Wednesday, November 30, 2016


No visit to beautiful, architecturally homogeneous Noto is complete, in my opinion, without stopping off at the Caffè Sicilia to enjoy ice cream and cake with unusual but delicate and harmonious flavourings so it was good to see their creator, Corrado Assenza, welcoming the remaining contestants of Bakeoff Italia - Dolci in Forno to his city on TV on Friday.

The technical challenge for the contestants was to produce their own replicas of Corrado Assenza's dolce dell'estate which contains, among other ingredients, a tomato gelatine, nectarines in a special syrup, basil, oranges, hibiscus, black pepper, gin and vodka:

Photo: facebook

If you read Italian, you can find the recipe here .

I have usually been to Noto in summer so I can't say I've noticed the quality of its winds but, judging from this episode, they must be rather choosy, for they blew only on the hair of presenter Benedetta Parodi, ruffling it gently while the contestants, also in the open air, sweated profusely.

The television audience was treated to stunning views of Noto while the judges enjoyed slices of Corrado Assenza's creation on a terrace.

You can watch the Noto episode here until 31.1.17.

Now we are all waiting for the final this Friday and I for one will be glued to my TV. I might even try some of the recipes soon but not before I've asked ny hairdresser how to get my own special breeze blowing flatteringly through my locks whilst leaving everybody else alone!

Monday, November 28, 2016


A life event in the form of a broken boiler precluded further posting last week and, as I felt much in need of warmth, I invented this:

Spezzatino di autunno

1 kg pork cut for spezzatino or casserole  [in Italy, ask the butcher to cut the rind off]
3 zucchini
1 kg piece pumpkin
4 medium potatoes
6 small chillies [not the hottest!] or chilli flakes to taste
1 white onion
1 clove garlic
7 tablesp olive oil
sumac to taste,  coarse seasalt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sachets saffron
200 ml white wine
juice 2 oranges and grated zest of 1

Cut the pumpkin into manageable pieces and cut the peel off. Cut into chunks and cook in boiling, slightly salted water until soft but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.
Slice the zucchini - not too thinly - and cook in 2 tablesp oil until golden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper.  [I know it sounds odd, putting fried zucchini in a stew but trust me on this.]
Chop the onion and garlic and soften in a large, wide pan. Add the pork pieces and cook, turning, until browned on all sides.
Now add the pumpkin, zucchini, white wine, orange juice, spices, seasoning and chillis.  Stir, then add the potatoes, sliced. [I don't peel them but you can if you wish.]
Leave to simmer, covered, for 50 mins - 1 hour. Stir now and then and add a little water if it seems too dry.  The pumpkin will go mushy but the dish will be all the more flavoursome for that.
Grate orange zest over to serve.

Certainly not Italian but makes good use of autumn ingredients here. Buon appetito.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers and friends. I hope you have a great day.

As you see, I've made some pumpkin pies and, though I say it myself, they're quite good!  [And yes, I have been lucky enough to taste pumpkin pie in the US.]  Now, the recipe I trust uses cream and milk in the filling but, as cream in America is thicker than the cream available here, a few years ago I experimented with mascarpone and, with a little [unwhipped] Italian whipping cream added, the pies turned out fine, so that's how I make them every year now.

I usually cook the pumpkin flesh down but this year I managed to find a can of pumpkin purée in Catania.

So here you have them - my slightly Italianised pumpkin pies:  

Buon Giorno del Ringraziamento!

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Here's a beautiful and powerful track from Tiziano Ferro - number three in the Italian singles chart:

  Tiziano Ferro - Potremmo ritornare

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Some of you may know that, while we weren't looking and as if the world doesn't have enough problems, a "Prosecco war" broke out this week, so I thought I'd tell you how this event is viewed from here:

First of all, it is a given in a country that is a firm member of the EU that free movement of people is part of the package. So when the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said that Brexit Britain wants to retain access to the European Single Market without subscribing to free movement of people, Carlo Calenda, the Italian Economic Development Minister, was aghast.

Mr Calenda told Mr Johnson that without free movement of people there would be nothing left to negotiate, to which Mr Johnson reportedly replied that Italy would give in on this rather than lose sales of Prosecco to the UK. An understandably annoyed Mr Calenda retorted that Britain would lose fish and chips exports but that the difference was that, whilst Italy might lose a little export buiness with one country, the UK stood to lose a lot more with 27 countries.

Later Mr Calenda remarked that it was "a bit offensive" of the British to assume that Italy is totally reliant on Prosecco exports and also said that the British government appears to be in chaos regarding Brexit policy.

This morning the Foreign Office issued the following statement, which is being taken as an apology here:

"The comments of the Foreign Secretary reflect the strength of the trading relationship between our two countries. We hope that this will remain strong despite British exit from the EU."

A British government source apparently told the BBC that Mr Johnson had not intended his comments as an insult but as part of a "constructive discussion".

The verdict in Italy is that the British are clearly off their [Prosecco-filled] trolley and, according to La Repubblica, that Mr Johnson is "not cut out for diplomacy".  Il Giornale, meanwhile, believes that the incident has pushed tragicomedy to its limits.

Prosecco, anyone?  Cincin!

Saturday, November 12, 2016


You'll excuse the detour from Italy this week, I'm sure, as I mark the passing of an icon of my youth - the great poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen:

Leonard Cohen - Dance Me to the End of Love

Thursday, November 10, 2016


So while you're Waiting for Godot, you might as well eat tiramisù!

Tiramisù at Cicara Caffeteria , Modica

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

AUTUMN TIDES, 2016 - 4

Over the past few days, whilst the tide of rhetoric across the Atlantic grew ever stronger and I, like most of you, was glued to my TV screen, autumn tides brought to Pozzallo two children who, having seen their mother die on a migrant boat, had watched over her body until the dinghy on which they were travelling from Libya split in two.

The 300 migrants on board were rescued by the Italian Navy and then transferred to a Save the Children ship.  The woman, who was probably from Mali, had been crushed to death while trying to protect her children from the same fate by shielding them with her body in the overcrowded prow of the boat. When the other migrants near the woman discovered that she was dead, a people trafficker tried to make them throw her body overboard but they refused. They told the two children, a girl aged nine and a boy aged six, that their mother was sleeping but they understood that she was dead.

These sad children are now in the care of nuns in Ragusa and what looks like a mobile phone number written on the girl's trousers may be the only hope of finding other family members. It is thought that they have an uncle somewhere in Europe.

The alleged people trafficker has been identified and arrested.

This is but one tragedy among so many, of course, but it is none the less shocking for that.

With regard to the historic events of the past 24 hours I have only the following to say:

On this day a great nation founded on migration chose a leader who wants to build a wall. Yet we are all migrants. Let us hope that humanity will prevail, both there and in the rest of the world.

All human progress has been made because someone, somewhere, had a dream.  Who are we to tell those who dream of a better life that they are wrong to do so?

Saturday, November 05, 2016


Released ahead of their new album, Le Migliori, out on 11th November, here are Adriano Celentano and Mina with Amami, Amami:

MinaCelentano - Amami, Amami

Friday, November 04, 2016


As thousands continue to die in the Mediterranean trying to flee war, working for peace is more important than ever.

Thank you, Mimi Lenox, for inspiring #blog4peace and for all that you do.


It is with great sorrow that I write, tonight, about yet another large-scale migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean. Although it is being reported internationally, events elsewhere are grabbing the headlines  and the deaths of at least 239 people on their tragic journey to what they hoped would be a life, if not a better one - for few of them would have been naive - have  received scant attention in the English language news bulletins I have watched today [Thursday].

As often happens in these cases, definite numbers are not, and may never be, available and details of what happened are being pieced together from what the survivors are able to tell their rescuers. What seems to have happened is as follows:

Two inadequate dinghies, one carrying 138 migrants and the other 140, left Libya in the early hours of Wednesday. The migrants knew that the boats were flimsy and would be overcrowded but were forced by people traffickers, who killed a man in front of them as a "lesson" in obedience - to embark. It wasn't long before the boats capsized in a rough sea about 25 miles off the Libyan coast. In a rescue operation involving five ships and coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard, 29 people were saved and taken to Lampedusa. Two were subsequently transferred to hospital in Palermo. So far 12 bodies, three of which are those of babies, have been recovered. Survivors think that the number of people missing could be 249.

If, as UNHCR estimates, the number is 239, that brings the death toll of migrants seeking safety in Europe this year to 4,220 - a staggering figure in a "civilised" world. Both the Mayor of Lampedusa, Giusy Nicolini, and UNHCR have today again called for safe corridors for migrants.

In other sad news today we learned that Fatim Jawara, the Gambian goalkeeper who played in the Women's Under 17 World Cup in Azerbaijan in 2012,  has died on a migrant crossing.  Her dream was to reach Europe and play for a major club here.  Instead, her body is thought to be among those of 97 migrants who died on the night of 27th October.  She was 19 years old.

Flavio di Giacomo of the IOM said today that people traffickers are telling migrants that Europe is training the Libyan Coast Guard to carry out rescue missions so that those saved can be taken back to Libya rather than European ports such as Lampedusa. This may explain the present rush to board the boats, whatever the risk.

On Thursday a further 766 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean in seven operations led by the Rome Coast Guard.


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