Cooking like a Sicilian

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Getting ready to cook

DonQui has the opportunity to try his hand at Sicilian cooking under the watchful eyes of the chefs from Duca di Castelmonte, near Trapani.

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Duca di Castelmonte

Duca di Castlemonte is an old farm estate now converted into an excellent country restaurant and guest house. 

DonQui Oaty’s first lesson is in making a traditional Sicilian spiral pasta (busiate).

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Roll out a thin finger of dough

This is done by rolling out a thin finger of dough then gently rolling it around a wooden stick to produce an elegant spiral. The stick is first dipped in flour to stop the dough from sticking to it.

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Make the spiral by rolling it around a kebab stick

DonQui takes his time with the first one, learning that it is best to make them quite thin and not too long.

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DonQui begins to get the hang of it

Once he gets the hang of it he is able to produce them with confidence but it is a time consuming process which would be best done with several willing helpers. DonQui is fortunate that the dough (hard flour and water — no eggs) is pre-made for him.

The sauce is a Trapanese tomato pesto. The ingredients (for two) are:

2 pealed garlic cloves
approximately 2 tablespoons of blanched, lightly roasted almonds.
a small bunch of fresh basil (torn up)
a pinch of salt and pepper
a generous glug of olive oil
pulp of 4 red, ripe tomatoes; peeled, seeded and roughly chopped

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Peel the tomatoes by first immersing them in boiling water

To peel and seed the tomatoes: score the skin in quarters, cover with boiling water for about 5 minutes then let cool. The skins will peel off easily. To de-seed, squeeze the tomato over a bowl and the seeds and excess liquid will come out leaving just the pulp.

Method:

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Use a mortar and pestle to make the pesto

Prepare the pesto by first mashing up the dry ingredients and garlic, with a mortar and pestle, until it forms a sort of paste. Add the torn basil and pound together a bit more until well blended.

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After adding the tomatoes and olive oil

Add the tomato pulp and olive oil then mash it all together until well mixed. Set to one side.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water (You don’t necessarily need to use home-made pasta). Drain and tip out into a bowl and mix in the pesto.

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The completed dish

Serve with a good sprinkling of chopped roasted almonds on top then enjoy.

It is one of the most divine pasta dishes DonQui has had the opportunity to taste. In his view it does not benefit from the addition of cheese.

The Art of Cookery

No matter how good you think you are there is always room to improve your skills. So it is that DonQui finds himself in Ireland attending the one day Cheat’s Guide to Gourmet Cooking course at the Dublin Cookery School.

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Feeling a bit like a contestant on Master Chef, Don Qui fastens his apron and sets about trying to reproduce six gourmet dishes: three starters, two mains, and a desert.

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Each dish is first demonstrated, the tilted mirror above the demonstration counter allowing DonQui to see what is going on in the dishes and pans from above as well as from in front. Then armed with notes and a printed recipe he joins the others to take his station before a stove top where the various utensils, and pre-measured ingredients have been laid out.

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Short-cutting the prep time along with the fact that others did the cleaning up suited DonQui very much. He found himself wondering if there could be some way of reproducing this at home.

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The point of the course is not just to cook the dishes but to learn the tips, tricks and techniques used by chefs. Some of these — such as blanching vegetables in advance and finishing them off in a pan at the last moment — DonQui already knew. Others, such as how to produce the perfect poached egg, are new to him. Indeed DonQui has never poached an egg before and he approaches the exercise with some trepidation. The same could be said of the hot salad dressing.

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DonQui feels very pleased with himself when each of the dishes turn out as they should. He is particularly proud of his asparagus salad with lardons, black pudding and poached egg.

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Over the next few weeks DonQui will try the recipes and techniques at home to see how they turn out whens he tries them without adult supervision. On the assumption they work out he will publish them on his blog, revealing some of the tips he has learned.