Sunday, 27 November 2011

I miei fantastici involtini di pesce! ( My Fantastic fish Involtini! )

The dish I made today is traditionally Sicilian (well, I should say "was" as I changed it and created my own version!) Sicily is not only an island, but one of Italy's Regions (like Tuscany, Puglia, Abruzzo, etc.) Anyway! The fish used in the original Sicilian recipe is swordfish, which is widely fished along the coast of Calabria and Sicily. I used haddock, in my version, because I couldn't get swordfish, and also because I though it had the right firmness.
The original recipe consisted of a thin swordfish steaks, filled with pine nuts and sultanas, then rolled and baked in a tomato sauce with a top layer of breadcrumbs. I really couldn't eat fish with sultanas... not even if they forced me to... the thought of that is just too alien to me! In Bari we mostly descend from the Normans and the Svevian  and the Arab culinary influence so strong in Sicily kind of bypassed many of us baresi.

Images of the Med, as it "kisses" the Bari Coastline
and a man selling fish in a street market outside the city.

I made my Involtini di Pesce by devising my own filling, based on the one we use for cuttle fish and stuffed mussels, in Bari. And.... it was good! I saved my sultanas for next time I make a fruit cake!
Involtini di pesce
(Rolled fish fillets with
a yummy stuffing!)
Serves 4 as a starter and 2 as a main course
4 large  fish fillets
3 slices bread
1 egg yolk
chopped parsley
a couple of leaves raw spinach
a tiny handful cooked spinach
black pepper
some parmesan
fresh parsley
For the tomato sauce:
1 carton passata
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp olive oil
To serve: some crostini
(grilled or baked slices of

Before I started, I washed a few of my spinach leaves, then cooked and chopped them. I also chopped some parsley and a few uncooked spinach leaves (for texture). I put 1 and 1/2 slices of my bread in a bowl of water for a few seconds, then I squeezed all the water out. I placed this bread, with the cooked and the uncooked spinach, my  parsley followed by 1 egg yolk in a bowl. To this, I added salt, pepper and some grated Parmesan cheese. I mixed all these ingredients together to make my lovely stuffing.

my stuffing

Next, I made a very quick tomato and garlic sauce, by frying the garlic in 2 tbsp of hot oil, followed by my passata. I added salt and cooked for about twenty five minutes. Some basil always makes a tomato sauce a bit special, if you feel like adding some. I love it!

my sauce is bubbling up

While my sauce was cooking (about 20-25 minutes)  I placed my fillets on a clean surface, and then put some of the stuffing inside each, rolled up and secured with a cocktail stick.

fish fillets with stuffing

I placed the "involtini" in an old Italian earthenware quite shallow pan (I wanted to see if it could be used in the oven!) almost covered in tomato sauce, but not swimming in it! (if you have made too much sauce you can have it on pasta tomorrow!) Look at my sweet old terracotta pot!
Having made breadcrumbs with my remaining bread, I covered my dish with these and baked in a hot oven (200 C/400F/GAS 6 )until the top was golden and the sauce was bubbling up.

1) my involtini 2) with sauce 3) I added breadcrumbs and baked

Having checked that my fish was cooked, I was ready to serve. My "involtini" looked really appetizing served over fresh green beans which I previously cooked, drained and tossed in little olive oil and garlic. The crostini I baked with the fish went very well with it! Success! My creation was very good, indeed!

My fish was ready. I served it with beans
and lovely crostini

This is just one of my involtini!

If you would like to know how it tastes, you'll have to make it!
PS: Salmon not suitable for this recipe!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Pettole Della Mamma (sweet and savoury pettole-"zeppole") BUONISSIMA!

Some Winter mornings, she would get up early to make us breakfast. You knew it must  be cold outside when you could smell  yeast and hot chocolate and you could hear the loud sound of something being dropped into a hot pan. That smell... we always knew when our mother was making pettole!
She didn't often make sweet things for us and her "sweet repertoire" wasn't extensive, but everything she made was beautiful and tasted so good that, for as long as I live I will never forget!
What we call pettole in my part of Italy, is the equivalent of "zeppole" in Campania (and in America, too!) But I can tell you that "zeppole" is a small ring of choux pastry, fried or baked, decorated with three or four "rosettes" of piped thick custard and, on the custard, an amarena (preserved cherry.)  Zeppole they are sold in huge amounts on March 19th (St. Joseph's Day, also Father's Day, in Italy)
So, I will call what I made "Pettole" as, they are made from a simple, stringy, thick batter, its only ingredients: flour, yeast and water.
I made two kinds: sweet and savoury, today. You can just have plain pettole, which you serve on individual small plates with a little mound of sugar, for dipping. THEY ARE SO... SO... GOOD!
Basic pettole recipe:
200g plain, all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/2 bag dried yeast
or 20g live yeast
warm water
oil for frying
Makes 10-15 small pettole
Easy: place the flour in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add: salt and as much warm water as it takes to make a soft, stringy, but not watery mixture. A bit like a foccacia mix.
Mix using an electric whisk, or whatever you prefer, then place in a warm place, until it doubles up in amount.

In a frying pan, heat some oil (it can be vegetable oil, as it is lighter) then fry several tablespoonfuls of your batter at the time, taking care to turn over the little doughnuts, as they cook.

Taste to make sure the batter is cooked in the middle, then place each pettola onto a plate with plenty of kitchen paper, to absorb some of the oil. Pettole are really "Naughty, but Nice!"
Pettole ai Frutti di Bosco
(Sweet Pettole With Berries and sugar)

Basic mixture
A handful of berries of your choice
Sugar to decorate
As you can see, I added berries to my batter, then fried each little cake and finally decorated with pink sugar, edible pearls and some confetti (sugared almonds)

 My pettole turned a kind of golden lilac colour, because of the fruit. They looked so beautiful, though!

My sweet pink pettole

Pettole Salate agli Spinaci
(Savory Pettole with Spinach)

Basic mixture (batter)
Some fresh spinach (large handful)
Sprinkling of chives
Chilli Pepper
(as much as you like)
Vegetable oil
My lovely spinach is still live and kicking, outside, so I decided to add some to my basic pettole mixture. I cooked it, added some fresh chives, cress and some very hot Scottish Bonnet chilli peppers.

My savoury pettole turned out a lovely golden colour! Last week I used asparagus and cheese, instead. These are really lovely with tuna! Try them, they are good. Zeppole recipe to follow, sometime soon!

my savoury pettole you can be creative with!

Isola del faro (testing!)

Vieste, Isola del Faro

I am just testing, as I am having problems with my text!

I hope you like this painting

Not as nice as the cakes I had to delete

and the lovely comment from Helen, though!

I will post my pettole recipe again, tomorrow!