Thursday, August 22, 2013

Anna Sultana's Turtle Stew, Maltese Style (Chicken Stew or Rabbit Stew)

I've been reading Yann Martel's Life of Pi.
It's an amazing book and was the source for an incredible movie.
If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, it's about a shipwrecked boy and a Bengal tiger trying to survive for 227 days while lost at sea in the Pacific Ocean and the boy's efforts to get food.

It's always about food.

Chapter 70 was about butchering a turtle.
Not the easiest thing to do in the best of circumstances.
Quite an adventure for the boy, Pi, who was trying to survive on a raft.
The tiger, Richard Parker, was resting comfortably in the life boat.
Sometimes life is just like that.

Anyway… back to the book and the turtle.
Chapter 70 is not for the squeamish.
Twitching muscles, spurting blood, exposed fat, guts and bones - let alone the separated head that kept on gulping for air and blinking its eyes - are not great to read about just before tucking into a meal.

After reading that chapter I'm amazed that anyone ever thought turtles would be something good to kill, cook and eat.
I mean, someone must have been very hungry to attempt the deed.
Turtles do put up quite a struggle.
And they do know a few tricks to protect themselves.

Ma had told me about eating turtle in Malta.
Turtle was the stuff of family tales, like the lampuki and the octopus.
Something one couldn't easily find in New York in the 1950s.
Or in the north end of Winnipeg.

Well, one eats what one can get.
And if you can get some turtle, you might like to try this stew.

If you can't get the turtle, well, it's an interesting recipe to read.
And the recipe works with rabbit or stewing fowl, too.
At least that's the way I remember having it.

                        Turtle Stew

Clean and wash
sea turtle, about 2 pounds
Cut into small pieces.

In a dutch oven heat
2 Tablespoons olive oil

the prepared sea turtle
Fry a few minutes.

3 large onions, sliced
Fry until golden.

1/4 Cup tomato paste
Stir the tomato paste into the onions.

3/4 Cup water
1/4 Cup raisins
1/4 Cup olives, chopped
2 apples, chopped
4 chestnuts, chopped
1 Tablespoon capers
1 green pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon mint
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Cup red wine

Simmer gently for 1  1/2 hours, or until the pieces of turtle are tender.
Add more water (or wine), if needed.
Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve hot with crusty bread.
The stew also goes well over pasta.

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