The benefits of international travel

Back in June 2018, we spent a week in Milan. It was a work thing for Mirinda and a pleasure for me. I’d not been to Milan before (if I ignore that awful trip back from Venice) and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the most enjoyable things was discovering a restaurant called Sikélaia.

Sikélaia is a Sicilian restaurant. (The entry is at the end of this linked post.) Our waiter was extremely proud of his Sicilian heritage and went to great lengths to enlighten and entice us. I remember leaving the restaurant desperately wanting to visit Sicilly.

Fast forward a couple of years to the other day. I was listening to Jay Rayner chatting to Stanley Tucci on the Out to Lunch podcast and Giorgio Locatelli was mentioned. Jay mentioned his cookbooks so, given my habit of cooking new stuff, I went and had a look.

One of his cookbooks leapt out at me. It’s called Made in Sicily and it’s full of Sicilian recipes. Needless to say, I bought it and it arrived the next day.

Apart from being an absolutely beautiful book, full of stuff about Sicily it also has some amazing recipes.

I found myself drawn, inexorably to two of them. And we had them for dinner tonight.

I love pistachios, particularly in ice cream and cake. Together and separately. So it was a bit of a no brainer that I’d give the pistachio tart a whirl. And, after checking with Mirinda that she wouldn’t mind me making her lamb chops in a Sicilian manner (she does rather love her grilled lamb chops) I settled on Lamb, Messina style.

Although I had to reduce things in order to make one for just two of us, I was very pleased with the way the tart turned out. Anyway, it tasted bloody brilliant and will be a bit of a celebration treat on carby days. And my sugared pistachios were amazing.

That’s not to say it was all plain sailing.

Waitrose didn’t have enough shelled pistachios so I wound up shelling over 500 grams by hand, mostly at the dining table. This is not fun. I guess if you were sitting in a house in Catania, Etna rising behind you, relatives sitting around the kitchen table, all shelling away while gossiping about the people next door, it would be fine. Sitting on my own, shelling away, was a tad laborious.

Still, these things must be done and soon I had a huge mound of pistachio nuts. The tart was soon made, cooked and out of the oven cooling.

Then came the Messina style lamb.

It’s basically a stew except it marinates for a few hours before going in the oven. The only liquid is half a bottle of ‘good red wine’ so I bought a bottle of Sicilian wine especially for it. It also doesn’t exactly have any greens so I sautéed some asparagus in white wine and garlic oil (also from the Locatelli book) to have as a sort of antipasto side dish

Mirinda declared the entire meal a runaway success.

And the wine, which we finished over dinner, was perfect.

If we ever have dinner guests again, they might just get a bit of Sicilian.

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