How naughty can you get in the kitchen, I ask? Well, pretty naughty, I suppose, as the famous scene from 9½ Weeks proves. Nor should we forget all those famous aphrodisiacs, such as oysters, lobsters, chocolate and champagne. But despite this, let’s face it, unless you’re Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, although the kitchen is somewhere you may have a good time and even issue frequent sighs of pleasure, it’s not somewhere you’re likely to have a Good Time and issue frequent sighs of Pleasure, if you catch my drift, even if a good time in the kitchen may hopefully lead to a Good Time in some other part of the house…
Anyway, what set me off on this train of thought was not Kim Basinger, but the name of today’s dish. Because the strange thing is, that however closely related food and drink may be to other carnal pleasures, they’re not something we usually give suggestive nudge-nudge wink-wink names to. The only one that comes to mind is the cocktail “sex on the beach”. And even there, I’ve never quite worked out whether the choice of name was meant to be ironic or apt – the idea was to create something delicious, but a combination of cassis, vodka, peach schnapps and pineapple juice can’t be that much fun, rather like the activity it’s named after – pleasurable in theory, but a sure-fire way of getting lots of sand in places you’d prefer not to.
Anyway, back to the point. Which is, that the Sicilian name of today’s dish is not so much suggestive as downright obscene. As well as being physically unlikely, unless Catholic priests are allowed to be transsexuals (and I have a sneaking suspicion the Church is against that sort of thing). Even I blush to put its translation down in black and white, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to ask a Sicilian for the literal meaning (which involves priests amongst other things, as you’ll have gathered). My friend Maria Grazia will probably be happy to illuminate you, since it was she who gleefully told me about it in the first place. But her aside, it’s no surprise that even most Sicilians prefer to call the dish by a more discreet name, such as patate in umido al forno or the like.
It’s traditionally from Catania, but the ingredients are so common that similar preparations can be found all over the island. It makes a meal on its own, which is actually how we ate it, but could also be used as an accompaniment to roast meat (slow roast lamb or pork, for example). It’s good warm, as opposed to hot, possibly even better. It’s also tastier and involves less sand than sex on the beach.
- 800g peeled potatoes, sliced thinly
- 400g tomatoes, sliced thinly
- 300g onions, sliced thinly
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Grease the bottom of an oven/soufflé dish and cover with a layer of tomato slices. Follow with a layer of onion and season well with salt, pepper, oregano and a generous drizzle of oil. Follow with a layer of potato. Repeat until the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of potatoes. Oil the top layer as uniformly as possible to prevent burning.
- Bake at 200°C for one and a half hours. Mine took this long, but I had four layers of each of the ingredients. If you use a wider dish than I did, resulting in fewer layers, an hour may be enough. Check, is all I can say.
- Saying this may well get me kicked out of Sicily, but I’ve probably raised so many eyebrows today that a couple more won’t make much difference, so I’ll tell you anyway – it’s divine with HP sauce.