What's better to get you through another lockdown than some delicious, authentic Sicilian food? Think divine lasagne and eggplant parmigiana made using a family recipe. Sicilian Food Table delivers family sized lasagne and parmigiana trays across Sydney. Each tray feeds between 4-6 people and is made to traditional Sicilian family recipes.
Carm Ruggeri has had to pivot a lot during COVID-19, both last year and this. "I used to run tours in sunny Sicily. It was a dream lifestyle and dream job. I would take guests from around the world on a culinary journey of Sicily on 1 or 2 week tours. I took my last tour in October 2019. I cancelled all my tours for 2020 and 2021 in February 2020. It was a huge loss for me and last year felt like a bit of a blur but people were buying more last year. You can see they are more fearful this year. I think it’s the unknown. People were more inclined to spend last year so regardless if I was selling, Sicilian Gin, Olive oil or Panettone they were very keen to try it. They just wanted to have any attachment they could find to Italy," she says. You may also remember Carm from when she taught me how to make mouth-watering Scaccia Ragusane.
Carm started the food delivery business Sicilian Food Table in July 2020. She hired a kitchen and needing to find a point of difference decided to deliver family sized trays of eggplant parmigiana. Lasagna followed soon after. "In time lasagne became more popular, I think it’s just because people know lasagne. In January I dropped the price by $10 and made it $50 a tray and started delivering it cold, with baking instructions that decreased the labour which was great. No one was really bothered by it. I have a few regulars that order them as a gift and like me to cook it and I’m happy to do that," says Carm. "I’ve had three families order lasagne pretty much twice a month for a year. One lady over the last two months has been ordering two parmigianas every week, she is nuts for it," says Carm.
Carm delivers her parmigiana and lasagne trays all over Sydney (except for Northern Beaches, Sutherland or West past Prestons). She delivers free to the inner west and inner city with no minimum required and outside this 10kms radius there's a minimum order of 4 trays. People order with at least two days notice and she delivers on Saturdays but for big orders of 4 or more she will deliver any day. She does the bulk of the deliveries herself. Instructions for cooking them are on the lid and basically all you do is pop it in a oven for 40-50 minutes.
What some may not know is that chicken parmigiana isn't a thing in Sicily - parmigiana is always made with eggplant. Carm explains, "There is no such thing as chicken parmigiana in Sicily. It’s a traditional vegetarian dish in Sicily never served with meat. The Chicken Parmy is an Australian Pub Classic which people have grown to love. I’ve often thought of doing a Chicken Parmy special but I’d have to deliver it deconstructed so it doesn’t go soggy with the sauce on top."
I can't wait so I sneak a try of the eggplant. There are distinct layers of crumbed eggplant slices and that delicious tomato sauce. It's so good that I eat it for lunch and then for dinner and contemplate eating it the next day for lunch too. Carm's tip is to cook it and then cool it and then the next day portion it up where it will slice cleanly with each layer distinct. My tray hardly lasts 2 days with us eating it quickly for lunch, dinner (and yes breakfast, don't judge, it's something Carm has been known to do too).
What are the keys to a great eggplant parmigiana? She says it's the trilogy of cheeses: pecorino, pamesan and mozzarella as well as her mother's sauce recipe and that it's made with love, "My beautiful cousin Carmelinda taught me how to make it she is the General of The Parmy Army. Yes that's my fav hashtag #parmyarmy," laughs Carm.
As for her lasagne, I slide the tray into the oven for for lunch. It's rich and very moreish. The beef has a lot of flavour to it and the pasta and bechamel meld together beautifully. "My lasagne is popular with my customers because it’s meaty and I use chuck steak which is minced to order and that makes a big difference - it's much tastier than normal mince or lean mince. I’d never use lean mince for lasagne. I’d never use lean mince period," she says laughing before adding, "I think it’s the sauce as well. Mum's recipe again. I let it simmer for over an hour and I make sure I season it well."
She is quite happy just having two things on the menu, "I like having two items that I specialise in, in these uncertain times at least I know I can get enough orders each week to pay the rent. I remember being ashamed when I first started doing this but now I’m bloody proud, I realise how far I’ve come with this little business and that brings me a lot of comfort & joy. Ultimately we need security and if we can do what we love it helps," says Carm.
So tell me Dear Reader, did you know that it was only about eggplant parmigiana in Sicily? And do you prefer parmigiana or lasagne?
This food was independently paid for.
Sicilian Food Table