“Cooking for Italians is essential,” says Simona Scimo, who grew up on the island of Sicily. “For us to cook and eat is a way of sharing and spending time with our families. This is why Sunday lunches are so big and long!”
A national obsession, that would be a religion – if they weren’t already so religious – the food in Italy was always too tasty to be contained within its boot-shaped borders. Having spread to every corner of the planet, by now everyone has enjoyed spaghetti Bolognese at home and lasagna at the local RSL, but nothing compares to an authentic Italian meal. Can’t visit anytime soon? Rilassare! Simona was kind enough to give up two of her favourite dishes, so at least you can eat like a true Sicilian, even if you’re trapped at home.
1 ¼ (310ml) cups warm water
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons dried yeast
3 cups (450g) plain flour
2 medium size potatoes
Fresh chilli to taste
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
1. Combine the water, yeast, and two tablespoons of oil in a small bowl. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for five minutes or until frothy.
2. Place flour and sea salt in a bowl. Make a hole in the center and add the yeast mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir until combined, then use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
3. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Brush a bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes or until it’s doubled in size.
4. Preheat oven to 200°C. Brush a 20 x 30cm pan with two teaspoons of remaining oil. Punch down center of the dough with your fist. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for two minutes or until dough is elastic and has returned to original size. Press into the prepared pan. Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place to rise for 20 minutes or until it’s doubled in height.
5. Finely slice the potatoes and onions and cover along the entire surface of the focaccia. Add rosemary and chili and a little bit more olive oil (so it doesn’t get too dry) and put in the oven.
6. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden and focaccia sounds hollow when tapped on base. When it’s ready, sprinkle with Pecorino cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Peppers with Breadcrumbs
6 large, red peppers
Salt and pepper
30g of pine nuts
1. Start by washing the peppers under running water, cutting them into strips and removing all the seeds.
2. Peel the onion and cut it into slices. Mix the onions with the peppers, add salt and olive oil and place them in a baking tray.
3. Bake in the oven at 200C for about 20-30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, toast the breadcrumbs in a preheated frying pan. Then toast the pine nuts separately.
5. When the peppers are ready, add the bread crumbs and mix everything. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm. Eat with the focaccia bread to make it all taste beautiful! – Simona Scimo.
Image: Anything less than five courses for lunch in Italy? That’s a paddlin’.