Sardine Escabeche and Croatia

The Nanbanzuke recipe I posted earlier this month intended to allude this Sardine Escabeche recipe.

I came across savur, a.k.a. ‘savor’ or ‘saor’, Croatian escabeche when I was making  my ‘To-Eat in Croatia’ list picking out the local dishes from Taste of Croatia. It describes savur that ‘Traditional way of preparing and preserving fish, usually sardines and anchovies, that is very popular in regions where ancient Venetian republic ruled but very similar recipe can be found even in distant Japan’, which attracted my interest on the propagation: the Portuguese  or Spanish dish was passed on eastward – e.g. to the Mediterranean regions, Philippines, Japan etc. as I mentioned on the Nanbanzuke  post (also spread westward to their colonies in the new continent as well, though).

Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to try escabeche in Croatia, so I made it myself referencing a recipe on the web and adding some changes.

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

6 butterflied sardine fillet
salt and pepper
15 g plain flour
15 g  cornstarch
50 ml olive oil, to shallow fry

[Marinade]
100 ml water
75 ml white wine vinegar (acidity 6%)
60 ml white wine (I used medium bodied Riesling)
½ tsp caster sugar
60 g red onion, finely sliced
30 g carrot, julienned
30 g celery, julienned
3 small sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
½ tbsp salted capers, rinsed
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ tsp fennel seeds
1 dried bay leaf
fresh rosemary springs
fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp juice of fresh lemon

extra virgin olive oil, to garnish
sweet paprika, to garnish (optional)
celery leaf or flat leaf parsley, to garnish (optional)

 

 

Method

  1. Season the fish with salt and pepper, and lightly dust with a mix of the flour and starch. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry over medium heat, skin-side down until lightly brown and drain excess oil. Set them aside in a wide non-reactive tray.
  2. Place the celery, carrot, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, bay leaf, rosemary, sage, fennel seeds, sugar, vinegar, water and wine in a non-reactive saucepan, bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, and pour over the fish. Set aside to cool completely, and scatter the lemon juice before place in a fridge. Leave for at least 2 hours or overnight to marinate.
  3. On a platter, top with sardines, garnish with the paprika and green leaves, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil when serve.

 


I tried as many dishes as I listed whilst in Croatia this summer and learnt that Croatian cuisine has received influences from neibouring cultures and the countries ruled the territory of Croatia throughout history. It has similarities with Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish etc., but each region has its own distinct culinary traditions. I stayed mostly in Split and Dubrovnik, the coastal Croatia, and enjoyed lots of seafood cooked in traditional Dalmatian way.

Seafood Dishes

Brudet: fish soup served with polenta

 

Gulaš od Hobotnice: octopus stew

 

Škampi na Buzaru or ‘Skampi Buzara‘ @ Villa Spiza in Split – this place is getting very popular and takes no reservations. Go earlier to avoid the long queue, prob. by 7.00 pm at latest.

 

Crni Rižoto: black cuttlefish risotto @ Amfora near Gruž Port in Dubrovnik – loved the wild fennel adittion! Their Miso Fish Soup and Chilled Fennel Cream Soup looked nice.

 

Meat Dishes

Pašticada, so called ‘Queen of Dalmatian Cuisine’, served with potato gnocchi – meat dish but one of the most popular Dalmatian dishes.

 

I tried Ćevapčići in Bosnia Herzegovina where it is considered a national dish. Ćevapi or Ćevapčići is well known and eaten in all parts of the former Yugoslavia once under the Ottoman Empire. Next time Dubrovnik, I will try Taj Mahal (funny, it’s not an Indian restaurant!) near Lapad, not in the Old Town, to explore more about Bosnian food. Sofra in Zagreb was pretty good.

‘National Plate’ @ Sadrvan in Mostar – dolma, japrak, ćevapčići, lepinja, ajvar, đuveč, Bosanski Kolacic

 

Those I mentioned above were all nice, however, what I enjoyed more was the food cooked with bare minimum of seasoning and really brings out the full original flavour of ingredients.

grilled trout @ Plitvice Lakes

 

The octopus salad at Konoba Menego in Hvar Island is highly recommended. All the ingredients were fresh and tasty, especially the caper! They don’t sell their homemade capers, unfortunately…. Instead, they advised me to find ones preserved in vinegar at farmers’ market. Their cheese and dry-cured ham platter looked yum.

octopus salad @ Konoba Menego

 

In Dalmatia, fresh seafood grilled over open flame is superb. It is simple, but tastes different as it is cooked with fresh olive oil and Mediterranean herbs over olive tree or grapevine wood fire, which gives it deep flavour. So the grilled meat and vegetables are flavourful, too.

grilled sea bass @ Miličić Winery

 

Lady Pi-Pi, one of MUST places in Dubronik, offers delicious BBQ food at reasonable price considering to the location (within the Wall), a great view over the Old Town and good atmosphere under the grape trellis. They don’t accept reservations, so I avoided dinner time and dropped in just before lunch time (breakfast is served until 11:00). I had to wait a bit for a table to be ready, but there wasn’t a queue.

left: my lunch – grilled squid @ Lady Pi-Pi

 

You absolutely must try peka while in Dalmatia! Peka is a slowly baked dish with meat or seafood along with vegetables in a pot or tray, but it is actually a method of cooking, and also a dome or bell-shaped ceramic or metal lid. The dish is also called ispod čripnje, or ‘under the bell’ – food cooked under the bell-shaped lid in fireplace.

dome-shaped peka -(souce: Travels with Tricia)

The lid is covered with hot coals while the ingredients are being slowly cooked in their own juices under the ‘bell’. That is why they are moist and flavoursome. It is said that it probably is the oldest way of food preparation in the Adriatic, even Mediterranean area – according to some archaeological researches, the artifacts of peka was found in the layers of Bronze Age.

It may be a primitive way of cooking, but the result is more than satisfying!! Even the potatoes accompanied by were moreish!

fireplace for peka @ Miličić Winery

 

I wish I could have joined sunset tuk tuk tour followed by dinner at Konoba Dubrava, one of the most popular peka places in Dubrovnik! Unfortunately, it was not available for just one person…. Anyway, I had a chance to try some, which was divine!

peka @ Miličić Winery

 

Some locals I met while in Dubrovnik dreamily said octopus peka is scrumptious and much tastier than meat one. It was too late to notice some restaurants near Polače Port in Mljet serve octopus peka – little time was left until departure back to Dubrovnik…. Peka usually needs to be ordered in advance and takes some time to be prepared. Stop by and ask restaurant staff before you visit the Mljet National Park if you make a day trip to the island.

octopus peka (source: Croatia Travel Guide & Blog)

 

In Dubrovnik, I rented a holiday apartment halfway between the Old Town and Gruž Port – less expensive and much quieter than staying inside the Wall. There are very frequent bus services to/from the centre until late, however, it was just about 20 minute walk and very safe even at night. I sometimes walked down for a glass of wine or a scoop of ice cream enjoying cool evening air after dinner at the apartment.

There are fish and green markets near the port, where I popped in almost every day to get some fresh fruits for breakfast, and vegetables etc. for my cooking. I cannot recall well, but I think the mussels were about 15-20 kunas per 1kg.

my cooking: mussels cooked in Pošip (Croatian white grape variety) wine
Also made my lemony pasta with ricotta filled raviori instead of adding the cheese (click here for the recipe)

 

Dalmatian cheese and dry-cured ham also are a must, which I shall mention when I write about Croatian wines.

 

 

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Nanbanzuke – Japanese Escabeche

Nanban is a Sino-Japanese word, originally referred to the inhabitants of Southeast Asia, particularly the islands of modern-day Philippines and Indonesia. After Portuguese first made contact with Japan in the 16th Century followed by Spaniard, the trades based in their colonies in Southeast Asia were carried out. Consequently, ‘Nanban’ became to designate Portugal and Spain (mainly the former), the people and things from the countries and trades.

As the name indicates, nanbanzuke (tsuke or zuke means ‘marinade’, ‘pickled’, ‘soaked’, ‘dipped’), a Japanese dish which is principally deep-fried fish soaked in vinegar based marinade flavoured with soy sauce, dried red chili pepper, onion or Japanese leek etc., is Portuguese origin and derives from the escabesche.

… in Portugal, escabeche (eesh-kah-besh) is a way of preserving food in vinegar and aromatics. It is commonly served cold as a petisco (Portuguese tapas) with some bread to soak up the sauce. Recipes vary but the basics consist of fried sardines or mackerel marinated in a sauce made with vinegar, olive oil, onions and herbs. Its origins go back to the Romans who used vinegar to preserve both fish and meat though the word comes from the Arab iskbê.

(source: Portugal on a Plate)

 

Sardinha de escabeche (source: Pinterest)

 

When it comes to the main ingredient of nanbanzuke, it usually refers to aji, Japanese horse/jack mackerel, but there are many varieties: wakasagi Japanese smelt, mackerel, sardine or salmon, meats like chicken nanban, or even vegetables. The Nanban-style marinade and the history of influence to Japanese cuisine remind me of Filipino Adobo originated in Spain.

 

Click here for my Chicken Adobo recipe

 

Red chili pepper and deep-frying cooking method you can recognise in nanbanzuke dishes, were also introduced to Japan through Nanban. That is the reason why the pepper is also known as ‘nanban kosho’, or nanban pepper.

At soba or udon noodle places, you might come across kamo nanban (soba/udon) and/or curry nanban (soba/udon). In this case, ‘nanban‘ designates red chili and onion or Japanese leek (as substitute of onion), which is  plausibly said that Nanban-jin were eating a lot of Japanese leek to prevent cholera at the time when kamo (duck) nanban was invented in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867). Onion was also brought to Japan by Nanban trade during the period, but remained as an ornamental plant until the turn of the last century.

Oops! Sorry, too many trivia. It’s already September, but summer is still here. Enjoy this refreshing nanbanzuke dish in hot weather!

 

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

[Marinade]
5 cm x 5 cm dashi kombu (dried kelp)
60 ml water
50 ml rice vinegar (acidity 4.5%)
2 tbsp usukuchi shoyu (Japanese light soy sauce)
2 tsp caster sugar
½ dried takanotsume red pepper or dried red chili pepper (small-sized)

60 g onion, finely sliced
20 g carrot, julienned
6 small fillet of aji, mackerel, salmon or sardine
10 g plain flour
10 g katakuriko or cornstarch
vegetable oil, to deep fry

optional as garnish:
shishito pepper or okura,  prick each to avoid explosion
kabocha, sliced

 

 

Method

  1. Leave the akatogarashi in water for a while. Drain, seed and cut into thin slices.
  2. Put the water, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a non-reactive tray, and mix well until sugar dissolved. Add in the kombu and akatogarashi, then onion and carrot to marinate. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat to 180℃. Lightly dust the fish with a mix of the flour and starch. Fry shishito and kabocha (without flour/batter coating) first, both sides until slightly brown and drain excess oil. Fry the fish in the same way.
  4. After frying, immediately marinate: remove the vegetables from the marinade, put the fries into the liquid and cover with the onion and carrot. Stand for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight.

 

 

On more trivium:

 

You may already know, but tempura is one of the Nanban cuisine as well.

Portuguese merchants introduced tempura to Japan. They were in the habit of eating fried fish during the religious seasons (“tempora“) of abstinence from meat.

The word “tempura“, or the technique of dipping fish and vegetables into a batter and frying them, comes from the word “tempora“, a Latin word meaning “times”, “time period” used by both Spanish and Portuguese missionaries to refer to the Lenten period or Ember Days (ad tempora quadragesimae), Fridays, and other Christian holy days. Ember Days or quattuor tempora refer to holy days when Catholics avoid red meat and instead eat fish or vegetables. The idea that the word “tempura” may have been derived from the Portuguese noun tempero, meaning a condiment or seasoning of any kind, or from the verb temperar, meaning “to season” is also possible as the Japanese language could easily have assumed the word “tempero” as is, without changing any vowels as the Portuguese pronunciation in this case is similar to the Japanese.

(source: Wikipedia)

Lemon Lentil Soup and London

We have reached May already…. April has gone without any posts – things have been too hectic here to do blog hopping (sorry guys!) and posts.

This lentil soup is a copycat from Gaby’s Deli, a Jewish restaurant at Leicester Square, London. Not sure if I could succeed in copying it…. Or rather I should say I just tried to imitate their recipe, however, I like mine very much.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
¼ tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh coriander stalk, finely chopped
100 g onion, finely chopped
70 g carrot, finely chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
650 and 150 ml water
4 tsp no sodium vegetable bouillon (adjust according to the package instructions)
200 g dried red or yellow lentil, rinsed
1 tsp dried mint leaves
½ – ¾ tsp fine sea salt (adjust according to the package instructions)
1 juice of fresh lemon

fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
slices of lemon, to garnish

Method

 ( For 3 -4 servings)

  1. In a large saucepan, put in the olive oil, ginger, garlic and coriander, then fry over low heat stirring consistently until fragrant. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes but not brown. Spoon in the turmeric and cumin powder, and carry on until fragrant. Add the carrot and fry for further one minute.
  2. Pour the 650 ml water into the pan, stir in the lentil, bouillon, salt  and mint, and increase the heat to bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover to simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Purée the soup in a food processor or a blender until completely smooth. Let it sit for overnight if possible.
  4. Return the purée to the pan with 150 ml water and reheat over low heat. Pour in some more water if too thick. When boiled, add the lemon juice and simmer for a few minutes. Taste it and add more salt and/or juice of lemon if needed. Remove from the heat.
  5. Serve the soup in bowls and garnish with a slice of lemon and coriander leaves on top.

When in London, I pretty much enjoy Middle Eastern food. Below are the restaurants and shops I have tried:

Gaby’s Deli
Once it was forced to close, but fortunately still there! It’s no-frills but I enjoy their food and atmosphere. I pop in for a quick meal or when I’m away from home for a while and eager for vegetables.

Lentil soup (source: Yelp)

 

Honey & Co.
Very popular restaurant at Warren St. Booking is a must.

 

Mr Falafel

 

Hummus Bros

 

And I tried my blogger friend Kay’s recommendations last year. Thank you Kay for the posts, Yalla Yalla and the Barbary !

Yalla Yalla

At the corner of Green’s Court, found a nice Italian deli, Lina Stores and took away a cannolo.

I’ll definitely go back for their fresh pasta!

 

The Barbary

Halva ice cream

 

Restaurants and shops on my list:

Ottolenghi
Honey & Smoke  – Thank you Kay for sharing the review
Berber & Q – Shawarma Bar
Maroush
Karma Bread Bakery
Pilpel
The Good Egg

Let me know if you have any recommendations! Also if you happen to know where I can purchase a bottle of Arak, Israeli anis liqueur.

 

If you badly want tons of Halva…

It’s a Greek restaurant, but try the Greek Larder at King’s Cross when Whole Foods Market’s tiny package cannot satisfy you! They would happily slice some for you  – I bought about 500 g 😀

Flammkuchen and Ahr Wine Region

Three flammkuchen – with bacon & onion, smoked salmon & courgette, fig & cranberry cheese – recipes to follow below.

flammkuchen with fig & cranberry cheese

As I posted last month, I went to Germany last year to see the wine festivals. What I enjoyed most there, however, is  Rotweinwanderweg, i.e. Red Wine Hiking Trail, rather than the festivals.

A view from Rosenthal Vineyard – St Laurentius Kirche in Ahrweiler Markt

Rotweinwanderweg runs high above the floor of the Ahr Valley along the River Ahr which flows into the Rhine just south of Bonn. It offers beautiful views over the vineyards and spectacular ones overlooking the valley.

The trail is 35.6 km long and takes in the winemaking villages in the Ahr wine region en route (More about the region, read my Holiday in Vineyards): from Altenahr in the west, it stretches via Mayschoß, Rech, Dernau and Marienthal, passing by Walporzheim (where I saw the festival), Ahrweiler (where I stayed) and Heimersheim (where another festival was held), then to Bad Bodendorf in the east.

 

Rotweinwanderweg Route Map with vineyard names

Unlike in the Lower Ahr Valley between Walporzheim and Heimersheim with flatter vineyards and mainly loess soil, in the Middle Ahr Valley, vines grow on the steep terraced cliffs of volcanic slate. The grapes on the south-facing vineyard slopes can receive a greater intensity of the sun’s rays, with sunshine falling on an angle perpendicular to the hillside, and the soil has an ability to store heat during the day, and gently releases it during the night. This is one of the reasons why full-bodied wines can develop here despite the northern location.

See? How steep the vineyards are!

I felt myself as if I were a ski jumper on a takeoff ramp!!

I’m not a wine expert. I don’t know much about Terroir and how different soils affect the flavour of wine, but I liked the wines from the Middle Ahr Valley more.

I hiked about 3/4 of Rotweinwanderweg – 26.1 km between Altenahr and Bad Neuenahr Ahrweiler in 3 days. Sometimes I walked down to the villages for some break and sometimes got lost in the mountains 😀  – cos it intermingles with the Nordic Walking Trail!! So I reckon I walked at least 30 km in total.

Walking in the mountains and vineyards, in the fresh air and pleasant sunshine, I felt myself extremely happy – almost natural high like a marathon runner! This is when I decided to start a blog, hence my name, ‘Rotwein Wanderer’.

Most of the trail runs through open vineyards, and various descents and paths lead you from the vineyards into the winemaking villages.

Some parts of the paths are tarmacked for agricultural vehicles.

Each village has some wineries or wine estates where you can sample some wines in their tasting rooms, and cozy restaurants and taverns which serve the local wines. (Read Rhine and Around: Ahr on wine tasting at a wine estate in Ahr – I’m glad she also found the hidden gem! and jealous cos I couldn’t try Jean Stodden’s!!)

pretty buildings in Altenahr
Mayschoß
Dernau

As usual, well-organised Rotwein the foodie had already planned where to have a break and what to eat – like a marathon runner who plots out. 😀  Then headed down a ramp for the first water station, more precisely, DRINK station in Marienthal.

Weingut Kloster Marienthal
A view of vineyards from Klostergarten

Weingut Kloster Marienthal was once state owned, but two cooperative wineries, the Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoss-Altenahr and Dagernova Weinmanufaktur, and two private wine estates, Weingut Brogsitter and Weingut Meyer-Näkel, have managed since 2004. In the vinotheque, you can taste some Kloster Marienthal wines and also purchase a limited range of the four owners’ as well as Kloster Mariental’s.

Weingut Kloster Mariental is located in the former Marienthal Convent with a cafe/restaurant. I took a seat in the patio with a wonderful ambience – surrounded by the ruins of the convent and a view of the greenish vineyards ahead of me.

I ordered „Klassisch“ – ‘Classic’ or traditional flammkuchen – with bacon, onion and cheese along with a glass of their Blanc de Noir as I had found it my very ‘cup of tea’ at Heimersheim Wine Festival a few days earlier.

Flammkuchen with Blanc de Noir @ Weingut Kloster Marienthal
„Klassisch“ mit Speck, Zwiebeln und Käse @ Weingut Kloster Marienthal

The flammkuchen was superb – the best one I’ve ever had! Very crispy rather than crunchy, rich but light at the same time, perfect saltiness….

It was so good that I couldn’t help experimenting at home although I knew it was difficult to roll out the dough very thin and to make it really crisp in high flame – my electric oven isn’t enough!! I believe, however, it turned out rather good! Other than ‘Classic’, tried something different. I wanted to use Wensleydale cheese with cranberries but not available in this country, so substituted Boursin’s – the black pepper gave it a good kick!

If you would like to enjoy with some wine, try Blanc de Noir if available, or Riesling if not. As for the dessert flammkuchen? Hmmm…. Spätlese,  Auslese…. I don’t store sweet/er German wines, so paired with sweet Sicilian spumante made from Moscato Bianco, or Muscat Blanc, which went nice together.

Guten Appetit!

Ingredients

(makes 2: about 20cm x 20cm each)

for the dough (makes 2)

1 tsp instant dry yeast
1/4 tsp honey
100 ml/cc lukewarm water
150 g bread flour
30 g whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil plus some for coating

for the topping

i) Klassisch (for 2)
80 g sour cream
2 tsp Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
white pepper, to taste)
30 g eschallot (French shallot), finely chopped, squeeze and pat dried with paper towel
50 g bacon, chopped
40 g red onion, thinly sliced
fresh chive (to sprinkle), chopped

ii) smoked salmon & courgette (for 2)
100 g sour cream
½ tsp truffle salt (I used black truffle salt)
white pepper (to taste)
30 g eschallot (French shallot), finely chopped, squeeze and pat dried with paper towel
100 g smoked salmon
½ – 1 courgette, thinly sliced
fresh dill (to garnish)

iii) fig & cranberry cheese (for 2)
100 g Boursin Cranberry & Pepper cheese
7 – 8 fresh fig, sliced
balsamic vinegar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 – 2 tbsp runny honey, to adjust (I used orange blossom honey)

Boursin® Cranberry & Pepper
flammkuchen with smoked salmon & courgette

Method

  1. For the dough, dissolve the yeast and honey in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Tip the flours and the salt into a bowl, and mix and form a well in the middle. Pour in the yeasty water and the oil, then mix thoroughly. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add in some more flour or water a little at a time if required.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and coat the surface lightly with the olive oil. Place in a bowl, and cover with a clean tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Divide into two equal pieces, shape both into a ball, and grease with the oil. Cover again and allow to rise a second time for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine i) the sour cream and yogurt in a small bowl. Add in the eschallot, nutmeg, salt and pepper, or ii) cream the sour cream in a small bowl. Add in the eschallot, truffle salt and pepper, and mix well.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  7. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough pieces (2-3 mm). Prick all over with a fork. Spread half of i), ii) the cream mixture or iii) the cranberry cheese onto the dough, but leave a small border around the edge.
  8. i) Scatter with the bacon and onion on top, ii) Top with the courgette and smoked salmon, or iii) Top with the fig, drop the balsamic on each figs and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are nicely browned and the bottom is crisp.
  9. Remove from the oven, and i) sprinkle with the chive, ii) garnish with the dill, or iii) drizzle over the honey.
flammkuchen with bacon & onion and Weingut Kloster Marienthal Blanc de Noir

Caponata/Fish Caponata and Lipari, Sicily

I love caponata and cook it quite often (as I posted in June). This time, however, I made it a little bit different – more Sicilian and summery with vegetable and fish in season. (If you are a vegetarian/vegan or not in the mood for fish, just omit it and add some more vegetables since this recipe is just to combine caponata and fried fish.)

Well ripened and juicy tomatoes at their best are abundant now, so I made Passata di Pomodoro myself to add in. This intense tomato purée is absolutely tasty – natural flavours, especially sweetness, are brought out. You would love to use the passata not only for caponata but also for pasta etc. – I’m going to make Moussaka with this passta and aubergines below.

San Marzano tomatoes to bottle

We are in fresh swordfish months here and it has arrived in stores. In Sicily, swordfish, also in season, is eaten well  and there are various dishes: Involtini di Pesce Spada (stuffed swordfish rolls), Pesce Spada al Salmoriglio (grilled swordfish with lemon Salmoriglio sauce), Pasta con Pesce Spada e Melanzane (pasta with swordfish and aubergine) etc… and of course, Caponata di Pesce Spada. Yes, I’m posting a caponata with swordfish recipe today.

Aubergine Season! aubergines suitable for deep frying: White Bell, Black Beauty, Zebra

There various caponata recipes exist in Sicily with local variations: with pine nuts, almonds or pistachio, mint or basil, sugar or honey; with or without garlic, raisins, peppers (capsicums), anchovy are the examples. You might think ‘!!’ or ‘??’ but adding cacao (cocoa powder or grated chocolate) is also one of the varieties. I’m not sure if this is authentic or not. My Sicilian friend in Palermo hasn’t heard of it and says it may be a new recipe while some mention on the web it’s from Syracuse and Catania areas – I though it might be from Modica, a Baroque town famous for its chocolate.

I tried to enhance the flavours to make it summery adding some more vinegar, for example. The first experiment lacked depth. Honey was added instead of sugar, but not enough and still something missing. I was thinking about using balsamic vinegar instead…. After some more experiments, settled on the two recipes:  i) with unsweetened cocoa powder (thick and rich) and ii) with raisins soaked in red wine vinegar (mildly sweet). Seems my caponatas are a melting pot of Sicily!  😀

Enjoy the summery caponata(s)!

Ingredients

(for 2 – 3 servings; for 4 as antipasto)

for the Passata
1 kg tomato
300 ml/cc water

for the Caponata
500 g aubergine (preferably ‘Black Beauty’), cut into 2.5 cm dice
1 tsp salt

200 g swordfish, cut into 2 cm wide pieces
1/2 lemon, squeezed
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

80 g celery, cut into 1 cm dice
vegetable oil to deep fry (I used sunflower oil)

1tbsp olive oil
120 g onion, sliced
100 g red pepper/capsicum, cut into 2cm thick slices
1 tbsp caper in sea salt, rinsed, soaked for 10 min and drained
50 g pitted olive, halved
200 ml/cc passata
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 tbsp red wine vinegar (acidity 7%)
1 tsp honey (I used orange blossom honey)
i) 1 tsp (a little less than 1 tsp) unsweetened cocoa powder  or ii) 20 g raisins
salt and pepper (to taste)

20 g almond
fresh basil (to garnish)

salted capers  and dried oregano from Sicily, and homemade passata.

Method

  1. For the passata (Prepare in advance or while salting aubergines), place the tomatoes in a large pot with the water. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from the water and drain for a while, at least 30 minutes, until water doesn’t come out of the tomatoes (Do not press or squeeze!). Strain through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using a wooden spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Put the passata in a pan and cook over small heat for 15 minutes or until thickened stirring constantly.
  2. Place the aubergines in a colander, rub with the salt and let it sit for about an hour. Before using, squeeze and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Rub the fish with the lemon juice and leave for 10 minutes. Pat dry with paper towel, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry until cooked through and lightly golden. Set aside.
  4. In a pot, bring the vegetable oil to 180°C and deep fry the celery until slightly brown. Then boil the oil again to 190°C and deep fry the aubergines until really brown (but not burnt). Drain the fried vegetables well on paper towel to remove excess oil.
  5. Dissolve the honey in the vinegar – ii) and soak in the raisins for 10 minutes. Set aside. Clean the frying pan, sauté the onion with another 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat until tender.  Add the red pepper and fry for a few minutes, then olives and capers for a minute.
  6. Spoon in the passata with the dried oregano – i) and cocoa powder. Then pour in the vinegar mixture – ii) including raisins, and mix well for a minutes or until pungent aroma subsides.
  7. Add the deep fried vegetables and the fish, and stir gently to combine. Season with ground pepper, taste it and add salt if necessary. Cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
  8. Lightly toast and chop the almonds, and scatter over or mix in the caponata. Garnish with the basil and serve.

If swordfish is unavailable, try fresh tuna, another popular fish in Sicily. Mackerel is one of the options, too. Next time I will cook with polpo, or octpus!!

 

Memoirs of a Foodie 

I always bring lots of foodstuff back from Sicily: sun dried tomatoes, dried oregano, pistachio (nuts, powder, cream, pesto), anchovy… and salted caper is one of them.

In 2014, I sailed to a smaller island, Lipari in the Aeolian Islands off the northeastern coast of Sicily. When I was enjoying the breathtaking scenery at Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani, a local farmer talked to me and showed me around the field behind the church explaining the crops and plants (I don’t speak Italian but I could understand what he said as I had studied Spanish). He seemed very happy with the arrival of spring and as if he wanted to share the joy with someone. Baby leaves of fig and olive…. It was the first time for me to see caper plants, so I was a bit excited. I think that was why he fetched a jar of homemade capers in sea salt for me! What a surprise and what an encounter!! This is one of the reasons I love travelling on my own.

My rental bike and Salina

And also he plucked a flower and gave me. At home, fully enjoyed caponata, pasta, salad etc. with the capers.

the capers and the flower

 

MUST SEE in LIPARI

Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani

It was early April and still off season – there were some tourists but very quiet. No one up there, and I had the spectacular view and tranquility all to myself!! (but the farmer disturbed! 😀 )

Chiesa Vecchia
Salina, where il Postino/the Postman (1994) was shot

 

MUST EAT in LIPARI

Popped in Gilberto e Vera twice while in Lipari for just wine (aperitivo) and for a panino. Friendly Girberto chose red wine for me – Salina Rosso from Salina Island. (Tripadvisor reviews)

Oscar is a not to be missed pasticceria/gelateria in Lipari. Their cannolo is just divine and the best one I have ever had. Ricotta cream was stuffed in a homemade shell in front of me!! They offered me some almond biscuits, which were superb and I couldn’t resist buying two packets!

pic from TripAdvisor

 

How to get to Lipari

Milazzo Port – Lipari: about 1 hour by hydrofoil or about 2 hours by ferry (Check with ok ferry)
Access to Milazzo Port: Read tips on TripAdvisor Travel Forum

 

Ukrainian Borsch

Still playing with beetroot at weekend 😀

beetroot flipped (sig)

The Ukrainian school girl, who sent me a birthday card last October, kindly gave me a Borsch recipe with a ‘Ukraine National Dish’ postcard. Her recipe doesn’t have ingredient quantities, so I tried as follows:

 

Ingredients

[soup stock]
1 liter water
200 g beef
200 g pork

1 large or 2 small beetroot, shredded (stems and leaves, chopped)
1 large carrot, shredded
1 medium onion, sliced
vegetable oil (to fry)
1/2 tbsp tomato paste

600 cc water
salt & pepper (to taste)
1 large potato, diced
4 cabbage leaves, thinly chopped (make double if no beetroot stems and leaves available)
200 g cooked or 1 tinned haricot beans, drained
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf

fresh parsley (to sprinkle)
sour cream (optional)

Ukraine Borsch

Method

  1. For stock, wash the meat in cold water and place in a large soup pot with 1 litre water. Then bring to the boil and simmer on low heat for one hour and a half skimming off the scum when it appears.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the carrot and onion until the onion becomes translucent. Set aside.
  3. Fry the beetroot for a few minutes. Spoon in the tomato paste, mix well and fry for another 8 mins.
  4. Remove the meat from the stock. Put in the potato with 600 cc water and bring to the boil again.
  5. Add the cabbage with some salt, then cook for 5 mins over low heat. Stir in the beetroot and simmer for further 10  mins. Add the carrot, onion and beans, and cook for a few mins.
  6. Put in the raw garlic and bay leaf. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and turn off the heat and let stand for a while.
  7. Ladle into serving bowls, and serve with a dollop of sour cream and the parsley.
  8. Enjoy the result!

 

borsch postcard

 

I followed her recipe with some simple alterations. It doesn’t specify ‘what’ beans, so I chose haricot – red kidney beans might be better because of its colour. The Borsch is deeper in colour than the soup I usually make – more reddish and beautiful! Maybe because I add some lemon juice or vinegar, and don’t fry tomato paste but just put into broth. It doesn’t have meat itself but satisfying enough – with lots of vegetables and beans. I like this so much that I will follow this recipe from this time forward.

Thank you again, my dear postcrossing friend  in Ukraine. I will send you something later on 🙂

 

borsch postcard stamps

 

Ukrainian Borsch image

 

Zwiebelkuchen – German Onion Tart

Just before the summer has gone, we had a potluck picnic.

A friend of mine was going to bring red wine with her, so I  chose white summer wine. ‘Something good cold too’ needed to be prepared for Riesling. I had just learnt through my cooking that the wine goes well with heavy cream, so Zwiebelkuchen, quiche-like German onion tart immediately came to mind as it had stuck to me recently.

During my holiday in Germany last month, Federweißer (literally means ‘white feather’ in German), a fizzy alcoholic beverage fermented from freshly pressed grape juice, traditionally served with  Zwiebelkuchen  was on my ‘to-eat/drink’ list. One day at a wine tasting table, Rotwein the Foodie, who doesn’t understand any German except some words, never failed to catch the word  when the locals chatting with the winemaker mentioned ‘Federweißer’. Unhesitatingly she asked the winemaker in expectation.

“Too early!!”

was his reply, sad to say. Actually, in some German wine regions, people enjoy the combination in autumn, normally in September and October – just before the fermented grape juice turns to be wine in wine making process, and mid-August was not the right time yet unfortunately. 😦

So Zwiebelkuchen was missed out of the list as well – one of the regrets I left undone in Germany. Anyway, the Riesling (fresh and slightly fizzy white wine) and the Zwiebelkuchen matched well and turned out to be more than the compensation, and besides, they were perfect for the picnic to farewell the summer and welcome the autumn.

Zwiebelkuchen before baking

Ingredients (for 20-22cm pie plate)

A: sour cream
180ml lukewarm heavy cream (30-40℃)     2 tbsp yogurt
(substitute: 200ml crème fraîche will work)
B: Dough
200g flour      100ml milk      40g butter, room temperature
1 tbsp sugar   ½ tsp salt    1 tsp dry yeast
C:  Filling
100g bacon, chopped
3.5 – 4 medium onions (650-700g), sliced thinly
1 – 2 tsp salt (adjust to taste; 2 tsp as appetizer for alcohol)
D:  Egg Filling
2 eggs      4 tbsp flour      1 tsp caraway seeds


 Method 

  • Sour Cream
    Stir the yogurt into the lukewarm heavy cream, and leave it in a warm place overnight or for half a day. (If you use crème fraîche, this process not required)
  • Dough
    Put Ingredient B (except milk) into a bowl, then make a well, pour in milk and bring together. Knead for 5 mins until smooth. Cover with a tea towel or clingfilm and set aside for at least 30 mins.
  • Filling
    Saute the bacon over low heat (no need to be crispy) and set aside. Then  saute the onion slowly in the bacon fat adding salt on low heat until translucent and beginning to brown. Set aside to cool.
  • Egg Filling
    Whisk the eggs and the flour together in a bowl, stir in the sour cream and caraway seeds, and put the onion and bacon in.
  • Preheat the oven 190℃
  • Roll dough out on a lined and lightly floured pie plate. Lightly prick the base of the tart with a fork, and pour the egg filling with onion and bacon mixture over the dough.
  • Put it on the lower rack of the oven and bake for 40-50 mins, or until golden brown on top.

Zwiebelkuchen by Rotwein

Oma’s Reibekuchen served at 5.00 pm every Friday is another regret, hmmmmm