The food in Sicily is rich and varied and I have collected a good many recipes on my travels there. Here is a selection of them.
Caprese and Salami kebabs
These lovely little hors d’oeuvres come from a selection of recipes on the new website of The Gift of Oil which I reviewed in my last post.
- 24 mini mozzarella balls
- 24 slices salami di Milano
- 24 large basil leaves
- 24 cherry tomatoes
- The Gift of Oil garlic infused olive oil
- The Gift of Oil sun dried tomato Balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
- Sea salt and black pepper
1.Thread a mozzarella ball onto a cocktail stick and follow with a folded slice of salami. Next add a basil leaf and finish with a cherry tomato. Repeat with the remaining cheese balls, salami, basil leaves and tomatoes. Arrange on a serving plate.
2.Mix all the remaining ingredients together and spoon over the kebabs.
Grilled Aubergines with Mint and Oregano
The aristocratic Ravida family cultivate organic olives in two large groves surrounding a 16th century farm house near Menfi in the southern Sicily. Natalia Ravida runs the marketing and entertaining side of the business and she served this simple but effective starter at dinner when I visited the family some years ago. Natalia told me that the dish was best made in advance because the longer you can leave it to stand the better it will be. Best of all prepare it a day ahead.
These quantities serve six
- 4 large globe aubergines, about 4 pounds in weight, cut into 1½ cm thick slices
- 100ml Ravida extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 2-3 springs of mint
- ½ tbsp sea salt
1.Heat a cast iron grill pan for about 15 minutes, or until very hot.
2.When the pan is really hot, cover with a layer of aubergine slices and cook over a medium high heat for about 7 – 10 minutes on each side. Aubergines will stick until cooked so do not try to turn them over in less time. Remove the first batch of slices to a plate and add a new round to the grill.
3.Place four or five slices of the aubergine, one next to another, in a round or oval serving dish. Season each slice with about 1 tablespoon of the oil, a generous pinch of salt, a dash of oregano, a sliver of garlic and a mint leaf.
4.Top with more grilled aubergine and season in the same way, adding the garlic every second layer. Keep on topping with the oil that drops onto serving dish. Season all cooked slices this way until you reach the top. Decorate with sprigs of mint.
5.Leave to stand until required. Serve at room temperature.
This is another of Natalia’s recipes. It uses the old fashioned method of soaking the aubergines in water before cooking. This is not so much about removing any bitter tastes but making sure that the aubergines do not take up too much oil in the frying process.
These quantities serve six
4 aubergines, cut into 1/2in slices
3 cups freshly made tomato sauce
1 ½ cups caciocavallo or parmegiano cheeses, freshly grated
extra virgin olive oil
1o basil leaves
1.Slice the aubergines and place in a large bowl, sprinkle with 1 tbs of sea salt, cover with water and top with a dish to keep the slices underwater. Let sit for about 1/2 hour. Drain and pat dry with a kitchen cloth.
2.Heat about 3 cups of olive oil in a 10-inch frying pan over medium high heat. Oil should not smoke but sizzle when adding the aubergine. Now add one layer of aubergine slices. Fry over medium to high heat turning once until golden on both sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat if oil begins to smoke or slices burn. Transfer slices to a colander set over a plate and drain off any excess oil. Cook all slices this way.
3.Coat a 30cm/14” by 20cm/10” serving dish with three spoonfuls of the tomato sauce. Cover with a layer of aubergines, top with more tomato sauce, 4 tablespoons of the cheese and about six basil leaves. Add another layer of aubergines, tomato sauce, cheese and basil leaves. Place all the aubergine slices this way, last layer should have tomato sauce and a sprinkling of cheese and basil leaves.
4.Parmigiana can be baked in a hot oven 200°C/400° F for about 25 minutes or eaten as it is. Serve at room temperature.
Courgette, Ham & Caciocavallo Spaghetti
This fresh and lightly crunchy pasta recipe comes from Maria Paola di Lorenzo at Disisa (see post on website of the month for May 2020). It uses local Caciocavallo cheese. Caciocavallo, means “cheese on horseback” and it gets its name from the manner in which the cheese is tied together in a rope and dangled over a wooden board to drain and mature. If you cannot find Caciocavello use Parmesan instead.
- Spaghetti pasta
- Very thinly sliced air-dried ham
- Sliced courgettes
- Caciocavallo cheese, grated
- Disisa Sicilian extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
1.Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water until ‘al dente’.
2.In a separate pan cook the sliced courgettes in plenty of Disisa olive oil until the slices just begin to soften. There should still be a slight crunchy bite.
3.Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain well and add to the pan with the courgettes, adding in the very thinly sliced ham. Toss together with plenty more of the olive oil, and grate over lots of the local ‘Caciocavallo’ cheese. Add plenty of black pepper and a little salt if required and serve at once.
Some of these recipes and a range of other family recipes from the producers are available in my book Remarkable Recipes From the people who really know about extra virgin olive oil – the Producers This is available in spiral softback from my website or in ebook format from Amazon Kindle.
Disisa range of extra virgin and flavoured olive oils available from www.thegiftofoil and Ravida extra virgin olive oil is available from Waitrose supermarkets.