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fregola sarda with mussels and clams

Although it’s not a confirmed fact, the term sardine may actually come from the island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant. Despite its obvious connections with fish and water, Sardinian cuisine is mostly based on meat. Naturally, you can enjoy a pot of fresh mussels and clams or a platter of langoustines and squids in a seaside trattoria. What is more, one of the local specialities, called bottarga, is a delicacy of salted, cured fish roe, served similarly to grated parmesan to add flavour to simple pasta dishes. The most renowned Sardinian dish is, however, porceddu - roasted whole suckling piglet, grilled on a fire built with aromatic woods, seasoned with myrtle, which is one of the most remarkable aromas of the island. Due to numerous invasions that the island had suffered from (starting as early as with the Carthaginians in the 6th century BC), Sardinians were forced to move their settlements towards the centre of the island, which meant walking away from the richness of seafood.

Sardinian cuisine was strongly influence by the pastoralism, which’s story is as old as the story of Sardinia itself. Most of the island’s territories are grazings, unsuitable for any other agricultural production. This is why herding (mostly sheep, but also goats and cattle) had to become one of the most common occupation for the islanders. Shepherds needed food that was simple, nutritious and easy to transport, like maturing meats and cheeses, which get more flavourful with age and special types of bread. Thin and crispy carasau can be stored in a dry place for up to a year. Another light flatbread, pistoccu, can be eaten dry or softened with water. Then there’s civraxiu, crispy on the outside, soft and chewy inside. Owing to the preparation method and combination of ingredients, it can stay soft for a long time. A careful culinary observer will easily spot traces of foreign cultures. The most evident ones come from Spain, as Sardinia was under Spanish control for a several centuries. One will find the very same whole roasted piglet in Castilian cookbooks, under the name cochinillo asado. Another example is favata (in Italian) or fabata (in Spanish) - a hearty stew made in the winter with dried fava beans and pork. Arabic influences are visible when it comes to spices (saffron is now grown on the island and used to season soups and stews), roasted lamb, chickpeas and eggplants.

Another example of Arabic legacy is fregola - little balls of pasta made with semolina. It’s particularly popular in the southwestern part of the island, where it was probably brought by Ligurian merchants from today’s Tunisia. Fregola is closely related to Maghreb’s couscous, it is even called Sardinian couscous. In fact it resembles pitim, the Israelian take on couscous, more. The balls are bigger that the regular couscous and toasted after drying, which gives them unique golden colour and characteristic taste.

Fregola is served with fish soups and meat broths or with sauce. It is traditionally paired up with clams and tomato sauce (fregola alle arselle) or with hard sheep’s milk cheese, pecorino sardo (fregola incasada; incasado is a Sardinian term for ‘seasoned with cheese’, Sardinian pecorino in most of the cases). The recipe below is a modified version of the classic, fregola with clams and mussels.

Recipe: Fregola sarda with mussels and clams

  • 1/2 kg of mussels
  • 1/2 kg of clams
  • 1 1/2 cup of dry fregola sarda
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • one large onion, diced
  • 2 cups of scalded, peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • one tbsp. of brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. of olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and onion and cook until golden brown.
    Add tometoes, season with sugar, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken.
    Add one cup of wine, increase the heat, bring to boil, add fregola and cook for 4 minutes.
    Add remaining wine, bring to boil. Add mussels and clams, cover the skillet and cook over high heat until they open.
    Serve with bread.


    apple cinnamon rolls

    One of the greatest breakfasts of all times. It's a perfect treat for a lazy Sunday morning.
    They taste remarkably divine when still warm, with the icing that has not set entirely.
    A definite crowd-pleaser. If you decide to share it, that is.

    Recipe: Apple cinnamon rolls

    The dough

  • one cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup of melted butter
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. of instant yeast
  • 2 cups of flour

  • 1/3 cup of melted butter
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. of ground cinnamon
  • 2 small apples, diced
  • Cream cheese icing

  • 200 g of cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup of confectioner's sugar
  • 1/3 cup of milk

  • Combine milk, butter and sugar in a pot. Scald the mixture. Set aside and let cool until lukewarm.
    Add yeast, let them sit for a minute and add flour. Stir the mixture together until well combined.
    Cover and let sit for at least an hour.
    Work the dough. You might need to add some more flour (about 1/2 cup).

    Sprinkle surface with flour. Roll the dough into a rectangular shape.
    Drizzle with melted butter, sprinkle with brown sugar, top with diced apples.
    Role up dough and pinch edge together to seal. Cut into rolls.
    Place cinnamon roll slices close together in a buttered pan and let rise for about 30 minutes.
    Bake at 200C for 15-20 minutes.

    To make the icing, mix cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and milk together until thick and pourable.
    Top warm rolls with the icing.


    cauliflower crust pizza

    Diet-friendly, no flour, no gluten, no guilt. I have no intention of claiming that cauliflower crust is a perfect imitation of classic pizza dough with flour and yeast. It's different. And it's better.

    Recipe: Cauliflower crust pizza

  • a few cherry tomatoes
  • a few thick mozzarella slices
  • a few leaves of fresh basil
  • Tomato sauce

  • one onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, scalded, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp. of sugar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil

  • Heat the olive oil, add onion and garlic and cook until soft and golden.
    Add tomatoes, season with sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to boil.
    Simmer over medium heat until the sauce thickens (30-40 minutes), stirring every now and then.

    Cauliflower crust

  • one medium cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup of grated mozzarella
  • jone large egg
  • Using a food processor, blend cauliflower florets until pureed. Lightly steam the cauliflower for 3-4 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
    Use a cheesecloth to squeeze the excess water from the cauliflower.
    Transfer to a bowl and combine with parmesan, mozzarella and a whisked egg.
    Spread the "dough" into one large pizza on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
    Bake at 200C for about 15 minutes.
    Top the pizza with tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella slices. Bake for another 10 minutes.
    Top with fresh basil before serving.


    jeruselem artichoke chips

    They are not from Jerusalem, nor are they artichokes. Calling them sunroots or sunchokes seems more reasonable, as Jerusalem artichoke is a species of sunflower. Anyway, they are delicious and they make great chips.

    Recipe: Jerusalem artichoke chips

  • 300 g of Jerusalem artichokes
  • 1 tsp. of coarse sea salt
  • 2 tsp. of dried thyme
  • 3 tbsp. of olive oil

  • Wash and dry the sunchokes, thinly slice them.
    Whisk olive oil with sea salt and thyme.
    Brush chips with olive oil and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
    Roast at 180C for about 15 minutes, flipping chips halfway through baking.


    Mandarin oatmeal

    Mandarins are one of the most iconic food symbols of the Chinese New Year. They represent good fortune, thus are displayed in houses, shops and offices, as well as exchanged as gifts with friends and relatives. It's hard to tell if their special powers function on an everyday basis, but every reason to eat a healthy breakfast is a good reason. Not only on the New Year's morning.

    Recipe: Mandarine oatmeal

  • 1/2 cup of oatmeals
  • one cup of water
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp. of honey
  • 3 tbsp. of almond flakes
  • 2-3 mandarins

  • Place oatmeals in a saucepan, add salt, pour in water.
    Bring the mixture to a low simmer and cook for a few minutes, until the oatmeals soften and absorb the liquid.
    Combine with almond flakes and honey, top with mandarin slices.

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