sicilian food

All posts tagged sicilian food

When your mom says it’s the best pasta dish she’s ever tasted…

Published August 27, 2013 by The Feminist

… you’ve simply got to post it on your blog!

Are you ready?

Here it is: my conchiglie pasta with a mackerel and fennel saffron sauce!

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Applause!

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This is a very special pasta dish. Not only is it ridiculously delicious, but it is also ridiculously easy and quick to make. Seriously, if you don’t try it, you are absolutely bonkers!

This dish was inspired by my passion for Sicilian food and its intriguing blend of Italian and North African flavours. One of Sicily’s national dishes is pasta con le sarde; a wonderful sweet and salty spaghetti with fresh sardines, wild fennel, raisins, pine nuts and saffron. The combination of sweet and savoury is typical of Sicilian food and one of the main reasons why I love it so much.

As you may guess, I’m not one to copy a recipe straight from the book and like to put my own twist to things. I decided to stick to the fennel and saffron, but I opted for a funkier type of pasta shape (funky me!) and used fresh mackerel fillets instead of sardines. (In my humble but honest opinion I truly believe that mackerel is the most beautiful looking and tasting fish in the entire world!)

And this is where it gets weird: The traditional dish requires a dry white wine for the sauce, but I didn’t feel like opening up an entire bottle of wine just so I could use a splash of it in my sauce, so I ended up pouring a good glug of Martini Bianco in my pan.

Yes.

Martini Bianco. You know what our good ol’ friend George Clooney used to say: No martini, No party!

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I know you think that a food purist would consider this sacrilege, but I swear on my mother’s incredibly advanced flavour palate that the sweetness of the martini is a wonderful accompaniment to the aniseedy fennel and aromatic saffron!

And this is where it gets really bonkers: the traditional pasta con le sarde is presented with toasted breadcrumbs on top, but I really couldn’t be bothered to make some croutons from scratch and was about to skip this part of the recipe when I got a twisted idea …While I was frying the mackerel fillets skin-side down in a pan, I got overly excited about the crispiness of the skin and decided to turn the skin into a mackerel skin crumble topping. I removed the skin from the soft and succulent flesh of the fish and chopped it op as finely as possible and sprinkled it on top of the pasta when it was finished! Eureka!

So imagine me and my mom sitting at the kitchen table. The pasta dish was made in no less than 15 minutes so we weren’t really expecting to be hit with the most incredible flavour bomb in the history of flavour bombs. And then it happened: we took a bite… looked at each other in utter surprise… and sighed out of pure contentment. “This is by far the best pasta dish I’ve ever tasted”, my mom said after a couple of minutes. (the disbelief clearly audible in her voice 😉 )

And you know what they say:” mums know best”, so this has got to be the truth!

Ingredients (serves 2):
• 225gr of conchiglie pasta
• 1 fennel bulb
• Handful of cherry tomatoes
• Generous pinch of saffron
• Juice of half an orange
• A good splash of martini bianco
• 3 fresh mackerel fillets
• Pinch of chili flakes

• Handful of toasted pine nuts

Method:
1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
2. Finely slice the fennel in thin stripes and half the cherry tomatoes.
3. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the mackerel skin-side down until the skin gets really crispy. (Cook the mackerel entirely on the skin side, this will keep the flesh extra moist)
4. Remove the skin from the fish. Keep aside and flake the flesh of the fish and put it in a bowl.
5. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan you used to cook your fish and now add the fennel, tomatoes , chili flakes and salt. Sautee for a couple of minutes.
6. Pour an generous splash of martini over the top, together with the saffron and let it simmer until the liquid has almost entirely evaporated.
7. Add the juice of half an orange and season with some extra salt and pepper.
8. Add your cooked pasta, an extra tablespoon of olive oil and stir through the flaked mackerel fillets.
9. Toss through some toasted pine nuts and at the very last minute chop your crunchy fish skin and scatter all over the pasta.

I’m gonna make you a dinner you can’t refuse: The Codfather

Published April 16, 2013 by The Feminist

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I know, I know, this may not be the world’s most inventive pun but humor me for a second here. I believe that I have every right to call my dish the Codfather. Not only because it was an Italian dish with Sicilian influences, but also because it was BY FAR the best cod I had ever tasted! It was so absolutely scrumptious, I would gladly commit a crime just to defend its deliciousness.

Just imagine a beautiful piece of cod fillet… roasted in the oven with a topping of sundried tomato spread and fragrant olives… served with a comforting Mediterranean vegetable and basil risotto…

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Trust me, you would be willing to get your hands dirty too, If you could have this on your plate for dinner! 😉

The codfather

Ingredients:

• 4 pieces of cod fillet
• 200gr semi-sundried tomatoes, on oil
• ½ small red chilli pepper
• 2 cloves of garlic, one for the spread and one for the risotto
• 100gr marinated green olives
• 350gr risotto rice
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 courgette, finely diced
• 1 red pepper, finely diced
• 250gr cherry tomatoes, quartered
• Bunch of basil leaves
• 200ml white wine
• Vegetable stock
• 30gr pecorino cheese

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 200°C.
2. Put the semi-dried tomatoes in a blender together with the chilli and one clove of garlic.
3. Spread this lovely paste on top of each cod fillet and put some halved olives on top.
4. Put the fillets in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with olive oil. Put in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, sauté the chopped garlic and onion in some olive oil until soft.
6. Add the rice and stir well for a couple of minutes.
7. Add the wine and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until nearly all of the liquid has evaporated.Then add the finely diced courgette and red pepper. Season with some salt and pepper.
8. Add a ladleful of the vegetable stock to the pan and stir well. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until nearly all of the stock has been absorbed, then add another ladleful of the stock. Repeat the process until the rice is cooked but still al dente.
9. Stir in the cherry tomatoes and grate in the pecorino cheese
10. Finish the risotto with lots of fresh basil.

Sicilian pasta with a Belgian twist: yes, it is possible! Spaghetti alle acciughe with amazing Brussels sprouts

Published March 29, 2013 by The Feminist

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Thank goodness for Sicilian food! And thank goodness for my best friend who speaks fluent Italian so I don’t have to consult a dictionary every time I want to cook something Italian! Of course, I could just say “spaghetti with anchovy” but that just sounds really boring. “Spaghetti alle acciughe”, on the other hand, sounds like summer on a plate, reminiscent of the hot weather on the island of Mount Etna.
I am big fan of Sicilian food and I especially adore the combination of sweet and salty in their pasta dishes. However, this is not your typical Sicilian dish. In fact, most Sicilians will probably get a heart attack merely from looking at the title of this blog post. (Jeeez, such wussies!)
So to all the Italian/ Sicilian/ “Do not mess with classic dishes”-ian people out there: don’t read on! To all the rest: try the recipe, it is a true delight! 😉
This simple whole wheat pasta dish combines the classic flavours of Sicily (raisins, anchovy, lemon) with the typical gutsy ingredients Belgium is so renowned for (Brussels Sprouts). If I had to compare this dish with a Hollywood couple, it would be Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling. Hot and steamy. But also very robust and mysterious. Oh yes, this dish is Eva and Ryan intertwined in one big bowl of pasta… I better stop with this comparison because it is getting a bit out of hand 😉

Spaghetti alle acciughi with Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients :

• 350gr wholeweat spaghetti or linguini
• 500gr Brussels sprouts, trimmed
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
• Handful of raisins
• Zest and juice of half of lemon
• Handful of roasted flaked almonds
• Parmesan, grated
• 25 anchovy fillets, in oil

Method:

1. Bring a large pan of water to boil, add plenty of salt and cook the pasta according to packet instructions. (Save some of the starchy cooking water for the pasta sauce)
2. Meanwhile, blanche the Brussels sprouts for a couple of minutes and then rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Cut the al dente Brussels sprouts in half.
3. Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and fry for three minutes until the onion has softened.
4. Then stir in the cooked pasta, Brussels sprouts, anchovy fillets and raisins.
5. Add some of the cooking water from the pasta to give the pasta a glossy look and smoother texture.
6. To finish, stir through lots of grated parmesan cheese, sprinkle some lemon juice and zest over the top and garnish with some crunchy almond flakes.

That’s Amore: Me & La Cucina Siciliana

Published February 2, 2013 by The Feminist

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Of all the different regional cuisines Italy has to offer, Sicilian food is by far my favourite. The island’s food culture hasn’t just been influenced by the Italian continent, it has also adopted ingredients and flavour combinations from Spain, Greece and North Africa, giving Sicilian food its unique authenticity. Sicilians are masters when it comes to the balancing of flavours, with striking dishes such as pasta tossed in freshly grilled sardines, raisins, garlic, saffron and pine nuts.

… I’ll give you some time to process this example of heavenliness…

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As a tribute to “La cucina Siciliana” I decided to conjure up a dish inspired by my love for Sicilian food.

Stuffed peppers with raisins, olives, white beans and lemon zest.

(Served with some sunny tomato sauce.)

Ingredients (for one portion ):

• 1 red or yellow pepper
• 150g of white beans
• A handful of raisins
• 1 clove of garlic
• Lemon zest
• A handful of chopped olives
• Parmesan cheese

Method:

1. Mix the white beans, raisins, garlic and olives together in a bowl. Season with salt, pepper, a pinch of cinnamon and chili powder and finally grate in some lemon zest.
2. Add a good tablespoon of olive oil and give it a quick taste (warning: it is very tempting to eat the whole lot… try to control yourself!)
3. Cut the red pepper in half and stuff the peppers with the yummy filling.
4. Put in a preheated oven at 200°C for 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Serve with tomato sauce and pasta, rice or Sicilian couscous.