Sicilian sea urchins

We were at My sister-in-law’s in Sciacca, on Sicily’s south coast, last summer when a friend turned up in swimming trunks, carrying a bucket. He had just come back from the beach with a ridiculously large quantity of sea urchins. Several bucketfulls, in fact. So he decided to give a bucket of them to us….

A trip to Sicily and it’s Rather Fishy

I wouldn’t normally share photos taken in a supermarket. In fact, I wouldn’t normally take photos in a supermarket. But Sicilian supermarkets are different. First I got distracted at the fish counter. Then I couldn’t decide which cheese to choose. Moving in closer didn’t help. By the time we got onto the salami I was…

Merry Christmas the Sicilian way!

I am going to miss Sicilian Santa terribly this year. I shall just have to rely on Hubby to make sure there is pasta as well as turkey, that we play card games amid the debris of nutshells, and that something with tentacles somehow manages to creep onto the dining table! MERRY CHRISTMAS! BUON NATALE!…

The History of Sicilian Cuisine in Thirteen Invasions

Sicilian food is the original fusion cuisine, a unique mix of all of its diverse cultural heritages. The island has been at the heart of thirteen different empires over the last three millennia, and each one of them has left its mark on the Sicilian housewife’s kitchen cupboard. The Phoenicians The Phoenicians were traders and…

Do you only eat fruit in season, or forced in greenhouses?

Whilst scoffing mango and strawberries with my nephew the other day, I found myself thinking of my friends in Sicily with pity. This is the season when they have pretty much no fruit, you see. Oranges fizzle out in February, and then there’s basically nothing till May. Fruit and veg in season The idea of only…

Castelbuono, the Foodies’ Paradise in Sicily

I have blogged about Castelbuono before, but not recently, so I am doing it again! We took an English friend there last summer, and she took all these lovely photos. Thank you Adrienne! Castelbuono has a medieval castle with a very long ramp at the entrance and several arches to negotiate before you get there:…

How to have a Happy Easter Sicilian Style! Buona Pasqua!

Look at this lovely gift which arrived in the post today. It came from Hubby’s ex colleagues.   It is the classic Sicilian Easter gift: a flock of Easter Lambs, all made from marzipan. Sicilians traditionally make marzipan (which is called martorana in Sicily) twice a year. Marzipan Easter Lambs They make it into lambs…

I Married a Pastafarian

I used to think Italians were Catholics but, since living here, I have found out they are devout Pastafarians.   If I make my Hubby go without eating pasta for an entire 24-hour period, he thinks he will die. He has been brainwashed since early childhood, you see. Forget vegetables! Italians are told that eating…

Daily Life in a Sicilian Fishing Village

The fishermen in my village usually go out in these boats.     Each village along the coastline has its own particular colour scheme. Our village uses orange, white and blue, but there are some fishermen who originally came from another village along the coast where they use green instead of blue.     I always…

The Three Ancient Super-Powers: part 3, The Romans

The last, and ultimately the most powerful, of the superpowers of the ancient world was the Roman Empire. Why were they ultimately the winners in the power struggle? We have seen decades of power struggle between the USA and the USSR. They fought the cold war using technology and financing small wars around the globe,…

The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 2, The Greeks

On Wednesday I told you about the Phoenicians, the first Super-power of the ancient world and Sicily’s first colonists. Today, let’s see what the Greeks did for Sicily. The ancient Greeks: the second superpower The Greeks copied the Phoenicians by founding coastal colonies all over the Mediterranean from the 8th century B.C. onwards. We call…

The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 1, The Phoenicians

It may be hard to imagine, these days, that Sicily was once the cradle of European civilisation. Three super-powers battled for supremacy and Sicily was the centre of it all. Today, I’ll tell you about the Phoenicians, the earliest super-power and Sicily’s first colonists. Carthaginians and Phoenicians: the first empire The Phoenicians were the first…

Loafing around in Sicily’s Gingerbread Village

The people of San Biagio Platano, a village in south-western Sicily, have celebrated Easter every year since the 1700’s by decorating their streets with arches and towers made of bread. The entire community spends three months turning the place into a gingerbread village… yet Hansel and Gretel never come!   For this Archi di Pane…

Sour, Corrupt and dominated by the Mafia: The Citrus Industry in Sicily

Delicious juicy oranges and succulent lemons are one of the first things that spring to mind when most people think  of Sicily. The other, unfortunately, is the Mafia, but few outsiders realise how closely they are connected. Citrus fruit trees were brought to Sicily by the Muslim invaders from North Africa in the 11th century…

Francu, King of the Watermelons

A watermelon stall in Bagheria. That yellow sign, written hilariously in Sicilian, says: “Only one person in Bagheria sells watermelons which are red and sweet. They call him Francu, King of the watermelons.”    

The Tentacles of Doom

Foreigners think English food is awful, and I know why. It’s because they don’t know how to eat it. I served a roast dinner to my outlaws at Christmas a few years ago. They took some potatoes, which sat all lonely and solitary in the middle of their plates. After eating them in dry, disappointed…

Snails for dinner, anyone?

The other day we stopped at the greengrocers – which is normally a roadside stall in Sicily – and my son started making a big fuss over this cage of snails. Most eight-year-olds would either want to play with them or, if particularly sensitive types, perhaps want to liberate them. Not my son. He wanted…

Fancy some nuts?

I photographed these traditional Sicilian market stalls during the village festival this summer. They sell all kinds of nuts, and a few typical sweets as well. The vendors travel around Sicily from village festival to village festival – there’s always one going on somewhere – livening the streets up and selling their healthy snacks. The…

Q: Who promoted Italian food before Jamie Oliver? A: Renato Guttuso!

  We are all used to buying imported and exotic foods in our local supermarket these days, and seeing Jamie Oliver on TV wagging spaghetti about and telling us to grow “some lavly fresh basil” on our windowsills. Jamie has become the global marketing manager for Italian food these days. But how would you market…

Seven Top Tips: How to cook pasta like a real Sicilian Godmother

When I got married, I was given a 35 person dinner service which had belonged to my husband’s grandmother. Not just a 35 person dinner service, but a nine-course 35 person dinner service. “I’m sorry a couple of items have got broken over the years,” my mother-in-law, The Godmother, apologised. A couple of pieces missing? Did…

Happy Easter!

Last week a friend’s little boy was eagerly – indeed passionately – telling me about what he called “the Jewish Easter”. When I realised he meant Passover, it suddenly struck me that the Italian word for Easter – Pasqua – is derived from Pesach, Hebrew for Passover. He had learned about the Jewish flight from…

Sea Urchins, Anyone?

Sicilians absolutely love sea urchins – as food, rather than as wildlife. They crack them open and eat them raw by scooping their insides out with a piece of bread. This is why, off many parts of the Sicilian coast, sea urchins are becoming rare. We went to the stunning Lo Zingaro nature reserve at the…

Happy Valentine’s Day with some Kinky Chocolate

Sicilians are a romantic lot and they love St. Valentine’s Day. Rather than give their girlfriend sweets or champagne, most Sicilian men are more likely to take her out for a delicious organic Italian ice-cream. What better way to wish all my readers Happy Valentine’s Day than by sharing this marvellous advertisement I saw in our local…

How do you get Edible Salt out of the Sea?

We are so used to being warned not to eat too much salt nowadays that it may be hard to imagine how life in the past involved a constant effort to obtain enough of it. Not only does it render any food tasty, it is a vital nutrient and death is the inevitable consequence of…

Christmas in Sicily with Santa’s Smallest Elf

We celebrated Christmas this year with roughly forty people. I could not count accurately as they were Sicilian, therefore unable to keep still. There were four different pasta courses. One was spaghetti with olive oil, lemon zest and cheese, served in a bowl carved out of a whole Parmesan cheese. Another pasta course was with…

What do Dead People Eat?

In Sicily, they eat this: It looks like baskets of fruit, but it is all made from martorana, which Sicilians will rush to tell you is nothing to do with marzipan. Martorana is made from ground almonds, sugar and a little water, nothing else. Since Sicilians refuse to use anything except the freshest organic almonds,…

What does “Confetti” mean in Italian?

Sicilians, like many other Mediterranean people, give little gifts of sugared almonds to all their friends when celebrating the key events in their lives. If they are fancily wrapped sugared almonds, they are called confetti. If the almonds also have a gift attached, the whole thing is called a bomboniera. Sicilians take this art form…

The Celebrity Chefs of Palermo – They’re Offal!

Do you eat offal? is it forbidden by your religion? Or do you just think it tastes like poop? In Palermo, fast food sold in the streets is almost all made of offal. One of the absolute classic dishes of Palermo is U pani ca meusa, which means, “bread with spleen”. I ususally give this…

About Jews, Greek Philosophers and Offal sandwiches

Q. What do Socrates and a spleen sandwich have in common? A. Read on to find out! There was already a significant Jewish population here in Sicily by the 5th century BC. They came with the Greeks from Athens, which also had a large Jewish community. Since the Jews influenced Greek culture a great deal…

The Mediterranean Diet – how to do it properly

All over the world, there exists the myth of a “Healthy Mediterranean Diet,” which everyone is urged to emulate for the sake of their arteries. The Mayo Clinic (which always makes me think of Mayonnaise, anyone else?) says on its website: “Mediterranean diet: Choose this heart-healthy diet option” A cursory search on the Internet will…