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A Place in the Sun

Wow the crowds with a taste of Sicily's eclectic dishes

By houseandgarden.co.za | November 11, 2016 | Category Travel & Leisure

Everybody loves Italian, and Sicilian cooking has a lightness and flair essential to any summer menu.

First Course: Panelle with Braised Artichokes and Lemon
Serves 6
Panelle are chickpea fritters, usually eaten in a bread roll. Here, they’re served with braised artichoke and lemon. If you can’t get fresh artichokes, substitute with char-grilled artichokes mixed with lemon and herbs.

Ingredients

For the braised artichokes
juice of 2 lemons, plus 2 whole lemons
8 globe artichokes
4T extra-virgin olive oil
3 spring onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
100ml white wine
1T finely chopped fresh rosemary
1T finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the panelle
olive oil for greasing
250g chickpea flour
1.5 to 2 litres sunflower or peanut oil

Method

For the braised artichokes
1. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the lemon juice. Cut off the tops of the artichokes, so you can just see the top of the hairy chokes inside. Peel away and discard the tough outer leaves. With a paring knife, pare around the outside to reveal the flesh of the base. Use a knife or teaspoon to dig out and remove the hairy choke. Cut the bottoms in 4 or 8 sections, depending on the size of the artichokes. Immediately plunge them into the acidulated water.
2. Heat 3T of the oil in a lidded pan and gently season and sauté the spring onion and garlic. Pour in the wine, bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain the artichokes and add to the sauté pan with 200ml water, the rosemary and a good pinch of salr and freshlu ground black pepper. Cover and simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the artichokes are tender.
3. Cut off the top and base of each lemon. Carefully run a knife down the sides to remove all the skin and pith. Cut in between the membranes and lift out the fruit segments. Take the artichokes off the heat and stir in the lemon segments, parsley and the remaining tablespoon of oil.

For the panelle
1. Grease 2 shallow baking tins. Put the flour and 1t salt in a large saucepan and gradually whisk in 650ml cold water. Place over a low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth, and coming away from the sides of the saucepan. Take off the heat and, working quickly, divide the mixture between the 2 greased baking tins. Spread out to a thickness of about 4mm. It is easiest to use the palm of your hands, dampened with water, to smooth out the surface. Leave too cook for about 1 to 2 hours, then cut into 6cmx8cm rectangles.
2. Pour the oil into a deep-fat fryer or a large saucepan and heat to 180°C. Deep-fry the panelle, 4 or 5 at a time, for about 4 minutes, until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little Maldon salt and keep warm. Serve with braised artichokes.

To drink Artichokes contain cynarin, which flattens the taste of wine, but the lemon in this dish helps to offset it. Choose a dry white with a tangy lemon flavour, such as a zingy Sémillon. Try Nitida Sémillon 2013, R79.

Main Course: Spaghetti with Bottarga
Serves 6
Bottarga, a salted, cured fish roe mostly made from grey mullet, is a favourite Sicilian ingredient. Usually it’s just grated over a bowl of steaming spaghetti, but we suggest combining it with garlicky, soft broccoli and crisp breadcrumbs to create a more mellow-tasting dish.

Ingredients
100g two-day-old ciabatta
4T extra-virgin olive oil
335g (1 large head) broccoli
2 garlic cloves
100g piece fresh bottarga, grated
500g spaghetti

Method
1. Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the ciabatta in a food processor and pulse into coarse breadcrumbs. Tip into a roasting tin, drizzle with 2T olive oil and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
2. Cut off the broccoli stalks and separate the heads into small florets. Cook the broccoli in lightly salted water for 3 to 4 minutes, until just tender. Drain, reserving 5T to 6T of the cooking liquid.
3. Heat the remaining 2T olive oil in a large saucepan. On a low heat, cook the garlic for 1 minute. Add the broccoli, the reserved cooking liquid, a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. The broccoli should be a course purée. Stir in 2T of the grated bottarga and cook for 1 minute further.
4. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cook spaghetti until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water, tip the drained spaghetti into the broccoli mixture and toss. Add reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce. Stir in remaining bottarga, toss the spaghetti and scatter with breadcrumbs to serve.

To drink The bottarga needs a crisp, lemony, dry white. Sancerre and Pinot grigio are good choices. Try Terra del Cappo Pinot Grigio 2013, R65.

Dessert: Candied Orange Peel Dipped in Chocolate
Serves 6
The Sicilian town of Modica is well known for its chocolate, which has a deep cocoa flavour and a grainier texture than a mass-produced bar. The chocolate is not tempered, which means it has a dull, bloomy appearance, but that doesn’t detract from the taste. Start to make the peel at least 3 days in advance, as it needs to soak overnight in the sugar syrup and then dry out before you dip it.

Ingredients
3 oranges
700g castor sugar
150g Modica chocolate, 70- or 80-per-cent cocoa solids, broken up

Method
1. Quarter the oranges and carefully peel the skin away from the flesh, trying to keep it in one piece. You can use the flesh and the cold cooking syrup for a fruit salad. Slice the peel into 5mm-wide strips. Place the orange strips in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then drain the water through a sieve. Place the strips back in the saucepan, cover with fresh cold water, bring to the boil, then drain. Repeat the process once more. Set orange strips aside.
2. Place the sugar in a saucepan and add 650ml cold water. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar crystals, then turn down the hear and simmer for 35 minutes. Take off the heat and leave the strips in the syrup overnight.
3. The next day, drain the orange strips and carefully place the candied shards of orange on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper. Leave to dry out for 48 hours.
4. Place the chocolate in a bowl and rest it over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure that the base does not touch the water. When the chocolate has melted, take it off the heat. Cool slightly, then dip the dried orange strips into the chocolate. Place onto a wine rack until set.

To drink A sweet and intensely flavoured Muscat with zesty acidity will pair excellently with the orange peels. We’d recommend the Stellar Winery Heaven on Earth Organic Muscat d’Alexandrie NV, from R65.

Photographs Sarah Hogan

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