a sicilian love affair

No, I haven´t met a Sicilian prince. I´m just being a drama queen. Today I found a recipe that made me go "mm" while eating. That is a kind of rating for me as the Michelin guide for a gourmet. A short mm is like 2 stars, long mm accompanying every bite is 5 stars.
Several years ago, the first time I saw Nigella Bites, I wasn´t impressed at all. All that mm-ing and finger licking felt a bit vulgar and in my opinion didn´t have anything to do with food. Back then I didn´t enjoy eating either, I thought eating was something you did to survive. Well, times are changing and so do we. Today The Goddess is one of my greatest inspirations and today I understand that food and cooking can be a passion and eating a pleasure.

Two months ago I bought Cucina Siciliana by Clarissa Hyman along with six other cookbooks and I haven´t really had time to explore it properly. I browsed through all seven books the same day but it was like overeating on candy, I couldn´t really enjoy it towards the end. Last weekend I pulled out the book again and started to read. I´ve never heard of Clarissa Hyman before but she has obviously been writing for Food and Travel, Country Living and The Times. I found this and I think it says a lot about what to expect of her books:"It is a way in which to understand different peoples and societies: why they eat, what they eat, how they eat, when they eat all contributes to a picture of a certain society at a certain point in time. That is why I find writing about food eternally fascinating, never boring, always revelatory. You take a slice of bread, for example, and can end up learning about religious practices, superstitions, botanical classifications, farming methods, chemistry or social history. And that's before you even begin to butter it!" - Clarissa Hyman
The book starts with wonderful pictures and the author presenting the geography, history, food-history and culture of Sicily studded with anecdotes about monks and Mafiosos and proverbs that reflect the Sicilian mentality.
The recipe part is divided in sections like Breakfast Pastries and Ices, Lunchtime, Street food and Snacks, Dinner and Basics where she gives recipes for Tomato Pasta, Roast Peppers, Fresh Ricotta to name a few. She is not as chatty as Nigella but every section is introduced with a bit more history and most of the recipes with some story about either ingredients, the market, whom she got the recipe from and under what circumstances. Some of the recipes come from "regular" housemothers, others from restaurant owners and there are even some adaptations from other food writers. After looking through this book, I added her other two books - The Jewish Kitchen and The Spanish Kitchen - to my Amazon wish list.

Today I made the polpette with white wine, lemon and bay leaves. As I already revealed, I loved it! I´m not a big meatball eater but these were so delicious. There wasn´t any serving suggestions and if I´m not totally wrong, Italians don´t often mix proteins with carbs. But hey, these people are not Italian, they are Sicilians! And I am not Italian, and I need carbs to feel that the meal is complete. I haven´t had potatoes for several months because of a stomach condition I had but now it was about time to try it again. I remembered that Nigella has got a mash with potatoes and sweet potatoes in Feast, so I decided to do something like that. I cooked and mashed potatoes, mixed with salt but didn´t want to add milk, butter or olive oil, also I didn´t want it to overpower the meatballs since I didn´t know what to expect taste wise. I just added a few tbsp of the "sauce" that I served the meatballs with and some salt. This meal was a success and it is definitely going to make it to my " Top 10".

meatballs with white wine, lemon and bay leaves
250g minced beef
50g grated Parmesan
50g dried breadcrumbs
4 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 medium egg
25g plain flour (I used spelt)
4 bay leaves, torn
Olive oil
1 glass of white wine
Hot water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Lemon slices and bay leaves, to decorate

Place minced meat,cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, lemon zest and salt in a bowl and mix together with the egg.

Form the mixture into small balls, each about the size of a plum (some Sicilian cooks dip their hands in white wine before they roll out the polpette). Gently roll in the flour until lightly coated all over.
Heat a thin layer of oil in a pan large enough to take all the meatballs without over-crowding. Fry the meatballs over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until nicely browned on both sides. Give them a gentle shake now and then to make sure they're not sticking either to the pan or each other.
Add the wine, turn the heat up a bit, shake the pan so the wine distributes itself fairly evenly and let the alcohol burn off for a few minutes. Then pour in enough hot water to just cover the meatballs. Add the bay leaves. Leave to bubble away over a gentle to medium heat until the sauce is well reduced and starting to become syrupy.
Add the lemon juice and cook a few minutes more.
Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon. Place in a serving dish - spoon over some of the sticky pan juices if wished - and decorate with whole bay leaves and wafer-thin slices of lemon.

Note: It took a bit longer for the sauce to thicken, it might have been that I used spelt instead of plain flour (although I´ve used less water), so I removed the meatballs a bit earlier, let the sauce simmer for a while and then put the meatballs back and let them be warm.


pistachio said…
Ummm, this sounds lovely ... and very light compared to many meatball recipes.

Good luck with your blog, you've made a great start.

pi xxx
Anna said…
i have a clarissa hyman book called "the jewish kitchen". it's very good.
vonsachsen said…
Thank you, Pi :)

Anna, it might really be worth getting it then?! I´ll check your blog, have you been cooking from it?

vs xx

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