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

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- 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)

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, March 5, 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:

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.