I have just returned from the magnificent Amalfi Coast. I made a quick end of summer trip to make sure nothing had changed, I needed those reassuring ancient churches, lemon leaves and clams to be exactly the same as they were last time! I wasn’t disappointed and had two added bonuses; I took Mum along as partner in crime to help me sample these delicious dishes and hug my beautiful son who barely had time to say hello he was so busy helping run his Dad’s restaurant Da Adolfo! Boy that place is all fired up!
There is no doubt about it, the simpler the food the better. I believe its better in flavour but also for your health. Mum and I came from different generations; she wore cat’s eyes sunnies, stilettos & ate the odd TV dinner during her busy career days, while I wore head bands, thongs & nibbled on nuts & seeds!. She turns 80 in a few weeks and somehow over the decades our two generations have melted into one. We both appreciate a healthy and sumptuous meal and what better place to get this than Italy.
Did you ever stop to read all those things you grab at the super market or even the health food shops? Not the whole foods, I’m talking packets, cans, boxes……anything processed.It seems that the less ingredients, the better the goods are BUT you may have to mortgage your house at check out. And the more they pack into those goods, the less they cost and I often think are questionable for your health.
So Whole foods MUST be the answer. Stuff Mother Nature brings to our table without passing GO – no heating or filtering through machines or lists of additives & chemicals as long as your leg! .Just basic ‘real’ food which are actually good for us. Yes I am also a lover of Organics…….just not a big fan of pesticides and chemicals all over my food.
A few nights ago we did our FORTH supper to celebrate the Amalfi Coast at Bei Amici Ristorante in Darling Point Sydney. Felix the chef/owner is a Swiss gentleman with a huge twist of Italianissmo in his DNA, especially when it comes to preparing classic Italian dishes!……and on more than one occasion has translated my Amalfi Coast Recipes brilliantly into these fun and exciting degustations! I have yet to try a Zuppa di Pesce (Fish Stew) outside the Amalfi Coast as good as the one Felix does at BEI AMICI in Darling Point Sydney. It is superb!
The simplicity of these dishes is their staring quality, and although there is some preparation time, it’s worth every mouthful.
Here is what we ate on the night followed by a few of the recipes and their creators below to get you going in the kitchen.
Arancini di riso / saffron arancinis with mozarella
Polpette di carciofi e ricotta / fried artichoke and ricotta balls
Seppie e sedani con gherigli di noce / cuttlefish and celery with walnuts
Sardine incinte / sardines with provolone and prosciutto
Carpaccio di ricciola / kingfish carpaccio with lemon and rocket
Zuppa di pesce / Iconic Amalfi Coast fish soup
Petto di pollo con peperoni e olive / chicken breast with bell peppers and olives
Finocchio e arancio all insalata / fennel and orange salad
Torta caprese, gelato / chocolate and almond cake with icecream
Arancio di Riso 6 pers Antipasto – Giant Rice balls – makes 12 balls – Carla Rispoli – Buca di Bacco Positano
Carla’s Arancini are famous all over the coast. They are enormous not only in fame but also in size! And totally delicious. Normal Arancini are generally a lot smaller than Carla’s, & can sometimes be dry and uninteresting. But the first time I tried Carla’s Arancini, I was hooked! They actually dissolve in your mouth, are packed with flavour and can be a meal all by themselves!
Carla’s secret? Her base is a full blown Risotto alla Milanese, saffron and all. So if you are doing a Risotto alla Milanese for dinner, just make sure you make enough to enjoy the next day’s leftovers as Carla’s Arancini!
½ k Rice carnaroli to make a Risotto alla Milanese
1 ½ good quality meat broth –
0,2 gm saffron
100 gm parmesan –
30 gm butter
1 sm onion
50 gm EVO
Heat broth. Fry onion in oil till lightly golden. Add rice and sauté on a medium flame for a minute or two. Then start to add broth a ladle at a time till each one absorbs and continue like this for apx 15 mins until rice is cooked but al dente. Add saffron at the very end dissolved in 1 table spoon of hot water.
When quite thick and creamy add parmesan and butter. Heat a little until all is well amalgamated. Then pour onto table, or large marble surface to cool. When cold:
6 eggs beaten (2 beaten and separately 4 beaten)
250gms mozzarella cut into 12 cubes.
150 gm bread crumbs.
1lit or more of peanut oil
Add 2 beaten eggs to the cooled risotto and mix. TASTE to check for salt and flavour if necessary. If paste is too hard add some water or another beaten egg. With wet hands create 12 tennis balls.
Insert one piece of mozzarella into the middle of each ball.
Dip each ball into the beaten egg mix and then cover with bread crumbs. You may be left with some extra crumbs and egg mix but you need a decent amount of both to do the job well. Don’t’ be stingy.
In a small but deep fry pan fill with peanut oil, enough to cover the balls by 1 mm. Heat the *Peanut oil at 160 degrees, no hotter or the Arancini may burn and this temperature is perfect to melt the mozzarella in the centre and just heat the rice balls through. Try not to reuse the oil. This process should take apt 8 – 10 mins.
Let rest for at least 2mins on paper towels before serving.
*Peanut oil is one of the best oils for frying as it does not penetrate the food if you get the temperature right.
GIULIANO, THE PASSIONATE SON OF A FISHERMAN SHARES HIS SEA-CRETS…THERE IS LITTLE HE DOESN’T KNOW ABOUT THE SEA AND THE DELICACIES WITHIN!
While compiling these recipes I acquired more fish soups than I knew existed. But Giuliano’s recipe drew me in for two reasons. Firstly for its amazingly complete ingredients using literally EVERYTHING that you can pull from the sea and secondly, the fact that Giuliano is the son of a fisherman and knows more about loving fish, eating fish, talking to fish and cooking fish than anyone I have every meet! He suggests you get the freshest and most wild seafood available for his majestic Fish Soup. This is a truly important dish and you will need little else to accompany it, perhaps a lettuce leaf to start?
100 gms of octopus (apx 4 sm ones)
300 gms cuttlefish (apx 2) cut in half
200gms calamari (apx2) cut into rings
1 whole 800 gm – 1 k groper
1 whole 800 gm- 1 k monkfish (angler fish)
1 whole 800 gm – 1 k scorpion fish
4 king prawns
500 gm of fresh cherry tomatoes chopped in half
500 gms mussels
4 cloves of chopped garlic
EVO ( 6 spoons – 120 ml)
2 glasses white wine
8 slices of ciabatta bread
1 chilli pepper
Clean all fish, molluscs and shellfish very well, all fish should be scaled and gutted and molluscs scrubbed, shelled and bearded.
In a deep heavy based high pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on a low-med flame and add 2 cloves of chopped garlic. When golden (be care it doesn’t burn) add the molluscs (octopus, cuttlefish, calamari) and 1 gl of white wine. When wine has evaporated, add tomatoes and cook at a simmer for 40 mins.
Separately in a large heavy based round casserole dish heat 4 tablespoons of oil and add the 2 remaining chopped garlic cloves, heat gently until golden then add the four cleaned whole fish add 1 gl white wine and mollusc sauce, cover and simmer for 30 mins.
Add the shellfish (clams, mussels, prawns & scampi)
As soon as the clams and mussels open, the soup is pronto!
Serve with freshly grilled ciabatta toast, freshly chopped parsley and finely chopped chilli pepper if desired.
This dish should be eaten at least 6 – 8 hrs after your last “light” meal so you are near starvation level to appreciate it. Eat heartily and don’t be embarrassed where a bib!
Why does food taste better when eaten on a dilapidated jetty or pontoon, and just cms above the water…??? Here is just another fabulous sea side spot on the Amalfi Coast!
OPS! In last month’s BLOG I also forgot to give you some more fish translations for your restaurant menus while travelling around this magnificent coastline. Here you go! –
MERLUZZO – COD
RICCOLA – KING FISH
SPIGONA – SEA BASS
SPADA – SWORDFISH
TRIGLIA – MULLET
SCORFANO – SCORPION FISH
BACI BACI XX