Sunday, January 16, 2011

Signature dishes: What's yours?

I know I'm new to this. Since it's early days I don't want everyone thinking it's all going to be about is my late Nonna in laws' recipes. It won't be. It's just that it's the anniversary of her passing so she is on my mind and I'm a sentimental fool.
We are having a family gathering today so I thought I'd make her signature dish and my all time favorite thing that she cooked. Also,please don't think that all my recipes involve frying. I promise there will be many more that don't. I must be in a frying mood right now...


Ok. I guess it isn't really truly crostoli. But that is what she called it. I've searched for equivalent Italian pastries but have never found anything that is really in the same ballpark as this. The easiest way to describe it, is that it is a sweet deep fried 'ravioli' with a custard centre. If anyone knows another name or a similar recipe I'd love to find out about it.

Other than being an absolutely delectable treat, Nonna's crostoli is, I believe, even more beautiful because it was totally and authentically hers and hers alone
. A signature dish. I'm not sure I have one myself. Maybe I do and I don't yet realize it. Perhaps via the blogging journey I will find out what it is or maybe my friends might care to tell me what they perceive my signature dish to be.

Few things get me more excited than an ethnic home cooked dish. If someone says, 'here have a piece of this thing that my Nonna/Buba/Nana/Oma/Zia made...' I'm there! Tasting, analyzing, trying to figure out what's in it, how they did it, then wondering how I can get the recipe. I once badgered my Greek hairdresser for a recipe for a recipe from his Mum. It was a honey soaked walnut biscuit with a hint of cinnamon and lemon zest that he served me with my tea in the salon. Eventually his very generous mother relinquished the recipe complete with her phone number in case I had any problems!

But this scenario isn't always the case. Sometimes people are very protective of their recipes and I wonder why that is? What are we trying to protect or keep? Maybe it's a way of assuring the purity or integrity of the dish, but I believe that interpretation and personal variation in cooking is something quite fabulous.

Personally, I can't think of a better way of honoring Nonna than sharing her recipes. I've told you some of her story and you might go on to make her dish so therefore, a little piece of her can live on. She was never shy about sharing and totally acknowledged that my version would be slightly different from hers. We do after all, leave our own mark, as individual as our fingerprints, on our dishes.

And now I will share this with you. So if you go ahead and make it, spare a thought for a little Italian lady who loved nothing more than having her family sitting around a dinner table together and eating. I would love to know how it went for you and what you think of it!

Do you have a signature dish? What is it? Do you share it willingly and if not, what stops you from letting it go? Have you ever tried to get someones special recipe and were you successful? I'd love to know.........


(again please remember the quantities are not exact just like most regional peasant cooking. I have measured and tested but feel free to adjust to your discretion)


100gm melted butter

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 whole eggs

Juice and zest of 1 orange

1 tablespoon brandy

Enough plain flour to form dough (I use 3 cups but maybe more added gradually depending on the juiciness of the orange, until the consistency is right)


2 egg yolks

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon plain flour

Juice & zest of 1 lemon


For pastry:

Whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Add melted butter, orange and brandy and combine. Add sifted flour until dough forms. Kneed gently a couple of times then wrap with cling film and rest in fridge for 30 min.

For custard:

Combine yolks and sugar and whisk, then add flour and lemon to make a paste. Heat milk. Add milk and combine with paste then return to milk pan and heat gently on stove, stiring with wooden spoon until quite thickened. Allow to cool.


Roll out dough on floured surface until quite thin. I sometimes use a pasta roller for this and roll to number 7 on the roller. When using pasta machine, only roll small quantities as the dough is quite soft compared to pasta dough and trickier to handle large amounts

Cut into 4-5 cm squares. Place a teaspoon of custard in centre. Brush border with water. Fold in half diagonally to form triangle. Expelling air, seal edges by pressing together. (Nonna made them any random shape and size, so do whatever you fancy.)

Heat canola oil in wok or deep pan. Fry until golden brown and drain on wire rack. Shake sifted icing sugar over while still warm.
This recipe makes a rather large amount and usually what I use for a dozen or so people. I find if I have excess pastry it freezes beautifully, but the custard doesnt.

Good luck and Buon Appetito!

sealing the pastry
frying until golden

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1 comment:

  1. Sounds great. I'm definately trying it!