One solution to put together for a meal at Sakalleo, a restaurant within the southern Sicilian city of Scoglitti, is to go to the docks at about 3.30pm to look at the 2nd catch of the day – your dinner – being introduced ashore. Having moored within the sickle-shaped marina, massive boats load their catch on to smaller ones, that are then rowed, burdened with the crates, to a concrete jetty. There they’re unloaded for l’asta del pesce – the fish public sale – which takes place in a blue and whitewashed concrete constructing subsequent to the dock.
Anyone can be part of the boisterous public sale, though solely a number of the fish does, a lot of it already destined for native eating places and different cities, most notably the blood-red prawns and black lobsters nonetheless thrashing furiously. What is to be auctioned is loaded on to low trolleys supervised by males in shorts and Adidas flipflops, who then promote entire plastic crates of kite-like skate, coral and white mullet, coils of spatola (silver scabbardfish) and mackerel with tiger stripes, to the perfect bidder.
We have purchased fish right here every now and then – the final time being a complete crate of mackerel, which I then tried, and failed, to protect underneath oil – however largely we come to look at. Standing on the again with our toes in puddles, we hope to see what we will probably be consuming that evening, because the house owners of Sakalleo – one in every of whom is a most putting lady known as Giada – supervise the arrival of the crates from their very own boat. Later, whilst you await dinner with a luminous spritz, bowl of peanuts and a saucer of sausage rolls made with that sometimes Sicilian, virtually candy, pastry, you possibly can watch Sakalleo’s boat bobbing within the marina in opposition to a campari-coloured sundown.
I’ve written about Sakalleo, and Giada, earlier than – and doubtless will once more – as a result of it’s one in every of my favorite locations to eat. This favouritism is muddled up with the truth that it’s in Sicily and related to Vincenzo’s household and lengthy summers, with heat nights after scorching days, throughout which we do little or no. Mostly, although, it’s as a result of Sakalleo serves distinctive meals – which might’t be stated of a number of the different locations on this seaside city. At Sakalleo, fish simply hours from the ocean is ready by a household of employees in a approach that manages to be as elegant and homely because the place itself. Even these different eating places on the town will let you know that it was Sakalleo and Giada’s late father, Pasquale Ferrara, a hairdresser-turned-mayor-turned-restaurateur, who started the now-common native behavior of getting a set antipasti menu. Having been welcomed by Giada, you pay an inexpensive set value, after which it begins – a seemingly infinite stream of dishes: plump pink prawns with fats flecks of lemon zest and native olive oil; anchovies cooked in 3 ways; sauted clams in a puddle of liquor; entire fried mullet with a relish of candy onions … If you want to proceed after the antipasti, you possibly can – to pasta and braised octopus. But that could be a entire different column.
While consuming there’s an expertise to not be missed, Sakalleo can also be inspiring for the house cook dinner: the best way they use orange and pomegranate juice to flavour and marinate; serve fried fish with sweet-and-sour onions, pair cheese with preserved anchovy, or fried egg with bottarga. Last 12 months, I introduced house the concept of almonds and breadcrumbs on grilled fish; this 12 months it was these pistachio and cuttlefish fritti served with a spritz of orange. It is a quite uncommon, odd-sounding dish, I do know, however the flavours – the milky, mealy nuts, the agency however delicate fish, the orange – mingle superbly. Lastly, they’re fried – and fried issues are a scrumptious pleasure.
The course of is far the identical because the fishballs from a few weeks ago: you’re using egg to bind, herbs for fragrance, cheese for seasoning and breadcrumbs for bulk. Like all the best fritti, these should really be eaten standing around the stove, the first ones blotted and eaten while still hot enough to sizzle in your mouth. If you are frying, then really go for it (or delegate to someone like me who doesn’t mind getting smelly hair) and make the most of the hot oil: throw in some small fish or battered sage leaves, a handful of chips or matchsticks of courgette. Just make sure you have a sunset spritz, beer or sparkling wine to hand.
Cuttlefish and pistachio fritti (Polpette di seppia e pistacchio)
Makes about 15
800g cuttlefish or squid
40g pistachios, shelled
40g pine nuts
100g parmesan, grated
A small handful of fresh basil and parsley, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
Sunflower or peanut oil for frying
Orange wedges, to serve
1 Clean the cuttlefish and chop or mince the flesh into small pieces.
2 Using a pestle and mortar or a blender, pound the pistachios and pine nuts to a paste. Add the cheese and herbs and pound/pulse again.
3 Tip the mixture into a bowl, add in the cuttlefish and beaten egg and use your hands to mix into a consistent mass. Add breadcrumbs as needed – the mixture should be neither too wet nor too dry.
4 Break off large walnut-size pieces of mixture then, using wet hands, shape them into round, slightly flattened patties. Leave them to rest for 15 minutes.
5 Heat about 3cm of oil in a deep frying pan to 190C/375F. Prepare a plate lined with kitchen paper. Working in batches, a few at a time, fry the patties in oil until light brown, turning if necessary, then drain on the kitchen paper. Move to a serving plate, sprinkle with salt, if you wish, and serve immediately with orange wedges.
• Rachel Roddy is a food writer based in Rome and won the Guild of Food Writers food writer and cookery writer awards for this column. Her new book, Two Kitchens (Headline Home) is out now; @racheleats
Rachel Roddy from theguardian.com