A style of Sicily: caponata, pasta with sardines and apricot ricotta cake — recipes

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We arrived in Sicily in a snarling temper. The journey had been depressing, however we’d lucked out on the vacation spot. Our Airbnb turned out to be a sumptuously baroque home with marble fireplaces, vintage terracotta tiles and a sweeping stone staircase.

Better of all, it was on a non-public property surrounded by an abundance of fruiting bushes — veteran, gnarled olives, almonds, oranges, lemons, figs — with Mount Etna looming within the background, smoke billowing from her core, blessing the soil and no matter blossomed from it together with her volcanic eruptions. I stood squinting on the sky amid a symphony of fowl calls and the hum of bees, the thud of ripe fruit surrendering to gravity. My London fatigue evaporated.

With our bellies rumbling we drove into city seeking lunch, however we’d forgotten that Sicilians love a siesta. The retailers have been shut and the piazza had emptied out in order that the nice snooze may ensue. Doggedly, we adopted our noses to the nice and cozy waft of a trattoria the place the clatter of cutlery rang out from behind a door left ajar. Inside, convivial diners sat round lengthy tables with platters of cheeses and cured meats, small, marinated fish, oiled up buxom tomatoes and a lot extra.

It was a non-public social gathering, the christening of a dimpled child who turned out to be the proprietor’s granddaughter. Our attraction offensive paid off and so they agreed to allow us to have a desk on the terrace so long as we have been pleased to eat no matter got here out of the kitchen. We accepted gratefully.

Gastronomically talking, Sicily is the assembly place of not less than two main traditions, the Arab and the southern Italian. The consequence, as we found that afternoon, is a succession of thrills: an imposition of spices on the homegrown, candy and bitter sauces made with tart capers and candy raisins and desserts wealthy with nuts and ricotta.

It was fairly the culinary parade: a bottle of Etna Rosso perfumed like a Catholic church, bowls of sturdy caponata, sardines swimming in grassy olive oil, mountains of ricotta salata grated over pasta alla Norma and a cake bursting with fruit and booze served in a pool of cream. As I do each time I’ve a superb meal, I’m going house and attempt to recreate its magic. So right here’s a style of Sicily — no Air Miles required.


© Aaron Graubart

Serves 6

  1. Warmth half the oil in a big frying pan over a medium-high warmth. Add the aubergine in batches and stir often till golden, then drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the onion, celery and pepper and stir often till they’re very tender — this can take 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle within the cinnamon and the garlic and fry till aromatic, after which add the tomatoes, sugar and 250ml water and simmer till diminished by half. Return the aubergine to the pan and simmer till tender and the combination is diminished to a thick sauce. Take away from the warmth and stir within the olives, capers, currants and vinegar. Season and funky to room temperature. Serve scattered with the basil and parsley and a beneficiant drizzle of additional virgin olive oil.

Pasta con le sarde

© Aaron Graubart

Serves 4


  1. Start by making the pangrattato. Preheat the oven to 180C. Combine collectively all of the components in a small bowl, unfold out on a baking sheet and bake for 10-Quarter-hour or till golden and crisp. Put aside.

  2. In a small saucepan, convey the wine to a simmer and take it off the warmth. Add the sultanas and saffron and depart to infuse.

  3. Season the sardines. Drizzle them with just a little oil after which fry for two minutes on either side till golden, crisp and cooked by way of. Put aside and hold heat.

  4. Warmth the remaining olive oil over a low-medium warmth. Add the fennel and fennel seeds and cook dinner till tender. Pour within the wine and sultanas, convey to the boil, then cut back the warmth and cook dinner for 10 minutes or till the liquid has nearly evaporated.

  5. In the meantime, cook dinner the pasta in a big saucepan of boiling salted water, drain and return to the pan together with the fennel. Add the sardines, the parsley and half the pangrattato, then toss gently to mix. Serve instantly, scattered with remaining breadcrumb combine and a few lemon wedges.

Apricot ricotta cake

© Aaron Graubart

Serves 6

For the sponge

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and flippantly butter and line a 20cm cake tin with greaseproof paper.

  2. Add the apricots, sugar and Moscato to a pan and simmer for 5 minutes till they’re tender however nonetheless holding their form. Take away the pan from the warmth and put aside.

  3. In a big bowl beat the entire egg, the yolks, sugar and seeds from the vanilla pod till pale and thick. Slowly add the cooled butter adopted by the ricotta to the thickened eggs. As soon as the batter is easy, fold by way of the flour, baking powder and salt. Spoon the combination into the tin and easy the highest with the again of a spoon. Peel the pores and skin off the apricots and organize them over the batter, gently pushing in just a little. Scatter flaked almonds evenly over the floor of the cake. Reserve the syrup for later.

  4. Place the cake into the center of the oven and cook dinner for 20-25 minutes or till a skewer comes out clear when inserted into the centre. In the meantime, cut back the Moscato syrup over a medium warmth till thickened and brush over the floor of the cake.

  5. Permit the cake to chill within the tin earlier than slicing and serving. Serve with cream if desired.

Ravinder Bhogal is chef-patron of Jikoni. Observe Ravinder on Instagram @cookinboots and Twitter @cookinboots

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FTWeekend Pageant, London

Jikoni chef-patron, Ravinder Bhogal can be cooking peaches with silken tofu & Thai basil gremolata on Saturday, September 3 at FTWeekend Pageant. Register as we speak.

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