Saturday, 20 February 2016

Sicilian Soulfood Supper

Pani Bagnatu ca Cicoria e Patata Rustuta
Bread, Soaked in Chicory & Potato Broth & Baked in the Oven

This is one of those dishes, that if you don't actually try it for yourself, you will never even begin to know how incredibly tasty and good it truly is. 

You have heard the phrase "cucina povera" used many times before, I should imagine- or "poor peoples food", as it translates from the Italian. And that is exactly what this is- peasant food. And by gawd does it make for a good meal on a cold Winter's evening!!!

This is my version of what would basically have been old, hard, stale bread that would be soaked in a vegetable broth, in the old days. Hey- when you have nothing else- you are happy to have anything at all! But then, what you DO have in Southern Italy, no matter how poor you are- is incredible olive oil... and aaaah! THAT is what makes this so special! But of course, I added a little tiny tweak or two of my own to make things a little bit better still...

So- what do we have here? Why- we have the ingredients for 2 great portions of this lovely dish! For 2 portions, you will need just 1 small onion, 1 small potato, 1 small bunch of chicory or dandelion greens (although I guess any leafy green you may prefer would work fine), salt, pepper, fennel seeds and good extra virgin olive oil.

Normally, the simple broth of the greens would be enhanced by adding a little onion for sweetness and potato for body, then the bread would either be added and stirred-in, or laid in the plate and the broth poured on top. 

I decided to give the potato and onion a good fry with some fennel seed to give them more flavor, to make the greens easier to digest and to make for a more complex flavor... and decided top pop the whole thing into the oven, to crisp up the bread on top, whilst leaving it soft and unctuous down below... just little tweaks... but they made all the difference!

So, as I just mentioned- the first step is to finely dice the potato and onion and to fry them in olive oil, with a good pinch of fennel seeds and plenty of pepper until they start to become brown- or as you can see- until the saucepan begins to turn brown at the bottom- haha! 

Seriously- that is all good and you do want that to happen, because that is what will make the broth so delicious!

Deglaze the saucepan with plenty of boiling water and stir until all of that good flavor comes up from the base and you have a lovely, rich, sweet fennel and onion scented stock.

Add a good pinch of salt for seasoning and then add the chicory, which you should chop down into bite-sized pieces. Reduce the heat to a simmer, put on the lid and allow to steam for the following 10 minutes.

10-15 minutes later, the greens will have wilted down and you can add a little more water if necessary... otherwise- it is time to turn on the grill in your oven and get ready to finish off the job!

Spoon the greens into baking tray and spread them out evenly.

Then add the bread- I had these handy little rolls in my case and spoon the potatoes and onions over the top. Finish off with the broth- enough to soak the rolls, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil.

Pop into the oven, set to the highest setting, for 10-15 minutes, until the greens are piping hot again and bread has become golden around the edges on top.

Crispy and golden and delicious with the flavor of that good oil! Yum, yum, yum!

Like I said- you need to try it to understand the magic-but it is magical indeed, how much lovely flavor can be created from so few ingredients... So try it out and enjoy!

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