Seadas (Sabadas): ancient cheese fritters with honey, from Sardinia
|February 23, 2012||Posted by ameliaps under cheese, fried, Italia, Italian, regional|
I have spoken before about my sweet nonna Paola before (here and here). She is from the island of Sardinia and still has kept many of her traditions and even some of the language…which I found out later, once I started learning Spanish, is very close to Catalan Spanish. Nonna come from a small village named Pattada, up in the mountains near Sassari, which specialty is knives. Long time ago, we went to visit and even got to see her original stone-built home. Over the holidays, while I was in Italy, I sat with her to listen to her family stories: her brother who migrated to Argentina, her sister who went to Milan to become a fashion designer, her younger brother who was killed by the fascists, while he was asleep… She also told me about how she met my grandfather, nonno Raffaele. Her older sister, zia Maria, was to be wed to a charismatic and handsome military fellow from the “continente” (Italy’s mainland, specifically Benevento). She came over for the wedding and during that time, my grandfather, a real old-fashioned and elegant gentleman, with thin mustache and a lean figure, courted her from afar, waving hello and tipping his hat every morning, from the window. When she returned to Sardinia, nonno continued to court her for quite a while, writing her letters and eventually asking her to marry him. Eventually, nonna realized he was the one and they married. They lived in Benevento and then moved to Sorrento when my mother was young. And that is where I grew up. Nonna brought back from Sardinia many of her family recipes… isn’t food one of the most magical ways to carry your family and memories? I know it certainly is for me… and so here I am, in the United States of America, married to a handsome American fellow that courted me with letters 5,000 miles away after we met here 12 years ago, taking with me a small piece of my family roots: seadas. Nonna showed me how to make them over the holidays. Nonna “personalizes” her seadas with a touch of flavors from each places she has lived in: pecorino and miele di corbezzolo (a bitter honey from the blooms of a strawberry-like tree) from Sardinia, Strega liqueur from Benevento, and orange peel from Sorrento. So for me, when I bite into one of these delicacies, it transports me across her whole life and creates a unique tie to my origins.
In old times, in rural Sardinia, seadas (also knows as sebadas), a large round cheese fritter, similar to ravioli, were typically prepared during Easter or Christmas when the farmers would return home from the sheepfolds and make fresh fiore sardo (a pecorino type cheese). The fresh cheese was used as a filling for the seadas, which were eaten as a main course. These days, they are served as dessert. The wonderful contrast of texture (fried crunchy flaky outside pastry, soft cheesy inside) and flavor (sweet-bitter from the “corbezzolo” honey and strong-sharp from the pecorino cheese) make them a very sophisticated treat. If you would like to pair it with a wine, you can go for a red Cannonau or a white Moscato.
Nonna Paola making seadas:
My son’s hands and Nonna’s hands, making seadas
A note on the ingredients: you can use pecorino if you can’t find fiore sardo. Also, to be honest, my Nonna now uses a soft aged mozzarella cheese called Caciocavallo (which is sweeter than pecorino…and it’s made in Sorrento!). You can use regular honey if you can’t find “miele di corbezzolo“. In addition to the all purpose flour, it is ideal to use 10%-20% of semola fina di grano duro (semolina flour) for the texture. Instead of butter you could use lard, which was traditional.
|Seadas: Sardinian honey cheese fritters|
- 500 gr (1.1 lb, 5 cups) all purpose flour
- 80 gr (6 Tbsp, 1/3 cup) butter, melted
- a pinch of salt
- 250 ml (1 cup) lukewarm water, as needed
- 500 gr (1.1 lbs) Fiore Sardo (or fresh Pecorino)
- zest of 1 lemon
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 500 gr. (1 1/2 cup) corbezzolo honey (or other honey)
- Zest from 2 large oranges
- 2 Tbsp Strega liqueur (or other)
- Combine the flour, melted butter, and salt then slowly start adding the warm water, as needed and knead well to form a smooth dough. Let it rest, covered in a kitchen towel, while preparing the filling.
- Grate the cheese with the largest wholes of a box grater. Mix in the lemon zest.
- Roll the dough flat with a pasta machine attachment, if you have one, or with a rolling pin, to a long, thin, oval sheet. With a large round cookie cutter, mark the disks on the dough.
- On each round, mound a few tablespoons of the cheese mixture onto half of your discs. Brush the outside rim of each round with water and cover it with another oval sheet. Using your fingertips, press down to seal the filling, then crimp the edges (my Nonna rolls them in a rope-like closure).
- Heat the oil in a large pan to 350-375F (180-200C). Fry about 3 seadas at a time until golden on both sides, ladling the hot oil over them as they fry. Remove them with a slotted spoon onto a plate covered with kitchen paper.
- In other large pan, heat the honey, add the orange zest and the Strega liqueur. Roll the seadas in the honey and serve warm