Kirstin: Next up was the chicken. Sunday night in our house is often roast chicken night. This recipe from Ben Tish’s Sicily book had all the right ingredients with fennel, garlic and shallots. The chicken was carefully stuffed with fennel butter under its skin. He then used his clever technique of plinthing the chicken on top of the vegetables. The chicken was juicy, moist and full of flavours. What more can you ask from a roast?
Kirstin: It’s another cold and rainy Sunday in London. So cold that our heating as come on. But here I am, having cooked up an entire Sicilian feast for dinner to try and conjure up some sunny weather. Rather than jamming the entire meal into one post, I will start my posting with the salad, will post the main course tomorrow and the dessert the day after. All the recipes are from Ben Tish’s book; Sicilia, a love letter to the food of Sicily.
As readers of this blog will know, I was previously not a fan of sweet and savoury in the same dish. Well hello me, because this recipe has green beans, oranges AND raisins. The dressing is made from orange juice and vinegar which make a lovely combination with the beans. Mr Tish also asks for fresh almonds which I couldn’t source. I used pine nuts instead but I did manage to find some Sicilian oranges (thank you Natoora) which I am sure added some liquid sunshine to the meal.
Kirstin: Today is the hottest day of the year in London Town. Tate and I visited Knole as we are visiting ALL the Bloomsbury places. But before we left on our adventure, I ventured to our local Chinese supermarket and located Clams. I wasn’t sure which of the several clam recipes to choose from all my many Sicily books, but Ben Tish’s looked interesting. It had lemon leaves (tick), pistachios (tick) and also mint (tick). Two of those items were found in our garden. And they weren’t pistachios.
We love this recipe. Ben is completely right when he describes the pistachios adding a dukkah texture, while the overall affect is a little North African. Yes, even with the butter. Would I make this again? I’m already being asked when. Ben, you are a genius. It is not often I find a new take on a clam recipe. Thank you.
Earlier this year I sorted my cookbooks. I have A LOT of cookbooks. A LOT. Of course I have Italian and French cookbooks. Californian, Australian. Vegan and Vegetarian. But I was not expecting to have quite as many books from Sicily as I did. Of course there’s a reason for that. I LOVE Sicily. We first visited there almost 5 years ago and I fell HARD. Sicily felt like all the best of Italy: the food, the sun, the sea. Did I mention ALL THE FOOD. So this month, in my love for all things Sicily I am posting recipes from my collection of Sicilian cookbooks.
Kirstin: Well now what did you think of this?
Maureen: It had some good solid recipes. We enjoyed it!
Kirstin: We did too. Although halfway through the month I found their Mediterranean cookbook which I’ve been cooking more from if I’m honest. Because you know, Middle Eastern flavours. I’m very much looking forward to their vegetable book coming out in the autumn. These are all lovely recipes that you know you can trust. It was a fabulous month!
Kirstin: For longtime readers of this blog, you may remember last year when I discovered ALL the Middles Eastern flavours during the OG Lockdown. I’ve been really craving those flavours recently and when I saw this recipe I was sold. Miles was even more convinced as he’s been asking for chicken these past few weeks, I guess because he’s been exercising more. And he really loved the Musakhan chicken recipe from Falastin. I mean REALLY LOVED. Plus you can’t go wrong with 3 tablespoons of sumac, you just can’t. There was an interesting little twist with this recipe; after warming the pita bread, you had to brush it with olive oil and then sprinkle some more sumac on it before adding the chicken. It was worth the effort. Tom said the sauce was “sauce-some” which achieved the eye rolling it deserved. And Miles asked for me to cook it again.
I suppose my only beef with this cookbook at the moment, are the timings. This was supposed to take 40 minutes. It took almost 90. To be fair I didn’t mind this as I had a fab playlist going on in the background and the smells were lovely, but still I think it’s fair just to warn you not to pay too much attention to their time estimates.
In other news, I notice that Milk Street have brought out a Mediterranean cookbook this year which I am going to start hitting up next week. They’re selling it as a healthy eating cookbook where I can just see all the Levantine flavours. And hooray it has way more non meat recipe options, so watch this space.
Kirstin: Well this was interesting. And left the table divided. As you may know from the last few months, I have managed to persuade the younger members of our family that mushrooms are amazing. Some of us knew this already, but others have taken a while to get there (next up, aubergines and tomatoes but that is top secret). So I felt this would be a sure winner. Right?
Anyways. Tom and I LOVED this. Especially with the red miso and ricotta/chive mix. The youngsters, not so much, despite removal of the mushroom gills (who knew THIS was a thing? I certainly didn’t!).
On a more general note, I’m just not so sure about the order in which the recipe instructions are ordered in this book. I would have started with the mushrooms as I put the water on to boil, which would have meant the pasta would have been warmer on eating the meal, but who am I to say. We shall see if this continues to be a theme in the next few recipes.
This recipe comes from the “Faster” section of the book, which promises dinner in 30-35 minutes. Again, nope.
(Full disclosure: I didn’t actually make this recipe, because I had a load of other things to sort out and Tim volunteered to cook dinner. But I did eat this recipe, so that counts for something.)
Since I didn’t prepare this, I can’t tell you what the hold-up was. I suspect that Tim decided to push the Spanish boat out and also make patatas bravas to go with this, which may have slowed the process down. But he did suggest as we sat down that we should again make note the preparation time– like when Jamie promised it all done in 30 minutes– because he didn’t seem to be buying the “Faster” premise.
However, even if it did take longer to prepare, and once again we found ourselves eating after 8 p.m., all was forgotten once we started to eat it. It was delicious. We also, unusually, had a ton of leftovers, so everyone will be able to enjoy this again at lunch today.
Kirstin: I love this book, but I would love it more if there were more vegetarian options. It is a very meat driven book, like most of their books. I know they are on this because they have a vegetarian book out in November. WHICH I HAVE ALREADY PRE-ORDERED. However, let’s get back to this recipe which has all the things we love, including no meat. Mushrooms, bok choy and all the Asian flavours. Even better. TWO kinds of mushroom; dried and fresh shiitake. I would definitely make this again. And it makes me even more excited for November when their vegetable book comes out.
As previously explained by Kirstin, we’re having a pants spring here in England. It’s been cold and grey. Sure, the daffodils bloomed, the cherry blossoms emerged, and we can go to the pub again (albeit to its beer garden), but we’re doing all these things while still wrapped up in our winter coats. It is, let’s be clear, sub-optimal.
On a recent aforementioned cold and grey day– so cold that we put the heating back on, but only after checking the calendar to confirm it really is May– this soup was the perfect antidote. We also had some yummy sourdough bread a friend made us kicking around, so that was the perfect use of the end of that loaf. The bread is key. Before you add it, the soup looks a bit sad and thin. But after you add the bread, the soup thickens up and becomes the robust soup you need.
We also were excited to learn that this is based on a Tunisian soup called Lablabi, which meant we could expand our culinary horizons while warming our bellies. Win.