Oysters alla Tarantina
As the end of November approaches at lightning speed, I am suddenly reminded of next month’s big event – Christmas.
It’s a busy time in normal circumstances, but I’ve just moved from the Italy to far flung Australia. We’re not only busy setting up a new life in Melbourne, but also – we’re hosting Christmas. Missing furniture aside, Christmas for my family in Australia is really all about the food and a fitting excuse to get everyone together from different cities.
The thing I love about Christmas in Australia is undoubtedly the weather – it’s early summer, which calls for an outdoor lunch and plenty of seafood, quite different from our usual Christmases rugged up in Florence with a bistecca grilling on the open fireplace!
Pretty much every summer Christmas involves procuring some incredibly fresh oysters for my mother who manages to eat at least three dozen on her own. The oysters in Australia are so good and so cheap that it’s hard to pass up the simplicity of freshly shucked oysters served only with a bit of lemon, but this year I was thinking of changing things up a bit and throwing in something we saw in Puglia last summer – oysters baked quickly and simply with breadcrumbs, olive oil and parsley.
I’ve also decided this year’s Christmas presents are going to be all handmade (sorry to ruin the surprise!). It wasn’t exactly my idea. I read somewhere recently about someone [could it have been beautiful Sunday Reed? I couldn't put her cookbook, Sunday's Kitchen, down the other day while walking through her old homestead at Melbourne's Heide Museum. The pages are full of the art collector's handwritten recipes and notes and black and white photographs of her famous artist friends, it is absolutely on my Christmas wish list!] used to give her friends handwritten recipes as gifts, so I thought it would be nice thing to do, but illustrated in watercolour and ink as well.
Here is a peek at one of the handwritten and illustrated recipes I’ll be giving dishing out to loved ones – one for each part of the menu! You can check out some of the others on etsy.
Ostriche Tarantine in Tiella
This dish comes from Taranto, the rather rundown, unglamorous, industrial but beautifully characteristic port city of Puglia’s west coast, where the Adriatic oysters and mussels are plentiful. One of my favourite local dishes is the tiella, a layered and baked dish of mussels, rice, tomatoes, cheese and potatoes. This oyster recipe is a little like it and is known as Ostriche Tarantine in Tiella (the tiella is the name of the baking dish traditionally used for these recipes). It couldn’t be simpler.
For 4 people
- 1 kg of freshly shucked oysters
- a handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely
- a handful of breadcrumbs
- extra virgin olive oil
- plenty of black pepper
Sprinkle some chopped parsley, breadcrumbs, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil on each oyster. Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes and serve immediately.