• Iole Marino, Luisa Lostia and Rina Paoli in the test kitchen for Terra Sarda.' (Paolismith Creative and David Mitchener)Source: Paolismith Creative and David Mitchener
The legacy of the Sardinian community in Australia lives on in this new cookbook.
Jennifer Curcio

30 Mar 2020 - 12:52 PM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2020 - 10:20 PM

Cooking and eating both have a way of transporting us to some of our fondest memories. For me, it's coffee bubbling in a Bialetti, or peeling open a milky green fig from my father's garden.

From a simple smell or flavour, a place or moment can simmer to the surface. For migrants, in particular, preparing and enjoying meals can make their homeland feel closer, the memories just as important as the way the food tastes.

After running a series of classes taught by local cooks, the Sardinian Cultural Association in Melbourne wanted to find another way to keep their community's food and stories alive.

It collaborated with the Sardinian Association of Sydney and the Queensland Sardinian Culture Club to create Terra Sarda (Land of Sardinia)a cookbook featuring recipes from the Sardinian community across Australia.

For those unfamiliar with Sardinia an island west of Italy's mainland, the cookbook provides a thorough overview of Sardinian cuisine, history and dishes. 

One such food is Malloreddus, a traditional curved Sardinian pasta with ridges on the outside. I have my own memories of Nonna from Santu Lussurgiu shaping hers across raffia baskets. Other classics include culurgiones and seadas, while donkey meat with green sauce, mussels au gratin and wild artichoke thistles in oil also feature.

Artichoke fritters recipe by Mariangela Prib.

Pasta stuffed with potato, cheese and mint (culurgiones)

This takes inspiration from the island of Sardinia - the lovely soft, supple pasta dough is easy to make, and the filling is a great combination of cheese and potato. 

The cookbook also celebrates people within the Australian Sardinian community and their stories.

Assunta Tilocca Mieli of Sydney, for example, shares a recipe for wild fennel with pancetta and garlic. She reflects on foraging for the beloved bulb in the inner suburb of Eveleigh in the 1970s as quality time spent with her mother.

"While we picked the wild fennel, she would also tell me stories of her home town of Illorai in the province of Sassari. When I cook this dish at home, the smell of aniseed fills the house and takes me back to my childhood."

Sardinian flatbread

I learned to make these in Sardinia with a friend’s aunt in the hills near the east coast. She nagged us the whole time to keep working and keep the dough moving as she mopped out her huge wood oven with aromatic herbs from the vacant lot out the back of her house.

Mariangela Prib, originally from Cagliari, shares an artichoke fritters recipe inherited from her great grandmother.

Today, it is enjoyed by her grandchildren in Australia. "This is my family's favourite dish," says Mariangela.

"Years ago, it was impossible to find this variety here in Australia, so my mother planted Sardinian artichokes seeds in her vegetable garden and she was delighted when they grew successfully. I still grow them today in my garden."

"When I cook this dish at home, the smell of aniseed fills the house and takes me back to my childhood." 

Adapting recipes and ingredients is common for many home cooks in Australia. For Eleonora Concas from Sanluri who arrived in Australia in 2014, cooking with wild Sardinian herbs is vital. "Their perfume, flavour and taste are imbedded into Sardinian culture", she says.

Eleonora uses bay leaves, sage and rosemary to complement juniper berries in her wild boar ragu, another recipe that features in the cookbook.

Seadas, recipe by Ausilia Palmas in Terra Sarda.

But not all contributors in Terra Sarda are Sardinian, proving you don't have to be from a place to feel connected to it or the food.

Through her Sardinian husband of almost 25 years, Aurora Chighine from Buenos Aires has learned to cook many Sardinian dishes, including lamb with wild fennel, and suckling pig on a spit.

Australia's most famous Sardinian chefs and champions of its cuisine, Giovanni Pilu of Pilu at Freshwater and Pietro Porcu of Da Noi in Melbourne, also contribute. 

Terra Sarda preserves Sardinian home cooking traditions in Australia not only for Sardinians but for all Australians.

It reflects the diversity of Australian food culture today.

Regardless of blood or nationality, by cooking a dish from someone else's kitchen, we have the power to keep food traditions alive and create new memories of our own.

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