Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Last year, I published this recipe for lemon polpette which I had adapted from a magazine.  Well, now I have adapted the adaptation and I thought you might like to know about it!  I had three-quarters of an enormous red pepper to use up, you see, so I decided to add it to the polpette mixture:  I just chopped most of it up very finely in order to do so but left a little to cut into strips to strew among the polpette in the roasting tin. It looks pretty and if they char a bit, it adds to the appeal!

Oh, and I left the garlic out this time - because I didn't have any.

This adaptation worked very well and I'll definitely continue making the recipe this way.

Tip:  If you find that the mixture doesn't quite bind together with these measures [Italian eggs are bigger than UK ones] just add a little lemon juice.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


I enjoyed watching Il Volo at the Arena di Verona on TV earlier this week and especially the moment when they were joined by the catanese singer Lorenzo Fragola, as that meant there were three Sicilians on the stage [Piero Barone and Ignazio Boschetto of Il Volo and Lorenzo]:

Il Volo e Lorenzo Fragola - Best Day of My Life


In the week in which the EU made the best of a botched job while the world's attention has continued to be focused on events in Hungary, Croatia, Germany and Austria, over 4,000 migrants were rescued in the largely forgotten Sicilian Channel in one day [Sunday].  Most of these were initially brought to Sicily and Calabria before being taken to other regions of Italy. The unsung heroes of the Italian Navy and Coast Guard carry out large-scale rescues every single day and night and, whilst facilities for migrants here are far from perfect, reception is organised, medical checks are carried out and people are treated with humanity.

It seems to me that few people outside the "front line" countries in the Mediterranean migration crisis [Greece and Italy] will know that EUNAVFORMED, the joint EU military operation launched in the Mediterranean at the end of June to identify people traffickers' boats and bring their owners to justice, will, from 7th October, begin its second phase. This will allow operatives to destroy such boats in international waters once the migrants travelling on them have been transferred to authorised vessels. [There are, as you might expect, some worries about migrant safety in these circumstances.] Federica Mogherini, former Italian Foreign Minister and now High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has proposed that the operation be renamed Sofia, after the baby recently born to a migrant mother on a German rescue vessel.  Whether this is appropriate for such a potentially dangerous operation I will leave you to decide. [Any phase three of the operation would involve intervening in Libyan waters and on that country's coast and would require UN Security Council authorisation.]

While people are being marked, abused, treated like animals and shunted about like lorry-loads of old fridges, the argument about differentiating between economic migrants and refugees still rages and I would like to ask what is wrong with seeking a better life and where we would all be now if our ancestors had not done so.

It is unsurprising, then. that a lot of words have been spoken about migration during this sad and disturbing  week.  Here are some of those that have impressed me:

"Il ne faut pas oublier tout ce que les immigrés ont apporté à ce pays, les Picasso, Béart, Cioran... C'est une chance extraordinaire pour la France. Il y a peut-être parmi eux de futurs Aznavour, qui sait ?"  "We should not forget what immigrants have brought to this country - Picasso, Béart, Cioran...  It's an enormous opportunity for France. Perhaps there are some future Aznavours among them - who knows?"

- Charles Aznavour, singer

"I think, from space, borders are absurd."

- Yanis Varoufakis, politician

"If we're not able to tackle this issue, if we're not able to find sustainable solutions, you'll see a surge of the extreme right across the European continent".

- Frans Timmermans, Vice- President, European Commission

"I want a world where children can grow up safe from violence, free from poverty and protected from preventable diseases........ The images [of refugee children] have been so powerful over the last few weeks and unfortunately they're images that no one wants to see. No one wants to see children suffering the way they're suffering, I'm not a politician - politics is definitely not my strong point - but what I am is a father. Images like this are definitely something we never want to see."

- David Beckham, footballer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

"Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


My Welsh-Australian second cousin, John, stopped off in Modica on Sunday and it was lovely to see him again after eight years.

Given constraints of time and temperature, I had prepared a little feast of antipasti followed by chicken filled with pistacchi, pepper, thyme and lemon and served with a tomato and red onion salsa and rosemary and garlic potatoes. [Only the potatoes were served hot.] Afterwards there was a semifreddo from Delizie D'Autore and of course, there had to be some Modican biscuits!

Come again soon, John.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Hot from Il Volo's new album, L'amore si muove, a song you might recognise. And this, if I may say so, is how to deal with technology when on stage!

Il Volo - Io che non vivo [senza te]

Friday, September 18, 2015


Gecko, gecko in the hall,
do not come upstairs at all.
I know you’re not a scary pest
but I really couldn’t rest
if above my bed you pop
and on my weary head you drop.
So gecko, gecko on the wall,
stay there, please – goodnight, that’s all.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Look who's been taking a break from the "Department of Wabbit Affairs" in Turin this week! I was very happy to be able to welcome "Commander Wabbit" - Coinneach Shanks of the Follow the Wabbit  photo collage story blog - and his charming wife Camilla, who is "Lovely Lapinette" in the stories, to Modica on Wednesday:

Do take a look at the Wabbit stories if you can - they are written in support of autism awareness.

Follow the Wabbit
Twitter: @followthewabbit

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Or rather, I did NOT espy a final -s on the word which is supposed to tell you what this object is for!

Italians have a strange antipathy to the final -s in English and even when they do add it, they often refuse to pronounce it. This habit is a common symptom of Modican Englishitis but it is also widespread and the above example was espied in a Catania store on Saturday.

I hope purchasers of this rack enjoy the one magazine they put in it!

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Hearing tenor Jonas Kaufman sing You Are My Heart's Delight in The Last Night of the Proms earlier, I was reminded that it was one of my dad's favourite songs and he often used to sing it to my mum. I have posted the song in Italian on this blog before but not this 1968 Gianni Morandi version, which I love:

Gianni Morandi - Tu che m'hai preso il cuor

Friday, September 11, 2015


Marina di Modica

"I'm sad to be going back to university because it means leaving the sea", said a young man of my acquaintance the other day. There's no truer Sicilian sentiment than that and, as I managed to stop myself saying, "It's not forever", I reflected that it's rather nice to be so attached to your birthplace.

I would be the last person to deny that everybody needs a holiday but one of the difficult aspects about living in Italy is that here everyone takes it at the same time and for an extended period.  This results in some shops and businesses closing for at least four weeks in summer and when a shop or business provides an essential service, as a pharmacy does, this is inconvenient and bordering on mad.

However, there are some advantages to this quiet time in the city:  there is less traffic, you don't have to wait long in the places that are open, you are unlikely to receive cold calls and in my apartment block the lift is always available.  In fact, when people start to return, I come home and think, "Oh, what a cheek - someone's using the lift!"

Other signs that life is getting back to normal are:

These are coming to an end

but these are back:

Traditionally made ice cream will soon disappear from the bars but the fresh orange juice is on its way. No self-respecting Sicilian bar owner will serve orange juice in summer - imported oranges are just not deemed good enough and how right they are!  Yesterday I saw the first batches of autumn cotognata [quince paste] in the supermarket and frutti di Martorana in the pasticceria.

The Lidl leaflet has reappeared in the mailbox, the rosticceria has reopened so that the aroma of foccace  again wafts up the street in the evenings and on Wednesday we even had heavy rain [with floods in some areas].

Last but not least, at around this time in September the female population of Sicily collectively and telepathically decides it's cool enough to discard strappy dresses and the strapless bras it is necessary for those of us not related to stick insects to wear under them. With this decision comes true freedom!

The sea will still be there next year.....


Wednesday, September 09, 2015


Today Queen Elizabeth II becomes Britain's longest-reigning monarch and at London Town, Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale we've got cake to celebrate!


Bertie-Pierrine, now looking innocent, has taken a particular dislike to the works of Mr Daniel Defoe:

Either it's the rats in the above volume or she's been watching too many James Bond trailers and has decided that, as a spy, Mr Defoe doesn't compare!

Saturday, September 05, 2015


Number 5 in the Italian singles charts this week is this catchy song from the catanese singer Lorenzo Fragola and the video is a reminder of the joys of an Italian summer when you're young.

Lorenzo Fragola - # Fuori c'è il sole

Thursday, September 03, 2015


"What will it take", I have often asked in my migration posts,"for the rest of the world to notice what has been happening in the Mediterranean?"  The answer in April was an appalling tragedy and now that the crisis has spread to the land in other parts of Europe, it has taken a heart-breaking image to wake the world up

Looking at reactions to the crisis in my own country, I must admit that I have despaired over the past week and have been wondering just when we lost our ability to empathise. As a country the British have often made grave errors but we have also often done "the right thing" instinctively rather than waiting to be shamed into it, as our Prime Minister was today. I have hesitated to make the following point because I do not want to be accused of taking a cheap shot but after today's events I feel I must: David Cameron is a man who knows the pain of losing a child so it should not have taken a whole 24 hours for him to react to the image that has so profoundly shaken those he claims to represent. As even his own Members of Parliament began to criticise him earlier today, did he wait for his spin doctors to tell him what to do? 

I am well aware that, as one who no longer lives in the UK, I coud be accused of not really having my finger on its pulse any more but I do pay taxes there, still have voting rights and I care very much what happens to my country and how it is seen internationally. But more than that I care about its humanity.

Meanwhile in the Sicilian Channel 838 people were saved yesterday and were brought to Pozzallo this evening. This morning a further 105 were saved by the Italian Coast Guard off the coast of Libya. Premier Renzi of Italy and  Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta were right to remind the world, in a joint press conference this evening, that the publication of images such as the one that has upset us all is an almost weekly occurence in their two countries. Premier Renzi also had this to say:

"Europe must not just be moved - as some leaders are more than others; it must act."

Count your blessings if your children have been playing safely in the sea today.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Bertie-Pierrine has taken the Italian proverb "una mela al giorno toglie il medico di torno" - the equivalent of "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" - to heart!


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