Chef Ben Tish’s new cookbook Sicilia will whisk you away to the Mediterranean
Chef Ben Tish, who runs Norma, a Sicilian-Moorish inspired restaurant (amongst others) in London, is back with another collection of Italian-style recipes.
The cookbook, Sicilia, should help transport you to the Mediterranean island, and is what Skegness-born Tish calls a ‘love letter’ to the region’s food, so what do you need to know about it?
The book: Sicilia by Ben Tish.
Who will love it? Anyone dreaming of eating seafood on a beach, their toes dipping into the warmth of the Med. As well as those looking to broaden their knowledge of Italian food, develop their pasta sauce repertoire, and anyone who adores fennel (it crops up a lot).
What is it trying to get us cooking? The food of Sicily, through the eyes of an English chef. Tish has extensively researched and cooked the culinary traditions and heritage of Sicily and its surroundings, particularly the food of the Moors (which he explored at length in his cookbook, Moorish).
There’s pasta galore, whether baked (conchiglioni with pumpkin), coated in squid ink, or laced with fresh crab; intriguing fish dishes, including stuffed sardines, sea bream with an almond crust, and clams cooked with lemon leaves and chilli. On the meat front, things are hearty (grilled bavette, chargrilled venison haunch) but there’s a real care taken with vegetables throughout (especially the guanciale wrapped garden onions). Tish also goes big on dessert, particularly granita (flavours like watermelon, buttermilk, Sicilian lemon) and ice cream (almond milk, pumpkin seed, fig leaf), as well as creamy puddings, like the lemon cream below, and cannoli.
How easy is it to use? Very, although some ingredients will require a trip to a fishmonger (octopus) or the butcher (tripe), and if you’re to attempt the ‘fritti’ dishes, being au fait with deep frying is a must (worth it for the spiced lamb arancini).
The best recipe is… The coffee granita with whipped cream, served stuffed inside brioche buns. A breakfast of dreams.
The recipe we’re most likely to post on Instagram is… The red prawns with orange and thyme – bright red and beautiful. Keep the heads on.
The dish we’re least likely to try is… The focaccia. We know it’ll be totally delicious, but who has the time to faff with making focaccia from scratch?
Overall rating: 7/10 – comforting recipes and interesting flavour combinations, that you’d likely save to cook on the weekend.
How to make Ben Tish’s Sicilian lemon cream with stewed mulberries or blackberries
“Unlike similar puddings that use flours for thickening, this very simple posset-style pudding really showcases the zingy, fragrant flavour of the lemons. The mix of cream and mascarpone is not only rich and indulgent, but fresh too. Unwaxed lemons will give the best flavour,” says Tish.
“Mulberries aren’t as common in the UK as they are in Europe, but if you can find them, perhaps in a Middle Eastern supermarket or a specialist fruiterer, they are utterly delicious. They resemble an elongated blackberry with denser flesh and a singular sweet-sour aromatic flavour. Blackberries will make a very good alternative.”
For the lemon cream:
2 large unwaxed lemons with unsprayed leaves150g caster sugar150ml double cream300g mascarpone
For the berries:
250g mulberries or blackberries150ml good red wine60g golden caster sugar1tbsp honey
1. Zest the lemons and squeeze the juice; you need 80ml juice. Put the lemon zest and 80ml juice in a saucepan with the sugar. Heat over a medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
2. In a separate pan, heat the cream and mascarpone over a medium-low heat, bringing just to a simmer – do not let it boil (otherwise it may separate). Remove from the heat, add the lemon mixture and whisk. Cool slightly, then strain through a fine sieve into bowls. Cool completely, then leave in the fridge for at least eight hours or until firm and chilled.
3. While the lemon cream is chilling, prepare the stewed berries. Place the fruit in a saucepan, just cover with water and add the wine, sugar and honey. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or until the fruits are very tender but still holding their shape. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fruits from the liquid to cool. Boil the remaining liquid until syrupy. Let this cool, then pour over the berries. Chill.
4. To serve, spoon some of the berries on to each cream. Delicious with biscotti.
Sicilia by Ben Tish is published by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced £26. Photography by Kris Kirkham. Available June 10.