Secret Kitchen menu, 16th Oct 2010
Mulberry and elderberry cocktails
Crostini with goat’s cheese, smoked chicken & pesto
Parsley & black pepper panelle
Wood-fired oven roast chicken with rosemary roast potatoes
Baked pears with Marsala & raisin ice cream
Coffee, amaretti and bay leaf liqueur
About the dinner…
Here we have the flavours of southern Italy – oranges, chickpeas, Marsala, raisins, almonds – and happy memories of holidays and travels in Sicily and Puglia.
Panelle are a Sicilian snack made with chickpea flour. We learnt the recipe from Fabrizia Lanza, daughter of the recently deceased Anna Tasca Lanza, renowned cooking teacher and cookbook writer. The mulberry liqueur in your cocktails was made on the same holiday, with help from several of tonight’s diners.
Ciceri e tria is an ancient Puglian dish, which we sampled in trattoria Le Zie in Lecce a couple of years ago. Chef proprietor Anna Carmela kindly supplied her recipe. ‘Ciceri’ are an old Puglian variety of chickpea, slightly and smaller and tastier than the regular ones. ‘Tria’ is a very old word for pasta, coming from the Arabic word ‘ittriya’. Comparable dishes are found all over Italy, such as the pasta e fagioli from Emilia in the north. But ciceri e tria, also known as cece e ttria, cicerittria or similar, is particularly intriguing due to its mysterious ancient origins, which link in to the whole debate over the origins of pasta itself.
The similarities between southern Italian food and that in Morocco is striking. There is the shared love of oranges, almonds, chickpeas, couscous etc, and some remarkably similar preparations. Making these amaretti today I realised how incredibly similar they are to Moroccan almond ghriba cookies (which I made for another Secret Kitchen). And some claim that ciceri e tria shares its ancestry with the Moroccan dish called trid, a savoury concoction of fried dough, lentils and chicken. The version we had in Marrakech was indeed reminiscent of that in Lecce. The common root, of course, is the spread of the Arab world westwards through the Mediterranean.