Of Mafia and Marzipans
Of Mafia And Marzipans. Sicily has a unique cuisine that has been enriched by its geographical proximity to Middle East, Greece and especially the coast line
Sicily has a unique cuisine that has been enriched by its geographical proximity to Middle East, Greece and especially the coast line
Sicily! The name brings images of mafia that we may have conjured up from our own imagination or from the ‘Godfather’ movie series. On the other hand, it surprises you with culinary delights, that are definitely Italian, but heady Arab, Greek and Roman influences, makes it extremely unique.
The coast line translates to abundance of sea food – so you have lots of fish, sea bass, tuna, sea bream, cuttlefish and sword fish, octopus, squids and prawns. Chef Kaushik Mishra of Prego restaurant in Westin Mindspace had spent enough time in Sicily to understand the cuisine. Recently he created a special Sicilian menu at the restaurant. The antipasta (starter) on his menu made by tossing warm octopus, squid and anchovies in Aeolian salad with tomatoes, onions, capers – is as exotic as it can get for the coastal region.
Italian food known for use of fresh ingredients and meats, in Sicily, uses dry meat and raw onion, courtesy, the Arab neighbours. In addition, the middle eastern influence is evident in the extensive use of almonds, aniseed, apricots, artichokes, cinnamon, pistachio, saffron, sesame and of course the pine nuts. Romans introduced fava beans, chick peas and lentils that have travelled down to the region from the northern parts of Italy. The lentil soup is popular here and is a staple fare during the cold evenings of the region, as it warms the palette and is healthy too.
Italian food is best known for its pizzas, pastas and risottos. In Sicily, one gets the Sfincione, a square-shaped thin crust pizza topped with onion and caciocavallo cheese drizzled with olive oil. The cheese is made from cow milk and is left to mature inside the earth giving it a distinct flavour. This commonly available pizza recreated at Prego restaurant was crunchy and delicious. “It was my favourite during my stay in Sicily. And I wanted to bring it here. While the entire menu will be available for a short time, the favourites will be retained in the menu,” shared Chef Kaushik, who’s Sicilian Food Festival, was a major hit. In which case, Sfincione is sure to stay on the restaurant menu.
Be it the pasta with peas and fresh mint or the pasta with meat balls in tomato sauce; plated dishes like the tuna with stewed peppers served along with barley risotto (again a common dish in Sicily) or the Sicilian chicken grilled with olives, tomatoes, pine nuts and Orecchiette pasta (typical of the region), the variety in Sicilian flavours is quite evident.
The region is heaven of desserts. “It is known for delightful desserts and bakes. In fact, this is the birth place of cassata,” shares Chef Kaushik.
The world’s best hazelnuts are known to grow here and Sicily is also known across the world for its marzipans that are widely available across the region. In addition to the authentic gelato, the region has some amazing desserts like the frozen chocolate cake with a filling of praline, hazelnuts and chocolate sauce and the Cassatella Alla Siciliana – a Sicilian pastry filled with cinnamon choco chip ricotta cream served with pistachio gelato – the warm delicately sweetened pastry making the right combination with the cold and delicious gelato is worth a million.
While Italian food is popular in India and widely available, what with many specialty restaurants serving the cuisine on a rise; Sicilian cuisine stands out with its distinct flavours and is easily palatable for the spice loving Indians.