I have mentioned before how moving to Italy has allowed us to develop a greater awareness of food seasonality. This is even more the case now we live in Sicily. You only need to look at what all of the street vendors are selling to know what is being grown locally. Just now, we are coming into the end of citrus season with great pyramids of Saguinello (blood orange) for sale. To eat the best, freshest and most local we try to avoid buying fresh produce in the supermarkets and visit the greengrocers in the villages instead. This obviously means there is less variety than we were used to the UK but it also spurred us on to develop a seasonal list of recipes that I thought it might be good to share.
I thought I would start with the classic Sicilian orange salad. Oh my word, we have consumed a lot of orange salad in recent months. The nice thing about it is that everyone has their own take on orange salad so I took a little time to work up my own recipe:
- 5 oranges. I used blood oranges but any will do.
- 1 fennel, chopped.
- 1 small red onion, chopped.
- A small bunch of parsley, chopped.
- Olive oil.
- White wine vinegar.
- Salt, pepper and ground chilli flakes.
With a sharp knife, peel the oranges. It is important to peel them like this so there is no pith and as little membrane as possible. This gives you a nice, juicy salad. Cut each of the oranges lengthways and then cut each half into slices. Place these, the fennel, onion and parsley into a bowl. Make a dressing with a couple of good glugs of olive oil and a dash of vinegar. Add salt, pepper and ground chilli flakes according to taste, but do remember that the beauty of orange salad is the combination of the sweet oranges with the savoury kick of the dressing.
This recipe will serve about 4. We enjoy it as a simple supper with bread and cheese (our current favourite is Tuma) or new potatoes which have just come into season.
In the last week or two we have started to find Italian strawberries in the markets. I have to say, when we were in Northern Italy for strawberry season last year, I wasn’t too convinced by the quality. However, Sicilian strawberries are something else entirely. Sweet, delicious and so cheap. I bought the eight punnets pictured above for only €3.50 which seems to be the going rate for strawberries right now.
I hit upon a recipe that combined both blood oranges and strawberries, combined to make Granita. You can’t get more Sicilian than oranges and granita!
- Approx 10 strawberries with the stalks removed.
- 4 blood oranges (or whatever oranges you have available).
- 1 tbsp of caster sugar.
- Juice of half a lemon.
- 175ml water.
Squeeze the juice from the oranges. I have an English conversation student, Michela, who comes every Thursday. She is bright and funny with an excellent level of English. To keep her engaged, we do something creative during our lesson. Her favourite thing by far is cooking and baking. This is her squeezing the oranges for their juice – you can use a citrus squeezer if you prefer!
Place the strawberries, sugar, water and orange and lemon juice into a saucepan and place on the heat. Bring it to the boil and allow the liquid to reduce slightly. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a couple of minutes. Then place the strawberries and the liquid into a blender. Because it is still warm, the process of blending may push the lid off the blender and leave you and your conversation student covered in juice spots which your student will then loudly declare is “Sangue” (blood)! Yeah, that….twice!
Taste the mixture to make sure you are happy with it. Add a little extra sugar or lemon juice if you need to adjust the flavour. Pour the mixture into a shallow dish. Ideally, you want the liquid to be no deeper than 3 to 4 cms. Place the dish in the freezer for at least a couple of hours.
Remove from the freezer and leave to stand for about 15 mins. After which time, you should be able to break up the ice with a fork.
Place the granita into glasses and serve immediately. This recipe should make 6 smallish servings.
Not only have we enjoyed the flavours but, looking back over these pictures, I can see just how much colour inspiration this is all giving me. Speaking of which, I have also been developing some new stitching designs. More on that soon.