Sesame seeds biscuits: Biscotti con il sesamo. The best things are simple!

Sesame seeds biscuits: the best things are simple!

Sesame seeds biscuits are my favourite! I asked many times to my parents to send them to me in boxes, I put them in my luggage to bring back to the UK, I asked friends coming back from Sicily to bring me some. This till I found out how to make them myself.

These type of biscuits are called in Sicilian biscotti col cimino (English ‘ch’ sound) or biscotti con la giggiulena (all the g’s pronounced as the the final ‘g’ sound in ‘fridge’). They can be found in bakeries and are not fancy biscuits at all. Still they are very good. Once I start, I can’t stop eating them.

Looking on the internet I found out some recipes and I finally managed to recreate them my own way with the ingredients I can find in the UK.

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Ingredients:

250g plain flour
80g spreadable butter (if you use normal, unsalted butter you need to add some salt)
80g caster sugar
1 egg  
3g baking ammonia
100g sesame seeds

Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen!

*first thing, get the spreadable butter you need and leave it outside of the fridge for 10 min so that it cools downs.

*in a bowl, put the flour, sugar and baking ammonia. Create a little hole on the top. This is where you’ll put the butter and egg.

*put the egg (room temperature) and the cooled down butter in the bowl with the flour, sugar and ammonia.

*mix everything together with your hands to create a ball. You’ll see that the mix feels crumbly, don’t worry. It will get to shape. If it doesn’t, with your fingertips, get some of the leftover butter at the bottom of the bowl you used earlier and carry on working the mix. It will form a ball eventually.

*put the ball in cling film or freezing bag and leave it in the fridge for 45 min.

*in the meantime, get a medium size pan and pour the sesame seeds inside. Toast them on low heat. Stir till they become brown. You’ll see they become shiny too.

*After the 45 min (even more, it’s not a problem), get the dough from the fridge. In a bowl put the seeds and in another bowl some water to deep your fingers in.

*get a piece of dough and form a long cylinder a bit wider that a finger. Cut the cylinder in pieces the length of a baby finger. 

*deep your hands in water, get what you have just cut and wet it a bit. Roll it in the sesame seeds so that you can cover the whole biscuit. Put it on a tray with baking paper on. 

*do this till you have dough.

*put the uncooked biscuits in preheated oven (180 degrees C) for 15 min (using baking ammonia, you need to make sure that they are cooked. Cooking time depends on the type of oven, too).

*take them out and let them cool down.

*when cool, put them back in the oven at 150 degrees C for 10 min.

Your biscuits are ready! If you have some leftover sesame seeds, sprinkle them on an apple. It will taste amazing!

Biscotto means cooked two times (bis-cotto: 2 times-cooked).
 Some Italian words have ‘bis” in them, like Bisnonno (bis-nonno: 2 times-grandfater, greatgrandfater).

When someone takes a second portion of the same dish, they say: faccio il bis!

Give a try with these biscotti: a simple, yet full of taste Sicilian experience!

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Arancini: Inspector Montalbano’s favourite. With this step-by-step guide you will be able to make yours.

Montalbano’s favourite. With this step-by-step guide you will be able to make yours.

Aranicini are not easy stuff. Making the ones we eat in Sicily takes time. Lee found an easier way to make them and they taste fabulous. 

In short, Lee makes a risotto, creates some balls, coat them in batter and breadcrumb and finally he fries them. This seems quite simple, but along the way there are lots of little tricks he uses to make them taste good. He watched him closely last time he made them and I’m here now to tell you how to do them yourself. 

Arancini can be filled with anything. The classic ones are filled with meat cooked in tomato sauce. They can be vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, too depending on your choice of filling. Since Lee used to fill them in the restaurant every day in different ways depending on the fresh ingredients he was using for his other tapas, we tried any type of arancini. These ones made with mushrooms, bacon and gorgonzola is my favourite.
Photo courtesy of “Arancini from Taormina, Sicily, Italy” byjaimefok is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ingredients for 12/14 arancini (depending on size):

For the filling:
500g Risotto rice
150g smoked bacon
75g chorizo 
200g mushrooms
3 spoons olive oli 
1 stock cube 
Salt
60g grated parmesan 
125g grated mozzarella
70g blue cheese 
For the batter and coating:
300g breadcrumb
25g flour
1 egg
1-2 l of sunflower oil for frying

Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen!

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*In a frying pan, heat some olive oil and put the chorizo, the bacon and the mushroom. Leave them to brown for a while on a medium to high flame and stir so that the bacon does not stick to the pan. You’ll see a reddish sauce forming on the bottom of the pan. That’s what is going to give flavour to the risotto. 

*In the meantime, prepare a stock using 1,5l of water and a stock cube 

*take the mushrooms, bacon and chorizo out of the pan and put them on a plate. Leave on the pan the sauce they made while they were browning. 

leave the sauce in the pan. This will give flavour to the rice

*pour the risotto rice on the pan and stir the rice on the sauce for 3 min. 

*after the 3 min start adding the stock a bit at a time, like for a risotto. Keep stirring and adding water when the rice absorbs it. Taste it and add some salt if needed.  

*when the rice will be about ¾ cooked, add the bacon, mushrooms and chorizo to it. Keep cooking and stirring. 

*stop cooking when the risotto will be still slightly, slightly crunchy.

*now add 60g of grated parmesan and mix it to the rice to create a creamy texture. The parmesan will help to bind the risotto together so that you can create the rice balls. 

*Now transfer it on a tray and let the rice cool down at room temperature. 

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*when cooled, put it in the fridge.

*when cold, take it out of the fridge. Add the grated mozzarella and gorgonzola cubes and with wet hands mix everything together. 

*get two bowls and fill one with the breadcrumbs and the other with batter (wisk together flour, egg and 100ml of water)

*with wet hands form a rice ball, roll it in the batter and then roll it in the breadcrumbs.

*heat sunflower oil in a deep pan, when hot add the 3 or 4 rice balls depending on the size of your pan) and leave it frying for about 6 min.

* Take them out and now you have got your arancini!!

You use ‘sono’ + adjective to describe more than one thing

Gli arancini sono buonissimi!! The arancini are very tasty!!
Gli arancini sono bellissimi! The arancini are very beautiful!
Gli arancini sono caldissimi! The arancini are very hot!

Arancini is the plural form of Arancino (singular). This is how we call them in Catania. 
In Palermo they are called Arancine (plural); the singular form would be Arancina.This final vowel matter is a bitter diatribe that has been wearing out East and West Sicily for years. 

I’d say that arancini are the quintessence of Sicilian cousin. So good and famous that are often named by one of the most famous contemporary Sicilian author, Andrea Camilleri. In fact, the inspector Montalbano can’t resist to an arancino and neither can we.

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Buon appetito!!

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Pasta alla Norma: something you need to try

Pasta alla Norma: Cook a traditional Sicilian dish while learning some Italian. Buonissima!

Pasta alla Norma. A traditional recipe made with tomatoes sauce, aubergines, basil and grated salted ricotta.

I have already pointed out that in Catania we can cook aubergines in a million of ways. A classic pasta dish to prepare along with parmigiana is pasta alla Norma (possibly with the leftover tomato sauce and aubergines).

Ingredients:
1/2 l passata
1 clove of garlic
3 spoons olive oil
Salt
Coarse salt
2 oval aubergines
Salted grated ricotta (if you can’t find it use parmesan)
Basil
Pasta as much as you need

Buonissima! Very tasty!
E’ tantissima! It’ a lot!

The suffix Issima is used to emphasize something: Bellissima (very beautiful), Grandissima (very big) Carissima (very expensive).

Andiamo in cucina!! Let’s go to the kitchen!!

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*get the aubergines ready: wash them, take off the top bit and cut them in thin long slices of more or less 0.5 cm.
Put a bit of coarse salt on top of each aubergine and put them in layers inside a bowl. Cover the aubergines with a plate and put a weight on top of the plate so that the aubergines will be squashed. All of this so that the bitter water inside the aubergines will come out. Leave the aubergines like this for about 1hour.

Bowl containing salted aubergines in layers, covered by a plate and a weight. This will eliminate the bitter water from the aubergines

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*in the meantime, prepare the sauce: In a pan, brown slightly the garlic in the olive oil and add the tomato sauce. Add a bit of salt. Cook for 30min. At the end, when it’s still hot, add some basil leaves and stir.

*get now your aubergines, rinse them and squeeze them. Pat them dry with kitchen roll.
In a frying pan, add a couple of cm of frying oil and fry each slice for about 3 min. Put them again on kitchen roll to absorb the excess of oil.

*Prepare pasta as us normal, in salted boiling water. When cooked, add the sauce, the aubergines, some grated salted ricotta (or parmesan if you can’t find hard salted ricotta where you live) and a basil leaf.

It’s ready to eat 🙂

Buon appetito! Enjoy!

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Aubergine Parmigiana: a true Sicilian favourite!

Aubergine Parmigiana: A traditional Sicilian dish that you can make yourself at home as I’ll show you. But there is a faster alternative: a specific brand ready-made version, so good that brought me back to my years back home in Catania when it was my mum and dad cooking for me. Carry on reading to find out of which one I’m talking about!

Aubergine Parmigiana: A traditional Sicilian dish that you can make yourself at home as I’ll show you. But there is a faster alternative: a specific brand ready-made version, so good that brought me back to my years back home in Catania when it was my mum and dad cooking for me. Carry on reading to find out of which one I’m talking about!

In Catania we make everything with aubergines: pasta alla Norma (pasta in tomato sauce, fried aubergines and grated salted ricotta), arancini (fried rice balls), aubergine cotoletta (breaded and fried aubergines)… it can be added to pasta bake, as well, for the authentic taste of the Inspector Montalbano’s pasta ‘ncasciata!

You can make it at home too and I’ll show you how. Even if Lee is the chef, I do most of the cooking at home.


Ingredients:

3 oval aubergines
1 lt passata (thin tomato sauce, with no herbs inside)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
3 spoons Olive oil (extra virgin if you want the real Mediterranean feel)
Oil for frying
100 g parmigiano 
250 g mozzarella cheese (the hardish type for pizzas, must not give out too much water)
Salt 
Coarse salt 
Basil 


Andiamo in cucina!
Let’s go to the kitchen!

*get the aubergines ready: wash them, take off the top bit and cut them in thin long slices of more or less 0.5 cm.
Put a bit of coarse salt on top of each aubergine and put them in layers inside a bowl. Cover the aubergines with a plate and put a weight on top of the plate so that the aubergines will be squashed. All of this so that the bitter water inside the aubergines will come out. Leave the aubergines like this for about 1hour.

Bowl containing salted aubergines in layers, covered by a plate and a weight. This will eliminate the bitter water from the aubergines

*in the meantime, prepare the sauce: In a pan, brown slightly the garlic in the olive oil and add the tomato sauce. Add a bit of salt. Cook for 30min. At the end, when it’s still hot, add some basil leaves and stir.

*get now your aubergines, rinse them and squeeze them. Pat them dry with kitchen roll.
In a frying pan, add a couple of cm of frying oil and fry each slice for about 3 min. Put them again on kitchen roll to absorb the excess of oil.

Now you have all you need to create your parmigiana

Get a baking dish and spread some tomato sauce at the bottom.
Add a layer of fried aubergines to cover the base of the dish, all in the same direction, left to right (horizontally).
Sprinkle parmigiano and mozzarella cheese.
Spread more tomato sauce.
Now form another aubergines layer, but this time put the aubergines vertically.
Sprinkle cheeses, spread tomato sauce.
Carry on till you have aubergines.
Finish with a nice layer of sauce and chesses sprinkled on top.

Now put everything in the oven at 180/200 degrees for 40/30 min or till the cheese il melted and nicely golden on top.

Take it out and eat it!

If you remember, I said at the beginning that I found a fast alternative to make all of this. I still make my own parmigiana, but sometimes it’s nice to let someone else to cook for you.

Do you recognise the brand?
Yes, it’s Gino D’acampo’s aubergine parmigiana! When I tasted it the first time, it threw me back to my years in Sicily, when I was still living at home and my mamma and papa’ used to cook for me. Believe me when I say that this is an original Mediterranean taste experience! 

 Buonissima e bellissima: la parmigiana di melanzane!
Tasty and beautiful: the aubergine parmigiana!

Follow me for more recipes… Buon appetito!