The Edinburgh Foody team had previously sampled the delights of private catering with La Belle Assiette, so I was only too happy to accept a similar offer. This time, it was the turn of passionate Sicilian cook Sabrina Damini to showcase her native cuisine.
A warm and lively host, we were very kindly welcomed into Sabrina’s home. The decor revealed a tasteful sophistication, which would later be evident in her dishes. Sabrina also runs cookery classes from her kitchen for up to 5 people, and it wasn’t difficult to imagine what a relaxed yet stylish and informative experience that would be.
But for tonight, Sabrina had prepared for us a three course tasting menu, accompanied by a bottle of gently bubbly, sweetly balanced prosecco.
We began with a selection of starters, comprising a flan, scallops and salad. The flan was not at all what I had expected; a stout tower of melting aubergine, stretchy provola cheese and fluffy potato. It was surprisingly light in texture, with a robust backbone of savoury flavours. The trick, Sabrina explained, was to boil the potatoes on a very low heat for 4 hours. Everything had to be prepared in advance, layered and packed into a mold. A labour of love, but certainly worth it.
The scallop gratin consisted of two plump scallops each, served in the shell and dusted with fine breadcrumbs, a generous lather of butter and piquant Sicilian capers. They were perfectly cooked sumptuous mouthfuls. As a subsequent palate cleanser, the orange and fennel salad with balsamic spheres – Sabrina’s favourite dish – was simple elegance. Although I felt the fennel was lacking its aniseed qualities, the sweetness, softness and crunch, as well as the colour, was a joy.
Our main course of swordfish and pesto on strozzapreti pasta was hearty fare served in respectable portions. Sabrina hadn’t been able to make the pasta due to time constraints, but it was proper Italian stuff, offering an al dente chew that the brittle supermarket type just can’t. The swordfish was prepared by Edinburgh fish guru, Eddie’s. The dice-size pieces were succulent, complimented by finely sliced green beans and a fresh pesto of mint, basil, garlic and almonds.
Dessert was a real hit. The orange and Marsala pannacotta with pistachio was the kind of pudding you dream of, and all too rarely gets served up. It wasn’t wobbly rubber, but creamy in both flavour and texture, melting luxuriously across the palate before revealing a zesty orangeness and a lick of alcohol.
Despite feeling pretty full, we couldn’t resist the other sweet treats on the table. First, the stunning tiny pastry tartlets filled with chocolate ganache and topped with one of candied orange, coffee beans, pistachio or hazelnut crumbs. The ganache oozed at a snail’s pace, whilst the pastry crumbled under tooth, with only a slight buttery resistance.
Second was the mouthful-sized portions of Sicilian ricotta cake, cassata. Bright green marzipan encased a layer of sweetened ricotta, wrapped around sponge and topped with a glace cherry. It was a delicious cultural experience.
Overall, Sabrina displayed natural flair and talent for Sicilian cooking, and her presentation skills were admirable. The evening was an opportunity to explore regional Italian cuisine, way beyond pizza and pasta, from the hands of an enthusiastic expert. I’d recommend her catering services and classes – just make sure you get to try the pannacotta.
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Amy dined at the invitation of Sabrina Damiani