Chef and Global Nomad Bobby Chinn visits the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sicily to discover just what influence two thousand years of occupation by just about every major power in the region has had on its cuisine.
Everybody from the Greeks and Romans, to the Carthaginians, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and French have swung by to spend some quality time here!
Starting in Sicily’s ancient capital city Palermo, Bobby samples the delights of the local market before being shown how to prepare one of the most popular dishes here, Pasta with Sardines. Before leaving town he visits a patisserie to discover how to make the venerable Cannoli.
Bobby then travels into the beautiful rural heart of the Island to a cooking school, where he meets Fabrizia, one of the local aristocrats. She shows how to use a sweet Ricotta cheese to make another of Sicily’s famous sweets, a Marzipan Cassata.
Continuing his tour he then travels to Trapani in the North West, which has strong Arab influences, perfectly encapsulated in the Fish Cous Cous he helps prepare. To do this he joins a whole Sicilian family as they cook, and needless to say, mayhem follows!
From Trapani the journey continues south to the ancient Greek ruins at Agrigento before crossing the island to end up in Catania.
This is the city famously built on the slopes of Mount Etna which just happens to be one Europe’s most active volcanoes. After touring the city and trying some of the regions local delicacies Bobby finishes his Mediterranean odyssey in a winery, cooking his own version of meatballs for the owners of the vineyard, who just happen to be food experts themselves.
- Planet Food Sicily - Cassata
- Planet Food Sicily: Fish Couscous
- Planet Food Sicily: Pasta con le Sarde
Planet Food Sicily - Cassata
Cassata Siciliana is a popular traditional celebration dessert from Sicily, Italy. This yummy dessert is made of vanilla sponge cake with layered ricotta, candied peel and chocolate filling and then covered with green colored marzipan and finally topped with sugar icing and candied fruits.
- 6 eggs
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 teasp grated lemon or orange peel
- 1 cup flour
- ¾ cup warm water
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp orange flavoured liquor
- 3 cups ricotta
- Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.
- Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan.
To make the cake:
- Beat the eggs, add the sugar and the grated citurs peel and continue to beat until the beater leaves a ribbon like trail, about 15 minutes. Fold in the flour by hand, one third at a time.
- Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes later.
- Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes, then unmold and cool completely.
To make the syrup:
In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup of warm water with the sugar and the liquor. Stir the syrup till the sugar dissolves.
To form the cassata:
- Slice the cake into 2 (1/2 inch thick) slices. Trim the crusts from the cake then return one of the layers to the springform pan.
- Spoon half the syrup over the cake then spread a layer of ricotta on top.
- Repeat, carefully placing another layer of cake, drizzling with syrup then spread the ricotta.
- Decorate with candied fruits.
Candied fruits by Marc
Planet Food Sicily: Fish Couscous
Traditionally this dish was prepared with durum wheat bran which was ground to the consistency of a roughly-ground flour, typical of the type produced with primitive machinery, and then steamed.
In Trapani in Sicily, where this dish originated, the bran is prepared and steamed in a special type of saucepan with holes made from glazed terracotta. Every September at San Vito in the province of Trapani there is a traditional “cous-cous” festival where it is possible to taste this dish in all of its many variations.
Literally the word cous cous means “small pieces”, because couscous is made from tiny lumps made by working the bran in a special sloping sided terracotta bowl called “mafaradda”.
Ingredients (serves 6 people)
- 500 g. rough bran
- 500 g fine bran
- 1 onion
- 1 litre of slightly salted water
- 1.5 kg of soup fish
- 500 g of prawns, squid and mussels
- Olive oil
- 4 tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- a sprig of parsley
- a pinch of cinnamon
- Pour the bran into a low terracotta casserole, sprinkle with the salted water and mix to form tiny lumps.
- Oil the tips of your fingers with the olive oil and continue to mix until the mixture begins to form small lumps.
- Pour the lumps onto a tea towel and leave them to dry.
- Delicately fry the garlic, onion and parsley in a terracotta casserole with the olive oil, add the chopped tomatoes and cinnamon. Cook for 20 minutes.
- Clean and slice the fish, the smaller the pieces, the better then add it to the sauce along with the mussels and seafood and cook for 40 minutes.
- Filter 1.5 l of broth, keeping the rest hot and pour it into a pan.
- Pour the bran lumps into the ‘mafaradda’, cover and place the bowl over the pan with the hot broth.
- Cook for two hours mixing every 30 minutes.
- Pour the cooked couscous onto the serving dish, garnish with the fish and season with the remaining broth.
Planet Food Sicily: Pasta con le Sarde
Pasta con le sarde, the trademark dish of the province of Palermo. Giorgio Locatelli sums it up when he says the Arabic combination of sultanas, nuts and saffron shows the history of the island, yet the ingredients themselves have been indigenous there since classical times.
- pasta ”maccheroncino“, 400 g. (Or you can use Bucatini pasta – although it’s slightly thicker)
- fresh sardines, 600 g.
- onion, 1
- raisins, 40 g.
- pine nuts, 50 g.
- anchovies, 3
- wild fennel, 6 bunches
- extra-virgin olive oil. about ½ cup
- saffron, a generous pinch
- salt and pepper
- breadcrumbs, 100 g.
- Clean the wild fennel with cold water then transfer to a pan of boiling, salted water for about 8-10 minutes or until tender. Remove the fennel and set aside and reserve the cooking water which will be used to boil the pasta later.
- Heat half the extra-virgin olive oil in a pan and add the chopped onion. Sauté until softened but not coloured, then add the anchovies, stirring until they ‘melt’.
- Next, add the pine nuts and the raisins. The secret to soft juicy raisins is to keep them in a cup of hot water for about 15 minutes or until ready to use which will ensure they become plump and delicious when added to the Pasta le Sarde!
- Add the chopped wild fennel and the fresh sardines and the remainder of the oil and taste and season with salt and black pepper if necessary, stir and cook for 10 minutes. Refine the sauce with a large pinch of saffron and set it aside.
- Boil the pasta al dente in the wild fennel cooking water (about 10 minutes or according to the instructions on the packet)
- Drain the pasta and and serve with sauce mixing well. Before serving don’t forget to sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top.
Places Mentioned - ItalyShare the series