Tag Archives: Tomatoes

Moulinex for making vellutate (veloutés), baby food and Pappa al Pomodoro

The husband of a friend of mine recently had surgery to repair a hiatus hernia. His convalescence requires him to be on a special diet, starting with simple liquids until the inflammation subsides. He can then move on to purées for two weeks, followed by two more weeks of mushy food.

But it does not have to be too bad. Below is a photo of some Borsch I made using the lighter coloured beetroot.

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The gradual progression of the density of food and the complexity of ingredients seems very much like what babies experience when they are introduced to solids.

I was eight years old when my brother was born and I can remember how much my mother enjoyed cooking for my baby brother. She apparently had cooked the same things for me when I was his age and years later, I cooked the same things for my two babies.

Starting with simple, mainly liquid minestrine (light soups with simple ingredients) and pappe (pap made with bread), next came the purées and pastine (small shaped pasta), followed by semolina in brodo (broth). She also added puréed chicken or veal liver or finely minced chicken breast or white fish to broth and some overcooked white rice. She made vellutate (velouté, velvety soups), a chicken or veal broth with 1-2 puréed vegetables enriched with an egg yolk rather than cream, as cream was considered harder to digest. At an early age we were introduced to a dash of extra virgin olive oil and/or finely grated parmesan were introduced.

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My mother used a Moulinex (Mouli) rotary vegetable mill for making purées. This was perfect for making baby food. The Mouli was also used for us older folk (father, mother and me and guests also) to make vellutate, not just with vegetables, she also used pulses – dried peas, lentils and chickpeas. The mushroom vellutata was pretty good.

Pulses were considered too difficult for babies to digest. They had to wait until they’d grown up a little. Basically, you can turn  any left over vegetables into a good looking, tasty vellutata.

My mother was pregnant when she left Italy and may have brought the Mouli with her from Trieste (where we lived before we came to Australia), but maybe these made in France appliances were available in Adelaide in 1956 when my brother was born. Unlike food processor or a blender which blend the whole vegetable a Mouli purées the vegetables, leaves the skins behind and it’s the skins that are considered more difficult to digest. It is perfect for making Passata di Pomodoro.

Semolina cooked in meat broth was also a household favourite, with a bit of parmesan, of course. A light soup, a minestrina, made by puréeing one or two vegetables, beginning with the ones that were considered to be the easiest to digest at first – zucchini, green beans, carrots, pumpkin or potato.

A little spinach came later, but always, the minestrina was finished off with a little drizzle of oil. As a variation and for health – fish was supposed to help develop intelligence, she used to make minestrine using white fish, which also contained either puréed potatoes or tiny pastina shapes – stelline (little stars).

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I still have my Mouli tucked away in the cupboard where I keep appliances that I seldom use, but keep just in case I ever need them again, alongside my potato ricer and a vintage Bialetti electric pasta machine designed to mix the flour and eggs to form the dough and extrude the pasta through plastic dies of various shapes.

The potato ricer can also be used for squeezing other soft, cooked vegetables like carrots or pumpkin.

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There are various cake tins for making kuglof, panettone, savarin, pâte or terrines that are lined with pastry,  ornate copper jelly or ice cream molds.

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And what about the metal rods to shape and fry the cannoli shells – a Sicilian specialty – and some conical rods to make cream horns, the shape that Neapolitans use? There is a pastry and piping bag just in case I wish to make and fill cream puffs and an icing bag. Both bags are complete with nozzles of different sizes and shapes.

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Probably the least used object in that space is a jelly strainer bag made of very fine calico designed to strain the solids from meat or fish broths. The clarified liquid can be used to make clear jelly, such as in pork pies or glaze a terrine. And it is very useful for making fruit jelly… cook the fruit, strain out the pulp, skin and seeds and use the liquid to make the jelly. The bag rests in a stand and can strain overnight to get the maximum amount of liquid. I am guessing that it could be used to  drain cheese curds or yogurt, but I use a colander lined with muslin for that. The jelly bag was a present many years ago from a dear friend who brought it back from Copenhagen.

My brother and my son Alex both loved pappa di pane when they were babies but my daughter always preferred broth with pastina.  The broth was made with meat and a carrot and a piece of celery, but not onion – this is too heavy for babies. The carrot and celery were puréed once they were cooked and returned to the broth.

The pappa may not  sound very tasty or nutritious, it consists of white bread soaked in water and boiled till it becomes a smooth pap. But this is where the magic comes in. The pappa di pane was enriched with a little extra virgin olive oil and when the baby was a few weeks older a tiny bit of grated parmesan could be added.  The bread could also be boiled in a clear meat broth instead of water and when the baby is older by a few weeks  a little stewed tomato was mixed into it , maybe cooked with a basil leaf…. and the Mouli was used again to remove the skin and release the pulp.

You can see why Italian babies develop a palate – a taste for flavour!

Adults never seem to lose the taste for pappa especially if  they come from Tuscany. In a Pappa al Pomodoro (tomato), the soup is thickened with stale bread, and though this is a rather simple recipe, you can find various versions of it across Tuscany and some other regions of Italy.

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Italian food is all about good produce – good quality white bread, fresh basil, fragrant tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. The best pappa is made with ripe, full-flavored tomatoes, but it can also be made with good quality canned, crushed tomatoes. Whether you leave the tomatoes as they are our use your Moulinex is up to you.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized onion, finely diced, 2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped

extra virgin olive oil to stew the tomatoes, plus extra for drizzling

1k of fresh peeled and chopped tomatoes or a can (800g, good quality)

200g of 1-2 day old bread, crusts removed and cut into small chunks

2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock or water

salt and pepper

fresh basil

 

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion and garlic until softened and fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and simmer until thick and most of the liquid has evaporated (like making a salsa).

Add the stock, the bread, seasoning and some basil and cook on low heat for about 10 more minutes, stir regularly to break down the bread into pappa.

Serve the pappa warm or at room temperature topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil leaves.

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A SAVOURY COEUR À LA CRÈME to accompany a summer fresh tomato salad or summer vegetables

It is summer and time to celebrate a good tomato.

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I like making tomato salads like my parents used to make – with tomatoes, celery, fresh onion, basil or oregano, salt and good extra virgin olive oil.

And as the mood takes me, I sometimes like to accompany a tomato salad with one of the following simple dairy trimmings, like: bocconcini or mozzarella,  treccia,  ricotta, straciatellaburrata or marinaded feta or a panna cotta made with feta or gorgonzola.

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Including the protein makes an excellent starter …..or as my parents did – eat a tomato salad with ricotta or bocconcini for lunch almost every day of summer.

I was in Gippsland yesterday and visited Bassine; they make a range of cheeses on the premises.

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I have been there before and have purchased various cheeses, but yesterday I came home with some quark and thought that would experiment and make a savoury coeur à la crème. 

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Coeur à la crème is usually served with berries but I thought that I could accompany my savoury coeur à la crème with a tomato salad. Alternatively roasted (or charred) peppers or  slow roasted baby tomatoes would also be great… or fried red peppers (peperonata) or lightly sautéed  zucchini and mint could be terrific…I could go on.

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You need muslin and a mold or container that allows drainage. I used a traditional ceramic, heart shape dish for making a coeur à la crème, but any container that is perforated with holes to drain off the excess moisture of the cheese or a colander can be used as an alternative.

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I used the following ingredients:

250 gm each quark, 1 cup of Greek yogurt, 100g of marinaded feta, fresh thyme leaves ground pink peppercorns, 1 peeled clove of garlic, ½ cup pf milk, ½ cup good quality olive oil.

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In a small sauce pan warm the milk over low heat. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes and then strain out.

Combine cheeses and yogurt – you want the mixture fairly smooth so use a food processor or work it with a spoon.

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Add the thyme,  ground pink peppercorns and infused milk. 

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Line the mould with muslin (enough to cover the mold) and sprinkle with olive oil.

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Put cheese mixture into the mold, sprinkle with more olive oil and cover it with the left over muslin.

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Place the mold into a container or tray to catch the whey (liquid that drains away). Stand overnight in the fridge.

Carefully turn the mold out onto a serving plate.

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Serve with a tomato salad or anything thing else that catches your fancy.

Next time I make a ‘Coeur,’ I may try ricotta and herbs – no feta, no yogurt.

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Recipes of summer vegetables:

PEPERONATA – PIPIRONATA (Sicilian) Braised peppers

FRIED ZUCCHINI – ZUCCHINE FRITTE (Zucchini are called CUCUZZEDDI in Sicilian)

PUMARORU CA CIPUDDA (Tomatoes with onions). INSALATA DI POMODORO (Tomato salad)

PEPPERS WITH BREADCRUMBS- PIPI CA MUDDICA – PEPERONI CON LA MOLLICA

ANTIPASTO – GRILLED SUMMER VEGETABLES AND A SCOOP OF SALADS

BURRATA, MOZARELLA, STRACCIATELLA

Coeur a la Crème made with Labneh

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PUMARORU CA CIPUDDA (Tomatoes with onions). INSALATA DI POMODORO (Tomato salad)

Simple tomato salads feature very frequently in my kitchen – not surprising as local tomatoes and basil in summer are at their best.

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When I say simple, I mean made with basic ingredients – in season tasty tomatoes, fresh basil, spring onion, the inside part of the celery, salt and extra virgin olive oil. In fact, so simple that I have not written the recipe for a tomato salad in my blog.

Just writing about tomato salad makes me want to have some – I can taste the fresh bread that I particularly like to use to mop up the juices. Good, extra virgin olive oil is as important as the quality of the tomatoes.

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I have inherited my like of tomato salads from my father; it is one of the things my father made well and my parents, especially when they were elderly would eat a tomato salad almost every day for lunch (accompanied with some sort of cheese, smallgoods, frittata, or left over meat or fish from the night before). This sort of tomato salad  was not considered special enough to present to guests – it was family, simple, every-day food and to a certain extent it has remained so in my present home.

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Apart from the simple tomato salad made with spring onion, my father excelled in the salad his mother used to make (she lived in Ragusa, Sicily) with squeezed onions or as he used to call cipolla dolce (sweet onion) – the onion is made sweet by having the bitter juices squeezed out of it before it is used.

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This makes the taste of the salad unique and my children and nephews still mention this legendary version of a nonno-tomato salad. When they were in season the large, fresh, salad onions were his favourites (sold in bunches with the bulbs and part of the green stalk still attached) but the ordinary white or the red onions sufficed at other times.

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Cipudda is the Sicilian word for onion and cipolla the Italian.

Probably because it is used extensively in Calabria, red onion is called cipolla calabrese or cipolla di Tropea in Italian, Tropea is a very picturesque, old fortified town built on a cliff overlooking a spectacular beach in Calabria.

I now have the old colander my father used to use to strain the onion – this was one of the very few, kitchen implements that came with us from Trieste where we lived before coming to Australia.

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Amusing: in Italian a colander or strainer is called a scolapasta scola means strain…and where would Italians be without an implement to drain their pasta!

To sweeten onion:

Expect to shed tears during this process.

Place 2 large, thinly sliced onions in a colander, sprinkle with about 2 heaped tablespoons of salt and leave it for about 30 minutes. Do not be concerned about the quantity of salt, it will draw out the onions’ strong juices. If fresh onions are in season, leave the sliced onions with the salt for about 15 minutes.

Use your fingers and palms to squeeze the onions inside the colander – the juices and the salt will just dribble through the perforations.

My parents have always made tomato salad with firm, slightly golden, unripe tomatoes. Interestingly in Italy, tomatoes (pomodoro) were first called pomo d’oro, apples of gold and these early specimens were not necessarily red in colour.

My father was making salad well before the heirloom varieties of tomatoes were available – he would have enjoyed using these tomatoes that come in a multitude of colours and variety of shapes. Interestingly, not all are coloured red.

In most parts of Sicily, the most common tomato salad is as follows:

6-8 tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil at least ½ cup
fresh basil (or dried oregano)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk of celery from the inside part of the celery and include some of the pale green leaves – all sliced thinly
1 spring onion sliced thinly or replace the spring onion with the sweetened onions

Cut the tomatoes into bite size pieces and add everything else and serve.

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From Comiso and Vittoria (towns south of Ragusa) and popular inland (in Enna and Caltanissetta) it is common to cut large tomatoes called (cuore di bue — ox heart), horizontally into halves, remove the seeds and stuff each crevice with chopped garlic, salt and extra virgin olive oil. On visits to the South of France I found that these tomatoes are popular and eaten in the same way. Surprise, surprise!

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In my last post I made reference to Sicilian tomato salad. See post:

RICOTTA, TOMATOES and Basil. A perfect summer dish.

These little beauties below were left by a neighbour at my door.

I feel a tomato salad coming on.

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RICOTTA, TOMATOES and Basil. A perfect summer dish.

One of the things I like about eating out is that I come home full of ideas for reproducing my version of something I have eaten at a restaurant. Looking at the way that food is presented also gives me ideas.

This was a very simple thing. I was in Brisbane recently and went to Gauge restaurant and one of the dishes my friends and I shared was the Cow’s ricotta, sancho pepper, heirloom tomatoes, olive. 

IMG_0134In the restaurant the chefs used an Asian herb but really, there are many herbs that would compliment this dish and each would impart a different taste – I could see myself using common herbs like thyme, oregano or sweet marjoram, tarragon, dill or any of the different types of basil that are now easily available.

Summer to me means eating tomatoes almost every day. Ricotta is also a favourite.

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I arrived home from Brisbane and the next evening I had friends here for dinner and ricotta, tomatoes and the prolific amounts of basil that I am growing on my balcony seemed just right. It was the presentation of this dish that was as important as the taste. My photos do not do it justice, but it was such a a simple dish, full of natural flavours and it looked stunning at the same time. As a summer starter with good bread or crakers it was perfect.

This was the motivation: Cow’s ricotta, sancho pepper, heirloom tomatoes, olive.

Ricotta, heirloom tomatoes – easy stuff and easy to get.

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Sansho Pepper is also known as Japanese Pepper and it is unripe Sichuan pepper. It adds a lemon myrtle-like freshness to dishes. This too is easily available from Asian shops, however maybe not in your pantry, but there are alternatives. I have a variety of pepper corns and just recently I bought a range of dried Mexican chillies that I grind up and use like pepper –  some are particularly spicy, slightly tart with an earthy flavour, others are smoky and aromatic and some are very hot.  On this occasion I chose pink pepper corns – it looks good and tastes different.

There were no real olives in this presentation in the restaurant and the black olive favour was achieved with black olive salt. I was at another restaurant today where they used dehydrated olives – fantastic intense flavour and texture. In my version I could have used whole olives especially the shrivelled black, dried olives  but I thought that they would look too big so I used tiny capers and some of my Greek basil with the tiny leaves.

A little spring onion sliced finely also added flavour. Next time I may add a stalk of finely sliced celery – one of those pale green stalks from the inside of the celery. After all, the tomato salads that I learned to make in my family home always had both onion and celery…. this is how Sicilians make tomato salads.

I used cow’s ricotta that I whipped up to a cream with a little salt and pink pepper corns.

I made a basil oil by blending good- quality, extra virgin olive oil with and a little salt and basil picked from my balcony.

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I bought good tomatoes from a reliable stall holder at the Queen Victoria Market (as I always buy quality produce).

As a summer starter with good bread or crackers it was perfect. Good wine helps too.

 

 

 

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MATARROCCU, a Sicilian pesto

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).

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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).

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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).

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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.

INGREDIENTS:
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

PREPARATION:
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.

 

 

 

TURKISH EGGS and UOVA AL SALMONE

 

Turkish eggs

As a child I always enjoyed eating what my mother called uova al salmone – and no, she did not add smoked salmon, they were really scrambled eggs in a tomato salsa, made in summer with fresh tomatoes, and the same salsa that was used to dress a summer pasta.

The colour of salmon is the result of scrambling eggs in salsa and uova strapazzate al pomodoro may have been a more appropriate name for this dish, but I, like my mother have always called it by this name (see second recipe).

What I really want to write about is what I call Turkish eggs (probably out of ignorance) – and not been Turkish I will not say that they are authentic and try to give them a name in Turkish. This is how I like to make them.

To make uova al salmone, add diced, peeled tomatoes, salt and pepper and a few fresh basil leaves to a pan with some extra virgin olive oil and simmer for about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, beat eggs then pour into the pan with the tomatoes and stir constantly. When they are creamy and cooked add a few leaves of fresh basil and serve.

What I really want to write about is what I have always called Turkish eggs – and not been Turkish I will not say that they are authentic and try to give them a name in Turkish but this is how I like to make them. And they are not just Turkish: they could be classed as Middle Eastern and I have eaten them in Tunis as well.

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There are different versions of this Middle Eastern dish and many of them poach the eggs in yoghurt.

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For 4 people, I use 8 eggs. Sometimes I have also added peppers (one or two thinly sliced – either the conventional ones, any colour or the long peppers slender ones (my mother always referred to these as frying peppers). If adding peppers, add them at the same time as the onion. Some also add Turkish sausage (called different names in different countries so I am not even going to try to give it its’ name as I could be off beam).

Although you can scramble the eggs, I like to poach them and I also like to add either parsley or coriander, cumin and/or caraway seeds.

On this occasion we had them as a lunch dish and I accompanied them with harissa, char grilled peppers and yoghurt on the side (take no prisoners!)

Ingredients:

8 eggs
8 medium/large tomatoes, peeled and chopped into small chunks
1-2 white onions or 3 spring onions sliced
½ cup of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
flavourings: herbs and spices

 

Processes:
Warm the olive oil in fry pan or pan with deep sides, then lightly fry the onions (and peppers) without browning.
After about 2-3 minutes add the chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper( spices and/or herbs) and cook for 7-8 minutes until soft.
Gently make room for each egg (pockets) using a spoon and slide each egg onto its place in the pan. Cover and without disturbing the contents poach the eggs (over a low heat) until done to your liking (runny for me, never hard!)
Serve in the pan. I like fresh bread with mine, especially to eat the yolk.

 

UOVA AL SALMONE

To make uova al salmone, add diced, peeled tomatoes, salt and pepper and a few fresh basil leaves to a pan with some extra virgin olive oil and simmer for about 10 minutes. (Suggested ratio: 6 large tomatoes, 6 eggs)
In a bowl, beat eggs then pour into the pan with the tomatoes and stir constantly. When they are creamy and cooked add a few leaves of fresh basil and serve.

SALSA ROMESCO (Romesco sauce, this recipe is made with roasted peppers, tomatoes and almonds)

I had some left over cooked prawns I wanted to use up and thought that a sauce would liven them up.

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Salsa Romesco is said to have originated from Tarragona, a town close to Barcelona in north-eastern Spain. It is an old Roman town so you can be partly forgiven if you thought that the sauce originated from Rome.
I consulted many sources and there are so many variations to making this Catalan condiment, but the most common ingredients seem to be garlic, red peppers, tomatoes, white bread and almonds. Most interesting is that the recipes from respected food writers, e.g. in Honey From a Weed, (Patience Gray), Mediterranean Seafood (Alan Davison) and Mediterranean Food (Elizabeth David) the main ingredients are tomatoes and the peppers are either paprika or chillies or dried red pepper flakes.

Some recipes include sherry vinegar or wine (rather than wine vinegar). Some have hazelnuts or walnuts as well as the almonds.

There are a few recipes where the bread is first soaked in vinegar and then squeezed dry before it is added to the blend (like when making salsa verde) and others where the bread is toasted in the oven.

Those who are serious romesco – makers make it in a mortar and pestle and also roast or char the tomatoes. If peppers are used these are also charred. I have found references to small red peppers which are often referred to as romesco peppers in Catalonia, so perhaps this is why the name.

Because my grandmothers were Sicilian and this is a Catalan recipe, I cannot say that this is how it is made in my family, however I can give you what has worked for me. There is always room for improvement and I will keep on experimenting.

This sauce is usually associated as a condiment for shellfish and fish. It is also good with grilled and roasted vegetables (especially cold, left over ones that need dressing up the next day).

I usually add a couple of roasted tomatoes to my roasted pepper salads and I conveniently had some in the fridge left over from the night before. I keep roasted garlic covered in olive oil in the fridge, and using up ready made ingredients is often a strong reason why I make certain things in the first place.

INGREDIENTS
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 slice stale sourdough bread
2 large red peppers
1 cup blanched almonds
1 tsp smoked paprika (preferred) or sweet paprika
2 tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 ripe medium size tomatoes
salt to taste
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil and ½ cup when you blend the ingredients
water (a little) to thin down the sauce

PROCESSES
Prepare the ingredients before hand:
Roast/chargrill the peppers whole, peel, remove seeds and break them into strips. If using fresh tomatoes cut them into pieces. If you are roasting / chargrilling the peppers do them at the same time.
Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a fry pan sauté the bread until golden.
Roast the garlic whole (Preheat oven to 200 °C, wrap in foil and bake). An easier option is to sauté the peeled cloves of garlic in the same frypan after you have pan-fried the bread.
Toast the blanched almonds or alternatively sauté them in the same frypan.
Place the bread, and almonds in a blender and pulverize.
Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until it forms into a thick, smooth-ish sauce. If the sauce is a too thick, add a little water to thin it down.

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FISH BRAISE WITH TOMATOES, GARLIC, RED CHILLIES AND ANCHOVIES

Left over braises make excellent pies.

Over many years I have cooked with one of my friends who now lives in Queensland. I help her cook, she helps me, and we respect each other’s taste in food and manner of working in the kitchen. We can chose to work together or ignore each other completely and do our own thing, but together over the many years we have prepared some excellent meals

Recently I spent time with her in Queensland and this fish braise was her idea – she thought it had Sicilian flavours, and it does. I thought that she was using far too much garlic and too many chillies in her recipe for it to be Sicilian, but she carried on regardless. I have to admit that the resulting fish braise tasted great; the flavours melded into a mild, sweet flavoured sauce with subtle tastes. We ended up with a thick fish soup (Zuppa Di Pesce) and ate it with bread .

Ingredients for each pie

I complemented her dish with some roasted peppers – they are in season in Queensland and I was able to purchase red, yellow and green peppers. These complimented the fish braise very well.

Both of us always cook too much food (just in case people are hungry), but also because we can both use leftovers creatively and needless to say we had fish braise and peppers left over, hence individual pies for the next day – these were my idea.

Some people hate anchovies; omit them all together, or use white anchovies if you prefer a milder taste (called boquerones).

For the fish braise:

INGREDIENTS
1k fillets of firm white-fleshed fish (we used Flathead)
10-12 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
8-10 long, red chillies (remove the seeds), sliced finely
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
800g red tomatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces (or use tinned)
4- 6 anchovies chopped finely,
¾ cup of chopped parsley, fresh oregano and basil.
PROCESSES
Cut fish fillets into serving size pieces, rub with a little salt and pan-fry them in a in a large frying pan with a little of the oil. Remove them and set aside.
Heat the rest of the oil and over medium heat sauté the garlic and chilli until the garlic begins to soften – leave some of the seeds in the chillies if you like hot food.
Stir in chopped anchovies until they dissolve.
Add the wine and evaporate for 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, herbs and a little salt and cook the sauce until it is reduced. (Remember that the anchovies will be salty).
Add the fish pieces and gently press them into the sauce. Ensure that the sauce covers them, and heat through.
Check that the fish is cooked to your liking.
Spoon the fish braise onto plates and serve with some crusty bread.
Use the left over fish to make pies. We also included a layer of roasted peppers on top of the fish before topping with the pastry.
For the pastry:
INGREDIENTS
250g plain flour, 120g cold butter cut into small cubes, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 1-2 tbs cold water, a little salt.
PROCESSES
Put flour and salt into a bowl, add butter and oil and rub it into the flour until it resembles bread-crumbs. Alternatively use a food processor.
Add just enough cold water to bind the dough together – use the blade of a knife to do this.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 10-15 minutes before rolling out and cutting it into the shapes that will cover the pies.
 
Spoon cold fish braise into oven-proof bowls (we made 4 individual pies). Do not include too much of the braising liquid – see photo above.
Top with strips of roasted peppers (optional).
Cover with pastry.
Bake in preheated oven, 200C until golden (15-25 minutes), then cool pies on a wire rack.
 

We accompanied the pie with this salad.

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PESCE CUCINATO AL CRUDO FISH COOKED SIMPLY WITH TOMATOES AND MINT

I love Flathead. My fishmonger prefers to sell it as fillets, but I prefer to cook it whole especially if I am braising it; it is an ugly looking fish, but the bones and head add taste to the braising liquid. Many eaters dislike picking out bones from whole fish, however if the spine is lifted out carefully and kept whole, this does not have to be a big problem.

For two people I used one Flathead (600g -700g) and this recipe can be adapted for fillets; use large sized fillets to prevent breakage.

Other white fleshed, medium flavoured and textured fish suitable for this recipe are: Snapper, Leatherjackets, Whiting and Garfish.

The fish is cooked very simply and al crudo (using all raw ingredients and all in the pan at the same time); it relies on the fish being fresh and the tomatoes being sun ripened and flavourful. Mint is rarely used in Italian cooking but it is often added to Sicilian cuisine.

These quantities are suitable for 1k of fish. If using whole snapper, which is a larger fish, increase the cooking time and add a little more liquid to the pan.

INGREDIENTS

fish (see above)
tomatoes, 500g peeled, seeded, and chopped
garlic, 4 cloves chopped finely
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground pepper
capers, ½ cup, I prefer to use the salted variety, soaked and washed
fresh mint, 2 tablespoons, cut finely and more sprigs for decoration

PROCESSES

Arrange the fish and the tomatoes in a low saucepan so that the fish can be fitted in one layer.
Add seasoning, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, the finely cut mint and capers.
Cover the fish and cook on medium heat for 7-13 mins if you are cooking whole fish and about 5-7 minutes if they are fillets – this time will vary depending on the size of the fish and how much you like your fish cooked. Take off the lid and cook on brisk heat until the tomatoes have thickened. Avoid stirring or turning the fish to prevent breaking.
Decorate with fresh mint sprigs.

MA2SBAE8REVW

TOMATO SALAD WITH GORGONZOLA (INSALATA DI POMODORI E GORGONZOLA)

One of my readers sent me a recipe for a tomato salad and gorgonzola and as you can see from the photos I made the salad twice. On both occasions I presented the salad as an antipasto.

The reader who sent me the recipe has just returned from a holiday to Italy; although she visited Sicily, she indicates that she ate this in northern Italy. And even if all of the other ingredients could easily be for a tomato salad from Sicily, gorgonzola is very much a northern Italian cheese. In fact it is a DOC cheese (Denominazione di Origine Controllata – Protected Designation of Origin) and produced in the provinces of cities you may recognize: Milan, Como, Pavia, Bergamo, Cremona and Novara and all of these cities are in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions. Only items produced in a specific area, in a particular way and of a certain specified size and shape may display that DOC label.

In my version of the salad I used gorgonzola dolce (means sweet) and it is one of my favourite cheeses – soft, creamy and slightly veined and spicy. Gorgonzola piccante (spicy) is the stronger tasting version of this cheese; it is more matured, has a greater degree of blue-veins and is firmer. I imagine that although both cheeses are suitable for this recipe, the mature gorgonzola would be easier to handle and could be ‘shaved’ as the recipe suggests.

I also did not use as much balsamic vinegar, the Sicilian in me screams “no vinegar with tomato”– it is sufficiently acidic. Also, it has to be good quality balsamic and if it is, only a little should suffice.

When I prepared it in my friends’ home, I did not use anchovies because they hate them (unfortunately).

I have named the salad after the ingredients INSALATA DI POMODORI E GORGONZOLA (and alla Giovanna, because this is the reader’s name). Thank you.

Here is her recipe:

3 large tomatoes, sliced
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup shaved Gorgonzola cheese
1 Tablespoon capers, drained
1 Tablespoon green onions, sliced
1 clove minced garlic
2 anchovies minced to a paste
salt
black pepper, freshly ground
fresh basil

Directions:

Arrange tomatoes on a plate
Drizzle with vinegar and oil
Sprinkle lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper
Sprinkle with cheese, capers, onions, garlic, and anchovies
Garnish with basil leaves
In the first photo:
I used very large tomatoes from Geelong close to Melbourne (new crop).
In the second photo:
The tomatoes are small and from Murray Bridge in South Australia.
Heirloom tomatoes are not ready, not just yet.
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