Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Well, I thought I'd order one that would coordinate with the tablecloth today.... Only kidding - it just turned out that way with this melon and banana gelato at Bar Scivoletto, which has a pleasant garden to sit in:

Monday, June 29, 2009


Today is the festa of San Pietro and in Modica it is a sort of holiday. I say "sort of" because most shops will probably be open.

Here is our lovely Chiesa Madre di San Pietro. Its beauty gives joy to many, including me, so I hope it has a happy day.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


This is, of course, an adaptation of Matthew Fort's strawberry recipe from Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons and I share it here with a nod to my friend the Winchester Whisperer, who suggested it [rather in tongue in cheek fashion, I think]:

500 gr fresh apricots + a few extra for decoration
7 teasp caster sugar
3 egg yolks
500 gr mascarpone
1 box of Pavesini biscuits
apricot or other liqueur

Stone the apricots and chop them. Sprinkle with 3 teasp of the sugar. Beat the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar, add the mascarpone and continue to beat with a whisk, then add most of the apricots and mix well. Arrange half the pavesini in a serving bowl and pour over a goodly dash of liqueur [I used my homemade apricot liqueur but you could use Kirsch or Cointreau]. Spread half the mascarpone mixture on top. Add the rest of the biscuits, splash again with liqueur and spread the rest of the mascarpone mixture over them. Decorate as you please. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


According to a facebook quiz I did this week, this is "my" Mina song, so take it away, Mina!

Mina - E se domani


Thursday is market day in Modica and this week, as ever, everything you could think of was on sale. The local traders certainly have their work cut out , trying to compete with cheaper Chinese goods, and this was reflected in some of their cries: "Fatti in Italia - non andate dai Cinesi!" ["Made in Italy - don't go to the Chinese stalls!"]

Need some towels?

Or perhaps you'd like to sort through this lot to find some fine material for your sewing?

This stall was selling local honey, dried oregano in large bunches and all the pulses you could imagine. "Non fai di lui o viene brutto" ["Don't take one of him or it will turn out ugly"] said the stall holder of his assistant [pictured] when I asked if I could take a photo. I think he looks rather jolly myself.

Want to buy large quantities of fruit and vegetables at a good price? This is the place to come!

I bought a pair of cotton trousers and some outrageous earrings.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Phew! Just in time for my friend mountaingirl's Friday photo challenge and this week's subject is "bush":

Here's an orange flower bush:

And here's one of my favourite fridge magnets:


This is for all you girls who wondered how the medieval-looking contraption featured in last week's underwear post works. Unwrapped, it turns into a pretty chain which you substitute for the straps of a convertible bra [ie., one which you can wear with or without straps, guys]. Again for the guys, why would you want to put straps on a strapless bra? Because the things don't push you up enough without them! So here's the Italian solution - hey presto, no VBS [not a computer language, but "visible bra straps" - I just invented the term - gentlemen]. You can get the chains in other colours, too.

[The things I do for blogging!]


Well, how about that? My miracle machine has gone and made plum jam - all by itself!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


...is her parasol in this weather!


Rosa and I had a great time playing with my new jam-making machine this afternoon and guess what? - It works!

All you have to do is prepare the fruit and bung it in, with sugar and water as directed in the recipe instructions, programme the machine and you're off!

We both watched, spellbound, as the miracle machine proceeded to do its job. "Funziona!" ["It works!"] we exclaimed to each other over and over again. Lucia arrived in the middle of all this and beheld the new kitchen wonder, too.

After a mere 40 minutes, we were able to pot our cherry jam. [I'd tested for a set the traditional way, ie., on a cold saucer. ] You can't buy wax discs and cellophane covers for home preserves here. The Italian women use vacuum seal lids on their jars and nothing you do - well, nothing I do, at any rate - will release the vacuum. So I brought 10 years' supply of discs and cellophane covers with me when I moved here because this is one British way of doing things that I like.

Admittedly, you cannot make enormous amounts of jam in the machine and it will give you a light, "French" set, but I think it's superb! In fact, I think I might start worshipping it, like the woman in Forster's tale. "Oh, Machine, oh, Machine!" I shall declare every morning.

Look, it even cleans itself!

Next I am going to "jam" these plums from a kind friend's garden.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Tonight I am happy to introduce Antonio Lonardo's poem, Emozioni, published here with his kind permission, along with my own translation:

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Nell’abside del mio cuore,
iconostasi di numerose emozioni,
sgorgano calde lacrime,
versate in quello speciale
scrigno di tanti segreti.

E’ il trasparente diamante,
perfetto caleidoscopio di colori,
riflessi su uno zaffireo cielo
posto sopra i monti,
che inchiodano i venti.

E’ l’orizzonte seghettato
da alterni turbamenti dell’anima,
vibrati da digitali foglie di violino,
armonia di contrasti
quali luminose stelle cadenti.

Ha martellato, lungamente,
il cuore polveroso, chiuso
in un’aspra conchiglia,
pronta ad aprirsi e godere
della futura luce, anelata da tempo.

Casa di frontiera il mio petto,
disposto al vento della speranza,
portata nel becco di un gabbiano,
sotto le cui argentee penne
si è sviluppato il mio canto.

“Altissimo albero dell’intellettuale miele,
fata morgana della vita,
sei stato l’orizzonte da afferrare
per neutralizzare l’amarezza
delle strade ingombre da ciottoli e vetri.

Sembravi lontanissimo,
inafferrabile asse portante
dell’impervio sentiero del tempo,
trasformato in fiume di progresso
segno della mia quotidianità.

Ti ho raggiunto, preso
dalle tue morbide branchie,
assaporando la veloce salita,
inizio dell’infinito spazio
preparato alla conquista”.


In the apse of my heart,
iconostasis of many emotions,
warm tears flow,
poured into that special
casket of secrets.

It is the lucent diamond,
perfect kaleidoscope of colours,
reflected in a sapphire sky
there, above the mountains
which harness the winds.

It is the jagged horizon
of the soul’s recurring troubles,
a violin stroked by leaves,
the harmony of contrasts
like luminous falling stars.

You hammered out, for a long time,
the dusty heart, enclosed
in a rough shell,
ready to open up and enjoy
the yearned-for, light of the future.

My heart, a frontier house,
exposed to the winds of hope,
carried in the beak of a seagull,
under whose silver plumage
my song evolved.

“Oh, tall tree of intellectual honey,
the Morgan le Fay of life,
you were the horizon to seize,
to neutralise the bitterness
of streets littered with pebbles and glass.

You seemed so distant,
unreachable supporting axis
of the impervious path of time
transformed into a river of progress,
sign of my daily life .

I reached you, lifted
in your soft gills,
savouring the fast climb,
the beginning of infinite space,
ready for the conquest.”

- From Le Stagioni del Cuore [Modica, 2008] and Il Profumo del Pensiero [Edizioni Nuovi Poeti, 2009].


Melon and strawberry at the Bar Edicolè.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Here is our friendly tomato man....

....who today is the cherry man:

You have to get to his stall very early to get cherries. They are all gone by 11 am!

Monday, June 22, 2009


I am pleased with the colour of my apricot liqueur, which I have just bottled.


I've had a very jolly morning indeed for behold, reader, all these new toys I have got to play with!

First of all, I asked at the supermarket if any of my "gifts" [ordered with my accumulated points] had arrived and was able to collect this battery-operated cheese grater, a pretty antipastiera on a swivel base and a parmesan dish.

No sooner had I arrived home with these than the doorbell rang and it was the corriere with my smart new jam-making machine from Lakeland [a UK kitchen store]. It's not very often these days that I read about something I can't buy here and really want it but I really wanted this. I'll let you know how well it works! Rosa is coming out to play with me and it tomorrow.


When James was here last summer, he would look at my lovely tomato-squashing machine, shake his head and declare that he dreaded the day when I would get it out and start sauce-making in earnest! Well, for various reasons - vergogna [shame on me] - I didn't get around to it last year so now I'm having to make up for that. This post is for Omnium, who wants the recipe, M , who wants to know what I'm making with the 3 crates of tomatoes I bought, Leslie who wanted to know about the process and, of course, all my other lovely readers.

One of my favourite cooks is Keith Floyd, because he likes a bit of "bunging" and "throwing" and does not always give precise quantities and times, knowing that much depends on your oven or hob's temperament as well as your own, the size of the ingredients you have got, your common sense and even the climate in which you are cooking. So I use his recipe as a basis and then very much do my own thing. I'm not saying that there isn't a place for the precision of the blessed Delia: in fact, thinking that a CBE [a British honour] was a bit miserly of Her Britannic Majesty, I nearly started a "Make Delia a Dame" group on facebook, only I belong to a "Procrastination" group on there as well, so I procrastinated. And now I'm digressing [maybe I should start a "Digression" group?] so let's get to work:

Rosa sorting tomatoes.

First of all, you need all saucepans on deck to bring the tomatoes to the boil:

Rosa and I processed about a third of the tomatoes in the crates on Friday, so we will need a couple more sessions. For the purpose of giving quantities here, let's assume that you have about 4 kilos of tomatoes. Throw all of these into water in the biggest pans you have got and bring to the boil. They should just soften. Rinse them in a large colander under cold water [be careful!] and then chuck them into the machine. [If you don't have one of these I suggest you process half this quantity at a time. You will have to get the peel off by hand and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Some people can achieve this result using a mouli but I have not been successful.] Put the juice back into pans.

I make with the machine.

It requires mathematical precision to line everything up for minimal mess!

The sauce is back in the pans.

In a small pan, heat 2 tablesp olive oil and add a large, chopped onion and a fat, chopped clove of garlic. Fry until they are softened and transparent, then add them to the juice in the pans. [Sometimes I fry a finely chopped red chilli pepper as well to make a spicy sauce.] Into each pan of sauce chuck a few chopped basil leaves, some oregano if you like [I do] 2 teasp brown sugar, a few drops balsamic or red wine vinegar plus seasalt and freshly ground black pepper. Oh, nearly forgot: I like to add a dollop of 'strattu [tomato paste] to each pan:

Simmer for about an hour or until you have a beautifully thick tomato sauce. The Sicilian women bottle theirs and go through that sterilising process with the bottles in a pan lined with and separated by newspaper or cardboard but I freeze my sauce in varying quantities.

You may like to look at this post, where you can see some photos of 'strattu being made.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Last night Irma and I went to see a stunning performance of Medea in the magnificent setting of the Greek Amphitheatre at Siracusa:

The Greeks would not have been able to look from the theatre to the trees, as they always had to have a clear view of the sea in case of invaders:

You will probably get a better idea of the scale of the theatre from these photos, which I took some years ago when I happened to be there while they were preparing for a performance:

What can I say? The setting was wonderful, the atmosphere fantastic and the acting superb: Elisabetta Pozzi as Medea gave the performance of a lifetime. The magic of the setting is that you are sitting where the Greeks sat as you listen to those words from thousands of years ago that still resonate today. I was reminded, last night , of the perfection of Greek drama, with its unities and subsequent economy of language, portraying , as it does, all the passions of man in such a short time.

As for Medea, I can understand jealousy: it really is Shakespeare's "green-eyed monster" and its intensity can lead to terrible deeds. Love, too, can be a kind of madness but one of the saddest lessons of this life is that once someone stops loving you, there is absolutely nothing that you can do about it. Of course, one could argue that if it ends, it wasn't love in the first place, for I do believe in Shakespeare's "ever-fixèd mark / That looks on tempests and is never shaken". Irma and I agreed that we could comprehend the wish for revenge, the desire to hurt the person who has hurt you, or the woman who has "taken him away" - only she didn't, because you cannot take away someone who doesn't want to go. But killing your own , or anyone's, children in revenge? This was beyond us . We went home having to remind ourselves that it was fiction!

"Love, when it is excessive,
brings man neither fame nor virtue.
But should Aphrodite reach you
with a gentle touch,
this is divine grace beyond compare."

Oh, and just to prove I was there:

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I listened to this over at Luce's blog and I think it's absolutely beautiful:

Renato Zero - Spiagge


I've just used some of the same filling to stuff - I mean "fill" - some peppers. I cooked these in the microwave. [Yes, I succumbed and got one quite recently: the kitchen gets so hot in summer when I have the oven on and it's not worth sweltering when I'm warming something up for just me. I've also missed the microwave as a kitchen tool.] This is what I did:

If you are using bell peppers, just cut off the tops and stand them in a microwave-proof dish. If you are using elongated peppers [which I prefer] split them open on one side, cutting as far down as you can go without actually dividing them into 2 halves. In either case, scoop out as much of the membranes and seeds as you can. Don't worry too much about this - if people mind a few pepper seeds , they shouldn't be eating the vegetable, in my opinion. You'll have to lay the elongated peppers in your dish. Cook the peppers on full power for 5 minutes. Now use a teaspoon to fill the peppers. [I found the easiest way was to hold them in the dish with a kitchen tongs.] Drizzle a little olive oil in the base of the dish and over the peppers. Cover loosely with a double sheet of kitchen roll. Cook on full power for another 10 mins. Buon appetito.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Now that I start writing I realise that I haven't named this recipe so let's call it " Friday filled vegetables" unless you want to go all academic and remind me that the tomato is a fruit. I do think "filled" is a nicer word than "stuffed", don't you?

This is an adaptation of a recipe in June's La Cucina Italiana magazine but I think I have made enough changes to be able to publish it here. For one thing, their recipe uses anchovies and as I can't eat fish that is out. I have also used a different kind of cheese and used the ready-grated breadcrumbs we can get here instead of the soft pane pugliese suggested. Here we go:

8 - 10 good-sized, round tomatoes [but not beef tomatoes]
4 largeish onions [I've used our famous white, Giarratana onions]
200 gr pane grattato or fine, fresh breadcrumbs
50 gr olives preserved in oil, drained, stoned and chopped
50 gr sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped [with a scissors]
100 gr lean minced beef or veal
2 teasp salted capers, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic, peeled
handful mint and parsley, chopped
50 gr grated caciocavallo cheese
3 tablesp olive oil
seasalt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the onions and cut out as much of the middles as you can. Trim the bottoms so that they will stand up. Put them into a pan of simmering water for 20 mins. Cut the top off each tomato and scoop out the pulp. Set the pulp and tops aside, separately. Heat the oil in a pan and add the breadcrumbs with the garlic clove. Stir the breadcrumbs around until they take on some colour and add the meat to the pan. Keep stirring till the meat has just browned. Remove and discard the garlic. Put the olives, sundried tomatoes, capers, mint and cheese in a large mixing bowl and add the meat and breadcrumbs mixture. Mix everything well together and season. Now sieve some of the tomato pulp over it and stir to bind. Use this mixture to stuff the tomatoes and onions. Oil the base of a ceramic baking dish and put the vegetables in. Drizzle with olive oil and cook at 180 C for 40 mins. Serve warm with salad. If you like, you can put the tomato caps back on to serve. I forgot.


It's time for my friend mountaingirl's Photo Challenge again and this week's theme is "town": When will I get used to seeing vegetation like this as I go about my shopping in Modica's newest commercial centre?

By the way, this is the first picture I've taken with my new phone. I couldn't work out how to upload it so in the end I sent it to myself!


"The man stripped of all props except that of his spirit is sounding not only the depths he is capable of plumbing, but also testing the heights that he can scale."
-Aung San Suu Kyi, Letters from Burma.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's pro-democracy leader, is 64 today. She will spend her birthday in detention, on trumped-up charges, in the infamous Insein Prison. The UN has ruled her detention illegal and there are serious concerns for her health.
In my opinion Aung San Suu Kyi's greatest act of courage was her refusal to fly to London to see her husband, Michael Aris, when he was dying of cancer there. She knew that she would not have been allowed back into Burma to fight for her people.
Aung San Suu Kyi believes in freedom so let those of us who have our freedom show that we believe in her on this day: please leave your message of support for Aung San Suu Kyi here .
Thank you.

Image: US Department of State


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