Wednesday, 11 August 2010
One of our favourite meals in Sardinia was a bowlful of comforting fregola, strewn with mussels and fire licked vegetables, laced with mullet stock and lifted by a kick of chilli and a blast of lemon zest. It was our take on a Sardinian classic. Just without the pricey clams, saffron or tomatoes! After we’d devoured what was in our tangerine coloured bowls, I couldn’t help myself from scooping out the residual grains of moistened fregola from the discarded mussel shells.
Fresh from having our fregola virginity stripped away from us, my curiosity took over and lead me into the darkened corners of the information super-highway, where people discuss how to hand roll semolina so it turns into perfectly irregular nuggets of pasta-cum-couscous. It seems that fregola is a culinary palimpsest, showing the influence that Arabic culture has imparted on Italy. All of which is fairly ironic considering some of the nationalistic rumblings that occasionally get expelled from the mouths of officious Italian politicians about evil foreign food.
The main differences between the two are that fregola is toasted, giving it a nutty quality and that couscous tends to be much more granular. Meanwhile, to confuse matter, Israeli couscous is normally the size of a small pea and untoasted.
The fregola we encountered in Sardinia was gnarly and unevenly coloured which gives it a characteristic, hand made charm and could well be the basis for its name. As SFGate says, “The name fregola probably derives from Italian fregare, meaning to rub, an apt description of how moistened semolina is transformed into fregola's coarse crumbs.”
So back in Sweden I decided to revisit our Sardinian adventures by creating a bowl of langoustine loaded fregola as a sort of Sarda-Scandi fusion.
I blitzed the Fishchurch and left carrying a bagful of langoustines and a hake carcass which I had wangled for free. Brilliantly, the fishmonger had been more careless than frugal so there was still plenty of meat on the bones, especially around the head, so it made for excellent stock.
1 hake carcass plus accompanying stock vegetables in order to make a litre of fish stock
200 grams of fregola
4 raw langoustines
2 handfuls of spinach
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion - finely chopped
Half a finely chopped red chilli
Boil the fish carcass along with a carrot, a stick of celery and an onion for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and discard the bone and keep any meat that falls off. Reduce the stock, but don’t go too crazy because it can go gluey.
Meanwhile sauté the onion until softened and add the minced garlic. Then add the fregola and enough stock to cover. Cook until the fregola is soft and season. Grate the zest of an orange into the fregola and stir through half a red chilli. Then add the langoustines and cook them until they change colour followed by the spinach which you just want to wilt and add colour.
Check the seasoning and serve with the claws hanging over the edge of the bowl. I added a splash of chilli sauce at the end just to give it a lift as well, but that’s optional.
It’s very moreish. Luckily I didn’t eat both portions and managed to save some fregola for my next meal, which found its way into a roasted red pepper.
Chocolate and Zucchini recipe for fregola sarda
SFGate on fregola
Fregola with leeks and sausage
Fregola with goats curd, tomatoes and asparagus on Eat Like a Girl
Fregola sarda with vegetables and wild garlic pesto
How to make fregola by hand