A selection of tapas-style fish dishes to serve as an aperitif or starter
On a buying trip to Italy we were kindly hosted by the Coffele family in their 16th-century palazzo within the historic walled town of Soave. Brother and sister Alberto and Chiara now run the business. Alberto looks after the vineyards and winemaking, Chiara is in charge of marketing and sales, she also happens to be a fantastic cook. She produced some amazing dishes for us to eat and we asked her to share her recipes.
As perhaps you might expect, Chiara says she doesn't really stick to recipes and prefers to see what's fresh at the market or fishmonger. She has been experimenting with using ginger quite a lot recently, adding a modern twist and a subtle sweetly-spicy undertone to her dishes, which reminded us a little of sushi. We loved them and the dishes below worked beautifully with the family's pristine white wines. If serving raw shellfish and seafood, it is essential that it is really fresh.
> Read more about the visit to the Coffele's in Travels in Wine™
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Shrimps 'alla Chiara'
I generally use this as an appetiser and allow for around 4 shrimps per person. Ideally, the shrimps should be Mazzancolle (a kind of tiger prawn), Scampi (langoustine) or Gamberi Rossi from Sicily.
Take a piece of aluminium foil and make it into a little basket for each person. Pour in a splash of Coffele Soave Classico and a generous drizzle of olive oil together with a clove of garlic and 1 or 2 small chunks of fresh ginger. Squeeze over some fresh lime juice, a drop or 2 of tabasco, some herbs (I like wild fennel) and finally a pinch or 2 of mile curry or a cardamom pod. Lay the shrimps on top (you can leave them with the heads, I like it) then pull up the sides of your basket loosely and close it with another piece of aluminium foil. Put it either in a hot oven for 5 – 10 minutes or on the barbecue for the same amount of time (so that the shrimps stay a bit raw). Serve the shrimps inside their little basket, with some bread on the side to make scarpetta* with the juice that will be found inside the basket.
(*literally means 'to make a little' shoe out of the bread to mop up any sauce on your plate)
Chiara's fish tartare
I also tend to serve this an appetiser, allowing say 3 Scampi (langoustines) and 3 Gamberi Rossi from Sicily per person.
To make the marinade:
Put a clove of garlic and thumb-sized piece of ginger in a large cup with some fresh lime juice, a drop of tabasco and salt and pepper. Leave it for 1 hour and after that take out the ginger and the garlic.
Clean the raw Scampi and the Gamberi Rossi (take off the heads and strip out the black filament), chop into small pieces.
Brush them with the marinade. Serve each portion on a large spoon. This can be accompanied with some fresh green asparagus grilled on the barbecue on a griddle pan and brushed with the same marinade used for the tartare.
If you can get hold of really fresh scallops, you can serve them raw in a similar way to the prawn dish above. I allow a scallop or 2 per person and serve in the cleaned shells as an appetiser.
Take the scallops out of the shell, clean and keep only the white part. Clean the shell and keep to one side. Slice the scallops as thinly as you can, brush with the marinade as used above and then put the scallop slices back into their shells and serve.
Again, you really need to get a piece of lovely fresh tuna for this; if serving as another aperitif dish, you don't need a huge amount, adjust according to number of guests. Chop your piece of tuna into very small pieces and immediately squeeze some fresh lime juice over the fish otherwise it darkens in colour. Put into a bowl and set aside. Put a handful of capers in a small bowl together some a couple of black olives (I think the best are taggiascas which come in good olive oil), a couple of tomatoes (the pachino variety from Sicily are the best – they are very small and sweet). Chop all these ingredients very finely into tiny dice so tha i becomes almost a salsa. Now tip in the tuna with another squeeze of lime juice, and a drop or 2 of Tabasco sauce. Mix it all together.
Before serving, give a final grind of pepper. I generally don't add salt because the capers are already salted.
Serve with a chilled bottle of our family's Soave Classico!
> For more suggestions of wines to go with sushi or ceviche-style dishes, read our article by wine writer David Williams