish, 1.5kg
carrot, 1 diced (small)
potato, 1 diced (small)
onion, 1 chopped finely
extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup
white wine, ½ cup (optional)
red tomatoes, 500g, peeled and chopped
garlic, 2 cloves, chopped
parsley, 1 cup cut finely
basil, 7-10 leaves
salt
chili flakes and/or grated pecorino (optional) to taste.

PROCESSES

Sauté the onion in ½ cup of oil, add the potato and carrot and when the ingredients begin to brown add the garlic. Add the tomatoes, a little salt, and the parsley and over medium evaporate some of the juices.  Check that the potatoes and carrots are cooked and if they are not, add some liquid (water or wine) and cook for a little longer and do not drain.
Cook the pasta.
Sauté the squid in ½ cup of oil – use a separate, wide fry pan (it cannot be overcrowded or it will stew). Toss the squid around in the pan on high heat for a few minutes, add a little salt, wine and seasoning and evaporate.
Add the squid to the vegetable mixture.
Combine the pasta with the sauce. Add the basil leaves and serve.
Sprinkle with chili flakes and/or grated cheese.
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GELLO DI LIMONE (Sicilian Jellied Lemon)

As well as gello di mellone (made with watermelon juice), Sicilians make gello do mandorla (made with almond milk), gello di cannella ( made with cinnamon and water) and gello di limone ( made with lemon juice).

It is thickened with corn flour and stirred like custard till it solidifies. There is nothing to it but surprisingly it turns out to be quite delicious.

This photo is of a gello di limone made by Barbera, wife of Corrado, the son of my cousin Franca. They all live in Ragusa, Sicily and it was one of the many things Barbara prepared for me when I was invited to dine with them (all the relatives go out of their way to cook Sicilian specialties for me when I visit them).

 

Now that you have the credentials, it is time for the recipe.

500ml fresh lemon juice
500ml of water and the peel of the lemons soaked in the water for 24 hours
300g sugar
4 level tablespoons arrowroot or corn flour
2-3tbsp limoncello (optional)
Mix the corn flour with a little water and make a smooth paste.
Mix all of the other ingredients together in a small saucepan and heat gently – keep on stirring until it thickens.
Remove from the heat, add the limoncello and pour into a wetted mould (or individual serving glasses)
Leave to cool, then chill in the fridge for several hours.
Sicilians eat it plain but it is a nice accompaniment to strawberries or poached cumquats (sugar syrup).

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EASTER IN SICILY – A SICILIAN FEAST IN RAGUSA – Recipes and Giuggiulena

It has been a while since I have had an Easter in Sicily and I am feeling very nostalgic. This year, a large group of my relatives in Ragusa are all going to celebrate lunch at Stefania and Aurelio’s country house, just outside Ragusa and I wish I could be with them.The country house is a stable which in the 18 Century belonged to a local Baron called La Rocca.

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Stefania and Aurelio bought the property several years ago (it also has a few surrounding buildings and land) and they are slowly converting it into a beautiful holiday home. They are using local artisans to recreate and restore many features in the original style and character. As much as possible they have kept its original outside appearance and interior features, especially the original carved wooden ceiling.

I do miss my relatives (and the feast that they will be sharing), but I also miss Spring in Sicily.

In Sicily, spring is the start of everything. It is the time when the island comes alive – flowers bloom, vines sprout and vegetables ripen. Spring is the celebration of life, which in cultural and religious terms is expressed in Easter. In Sicily Primavera (Spring) and Pasqua (Easter) are a fusion of nature and culture, family and food.

The ancient Greeks (once settlers in Sicily) also marked spring and – like the Christian Easter – their myth celebrated another resurrection from the dead through the legend of Persephone.

The Greeks considered Sicily to be Persephone’s island because, according to the myth, Pluto, the god of Hades, who imprisoned her in his underworld realm, abducted Persephone from the Sicilian town of Enna.

So Persephone’s grieving mother, the goddess Demeter, (goddess of agriculture) plunged the island into a barren winter, until Zeus, the father of the gods, struck a bargain with Pluto to let Persephone to return to land of the living for six months of the year. So it is that when Persephone is released from Hades, Demeter allowed the world to thaw and bloom before her daughter must once again return to Pluto and Hades.

The pagan traditions were slightly transformed and unofficially accepted into the rites surrounding devotion to the Christian saints. Offerings of bread, cheeses, and sweets, associated with pagan harvest rituals, are common in many of the present-day festivals.

Some of the foods the relatives will be eating are on my previous posts.

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Here are the links:
There will also be baked capretto (kid) and wild spring greens collected from their property and sauteed in virgin olive oil and garlic  (see top photos, taken at one of the other family feasts in the country house).
Franca will make scacce and sguogghiu (alternatives to scacce)

They will be buying cassata from the pasticceria (pastry shop) and making cassatedde. In Ragusa (and nearby Modica) these are little baked tarts with a pastry bottom and a ricotta, sugar, egg and cinnamon. Some add candied orange.

In the rest of Sicily, cassatedde are ravioli like pastries and fried.

Picture of cassatedde:

The pasta will be a must. Zia Niluzza will be making gnucchateddi (causunedda) all night for so many people!( She never takes off her jewellery when making pasta). She may even make large ricotta ravioli with a strong ragu made with pork and conserva (strong tomato paste).

And there will be homemade liquers: Nocello (made with green walnuts) and Mandarinetto (made with green mandarins)

And small sweets: Cotogniata (quince paste) rolled in sugar and Giuggiulena (or sesame seed torrone). It is also called Cubbaita and is said to be a legacy from the Arabs who lived in Sicily.

Giuggiulena, recipe:

INGREDIENTS

1k honey, 1 k sesame seeds, 4 cups sugar, ½ teaspoon of each: cinnamon, cloves, grated orange peel.

PROCESSES

Melt the sugar in a large saucepan on very low heat, when sugar is melted add honey. Add sesame seeds and aromatics mix well. Remove the torrone from the heat quickly (or the sesame seeds my burn). Let cool slightly.
Pour mixture onto a tray with baking paper or a marble that has been coated with oil. Spread evenly and quickly before the torrone hardens, cut into rectangular pieces before it cools and store in airtight containers.

 

Photos of Stefania and Aurelio’s country house:

Aurelio with one of his horses on the property.

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One of the many lunches at the property. On this occasion the local cheese makers were invited…..this is why there are all those men at the table. They bought cheeses for us to taste.

 

CASSATA ( Post no. 2) Calls for a celebration!!!

One of my readers has made the cassata (following the recipe on the blog) and has attached photos of it – it was the celebratory cake on New Years Eve.

She also made the mazipan fruit (following the recipe on the blog) and used them to decorate the cassata. She has sent me some photos. Doesn’t it look wonderful!!!

She writes:
Your recipe works a treat and it is a great celebratory dessert. Everyone on new years eve thought it was very special! Some even ate the marzipan fruit!

With more time I would have created a fancy edging with small leaf shapes. Your sponge recipe was most successful! The cake was delicious and I was generous with Cointreau. Everybody was delighted with the cassata – it was the highlight of the meal.
I followed your recipe closely but added more couverture choc (which isn’t so sweet) and glace orange and citron to the ricotta. The glace orange doesn’t have the intense flavour of candied orange peel so you need a bit more of that. I would be inclined to bump up the use of Cointreau next time to make the sponge even moister and to bring out the lovely orange liqueur flavour even more.

Could you also try adding honey to replace some of the sugar in the ricotta mix? It could make the ricotta a little moister too but wouldn’t make it too sloppy as it is stored in the fridge (the honey becomes more viscous when cooled). It has stored well in the fridge (hasn’t gone weepy at all). We had some for morning tea today with friends and it was greatly enjoyed.