Thursday, 27 February 2014

Pasta with sardines

They say that this classic Sicilian recipe was born by chance during the Muslim domination in Sicily. Anyway Pasta with sardines is probably one of the dishes that best represent Sicilian cuisine.
Make sure you have enough time, if you are not an expert cleaning the sardines will be a long work! Or ask to have the fishes cleaned where you buy them!

Ingredients for 4 people

320 grams /9.5 ounces bucatini o large maccheroni
400 grams/ 1 lb fresh sardines
1 onion
25 grams / 1 ounce raisin (make it soft soaking in water for 20 minutes)
25 grams / 1 ounce pine nuts
2 tinned/salted anchovies (carefully deboned)
Approx 300 grs  fresh fennel fronds
Extra virgin olive oil (evo)
2 pinches  of saffron
50 grams / 2 ounces bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

How to

1)    Soak the raisins in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes.

2)    Wash and boil the wild fennel in a pot of salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and reserve the water, then finely  cut the vegetables very well and cut them into small pieces.



3)   In the meanwhile clean and debone the anchovies and the fresh sardines.

Start by cutting with your finger on the "neck" and gently pull. the guts will come out as well

 Now take the bone away by pulling it and remove the tail.
 Check if any bone was left and take it away.

4)    Place a larger pan over medium heat. Add the oil and, as soon as it is hot, add the finely chopped onion. Once the onion is golden, add the anchovies. Break them apart using a spoon let them dissolve and add the fresh sardines, the raisins and the pine nuts. Let all cook and break the fishes into pieces by stirring.

5)    Cook for about 10 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Add the wild fennel. Stir gently and lower the heat.

6)    Dissolve a pinch of saffron in a in a couple of spoons of the boiling water and add it to the sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes. Set aside.

1)    Toast the breadcrumbs in a pan over high heat, tossing now and then until golden/brown.

Re-heat the water used to cook the wild fennel leaves until it boils, and pour the pasta in it. Add some more water if needed. When ready (follow the instructions on the packaging) drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the sauce, stirring well together with the bread crumbs.

Serve hot or warm.

You can also prepare this recipe in advance and warm it up later on, in this case, grease a baking pan with butter, put in the pasta and the sauce, spread with the bread crumbs and bake in a 425°F oven for 10 minutes.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Bread soup - Pancotto

This is a very simple, yet tasty old recipe and goes back to a time in which stale bread was far too precious to be thrown away or used to feed the animals.

This soup is very good, and reminds me reminds me of cold days in which I was ill in bed and my grandmother came from the countryside to take care of me while my parents were at work.
I would like to thank a new friend, Anna, for reminding me of the old days, and for giving me her personal version.
In the South of Italy this soup is made with tomatoes and other vegetables, but I want to stick to my traditions this time. As soon as I find a good recipe for "pappa al pomodoro" (typical Tuscany soup) I will give you the recipe.

Ingredients:(serves 4)

about 300 grs/ 11 ounces of rustic, country stale bread
1 onion
4 spoons extra virgin olive oil +  some to season
20 gr butter
1 bay leaf
1,0 /2 pints vegetable stock
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Olive oil

Too little stock

1)       Cut the bread into thick slices and put them a bowl, cover with the stock and let it soak for ½ an hour.

2)       Finely chop the onion, warm the oil and the butter in a pan, add the bay leaves and the onion and let it cook over the low heat until the onion becomes transparent and soft.

3)          Squeeze the bread (keep the stock !)and put it (the bread)in the pan and let it cook over the medium heat for a couple of minutes mixing now and then. In this phase the bread will absorbe the taste and smell of the vegetable

4)       Add the stock until it covers all the bread, bring it to the boil and mix very fast to dissolve the bread and cook until the soup is thick. Season with salt and a pinch of pepper (which was not allowed when I was a young girl)

5)       Serve in a bowl with an abundant sprinkle of grated Parmigiano Reggiano  and a drizzle of olive oil  - I said a drizzle but my husband put in more. Deliciously simple anyway!


Do not use sandwich bread of the loaf, this bread is too refined and the soup will become sticky.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Cats' tongues cookies

These cookies are very easy to make and children can take part if they like.

Just few ingredients, indeed, but they are great, with the afternoon tea or to garnish an ice cream.
Have a look at the ingredient: too easy. But delicious!

Ingredients for about 50 biscuits

100 grs. / 3.527 ounces flour
100 grs./ 3.527 ounces sugar
100 grs. / 3.527 ounces soft butter (unsalted)
1 egg white

How to:

1) Pre-heat your oven at 150° C / 300 F. Cover a oven (or two if you have) tray with non stick paper or silicone mat.

2) Mix well your butter to make a cream.

3) Add the sugar, mix well, then add the flower, keep mixing and last add the egg white, to obtain a thick mix.

4) Put part of the mix in cooking syringe or in a pastry bag with a large round ending.

5) Now create the biscuits, about 2 inches long, and lay them on the tray. Keep them well separated because while cooking they melt.

6) Put the biscuits in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes. You have to check on them continuously because they burn very fast. When the edges are golden, take the tray out of the oven and let them cool down before removing.

When completely cool you can put them in an air tight container - they will keep well for a week.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Octopus and potato salad

I really like octopus, but it has to be very soft when you eat it. Whichever is your recipe, if you cook it for a long time and you  let it cool in its water it will become  very soft and delicious. So now you know that you have to cook it well in advance....
This is a traditional recipe and it is enough for lunch or dinner.
If you want you can serve it as an appetiser, in this case cut smaller pieces and use the tiny finger food containers which are so trendy... (make a lot)

Ingredients for 4

1-1,2 kg/2/2.5 pounds octopus (fresh or de-frozen) (1 or 2 fishes)
1 carrot - washed and diced
1 celery stick with its leaves
½ onion – diced
½ cup chopped parsley (chop it when the dish is ready)
1garlic clove
6 pepper grains
4 medium potatoes
4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Lemon juice if you like it

How to:

1)    Clean and de-beak the octopus/es. Take the inside organs and the eyes out and throw them away.

2)    Place it in a pot of cold water with a diced onion, a garlic clove, a stick of celery and a diced carrot. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender – one and a half hours or more. It is ready when it breaks very easily. The skin will be dark red. Let the it cool in the water. 

    Peel the cooled octopus (skin and suckers will slip off like a glove) and cut it into bite-sized pieces. (sorry I forgot to make the picture, but it is very simple). 

Season with salt, and extra virgin olive oil. 

3)    Wash the potatoes very well as they will be cooked in their skins.

4)    When the potatoes are soft, drain them and, as soon as possible, (depending on how much heat your fingers can stand) peel and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

5)    Toss the potato and octopus together with some more olive oil, the juice of lemon, minced garlic, half a cup of chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

6)    Serve warm. This recipe can be prepared in advance, but remember to remove it from the fridge at least half an hour before eating.

Tip:  in order to avoid the taste of the cold potatoes, I prefer to cook the octopus well in advance, season with salt and oil  - in case refrigerate it, and add the hot potatoes and parsley before eating.