Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Sicilia - Ben Tish

This book turned up out of the blue when it was still cold and miserable back in the spring (thank you very much Bloomsbury), I spent a couple of happy hours leafing through it, and then because the publication date wasn't for months (10th of June) it worked it's way to the bottom of the pile of books on my desk where I'd notice it every few days and think I must look at it again.

That time has come only a month and a bit after it was published, and only partly because I've got a friend coming round for dinner on Thursday and was looking for some inspiration as to what to feed her. I'm still in the process of sorting out books to go and will admit that I've looked at 'Sicilia' providing a sturdy base for teetering paperbacks over the last couple of months and wondered if I really needed it. Mediterranean food isn't generally my biggest enthusiasm, I like it, but it doesn't catch my imagination in the way some other cuisines do - partly due to the difficulty of getting really good, ripe, fruit and veg in supermarkets here. Cheese is often disappointing too, and the lack of a herb garden doesn't help.

'Sicilia' is a mind changer though. It helps that it starts with a bread chapter, and I'm a very big fan of bread, especially these kinds of breads - the sort that are meals in themselves. They come filled with sausage or as lasagne bread, made with grapes wine, and honey, they cross over into cake territory stuffed with lemon, orange, cranberry, and nuts, with more nuts to top. And there's a fig and fennel bread that I'm absolutely making this week (despite being a fig sceptic) because it's precisely the kind of thing I'm craving in this weather - something that will be perfect with a little ricotta or goats cheese spread on it, fruit, honey, and maybe a little charcuterie on the side. 

If I wasn't stony broke I'd send a copy of this to my stepmother as it's both very much her kind of food and full of things it would be great to eat in a larger family group (all those breads, a whole lot of fritters, some very nice things done to fish, her polytunnel produce comes up trumps at times like this too). As it stands I'll be off to the international supermarket tomorrow to buy reasonably priced pistachios (it's relative) to make a pesto with.

This book also hits the mark as 'A love letter to the food of Sicily' which makes up its subtitle. The love for Sicily comes across on every page. Some of the recipes aren't traditional, but all of them are an homage to the flavours and history of the place. A pork, orange and mint ragu with fusilli is an example of this and is something I'll make as we move into autumn. 

There's a lot to like here, both in the way it evokes a sense of place, and for the selection of dishes - most look easy enough to make, some are calculated to impress, others to be regular favourites, plenty are both simple and frugal, and all of them feel like that thing I've missed the most in the last 18 months - food to share. 


  1. Pork, Orange and Mint Ragu sounds lovely, as do the breads.

    1. I've just made a pistachio parsley and basil pesto which is excellent. There's a version of the fig and fennel bread (apricot and cherry due to shortages of other ingredients) proving, and I'm just thinking about baking a cake - I'm loving this book.