Friday, August 3, 2012

Olimpic Games 2012 & Sicilian food, all in the heart of London

For those who are in London on the occasion of the Olimpic Games 2012: athletes, visitors or just normal citizens of this amazing city, there is a very interesting appointment that you cannot miss.
Let's start saying that in the heart of Covent Garden, precisely at Goodwin's Court, there is a charming Italian restaurant with a Sicilian flair: Giovanni''s. The owner and Chef Pino Ragona is a Sicilian doc, so he cooks both Italian and Sicilian dishes.

In this coming week, 4-11 of August, Goodwin's Court will change name to become "Benvenuta Italia street", a place where all the excellence of Italian food and wine will meet in a kind of one-week exhibition. Especially on the 8th of this month Giovanni's restaurant will celebrate its 60th birthday and chef Ragona has organised a dinner to raise money for the earthquake in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. Newspapers and magazines write that at the event there will be important personalities like former Prime Minister Tony Blair and athletes of different sports.

Apparently the restaurant is used to receive important guests of the music field, but also footballer/soccer players and coatches and even Princess Diana went there once. So if you are wandering around London during the Olimpics don't forget to stop there and have a drink for me. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The basics of Sicilian Cuisine: the "Soffritto"

The soffritto is the basis and essence of Sicilian Cuisine
Do you know what does "soffritto" mean? This word is one of the most common in cooking Sicilian or Italian style. It actually is both a noun and a past participle for us, referred to the verb "to brown" or "to sautee".

In our cuisine we usually distinguish three different types of soffritto: the principal ingredient of the three is obviously the excellent extra virgin oil of olive. Then we can have (according to the dish we have to prepare) a soffritto made with garlic or a soffritto made with onions. The garlic can be normal or "in camicia", (literally with shirt). It means you can use the clove without removing its skin. This happens usually when it's really late and you don't have a minute to spend for peeling the cloves.
We have some pasta condiments that need garlic, some other onions so it really depends on the recipes, normally we tend to use more garlic for fish and onion for meat.
The third one (pic above) is the one that I call the 'mix soffritto' because it is made with a mix of thinly chopped onion, celery and carrots and we use it for long preparations like ragù with minced meat or wherever you need a stronger parfumed soffritto.

Now, it is very important to understand a couple of secrets for the best result of this elementary recipe: (which technically is not a proper recipe but just the first phase of lots of recipes!)
- keep the gas on a medium heat
- do not let the garlic or the onion burn, because we are not frying we are browning so they have to become kind of golden.
- when you cook something like a big piece of meat, prepare the mix soffritto and after 4-5 minutes in which the ingredients are sauteeing and getting golden, add a glass of water and half a glass of white or red wine while the meat is cooking and don't forget some salt and pepper.

So from now on, whenever you find the word "soffritto" you know what you have to do. Have fun :-)