Tag: Traditional Foods of Sicily

Legendary Dishes | Pastitsio (pasta bake)

CAUCASUS CYPRUS GREECE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN

Tourists visiting the Mediterranean islands of Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily and Sardinia might be forgiven for thinking there is an ad hoc competition among their restaurants to see who produces the best pasta bake. The Greeks of course will tell you their pastitsio is the best and the rest are mere imitations.

And there is the dilemma, each chef – domestic and professional – has their own interpretation, albeit subtle tweaks that are not always discernable.

We have favoured an eastern Mediterranean sensibility with cheese custard for the topping rather than a white sauce, thick tube pasta cooked and dressed with eggs and cheese, and a meat filling flavoured with onion, marjoram, mint, parsley and thyme.

Pasta

  • 500 g penne / rigatoni pasta
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 90 g hard cheese
  • 60 g butter
  • 5 g black pepper
  • Salt, large pinch
  • 2 gratings of nutmeg

Meat

  • 750 g beef / lamb / pork mince
  • 250 g onion, thin sliced
  • 125 ml meat stock
  • 45 ml dry white wine
  • 30 ml vegetable oil
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 5 g salt
  • 5 sprigs parsley, chopped small
  • 10 mint leaves, chopped small
  • 5 sprigs marjoram
  • 5 sprigs thyme

Topping

  • 1 litre full-fat milk
  • 500 g halloumi cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 45 g cornflour
  • 30 ml water

Finish

  • 90 g kefalotiri cheese / hard cheese, grated
  • Butter, for greasing

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, drain and place in a large bowl. Melt butter and pour over the pasta. Add the cheese and seasonings, toss, add eggs and toss again. Set aside.

Sauté onion in oil for 10 minutes, add the meat and cook until brown. Add the wine, stock, herbs and seasonings, simmer for 20 minutes until almost all of the liquid has been reduced. Leave to cool.

Whisk the eggs and milk for the topping in a pot, bring slowly to the boil. Whisk the water into the cornflour, pour slowly into the egg-milk mixture, heat gradually until the mixture begins to thicken, add the cheese.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Grease a large baking tray, place half of the pasta mixture on the bottom, follow with the meat mixture, the remaining pasta mixture and the cheese custard. Sprinkle the top with the grated hard cheese.

Bake for 50 minutes.


THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | 10 Fish Breakfasts

1 Norwegian Breakfast

Lefse – Potato Cakes

Once upon a time travellers on Norwegian Railways sleeper trains were handed special tickets by the train chief. ‘These are for your breakfast, go to the hotel across from the station,’ the chief would explain to bemused travellers. The sight on arrival in the grand hall of the grand hotel was a grand breakfast, an assortment of hot and cold foods that had no rival anywhere in the world. Sadly this tradition has lapsed. On the sleeper trains between Oslo, the capital of Norway, and Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim and between Trondheim and Bodø in the far north, a modest breakfast is served onboard. The grandiose buffet breakfasts are becoming a thing of the past, but some hotels are clinging to tradition by presenting modest grand buffets. Think of every possible breakfast food that is served across Europe, add the Norwegian love for loaves and fishes, cheeses and crispbreads, bacon and eggs, pickles and potatoes, and then something you never imagined.

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Cheese – Brunost Cheese – Gamalost Cheese – Gudbrandsdalsost Cheese – Jarlsberg Cheese – Norvegia Cheese – Pultost Cheese – Ridder Cheese – Snøfrisk Coffee
  • Crackers
  • Crispbreads
  • Eggs – boiled, fried, poached
  • Fishes – Klippfisk (cod), Lutefisk (lyed cod or ling), Sild (herring)
  • Leverpostej (liver paste)
  • Milk
  • Museli
  • Pickles
  • Lefse (potato flatbreads)
  • Potatoes
  • Smoked bacon, grilled to a crisp
  • Smoked salmon, with lefse or toast
  • Tea
  • Toast
  • Yoghurt

2 Welsh Breakfast

Bacon and eggs are a traditional breakfast throughout Europe, cockels and laverbread less so. In south Wales the sands stretch the length of the Gower peninsula. This is the cockel shore – a place of the laver. Laver is a soft purplish sea vegetable found at Atlantic shores, picked from rocks at low tide. It is thoroughly washed in two changes of water, drained, cooked and sold dried or fresh.

  • 8 slices smoked back bacon
  • 400 g laver pulp
  • 100 g oatmeal
  • Cockles
  • Eggs

Combine laver pulp and oatmeal, shape into 5 cm wide, 2 cm thick cakes. Fry bacon, remove, allowing fat to drip into the frying pan, keep warm. Bring heat up, wait until the bacon fat is starting to smoke, then fry the laver cakes, two minutes each side. Serve with bacon, sausages and poached (or fried) eggs … And fresh cockles.


3 Irish Breakfast

  • 8 potatoes
  • 4 mackerel, filleted
  • 90 g butter
  • Seasonings

Boil the potatoes in their skins. Pan-fry the mackerel in half of the butter, skin-side down first. Serve with the potatoes, split in half, a little butter in each.


4 Sicilian Breakfast

  • 2 squid, cleaned, cut into small pieces
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 5 g chilli flakes
  • Water, for boiling

Bring water to the boil, heat oil in a deep frying pan. Place squid in the boiling water, boil for 90 seconds, then transfer it to the frying pan. Flash fry squid, about three minutes, adding the chilli after two minutes. Deglaze pan with lemon juice, pour over squid, serve.


5 French Breakfast

  • 16 oysters
  • 4 slices thick country bread
  • 4-6 slices streaky bacon
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 15 ml anchovy sauce
  • Pepper, large pinch
  • 4 wooden skewers

Shell the oysters, soak in the anchovy sauce and lemon juice. Season, wrap a piece of bacon around the oyster, skewer, four to each stick. Toast the bread and place the oyster wraps under a hot grill for two minutes.


6 English and Scottish Breakfast

  • 600 g haddock / smoked haddock, cut into chunks
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 350 g long grain rice
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 75 g onion, chopped
  • 25 g butter
  • 5 g parsley, chopped
  • 5 cardamoms, crushed
  • 3 g cinnamon
  • Turmeric powder, very large pinch
  • Seasonings
  • Water, for boiling

Sauté onion in butter in a large frying pan for ten minutes, add bay leaf, spices and seasonings. Stir rice into the onion mixture, add stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Simmer haddock in water for five minutes, flake and set aside. Chop eggs into small pieces. Stir the eggs, fish and parsley into the rice, heat through, season.


7 Swedish Breakfast

  • 2 litres water
  • 250 g smoked salmon, sliced thin
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 slices wholewheat bread
  • 10 g salt
  • Black peppercorns, crushed

Salt the water and bring to the boil. Break an egg into a small bowl, carefully let it slip into the water, reduce heat and poach for three minutes, remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper. Repeat with remaining eggs. Toast bread, place a poached egg on each slice, garnish with equal amounts of the salmon and a sprinkling of black pepper.


8 Turkish Breakfast

  • 1 kg Black Sea anchovy fillets
  • 250 g corn / maize flour
  • 4 lemons, juiced
  • Sunflower oil

Pour flour into a large bowl, dredge anchovies through flour, place side by side on plates. Heat oil, fry anchovies until crisp, drain. Serve with lemon juice.


9 Greek Breakfast

The art of preparing octopus for the grill has consumed the time of Greeks for centuries. The tenderising process alternates between pounding, freezing, baking, marinating and slow cooking. Yet the one method that remains infallible is drying the whole fish under a hot sun in a light breeze.

  • 1 kg octopus, sun dried
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 30 ml vinegar
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tbsp oregano

Blend the oil and vinegar, cut the octopus into pieces. Marinade in this mixture for an hour. Grill under a high heat for three or four minutes until the flesh is tender. Serve with vinaigrette of lemon juice and oregano.


10 Russian Breakfast

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat describes caviar as ‘the last legendary food of modern times’. Traditionally caviar was made from the roe of wild sturgeon in the nutrient rich Caspian Sea.

It came in four varieties: –

Beluga (pale to dark grey eggs from the larger fish, up to 1000 kg).

Oscietra (various coloured eggs from the smaller fish, 300 kg).

Sevruga (dark grey to black eggs from the smallest fish, 60 kg).

Sterlet (a very small sturgeon that is almost extinct).

Seruga is thought to be too strong for a breakfast caviar, beluga too rich, which leaves oscietra, a light nutty caviar. Because of its flavour, roe from the Icelandic capelin is accepted as caviar and suitable for breakfast.

  • 2 eggs
  • 80 g oscietra caviar / black capelin caviar
  • 45 ml kefir
  • 45 g flour
  • 10 g sugar
  • Baking soda, large pinch
  • Oil, for frying
  • Salt, pinch

Whisk the kefir into the eggs, season, add flour and soda to make a smooth batter, leave to froth. Heat some oil in a hot frying pan, pour a tablespoon of the batter into the centre of the pan, remove from heat. When holes form on the surface, flip over, and after a few seconds press with a spatula into the pan, putting it back on the heat for a minute. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with the caviar.


Legendary Dishes | Agnello all’acciuga (lamb with anchovies)

ITALY SICILY

Only the Sicilians would conjure a liasion between fresh anchovies and young lamb. Each is delicate and that is the secret of this dish. Cook it low and slow.

  • 1 kg lamb, cut into 3 cm dice, floured
  • 350 g anchovies, fresh, deboned
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 45 g wheat flour
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 10 g black pepper, cracked
  • Salt, large pinch
  • 1 sprig parsley

In olive oil flavoured with a parsley sprig over a medium heat fry the cloves of garlic. When the garlic is evenly brown remove from the oil, increase heat and fry the floured pieces of lamb.

Season the lamb, cook covered over low heat for 40 minutes.

Remove the lamb from the pan and and keep warm.

Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, add the anchovies, cover and allow them to melt into the cooking liquid.

Replace the lamb in the pan, leave to cook covered for a few minutes until the lamb has absorbed the anchovy flavour.