These past few weeks I find myself conflicted. I like to keep up to date with what is happening in the world but following the events in the UK, US, France and Turkey brings untold sadness to my life.
When the world makes no sense and challenges my sanity, I retreat back to firm ground. Following the principles of cooking yields a predictable result. While trivial, this is my terra firma in this increasingly mad world. Cooking also gives me an optimism as most people’s ideas of identity often do not apply to their stomach.
The traditional recipes I love express how intertwined our cultures are. Take the tomato for example. It was once an American immigrant to Italian shores brought by the Spanish. For many, the idea of the tomato is part of the foundation of Italian food. Imagine if pizza never had tomato sauce?
Saffron, the key flavouring in risotto milanese, was brought to Italy by the Arabs. Many many people around the world, could not, would not live without their favourite Ethiopian/Arab drink, coffee.
The combination of flavours from around the world yields some truly delicious results. Try my favourite Arab-American-Sardinian dish, mallorredus alla campidanese. It’s a combination of chewy homemade durum wheat meal pasta infused with saffron and dressed with a tomato sausage sauce. Make your own combination of friends and family to share the meal together.
Mallorredus alla campidanese (saffron semolina gnocchi with tomato sausage sauce) – Sardegna
Mallorredus derives from malloru meaning “calf” in the dialect of the Campidano area. For step-by-step illustrated instructions, click here.
375 grams durum wheat flour / semolina (grano duro)
2 pinches saffron
100 ml water
1 onion, skin and ends removed and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, skin removed and finely chopped
30 mls extra-virgin olive oil
250 grams sausage (preferably fennel flavoured) or minced pork (add 3 grams ground fennel seed)
240 mls red wine
400 gms tomatoes, skin and seeds removed and coarsely chopped or tomato passata
1 pinch saffron
50 grams pecorino cheese, finely grated
Pasta (for an illustrated step-by-step guide, click here):
Soak the saffron in the water. Pour the semolina onto a work surface and hollow out the middle of the mound. Pour the saffron water in the hole and knead until firm. Cover the dough in cling film (plastic wrap) and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Break off a small piece of the dough and roll it into a 4 mm wide roll. Use a small knife to cut off 1 cm wide pieces. Roll each piece down a grooved wooden board or the tines of a fork digging your thumb down into the dough so that the dumpling rolls around creating a small cavity in the middle. Place the dumplings on a floured tray until ready to cook.
Add the olive oil, onion and garlic to a large sauce pan and fry over medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the sausage meat and fry until coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and allow the wine to evaporate (15 minutes). Add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Cover and let cook for 20 minutes. Add a pinch of saffron and stir to combine.
Bring to boil a large pot of salted water (5 litres of water and 50 grams of salt). Boil the gnocchi until they float (6 to 8 minutes) and remove with a slotted spoon to the serving bowls. Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve topped with grated pecorino cheese.
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