Have you been dreaming of experiencing a trip to Sicily? It’s scintillating and fascinating, it’s tasty, it’s colorful and passionate. Your senses will implode as you experience rich ancient historic sites, pristine turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and white-washed coastal villas.
Pumpkins would have to be one of my favourite ingredients: their magical and enchanting connotations, their golden, almost jewel sparkle when cut and their sweet clean flavour.
The versatility of the pumpkin is not to be sneezed at either, taking it from savoury to sweet in any nationality of cuisine.
The history of the pumpkin dates back over 7000 years ago with its origin coming from the squash family and a relative of the cucumber. Known all over the world, Antarctica is the only continent where the pumpkin is not grown.
The pumpkin and its many varieties Queensland Blue, butternut, Jarrahdale, Jap, Golden nugget, are widely used as ravioli fillings, soups, gnocchi, scones, pies, stews, curries and really just about anything as its delicate flavour lends itself to all manner of dishes, cooking methods, flavour combinations, and additional spices.
Rich in beta-carotene, high in fiber and potassium the pumpkin, like all other orange-coloured fruit and vegetables, is a great antioxidant. So versatile is it that even the shells of the pumpkin have been used and woven into mats.
The flowers like those of the zucchini are also edible. When cooking, steaming or roasting is preferred to boiling which makes them rather wet and not so appealing.
For intense flavour, pan-frying, roasting or chargrilling over moderate to high heat is best as it caramelises the natural sugars. You can now purchase pumpkin seed meal, oil and pestos that are ideal for salads, dressings and baking.
How to cook pumpkin
Tip for a nutritious snack:
Dry pumpkin seeds on paper towel and then toss with a little oil and sea salt or tamari or soy sauce and roast in a moderate oven of 150 c until dry to touch ( about 40 minutes).
Tip for a perfect side dish:
Zucca Fritta Con Cannella Ed Aglio
Fried Pumpkin with Cinnamon and Garlic
• 125 ml olive oil
• 700 g kent (jap) pumpkin (peeled, seeded and cut into 5 ml thick slices)
• 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 1 ½ tbsps. White-wine vinegar
• 3 tsp. White sugar
• ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat a small amount of the olive oil in a shallow frying pan over medium heat and cook the pumpkin in batches for 30 seconds on each side of until golden brown. You may need to add a little more olive oil to the pan. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pumpkin to a serving dish.
2. Keeping about ¼ cup (60 ml) of oil in the pan, gently fry the garlic over low heat for 30 seconds, taking care not to burn it. Remove the pan from the heat and from yourself as it may splutter when you add the vinegar. Add the vinegar, sugar and cinnamon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for 30 seconds, and then pour the mixture over the pumpkin.
3. Set the pumpkin aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavours to infuse. Serve at room temperature.
This how-to cook pumpkin recipe is taken from “My Taste of Sicily” cookbook.
Try some of my other pumpkin recipes like Salmon and Fennel Risotto with Carrot and Pumpkin
The following guest blog post is by Dominique Rizzo from Pure Food Cooking, Channel 10’s “Ready Steady Cook” and “The Circle”…
“A sustainable kitchen garden – Making a menu from mulch” was originally published at 1 Million Women some years ago.
Life is busy! I feel that this year is flying past with the blink of an eye. When I am out and about I often get asked what I cook at home and am often embarrassed to say that I indulge in the simplest of cooking and quite often live on vegetable soups, loads of grilled, poached or baked seafood’s, and fabulously fresh salads and vegetable dishes made with ingredients that I manage to pick from my brothers garden next door…. my little patch of herb and vegetable paradise is in the making.
Most of us are doing our best to grow our own little patch of produce and it’s wonderful if you are just managing to have only a couple of pots of herbs as gardening as I have found out does require a little or even a lot of effort to reap the benefits.
Working in my own sustainable kitchen garden I have come up with some great ideas on how to make the most out of what you grow, avoid wastage and even save money. Fresh herbs are fantastic to use in all cooking, salads, drinks and even desserts and tend to be very seasonal so when they come on take advantage of the abundance of these few simple ideas.
Using the harvest from your sustainable kitchen garden:
- Blend your herbs in a food processor with a little oil and freeze in ice cube trays, remove when frozen and then store in plastic bags or plastic containers, use the cubes to flavour soups, sauces, stir-frys or even to add to a dressing of olive oil, vinegar and a squeeze of lemon. Any combination of herbs are ideal for tossing with steamed vegetables, dressing steamed or baked fish, chicken or seafood or mixing through boiled potatoes with a little mayonnaise, low-fat yoghurt or sour cream.
- Try making pesto’s with a variety of different nuts and of course some sharp parmesan, this can also be frozen and is a great pasta sauce standby.
- Make your own fresh dried herbs, nothing like what you buy in the supermarket and are easily done by placing them onto a baking tray and allowing them to sit in a very low oven of about 40 – 50 overnight. Simply, scrunch up the herbs and store them in jars.
Lettuces are fantastically easy to grow and if you are not on top of them they soon start to flower, so get in while the leaves are young and sweet and use the leaves for wonderfully fresh salads. You can also lightly steam them and dress with olive oil and lemon or sauté the leaves with a little butter, garlic, prosciutto or bacon and top with toasted fresh breadcrumbs for a delicious side.There is always lettuce soup, a quick light soup combining garlic, onions, lettuce, homemade chicken stock, simmered until the onions are softened and garnished with fresh parsley and a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt.
Home grown tomatoes have the most amazing flavour, they make great fresh sauces and keep well packed into sterilised jars, tomato and chilli jam makes a great gift for you chilli-loving friends and helps you get stuck into that chilli bush you have full of that fiery flavour. Tomato, apple and rosemary jelly is superb as a spread on fresh scones or pikelets and ideal as an accompaniment to sandwiches and of course a kitchen is not home without a spiced tomato relish, it is a must in any one’s fridge or pantry great served with cold meats, barbecued meats, on sandwiches or tossed through chopped vegetables with a little oil before roasting tomato relish.
Lemons make fresh and vibrant table decorations piled high in glass vases with fronds of rosemary or thyme, squeeze the juice and zest the skin and freeze for use in drinks, homemade lemonade, lemon curd is delicious and easy to throw together for a country breakfast served with pancakes or spooned onto tartlets for a delightful afternoon tea with friends. Lemon zest and juice is perfect for adding to dressings, marinades, baking, and is ideal blended with garlic and fresh herbs rubbed into lamb, fish, or chicken.
Preserved lemons are quite expensive but very easy to make. Wash your lemons and then make a cut through the middle and then into quarters keeping the lemon intact. Pack each of the lemons with rock salt then fit them into your sterilised jar, I love adding, peppercorns, a stick of cinnamon, a bay leaf, some cloves and a star anise for a real middle eastern flavour. Alternate the jar with salt-filled lemons and more rock salt then fill the jar with lemon juice until the lemons are covered. Secure the lid tightly then sit in a dark place for up to 7-8 months. These make well received Christmas gifts, or just a thank you to a friend and why not wrap a little preserved lemon recipe for a wonderful Moroccan salad or a tagine, around the jar.
One of my other favourite recipes is for my divine lemon and fennel relish , it is an amazing accompaniment to fish, chicken, pork or lamb and goes beautifully with cheese, or tossed with freshly steamed asparagus or beans for a zesty side dish, this relish also makes good use of that excess fennel which tends to grow endlessly.
For a sustainable garden to work for you, you need to use it and keep on using it. So grab those empty jars that I know you have stored away for a rainy day and start cooking. The gift of food is something very special and is always well received from my family who have everything they need in the material sense and love eating. Receiving a basket or jar of homemade goodies from anyone for me is a real treat, you know that a lot of love and thought has gone into each and every mouthful.
Chef and author Dominique Rizzo shares her recipe for swordish involtini
This Swordfish Involtini recipe is a rendition of the sarde beccafico, stuffed baked sardines, although this is my version using swordfish and the similar delicious stuffing of garlic, pine nuts, raisins, pecorino cheese, and onions.
Sarde beccafico is a typical Sicilian dish made of fresh sardines filled breadcrumbs, olive oil, pine nuts, and raisins. Beccafico, which is a little bird similar to a quail, literally means beak figs.
This recipe serves 4, takes 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook. Skill level is easy.
- 520 grams of swordfish
- olive oil
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp parsley
- 1 small onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp pine nuts
- 1 tbsp raisins, chopped
- 4 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
- 1 small red chilli
- rich tomato sauce
- mixed salad leaves
- 1¼ cup pecorino cheese
- Cut the swordfish into thin slices and flatten. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Place the breadcrumbs and parsley in a bowl.
- To prepare the filling, heat 2 tbsp of oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Transfer the onion and garlic to a bowl, along with the pine nuts, raisins, flat-leaf parsley and chilli, and toss to combine.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Place ½ tbsp of filling onto a piece of swordfish. Carefully roll up the swordfish. Repeat with the remaining swordfish and filling. Dip the rolls in the seasoned oil. Coat in the breadcrumbs. Fry in hot oil for 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a baking tray and bake in preheated oven for 7 minutes.
- Top with pecorino and serve with tomato sauce and a mixed salad.
If you would like more recipes and tips like this, then follow Chef Dominique Rizzo on her YouTube Channel and on Facebook or Instagram
For more of Dominique’s recipes go to her cookbook “My Taste of Sicily” https://dominiquerizzo.com/product/my-taste-of-sicily-by-dominique-rizzo/
Sausages were in the news at the Brisbane Ekka 2015! Long gone are the days when the choice was limited to beef and pork sausages. Now there is a sausage for just about every cuisine from German bratwurst, Spanish chorizo, French Andoulliette to Sicilian sausages. I love them all, but no surprises that I think Sicilian sausages are the best and that’s a good reason to lift the lid and let you see what I’m cooking.
Take it easy and let the professional butchers like Michael Salm at Carindale, make the best of sausages for you, (seen here with Dom Melrose).
You can throw them on the barbeque or go for one pot cooking that’s at its best with this tasty dish for sausages, cooked in a simple rich onion and tomato sauce. This was one of my favourite dishes growing up as my mother cooked it many nights as a simple and quick economic dinner option. The roast pumpkin and green pea smash is a great option instead of mash potato and makes a fantastic side for grilled chicken, or fish.
Sausages with roast pumpkin and pea smash and tomato and onion sauce
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes.
Ingredients sausage dish:
• 8 x good quality sausages – get these from a butcher who makes his own as they will be lighter in additives and fats or choose a lower fat sausage
• 2 brown onions, sliced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 2 x 400 g tins of diced tomatoes
• ½ teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
• 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce*
• Salt and pepper
Ingredients: Pumpkin and pea smash
• 500g pumpkin, seeded and peeled
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 3 spring onions, (scallions) white and green part sliced thinly
• 2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
• Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200c
2. Cut the pumpkin into largish chunks about 4-5cm and spray or drizzle with a little oil, roast them for 20 minutes until golden and cooked through.
3. Heat a small saucepan and add in the butter, sweat off the spring onions for a couple of minutes then add the green peas and cook for 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper and with a fork partially mash the peas with the pumpkin.
4. For the sausages, heat a non-stick pan over a moderate temperature and brown the sausages on all sides, cooking them for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
5. Into the same pan add in the sliced onions and the garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add in the diced tomatoes and then fill one tin ½ way with water and swish out both tins adding this water to the pan. Add in the herbs, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Season with salt and pepper and add the sausages back into the pan, continue to simmer for another 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Turn off the heat and let the sausages sit in the sauce for a few minutes before serving with the mash.
Now for the real challenge – make your own sausages! This is my favourite Sicilian Uncle’s recipe for making sausages from my cookbook “My Taste of Sicily”.
Le Salsicce Di Zio Mario
Zio Mario’s Sicilian sausages
Makes: 40 sausages
Preparation time: 60 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
• 6 kg pork shoulder coarsely minced (ask your butcher to do this)
• 90 g sea salt
• ¼ cup (40 g) black peppercorns, cracked
• ¼ cup (40 g) fennel seeds
• ¼ cup (35 g) ground allspice of paprika
• 2 tablespoons mixed spice
• 1 large handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
• 1 bulb garlic, cloves chopped
• 10 m natural pork casings (order from your butcher)
1. Place the minced port, salt, peppercorns, fennel seeds, allspice or paprika, mixed spice, parsley and garlic in a large deep bowl. Mix well with your hands so that all the spices are blended through. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight so that the flavours have time to develop.
2. If the casings are salted, rinse them under cold running water, then keep in a bowl of water to ensure they stay moist.
3. To make it easier to fill the sausages, remove the meat from the fridge at least 30 minute beforehand to bring it to room temperature; this will prevent the filling from breaking the casings. To test the flavour of the filling, fry a small ball of it in a frying pan over medium heat, then adjust the seasoning accordingly.
4. If you have a mincer of sausage machine at home, using the tube attachment, carefully slide a piece of the casing on the tube. If you don’t, you can use a piping bag to stuff the casings with the meat. A good tip is to fill the casing with about ¼ cup (60 ml) water; this will open the casings as you fill them. Start the machine on low until you get the hang of the pace and stuff the casing evenly with the pork mixture, taking care not to break the casing. Once you have a long sausage, you can either leave it as is and coil it around itself, securing with string (this is more traditional), or twist the casing around at intervals to make your desired sausage length. Repeat with the remaining casings and filling. Refrigerate the sausages for at least 30 minute before cooking.
5. For thick sausages, pan-fry or barbeque for 4-5 minutes on each side or until the sausage is slightly firm to touch, about 15 minutes in total (thin sausages will take about 10 minutes). Alternatively, roast the sausages in a roasting pan at 200 degrees C for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
6. Leftover raw sausages can be wrapped in serving-sized portions and frozen for up to 3 months.
Making sausages is not difficult but maybe a bit messy, so you can refresh your hands using one of Putia’s beautiful sea salt scrubs!
“My Taste of Sicily” cookbook and Sea salt scrubs are available on-line at
I would just like to say that my friend and I enjoyed your book review at the Victoria Point Library a couple of weeks ago.My firiend bought me a copy of the book as a gift for my birthday ,which you kindly signed. My husband & I had a dinner party and cooked both the rabbit recipes in the book . Also I made the ricotta , poppy seed and honey cake . All I can say is Yummy!!!!
Thank you for producing this book .I am sure that it is going to be well used in our household.
Kind Regards, Carol
This was a letter addressed to my Mother:
I have just purchased Dom’s book from the Library bookshop – You all look so lovely. I’ve just had a quick look & will have to wait for a more thorough investigation. I had decided not to purchase any more Italian cook books, but this is certainly one that needs to be on my shelf
Warm regards Christene
This was a letter addressed to my Mother:
My copies of My Taste of Sicily have just arrived. What a magnificent publication. I have only just flicked through the book as I am going out for an early dinner but the sumptuous recipes look sensational and beautifully illustrated.
They have got my taste buds going but it is a little while to dinner so I had better put it down. The photograph of Dominique on the cover is really lovely. How proud you must be. And of course the charming photos of you (and the family) inside. A really impressive book which I will proudly use. Please pass on my congratulations to Dominique.
I would just like to congratulate you on such an amazing and gorgeous cook book “My taste of Sicily” !!! I promised myself last year that I would not buy anymore cook books however after seeing you a couple of times on The Circle I just had to buy yours!
I’m so glad I did…I’m only half way through the book and I have literally run out of “post it” notes, noting each recipe I “must try”. The recipes look divine and you have captured so many memorable meals I myself have been brought up with. Recipes I should have asked my Nonna for when she was still with us. You should be very proud. I wish you every success.
Kind Regards, Caterina
I have just received a wonderful surprise gift from my loving family … a signed copy of your new cookbook. I’m soooo delighted. My teenage daughter had the pleasure of cooking with you at the Ekka recently and you really made an impression on her (and myself).
We plan to cook our way through all of your recipes. My husband’s family is also of Sicilian heritage and I’m sure we’re all going to enjoy indulging in many wonderful meals prepared straight from the pages of your book. I hope to do some of your cooking classes soon and have signed up for your monthly newsletter. I wish you every success with your book and thank you for inspiring me to get back into the kitchen.
Very best wishes, Liz Di Mauro (and Family)