Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Me with Amanda from Australia [left] and cookery teacher Katia [centre] at loveSicily.

Lois from the USA [right] with Katia and Amanda.

Bright and early yesterday morning [for 8.30 am is very bright and early for me] your intrepid blogger trotted off to Modica Bassa to join Katia of loveSicily and two other adventurous participants for the first cookery class of the week.

The School is situated in the Cartellone district of Modica Bassa and you have to climb up some very steep steps to reach it. Once there, however, you are greeted by Katia and offered refreshment, though it is refreshment enough just to look at the stunning views from the School's balconies:

Once we had all introduced ourselves and were chatting easily about the meaning of "life, the universe and everything", Katia revealed the lunch menu which we were to cook: cavatelli [cavatieddi in dialect] pasta with a broccoli sauce alla siracusana, chicken with Modican chocolate and tiramisù made with ricotta rather than mascarpone.

So, first, the pasta: Katia used durum wheat rimacinata flour and mixed it with salt and water to make a dough:

Then we were each given a portion of dough to roll into a thin sausage shape and cut:

Next Katia presented each of us with one of these implements. [I've been unable to find out what they are called. If there are any Sicilians reading this, please can you tell me?] You are supposed to sort of roll the pieces of pasta down the thingamy to get the cavatieddi shape. It takes a bit of practice!

Once the shapes are made, they can be put aside until you are ready to cook them. Cover them with kitchen paper if you are going to leave them for a long time.

Now for the sauce: First, soak some sultanas in water until they plump up.

Wash and separate the florets of purple-sprouting or white broccoli. This purple-sprouting broccoli was freshly delivered to Katia's door:

Simmer the broccoli in water with a little salt.

Grate some semi-matured and matured ragusano cheese:

Brown a garlic clove in olive oil and add the broccoli. When the broccoli is done add the drained sultana and season with black pepper.

Cook the pasta for a minute or two in the broccoli water and drain.

Add the broccoli and cheese to the pasta and stir.

Should you, dear reader, decide to participate in one of Katia's enjoyable and interesting courses, you will partake of this and the other dishes for lunch on the balcony. However, another school and my eager students awaited your galloping gourmet blogger, so Katia popped my portions in a bag and I had a very special evening meal. I did not, however, take home a portion of pasta as I feared its fate on a bus travelling through narrow, twisting streets in the lunchtime chaos. Therefore I cannot show you a picture of the finished dish.

For the chicken dish, Katia had marinated some chicken thighs in prosecco:

She chopped half an enormous Giarratana white onion and let it sweat in olive oil. When it was soft, she added the drained chicken portions and let them brown:

Meanwhile, she ground two squares of 100% cocoa Modican chocolate

with 2 cloves and some fennel seeds:

She added this mixture to the pan with 3 dessertspoons of white wine vinegar and 1 dessertspoon of sugar. She then let it all cook on the hob for 30 minutes. It was delicious!

And finally, our tiramisù, made the Modican way with ricotta: For 5 ramekins of tiramisù, Katia mixed 2 x 12 oz tubs of ricotta with caster sugar, giving it a final blast with the hand blender:

Then we dipped savoiardi biscuits in cold Italian coffee and fitted them into the bases of ramekins:

We spread ricotta on top of this and sprinkled over a mixture of cocoa powder and cinnamon. The tiramisù was left to chill.

Cincin, readers. Thank you for your company, Amanda and Lois. E grazie a Katia per la lezione divertente.


Whilst you are all awaiting [as I'm sure you must be, with bated breath] the next cookery school episode, here is a nice story which Katia told me today:
All Italy is in a panic over the swine 'flu "epidemic", so yesterday afternoon Katia attended a parents' meeting on the subject at her daughter's nursery school. The parents were advised to tell their three-year-old children not to touch their mouths or ears, touch their friends, put toys near their mouths or play with their friends' toys - in short, they are not to do any of the things a three-year-old normally does hundreds of times a day. The children are to be exhorted to sneeze into a tissue and wash their hands before touching virtually anything whilst counting up to 20 . Katia was just wondering how many of her daughter's companions actually knew how to count to 20 when another mother piped up,
"My son tried to do that but the bidelli [the ubiquitous porters who keep every Italian school running] told him to hurry up!"
Moral: If you are going to issue new rules for children, it is a good idea to inform the adults who have to deal with them.

Monday, September 28, 2009


A few weeks ago I contacted Katia of the loveSicily website and blog to ask her if I could visit her Cookery School in Modica Bassa with a view to writing an article about it for this blog. Imagine my delight when Katia not only agreed to my suggestion, but invited me to participate in one of her courses, starting later today [Monday].

Tonight I attended Katia, Ronald and Angelo's "welcome dinner" for the course participants and this is the lovely food that Katia served:

Such a simple, yet elegant and pleasing starter - ricotta flavoured with lemon:

The three stages of caciocavallo ragusano cheese - fresh, semi-matured and matured [stagionato] served with tomato, carrot and chilli sauces. Katia advised us to save the chilli sauce for the strong, stagionato cheese [centre]:

There was good local bread:

Pasta alla Norma: Katia buys these special gladiatori pasta shapes from the Pastifico Tiziano Viva in Pozzallo:

I'm in full agreement with Katia when she says you have to have cannoli when in Sicily! She buys the cannoli pastry tubes from Modica's Bonajuto for, as she explained, "When someone does something better than you do, you should show humility and buy it". First she brought in the plate with the cannoli tubes, ground pistacchi and piping bag of ricotta flavoured with ground chocolate chips and icing sugar [made by grinding ordinary sugar]:

Next, she filled the tubes with the ricotta mixture at each end:

Finally, she dipped the ends into the pistacchi:

All I could say was, "WOW!"

Katia told us that Italy's health and safety police have turned their attention to cannoli. [Perhaps they get to taste some while they inspect pastry-making premises?] Pastry-makers traditionally used a kind of bamboo to form the pastry around and, as bamboo is porous, the cannoli cooked perfectly, inside and out. The stainless steel cannoli tubes that they are supposed to use now do not produce the same result and the pastry-makers are frustrated. Is nowhere safe from these silly rules?

Thank you for your warm hospitality and for a superb dinner, Katia, Ronald and Angelo. See you later this morning!


Supper with Linda, Chiara and Gino after the Joyce events:

Two traditional types of pizza

with home-produced sun-dried tomatoes and olives

plus mozzarella and grilled, dressed peppers:

Perhaps you heard my sighs of contentment where you are, reader?


Sorry there were no posts over the weekend, readers, but it has been a busy one.

Yesterday was Bloomsday in Modica, with talks about Joyce in the morning and evening, plus the opening, at the Palazzo della Cultura, of local artist Guglielmo Manenti's exhibition of paintings inspired by Ulysses and other novels by Joyce. I loved these works, especially those in which Joyce is depicted amidst very Modican scenery - a "MODified Joyce", as one of the speakers put it:

[I couldn't take good photographs due to the gallery lighting.]

A fine set of translations of Joyce into many languages was also on display - the Franco Antonio ["Ciccio"] Belgiorno Collection.

Friday, September 25, 2009


This is a comforting appetiser for an autumn day:

Cut some pumpkin into slices, wedges or any-old-how like me, then cut off the rind. Brush the surface of a griddle pan with olive oil and heat. When the griddle pan is hot, add the pumpkin [you may need to do this in batches] and cook until griddle marks appear on one side. Turn the pumpkin wedges or slices over and do the same again. Drain the cooked pumpkin pieces on kitchen paper. When they are all done, pile them on a plate, add some parmesan shavings and sprinkle over some coarse seasalt and ground red pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.


It's Friday and time for my friend mountaingirl's Photo Challenge. This week's theme is "fruity".

Fruity cruets

and the real thing:

Fichi d'India [prickly pears] are so abundant in Sicily that the fruits are left to rot where they fall in the road:

And prickly pear liqueur is very fruity indeed!



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