Tag Archives: Vinegar

MARINADED FISH and a recipe for PESCE IN SAOR

Sousing fish was a way of preserving it before refrigeration by saturating the fish with acid – vinegar in this case which, like salt,  prevents the growth of microbes. Sugar is also added and to create an agro dolce dish (sweet and sour). The fish is first fried in olive oil and then marinaded in the vinegar base. Slowly sautéed onions are a common ingredient in soused fish and different flavourings are added to the pickling mix. My Sicilian grandmother would put mint, bay leaves and slivers of garlic in her vinegar marinade (pisci ammarinatu in Sicilian), but the pesse in saor made in Venice and in Trieste where I lived as a child, has raisins and pine nuts in it. Pesse is Triestiane for pesce – fish in Italian.

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Soused fish is found all over Italy, for example pesce alla scapace is cooked in central and southern Italy and the Molise version is flavoured with saffron, minced garlic and sage. Pesce in carpione from Lombardy has celery and carrot for flavourings, the Ligurian scabeccio has garlic, whole pepper and rosemary, and the Sardinian marinade has chilli, garlic, and tomato sauce.

Soused fish is also common in other cultures – Nordic countries thrive on soused fish and different versions of escabeche are found in Spanish, Portuguese, French and in North African cuisines. I have a German friend who also cooks soused fish – he adds coriander seeds to his.

My maternal grandmother always had soused fish (in pottery terrines and covered with plates as lids) in her kitchen in Sicily.

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When she visited us in Trieste she did the same and our kitchen then also smelt of fish and vinegar. She particularly liked to souse eel – eel was good in Trieste. We would walk to the Pescheria together, she would choose the eel she wanted from a big tank and the fishmonger would kill it and chop it into pieces.

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I did not much like this part, but I liked going to the Pescheria on the waterfront in the bay of Trieste. The imposing building is now home to Eataly.

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Triestine pesse is mostly made with sardines and is often eaten with white polenta (yellow polenta is usually an accompaniment to meat).

Traditionally, the fish is lightly dusted with flour and salt before it is fried in very hot, extra virgin, olive oil. Although the flour helps to hold the fish together, the oil used to fry the fish will need to be discarded (the sediment will taint the taste of the oil) and the flour coating will often come away from the fish in the marinade.

On my way to Adelaide from Melbourne I drove through Meningie (at the northern end of the Coorong on the shores of Lake Albert) and I bought freshly-caught Coorong mullet. On this occasion I used them instead of sardines to make pesse in saor.

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2-3 fish per person /12-16 fresh sardines or small fish (sand whiting, mullet, garfish, flathead, leather jackets), cleaned and filleted with heads and backbone removed.

plain flour and salt for dusting
olive oil for frying
2-3 large white onions, sliced finely
1 cup of raisins
1 cup of pine nuts, toasted
sufficient white wine to soak the raisins
250 ml of white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Dust the fish fillets in a little flour and salt, shake off as much flour as possible and fry them in plenty of oil until golden and crisp. Place them on kitchen paper to remove excess oil and set aside.
Soak the raisins in the white wine for about 30minutes.
Sauté the onions gently in some olive oil until they are soft. Add the vinegar and pepper and cook the mixture for a few minutes. Set aside.

Select a terrine deep enough to hold the fish, ingredients and vinegar marinade – a narrow, deep terrine is best. Place a layer of fish, add some onions (dig them out of the vinegar mixture), raisins (drained) and pine nuts. Continue layering the ingredients, finishing with a layer of onions, raisins and pine nuts on top. Pour the vinegar over the layers. Cover it, place it in the fridge and allow to marinate at least 24 hours before serving.  Serve at room temperature.

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

 

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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