When you need special equipment - cannoli

"Never buy a cannoli that’s been sitting ready-filled. The tubes should be piped full of sweetened ricotta for each customer on demand, otherwise they get soggy. Both ends of the tube are then dipped in ground pistachios and decorated with a curl of candied orange or some red or blackcurrants." Rachel Roddy

Now doesn't this look gorgeous and wouldn't you like to make it? But you can't make it without a piece of special equipment that you would only use for this particular dish - Cannoli. So the question to ask is would you bother? Probably not is the answer.


The equipment you need in this particular case is a set of metal tubes and I did find that Myer had some and they weren't very expensive, and they also wouldn't take up all that room. But I can see it now. I probably wouldn't use them after the first go so they would linger in the back of one of my little used things drawer gathering dust and crumbs. Along with the cookie cutters and egg rings.


I also have a blowtorch which I notice Ixta Belfrage recommending and not just for crème brulée - but for all those other things that are supposed to be charred these days. I have used it. I have made crème brulée a couple of times, and it was pretty good at the job, but I did find it a bit frightening, and when the gas - or whatever it is that makes the flame, runs out, I'm guessing that will be it. David keeps trying to make me buy a Thermomix - which I notice two chefs thought were pretty useless and as for David's cold-pressed juicer - well even he admits it's a pain. Too long to put together, too long to take apart and masses of washing up. I managed to get it out of the kitchen though and into his little baking corner in the laundry. Not that little a corner either. I do miss my silly little boiled egg timer though. David put it away somewhere strange and I have never found it again.


Anyway back to cannoli. It's a pity that something so gorgeous looking can't be made in your average kitchen. After all, brandy snaps can. I suppose the difference is that you don't cook the pastry around the tube with the brandy snaps. You just wrap your cooked circles around the handle of a wooden spoon, or a thin rolling pin. Whereas for the cannoli, you make the pastry, wrap it around the tubes and then deep fry. A wooden spoon would not do for that.


Cannoli come from Sicily but of course can be found all over Italy.


"Apparently, cannoli evolved during Sicily’s Arab occupation, in a harem in Qal‘at al-Nisa (now Caltanissetta) where women made Roman carnival sweets their own, with phallic implications." Rachel Roddy


The pastry is made with an egg and some sweet wine or Marsala. Well that's what Jamie Oliver does anyway. He also departs from tradition by putting chocolate and nuts into the sweetened ricotta filling, instead of candied fruits which I think is what the Sicilians do. He also says that his are smaller - he squashes his tubes a bit. Why I wonder?


The very classy looking version at the top of the page is from chef Achille Mellini, and yes he uses Marsala in the pastry as well. It was featured on the Italian Food Safari and is in the book which I have, courtesy of my friend Monika's many trips to the op shops.

However, his filling includes mascarpone as well as the ricotta and those glacé fruits. Candied fruits seem to be a Sicilian thing as their cassata cakes and many other lavish desserts are often covered them. It's ebullient and just a touch ancient it seems to me.


My other sample is from an old book and therefore not online. The book is Italy the Beautiful Cookbook by Lorenza de Medici and is therefore probably more traditional. I notice there seems to be a larger proportion of filling to pastry in these - and lots of those candied fruits. No mascarpone either.

All of which probably means that you should really go to Sicily and find a specialist cannoli maker rather than having a go yourself. That way you would get all those other things that go with such specialities as well - the ambience, the view, and when you get back home, the memories. Or there's probably a specialist somewhere in Melbourne too.



POSTSCRIPT

So champagne and fried chicken and chips. What's the verdict? Well yes bubbly does indeed go with this dish. The fried peppers/capsicum were a masterstroke. The bubbly was very nice, so nice that David bought four more bottles today but oh dear they've gone up in price to $5.99. It's apparently very popular and he got the last four bottles, although we were assured there would be more. David has tried to find out where it comes from with no luck at all.


As to the chicken. I just can't do crispy. I don't know what I do wrong. I followed the recipe to the letter but although it was tasty it was not crunchy, even if it almost looks as if it is. Neither were the chips - but then I knew they wouldn't be. They were pretty nice though and all got eaten. So a success but not as it should have been I think. I'm tempted to blame my oven but I think that's just cowardly. My two drumsticks on the left, David's two thighs on the right.


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