It was Tuesday. The wind was a bit wild but the air was warm. Come over I said. So he came over. Lunch? 372 I answered. Lovely. All the weekend visitors had trucked off back to the city. The tourists were on the beach in their socks and shoes and the restaurant was peaceful. Ours to enjoy. We perused the menu.
I said we’re having that. He said we’re having that. And we said it at the same time, so we had that: Panelle with cashew nut cheese, olives, capers, lemons and parsley.
Panelle are the chip-butties of Sicily, particularly Palermo. Luca, my son, is half Sicilian. His father Remo grew up in Palermo and with his brother Ferruccio he’d stop by the friggitoria (the ‘frying’ shop) after school to pick up these crunchy chickpea fritters which were fried before their eyes, salted and slapped between soft bread rolls to be eaten on the spot, hot, crisp and fragrant of olive oil.
Three Seven Two make neat little squares of them, and they were gorgeously light and puffy and crispy-edged, but it is the topping I want to rave about.
It’s easy to make food too salty. Food tastes a bit blah, so you chuck in more salt thinking that will fix it. It doesn’t. It just makes the food taste salty. And it’s even easier to make it too sharp. You can put more acid in, but you can’t take it out, so add it judiciously. When you get the balance just right, you create magic. Olivey olives, the brine and tang of capers and the fresh clean scent and bite of lemon with a cut-grass clean finish of parsley, all on a fluff of rich cashew nut cream, so easy when you think about it, but also, elusive. Not under Chef Bronwen Laight’s watch. We cut each square into quarters to make them last longer.
Here’s my recipe for panelle from way back. Stuff between bread, serve with a dip, or top with what you’ve got and bring a little bit of Palermo into your backyard Panelle or visit Three Seven Two restaurant in Onetangi, Waiheke and order a plate of deliciousness.
Three Seven Two Restaurant
21 The Strand Waiheke Island, Auckland
(+64) 9 372 8846 Open 7 days Bookings recommended
Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year Awards 2019
Best Destination Restaurant and Best New Restaurant winner