Escape to Sicily with Chef Ben Tish’s sunny new cookbook, says Ella Walker.
Chef Ben Tish, who runs Norma, a Sicilian-Moorish (among other things) inspired restaurant in London, is back with another collection of Italian-style recipes.
The cookbook, Sicilia, should help transport you to the Mediterranean island, and that’s what Skegness-born Tish calls a ‘love letter’ for the food of the region, so what should- do you know about it?
The book: Sicily by Ben Tish.
Who will love it? Anyone who dreams of eating seafood on a beach with their toes dipping in the warmth of the Mediterranean. As well as those looking to deepen their knowledge of Italian cuisine, develop their repertoire of pasta sauces, and all those who adore fennel (it comes back a lot).
What is he trying to cook for us? The cuisine of Sicily, through the eyes of an English chef. Tish thoroughly researched and cooked the culinary traditions and heritage of Sicily and its surroundings, especially the food of the Moors (which he explored at length in his cookbook, Moor).
There is pasta galore, whether baked (pumpkin conchiglioni), coated with squid ink or garnished with fresh crab; intriguing fish dishes including stuffed sardines, sea bream in an almond crust, and clams cooked with lemon leaves and chili. On the meat side, things are plentiful (grilled flank steak, grilled leg of venison) but there is real care given to the vegetables everywhere (especially the garden onions coated with guanciale). Tish also loves desserts, especially granita (flavors like watermelon, buttermilk, Sicilian lemon) and ice cream (almond milk, pumpkin seeds, fig leaf), as well as creamy puddings, like the lemon cream below, and cannoli.
Is it easy to use? Very, although some ingredients require a trip to a fishmonger (octopus) or butcher’s (tripe), and if you want to try the ‘fritti’ dishes, being conversant with deep frying is a must (worth it for them. spicy lamb arancini).
The best recipe is … Coffee granita with whipped cream, served stuffed in brioche buns. A dream breakfast.
The recipe we are most likely to post on Instagram is … Red prawns with orange and thyme – bright red and beautiful. Keep your head up.
The dish we’re least likely to try is … The fougasse. We know it’ll be totally delicious, but who has the time to make focaccia from scratch?
Overall rating: 7/10 – comforting recipes and interesting flavor combinations, which you would probably save to cook on the weekends.
How to Make Ben Tish Sicilian Lemon Cream with Blackberries or Cooked Blackberries
“Unlike similar puddings which use flours to thicken, this very simple posset-style pudding really showcases the tangy, fragrant flavor of lemons. The cream and mascarpone blend is not only rich and forgiving, but also fresh. Unwaxed lemons will give the best flavor, ”Tish says.
“Blackberries are not as common in the UK as in Europe, but if you can find them, perhaps in a Middle Eastern supermarket or a specialty fruit grower, they are quite delicious. They look like a Long blackberry with denser flesh and a sweet and sour aromatic flavor. Blackberries will make a great alternative. ”
(For 4 people)
For the lemon cream:
2 large lemons, untreated with unsprayed leaves
150g caster sugar
150 ml double cream
300g of mascarpone
For the berries:
250g blackberries or blackberries
150 ml of good red wine
60 g of golden powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of honey
1. Zest the lemons and squeeze out the juice; you need 80ml of juice. Put the lemon zest and 80 ml of juice in a saucepan with the sugar. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and keep warm.
2. In a separate saucepan, heat the cream and mascarpone over medium-low heat, just bringing to a boil – do not boil (otherwise it may separate). Off the heat, add the lemon mixture and whisk. Let cool slightly, then strain through a fine sieve into bowls. Let cool completely, then refrigerate for at least eight hours or until firm and cool.
3. While the lemon cream is cooling, prepare the stewed berries. Place the fruit in a saucepan, just cover with water and add the wine, sugar and honey. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or until the fruits are very tender but retain their shape. Use a skimmer to remove the fruit from the liquid to cool. Boil the remaining liquid until syrupy. Let cool, then pour over the berries. Coldness.
4. To serve, place a few berries on each cream. Delicious with biscotti.
Sicilia by Ben Tish is published by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced at £ 26. Photograph by Kris Kirkham.