Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Sicilian Festival in Spitafields, London



Are you crazy about Sicilian food and products? Do you miss your local cannoli and the exquisite arancine? Well... stop for a second and read this post.

This week-end in Spitafields, (London) you have the opportunity to breathe and taste a bit of Sicilian Culture. The "Made in Sicily", infact, has arrived in London in a proper metropolitan market where you can find Sicilian food stalls but also artisanal craft, handmade products, an art exhibition.

I rejoyced when I saw my favorite cheese of all times: the primosale, also in the version with black pepper and red pepper, but also the fabulous caciocavallo ragusano.

I also decided to buy a biological honey handmade in an Agriturismo near Noto, in the south of Sicily.


Moreover, especially for the kids, there is going to be a performance of the renowned Sicilian marionettes or puppetts (l'Opera dei pupi).



Don't miss the celebration of such an amazing culture, where not only your stomach will be fed, but also your imagination and your creativity.

The Sicily Festival 2017 is organised by PopUp Market Sicily and takes place in Bishop Square, London on saturday and sunday the 20-21 of May.




Saturday, May 13, 2017

Any food lovers looking for a great holiday in Sicily? Read on!

The "Venus Castle" situated on the rock in Erice (Tp).

Are you a crazy foodie that love to try new dishes and new cuisines? Would you like to plan a visit to Sicily to enjoy the sea, the sun and the renowned food? Are you passionate about wine tasting and want to find out more?

I have got the answer to your questions and is called "Enogastronomic Tour". It's, hands down, the best deal for those who want to enjoy a typical holiday visiting historical cities without leaving out the passion for food and wine.


In the province of Trapani this tour is organised by the Hotel GranVeliero with a one week vacation in amazing places full of culture and history like Marsala, Palermo, Erice and San Vito Lo Capo with its amazing beaches

One of the most famous Sicilian dishes: sarde a beccafico
You will stay in a comfortable hotel (rooms with bathroom, wi-fi, and breakfast included) and you will learn about the local cuisine and the ingredients, experience the open food market and cook new recipes with a professional Sicilian chef. On the sightseeing side there will be an English guide that will accompany the group during every excursion.

In a nutshell it's going to be an amazing holiday full of colors, smells, emotions and flavors. Something unforgettable... just like Sicily.
 
For more details or enquiries drop me an email at siciliancuisine@gmail.com

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Sicilian barbecue: sasizza, stigghiole and carne di crasto

Typical Sicilian barbecue - thanks to Barbara for the pic.

Have you ever heard of the Sicilian word "arrostuta"? And what about the Italian translation "grigliata"? These are normally the names we use in Sicily when we are preparing a barbecue.

Spring is always welcome because the temperature increases, the sun is out, but also every year we have 2 bank holidays in Italy: the 25th of April (the Liberation of the nation from the Fascists) and the 1st of May (the day dedicated to the workers).
These are normally days you spend with friends in which we organised a one day trip out of the city either to the seaside or in the country side, as in Sicily we have plenty of choices regarding where to spend the day.
Whichever place you decide to go to, there is always one thing that normally is associated with that day and that is called, as I was saying,: barbecue or "arrostuta"!!! :D

You need the "sasizza con finocchietto", the typical Sicilian sausage wheel seasoned with fennel seeds, the "carne di crasto" which is meat from the mutton, tender and tasty and finally the stiggliole.

The "stigghiole" in particular are a traditional dish of our street food, part of our poor cuisine. It is not rare to find a "stigghiularo" (the person who grill and sell the stigghiole) in a corner of a street. Let's say that wherever there is smoke there is probably a stigghiolaro nearby. (See the pic here on the right).

Stigghiole are lambs or goats' intestines normally wrapped around a long leek. We eat them hot from the barbie, seasoned only with salt and lemon. There is no neutral zone here, either
you love them or hate them.

Thanks to Mariarita for this pic.

You can obviously add any other meats and vegetables you love: ribs, steaks, our wonderful involtini (beef rolls, see the Messina style ones here) and of course onions, eggplants, bell peppers, ecc...

Finally one very traditional thing is to grill the artichokes at the very end of the fire and although everyone is incredibly full there is always a little space in the stomach for slowly tasting the artichokes one leaf after another.


So if you happened to be in Sicily in one of those days don't be afraid of the smoke you see coming your way, it's probably only a bunch of friends having a barbecue. :-)


*A special thanks to my 2 friends Barbara & MariaRita for letting me use their pictures.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pan d'arancio: the perfect marriage between Sicilian almonds & oranges


Have you ever heard of a Sicilian cake called "pan d'arancio"? The pan d'arancio (literally orange bread) is a typical cake prepared in the province of Palermo that eminently combines two typical products that Sicily offers during the winter and the spring season: oranges and almonds.


It is a soft orange-flavored sponge, perfect for any occasion: a birthday, a rich breakfast or a Sunday afternoon tea with family and friends. 

It has an extremely delicate taste and it can be served either with a sprinkle of icing sugar or with a bit of more character, the proper orange icing on top.

It's absolutely delicious!



Ingredients and preparation:

200 gr. 00 raising flour
100 gr. ground almonds
150 gr. caster sugar
150 gr. butter
1 large orange (zest and juice)
3 eggs

For the icing:

100 gr. icing sugar
the juice from 1 orange

1.In a large bowl mix the eggs with the sugar, whisk well until properly and smoothly beaten. 2. Add the grounded almonds plus the raising flour, finally the melted butter. 3. In a blender put the whole orange (previously rinsed) in pieces (better if a biological one). 4. Once it has become a pure' add it to the rest of the mixture until is smooth. 5. Pour the mix in a baking tin previously buttered and floured and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Temperature should be 180°degrees.

To check the cake open the oven after 30 minutes (never before) and try it with a wooden stick to see if it's still uncooked or humid in the middle. Try again, if required, a second time after 10 minutes.

Prepare the icing in a plate by melting the orange juice with the icing sugar until you get a semithick icing that you can pour on top of the cake and on the side using a spatula. You can also decorate it with small orange candies on top. 

You will find that this typical cake not only is exquisite but is also extremely genuine. Enjoy!

To see a lighter version of the Pan d'arancio click HERE

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Simple and genuine, the perfect minestra for the Holy Week

Have you ever tried this genuine and super healthy minestra dish that we called pasta with lettuce? This recipe has very poor origins as it was prepared with only 2 ingredients in ancient times: romaine lettuce and pasta, while nowadays we can add some more flavors but still it doesn't loose its simplicity and genuiness.


It is a great choice if you want a low-calories meal or you need to fix issues: from an upset stomach to lower the blood level of colesterol and sugar, and it is also a source of minerals for our system, in particular magnesium, calcium and potassium.

I
t is also a perfect dish to have in days such as Good Friday to feed your soul as well as your stomach. Reason being that Good Friday is a day of moaning and fasting for Catholics (fasting usually intended as not to eat any food between meals and have a light lunch/dinner) but also abstinence from any meat in respect of the Crucifixion of Jesus.

So... I have given you many reasons why you should try this soup pasta. What are you waiting for? :))

Ingredients and Preparation for 2 people

1 romaine lettuce
120 gr pasta, either small pasta for example what we called ditalini (small thimbles) or broken spaghetti
chilli pepper (fresh or powder)
40 gr. seasoned Sicilian caciocavallo in small dice
grated caciocavallo or pecorino
30 gr. salt

Switch the heat on and put a pot with 3/4 of water for your soup pasta. In the meantine, wash the lettuce under running water, cut it in pieces and when the water boils, put the salt and drop the lettuce. Let it cook 10 minutes on a low heat.
While lettuce is cooking, cut your caciocavallo cheese in dice, weighs your pasta, then mix it with the lettuce (not the cheese though) and the chilli pepper. If you like you can also add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder.

Let it cook together according to what type of pasta you have got. Check the packet in any case, if it's small thimbles, for example, will take few minutes longer compared to the broken spaghetti.

After 7-8 minutes check the pasta by tasting it. If it's still too hard, give it another 1 or 2 minutes, then switch the heat off and add the cheese in dice at the very end.
Serve hot in soup plates or small bowls and add some grated cheese on top of your choice. I usually put some grated caciocavallo as well or pecorino. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Crazy about Sicilian granita? Go to the "Nivarata" in Acireale


Have you ever tried a Sicilian granita? A granita is a flavored slush but on a completely different level. It's typical of Eastern Sicily (especially Catania and Siracusa) and is tasty,  refreshing and you can choose among dozens of different flavors.

People have it for breakfast or for afternoon snack, or whenever the heat becomes unbearable in Sicily. The most ancient ones are definitely the lemon and the almond one, but you can have coffee, pistachio, mandarine, fig & basil, chocolate and so on... depending on the creativity of the Maestro in charge.

In any case, any flavor you will choose, it has to go with the famous "brioche col tuppo", which is a soft bun with a small cap on.

For those who are visiting Catania and Acireale at the beginning of June there is an appointment you cannot miss.

It is called the NIVARATA and it's a Festival of the most exquisite granitas in the world.

If you estimate this amazing product or you just want to try it for the 1st time, this is the event for you!

For all the details and dates you can visit the Official site HERE

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Crespelle, zeppole or Benedettine: 3 names but only 1 recipe!


Have you ever heard of the "crespelle di riso catanesi"? Or as we call it in Sicilian "i crispeddi"? This is a recipe which is traditionally prepared in Catania and Siracusa for the festivity of Saint Joseph, on the 19th of March. It is also popular during the Italian Carnival, which obviously changes every year, according to the day of Easter.

The word "crespelle" literally means crinkly, because it's something that is crunchy outside, but remains soft inside. The story tells that the first to cook this exquisite recipe were the Benedictine nuns in Catania back in the XVI° century, infact another name to call them is also "Benedettine" or even "zeppole di riso".


Ingredients & preparation for about 25 crespelle


Add caption
- 250 gr Rice (the one for risotto like Arborio)
- 300 milk
- 250 water
- 150 flour 00
- 60 gr. Caster sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon (powder)
- 5 gr. Brewer's yeast



 You will also need:

- groundnut oil for frying (or alternatively you can use coconut butter)
- some icing sugar for decoration

For the syrup or dipping sauce:
- 250 gr. orange blossom honey
- the zest and the juice of 1 orange (biological)


STEPS:
Step 1: cook the rice in the milk

1. Pour the milk in a pot on a medium heat. When it starts boiling "cala" (drop) the rice in and add a pinch of salt and the sugar. Lower the heat and let the rice absorb the milk. If once absorbed the rice is still not cooked completely, add some hot water little by little (like you would do with a normal risotto). 

Step 2: mix all the ingredients



2. As soon as the rice is cooked, remove it from heat and place it in a large bowl where you will add the flour, the cinnamon,  the yeast melt in a bit of lukewarm water and some of the grated orange zest (if you like it you can also mix orange and lemon zest). 

The result has to be a thick dough, if too thick you can still add few more drops of milk, but it is important that has quite a solid texture.


Step 4: flatten the rice mix



3. Once the mix is ready, let it set for about 1 hour in a cool dry place.
 


4. After this time place the mixture on a large baking paper and flatten it with a spoon or a spatula like shown in the pic here on your left.




Step 5: frying time!




5. Pour the oil in a large frying pan and when it arrives at temperature with a knife and a spoon (or again a spatula) cut little cylinders of the rice mix and fry them on both sides until they get golden brown. 

Once you have finished all the dough and have fried all your crespelle, place them on a nice serving plate (better is it has high rims) or a bowl and start preparing your syrup.




For the honey syrup or dip sauce: 







6. In a medium pan, heat the orange juice adding the honey and some orange zest and gently stir with a wooden spoon until they are perfectly melted together. 

Finally, pour the syrup over the fried crespelle and add some more orange zest on top and sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve hot. 

Every one will go crazy about them and will ask you for more. You have my word! :-))

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mr. Sirah from the Mandrarossa family, best friend ever... I mean wine!


A real friend never lets you down, especially during hard times. Right?
The other night it was pouring down heavily, my train was delayed and when I finally got back home I was exhausted. I had one of those days in which you don't stop for a second, and when you can finally relax, lie on the sofa and watch some telly, your brain just won't let you, because is still busy thinking a gazillion things.

I decided I needed a good friend to keep me company, one of the few that never disappoint you because they are truthful and sincere, so I went for my massive cellar (a tiny cabinet in the kitchen...) and uncorked one of my favorite Sicilian wines, the Mandrarossa Syrah from Cantine Settesoli, Menfi (AG).
Photo source: mandrarossa.it


The Syrah cultivated in
this part of Sicily (south-west/Agrigento province), also known as Shiraz, is unique and definitely a superb product.

Essentially for two reasons: the sandy soil where the grapes grow and the perfect weather that gives the wine a fruity, tasty but delicate flavor.





It is a quite structured wine with a red intense color and purple tinges and
notes of figs, lavender and elderflower. 

It can be used as a "mono-cultivar" (100% sirah) or blended with Nero d'Avola.

Best served at room temperature (16-18 degrees).
 


The perfect pairing for this red are dishes like grilled vegetables, semi-matured cheese and the traditional macco di fave, the fava bean mash.

As I was ready to eat, I looked outside the window and the rain had stopped. I could see the light of the moon. I switched on the heating, cut a slice of bread, had some grilled aubergine with cheese and poured myself a glass of this lovely wine, and I soon felt warm and reassured.

Never underestimate what a good friend can do for you.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Palermo is the Capital of the Italian Culture for 2018


 

Dear friends,
 

I am so proud to announce that Palermo two days ago has been nominated by the Mibact Commission <<Capital of Italian Culture for 2018>> and I personally want to celebrate this victory sharing this beautiful video created by Giovanni Santamarina and posted by Vivendo Palermo.

How to describe Palermo? 

Palermo makes your heart beating fast, because is a contagious mix of feelings.

It's joy and chaos, it's breathtaking monuments, dirty streets, millenium of history, people shouting for no reason, the Festino
on the 14th of July, the smell of pane e panelle, the sun that burns your skin, the opera dei pupi, the Phonicians footsteps, the car left in the middle of the street, the Marzipan fruits on the 1st of november, a sketch of Ficarra & Picone, a refreshing glass of acqua e anice, the sculptures of Serpotta, the blood shed from our heros, the sea that cools you down when the scirocco is blowing from Africa, and it's more people shouting for a lot of valid reasons.

For these things and for a thousand more there is no other place like Palermo.

Palermo is light and darkness, it's silence and noise, it's legality and crime, it's welcome and exclusion, it's a bay and a mountain, it's love and hate, it's culture and ignorance, it's honesty and corruption, it's laugh and cry, it's humanity and inhumanity, it's life and death.

It's a sweet slice of cassata with a bitter black expresso. It's everything and beyond.

There is no such thing as a good or a bad description of something so incredibly complex and difficult and so extraordinary at the same time. Palermo is an unspeakable beauty with thousands of different souls and colors, and after you visit it you will never be the same, because it will simply take your breath away.

It will stay in your eyes, find a place in your heart
and never leave you.

Proud that my city has got such a rewarding recognition and I do hope is gonna be used in the best possible way!

VIVA PALERMO E SANTA ROSALIA!
  
 
And you? How would you describe Palermo?



Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rianata and tabisca: delicious local Sicilian focaccias

Rianata Trapanese
Have you ever heard of the names "RIANATA TRAPANESE" or "TABISCA SACCENSE"? And what about the "FUATA NISSENA"? Do not worry. They are not bad words... ha ha ha.

These are the names of three typical local focaccias who have very similar basic ingredients, although they originally come from three different Sicilian provinces.

Many times I talked about the sfincione palermitano, but now from Palermo we are going to move east, south and centre. The Rianata infact is a Sicilian word that means something with a lot of oregano and is from Trapani, the tabisca is made in Sciacca and in the whole Agrigentino land, while the fuata (again another Sicilian word which means focaccia) comes from the town of Caltanissetta.

Ingredients & Preparation for one pizza rianata

 For the dough

-
25 gr fresh brewer's yeast

- 500 gr strong flour 

- a pinch of salt

- half a cup of lukewarm water 

- 1 tbspoon extra virgin olive oil

Let's start by melting the yeast in the warm water with a pinch of salt. Once is all melted pour the water into the flour and start kneading. Add the oil of olive and if the result is still a bit hard just add 2 more tablespoons of water.

Knead the dough properly until is smooth and elastic. Make a ball of it and place it in a large bowl to rise for at least one hour. Make sure you keep it in a repaired place away from drafts and cover it with a kitchen cloth or an old blanket.

For the seasoning

-  400 gr ripe tomatoes 

- 6 anchovies filletts 


-
3 or 4 cloves of garlic 

- 80 gr grated pecorino

- dried oregano and thyme

(as much as you like)


- 4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil


- salt & pepper

Put the kettle on to warm up some water. Once the water boils cover the tomatoes with it and leave it for about 10 minutes. It will help peel the tomatoes skin very easily.

Once you have peeled them all, cut them into pieces and season them, adding the other ingredients: salt & pepper, olive oil, grated pecorino, plus the anchovies fillets and the garlic both crashed into tiny little  pieces. 

Finally add abundant oregano and thyme and the seasoning is ready.

Switch the oven at a temperature of 200°. If 60 or 90 minutes have passed is definitely time to roll out the dough. Place some oven paper on the base of your oven tray, than shape the dough as you prefer: either rounded, oval or squared. 

As soon as the oven reaches the right temperature season the dough with the tomatoes mix and place it to cook in the oven for at least half an hour. You can check after 20 minutes, but make sure you also check the bottom of the focaccia to see if it's cooked. 


The cooking time can vary according to your own oven, so I would say keep checking every 10 minutes until you see that the dough is perfectly cooked and is golden brown. Add few more drops of olive oil and serve hot. Everyone will love the genuineness and simplicity of this dish as well as the tasty flavours too. 

It is also perfect for vegeterians or for people who can't eat dairies (in that case just leave out the pecorino.) 

Enjoy!