Friday, December 31, 2010


Irma is another friend who is a wonderful cook and this is what we ate for a long lunch today:

There were home dried tomatoes with a piquant dressing

followed by this elegant pasta dish of ham and chiodini mushrooms, invented by Irma

and served on a basil purée:

Then there was roast pork

prettily served with a fennel and orange salad and apple purée:

Now, I have to say I'm proud of this.  I had invented a semifreddo of white torrone to take along as a dessert.  I got the idea from a magazine but the recipe seemed unnecessarily complicated to me, so I adapted the semifreddo of marrons glacés recipe from Il Cucchiaio d'Argento and it worked very well.  I found the chocolate letters and numbers in the supermarket.  [They are by paneangeli, if you're in Italy.]

After that, there was Irma's cobaita [or giuggiulena in dialect]

plus mustaccioli biscuits filled with nuts and fig paste and nucatoli honey biscuits.

Now I have to find room for a dish of lentils, to bring myself good fortune in the New Year!

Happy 2011, everybody, from Simi and me! xx woof!

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Who could resist a slice of very special cassata, brought from Palermo, at Raffaele the hairdresser's yesterday?  Not me!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


myspace layouts

I have been the recipient of some strange  invitations since I moved to Sicily but I think the  strangest must be the unexpected one I received this morning:  bumping into a friend of mine who is a gastroenterologist, I was prevailed upon to  go with him to his departmental waiting room in the hospital  to view a display of the objects he has removed from patients' stomachs over the years.  

A splendid array of plastic jars contained nails, screws, items of jewellery, curtain clips, coins, ring-pulls and batteries:  the Modicani, it seems, love to swallow batteries and they don't consume them one at a time! The average, I discovered, is six in one go and not all of these were small batteries of the kind that might power a toothbrush - which brings me to the weirdest specimen:  I should have thought it would be rather challenging to swallow a conventional, adult-sized toothbrush but one patient obviously hadn't met with any difficulty at all and there the object was, still intact and proudly displayed on a shelf all to itself.   Few of the patients, said my friend, had been children.

I shouldn't think that the display would cheer you up much if you were waiting for a colonoscopy but it is certainly one of the sights of Modica!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


According to local media reports, Town Hall employees in Modica have reason to be dancing in the streets  before New Year's Eve because it has been announced that their salaries are to be paid. 

"What?!" I hear you exclaim.  "Surely their salaries are paid anyway, at the end of every month?  You work for a month and then you are remunerated."  Wrong, dear reader!  This is Italy, where some employees deem themselves lucky to be paid at all and this is Modica, Sicily, where the comune has no money and municipal employees have not been paid for at least two months.  "But how do the employers expect the workers to live?" you may ask, as, indeed, did I and I  have to admit that I do not know the answer.

It has also been announced that the employees will receive the "thirteenth" month's salary - a Christmas bonus or merely the result of one's annual pay having been divided by thirteen instead of twelve, depending on who you work for.  Let us hope that in this case it is the former and in some way compensates the workers for their unfailing pazienza.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I was lucky enough to be invited to spend the main celebration, late on Christmas Eve,  and Christmas Day lunch, with my friend Gina and her family.  As regular readers will know, Gina is a wonderful cook and when her mother-in-law is there too, the feasting never ends!  So without further ado, here is what we all ate over Christmas:

Christmas Eve began with a choice of red pasta

or white pasta with mushrooms but of course, we all had both!

Then there was fried baccalà [salt cod].  [I can't eat this because I am allergic to fish.]

Whenever Gina's mother-in-law presides, there is a wonderful polpettone

and Gina had made this steak pie:

There were condimenti of dressed peppers

and patate al forno cooked with rosemary:

There were fennel and green salads too [not shown] and then there was fresh fruit to clear the palate

before we embarked upon Gina's homemade torrone

and her mother-in-law's delicious almond biscuits:

Finally there was panettone [not shown] and then it was midnight and time to open the presents.

A good night's sleep and suddenly it was time for Christmas Day lunch, beginning with this delightful antipasti arrangement:

Then there was pasta al forno

 followed by special sausages

and this dish of meltingly tender lamb with potatoes.

After the salads, there was gel al limone

 and of course there was a tray of Sicilian pastries

followed by panettone which could be cut into star shapes:

If you're wondering if I can still stand up after that lot, the answer is just about!  Thank you, Gina and family for a wonderful Christmas.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


.... you hear a friend explaining to her children that watches used to have wind-up mechanisms.  You feel even older when you tell them that yours still works that way!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Jovanotti e Luca Carboni - O è Natale tutti i giorni


.... to love those we are with and to think of those who have reason to be sad at Christmas.

Of all the news stroies I have written for Italy Magazine in the past year, there is one that I cannot get out of my mind.  Anyone who has been a carer has had desperate moments and this is a tragic example of what can happen if one of those moments comes when the person feels that they have no support and nowhere to turn.

If there is a loving and forgiving God, may he take pity on this woman at this time and may he bless her poor little ones, wherever they are.

This Christmas night my heart is with all who need care and those who help them.

Friday, December 24, 2010


.... to admire the beautiful way in which Italians wrap panettone

and to give in and take my own advice with regard to dieting.  These lovely pastries are another gift from a kind friend:


.... if you are the owner of the English International School in Modica, to introduce your students to Vegemite.  I'll leave you to imagine their reactions!

Buon appetito, Cathy!

But don't worry:  we invited them to taste some more traditional Anglo-Saxon Christmas fare as well:


... to decorate your Christmas tree with espresso cups, especially if you are the owner of Bar Cicara- the word means "little cup" in dialect.


... to enjoy some handmade pastries from the nearby town of Scicli, a gift fom a friend:

Thursday, December 23, 2010


.... to wear some snowman earrings.  I found these in the new Accessorize store in Catania and they have been a big hit in Modica!  I'm sure you're all jealous....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


You cannot pass the Italian homemaker test unless you have a centrino, which is a table runner that you put on your dining table when it is not in use - which is nearly all the time in many households as most Italians eat in the kitchen while the beautifully polished dining table stands in the hardly used, perfect lounge for "show".  On your centrino, you put the heaviest, most expensive and most beautiful piece of porcelain you have.

I have several centrini but no expensive porcelain and I was cheered by the bright, Christmas centrini on sale for three euros or so at Catania market two weeks ago.

Yes, I know mine has a crease in it and no, I don't intend to go in for that other Italian homemaker test by ironing it!

Monday, December 20, 2010


Some of you have been waiting to see how the pretty pasta I found the other week turned out.  Well, here is the finished dish of lasagne and I have to say it was delicious.  I made a pork ragù as I thought a beef one would be too strong a flavour and when the dish was cooked I thought I could just catch the aroma of, but not taste, the cocoa used for the brown stripes in the lasagne sheets.  The stripes became more evident as I cut the pasta into portions.  Oh, and the secret of crispy lasagne is to dot butter over the top:

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Hi, folks.  Simi here!

I'm a big girl of twelve today and Santa Paws brought me this très chic new coat as a birthday and Christmas present.  Of course, I know it's my mummy really but I don't want her to know I know!  Take a look:

And aren't the red buttons just darling?  They're all the rage in Paris!

Move over, signorine Canalis and Riccobono - there's a new girl on the dogwalk!

'Bye for now, fans.  See you soon!



xxxx woof!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010


Here is my pick of last week's Italy Magazine articles:

Christmas is almost upon us but you may also be thinking about where to spend New Year's Eve.  If you are going to be in Italy, there is a fantastic free show to be enjoyed in Bologna!

This was the week in which both the Vatican City and the town of Gubbio [Umbria]  prepared, in their different ways, for Christmas.  Which of the two trees would you rather see?  Meanwhile, in Tuscany, there is one exhibition I would love to visit, for what woman could resist a red stiletto?  None of these ladies, I am sure. Finally, with regard to the news stories, I had to laugh at this.  "Viva l'amore", say I, but I don't think I would be feeling so tolerant if I had been among the passengers!

For my Patti Chiari column I wrote, in more detail, about Modica's Chocobarocco festival.

Happy reading.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Who could resist these beautiful choux pastry swans in Bar Cicara this morning? Not me!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


It's getting colder outside now so one evening recently I decided to turn to the comfort food that is the "gold" of Northern Italy, polenta.  This is another recipe which I've adapted from the Conad chain's November Bene Insieme magazine. The recipe uses dried beans but, as I don't care for them, I used fresh, green ones:

First blanch or microwave 200 gr fresh, green beans, cut into pieces, until just tender.  Set aside while you cook around 100 gr chopped lardo [Italian white bacon] a chopped onion, 2 chopped cloves of garlic and a handful of chopped parsley in 2 tablesp olive oil.  When the onion becomes transparent, add a can of chopped tomatoes and the beans and mix everything well. Remove from the heat.  Bring 1.5 litres salted water to the boil and add 500 gr instant polenta in a constant stream. Immediately start mixing like mad for the amount of time indicated on the packet. Then add about 200 gr grated parmesan and continue to mix off the heat.  Add the bean mixture too, then tip the lot into an oiled dish.  Leave for a few minutes before cutting into slices to serve. You can also serve this cold.

Buon appetito.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Yesterday afternoon's Multilingual Carol Service in Modica Bassa saw a huge turnout and for me, signified what Christmas should be about:  reaching out to others in a spirit of peace and tolerance.

Here is the programme, cleverly designed by my friend Linda:

And here is the scene set ready for the readings and carols to begin. Some of you may recognise Gino's collage here:

We began by singing Venite Fedeli [Oh Come, All Ye Faithful] together in Italian, the language which unites us all and then there was Italy's favourite carol [and mine], Tu scendi dalle stelle.  Carols and readings followed in French, Malagasy, Bosnian, Greek, German, Spanish, Sicilian dialect, Danish, Dutch and English.  Not all the readings were religious and I read from Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales.  Finally we all sang the first verse of Astro del Ciel [Silent Night] in Italian, French, German, Spanish and English.

A French ensemble

Poem being read in Malagasy

A German carol is sung

A Spanish carol sung with much jolly hand-clapping

Candlelight for a Danish carol

The British contingent

Everyone had brought along a dish from their country to share so there was a fine feast afterwards. We were happy to welcome some new friends from Somalia and Eritrea and we hope they will join us often for social events.


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