We don’t often choose Italian when we eat out. Partly because my wife likes to make Italian food at home. Partly because we go to Italy fairly frequently and get our fill of fresh local specialities over there. But this weekend we had the opportunity to attend a bookalokal event featuring Sicilian cuisine. Sicily is one of the parts of Italy I still haven’t visited, so I was keen to try it out.
We arrived at Emanuela‘s house in the Ixelles quarter of Brussels and were welcomed into her living room for an aperitif. Her two daughters were bustling around in the kitchen and after a few minutes came through with a plate of mozzarella pastries they’d made themselves.
We were then joined by several other guests, who were a varied and interesting group: an Italian tenor, a German-born European Commission translator, a Flemish-Catalan singer and a doctor from Ghent who specialises in allergies. Plus Emanuela, who has professional experience in the catering industry, and her lawyer husband Giorgio.
The first dish was caponata, which is a Sicilian aubergine salad with peppers, capers and sweetened vinegar. On the right, more aubergines with mozzarella and mushrooms. As Emanuela explained caponata is one of those dishes which everyone does a little differently, but I was more than happy with her version: the vinegar adds a little sharpness but without making it too sour. Nicely balanced. We all had two portions.
The pasta is another Sicilian recipe: pasta alla norma. Aubergine, tomato, ricotta and basil. Another winner.
And finally for dessert: biancomangiare. This is a far cry from the “blancmange” we were served in the school canteen back in England, and the almond milk, cinnamon and pistachio flavours made it a very satisfying and light dessert.
Our hosts were warm and enthusiastic and we chatted for quite a while with the other guests about favourite restaurants and recipes. It was a very enjoyable evening and one we’re keen to repeat soon.