The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Cassata: a baroque affair

My love for Sicily seems to continue... I suppose it is all because of the unusual combination of flavours, the luscious textures of the vegetables, and the richness of the desserts that catches the eye even before luring the mouth.

Sicily was a real port - invaded by Normans, Arabs, Spaniards, and then Piedmomenteses (yes we need to admit that nobody or very few in Sicily wanted to be unified to the rest of what was decided to be called "Italy");  and such mixture of people and cultures is clearly reflected in its food.


 I have mentioned already its savoury dishes like stuffed squids, panella, and caponata. Today I want to share with you one of the most amazing cakes it has. It seems daunting at first but with a little bit of patience, and a few short cuts if you want to cheat..., you can impress all your guests very easily. The "Ohhhh...." will be assured when you present this baroque cake on your table.

There is no agreement on the origins of the name Cassata. Some say that it derives from the arabic word "qashatha", bowl, for the utensil where it was served and which gave the half dome shape; others claim that it simply means cheese concoction for its mixture of ricotta cheese. I am not so sure about the latter as it seems to be very little concoction in cassata - only one type of cheese is used and the ingredients, despite being relatively more than in the average Italian dishes, are not that odd. I would go with the Arabic story. Much more exotic.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The secrets of Caponata

Considering the wide success that I have received every time I have made this dish for my "secret suppers" and cooking groups, I thought it was fair to share its recipe and disclose the secrets.

Caponata is a traditional Sicilian dish made with aubergines. The key is in the main ingredients (probably like for any Italian recipe), the sweet taste of aubergines as well as juiciness of tomatoes. Apparently its name comes from a fish, caupone, which was used in certain taverns. I was told it derives from the Palermo area of Capo where the famous market is held every day and where daily life in Palermo got its buzz - and also where mafia had its headquarters. Possibly both versions are true and can be combined.


We loved scooping it out the little box that our friendly seller gave us while we were wondering among the vibrant stalls of the Capo market.