The perfect dish from the Italian Island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
London, 06 July 2020
By Massimo Usai
When you think of a dish to cook, you automatically look at the calendar and decide what to prepare based on the month in which we are.
In Sardinia, near to Cagliari, there is a town (Assemini) where a dish is prepared which has ancient origins and which (perhaps) comes from South America, but which was undoubtedly imported by the Spanish.
But that has had a “transformation” in the Sardinian land in its preparation which makes it one of the “special” dishes to try at least once in your life.
“Sa Panada” is a pie, which in the world exists in every continent, but which is often based on meat or vegetables.
In England, you can find it easily stuffed with Beef meat cooked in Guinness Beer. It is fabulous if prepared well. In London, I have always found this Pie made by Piebury Corner in Holloway Road as of the best I have ever eaten in the U.K.
If you go around Brick Lane on Sunday morning, it is easy to find “Empanadas” from Argentine or Chile with vegetable or meat in the various street food stalls.
They are undoubtedly good, but the shape and taste of the pasta and the ingredient inside are quite different. So the difference between these dishes and the dish I am offering you today to try, is decidedly impressive—a completely different level.
So, the similarity in name and shape, but we are talking about two dishes opposite one another in taste.
All very good, especially if you have a full-bodied Cannonau wine alongside.
Without a doubt also the “Panada di Agnello” that you can find in Assemini, has a decidedly taste to every other Pie with meat that you can find around the world.
But the version with eels is unique, original, rich in tradition and history, so we continue to talk about this version of the famous “Sardinian” dish.
If you then decide to accompany it with a nice glass of very cold Vermentino, it becomes one of the delicacies that you will remember for the rest of your life.
A dish to tell to friends on their return from vacation
The eels came (initially) only and exclusively from the Santa Gilla lagoon.
One of the most important wetlands in Europe. A lagoon rich of every essential natural resource where a sea salt appreciated throughout Europe is produced and where pink flamingos are stationed in large numbers.
Flamingos were enriching this eternally calm and warm expanse of water with bright colours.
The recipe for “Sa Panada” is not complicated.
What makes this dish almost impossible to be replicated far from these lands, is the quality of the products which are unlikely to find on the same level in other areas of the world.
From eels, which live in a lagoon that has unique flavours and salinity, to the point that salt is almost minimal in cooking the dish.
Then there are the dried tomatoes.
Besides, dried tomatoes, prepared with salt produced in the lagoon and then dried in the sun of southern Sardinia. Where the wind smells of myrtle growing in every corner of the nearby hills. A breeze which often has the humidity of the Mediterranean sea with it in its bursts.
Wind often very intense in the summer months, in the period in which the dried tomatoes are prepared and then stored for a whole year in jars.
So, since Sardinia is still a frequent destination for European citizens to travel, I recommend you the next time you are on the island, to leave the white beaches for a moment with the sea coloured with a mixture of blue and green.
In the two videos below you can see my mom preparing “Sa Panada” with eels.
Of course, as every Italian will tell you, “as good as my mom does nobody does them”, but you know well that it’s a stereotype.
Anyway, since she didn’t want to be paid as a model, I have to insist that my mother’s “Sa Panada” is the best in the world.
But she doesn’t sell them, she only does it for me and my sister.
Order as well one “Sa Panada” with lamb for the next days.
In the way back to your summer residence, stop in some shop to buy a Vermentino and a Cannonau Wine produced in Sardinia, and at this point, you could relax and stop to looking for a restaurant for a few days. You have everything at home.
You will undoubtedly say “thank you” to me. Indeed after a similar meal, an excellent long and intense swim, it will be useful for you to put down the kilograms that you have put on.
It’s summer, after the lockdown you need just to relax for a while, before probably another lockdown comes.
“Sa Panada”- the famous “Sardinian’s PieTweet
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