I like to buy local, sustainable fish and my fish vendor tells me that these King George Whiting are from the coastal Gippsland village of Port Welshpool.

The delicate texture of King George Whiting requires careful handling. These fish only need a little cooking, either on a grill or lightly pan-fried over medium to high heat, as I have done in this recipe.

Usually, I am happy to present the fish just with lemon. However, there may be times when an accompanying sauce for steamed, baked, grilled or fried fish will bring you greater compliments. I particularly like this Sicilian sauce with delicate tasting fish.

The sauce is called sarsa di chiappareddi in Sicilian and it is made with capers and anchovies. The sauce can be made well in advance and therefore can be particularly useful when having guests.

For me it is most essential to use quality, extra virgin, olive oil. This is especially important for cold sauces, – when the cold sauce hits the hot food, the fragrance of the oil will be strongly evident.

I like to use capers that are packed in salt rather than brine. These need to be well rinsed and then soaked for 30-40 minutes to remove the salt. If you are using capers in brine, drain carefully and only use ¼ teaspoon of vinegar.

Use a tall glass or narrow jug or jar.

INGREDIENTS
parsley, ½ cup, cut finely,
wine vinegar, 1 tablespoonful
anchovies, 3-4 cut finely
capers, 1 cup, if using  the salted variety, rinse well and soak to remove salt, as necessary
pepper or chilli flakes, to taste and salt if necessary
extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup
garlic, 1-2 cloves, finely chopped
PROCESSES
Place the oil and the vinegar together and whip with a fork.
Add all of the other ingredients together and using the fork, mix them together.
Rest the sauce for at least one hour to develop the flavours.

Seafood News

The above recipe and photo were published in the November issue of Seafood News, a small, independent monthly publication dedicated to serving the commercial seafood industry. This Melbourne publication is distributed throughout Australia and reaches all sectors of the industry: markets, fishmongers and some restaurants. The publication will have one of my Sicilian fish recipes per issue. So far I have recipes in Aug-Nov issues.

 

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There are a lot of mussels (cozze in Italian) around at the moment in Melbourne. Apparently, all the wild and wet weather that we have experienced sets up the right conditions for the Planktonic organisms to increase and to be stirred up in the ocean. (Food for a range of marine life).

I am very fond of mussels and purchase them frequently, and not just when I want to cook a meal in a hurry – they are so easy to prepare and cook so quickly. I just serve them with good bread, and I mean “good”.

So is this recipe Sicilian? I would have to say that this is one of the ways that mussels are cooked all over Italy. Perhaps the addition of the tomato salsa is Southern Italian – it is a variation and I do not always include it. It did however, bring squeals of delight when I cooked them last week.

As a main, I estimate 1kilo of mussels for 3 persons.

INGREDIENTS
mussels,1 kilo
onion, 1, finely chopped ( I sometimes use spring onions- add colour)
extra virgin olive oil, ½ – ¾ cup
garlic cloves 2-3, finely chopped
red chilli,1 finely chopped
ripe tomatoes, 500g, peeled (or canned)
fresh parsley, ½ bunch, cut finely
fresh basil leaves, to taste
white wine, ½ cup
PROCESSES
Use large pan with a lid.
Heat some extra virgin olive oil in the pan and add the onions and soften it.
Add the tomatoes, basil and without using the lid cook the tomatoes gently until you have a dense tomato salsa (10 minutes). I do not use salt, fresh, mussels can release quite a lot of salty liquid.
Clean the outside of the shells of the mussels and remove the beards – I always remove broken or opened ones.
Add the mussels, chilli and the wine, turn the heat up and cover. Leave to boil for about 5 minutes until the shells open. Give more heat to the mussels that do not open – these are been wilful, they are not dead.
Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a frypan (while the mussels are cooking).  Add the parsley and the garlic and still with the heat turned up fry both of these ingredients for a few minutes till fragrant.
Put this mixture on top of the mussels, toss slightly and serve.

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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.

INGREDIENTS
minced beef, 800g
eggs, 2
hard boiled eggs, 3
fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices good quality sourdough white bread, crusts removed)
grated pecorino cheese, a small handful
salt and pepper
parsley, 1-2 tablespoons, sliced finely
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
red wine, 1 cup (optional)
passata, 1bottle ( or tomato paste and water or tinned tomato)
garlic, 1-2 large cloves, whole
basil, fresh leaves
onion, 1 cut very finely
ham, 4 slices, thinly sliced
pecorino cheese, 3-4 thinly sliced and broken up into pieces
PROCESSES
Cook the onion in a little hot extra virgin olive oil, add a little salt and let cool.
Mix the cooled onion into the minced meat, add garlic, grated cheese, raw eggs, bread, parsley, salt and pepper together. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until they are well combined – they should feel sticky.
Spread the meat on a piece of baking paper (the old ones probably would have used a marble slab).
Place ham slices lengthwise and in the centre of the mince.
Peel the hard boiled eggs and cut off a little of the white at both ends so that when you line the eggs up they will fit into one another and form a continuous line – this is done so that when you slice the polpettone each serving will have some egg.
Shape the polpettone into a long oval shape enveloping all of the stuffing. The paper will prevent the meat from sticking. Wet hands will also help to shape it. Make sure that there is sufficient meat around the eggs – this is the frail part of the polpettone. If it is going to crack during cooking this will be it.
Heat some extra virgin olive oil and seal the meat from all sides.
Add the wine, allow it to evaporate a little, add the passata, a little water, basil and more seasoning.
Braise over low heat for about 30- 40 minutes. To prevent breakage, turn the polpettone only once during cooking. If necessary, add more water during cooking. It should kept moist while it cooks and you can always evaporate the juice at the end, if you wish to intensify the flavour.

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Surprisingly I bought this head of radicchio this week. Although it is spring and nearly the end of October in Melbourne, we have been experiencing winter temperatures and this has prolonged the season for radicchio – it prefers cooler temperatures and is generally at its best from May to September. My vendor says that radicchio is now available throughout the year – this should please me, but it does not. How can a winter vegetable grow in a different season or how far does it have to travel to get here.

Let’s begin to discuss radicchio with the correct pronunciation. The sound of ‘ch’ in the Italian language and unlike the English sound, is pronounced as k.

Secondly, radicchio is a northern Italian vegetable originating from the Veneto region and Italian recipes, which include radicchio (like when cooked as in a risotto) are also northern Italian recipes.

This type of radicchio in the picture is from Treviso, a city that it is closer to Venice than Trieste where I lived as a child. Trieste is in the  neighbouring region to the Veneto and it is called Friuli Venezia Giulia, which is on the furthest limit of the Italian northeast, near the Slovenian border. Various types of radicchio are cultivated in Trieste as well, varieties like the green biondissima that needs to be picked when very small and does not form a head. My father used to grow this variety in his home garden in Adelaide; I have seen the seeds in Australia, but I doubt if it will ever be sold as a salad leaf in Australia – a great pity.

Men buying seeds in Palermo – photo courtesy of a generous reader of my blog

I have been to Sicily many times and as a young person, I never saw radicchio, nor were my Sicilian relatives familiar with it, but for the last two years I have seen the Treviso variety of radicchio in a couple of modern Sicilian restaurants – usually used more for a decorative purpose, for example, a deep red leaf accompanying an octopus salad. The Sicilians import radicchio from the north; it is far too hot in Sicily to grow it and considered foreign in Sicilian cuisine.

Enough reminiscing, it is time for a recipe.

Radicchio can be cooked and there was one way that my mother used to prepare the large heads of Treviso radicchio, which I really like. The recipe may be a bit wintery, but eaten outside in the sunshine with a glass of rose sounds spring- like to me.

INGREDIENTS AND PROCESSES

Select ½ -1 head of large radicchio per person (thin heads will char).

Cut large heads of radicchio in half lengthwise, sprinkle with salt and a little extra virgin olive oil and then grill on moderate heat .

It is then and presented with grilled polenta and a little fresh tomato salsa. The outer leaves will turn brown and the core will remain moist and will soften; it may take 15 -20 minutes with a couple of rotations and a little more oil.

 

Cooked polenta can be cut into a thick slice and also be grilled on the same BBQ grill or plate. See recipe in post:

SEPPIE IN UMIDO CON POLENTA (Cuttlefish with polenta).

Sprinkle the slice of polenta with oil and salt before grilling. Polenta is also a northern Italian ingredient.

The tomato salsa is easily made.

Make a tomato salsa with the ¼- ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, peeled chopped tomatoes (800-1k can in winter, fresh tomatoes in summer) and a few leaves of basil, a little salt and pepper.

Mix the ingredients together and allow the sauce to reduce – uncovered – to a cream like consistency. Take off the heat.

Present a slice of polenta, the grilled radicchio and a splash of tomato salsa on each plate – the salsa will be sweet (and red) but have some tartness, the radicchio will be bitter (and a dark red- brown colour) and the polenta will have texture (and yellow).

If you would like a more substantial dish, a little grilled fish would not go astray.

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Helen+G++Mary+T+Simeti+232
 Mary Taylor Simeti talking with Helen Greenwood

I was in Sydney where I attended some sessions of the Sydney International Food Festival. The World Chef Showcase on Saturday focused strongly on the cuisine of the Middle East and Mediterranean –this was the program that interested me the most.

The Festival list of Australian and overseas guests was very impressive and included: Musa Dagdeviren (Istanbul), Yotam Ottolenghi (London), Mary Taylor Simeti (Sicily, food history), Joe Barza (Lebanon) and Kamal Mouzawak (founder of Beirut’s Souk el Tayeb – a weekly market farmers’ produce and Lebanese food), Anissa Helou (London), Ozden Ozsabuncuoglu (Turkish food authority) and Mehmet Gurs (Istanbul).

Those of you who like Middle Eastern food and live in Melbourne will almost certainly know the names Ismail Tosun (Gigibaba) and Greg and Lucy Malouf (cookbook collaborators and Mo Mo Restaurant), also Abla Amad (Abla’s Restaurant). Sydney readers may recognise Somer Sivrioglu (Efendy Restaurant in Balmain).

There is an obvious and powerful connection between Middle Eastern and Sicilian cuisine – the Arabs ruled Sicily for two centuries (in medieval times they were sometimes called “Saracens” or “Moors”). The Arabs contributed to the development of Sicilian culture, agriculture and architecture and had a profound influence on the cuisine of Sicily.

The food that was prepared and discussed by the participating Festival guests featured many of the distinctive ingredients of Middle Eastern food – the rich spices (especially saffron and cinnamon), rice and grains, nuts and seeds (especially pine nuts, almonds, pistachio, sesame), sugar, and the typical fruits (citrus, figs, pomegranate) and vegetables and flowers (orange, jasmine, rose flower waters) of the Mediterranean.

The ‘Arab’ ingredients and flavours are not unique to Sicily. They are present in other countries of the Mediterranean, for example the cuisine of Spain and France.

A post on my blog is not the venue to discuss this topic at length. However I have already written about some recipes of sweets that could be attributed to the co-Arab and Sicilian association (for they cannot be attributed just to the Arabs).

Cubbaita

They are:
Cubbaita (my relatives call it giuggiulena), gello di mellone, nucateli, riso nero (also called riso amauticato).

Here is a similar recipe to cubbaita (giuggiulena) and it is called petrafennula, (also called petramennula depending on the Sicilian locality).

All my Sicilian relatives and friends keep a selection of these small homemade sweets at home just in case someone visits unannounced.

PETRAFENNULA – PIETRA DI MIELE (Rock made of honey).

INGREDIENTS
honey 1kg,
almonds, 500g blanched and roughly chopped into large pieces
candied orange peel, 400 g chopped finely,
cinnamon, ½ teaspoon (optional).

PROCESSES
Place the honey in a saucepan.
Add the peel.
Allow the mixture to simmer gently and stir from time to time until it begins to solidify.
Take the mixture off the stove and work quickly
Add the almonds and the cinnamon and stir gently to incorporate.
Pour the mixture on to baking paper placed on a cold surface – such as a marble slab or a baking tray (traditionally this is done without paper on an oiled marble slab).
Break it into pieces when it is cold. When my mother made this, she sometimes used to drop dollops of the mixture (about a tablespoon in size) on to a cold surface to form small odd shapes – more like pebbles than sharp rocks. This seemed easier than shaping it into one large slab, which then needs to be broken into smaller pieces.

I have a friend in Adelaide who has the most wonderful garden and beehives. She used her honey to make giuggiulena and the petrafennula and both resulted into slightly softer versions of candy. We discussed this and think that it must be due to the varying levels of moisture in different types of honey and from the various locations. I have used a variety of honey including leatherwood (definitely not Sicilian) and other organic honey from a variety of Australian locations and have achieved the required results.

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I use Alchermes  (or Alkermes) to make the famous Italian dessert zuppa inglese (literally translated is English soup). This is the Italian version of the English trifle made with sponge cake, moistened with fruit syrup or/and sweet sherry, layered with cream/and or custard, jam and red coloured jelly made with jelly crystals.

Trifle is still being made in Britain and countries like Australia (that initially inherited much of the British cuisine). Over time there have been some little variations to the recipe, for example I have often eaten trifle in Australian homes that included preserved fruit – particularly canned peaches. Recently fresh fruit has become a popular edition, particularly strawberries, which in Australia can be purchased cheaply and all year round (unfortunately).

There are many stories about how this English dessert came to be part of Italian cuisine. Some say that perhaps Italian diplomats tasted trifle on a visit to London and this may have been their interpretation of this dessert. Others say that it probably eventuated in the kitchens of the well-off English; there were many living in Florence in the late 1800’s till the lead up of the Second World War.  Most of them employed Italian staff; perhaps some signori inglesi missed some of their cooking from home and this was what their Italian kitchen maids prepared as trifle. They had to use Italian ingredients – savoiardi (sponge fingers mostly used in layered Italian desserts) and Alchermes the ancient Florentine, red liqueur commonly used to moisten and flavour cakes. Fresh cream was (and is) rarely used in cakes in Italy, but pastry cream called crema pasticcera (also crema inglesecrème anglaise) is very common. And it is easy to see how this sloppy mess could be calledsoup”(zuppa).

I have seen modern Italian versions of recipes for zuppa inglese, which include red fruit (like berries) and many include chocolate. My mother’s version sometimes included grated dark chocolate on the top; I think that this was partly for decoration, but chocolate was never part of the dessert. Other modern versions may have a sprinkling of coffee beans and I wonder if the makers are getting confused with tiramisu, which because it contains coffee is often decorated with coffee beans.

I too often make zuppa inglese especially when I am stuck for ideas, or have little time to prepare a dessert; it is so easy to prepare and never fails to impress.

I still use the traditional way to make it. I always assemble it in layers: sponge fingers moistened with Alchermes (either homemade or purchased at a good wine shop), cover these with crema pasticcera, repeat x 2-3 layers finishing with a layer of sponge fingers.

I use a large glass bowl to assemble the layers of ingredients (it is a pretty dessert) and keep the zuppa inglese, in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight before I intend to present it – it gives the dessert time to settle and the flavous to develop.  I finally cover it with a layer or tuffs of panna montata (literally meaning cream made into mountains – isn’t the Italian language marvellous!). it is also known as Chantilly cream, whipped cream with a little caster sugar flavoured with vanilla bean –Italians would never think about using plain cream in cakes.

At some stage during my research about Alchermes I found out that the name is likely to have been derived from the Arabic “al” (a) and “qirmiz” (worm). This is because it contains cochineal, which gives the liqueur its red colour. Cochineal used to be made with a particular insect which was crushed and dried, this produced a rich, red dye.

In the photo I have included a bottle of purchased Alchermes (32% volume). I also make my own and there is a recipe on a previous post. I usually purchase the savoiardi but in the photo are savoiardi courtesy of a friend’s neighbour (her version as the shop bought variety are not usually ribbed) .The only recipe for this dessert is for the crema pasticcera:

INGREDIENTS
3 egg yolks, 3 tablespoons caster sugar infused with a vanilla bean, a pinch of salt 3 tablespoons of cornflour, 1 litre of milk, rind of 1 lemon, and a cinnamon stick.
PROCESSES
In a saucepan, mix the egg yolks with the sugar and slowly add the flour, salt and a little milk to make a smooth paste – a whisk could be useful. If you do not have sugar that has been infused with a vanilla bean, use a little vanilla (not artificial).
Add the rest of the milk and incorporate to dilute the mixture evenly.
Using a vegetable peeler remove the rind in one piece from ½ lemon. Add this to the milk mixture. Add the cinnamon stick.
Use low – medium heat, stir it constantly with a whisk or a wooden spoon and slowly bring it to the boil- the custard should have thickened. Cool before using. To prevent a skin from forming, I place a piece of baking paper or butter paper on its surface.

 

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Glass++biscotti+232+++cloth

I am partial to a cup of rose flavoured tea, add rose water in some of my cooking and I particularly like my Sirop de roses (Rose syrup, mine is made in Lebanon) which I sometimes use to give a pink tinge and rose flavour to some of my desserts: home made ice creams, panna cotta, stewed fruit compotes (especially rhubarb or figs, or pears) or fresh fruit salads.

The Old Foodie has been writing about rosewater again this week and this has reminded me about a recipe for making a rose flavoured liqueur.

I too am a lover of rose flavoured foods.

Rosolio di rose (Rosoliu in Sicilian) dates back to the 15th century and was a popular cordial, originally made from rose petals. By the 18th century it had progressively became an alcoholic drink and lemon become more favoured over rose as flavouring. The pink colour was likely to have been enhanced with cochineal.Many of the ancient Sicilian recipes use rosoliu as the generic name for liqueur, several of which are made with oranges, mandarins or lemons and some are sometimes flavoured and coloured with a little saffron.

There are recipes for making Liquore Di Rose (Rose Liqueur) - this has been popular in other parts of Italy and in other countries. Some of the recipes include other flavourings for example lemon peel, cloves or orange blossoms.

My zia Niluzza (who lives in Ragusa, Sicily) gave me this recipe for Rosoliu, a long time ago.

For extra flavour I use ½ cup of rose water (as part of the 2 cups of water) and a dash of rose syrup (coloured pink and it is sweet, therefore reduce the amount of sugar and a little cochineal. I will need to wait for a generous friend and the right season before I make my next batch, but I have thought about adding a little grated beetroot with the petals rather than using cochineal.

INGREDIENTS
4 cups of rose petals from a highly scented rose (I used a black rose for mine)
2 cups very strong vodka or grappa (we cannot buy 95° spirit in Australia as they do in Italy)
2 cups sugar
2 cups of water
PROCESSES
Place rose petals a clean jar, add alcohol, close and keep in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks.
Prepare the sugar syrup: boil water and sugar. Cool.
Filter the alcohol mixture and add syrup. Keep it for least 3 months before using.
Glass of filtered  Rosoliu, bottle of Sirop de roses and the jar I use to make the Rosoliu.

 

In some recipes the petals are left in the alcohol/syrup mixture and then strained at the time of serving. I left some petals in my last batch of rose liqueur and the petals partly dissolve and this is why you may notice a layer of sediment in the jar in the photo.

This is not the only liqueur I make. See my recipe for making Alchermes (or Alkermes) that I use to make the famous Italian dessert Zuppa Inglese.

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A short time ago I became a member of an organisation called Ristoworld. This is an organisation that was first formed in Sicily, under the direction of Chef Andrea Finocchiaro who is based in Catania.

This is different to my other posts and I wish to explain why I am doing this.

Originally the group wanted to promote mainly Sicilian food&beverage – managers, sommelier, chefs and all staff involved in the trade as well as Sicilian produce. This group and its network have recently expanded. Andrea is still the President and he is working with Mario Principi, a group of advisers, representatives from all regions of Italy and from other parts of the world.

The initial concept of promotion Sicily has become the promotion of all things related to food&beverage of Italy – ‘all made in Italy’.

Recently I posted a message on their face book site (in Italian) about Mary Taylor Simeti. Mary is a leading Sicilian food writer living in Sicily who is coming to the Sydney International Food Festival– she is participating in a session is on October 9th.

Andrea has since asked me to publicize this photo on my site and I have agreed to do so – reciprocal thanks.

In summary, the photo is an idea of Andrea’s to demonstrate how culinary art and fashion can be linked (the sweetness of the chocolate with the beauty of the models). Michele Crimi, a Sicilian photographer of note is responsible for the photo; Lucia Russo, Angela Viola e Selene Eulalia Cabrabas are the models. It has been photographed in the scenic restaurant  Falconiera di Acireale, located the beautiful coastal city of Acireale in the north-east of the province of Catania, Sicily. The decorated chocolate centerpiece has been produced in collaboration with the ancient and famous Pasticceria Michelangelo Spina di Misterbianco. Although this is not mentioned in the article I was given to work from, there is promotion for the beauty of Sicily (Acireale and this restaurant) and the craft of the people involved in making this photo possible including the pastry cook.

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Affogato means drowned or smothered or choked in Italian, and which ever way you look at it, in this recipe the cauliflower has been killed off in red wine.

My grandmother Maria was born in Catania and this was one of her ways of cooking cauliflower (called VRUOCCULI AFFUCATI in Sicilian)

The cauliflower is cut into thin slices and assembled in layers: cauliflower, sprinkled with a layer of slivers of pecorino, thinly sliced onion and anchovies. Some recipes also include stoned black olives.

Although the coloured cauliflowers or broccoli can also be used for this recipe, I like the white cauliflower because it becomes rose- tinted by the red wine.

I compress the assembled ingredients, cover it with a circle of baking paper, an ovenproof plate and then put a weight on top (see photo).

It is cooked slowly until all the liquid evaporates and then it can be turned out and sliced like a cake. You may also like to use a non- stick saucepan or as I often do, place a circle of baking paper at the bottom of the pan to ensure that the “cake” does not stick to the bottom. Many recipes add water as the cauliflower is cooking to prevent it from burning, but if you cook it on very gentle heat and in a good quality saucepan with a heavy base, it may not be necessary.

VRUOCCULI AFFUCATI are especially suitable as an accompaniment to a strong tasting dish. Usually it is presented at room temperature or cold (I can remember the left over cauliflower being particularly satisfying as a stuffing for a panino).

INGREDIENTS
cauliflower or broccoli, 1kg
onion, 1large, sliced thinly
pecorino, 50 -100g, sliced thinly
anchovies, 4-5 or more
red wine, 1 glass
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
PROCESSES
Place some olive oil in a deep saucepan (the ingredients are layered).
Add a layer of the cauliflower.
Top with the pecorino cheese, anchovies, ground pepper and onion slices (salt to taste).
Add another layer of the cauliflower and more oil.
Continue with more layers but finish off with a layer of cauliflower on top. Press down the layers with your hands.
Top with more oil and add the wine.
Cover the contents first with either a piece of baking paper or foil cut to size and slightly loose. Put a weight on the top so as to keep all of the layers compressed (see above). There should e a gap around the weight and the saucepan to allow the steam to escape.
Cook on very slow heat for about 40-60 minutes and when the liquid has evaporated, you should also hear the cauliflower sizzle in the oil.

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In Sicily, spring is the celebration of life, which in cultural and religious terms is expressed in Easter; Primavera (Spring) and Pasqua (Easter) are synonymous – a fusion of nature, culture, family and food.

When it is spring in Australia, it is autumn in Sicily.

A popular spring meat and Easter Sunday lunch treat is kid or lamb, commonly roasted or braised, and all depending on how one’s mother cooked it.

My relatives in Ragusa traditionally eat mpanata ri agnieddu a focaccia type pie made with very young lamb (complete with bones) and enveloped with a bread dough crust, and this is because it is what my grandmother made at Easter and probably her mother before her.

Saanen goat

I do not like using my oven all that much, I prefer to eat kid is braised. (In Australia the meat I buy is likely be considered as goat in Italy.)

The kid recipe I have chosen to write about is a variation of capretto con le mandorle (kid with almonds), a recipe from the north western area of Sicily which includes Trapani, Marsala and Mazara del Vallo. It is from the book La Cucina Tradizionale Siciliana by Anna Pomar, published in 1984. The book was given to me by Rosetta my cousin on one of the many occasions when I visited her home in Ragusa – this was her own copy and has her scribbles all over it.

I always like to make recipes my own and modify them to my tastes. To this recipe I add more onion, bay leaves, stock rather than water and dry Marsala. Is it still the same recipe?

INGREDIENTS
goat, the younger the better, compete with some bones, 3k
onions, finely sliced, 2
bay leaves, 3-4
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
Marsala Fina (dry version, if not substitute with white wine) ½ cup
tomatoes, 3 large ripe ones, peeled and chopped (or cannned)
almonds, blanched and ground to powder, 300g
broth/ stock, stock cube (approx. 3 cups of liquid)
salt and pepper to taste
PROCESSES
Cut the goat into medium sized pieces (so that you have to use a knife and fork to cut it on your plate). Trim off access fat and wipe the meat dry.
Heat the oil, add the goat and the onion and brown it lightly.
Add the marsala and deglaze the contents in the pan.
Add the tomatoes, herbs, 1 cup of broth and seasoning.
Cover and cook on low heat and until meat pulls off the bone. Pomar’s recipe suggests cooking it for 45 minutes, my goat (rather than kid) can take up to 2 hours of cooking.
Add the almond meal and reheat gently. If the sauce is too dense, add a little more broth.
Although Sicilians and Italians tend to eat their food lukewarm, the recipe states to eat it hot.

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