food with sam man­ner­ing

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS -

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.

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