“Adelina had made pappanozza for him. Onions and potatoes boiled a long time and mashed with the back of a fork until they blend together. Seasoning: olive oil, a hint of vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. It was all he ate. He wanted to keep to light food.”
I am a bit of a bookworm. No, a LOT of a bookworm. I will read just about anything, but I have a particular weak spot for detective novels. Be it Inspector Lynley, Martin Beck, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot or my current favourite, Inspector Salvo Montalbano, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good whodunnit.
But a whodunnit that combines blistering social and political criticism (much like the Martin Beck books) with the most mouthwatering descriptions of Sicilian cooking…well, this comes as close to Heaven as I wish to get without actually having to die!
Salvo Montalbano employs a local woman called Adelina to clean his beach-front house and make sure that he never runs out of scrumptious things to eat (no matter what time of day or night). Upon opening his fridge or oven, the good Inspector is (almost) never disappointed. Adelina is virtually illiterate, but a virtuoso cook.
A week or so ago, I decided to try out one of the simpler-sounding recipes, pappanozza, which is basically mashed potatoes and onions (similar in concept to Belgian stoemp), as a side dish to accompany baked salmon with kale. Given that there is no actual recipe per se in the book (other than what is quoted above) I had a search via my beloved Kindle Paperwhite and found what I thought was the Holy Grail: a recipe book containing all the recipes to be found in all the Montalbano books! But like many things purporting to be relics, this had a catch. The recipe given in “I segreti della tavola di Montalbano. Le ricette di Andrea Camilleri” by Stefania Campo, is (unfortunately for me) in Italian and also of a similarly descriptive nature than a scientific, so a bit of detective work (excuse the pun) was needed. With the aid of Camilleri’s description, an Italian-English dictionary and some semi-willing guinea pigs (my family) I think I managed a reasonable approximation.
Ingredients: (amounts are dependent on how many you need to feed)
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Peel and quarter the potatoes and the onions. Bring to a boil in a pan filled with water, then reduce the heat and simmer until the onions are soft and the potatoes are thoroughly cooked (just to the point of falling apart).
2. Drain the potatoes/onions and transfer to the serving dish. Add a splash or two of vinegar and enough olive oil to enable you to mash the vegetables into a creamy-ish consistency using the back of a fork. Season with salt and pepper, stir and serve.
Next time I make this I will take better note of the quantities used of each ingredient. I would guess I probably used 6 largeish potatoes, 4 medium-sized onions and perhaps a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to vinegar. But I would not swear to it… It seems to be a recipe based mainly on guesstimates anyway, so keep up the tradition!