What I love about Sicily is that when you go for a stroll by the sea you encounter a bewildering variety of delicious, yet simple, food offerings. Using just a few but fresh and tasty ingredients they combine them in the best ways possible to titillate your senses as you sit by the sea and enjoy its fruits
More known for the Sugo Nero di Sepia, Cuttlefish is also very tasty without the ink. Inspired by the ingenious simplicity of Sicilian cuisine this recipe starts off with the cuttlefish sautéed with garlic, chilli and olive oil, deglazed with white wine and simmered with tomatoes and a touch of capers.
If you want to make Sugo Nero add the ink sacs from the cuttlefish
Cuttlefish 500g cut in 1cm squares. You can ask fishmonger to clean cuttlefish and save the ink if using. If doing yourself make sure to remove the cartilage and innards
Garlic 2 cloves crushed
Chilli Flakes 1/2 tsp
Olive Oil 1tbsp
White Wine glass
Tomatoes 3 chopped. I used very ripe beef tomatoes but long cherry tomatoes cut in half are good as well
Capers 1tbsp preferably Maltese
Spaghetti or Linguine 500g
Heat olive oil on medium high heat and add garlic and chilli for 1 minute. Add cuttlefish for about 5 minutes until the translucent bits turn white then add the wine. This might flame a bit don’t panic! Turn down heat add tomatoes and capers and a dash of water. Cover and simmer until tender about 20-30 minutes. If it gets dry add water from pasta, if it’s too liquidy take off lid and turn up heat towards end of cooking. Meanwhile cook spaghetti al dente in lots of well-salted water. Drain and mix in the pan
Due to the circumstances I have been availing myself more of the ambulatory services that prowl the streets of Mosta. Every morning the bread van brings its freshly and traditionally baked bread from Qormi at 10.45 on the dot. I bought some lovely ftira this morning.
Today I also chanced a mobile fishmonger who had some nice fresh tuna for sale. It is the season for wild tuna. My first thought was to make ħobż biż-żejt with fresh tuna. This would also have been lovely, with a mix of kunserva, tuna, butter beans, olives, capers, tomatoes and olive oil but I had that not so long ago so instead made a simple chickpea salad with tomatoes, spring onions, basil and a balsamic vinaigrette.
250g Fresh Tuna
1 Chilli chopped
1 Clove Garlic chopped
Few mint leaves
1 Tomato cut in half
For the Salad
1 Can Chickpeas drained and rinsed
3 Tomatoes Chopped
1 Spring Onion sliced
6 Basil Leaves thorn roughly
In a plate place garlic, mint, chilli and a tablespoon olive oil and set aside
In a bowl mix the chickpeas, tomatoes, basil and spring onion. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.
Season the tuna and add a tablespoon of olive oil making sure it is smeared on both sides. Heat a heavy-based frying pan on high heat and sear for one minute on each side. Place in the chilli and garlic mixture and allow to rest.
Meanwhile cut the ftira in half, rub half the tomato on each side until red and drizzle with olive oil. Spoon on some of the salad and the thinly sliced tuna.
It is the height of Lampuki season in Malta. Known as Dorado, Mahi Mahi and Dolphin Fish, this remarkable fish starts to migrate along the Mediterranean in the end of August until November when it reaches a nice hefty size ( 1- 2 Kg ) and is quite plentiful.
It is caught in a traditional manner practiced since Roman times using rafts woven out of bamboo and palms known as ” Kannizati”. The fish go to seek the shade of the raft and are surrounded by a net. Because of its abundance at a certain period this tasty fish sells at a very good value and is very sought after. It is cooked in a number of ways, with the most popular being simply frying them dipped in flour or semolina but it can also be roasted, grilled, cooked ‘in bianco’, poached and, when it gets bigger towards the end of the season, baked in a Lampuki Pie. When it is fried it can be served simply with lemon or/and mayonnaise or with a tangy caper tomato sauce.
The other day,a friend dropped by with a sizable Lampuka and a few fresh prawns. I decided to take the simple approach as I believe that the fresher the fish the less you should tamper with the flavour and it looked very fresh.
I fillet the fish so I can use the bones and head for fish stock.
I prefer to use semolina to encrust the fillets as this tends to burn less than flour on high heat and has an irresistible crunchiness. This can be seasoned with salt and pepper.
A huge clove of garlic is squashed and and placed in a frying pan with a generous layer of sunflower oil on a high heat. When it turns brown it is removed and the semolina encased fillets are placed skin side down into the oil. Leave it untouched for a couple of minutes and turn down the heat to medium. When it turns golden brown turn over and leave to fry gently for another few minutes until it reaches a nice golden colour as well. It is difficult to specify a time as there are a number of variables such as thickness of fillet, freshness of fish, oil temperature etc. However the colour seems a good way to judge if it at the right point to eat unless the oil is too hot and it burns the outside before cooking the inside.
The prawns are the local smallish, red variety, very sweet tasting. They are sauteed in two tablespoons of olive oil, a clove of garlic and one chilli, both chopped, and a star aniseed. Two minutes on each side should be enough. The star aniseed gives it a pleasant liquorish sweetness while the chilli gives the dish its bite.
Many people say that they are scared to cook fish as they don’t know where to start. I find this way works with most fish with delectable results.
Score the flesh in a line parallel to the dorsal fin. Stuff this crevice and other cavities with garlic and herbs such as parsley or mint. Place fish in a roasting pan and cover with water. Add a bay leaf, an onion and two peppercorns.
Bring to the boil and turn off. Leave to rest for five minutes. To chech if it’s cooked see if it comes off the bone easily. This is where the score on the back comes in handy. You can serve like this or you can brown it under a hot grill or oven. With the roast Mediterranean vegetables. Mmm!
If it’s the bones that put you off ask the fishmonger to fillet it for you