Pistachio, citrus and aubergine punctuate Sicily’s eclectic culinary history
The nights are drawing in and we’re dreaming of a Mediterranean holiday. With its immaculate white beaches, sparkling turquoise sea and incredible food. Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, would be a great shout right about now.
Reluctantly though, we’re staying put (crying tier 3 tears) but we can bring a slice of Sicilian sunshine home by ordering a takeaway from Sicilian NQ. Lord knows we need it.
Food is surely one of the most important parts of travel, not only for its endorphin-firing and hedonistic properties but what it teaches us about a culture, its people and its history.
If you thought Sicilian food was basically Italian food, think again.
Sicily has been occupied by many different countries over the years so its food has influence from Greek, Arabic, Spanish, African and, yes, Italian food too.
Key ingredients include lemons, pistachios, chillies, rice, dried fruits, aubergine, oily fish and a special type of ricotta, ricotta salata - a pressed, firmer version of the soft cheese that can be grated on top of dishes bringing a salty, slightly nutty, feta-like tang.
Many of the ingredients used by the chefs at Sicilian NQ are shipped over from Sicily so you know you’re getting an authentic taste.
What do we recommend?:
Arancini - Deep fried, breadcrumbed, risotto balls oozing with indulgent fillings are basically our food of dreams. The recipe for this national dish changes depending on which part of Sicily you are in. Arancini at Sicilian NQ are huge. We tried one stuffed with a rich ragu - like a mini mount Etna bursting with delicious cheesy and meaty lava - and another ‘Al Burro’ with ham and cheese served on a fragrant homemade pesto sauce. Pick your favourite fillings and order some of these if nothing else.
Gnocchi Alla Siciliana uses a riff on the classic Sicilian Norma sauce - named for the famous opera by Bellini as it was declared just as wonderful. It’s a slightly sweet, slightly sour sauce of roasted tomato and aubergine with salted ricotta served over rib sticking potato gnocchi to put a furnace in your belly on a Winter’s eve..
Panelle are an appetiser of little chickpea flour fritters, a popular Sicilian street food often eaten stuffed into a sandwich roll. At Sicilian NQ, they are served with a variety of (vegan) toppings like black olive tapenade and pistachio pesto, great with a glass of wine.
Sette Veli Pistachio is a cake the shade of the hippest 70s bathroom suite: avocado green. It’s not avocados that bring the green hue, though, but pistachio paste. If it takes you longer than 5 seconds to wolf this light and creamy cake down then we salute you - we did it in nanoseconds.
But it’s not just ready to eat food at Sicilian NQ. They have recreated Sicily’s famous Souk-like markets with all kinds of colourful, overflowing food stalls crammed into the narrow streets - just close your eyes and imagine.
In this online deli, you can find all kinds of treats: homemade limoncello and grappa, house cocktails, flavoured oils (the chill one gets our vote) pistachio pesto and other homemade sauces. There are also Kilner jars of house marinated olives with lemon, chilli and garlic, authentic Sicilian pasta, flour, cannoli with a variety of sweet flavoured ricotta fillings, biscuits, Savoiardi (for tiramisù) taralli, panettone, pandoro and more.
One more thing that Sicily is well known for is wine. As well as making wine from many familiar international grapes like Syrah and Chardonnay, Sicily has plenty of its own unique grapes too. The most famous Sicilian grape is the red Nero D’Avola which makes a smooth, slightly spicy wine bursting with hedgerow fruit. Grillo is perhaps the most famous white grape. It’s the base for the island’s famous fortified wine, marsala, but also makes a crisp, dry white for fans of minerally wines with lots of citrus and a touch of dried thyme. Both are available by the bottle for home delivery from the Sicilian NQ shop along with more local wines, aperitifs and cocktails.