Tag Archives: Wine

BRACIOLI DI MAIALI O’ VINU (Sicilian for Pork Chops Cooked In Wine)

Unfortunately the camera did not capture the image I wanted to use – I needed a video camera to record the action. The piglets’ mother seemed very gentle-natured and was allowing the piglets to climb all over her. The piglets were frolicking, leaping into the air, chasing one another, tripping each other over. I had never imagined that piglets were as playful as puppies or a litter of kittens.

These photos were taken in the North Island of New Zealand, on the way to Napier. They were not the only pigs we saw in pastures, foraging freely with plenty of space. We returned to take a photo of other pigs close to Greytown but unfortunately it started to rain and the pigs retired to their ‘kennel’ to shelter from the rain and cold.

The photo below was taken in Mondello, close to Palermo in Sicily.

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Sadly, when my thoughts turned to food, I did think that the pigs would be supreme in taste and tenderness; as cute as these piglets are, I know that eventually they will have to face the butcher’s knife. Quality meat is achieved through keeping pigs in a stress free environment, able to graze their whole lives and free to roam. The care and quality of life that appears evident for these pigs points to a more humane end than what is apparent for the live cattle or sheep that are being  sent to brutal and cruel slaughters in some other countries.

Last time I ate these braciole (Italian spelling) I was in Ragusa at the country house of one of my relatives – these are the equivalent of Australian holiday or beach houses or weekenders. At that time I can remember us discussing “il suino nero dei Nebrodi,” the Sicilian Black Swine from Sicily’s Nebrodi Mountains in northeastern Sicily, which are very similar in appearance to wild boars: they are small and black and bristly. My partner and I had just returned from Monreale (near Palermo) where we ate some salame (photo) made from Nebrodi swine which still graze and forage in wooded areas. On that particular visit to Sicily I was very interested in Carlo Petrini and the Slow Food Movement and the Nebrobi pig is listed in the Ark of Taste, an international catalogue of heritage foods in danger of extinction.

The recipe for cooking the pork chops is easy, but when made with proper pig, the chops are very tasty.

INGREDIENTS
pork bracioli (chops) 6
fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon
red wine, 1 glass
water, 1 glass
rosemary or oregano, fresh, 6 small sprigs
lemon juice, 2 lemons
salt, and freshly ground pepper
PROCESSES
Make a small incision in each chop and insert either rosemary or fresh oregano.
Place chops in a fry pan in one layer with a little water and the salt.
Braise the chops (without a lid) and when the water has evaporated and they begin to colour, add the wine, fennel seeds and pepper.
Evaporate the wine, add lemon juice and serve.
If the meat is too lean, you may need to mix a little olive oil with the lemon juice (salmoriglio).

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SAFFRON RISOTTO WITH MUSSELS (Risu cu Zaffaranu e Cozzuli is the Sicilian, Riso con Zafferano e Cozze is the Italian)

Green lipped mussels kept fresh and alive under jets of sea water

I have just returned from a two week stay in the North Island of New Zealand where there seemed to be a public awareness about sustainable fish and sustainable fishing and farming practices. Seafood seemed plentiful and well priced and I found fish sellers that clearly state their support for sustainable fish species and how they only procure stocks from sustainable resources. There was even information on restaurant menus such as line caught snapper, or this fish was farmed in a sustainable way.

 

During my stay I ate many varieties of fish that I had not eaten before – I loved it all.

Green lipped mussels (such as the ones in the photo from The Fish Market in Auckland) were around $3.50 per kilo; I did not spot any on restaurant menus, but maybe this is because they mussels are so common. While I was in New Zealand I stayed in serviced apartments (not that I did much cooking), and on one occasion I bought some and steamed them lightly (just enough to open them) and enjoyed them with some lemon juice.

Green lipped mussel farming in New Zealand is sustainable; the government conducts research and careful monitoring into selective breeding, farming and harvesting methods.

A good way to eat mussels (any type) is with rice. Saffron is used in Sicilian cooking and in this recipe, the rice is simmered in fish stock – the more traditional and older way to cook risotto in Sicily.

INGREDIENTS 
rice, 2 cups of aborio or vialone
fish stock, 6-7 cups
saffron threads, ½-1 small teaspoon
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
garlic cloves, 2 chopped finely
mussels, 2 k,
wine, ½ cup, dry white
parsley, ½ cup chopped finely
PROCESSES
Clean the mussels by rubbing them against each other in cold water(or use a plastic scourer). Pull the beards sharply towards the pointy end of the shell.
Heat the oil in a large pan (which can be used to cook both the mussels and the rice), add the garlic and soften.
Add the mussels and the parsley, toss them around in the hot pan, add a splash of wine, cover and cook until they open (about 4-6 minutes). Do not discard any mussels that don’t open – they just need more cooking.
Remove the mussels from the saucepan. Take out half of the mussels from their shells – the mussels with their shells will be used for decoration on top of the rice.
Add about 5 cups of the fish stock and saffron to the same pan and when it reaches boiling point add the rice.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over moderate heat, stirring now and again to ensure that the rice does not stick and the stock has been absorbed.
Taste the rice and season with salt if necessary. Add more stock or wine if needed – the rice is done when it’s al dente – just tender, but resistance can still be felt when you bite into it. (The rice will continue to soften).
Stir into the rice the shelled mussels. Place the mussels with the shells on top of the hot rice or gently fold them through the top layer of the hot rice (Italians are never fussy about eating food which is not piping hot).
Leave to rest for a few minutes for the flavours to meld before serving (the rice will also continue to cook and soften slightly).
Sustainable fish display in Auckland Fish Market

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RABBIT with cloves, cinnamon and red wine (CONIGLIO DA LICODIA EUBEA)

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Rabbit for Easter?

I have cooked rabbit a few times lately – there seems to be plenty of it about. They are breeding like rabbits seems a very appropriate term, given the excellent breeding conditions for them in most of Australia – good rainfall and abundant vegetation of good nutritional value.

Where possible I buy wild rabbit. I like to think that helping to reduce the rabbit population is a good thing for the environment – wild rabbits have contributed to the extinction of many plant species and by their selective grazing they deplete the high-quality feed for some native species and livestock. The loss of vegetation also contributes to soil erosion.

I found a version of this recipe in Pino Correnti’s Il Libro D’oro della Cucina e dei Vini di Sicilia. As is often the case in Sicilian recipes, there is very little detail about the method of cooking and there are no quantities given, but the following combination works for me. The recipe is from Licodia Eubea, a small town in the province of Catania. It is close to Vizzini and not far from Caltagerone – all are north of Ragusa.

In this recipe the rabbit is marinated in red wine before cooking. If I am cooking a wild rabbit I marinate it overnight, if it is a farmed rabbit 3 hours are plenty.

I have cooked this rabbit several times and each time I have added more personal touches – whole mushrooms or whole onions, more spices. On one occasion I presented it with fregola – this is the Sardinian version of couscous that is common in Southern Sardinia around Cagliari. It is cooked like pasta in boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes and drained. (I am not sure that the Sicilians would approve, or the Sardinians for that matter.)

I use one rabbit to feed four people (usually weighs just below 1 kilo).

INGREDIENTS

rabbit,1

red wine, 1½ cups

cloves, 6-8

bay leaves, 4-6

garlic, 2 cloves, each cut into halves

cinnamon sticks, 1-2

extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup

salt and pepper to taste

tomato paste, 2 tablespoons, dissolved in a little water

rosemary sprigs, fresh 3-4

mint, fresh, 6-8 leaves

onions, whole,1-2 per person

PROCESSES:
Clean the rabbit and cut it into manageable sections at the joints.
Marinate it in the wine, some of the oil, bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves and turn it occasionally.
Remove the pieces of rabbit from the marinade and drain well. Keep the marinade with the bay, cinnamon and cloves for cooking.
Cut small slits into the flesh of the rabbit and insert the garlic into the slits (the recipe just lists garlic in the list of ingredients).
Add the rest of the extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the pieces until golden. Remove them and set aside.
Reduce the heat, add the whole onions to the oil and toss them around until golden.
Add salt and pepper, the diluted tomato paste, mint, rosemary, the wine marinade with the bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves (if you want to accentuate the taste of the aromatics you may wish to discard the old bay leaves and cloves in the marinade and add new ones).
Cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is cooked (wild rabbit will take twice as long to cook as the farmed rabbit and you may need to add extra liquid).
Remove the lid and evaporate the juices if necessary.
I like to serve it with more fresh, mint leaves.