Tuesday, 24 May 2016

On the Search for Sicilian Olive Oil

During her time in Sicily, Carine was on the hunt for first-rate local produce, but found it was more difficult than she had initially suspected. With little to no Italian, and their Air BnB host being their only point of contact, Carine and her family set out to forage for themselves and were lucky enough to come across Oro del Castello.

After hopelessly scouring the supermarket shelves for locally-produced olive oil, Carine – with husband and daughter in tow – decided to try driving through the area their host had vaguely designated as “the place where they make olive oil”. Miraculously, she spotted a small sign out of the corner of her eye and, after following it, they found themselves at a tiny olive oil farm, in the middle of nowhere in rural Sicily.

The first people they saw when they arrived were a couple who – thankfully – spoke both English and Italian, and who kindly agreed to play translator for the afternoon. They lived a few towns over, and came to the farm a couple of times a year to stock up on olive oil, saying it was such good quality that it is hard to find anything equally good closer to home. A strong start!

The farm is owned – and exclusively run – Antonino Cannata and his wife, a couple in their 80s. Their award-winning olive oil is the result of a lifetime of passion and hard work – a fine legacy if only it could be kept up. The couple has no children, and in Sicily times are hard for the independent local producer, with the government pushing for imported olive oil to take its place on the supermarket shelves. “In the supermarket, they had olive oil coming from everywhere in Italy, but not from Sicily, and they were brands you can buy here, like Bertolli!”

Carine was shocked, but the couple told her it had been like this for some time. “He mentioned that they put signs up so many times to show where to find them and the sign would always be removed.” Sicilian olive oil may be excellent quality, but it is expensive in a time where Sicilian unemployment is skyrocketing, and North African olive oil is cheaper than ever.


Agriculture has been the cornerstone of Sicily’s economy for centuries, but nowadays young people are turning away from this unglamorous way of life, and farms such as this are becoming increasingly rare. This, for Carine, is one of the reasons why it is so important to support local producers while you are travelling, rather than rely upon what is familiar and easy to come by.

Although their oil is a bit expensive, we bought lots! It’s definitely a good oil and was still a really good price for what we got - about 8 euros for a bottle”. The opportunity to see the cellars where the oil is made, to taste it fresh out of the press, and to learn about the story behind it was invaluable, she continues. “They are proud of their product, they know what they’re doing, and they are hard workers, you can tell. It’s not an easy task, especially for people of their age. But they enjoy what they do, they’re very humble, and they were so welcoming. I couldn’t believe actually that we were so lucky to find a place like that.

The oil from Oro del Castello is extra virgin certified, the olives grown right there and pressed within 24 hours of picking. And whatever the effect of the government crackdown, their oil has received considerable acclaim over the years. Fancy supporting this dying industry and trying it for yourself? Well Oro del Castello say they will ship internationally, so head to their website to learn more (you can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.)

Friday, 6 May 2016

Sicily - A Foodie's Perfect Holiday.

True food lovers will know that one of the best things about going abroad is the opportunity to taste another culture, and this was certainly the case for Carine. This Easter she travelled to Sicily for a well-deserved break - though it may come as no surprise to you that she spent the most part of her trip tracking down, eating, and cooking delicious food!

Sicily’s vibrant food culture is world famous, with pasta dishes to rival those of mainland Italy, Arabic influences which have survived since the 10th century, and – of course – seafood. It makes perfect sense then that the first thing Carine did on arriving in Modica was to seek out a fish market. After a considerable hunt, she found one, and on the evenings where she simply could not be kept from cooking, she treated her family to Spaghetti alle vongole made with fresh clams, and a whole octopus.

Although Sicily is well-known for its fish and its pasta, the ingredients which stood out to Carine were a little more unusual. The first was wild fennel which, along with wild thyme, oregano, and mustard, she saw growing in abundance. Part of the carrot family, this aromatic plant is one of Carine’s favourites to forage – especially when visiting her husband’s family in Sweden. Unlike its more common cousin, Florence fennel, when cooking with wild fennel you use the yellow flowers and feathery leaves, rather than the bulb itself.

The second was carob pods (also known as St Johns-bread and Locust beans), a member of the pea family often used as a chocolate substitute. Mildly sweet, the carob pods are mostly eaten dried or are ground into carob powder which is used to replace cocoa powder. Carine came across it everywhere - from carob-flavoured liquor to ice-cream.

And speaking of chocolate, there was a fair bit of Cioccolato di Modica involved in Carine’s trip (as is to be expected when travelling with a small child!) This traditional Sicilian chocolate is made from a recipe inspired by the Aztec’s xocoatl. It is characterised by its grainy texture and aromatic flavour which results from heating the cocoa at a low temperature so the cocoa butter melts but the sugar does not. This crumbly, specialty chocolate can be found all over Sicily…and currently there’s quite a lot of it in Carine’s kitchen too!

Finally, Carine and her family were lucky enough to eat at some wonderful restaurants as well so for anyone planning a trip to this wonderful island, here are Carine’s top picks.

1) La Locanda del Collonello, Modica

2) Osteria dei Sapori perduti, Modica

3) Osteria Antica Marina, Catania

4) Ristorante al Duomo, Taormina 

And stay tuned for our next post later this month, where we will be talking about an extraordinary couple fighting to keep one of Sicily’s oldest food traditions alive. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Easter Lamb with a Sicilian Twist

We’re back! And we can’t believe it is already March, with Easter just a few short weeks away. This Easter, Carine is going to be heading to the wonderful island of Sicily so it was only right that this month’s recipe reflected that, albeit with a bit of a twist.

Sicilians take Easter very seriously. Not only is it a solemn and ritual-laden time, but it is also the beginning of Spring which means lots of lovely things to eat after the long, hard winter. In an area which has been invaded and inhabited by a great many peoples, Easter is a time when the leftovers of these cultures intersect, pagan rituals meeting Catholic processions. 

And the star of this week’s dish – Lamb – is common to both! The pagans would sacrifice a lamb to welcome the Spring, and before the flight from Egypt, Moses advised Jewish families also to sacrifice a lamb, smearing the blood over their doors and eating the meat with unleavened bread. But, as well as being symbolic, it is delicious and never more so than in this month’s mouth-watering dish – lamb shank osso bucco.

Although traditionally a Milanese dish made with veal shanks, Osso Bucco has become a favourite dish the world over and, like most of our favourite dishes, has been reinvented and reimagined many, many times. In this recipe we are substituting the veal with Easter lamb and serving it with delicious baked aubergines – so let’s get started!


(Serves 4)

4 Lamb shanks
sea salt and pepper
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 of Small glass of white balsamic vinegar
1 glass white vine
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
Sunflower oil
1 vegetable stock cube.

For the soffrito

1 large Carrot
1 Celery Stalk
3 small onions
3 Garlic cloves
Zest of 1 lemon
3 Bay leaves
100ml Olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 180C (Fan)/ Gas Mark4.
  • Peel the carrot, onions, and garlic and finely chop, along with the celery, for your soffrito
  • Add these to an ovenproof casserole dish along with the bay leaves, lemon zest, and olive oil.
  • Pop this on the hob and fry for 20-30 minutes on a low to medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so to make sure it does not burn or stick
  • Season both sides of your lamb shank with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper then lightly coat them in all-purpose, plain flour.
  • Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and, once hot, brown your lamb shanks all together until they reach a deep brown colour.
  • Once all shanks are brown on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the tomato purée to your soffrito and cook for a further 10 minutes over a low-to medium heat.
  • Add the vinegar, white wine, and stock cube and let it reduce for 5 minutes on a high heat. 
  • Add your shanks to the pan, along with chopped rosemary, sea salt and pepper to taste and put the casserole dish, uncovered, into the oven for at least 2-3 hours.
  • Be sure to check on your dish every 30-45 minutes, if it begins to run out of juice, add half a cup of water.

Once cooked, your Osso Bucco sauce should look a bit dry but the meat will be meltingly tender.

Baked Aubergines


3 aubergines
50g Parmesan
Handful flat-leaf parsley
1 large clove garlic
2 slices of wholemeal bread
100 ml Olive oil
1 medium glass water
Salt & Pepper to taste


  • Start by mixing the bread, parmesan, garlic and parsley in your food processor until you reach a crumbly texture, then set aside.
  • Slice your aubergines into thick rounds.
  • Then it is simply a case of layering the two up – one layer of aubergine, then olive oil, salt and pepper, then a sprinkling of the breadcrumbs.
  • Repeat until you run out of aubergine.
  • Add the water and top up with the remaining breadcrumb mix, keeping back just a little as a garnish.
  • Bake for 30-45 min at 180C (Fan) or until cooked.


Serve with your Osso Bucco, the last sprinkle of your breadcrumbs and a dash of good finishing olive oil.

And speaking of good olive oil – that will be the tasty theme of Matango’s next supper club! Come try some of the finest, most fragrant olive oil you will ever taste and have a culinary trip to the Mediterranean, without ever leaving London. Tickets are available here. Keep your eyes out for more details soon!

What will you be having for Easter lunch? Get in touch on Twitter and let us know!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Try Dining in the Dark this Valentine's Day!

We’re bringing new meaning to the term “Blind Date”. That’s right, Matango supper club is back and this month we are dining in the dark for an extra-special, totally quirky Valentine’s Day.

For a few hours on February 13th we will be taking away your sight (and hopefully your inhibitions) and giving you a blindfold and six delicious courses in return. From starter to fish course to dessert, each dish will be one taste explosion after the next as your other nonvisual senses are heightened.

The concept of dining in the dark has been around since 1999, when blind clergyman Jorge Spielmann opened restaurant Blindekuh in Zurich. The idea came to Spielmann after he had friends over for dinner. To share the sensation of being blind with them he had suggested everyone wear blindfolds and, to everyone’s surprise, they had reported actually enjoying their food more when their sight was taken away.

One of the best things about dining blind – besides the enhanced deliciousness – is that no one can see you either. It is perfect for a date and fear not! The blindfolds will come off for dessert, so all that time spent on your hair won’t be for nothing! We’ll even be giving you different desserts so you can get a little close by trying each other’s.

But it’s also perfect if you’re not bringing a date – come with old friends or fly solo and meet some new ones, nothing is bound to take away shyness than a group of people, eating delicious food, and occasionally missing their mouths.

We will be filming the whole thing and taking pictures, so you can take some memories away at the end of it, and you don’t need to worry about missing out on fuel for your Instagram – you enjoy eating the food, and we’ll snap the photos.

The menu is a closely-guarded secret, but for those of you with dietary requirements – don’t worry! We want everyone to have a good time, so get in touch when you book to let us know, and we’ll make sure to sort something delectable out for you.

We open at 7pm and dinner will start at 7:30 – but please arrive before 7:20 to get your bearings and receive your blindfold. We would also love it if you came in all black to keep up the theme, so break out your best suit or LBD. Now get booking! (Tickets available HERE!) We look forward to seeing you there (even if you can’t see us…!)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Winter Warming Pot Au Feu

Well, we promised you a delicious, hearty winter-warmer, so that’s exactly what you’re getting this week – it’s Pot au Feu! This classic French dish is a staple during the winter months and it’s got everything you might want on a cold January night after work. Literally translated as "pot on the fire", (doesn’t get much cosier than that, eh?!) this dish uses mostly winter vegetables and the best cuts of beef for stewing. It is one of Carine’s favourite classic slow-cooked stews - earthy; meaty and full of vegetables, served in a clear broth which is – and here we quote – “scrumptiously delicious”.

Sounds pretty good, huh? Let’s get started! This recipe serves 6 people, and can be a real showstopper, or you can simply keep it all for yourself and have it several days in a row!

  • 1.5kg Beef (choose the best cuts for stewing – we recommend oxtail, cheeks, brisket or additional lean beef)
  • Beef bones for deeper flavour (optional)
  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 turnips
  • 2 medium leeks
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Bouquet Garni (2 bay leaves, 5 fresh sprigs of thyme, parsley – traditionally tied together with cooking string, but this isn’t strictly necessary!)
  • 1 beef or vegetable stock cube (optional)
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • Coarse sea salt (to taste)


1) Tie your meat with cooking string to help it keep its shape while it cooks. If you can’t find cooking string, cut the meat into big chunks instead.
2) Peel the carrots, wash your leeks and celery, then cut all into large chunks.
3) Peel your onion and stud it with the cloves.
4) Place your meat, stock, and bones if you have them in a large pot and add 5 litres of cold water.
5) Bring to the boil and skim the broth regularly, removing the foam.
6) Once the mixture no longer forms a foam on the top, turn down the heat and add the rest of the ingredients.
7) Bring the mix back to the boil, cover it then let it simmer over a very low heat for a minimum of 4 hours (if you have a slow-cooker, you can use this, turning the setting to “Low”).
8) To serve, remove the meat and vegetables from the broth and place them on a plate, then ladle over a little broth. Carine serves her pot au feu with Dijon mustard or Dijon Mayonnaise, but we’ll leave your condiment choices up to you.

Bon appetite! We hope this warms your cockles. If you do have a go making this at home, get in touch on Twitter and let us know – we’d love to hear how you got on! 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Fantastic Winter Vegetables and Where to Find Them

In the UK, we are incredibly lucky to have delicious local produce all year round, even in the depths of winter. And as part of her healthy, sustainable 2016, this week Carine will be sharing some of her favourite winter veg and how you can get hold of them.

Carine’s favourite winter vegetables:
Beetroot, parsnip, butternut squash, all sorts of winter cabbage.

Where you can find them:
Carine grows most of hers in her allotment. Otherwise she sources them from Farmer’s markets in Brixton or Clapham Common- “they have everything I need and I can be sure it is all locally sourced.” If you can’t grow your own - she recommends going to your own local farmers’ market to find what’s seasonal. “These brave growers need the support of their local community to survive”

Tips on how to grow or forage for them yourself:
According to Carine, it has never been easier to grow your own veg. Even without proper outdoor space, great winter vegetables like carrots, beetroot, squash, and salad can be grown in pots - you don’t need large plots of land. This year, Carine will be building a vertical garden using recycled wooden pallets. These are easy to collect - you can even find them on the street! And it takes very little to upcycle them into a fantastic trailing garden space. Keep an eye on the blog for Carine’s blogpost in March on how she built her own vertical garden.

For an alternative to gardening, we suggest you give foraging a go. One of Carine’s greatest passions, she is always looking for edible treasures on streets, commons, and in fields. Foraged produce can even be more nutritious than its farmed cousin. Good things to look for at the moment are green leaves, mushrooms, and some fruits – but make sure you know what you’re looking for before you eat anything! A great book for beginner foragers is Darina Allen’s 'Forgotten Skills of Cooking.'

Carine loves hearty, earthy dishes like slow-cooked stew, which winter vegetables are made for. If you are a fan of warming winter recipes too, keep an eye out for next week’s post where we will be sharing one of our favourite recipes!