Updated: Oct 10, 2021
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Growing up in an Italian household, making and cooking food and preparing meals are part of everyday life. It's a bit like getting dressed. And whilst you may want to give a bit of thought to your outfit for a special occasion, most days you might just throw on a pair of jeans and tshirt. Well, when my mum makes a meal, it's a bit like the latter.
There are no recipes as such to follow. Ingredients are usually the same but as for quantities, you have to have a good eye. And the size of your hand is important too. Let me explain.
My cousin and his mum came to Australia a couple of years ago. For him, it was his first trip here so naturally the whole extended family in Sydney wanted to show him as much of our glorious part of the country that we could. Naturally, I took them to Fifth Ave Katoomba Retreat for a few days and we happily showed off some of the Blue Mountains iconic sites.
In typical Calabrese style, the day's planning was not complete without a lot of thought to what we would eat. To speed things up, and not before having a very good cup of Italian coffee, we would take a back pack with pannini and head out.
Once we returned, my mum and her sisters would start putting together a meal, that included wild edible greens from the back yard, some home grown potatoes freshly dug up, and a few handfuls of pasta. Now try as I might, when I've made this meal, it would taste rather like dirty dishwater. My family might discreetly pick out the pasta. And then have to order pizza ... But when these women put it together, you'd be going back for more.
So why could I not get it right? Well, as my cousin and I discovered over these few days, every time we'd talk about these meals and others, the details would change from one time to the next. My mum would say, throw in some of this and some of that. And my aunt, whilst agreeing, would say – yes, but don't forget to add this too.
Captions: the now defunct Hop On Hop Off tourist bus taking us around the major attractions between Leura and Katoomba; wild edible greens picked and cooked for dinner; taking my overseas and interstate family on the world's steepest railway at Scenic World; mum's potato yield at Fifth Ave Katoomba Retreat; the three sisters at the famous Three Sisters, Echo Point; looking out to spectacular views from Scenic World's Sky Way.
It was very apparent when we decided to make some pizzas. Adding the salt to the flour was not measured with a cup or in grams. But with the size of my mum's hand!! Mind you, she'd get it right every time, so go figure. It did make for plenty of laughs around the table. I guess the moral is, there's nothing wrong with improvising and trial and error can only mean you will get better and better each time.
So now, to make cannoli filled with left over ricotta, this is how I make them:
Ingredients: Fresh ricotta that is firm and not watery Cinnamon Caster or icing sugar Cannoli shells (or mini ice cream cones) Cooking chocolate and or pistacchio optional
Based on the amount of ricotta you have, place it in a bowl and add a dash of cinnamon and the sugar to taste. ie I added a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar to 250g ricotta. Make it as sweet as you like. I prefer for it to not be overly sweet. So mix and taste as you go til you're happy with it.
For the cannoli pictured above, I mixed in two tablespoons of Milo chocolate, only because I have so much of it in the pantry. But you can add grated cooking chocolate instead.
Once the mixture is well blended, use a teaspoon to fill each side of the shell, pushing it into the centre.
Then crumble up some more chocolate, or pistacchio nuts which is classically Sicilian. Then dip the ends of the cannoli shells into it. Or why not dip one end in the chocolate flakes, and the other end in the pistacchio!
If you can't find the cannoli shells in store, buy mini ice cream cones instead.
Refrigerate for 20 mins before serving. Make sure you eat on the day you make them to ensure the shells are lovely and crisp.
My amounts filled 7 small cannoli shells (60cm long). It would have filled another two or three but I didn't have any more shells in the pantry.
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