Tuesday, August 29, 2017


I just thought I'd let you all know that true love is alive and well in Sicily:

I don't know why the sea turned pink in the second photo - perhaps it knows fuschia is my favourite colour!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


On the eve of the first anniversary of the horrific 24th August earthquake in Central Italy, it is sad indeed to be writing about another quake, this time on the Neapolitan island of Ischia. The quake, which struck on Monday, killed two women and 39 people have been injured, some seriously.

As always, when there is such a tragedy, there is also heroism and courage and the video of firemen rescuing a seven-month-old baby who had been trapped for seven hours went around the world. Who could watch it and not cry? Later the baby's brother, eight-year-old Mattias, was rescued and finally, after 16 hours, the third brother, 11-year-old Ciro, who had saved his siblings by pushing them under a bed. Firemen kept talking to Ciro throughout the rescue operation and at one point he asked a fireman, "Do you love me?" "Yes, I love you", came the reply. "Then come", said Ciro and come they did. Interviewed in hospital today, Ciro said he had thought he would die but that when he was pulled out and saw the light, knew that God exists. All three boys are said to be in a good condition and, though Ciro has a fractured foot, he hopes to be playing football again soon. His pregnant mother, who was in another room when the quake struck, is also well and his father is with them.

Meanwhile, today in Amatrice, the town which was literally half wiped out by last year's quake, a statue honouring a very special dog is being inaugurated. Camilla, a border collie working with the Ligurian Fire Brigade, died in the line of duty in June. In the days following the quake, she helped save dozens of people trapped in the rubble and Amatrice will never forget her. Her statue is also dedicated to all the search and rescue dogs who were deployed during that distressing time.

Let us think of all who have been affected by earthquakes and all - human or canine - who work to help them, wherever they are in the world, over the next few days.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


My friend Carol King, who has recently returned to Sicily, and I decided to celebrate Ferragosto a day late this year, so I kind of cooked her a little meal:

The antipasti included olives, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh datterini tomatoes, mini sausages, bresaola and Parma ham topped with Grana cheese shavings, marinated mushrooms and - I must tell you about this - watermelon with salted cucumber. My original intention was to chuck the cucumber - peeled, deseeded, chopped, salted, left then rinsed, drained and chilled - into the salad but at the last minute I thought it would be a nice addition to the dish of watermelon. Turns out I was right!  The seemingly small apples around the antipasti dishes are actually azzaroli or Neapolitan medlars, which are related to hawthorn. There are mini-pears as well and they are a fine partner for the cheese.

The main course was grilled chicken salad with grilled nectarines. (Yes, I have a thing for grilled nectarines!)   I marinated the chicken in culinary rosewater before grilling and seasoned it with sumac afterwards. I used the dressing I invented for this recipe. The other ingredients were grilled peppers and rocket leaves.

For dessert, I made strawberry tiramisù and Carol brought along the delicious sweet treats on the right.

Everything on this menu can be made in advance and all you have to do is make the antipasti look pretty and assemble the salad.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Top, left to right:  Duomo, Cefalù; looking up from Modica Bassa
Bottom, left to right:  The Madonie; Princess Grace of Monaco depicted in flower petals at Noto Infiorata, 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017


This is the night when Italians look for shooting stars. If you see one, don't forget to make a wish! But don't worry if they don't appear for you tonight - they should be around for a few nights more. Have a happy St Lawrence's night, everyone!

Eros Ramazzotti e Patsy Kensit - La luce buona delle stelle
City of Stars from La La Land

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


Regular readers will know that, at this time of year, I love experimenting with salads and a few years ago I invented a tagliata and cherry version. This week, I decided I wanted something lighter still and I came up with a chicken and cherry salad.  I wanted to use my favourite spice, sumac, and took the wonderful Nadiya Hussain's advice about sprinkling it on the meat after cooking to keep the red colour. Then I added to the red by playing with pink peppercorns. It all turned out rather well but here is my usual warning to Sicilian purists: I never said it was Sicilian; it's just what I do with the ingredients and cuts of meat available to me here and I like including the Middle Eastern ingredients I learnt to use in Britain.  And yes, the dish contains meat and fruit and I'm not apologising!

Chicken and cherry salad

1 chicken breast, cut into escalopes  (That's two chicken breasts, as sold in Britain, where they are sold in halves, and one as sold in Italy. An Italian butcher will auomatically cut them very thin. In Britain you may need to pound them.)
about 30 fat, dark cherries, stoned
half a large cucumber or 1 small one
500 gr bag rocket leaves
5 tablesp culinary rosewater
olive oil
1 tablesp runny honey
Himalayan pink seasalt
1 dessertsp pink peppercorns, crushed
1 teasp ground ginger
1 teasp ground sumac
1 teasp dried herbes de Provence

First, marinate the chicken pieces for 2 hours in 3 tablesp of the rosewater (or marinate overnight).
Peel the cucumber, deseed and chop it as small as you can. Sprinkle with (ordinary] fine seasalt and leave at least 30 mins. (This is a trick I learned from an early Jennifer Paterson book and I always prepare my salad cucumbers like this.) After 30 mins, rinse, drain and let dry on kitchen paper.
Drain the chicken pieces and pat dry with kitchen paper. Cook them over low heat on a lightly oiled ridged griddle pan - about 2 mins per side. Put them on kitchen paper and let them cool.
In a small bowl, mix well with a fork 6 tablesp olive oil, 2 tablesp rosewater, the honey, ground ginger, pink salt if you have it, half the pink peppercorns and the herbes de Provence. Leave in the fridge.
When the chicken has cooled, cut it into bite-sized pieces - I do this with a kitchen scissors - and place them in a bowl.  Sprinkle the sumac over it and add the cucumber, cherries  and rocket. (At this stage you can leave the salad in the fridge till serving time.] When you are ready, add the dressing and toss well.  Finally, sprinkle the rest of the peppercorns over the salad.

Serves four.

Buon appetito

Note:  Sumac does, in theory, grow in Sicily but I have yet to meet anyone who has heard of it here!


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