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Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category

I know…I’ve been gone rather longer than a month. Sadly not because I got stuck in Sicily. Things have been a bit crazy since we got back and I didn’t want to rush just to get a post out but I have been feeling a bit guilty about not writing.

This morning I finally sat down to go through our holiday snaps and gather together all the photos of food which I had greedily hoarded as we ate our way through Cefalu and Taormina.  I love that photos trigger the visual memory but  a memory of the smells and flavours as well. Although, its a little depressing sitting in front of a rainy window in scotland when your stomach is sitting thousands of miles away in the sun in front of a plate of crispy lemon anchovies.

(I’m having a warm buttery croissant with sweet cactus jam and a creamy coffee to make myself feel better)

Anyway, back to holiday food. Don’t panic. Endless adjective heavy passages about the scenery and dishes of Sicily are not about to follow (you can buy a guide book for that), but I can’t resist writing about a few dishes that I’m still getting hunger pangs over.

Besides discovering Piadine – (an Italian flat bread similar to a tortilla) which we made into toasties nearly every day with  local cheese, tomatoes and thin parma style ham – we ate out a lot so the only dish I actually cooked in Sicily was crispy anchovies and aubergine fritters. I couldn’t resist the fishmonger in Cefalu with its piles and piles of fresh fish and I have a particular soft spot for anchovies so we bought a few large handfuls and grabbed an equally irresistible looking purple aubergine from one of the vegetable stalls and headed back to our little apartment with a view of the mountains and the sea.

Everyone always says there’s no point in trying to recreate something you ate in the Mediterranean because it will never taste the same at home but although I know the aubergines will never be as sweet and firm and the extra ingredient of fierce sunshine will be lacking, Scotland has pretty good seafood so I’m not scared to make these anchovies again. Obviously I was quite limited in my access to cooking utensils so this recipe is all handfuls and pinches and its extremely simple. It doesnt really need exact measurements to work and I think that goes against the idea so I haven’t converted everything into grams and teaspoons.

Crispy Lemon Anchovies with Aubergine Fritters

  • 2-3 large handfuls of anchovies (roughly one handful per person if serving as a meal)
  • 1 aubergine cut into  slices
  • About 2 cups of plain flour (this is a lot of flour but I found it easier to work with more)
  • 2 generous pinches of salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (you might need another one depending on the size of your eggs)
  • oil for frying

First gut and prepare the anchovies. Make a slit down the belly of each anchovy, remove the guts and cut off the head just behind the gills. Place the anchovy flesh side down and push down the spine to flatten. Turn it over and pull out the spine, including the tail fin.

Split the flour into two bowls and season well. Zest the lemon and add to the flour for the anchovies. Heat two frying pans with a couple of centimetres of oil in each (you could also use a deep fat fryer).

In batches, toss the anchovies in the flour, dip in the egg and then toss in the flour again. Drop them into the oil. For the aubergines, dip each slice in the egg and then in the flour and drop straight into the oil. Fry both anchovies and aubergines for a couple of minutes each side until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with wedges of lemon and a green salad.

My favourite meal of the whole trip was on our last night in Taormina at a little terrace restaurant called Trattoria don Camillo. When I think of meatballs I think of a heavy tomato sauce but I took the advice of our waiter and had their Polpette arrosto nelle foglie de limone (meatballs cooked in lemon leaves) and Insalata di patate con capperi e cipolle (potato salad with capers and red onion).

Words wont do it justice but the meatballs were heavenly lemony and juicy despite not having a sauce and the potatoes just perfectly balanced against the salty capers and crunchy onion.

Polpette arrosto nelle foglie de limone

Meatballs cooked in lemon leaves. Serves 3-4.

  • 400g veal or beef mince
  • 100g white breadcrumbs
  • 100g grated caciocavallo or parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 16-30 lemon leaves depending on size (you can either wrap one around or use two per meatball)
  • olive oil

Mix the mince and breadcrumbs in a bowl, then add the egg and the grated cheese and mix by hand. Season with salt and pepper. Divide and shape into plum sized balls and flatten slightly. Wrap in the lemon leaves and place on a baking tray (if roasting) or rack (if grilling). Brush with olive oil. Either cook the meatballs in 200°C oven for 10 minutes each side or on a hot grill for 3-5 minutes each side until cooked through. Serve with a light salad or green veg.

As if this wasnt enough to send me into raptures, our waiter then offered me Marsala mousse for dessert – a light and fluffy vanilla mousse delicately flavoured with Marsala wine. I could have quite happily had a second helping and I’m dying to recreate this at home with the bottle of Passito that I brought back.

If I could keep only two recipes from Sicily these would be them, well… these and Cannolli but that’s another post…

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