bietole e lenticchie – chard and lentils

One look at these bunches of vibrant crimson and deep green leaves and I was won over. Nothing could be that beautiful and not taste delicious. I bought myself a bagful, and it was only then that I realised I didn’t have a clue what to do with them. Of course, when in doubt, ask the person doing the selling, which in this case was a man with a white cowboy hat and matching goatee Continue Reading →

fagiolini larghi ammollicati – runner beans with breadcrumbs

Here in Northern Sicily they love breadcrumbs. Not what you would imagine to be the Mediterranean ingredient par excellence, I know, but they pop up all over the place. Sicilians take thin strips of meat, pounded until almost translucent, and cover them with mollica condita (breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan, parsley, oil, salt and pepper. Garlic is often added, and in Palermo also sultanas and pine nuts). They then roll them up and slide them onto Continue Reading →

macco al finocchietto – fava bean soup with wild fennel

I won’t even pretend I’m normal, whatever that means. I’m the kind of person who wakes up in the morning and says to himself “I’d love a shepherd’s pie tonight”, and then spends the rest of the day imagining cooking and savouring it, evoking the aromas, picturing the spoon breaking through the crispy potato crust, then watching the rich gravy slowly ooze out to invade the plate like a dark, viscous sea (told you I Continue Reading →

cotechino e lenticchie – italian new year’s eve

New Year’s Eve, and that means cotechino sausage and lentils practically everywhere in Italy. The dish is not Sicilian at all, but then there’s no real Sicilian traditional food for the last day of the year, so like the rest of the country, they borrow this rich, fatty, salty oversize banger from Emilia Romagna. According to tradition, the cotechino represents good health, and the lentils money. While lentils could be seen to resemble coins, how Continue Reading →

cuccìa – wheat and legume soup for St. Lucy’s Day

Yesterday was St. Lucy’s Day, and traditionally that means cuccìa here in Sicily. There are two versions – sweet and savoury, although the sweet one is much more widespread, and the savoury version has practically died out (which of course is one of the reasons I decided to cook it, albeit with a rather cavalier approach to the ingredients, as you will see…). Either way, the basis of the recipe is wheat, and wheat berries Continue Reading →

zuppa di fave – fava bean soup

There’s something about autumn, with the nights drawing in, that makes me yearn for rustic food. Really rustic food, the sort of stuff I could imagine people eating in front of an open fire in some draughty cottage a couple of centuries ago. Yes, very Thomas Hardy, I know, very Woodlanders. Although if Thomas Hardy’s characters had eaten a bit more of today’s soup, maybe they wouldn’t have been so unbearably miserable the whole time. Continue Reading →