I'm a big fan of the intriguing way the Sicilians manage to blend sweet, sour and salty to produce unexpected and magnificent results. Take caponata, for example, which I posted about a while ago: aubergines, vinegar, sugar, raisins, capers. Sounds odd, tastes sublime. Similarly, pasta con le sarde features fennel, chilli, pine nuts, raisins, parsley, and sometimes anchovies, saffron and breadcrumbs. That topping is the inspiration for this recipe, which is also loosely based on a popular Italian pasta dish of broccoli with anchovies, garlic and breadcrumbs, usually served with orecchiette (meaning "little ears") pasta.
It's incredibly simple: break a cauliflower into florets and cook in boiling water until tender. Meanwhile, fry a couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs in olive oil until crispy. Add some chopped garlic, dried chilli flakes, toasted pine nuts, capers, raisins (soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes and drained), chopped parsley and anchovies. Cook for a couple of minutes, add the cauliflower and some more olive oil (I used the oil left in the tin of anchovies), and then toss with pasta and a squeeze or two of lemon juice. Or you can eat it on its own as a side dish. I imagine broccoli would work just as well, too. It's delicious - in each mouthful you get salty anchovy and caper, but it's perfectly balanced by a sweet and juicy raisin, and a crunchy pine nut. The parsley stops the whole thing being too cloying. It may sound an odd combination, but I urge you to try it. I'll be making the sardine version once I get within reach of a decent fishmonger again.
For dessert, a pear and blackberry strudel to use up more of my Yorkshire blackberry stash. Chopped pears, blackberries, cinnamon and flaked almonds in the middle, buttered filo on the outside. Unfortunately I seem to be incapable of getting a sensible filling/pastry ratio when I make a strudel, and end up with something vastly wide and very unsliceable. The pastry barely fitted around the lovely fruit mixture. But it didn't matter really. It tasted nice and I like to think the collapsibility factor just added to a sense of rusticity.