Eat this...

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Contents -

Why one of Italy’s most iconic snacks owes a debt to North Africa

Think of Si­cily and you en­vis­age lush sun-drenched hills rip­pling with cit­rus groves. It’s a land­scape as quintessen­tially Ital­ian as its food. Yet few vis­i­tors re­alise that both owe a debt to the Moors, who once ruled the is­land (902–1061 AD) and brought oranges and lemons here. The Moor­ish in­flu­ence is buried deep in a lot of Si­cil­ian cook­ing, and nowhere more so than its arancini.

Now icon­i­cally Si­cil­ian, these tasty stuffed rice balls were first made by the Tuareg peo­ple, desert no­mads who hailed from the Sa­hara re­gion. But in­stead of rice, they used goat meat and cous­cous. Brought over to Si­cily by its in­vaders, the arancini recipe soon evolved. In the 13th-cen­tury, the chef to King Fred­er­ick II swapped out cous­cous for rice, so it would be more ro­bust, and added a bread­crumb crust. The aim was to cre­ate a durable treat for the king’s hunt­ing ex­pe­di­tions, so they didn’t have to light a fire and scare away their prey.

Today, it’s a typ­i­cal snack for those on the go and comes in many forms. In Palermo, the is­land’s south­ern cap­i­tal, dif­fer­ent shapes have be­come short­hand for the many fill­ings. Cone-shaped arancini have a spinach cen­tre; the flat, round ones con­tain mush­room; the rec­tan­gu­lar kind are stuffed with moz­zarella and ham ( right); and the balls hide tasty ragu.

This sys­tem varies as you travel the is­land. Head to the east of Si­cily and those made in the town of Cata­nia are con­i­cal, in hon­our of nearby vol­cano Mount Etna. Yet wher­ever you eat them, noth­ing quite sums up Si­cily’s rich his­tory as well – or as scrump­tiously.

Did you know? Like Cor­nish pasties, arancini were orig­i­nally de­signed for only the fill­ing to be eaten and the crust to be thrown away, as it had been han­dled by grubby fin­gers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.