Tag Archives: Sicily

ABOUT PANETTONE AND SOURDOUGH

Panettone’s popularity round the world keeps on growing and I have seen various packages of imported Italian Panettone in select shops. Panettone is traditionally eaten during the Christmas and New Year holiday period in Italy. Christmas is close.

Panettone was made famous and affordable when it was commercially produced (from the 1920’s) and railed all over Italy and now in many parts of the world.

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The cheaper versions of light textured Panettoni (plural of Panettone) that you may be familiar are made with commercial yeast. The artisan and much more expensive varieties of Panettone are made with natural yeasts using the same traditional principles as making bread by the sourdough method.

When I first started playing around making bread at home I used commercial yeast (called lievito di birra in Italian) and my father used to remind me of how his mother made bread – she always saved a bit of uncooked dough from the loaf she was shaping, keep it in a jar with a lid and use it in the next batch of dough. He said that she never used commercial yeast. He was Sicilian and full of stories. He used to tell me about companion plantings and the effects of lunar cycles on plant germination, growth, and development.

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But thinking myself a modern woman, most of the time I doubted the folk lore. It was only years later that I learned about natural leavening and how my grandmother was using lievito madre, ‘mother’ or a ‘starter’ in her baking –  this is the wild yeast mixture that develops bacterial and lactic ferments that promote natural leavening. It is what imparts the bubbles in the texture of the dough and contributes to the characteristic aroma and flavour found in sour dough bread.

I like artisan breads – handmade and hand-shaped sourdough breads made with quality ingredients and integrity in bakeries like Zeally Bay Bakery. It is based in Torquay, but there are stockists in Melbourne and in some parts of regional Victoria.

‘Like many great things, sourdough requires time, skill and patience’

The above quote is from Zeally Bay’s website. John and Jan Farnan began making quality sourdough breads on a small scale in 2007. John, his son and a team of dedicated bakers have continued to develop an entire range of baked goods using Australian, certified, biodynamic and organic ingredients and applying traditional methods for making sourdough.  The long fermentation process used in sourdough breads has many health benefits. Of interest is that the bakery is using the natural leaven culture that was began in 1981.

The reason that I mention Zealy Bay is that I have been privileged over time to try a whole range of their breads including their brioche and Easter buns and recently the Panettone that the bakery has been perfecting in time for Christmas… and it is great.

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It was fragrant and had complex flavours, a result of using high-quality, natural ingredients and a long fermentation process. I could taste the natural flavours of the yeast, flour, eggs, butter and the fruit.  Panettone made with sourdough if wrapped well, will remain fresh for days and just like in good bread, the flavours will mature and develop.

Being certified organic is a guarantee that the ingredients do not contain GMO’s, chemical pesticides or result in land degradation.

So, if you plan to have Panettone for Christmas it is worth considering if you will buy a local or imported one or make one at home?

The more affordable and commercially produced Panettone made by large production companies is bound to have preservatives and artificial flavours.  If it is imported, you will have no way of knowing when it was baked and how it was transported.

The more expensive range of imported Panettoni are very likely to taste better than the cheaper versions. They are also more likely to have been made using the sourdough method – the older and more traditional method of making Panettone. Panettone is no longer just made in Milan. There are regional varieties made by artisans using local variations – for example some may have saffron, chestnuts, chocolate, figs rather than sultanas. The Sicilian versions are likely to contain higher amounts of citrus fruit, (this is grown extensively in Sicily). The artisan Panettoni may have been baked not as long ago as the more commercial ones and their expense may also reflect the cost of having been transported in faster and better climate-controlled conditions.

Few Italians bake Panettone at home and this is not surprising. Making Panettone at home requires patience and is a laborious process. It requires quite long leavening times over several days and three consecutive stages of mixing and kneading. You need good quality, gluten-rich flour to “support” such a rich dough.

The ‘mother’ or ‘starter’ has to be made well ahead of time and has to be mature, in strength, with the right degree of acidity. The bacteria contained in it must be nourished for fermentation, so every 3-4 days it is necessary to “refresh” the mother’s yeast and add some flour and water.

Ideally while it cools, the Panettone should be hung upside down to stretch and form a dome. Knitting needles are inserted all the way through the bottom half of the panettone between two objects of equal height or over a large saucepan and left to stretch at least six hours.

Do you really wish to do this?

ASPARAGUS and ARTICHOKES

It is Spring in Melbourne and artichokes (carciofi) and asparagus (asparagi) season.

We do not see the numerous artichokes in large bunches with long stems that one sees all over Sicily but artichokes in the larger Australian cities have become more common and I have even seen some in supermarkets, but not necessarily fresh and crisp as they should be.

Artichokes in Siracusa Sicily

Last year I was able to buy artichokes from a grower in Werribee – not far from Melbourne.

Artichokes in Werribee Victoria

Asparagus are everywhere in Melbourne (other places in Australia as well). Mostly they are the thin variety of asparagus sold in bunches but in the last few years the thick asparagus sold by weight are easily found. Those of you who eat out or read recipes may have noticed that more and more vegetables are presented char grilled (rather than steamed) and the large asparagus are perfect for this.

In Australia (or at least in Melbourne) we have not yet reached the wild asparagus trend (photos above and below). Wild asparagus are appreciated all over Italy.

I  quite often cook asparagus and artichokes together. I have a friend who eats gluten free food so I stuffed these artichokes with almond meal, parsley, garlic and one egg (make a stiff paste). I braised the artichokes in stock and white wine and because I did not have the correct sized saucepan (I am not living in my apartment at the moment) I had to use a large saucepan.

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No problems – I used whole potatoes to support the artichokes in an upright position. I then added asparagus a few minutes before I was ready to present the artichokes.

IMG_7324I have written many recipes for artichokes on my blog… Use the search button and type in ‘artichokes’ if you wish to find how to clean artichokes and recipes.

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Stripped of their tough outer leaves artichokes are perfect for eating with just a fork and a knife. The artichokes in this photo were cooked by a friend and she braised them with beans (pulses).

 

MARY TAYLOR SIMETI and her new book:SICILIAN SUMMER An adventure in cooking with my grandsons.

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Many of you would be familiar with the writings of Mary Taylor Simeti, one of the greatest authorities on Sicilian food.  You may have a copy of her classic, in-depth, definitive book of the culinary history, traditions and recipes of Sicily called Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty Five Centuries of Sicilian Food. This was published in several editions and the same text was later republished as Sicilian Food: Recipes from Italy’s Abundant Isle.

Or you may have read her other books about Sicily:  On Persephone’s lsland: A Sicilian Journal, Travels with a Medieval Queen or Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood. She has also written other books published in Italian as well as travel and food articles for various American, Italian and British publications including the New York Times and the London Financial Times.

Her new book is called SICILIAN SUMMER: An Adventure in Cooking with My Grandsons.

This time Mary takes us to her farm at Bosco, located some 40 miles west of Palermo in the hills overlooking the Gulf of Castellammare. The farm has been in the Simeti family since 1933. Mary and her husband Tonino inherited it in 1966 and is now a diversified farm of less than forty acres of vineyards, olive groves, fruit and vegetables with organic certification for their Bosco Falconeria wine, olive oil and produce.

SICILIAN SUMMER: An Adventure in Cooking with My Grandsons, is an account and photographs of the food that Mary and her 4 grandsons (aged 13, 10, 7 and 5 years) cooked over 10 intensive, continuous days for the Simeti family – Mary and Tonino Simeti (the nonni), the four grandsons and the four children’s parents. The recipes that Mary and the boys prepare are all described and they use the abundant summer produce they themselves have helped to harvest from the fields: cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes, almonds, zucchini blossoms and zucchini.

And when you have abundance, you use the same vegetable to produce various dishes – there are numerous ways to eat tomatoes and the zucchini blossom is enjoyed battered, stuffed and cooked in pasta dishes.

But it is so much more than a book of recipes suitable for her grandsons of various ages. Mary captures the pleasure that family brings when the three generations of the Simeti family gather on the farm each summer and she meditates on the role food can play within the family in bonding, consolidating tradition and identity and creating memories of her own childhood and those of her children. In between memories and recollections there is a beguiling mix of a family history and an account of the development of the farm that Mary and Tonino now share with their daughter, her husband and  two grandsons.

Mary’s honesty shines through the book. She questions her skill and ability to conduct these cooking experiences and is concerned about using safe implements for her young cooks. I loved the description of the very special garlic press:

 A little boat of burnished steel, it has holes in its hull through which tiny pieces of garlic rise up as you press it into the peeled cloves rocking back and forth on a cutting board.

And I loved the description of Tonino.  Grandson Matteo when young, would only see his grandfather once a year when he visited with his parents and brother from New York. Matteo was finding it difficult to relate to Tonino as he was unaccustomed and unfamiliar to him. But Mary describes how this all changed when the young Matteo … saw his grandfather drive up to the farmhouse on a tractor, a vision that in his mind would have outshone Apollo driving up in the chariot of the sun. Familiar or not, Tonino had achieved godhood.

Mary reflects on the current plight of the world that her grandsons are growing up in and wonders about the cooking project she has undertaken with them: Am I compiling an album of childhood memories, scenes that will have some relevance to their adult lives, or will this be the record – even for them – of a lost and irretrievable Golden age? 

She hopes that these experiences in her kitchen will make these moments more significant and render their memories more indelible.

The book ends with the preparation of the last meal for Tonino’s 79th birthday celebration.

Scattered as we soon would be, the shared memory of the past ten days, the cooking and the laughing and eating together would link us firmly together. I have never felt closer to my grandchildren, more sure than our sense of family.

Could this be the last summer that the Simeti family spends together?

Sicilian Summer: An Adventure in Cooking with my Grandsons. The publication date is 25 September, but it is already available for pre-ordering on line, either in paperback form or as an ebook (search for them on line). Obviously, if you would rather support your local bookshop and help promote Mary’s writing by doing so, you could ask your favourite bookshop to order it.

Mary Taylor Simeti is one of my heroes – I think that sometimes it takes a newcomer with a passion to observe and describe and rediscover what is Sicily and tease out the history behind the food (not that she is a newcomer any longer, she is part of Sicily, an expatriate who has spent all her adult life dedicated to her new homeland and appreciating its culture).

Marisa Raniolo Wilkins

Product details

  • Format Paperback | 138 pages
  • Dimensions 140 x 216 x 9mm | 231.33g
  • Publication date 25 Sep 2017
  • Publisher SilverWood Books Ltd
  • Publication City/Country Bristol, United Kingdom
  • Language English
  • Illustrations note colour photographs
  • ISBN10 1781326878
  • ISBN13 9781781326879

 

 

Marmelade d’oranges sanguines – marmellata d’ arance sanguine – blood orange marmalade

During my last visit to France I travelled through Alsace with friends. This is France’s great wine growing region that produces great Rieslings and there were a couple of wineries I wanted  to visit.

Located in a typical Alsatian,  small village called Niedermorschwihr, I went to sample the wines of Albert Boxler.

Wine brings out the best in me and there I met a person who like me was also very interested in food and he asked me if I had visited Christine Ferber’s Au Relais des Trois Epis in the main street of this tiny town.

Until then, and much to my embarrassment I did not know about Christine Ferber or her recipe books, but I had certainly heard the names of some famous culinary greats who have championed her delicious creations such as Parisian pastry star Pierre Hermé, and chefs Alain Ducasse, the Troisgros family, and Antoine Westermann.

Christine Ferber is a master patissière but who is mostly recognised for her quality confitures – she is France’s revered jam maker.

Although her épicerie it is in the main street, it is so tiny and unassuming that I almost missed it.

Apart from the books she has written, the cakes, pastries, traditional breads and jams that she makes, it makes sense that in such a small town Ferber has other stock.

In her shop I saw  ready-made/ take- away food, fruit and vegetables, newspapers, cheeses, small-goods, chocolates, pots, pans and  local pottery.

One of the reasons that Ferber is so highly respected by her culinary peers is that she employs locals and sources local produce – she is from Niedermorschwihr and is a forth generation pastry chef who took over the family business from her father.  Of course the fruit she uses for her confitures is  seasonal and she makes it in small batches in her small commercial kitchen behind the shop. It is cooked  in a relatively small copper cauldron and distributed into jars by hand so that the any solid fruit is evenly distributed in the jars. By making small batches of jam she is in better control of adding the correct amount of sugar – as we all know not all batches of the same type of fruit are the same – they vary in quantity and quality of  ripeness , juice, sweetness and pectin. Ferber usually uses apples to add pectin to fruit lacking in pectin.

I suspect that  Ferber also relishes the quality she achieves through her small-scale production and the satisfaction that comes from having contributed to the making of each batch of jam herself.

When I visited, Ferber had been making Blood orange marmalade – oranges sanguine in French.   I an very fond of  Blood Oranges and  I was introduced to them as a child in Sicily. They are called arance sanguine in Italian. In Sicily,  they are cultivated extensively in the eastern part of the island. 

 Marmelade d’oranges sanguines – Blood orange marmalade, 220 g ( See recipe below)

Description:The blood orange marmalade is very balanced and less bitter than traditional marmalade.
Ingredients: Blood oranges, sugar, apple pectin, lemon juice.
Origin: Alsace, France
Brand:Christine Ferber
Producer: Christine Ferber and her team prepare these wonderful jams in Niedermorschwihr, a small village nestled in the heart of vines. Not more than four kilograms of fruits are processed in copper pots for jams that have convinced the greatest chefs.

Blood Orange from Mes Confitures : The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber

Ingredients:
About 2 3/4 pounds (1.2 kg) blood oranges, or 2 cups 1 ounce (500g/50cl) juice
1 3/4 pounds (750g) Granny Smith apples
4 2/3 cup (1 kg) sugar plus 1 cup (200 g)
3 cups 2 ounces (750 g/75 cl) water plus 7 ounces (200 g/20 cl)
2 oranges
Juice of 1 small lemon

Directions:
Rinse the apples in cold water. Remove the stems and cut them into quarters without peeling them. Put them in a preserving pan and cover with 3 cups 2 ounces (75 g/75 cl) water.
Bring the apple mixture to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes on low heat. The apples will be soft.
Collect the juice by pouring the preparation into a chinois sieve, pressing lightly on the fruit with the back of the skimmer. Filter the juice a second time by pouring it through cheesecloth previously wet and wrung out, letting the juice run freely.  It is best to leave the juice overnight refrigerated.

Next day…

Measure 2 cups 1 ounce (500 g/50 cl) juice, leaving in the bowl the sediment that formed overnight, to have clearer jelly.
Squeeze the 2 3/4 pounds (1.2 kg) blood oranges. Measure 2 cups 1 ounces (500 g/50 cl) juice and put the seeds into a cheesecloth bag.
Rinse and brush the 2 oranges in cold water and slice them into very thin rounds. In a preserving pan, poach the rounds with 1 cup (200 g) sugar and 7 ounces (200 g/20 cl) water. Continue cooking at a boil until the slices are translucent.
Add the apple juice, 4 2/3 cups (1 kg) sugar, lemon juice, and seeds in the cheesecloth bag. Bring to a boil, stirring gently. Skim. Continue cooking on high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Skim again if need be. Remove the cheesecloth with the seeds. Return to a boil. Put the jam into jars immediately and seal.

Yield: 6-7 8-ounce jars (220 g)

One of the delights of Alsace were the numerous storks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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APPLE CAKE FOR BREAKFAST – TORTA DI MELE

 

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Whenever I visit my relatives in Sicily they cannot do enough for me. They fuss and fuss over my well-being and happiness and like all Italians they are constantly preoccupied about food. For them, maintaining me in a blissful state has to include the constant preparation of food.

It is common for Italians in all parts of Italy to eat light cakes at breakfast and this light cake is a torta di mele (an apple cake). It was made by my cousin Franca who lives in Ragusa (in Sicily).

Cathedral in Ragusa in the photo below.

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Franca made this in front of me and surprisingly on this occasion and for my benefit she weighed the ingredients (a bit of a rarity in an Italian/Sicilian kitchen where everything is done by estimation and touch, sight and smell.

The milk was not measured, but it was a splash, as she described.

When one encounters an Italian recipe for making cakes, listed as one of the ingredients is likely to be a proportion or a whole bustina of lievito. This is the leavening agent and each bustina (small envelope or packet) weighs 16g. In English lievito is translated as yeast, but the leavening agent in these packs is baking powder.

Italians use the same word (lievito) for yeast and baking powder – both are leavening agents but the way that they differentiate between the baking powder and dried yeast is that the packet of baking powder is likely to include a picture of a cake or/and include the phrase per dolci (for cakes). The bustina of dry yeast and will have a picture of bread or pizza on it or/and include per pane (for bread).

Fresh yeast is referred to as lievito fresco compresso (fresh compressed yeast) or lievito industrale (industrial) or lievito di birra (beer yeast).

The contents of each bustina di lievito is listed as being sufficient for 500g flour and for this cake Franca used a half of the packet.

Pears could also be used for this cake.

INGREDIENTS

250 g plain flour

8 g baking powder

150 g sugar – divided into three parts

2 eggs

75 g butter (melted)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 apples (she used Delicious apples)

grated rind of 1 lemon

a pinch of salt

a little milk (she says, as much as it takes)

icing sugar to sprinkle on top.

PROCESS

Peel and cut one apple into small, thin pieces, add the lemon rind and about one third of the sugar and set aside.

Mix the eggs with another third of the sugar, add the butter and oil and beat well – Franca used a metal spoon. Gently fold in the flour, baking powder, salt and a little milk to make a stiff batter. Fold in the pieces of apple.

Slice the other apple into thin slices – leave the peel, cut the apple in half, then into quarters and then into slices.

Pour the batter into a buttered baking pan (in Australia I use a spring back tin covered with buttered parchment paper). Place the apple slices in a radial pattern on the batter and sprinkle with the rest of the sugar.

Bake at 180C for 25 minutes and at 150C for about 20 minutes or so.

Remove from oven and let the cake cool in the pan, then sprinkle with a little icing sugar.

Franca in her kitchen.Franca MG_0272

And some fabulous Melbourne autumn fruit below:

Autumn Fruit platter hero

 

ITALIAN DRUNKEN CHICKEN – GADDUZZU ‘MBRIACU or GALLINA IMBRIAGA – depending on the part of Italy you come from

In Trieste my zia Renata used to make what she called Gallina Imbriaga (in dialect of Trieste- braised chicken in red wine), but as a child I thought that she called it by this name to make me laugh, and it did. I thought that the concept of a drunk chicken was hilarious.

Recently I decided to investigate the origins of this recipe and  it seems that  Friulani (from the region of Friuli Venezia Guilia, in a northeastern region of Italy) and i Triestini (who are part of this region) claim it as their own, but so do those from Padova (in the neighbouring Veneto region) and those from Central Italy particularly those in Umbria and Tuscany.

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The recipe in each of these regions, whether it is a pollo ubriaco (drunk) and pollo in Italian being the generic word for  gallina (hen) or a galletto (young cock or rooster) seem to be cooked in a very similar way with the same ingredients – chicken cut into pieces, red wine and the following vegetables – carrot, celery, onion, garlic and parsley – all common ingredients for an Italian braise. Some marinate the chicken pieces beforehand, and as expected the wine needs to be from their region, i.e. if it is a Tuscan recipe the wine must be a Sangiovese or Chianti and if from Umbria, the choice of wine must be an Orvieto or Montefalco.

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One recipe from Friuli  browns the chicken in butter and oil and also add brandy as well – drunken indeed if not paralytic.

Other variations are in the type of mushrooms: fresh or dry porcini or cultivated mushrooms. Rosemary is the  herb most favoured and parsley; some use sage and/ or thyme. The recipe is beginning to sound more and more like Coq Au Vin. So which came first… is it the French or the Italians ?

But I also found a recipe called Gadduzzu ‘Mbriacu (rooster) in Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi di Sicilia, and what I like about this recipe is listed as a variation – it is the addition of a couple of amaretti (almond biscuits) at the very end to flavour and thicken the sauce. Now that is a great addition!!

Coria suggests 1 onion, 1 carrot, heart of celery, 100g of porcini …. I added greater amounts of vegetables and used chicken legs (called coscie di pollo in Italian). Corai does not suggest using Nero D’Avola but this would be the preferred Sicilian wine to use.

1 chicken, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
200 g. mushrooms.
2 onions, sliced finely
2 carrots, diced
3-4 sticks from the centre of the celery, sliced thinly
½ litre of red wine
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 amaretti
Dry the chicken pieces with kitchen paper and brown them in the oil evenly. Remove them and set aside.
Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until golden in the same pan and oil .
Add the chicken, herbs, seasoning and the red wine, cover and simmer for about 20 mins.
Add mushrooms and cook everything some more till all is cooked (30-40 mins altogether).
Break up the amaretti into crumbs and add it to the sauce before serving.

 

 

 

SPAGHETTI CHI RICCI – SPAGHETTI CON RICCI DI MARE (Spaghetti with sea urchins)

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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 ricci in 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.

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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 ricci with 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.

Roe is also available from David Stringer at Kina Sea Urchins Australia:

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.

 

 

ENPA (National Protection of Animals)

Nice to see this. For those of you who do no read English, in the province of Catania, Ristoworld (a network of people who are interested in food production and cuisine) is supporting ENPA in their objection to kill baby lambs, traditionally eaten at Easter.
I know my family in Ragusa used to make ‘Mpanata for Easter.
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A whole lamb used to be chopped up, bones and all and once dressed with with garlic, parsley, extra virgin olive oil and seasoning was wrapped in bread pastry. They no longer make this – Unfortunately this could be because it is too much work.
There is a recipe for ‘Mpanata  a lamb pie. It can be made with regular lamb.
Happy Easter
Marisa
                            E. N. P. A.

              Ente  Nazionale  Protezione  Animali

                                          Ente  Morale

Sezione Provinciale di Catania

Via Anapo nr. 45, Catania,  tel/fax 095270869 –  www.enpacatania.org – catania@enpa.org
COMUNICAZIONE AI MEDIA
CONTRO LA MATTANZA DI AGNELLINI PER PASQUA DUE ALLEATI  DI ECCEZIONE: ENPA E GLI CHEF RISTOWORLD
Ogni anno in Italia vengono uccisi oltre due milioni di agnellini per dare seguito alla barbara tradizione Pasquale di cibarsi di questi esserini innocenti.
Due milioni di vite che piangono dal momento stesso in cui vengono strappati alle loro mamme fino all’ultimo respiro mentre vengono sgozzati.
Chiamarla tradizione Pasquale e ricondurla ad una festività Santa  che parla di Rinascita, di amore e di purezza è raccapricciante.
Noi di Enpa Catania preferiamo chiamarla per quello che è: ingordigia.
Abbiamo accolto con estremo piacere la volontà dell’associazione di ristoratori Ristoworld di mettere in discussione questa macabra usanza, convinti che il buon esempio debba partire dal monito degli stessi addetti ai lavori. La Ristoworld non metterà nelle proprie cucine agnellini e con loro ci auguriamo che presto li seguiranno, gli altri.
Catania, 28 marzo 2013

 

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SELZ, GRATTACHECCA and GRANITA (Icy drinks) )

This photo is of the drink kiosk in Sicily directly opposite The Duomo  (cathedral) in Palermo

The cathedral was founded by the Normans (1184) on the site of a Muslim mosque. There had been a Christian basilica on the site before that. If visiting Palermo it certainly is worth seeing to appreciate the various architectural styles of the Duomo. The cathedral is steeped with history: the decorative Islamic parts completed during the Norman times, added to which are  Gothic, Catalan, Aragonese embellishments – various rulers of Sicily who built on rather than destroying and beginning to build again. I really love this aspect of Sicilian architecture.

This photo is of a kiosk in Catania.

There are drink kiosks all over Sicily and many are much older than the one above and they sell drinks such as coffee, drinks and Selsa (selz) – freshly squeezed lemon juice, seltzer water (sparkling) and a pinch of salt – great for hot weather and drunk since ancient times. Helping replenish the salt you lose when you sweat.

Some readers may be reminded of sorbetto = Italian for sherbet  a beverage from the Ottoman Turks (serbet, sorbet, charbe zerbet ) that was made from fruit juices or extracts of flowers or herbs, exotic ones such as violets roses,musk and ambergris, combined with sugar, water and snow or ice. Italians developed frozen confections  even further during the Renaissance and the term sorbetto  probably came about because of a combination Of the  terms above and sorbire (old Italian expression, to drink’). Salt-and-ice churns later replaced the snow and probably led to the making of granita.

This photo was taken in Naples and this Napoletana (woman from Naples) is shaving a block of ice., which she then pours into a glass. She then asks you to select a syrup of your choice, pours it over the ice, and hands you the drink. This too is from ancient times. Once, of course, it used to be done with snow or ice from mountains and stored in deep caves for these types of drinks.

You may have seen people shaving ice in Rome – it is called a grattachecca (from word gratta – to scratch) and it is prepared with grated ice and topped with syrup or juice. it is different to granita – this is syrup and water which is then frozen and broken up (or churned) when it is frozen. Granita should have enough sugar in it to keep it crystalline. Alcohol also does the same trick and at the moment there is one in my freezer made of good quality, sweet (but gone flat) sparkling wine (Zibibbo), a good glug of St Germain (elderberry liqueur) and very little fresh thyme (from my balcony). I was not going to waste the wine. I present this granita as a palate cleanser – a between courses treat.

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POLPETTONE (in Sicilian purpittuni – a meat loaf on platter by Giacomo Alessi of Caltagirone)

I asked my butcher to mince some very lean beef for me – I was going to have it as steak tartare. I did not get around to using it and made a polpettone (a large meat ball/ loaf, called a purpittuni in Sicilian).

In previous posts I have written about polpette (meatballs) and braciole (meat rolled around a stuffing), and although making a polpettone is very similar to these recipes it gives me an opportunity to get a photo – visuals  are helpful when cooking a recipe.

In this polpettone, I have placed some stuffing in the centre, as one would do when making a farsumagru (a large, thinly pounded steak of young beef, rolled around a stuffing) and this time I have used a few slices of cooked ham, small bits of pecorino and hard-boiled eggs. In Italy, cooked ham is called prosciutto and what we call prosciutto in Australia is known as prosciutto crudo (raw ham).

The older, Sicilian recipes rarely include wine in cooking (vinegar, yes) so the wine is optional.

I need to mention the platter. It is one of Giacomo Alessi’s ceramiche (ceramics, just I case you have not guessed).

I bought my very first in Caltagirone, Sicily’s most important centre for ceramics and where Alessi’s pottery is based. He has since established other outlets; I bought the one in the photo in Erice (central Sicily) last year and I purchased another in Palermo.

I love his ceramics, especially the ones with the bright green border; these are based on traditional and very old designs.

I am attracted to his use of strong colours, the ornamentation and images he uses, so evocative of the past. All my cousins and their offspring have the very old, original platters scattered around their homes (not Alessi’s, but he has reproduced and revived the old designs). They had belonged to Rosa, my paternal grandmother (Ragusa), but unfortunately when they were distributed within the family I was out of sight and out of mind. Apparently, one of the many uses for these platters was to dry conserva (rich tomato paste), which was placed to dry in the hot, Sicilian sun.

For the recipe complete with photos, see

HOW TO MAKE A POLPETTONE (in Sicilian Purpittuni or

Purpittuni)

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