food with sam mannering
Sicilian food – with its collage of influences and distinct flavours – warms the soul. Just what we need at this time of year.
Ihave an as-of-yet-unfulfilled dream about escaping to Sicily where I’ll live out the rest of my days in the manner of a somewhat more benevolent (than those in The Godfather), food-loving Corleone. I’m not sure what I could offer the local Mafia – apart from perhaps a daily tribute of scones – but I’m sure we could agree to something. Here are two recipes from that wonderful island that sit dear in my heart and suit this time of year, though I find that Sicilian food always warms the soul, whatever the season.
I like the cultural ambiguity of this dish – the saffron is unquestionably Sicilian but hints at a Moorish influence that is one of the many cornerstones of the island’s unique culinary history.
Use whatever fish you have to hand. The whole point is that you can adapt it to suit yourself. You may want to add orzo or a similar smaller pasta in lieu of potato. Get some of those beautiful Cloudy Bay clams if you can. Go out of your way to use vermouth in this dish. White wine will do, but the flavour of vermouth is stunningly good.
SICILIAN FISH STEW
Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 50-60 mins Serves: 4-5 Olive oil 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced 1 large red onion, finely sliced 250ml dry white vermouth or white wine 800g tinned tomatoes Pinch of saffron 600g potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3cm chunks 1 litre of fish stock 600g mix of fish fillets – snapper or red mullet with
the skin on, monkfish, terakihi… 200g large prawns 600g mussels in the shell, scrubbed Salt and pepper Flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, to serve In a great big pot over a medium heat, start with a generous glug of olive oil and let it warm up. Gently sauté the garlic and red onion for 7-8 minutes until soft, fragrant and a little caramelised. Add the vermouth and let it bubble up and reduce a little before adding the tomatoes and saffron.
Let everything cook and reduce for another 5 minutes or so before adding the potatoes and fish stock. Leave to simmer away quietly over a medium-low heat for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes are nicely tender, verging on soft.
Stir in the fish, prawns and mussels, and continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until the seafood is only just cooked and the mussels have opened.
Taste and season accordingly, and then serve with lots of flat-leaf parsley scattered over the top.