Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I don't often have time to have an aperitivo at the Altro Posto these days but I did manage it yesterday.  And just look at the plate of complimentary snacks I got with it!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Football of course dominated the headlines at the end of last week and I, who know nothing about the subject and couldn't even lift the ball, let alone kick it, would not dare offer a technical opinion.  For Italy Magazine I did, however, sum up reactions in Italy to the national team's defeat.

Long ago, when I first came to Italy, I used to have "If they could see me now" moments whenever I rode in the Alfa Romeo that belonged to the family I was staying with, so news about a very special birhday party in Milan brought back happy memories.

Happy reading!

Monday, June 28, 2010


When I decided to try out this dish from Corriere della Sera's monthly La Cucina cookbook, I wasn't sure what cut of veal teneroni were.  However, I did think the butcher would know!  The supermarket butcher, though, scratched his head and called a colleague.  Then they both scratched their heads.  I explained the recipe and they decided that what I needed were thick escalopes - if an escalope can be thick - I think that makes it a chop.  Anyway, they cut some pieces that looked like the ones in the recipe and concluded that tenerone must be some fancy northern name. I don't think that's right but maybe it's a term not used much down here.

Now, my friend Gleds says there is no copyright on recipes and, as every recipe is based upon another in some way, he has a point.  But I just looked the matter up and it seems this is a very murky area, so I'll just tell you some of the ingredients and a little about the method as instructions could be regarded as "literary work":  well,  the dish is concocted with the teneroni, cherry tomatoes, green olives [which, another time, I will leave out as I don't think they add anything to the flavour] peppers, artichokes [I saved myself a lot of time and trouble by using antipasto ones] onion, capers,  whatever herbs you have and lemon juice.  [Really the lemon juice is for putting the fresh artichoke slices in as you prepare them but I chucked some in for the hell of it.]  Basically, you brown the meat and then let everything cook together.  The vegetables will produce their own liquid.  And it worked!

So, my friends Katia, Rowena and Carmelita,  please come over and tell us what you know about teneroni.  And if there are any legal experts out there, I'd be interested to learn more about recipe copyright!

Friday, June 25, 2010


A trip to Catania with students last Saturday enabled me to sample this elegant coppa of frutti di bosco and lemon flavours - not to mention delicious accompanying biscuits.


From mini-fruits to these incredibly juicy apricots the size of apples - Sicily has it all.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


After I put my tricolore necklaces on, too....

Meanwhile, Mr Bossi put his foot into football on Tuesday and was forced to apologise.

I wonder who'll do the apologising tomorrow?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Here are the links to some of my Italy Magazine articles from last week:

First of all Jean and Gino Magnone, a Yorkshire couple now living in Ragusa, tell us about their lives here. Gino also describes his arrival in Britain as a child and tells us how, many years later, he traced some members of his Italian family.

For my Tuesday travel article I looked at some great places for food shopping in ten of Italy's most visited cities.  I was so hungry by the time I finished writing this one!

For my Friday Patti Chiari column I wrote about the Nelson Castle at Maniace,  near the town of Bronte northwest of Etna.  I've written about Maniace previously on this blog but newer readers may like to learn about this piece of English history in Sicily.

Finally, you can find out here why Italy is going batty!


I'd never seen a yellow watermelon before so I just had to get this one on Saturday!  Sometimes called the coco-ananas [cocomero is another word for anguria or watermelon and ananas is, of course, pineapple] I understand they are hybrids and not genetically modified.  Some sources say they taste sweeter than the red variety with overtones of pineapple and mango.  Well, this one didn't taste sweeter but it did taste divine!  There was, perhaps, a hint of mango.  Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised.

Recently I mentioned that this is the mini-fruits season in Sicily and they don't come any minier than these pears:

Here are some with a miniature pear and a full-sized pear:

Truly the tastes of summer.

Monday, June 21, 2010


This is my latest experiment from the Cotto e Mangiato book.  I can't give you the exact, copyright recipe but I can tell you that the spiedini are made up of veal involtini [rolls] filled with a mixture of minced cacciatore sausage, provolone cheese and pangrattato [fine breadcrumbs] plus bay leaves and onion slices.  You are supposed to cut the meat into triangles measuring 10 cm on each side but I found that too small to be fiddling with.  Then you are supposed to form neat, triangular parcels which I didn't quite manage. Anyway, all's well that tastes well and these had a nice, barbecuey flavour.

Cotto e Mangiato is a short cookery slot on  the Italia 1 lunchtime news programme and you can find many of the recipes on youtube.  I recently purchased the recipe book, which is excellent.

I served these involtini with my "green rice salad":

To serve a multitude, cook 500 gr [1 lb] of salad or risotto rice.  Drain it and rinse it in cold water.  Put the rice in a serving dish.  Peel, deseed and chop a cucumber into small chunks, then sprinkle with fine seasalt.  Leave for about half an hour.  Cook about 300 gr [10.5 oz] of fresh or frozen peas.  I used some asparagus tips this time, just because I found some, but you don't have to.  Cook these until tender - I sacrilegiously cooked them with the peas.  Chop one or two green peppers very finely and chop some fresh basil.  Now rinse and drain the cucumber and add it, with the other vegetables and basil, to the rice.  Season and add about 6 tablesp olive oil.  Mix well and chill until serving time.

Buon appetito.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

14 YEARS, 238 DAYS

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is 65 today and she spends her birthday in detention.  Myanmar's  Democracy leader has, in fact, spent 14 years and 238 days in detention because the odious ruling junta fears her.  Like all bullies, they fear one who fights them with words of reason more than they fear violence. This is what The Lady herself has to say about fear:

"Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man's self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man. "
- Freedom from Fear, 1991

Please visit this site to find out how you can take action to help Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Myanmar [Burma].
Thank you.

No sabato musicale this week.  Instead, this is for The Lady:

Friday, June 18, 2010


I love Sicilian blood oranges and this week I discovered arancia sanguinella ice cream.  Heaven!


Overheard in a public office today:

Citizen to official:  "Excuse me, are you busy?"
Official:  "It depends."

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Hi, folks.  Simi here!  

This morning my friend Mr Enzo came to fetch me and off I went to his doggie-grooming-parlour to have my hair and nails done.  Don't I look pretty?

But it's tiring being pampered!

Sogni d'oro, fans.

Simi xx woof!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


This is the first of a series of posts in which I'm going to direct you to what I think are my best, funniest or quirkiest articles for Italy Magazine in the preceding week. 

First up tonight is my interview with the Reverend Russell Ruffino, an American Episcopalian priest in Orvieto.  You can imagine my surprise when, during the telephone interview, I asked Russ about his Italian family and he said his father was from Modica!  Russ hadn't realised that that is where I live so he was astonished at the coincidence.  He is coming to Modica with his wife in July and I am looking forward to meeting them both.

Next is my article on the bamboccioni ["big babies"] the cruel term used to denote young Italian adults who still live with their parents, usually from economic necessity.  The article was inspired by a sad comment from a student of mine.

Lastly, as many of you know, as both an adopted child and a feminist I can see both sides in the abortion debate.  I'd be interested to know what you all think of Andrea Bocelli's recent comments on the issue.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Things will never be the same again in the fictional village of Ambridge, home of my favourite soap, The Archers, for the scriptwriters have gone and killed off thrice-married Sid, landlord of "The Bull" pub, mainstay of the cricket team and homophobe. The character died of a heart attack in Tuesday's episode whilst visiting his stroppy daughter Lucy in New Zealand. So that's what too much sex in the shower does for you!

Meanwhile Sid's former wife Kathy seems to be about to commit sati and is at risk of losing loveable partner Kenton. I've never understood how laid-back, self-deprecating Kenton ended up with boring Kathy but perhaps he just likes boring women.  His twin sister, Shula, is among the most boring and smug that you could meet, apart from an episode back in 1998 which earned her the title of "Britain's most sexually active church warden".

My heroine among the Archers women is Lillian. Rich, fun, outrageous and blessed with a heart of gold, Lillian has rotten taste in men. She's how I'd like to be if I had money, apart from the rotten men, whom I've never had any trouble in attracting.

You're either an Archers fan or you're not and for me, here in Sicily, those 13 minutes Monday to Friday and on Sundays are my "little bit of Britain". My Italian friends and students are amazed that so many British people follow a soap which is broadcast on radio rather than television and even more astounded when I tell them it's the longest-running soap opera in the world.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I've decided that as I can't beat 'em, I might as well join 'em.  Wales aren't playing so my loyalties are with Italy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


An array of flags, pots of cooling gel al limone and strawberries and ice cream greeted the ladies of the "foreign legion" as we met in a garden with stunning views of the Ragusa countryside on Monday afternoon.  We're just a group of foreign women who get together now and again.

I made this cherry dessert cake to take along.  I found the recipe in a magazine and you are supposed to use frozen forest fruits in it but I couldn't get any so I used fresh cherries.  It turned out much better than I had anticipated:

Here are some of the other treats we enjoyed:

[My cherry cake is front left.]

Egyptian baklava.

Mandarin cheesecake and lemon cake.

I also took along a chocolate and mint semifreddo and a good time was had by all.

Monday, June 07, 2010


I was pleased with the results of a magazine recipe for pollo al umido  which I tried out last night:  just chicken and potatoes - which, as always, I refused to peel - cooked slowly in a little homemade tomato sauce and vegetable stock with some chopped carrot and celery.  It is all delicately perfumed with fresh bay, rosemary and cinnamon.  I think the key to the flavour must be the enormous cinnamon sticks we can get here.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


I admire people who reach out to those whom society discards.  This is an article of mine which was published in Italy Magazine on Friday and it is about one such person:

Don Mario Picchi

Rome said goodbye to a great friend of the lost and abandoned on Tuesday. Don Mario Picchi, who died last Saturday at the age of 80, was a priest who, from the late 1960s, devoted his life to fighting drug addiction and those affected by it.

Born in Pavia in 1930, Don Mario became a priest in 1957. Ten years later he was called to Rome to assist in the Vatican’s charity projects. In 1968 he began to organise groups of volunteers to help drug addicts and went on to create the CeIS [Centro Italiano di SolidarietĂ ] and his famous “Progetto Uomo” [“Project Man”] a series of educational and therapeutic programmes for drug addicts and their families.

His philosophy and programmes became models for other projects not only in Italy but around the world because the programmes were flexible enough to be adapted to other cultural, economic and social situations. In 1985 CeIS was recognised as a Non-Governmental Organisation by the UN Economic and Social Council.

Don Mario was also a writer and among his publications are: “Intervista sulla droga e sull’uomo “ [“Interview on Drugs and Man”] [1984], “Dietro la droga un uomo” [“Behind the Drug is a Man”] [1991] and “A Braccia Aperte” [“With Open Arms”] [2002]. “Progetto Uomo” has been translated into many languages. Of those he helped he wrote,

“We are a group of poor souls on the streets of the world. One day the members of this group will leave me and take their independent paths. I hope that faith in the ability of man, any man, will go with them.”
Don Mario received many awards and decorations and was created a Grande Ufficiale al Merito della Repubblica Italiana. Speaking at his funeral, Cardinal Agostino Vallani said,

“He welcomed all. His door was always open”.

As a last gift to Don Mario, the city of Rome is to donate land on which members of his community will be able to create and tend a market garden.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


We haven't had a Patrizio Buanne song for a long time, so let's put that right:

Patrizio Buanne - Alta Marea

Friday, June 04, 2010


I would like to offer a bacio to whoever thought of making baci ice cream!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


I like balconies and this one in Modica Bassa has cheered me up all year. The vertical plants are artificial but it's no less pretty for that.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Just look at these beautiful bags, handmade in Modica, which were on sale at Raffaele the hairdresser's on Saturday:

Mine's the cream one with the brown flowers - or it would be, in better times.   Which do you prefer, ladies?

And how's a girl supposed to get her summer shape back if Raffaele keeps offering treats like these pastries

and chocolate-coated strawberries?

These mini semifreddi even have sticks made of chocolate!

Alas, there is no hope....


Ricotta is not sold in these wicker containers, called cavagne, any more but it was being displayed in them at Saturday's farmers' market in Modica Bassa.  I asked the stallholder if I could buy some in the container and she agreed  [I wanted the cavagna because it is bigger than others I have hanging in the kitchen], throwing  a mound of baked ricotta into the bag too.


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