Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Scrumptious Sicily: Part 1

The August Bank Holiday ends, we have a London Tube strike and the days will now get shorter. Call me Little Miss Happy right now! Despite the uncomfortable truth, I'm still basking in the glory of the most awesome mini-holiday in Sicily.

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, and it's rich historical influences of Arabic, Asian and of course European provide the scene to many Italian food heroes. You know these suspects: arancine (risotto balls with fillings such as cheese, vegetables or meat), granita (the icier version of sorbet, in more flavours than there are fruits) to caponata (chopped aubergine stewed with tomatoes usually served with as an appetiser).

I debated about what to blog about with Sicily, it's a true foodie di-, even multi-lemma when literally all that comes into contact with your gastro senses is truly mind-blowing. For me, Italian food is a direct product of it's fertile land, glorious weather and stunning coastline. As Sicily is an island, seafood is the prima donna with vegetables and wine being its starlet chorus!

So I decided to report back on my top two discoveries from this trip, and what a job. It was like picking the winner of a beauty parade of palate pleasers. In a special two-part series from Hungry Female, here are the first two highlights...

First, my new favourite pasta shape: Busiate!

This curly number is a pasta sauce dream. Essentially it is tagliatelle with a perm, and a tremendous friend to all kinds of pasta sauces since its twists and turns collect any chunky or smooth bit of food it can tangle with. As a result you get ideal quantities of food and pasta in one mouthful, genius!


Above, this was my first taste of busiate: aubergine roasted to tender awesome-ness, tuna, in a tomato stew. Below, full-on seafood busiate!

Busiate makes appearances all over Sicilian menus, one sauce I didn't get around trying was pesto alla Trapanese, which I assume refers to it's birthplace of Trapani, a port town an hour away from San Vito.

We were lucky enough to chance upon some busiate making, by a quintessential Italian mamma:-

These tiny delicatessens are adorably independent. Our little cook was drying pasta ready for the next day, and all that was in her matchbox shop was pasta and pasta sauces. One type of twist I could do again and again.

Second up, something they call Sicilian caviar, Bottarga.

(image from

As Sicily's main fish is a variety of tuna, fish roe is obviously an easily acquired item. It is massaged, dried and cured with sea salt to form a tube or slab. It can then be sprinkled as a topping or ingredient, such as in the heavenly pizza above. Those familiar with the Chinese, Spanish or Portugese kitchen will understand the concept of dried salted fish as a flavouring, the advantage of this is that it's instant, uber, fish-a-licious-ness! No hydration required to get the sea salt hit. 

Hang on for part 2! There was really so much to write about these magnificent flavours. If you ever find yourself on this dreamy island, you must visit Dal Cozzaro (where I had the aubergine and tuna busieta), Syrah (the seafood busiate) and Il Timone (for pizza). Service is always relaxed, friendly and oozing with charm. The average price for a pasta or pizza was between 8-10 euros. 

“In France food is all about the genius of cooks, in Italy it’s all about the glory of God.”

How true!

No comments: