My mate Liana and I have one thing in common. We don’t eat to live; we live to eat. Now Liana is an outstanding cook. And me? Well it’s a bit of a hit and a miss affair. Sometimes I make the most awesome food; other times it’s just plain awful. So, I decided to book an Italian cooking course with yet another mate of mine – who happens to be a cook of legendary proportions.
Her name is Nunzia Rosselli-Rademeyer and she hails from Sicily – so her food is super authentic. She was born in Trapani, a village close to the coast of north Africa. She came to South Africa when her grandfather – who was sent to South Africa as a prisoner of war – decided to stay here after the war ended. He subsequently sent for his family, and therefore … at the tender age of three …. South Africa became Nunzia’s home. This was a Very Good Thing for South African foodies – because now Nunzia is able to introduce us to Sicilian food, which is just plain fabulous! Think Italian with a twist … Nunzia’s caponata, for instance (which I learnt how to make) includes sultanas and almonds.
Food has always been in her blood. “From a young age, I loved the family meal times and I can remember the fun and laughter in the kitchen as my grandma prepared typical Sicilian food. Everyone would sit around a large table and if any passer-by had heard the din, they would have thought a fight was in progress! Lunch would carry on for hours and progress into a card game, which lasted late into the night with more food. Food was a central focus of Sicilian family life,” she tells CyberStoep.
Fast forward to 2018 and today Nunzia holds cookery schools on her farm in the mountains between Machadodorp and Badplaas, and she also holds schools in Johannesburg, which was where I caught up with her. The really nice thing about her schools – which go by the name of La Cucina di Nunzia – is that they’re incredibly chilled (much like Nunzia herself). She starts out by telling you a bit about herself, and then guides you through the actual cooking. When you leave, you can purchase a copy of her superb second recipe book, Feeding My Soul. I have a copy, of course … it’s utterly glorious.
We learnt how to make focaccia bread, the afore-mentioned caponata, gnocchi, sugo with polpette and cannoli. Nunzia patiently explains all the processes and guides you along the way, without interfering too much (she just giggled when someone tossed some wine into the caponata; it most definitely doesn’t form part of the recipe). The cookery school was great fun; relaxed, informative and truly terrific. Oh, and I can truthfully report that I now know how to make Sicilian food (well, I know how to make those dishes…!) I can’t wait to experiment on my friends …
If you would like to attend one of Nunzia’s cooking schools, email her: Nunzia@rosesandsmc.co.za. You won’t be sorry!
I have also asked Nunzia to share the recipes for the focaccia bread, caponata and gnocchi … because those were especially awesome. She very kindly agreed. Here are those recipes:
(for 1 large focaccia bread)
300ml warm water
10g dried yeast
380g white bread flour
80g brown bread flour
60ml olive oil
30ml olive oil to seal focaccia bread
Chopped garlic and fresh herbs
- Dissolve yeast and honey with warm water and leave to stand for 10 min until frothy.
- Place flours, salt and olive oil in a bowl.
- Add yeast mixture and knead for 10 min.
- Leave for an hour to rise.
- Knead the garlic and herbs into dough.
- Roll out or use hands to make a circle about 2 cm thick.
- Spread over 30 ml olive oil, press all over with fingers and sprinkle coarse salt all over it, leave to rise for 5 min.
- Bake at 220°C for 10 min reduce to 200°C for a further 10 min.
- Slice and serve.
Variation: instead of fresh herbs and garlic, try substituting with tapenade.
(SICILIAN AUBERGINE FRY)
1 stick celery
2 bell peppers
100ml olive oil
1 salted anchovy
75ml tomato paste
75ml white wine vinegar
Optional: toasted almonds, basil, mint
- Cut aubergines, keeping skins on, into 3 – 4cm chunks and layer in colander with salt, leave for 15 minutes. Cut bell peppers into chunks same size as aubergines and celery into 1cm pieces.
- Heat olive oil in pan and add anchovy and onion, fry gently on medium heat until anchovy is melted and onion is translucent, add rest of vegetables and fry until cooked, aprox 20 min. Stir in tomato paste followed by capers, currants, white wine vinegar, sugar and seasoning and cook through for a few minutes.
- Serve hot or cold with a sprinkling of chopped mint, basil or chopped toasted almonds.
- Can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks.
GNOCCHI DI PATATE
500 g boiled floury potatoes, skinned and mashed
100 g flour
- Blend flour, salt, mashed potatoes and egg together and knead to form dough (it will be a little sticky use extra flour on your hands to work dough).
- Cut into 4 portions and taking one portion at a time roll dough out onto floured board to form a 1 cm diameter cord. With a knife cut 2 cm pieces and press lightly with back of fork. Finish the dough and leave gnocchi on floured board until ready to cook.
- In a large pot bring salted water to boil and add gnocchi. As the gnocchi rise leave to cook for about 3 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon and put into serving dish.
- Top with tomato sugo, fresh shredded basil leaves and serve with Parmesan cheese or any other sauce to your liking.