Still, there's much to share. One of those traditions is one of my son's favourite treats made crisp and tender on Christmas Eve - zeppole. Just looking at these you'd assume they are sweet. An assumption justified by a google search to find that many zeppole recipes are jam filled sugar dusted heavenly confections. And while it's true that Southerners and i Siciliani love their sweets, the mountain dwelling lot at the doorstep of the Aspromonte equally LOVE their salt. I used to call these Sangiorgese Surprises because of the somewhat unexpected treasure inside. A great source of that pungent savoury goodness, and no better excuse to fill the brocca (jug) of wine again and again, are anchovies.
Nonna's back on her feet but tires easily (and would never admit it so don't tell her I said so). Her tastebuds didn't suffer and these treats are evidence of the fact.
|No sugar added: zeppole dough after the rise and ready for the fryer.|
|Golden and crisp zeppole, still warm. It's beer o'clock.|
About 600 g of boiled, slightly cooled russet or Yukon gold potatoes, riced (or through a food mill)
1 kg of flour
2 envelopes of active dried yeast (about 4 1/2 - 5 teaspoons)
300 mL milk or water to hydrate yeast.
1/2 teaspoon of sugar if using water (above)
tablespoon of salt or so (to taste)
4-6 L of oil for frying (grapeseed oil works well)
Savoury fillings, optional (anchovies, baccala, n'djua)
Boil or bake potatoes. I've done both, just make sure that you don't over cook if boiling and ensure they are fully cooked either way. Let cool slightly and rice into a large bowl.
Dust flour over potatoes and mix to coat. Make a well and add hydrated yeast that is foamy.
You may need a little more milk/water to make the dough the right consistency and also some recipes call for an egg or egg yolk to the flour/ potato mixture. Sprinkle with salt. An egg yolk or two, while my suocera doesn't use it, wouldn't be out of place to make a tender dough.
Mix by using a plastic dough scraper to fold the loose dough over onto itself in the bowl.
Transfer to a clean bowl and let sit, covered with a tea towel to rise. It will about double in size over a couple of hours. It could also be done overnight via a slower rise in the cantina if that timing is more suitable.
This is a sticky dough. Keep hands wet or slightly oiled to form fritters. You can form any of numerous traditional shapes the form with the hold in the middle is good for leaving them plain and the elongated shape or round works best for any of the filled varieties
So you may have noticed at this point, that there is no mention of anchovies or baccala YET.
That's because once you start to fry the zeppole with fish, there's no going back. The oil will take on the flavour of fish so fry off all that you'd like plain (or sweet) first, then fry the ones with filling.
Filling, a strip of oil or salt packed anchovy (oil being milder than salt packed), a strip of soaked and rinsed baccala or a nugget of n'djua will all suit the traditional Calabrese. In our house, all fried goodies get paired with beer, but vino will do nicely too.
Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and 2016 is treating you well.