Food product: Bottarga Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Food glossary

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

Salt gets bad press. It doesn't deserve to. Some of the world's greatest foods get their flavour from lots of salt. Ever had Malossol caviar (Malossol is Russian for ‘a little salt')? What about Parma ham - lots of salt there? Do you like cheese - there is very little cheese that is without salt? How about baccala - salt preserved it for Atlantic crossings? We could go on and on.
But what about bottarga - that delightful salted product that is treasured in Sardinia and Sicily and even in mainland Liguria and in Calabria where it is called ovotarica. It is sometimes called ‘poor man's caviar', but we think that this is a demeaning name, as bottarga is bottarga is bottarga!
The first thing to understand about bottarga is that it is the salted, dried roe of either mullet or tuna. Sardinia prefers the grey mullet roe, whereas Sicily prefers tuna roe. We think that both types are lovely provided they are suitably dried. We don't think that the semi-dried product is nearly as dramatic.
The roe is expertly removed from the fish and then salted for about a week before being pressed and then hung to be air dried for about a month. (In fact the length of drying is important. Make sure you buy the product that has been dried for a long time as we feel this is superior.)
Now what do you do when you go to your favourite up-market delicatessen and find some of this expensive luxury?
The answer is to keep it really simple. We like to make a very simple pasta dish. First we make some home-made pasta with about four eggs and some strong flour and cut the flat pasta fairly thinly.
We then cook the fragile stands until they are al dente and toss them in some olive oil (just enough to coat the pasta lightly).
While the pasta has been cooking we pare very, very thin slices from the block of bottarga with a vegetable peeler. It needs to be thin but it also needs to be in sheets so that it clings to the tongue thus extracting the maximum ‘salty' flavour.
Serve the pasta in bowls topped with the slices of bottarga and then settle back for an amazing salt hit!
Where can you buy it? Try the following, but any good up-market European deli should be able to source it for you.
Urbani Truffles USA
29-24 40th Avenue
Long Island City, NY. 11101
Simpole Clark
10 St Paul's Street, Stamford, Lincolnshire, UK
Enoteca Sileno Australasia
21 Amess St Carlton North VIC 3054
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