Tag Archives: sustainable fish

TUNNU `A STIMPIRATA – TONNO ALLA STEMPERATA (Tuna with onions, vinegar, capers and green olives)

Albacore tuna is sustainable, cheap in price and much under rated in Australia. It is not sashimi grade so the Asian export market does not want it and therefore in Australia we also tend to undervalue it. It is denser in texture but still excellent for cooking (lightly or cooked for longer).  As in Australia, Blue fin tuna is the preferred tuna in Sicily; if it is sustainable depends on how and where it is caught – it should be wild caught and aquaculture is not an option.

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Unfortunately I rarely find albacore tuna where I live in Melbourne and if I do, I always grab it when I can and cook it as I would cook blue fin tuna.

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I like tuna seared and left rare centrally but my Sicilian relatives eat tuna very well done and this is also how it is presented in the traditional home-style restaurants in Sicily.

In Sicily there are numerous ways tuna but Tonno alla stemperata is one of the favourites  in the south eastern part of Sicily. It was first cooked for me by one of my cousins, Rosetta, who lives in Ragusa. She and her husband have a holiday house on the beach at Marina di Ragusa, and she usually buys most of her fish from the fishermen on the beach.

Although Rosetta prefers to use tuna in this recipe, any firm-fleshed fish, thickly sliced, is suitable. She prefers to cut the tuna into large cubes – this allows greater penetration of the flavours in the sauce and of course, it will cook to a greater degree and more quickly.

Rosetta cooked the fish in the morning and we ate it for lunch, at room temperature…in Australia you may find this unusual but eating it at room temperature and some time after it has been cooked allows the flavours time to develop.

A version of this recipe is also in my first book: Sicilian Seafood Cooking.

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I have used Albacore tuna, trevally, mackerel or flathead (better choice category) successfully in this recipe.

tuna or firm-fleshed fish, 4 slices
sliced white onions, 2
capers, ½ cup, salted variety, soaked and washed
white wine vinegar, about 2 tablespoons or for a milder taste use 1 tablespoon of white wine and one of vinegar
extra virgin olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
salt, black pepper or red chilli flakes (as preferred by the relatives in Ragusa),
celery heart, 2 or 3 of the pale green stalks and young leaves, chopped finely
green olives, ½ cup, pitted, chopped
bay leaves, 4

Soften the onion and celery in about half of the extra virgin oil, and cook until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Add the fish, olives, capers, seasoning and bay leaves and sear the fish. The pieces of fish only need to be turned once.

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Add the vinegar and allow the vinegar to evaporate and flavour the dish.

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Remove the fish from the pan if you think that it will overcook and continue to evaporate.

Optional: Decorate (and flavour) with mint just before serving.

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You can tell I am in South Australia by some of the photos of the fabulous varieties of fish I am able to purchase in Adelaide when I visit.

PISCI ALL’ AGGHIATA – PESCE ALL’AGLIATA (Soused fish with vinegar, garlic and bay)

In the period before Christmas my fishmonger at the Queen Victoria Market seemed to be stocking a large quantity of what I call festive fish – mainly lobsters (called crayfish incorrectly), bugs, prawns, scallops and sashimi grade tuna – not the type of fish that I am interested in purchasing.

He always seems to have sardines, and squid but there seem to be no room in his display cabinet or fridge for these. He had run out of the small supply of King George whiting and flathead so I walked away with Snapper. I felt uncomfortable with this choice because I knew that although the Department of Primary Industries in Victoria (Fisheries) lists snapper as a sustainable species, in Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide (AMCS) it is considered to be overfished and environmentally limited in VIC.And that is just the issue; it can be relatively difficult to find information about making ethical choices and to purchase sustainable seafood.

This being the first week in January I was even more disappointed to find large supplies of swordfish, marlin and shark (marketed as flake, particularly in Victoria). He also had blue grenadier, blue warehou, snapper again, all classified as not sustainable by AMCS.

However he did have trevally a relative cheaper and tasty fish that is also sustainable. It is a strong tasting fish and a very suitable choice for making Pisci All’ Agghiata – soused fish with complimentary strong flavours – vinegar, garlic and bay. Aglio is the Italian word for garlic (agghiu in Sicilian), so it is easy to guess what ingredient is the defined flavour.

I had some Cippolata (a thick sauce made with onions, sugar and vinegar) in my fridge that I had previously made for another dish and presenting this as an accompaniment seemed perfect.

PISCI ALL’ AGGHIATA
INGREDIENTS
fish, 1-3kg
garlic, cloves, 6-10, cut into halves
bay leaves,
white wine vinegar, ¾ cup
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
flour to coat the fish (optional)
PROCESSES
Coat the fish lightly in flour with little salt (optional and traditional).
Fry the fish in hot extra virgin olive oil, until all the sides are golden. Remove the fish and set aside.  Use the same oil or replace it (if you have coated the fish with flour). Heat the oil.
Add the garlic and when it becomes golden add the vinegar and evaporate for a few minutes.
Place the fish in a bowl deep enough to hold the fish and vinegar marinade.
Intersperse the fish with fresh bay leaves.
Pour the marinade over the fish. Cool it, cover and let the fish rest for several hours before serving at room temperature (or store in the fridge until ready to serve, and remove it from the fridge about an hour beforehand).
 
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) (read more)

Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide Online – the first online sustainability guide in Australia. Developed in response to growing public concerns about the state of our seas, it is designed to help you make informed seafood choices and play a part in swelling the tide for sustainable seafood. Visit www.sustainableseafood.org.au to learn more about sustainable seafood and buy your copy of the guide today.

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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 (ink fish) , 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 by catch 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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SPAGHETTI CON PESCE E POMODORINI (Spaghetti with fish and cherry tomatoes)

It will be maccheroni, I swear to you, that will unite Italy.”

Giuseppe Garibaldi, on liberating Naples in 1860

When eating in Italy, the usual structure of the meal will consist of two courses. Il primo (the first ) will be a soup, risotto or pasta and in Sicily (and in the south of Italy) it is more likely to be pasta

Il secondo (the second) is the main course – the protein component and one contorno (vegetable side dish) or two contorni.

There have always been two courses in my mother’s home, and in the homes of our Italian friends and relatives. Although this is not something that I have continued to observe in my own household, I generally prepare a primo and a secondo when I am cooking for friends. If this is the case, as is the customary practice in Italian homes, nibbles can just be a very simple plate of olives (or the like) and the dessert, fresh fruit.

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These days, I am into easy recipes, something I can prepare in minutes.

Eating pasta with fish is still not very popular in Australia (at the time of writing) but it is very much so in Italy and of course – Sicily. It is an island after all.

Spaghetti is usually the preferred shape of pasta for fish sauces.

Cherry tomatoes appear to have become very common in restaurants in Italy in the last few years. They are called pomodorini, or cigliegini in Italian and most commonly known as pizzitelli in Sicilian – little things.

Some of the cherry tomatoes in Australia may be small but they lack flavour and sweetness (maybe from over watering if this is possible in Australia). One of my friends in Adelaide is growing a variety called currant tomatoes in pots – very small and sweet and ideal for this dish.

Use any fish which will hold together when you sauté it.

Sicilians prefer tuna or swordfish, but because I like to use sustainable fish (pesce sostenibile) I select Albacore tuna when I can get it, tailor or flathead or snapper and mackerel . To keep the fish moist and to prevent it from overcooking, i keep the fish in large pieces when I cook it and then break it up onto smaller pieces.

From Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide by Australian Marine Conservation Society – 2009 (AMCS)

INGREDIENTS

spaghetti, 500g
fish, 500g, cut into dice
garlic, 5 cloves, chopped finely
cherry tomatoes, 1 punnet, if too big cut in half,
extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup
fresh herbs, use either: a handful of basil or parsley, or fresh mint,
white wine, 1 glass
salt and freshly ground pepper (or chilli flakes)
Cook pasta and make sauce as it cooks.
Heat the oil in a frying pan.
Sauté the fish ( you can keep it all in one piece if you wish), add the cherry tomatoes. Remove the fish and tomotoes from the pan but leave the juices in the pan.
Add the white wine and reduce .
Add the herbs and stir through the sauce.
Return the fish and tomatoes to the pan. Separate the fish into the size pieces that you wish.
Drain the pasta and return to the pan where it was cooked.
Mix in the sauce and serve.
Australia:
http://www.marineconservation.org.au