Cicchetti - small morsels - are a way of life in Venice, served in the city's many bacari (bars).
I had something like this in a humble bàcaro and wine shop called Cantina Aziende Agricole while on my way to meet friends on the busy fondamenta just over the bridge. The original is with tuna, but I think that tinned mackerel, which is so flavourful and undervalued, makes a very delicious cicchetto.
- 90 g (3 oz) tinned mackerel, drained
- 1 tbsp pine nuts, finely chopped
- 6 large, good-quality marinated olives, pitted and finely chopped
- 1–2 tbsp mayonnaise, or to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil, or as needed
- a few parsley leaves, finely chopped
- 6 thick baguette slices, or other crusty bread
- pickled baby onions or capers in brine, for garnish
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
- Combine the mackerel, pine nuts and olives in a bowl, breaking the mackerel up with a fork. Add the mayonnaise and enough olive oil (try a tablespoon at first) to mash the mixture into a rough paste. If you prefer this smooth like a cream, you can do it in a food processor instead.Taste for seasoning and add pepper if you like but you won’t need salt; I find mackerel is usually flavourful enough.
- Mix through the parsley and spread onto toasted or untoasted baguette slices. Garnish with a baby onion (my preference) or a caper on top.
VARIATIONS Try this with tuna, or another favourite tinned fish, with walnuts instead of the pine nuts (or leave them out), and with any olives that you prefer. The classic chopped garlic and a few sprigs of finely chopped parsley would be a good addition too.
It’s important here to have very delicious olives; I would go with black marinated olives such as kalamata, or taggiasca olives (these are very small, so use double the amount). If they’ve already been pitted, then half the work is done here; otherwise, use the flat side of a large kitchen knife to squash the olives and then you can pull the pits out easily.
This is an edited extract from Cinnamon & Salt by Emiko Davies (Hardie Grant Books, RRP $40). Available in stores nationally.