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Sicilian Table

written by Chef Dario Aloisio 4th December 2017

Food from the island of Sicily, at the southern tip of Italy, stands out from the rest of the country because of the many cultures and invaders that over the centuries have made the place their home. The North African “Moorish” medieval conquerors introduced a tradition of combining dried fruits with savoury foods, the Spaniards brought tomatoes from the New World and olives and pistachios made their way over the sea from neighbouring Greece. All this, combined with the bounty of fresh vegetables and fish, make Sicilian cuisine one of the most interesting and multifaceted in the region.

In the following article, Chef Dario Aloisio, who hails from the capital of Sicily, Palermo, has spent the last decade working in Nairobi’s top Italian restaurants and currently runs La Cantina restaurant on Ngong Road, recreates some of the tastes of Sicily for Yummy readers to try at home.

 

Caponata Barocca

For part one of his Sicilian Table menu, Chef Dario proposes a classic vegetable stew from his hometown in Palermo, the capital of the southern Italian island of Sicily.

Caponata is most similar to a French Ratatouille although here the aubergines and the celery take centre stage. It is a hearty dish, with sweet and savoury undertones, and with a good crusty bread can be served as the main feature for a lunch.

Serves: 4 People

Cooking Time: 1 Hour

You Will Need:

400g Eggplant

200g Onions

100g Celery

200g Tomatoes

10 Green Olives

1 Tbsp Capers

1 Tbsp Sugar

1 Tbsp Grated Dark Chocolate

3 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar

Olive Oil

Salt Pepper

Sunflower Oil

Procedure:

  • Cut the eggplants into 2cm cubes, place them in a colander and sprinkle them with salt pressing them down with a plate. Allow them to release their water for 45 minutes and then squeeze them with a clean teatowel. Fry them in batches in the sunflower oil until golden
  • Chop the celery into 1cm cubes and blanch
  • Slice the onion thinly and gently fry them in olive oil until soft and slightly golden
  • Add the chopped and deseeded tomatoes to the onions, the celery, the roughly chopped olives, the capers, the eggplants, the sugar and the vinegar and let it all evaporate before adding some salt and pepper to taste.
  • Let the caponata rest for at least an hour and serve it sprinkled with the chocolate and topped with toasted bread.

CousCous

For part two of his Sicilian Table menu, Chef Dario proposes an amazing Sicilian dish which was inspired but then radically changed by the couscous made in Tunisia the shores of which can almost be seen on a clear day from the southern coast of Sicily.

Couscous is a fluffy grain made out of crushed semolina which, in northern Africa, is commonly served alongside a plate of stewed meat. In Sicily they adopted the recipe and soon dropped the “o” in its name and decided to make fish not meat its centerpart.

Serves: 4 People

Cooking Time: 1Hour 30Minutes

 

You Will Need:

150g Medium grain couscous

1/2L Vegetable stock

1 Tsp Turmeric powder

3 Tbsp Chopped onions

1 Tsp Chopped Garlic

¼ cup Cubed bell peppers

¼ cup courgettes

120g Peeled prawns

120g Sliced calamari

100g Cubed red snapper fillet

100g Cubed king fish

1 glass Dry white wine

100g Halved cherry tomatoes

4 Grilled king prawns (to garnish)

6 Basil leaves

1 Tsp Thyme

Salt/Pepper to taste

Olive oil150g

Green chilies (optional)

Procedure:

  • In a heat proof bowl mix the couscous with a teaspoon of salt and turmeric and pour on 1L of the scalding stock and a glug of olive oil.
  • Mix everything with a fork to avoid forming lumps, cover with cling film and let rest for 15 minutes until fully cooked.
  • Pour olive oil into a casserole and put in the onions and garlic to gently fry for ten minutes, stirring continuously.
  • Add in slow progression: the cubed fish, the prawns and the calamari and sautee at a high flame for five minutes.
  • Add the white wine and allow to evaporate then add the cherry tomatoes and the remaining stock
  • Lower the fire and let everything simmer for 15 minutes
  • Add the basil, chili, thyme and lest rest for 20 minutes.
  • Plate the couscous, pour the hot fish mixture on top and garnish with the grilled King prawns.

Beef Involtini

For part three of his Sicilian Table menu, Chef Dario proposed some Sicilian beef wraps. While on the outside they may seem of unassuming, the contents of these little beefy parcels are delicious and surprisingly flavoursome.

Serves: 4 People

Cooking time: 45Minutes

You will need:

300g Beef fillet

300g Fresh, semi-roasted bread crumbs

200g Chopped onions

80g Olive oil

50g sultanas

80g Finely grated pecorino cheese

4 Bay leaves

8 Rosemary stems

100g Peppered beef gravy

Salt/Pepper

For the side:

Sliced onions, peppers, courgettes, sliced and blanched potatoes to be grilled

Procedure:

  • Slice the beef fillet into fifteen slices each ½cm wide
  • Place the slices in between two plastic sheets and flatten them more
  • Prepare the filling by simmering the onions and the sultanas in theolive oil until soft
  • Pour the oil and sultana mixture onto the ¾ of the breadcrumbs
  • Add the cheese and mix everything until a firm dough is formed
  • Form 16 small dough cylinders about 3 cm long each
  • Place each cylinder on a slice of beef and roll them tightly
  • Roll the involtini on the remaining breadcrumbs and then proceed to skewer them with the rosemary separating the rolls with a bay leaf and a piece of sliced onion
  • Grill the skewers on a gentle charcoal fire and serve them with the grilled vegetables drizzled with the gravy

Ingredients

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