I am slowly moving towards another momentous step in my life with the possible purchase of a spectacular plot of land in Sicily where I will build my dream home. Well, perhaps not quite a dream house but certainly one with a separate laundry room and cinema room, and with gorgeous views whichever way I turn, although perhaps not as varied as those on Mary Taylor Simeti’s farm where I am spending more and more time getting used to life in Sicily. And one way of getting used to life in a new country is to cook the local food which I did recently, grilling stigghiole (baby lamb’s intestines) with Mary and Tonino, her lovely husband. I should really be frank here and admit to having done nothing apart from watching them do the grilling.
Mary came down from their house with a bag full of these tiny pieces of charcoal which she said were quicker to produce the embers needed for the barbecue. But we still needed kindling wood and she and Tonino went out to the field beyond the terrace in search of some, coming back with dried branches fallen from their olive trees which Tonino heaped over the charcoal before setting fire to them.
He then poured a little olive oil over a paper back and rubbed the metal grill clean before laying the stigghiole over it.
It didn’t take long for Nana, their rather beautiful and super friendly dog, to come sniffing but she is very well behaved and this is all she did before going back to lie down in the sun.
Tonino let the stigghiole half cook before setting them aside in order to stoke the fire — the intestines may come from a milk-fed lamb but they still require long slow cooking and having a slow constant fire is essential for them to grill properly, with the outer layer getting slowly crisp while the inner ones and the spring onion they are wrapped around get soft. You can read more about them and other Italian offal in my article for Fool magazine’s latest issue which hits the stores on 27 December
Tonino returned the stigghiole to the fire and as the fat lining the intestines started melting and dripping into the fire, the smoke rose and Nana’s nose started twitching!
But we didn’t pay attention to her and instead got the table ready with delicious bread from Spiga d’Oro, the white one made with ricotta and the dark one with an ancient wheat called tumminia. We also had a bottle of Mary and Tonino’s excellent nero d’avola, not to mention the freshly picked lettuce leaves that we dressed with their own brilliant extra virgin olive oil, the only one I use in London. I had also bought the most delicious roast potatoes from Delizie, my favourite butcher shop in Alcamo where they have a fantastic selection of salumi and cheeses.
And here is what the stigghiole look like once grilled. They are not the prettiest things but I can assure you that they are totally delicious. And to think that I have been chasing them for years, from when I started researching my Mediterranean Street Food book back at the end of last century! I had tasted them before of course but never on the street and it took me all those years to finally lay my hands on uncooked stigghiole and have them grilled the way they are on the street thanks to Mary and Tonino!
It was a delicious lunch, made even more special because of the fabulous views. The windmill farm in the distance looks slightly incongruous in this divine landscape but thankfully it is far enough not to spoil it, although Mary did say she could hear the humming of the turning blades on a still day. I haven’t yet. Mind you compared to the din outside my Shoreditch loft, even that humming would be sheer bliss!
Tagged : baby lamb's intestines, bosco falconeria, fool magazine, intestines, italian offal, mary taylor simeti, mediterranean street food, nero d'avola wine, offal, palermo, sicilian street food, sicily, spiga d'oro, stigghiole, tumminia wheat 3