patate “a sticchiu i parrinu” – potato, tomato and onion bake

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 Continue Reading →

two-and-a-half ways with king trumpets – due ricette e mezzo per i funghi di ferla

Today’s little beauty is Pleurotus eryngii. It apparently also goes under the aliases of king trumpet mushroom, French horn mushroom, king oyster mushroom, king brown mushroom, boletus of the steppes, and trumpet royale. More names than your average international fraudster. Mycologists, it would seem, are even more unable to agree than taxonomists, who as we have seen, are themselves a pretty litigious bunch. In Italian, it’s cardoncello, but for me it has always and only 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 →

cardi gratinati – cardoon gratin

You may be forgiven for thinking this is Unusual Vegetable Week, what with chayote followed by mustard greens, and now cardoons (carduni in Sicilian). It’s simply because autumn is when the market stalls are brimming with the new season’s produce, including quite a few local varieties not found widely outside Sicily. Anyway, back to our cardoons, which look like an untamed, grubby version of celery. Sort of celery with attitude, not least because the edges Continue Reading →

senape – mustard greens

Look, I’m really sorry about this, and I wish I could promise it won’t happen again. Problem is, I’m sure it will. It’s all rather embarrassing, but we’ve got a mix-up with the names again. I at least take some comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one to get confused, that even the taxonomists are at a loss. They agree that we are talking about plants from the Brassicaceae family, but it’s Continue Reading →

peperoncini sott’olio – chilli peppers in oil

This is an illegal substance, or at least probably should be. It definitely looks like a by-product of chemical weapons manufacture. I am, of course addicted, as I am to anything that contains chillies. I have a number of varieties growing in pots on my terrace, and these are my very local source for the raw materials.  You’ll find recipes for chillies in oil/chilli oil elsewhere, but the crucial difference here is that the chillies Continue Reading →

insalata di arance e finocchio – orange and fennel salad

A classic winter salad here in Sicily, when fennel and oranges are at their best. It’s even better when made with blood oranges, but for those I’ll have to wait until later in the season… Fennel and orange is the basic version, although I like to add capers and red onion (in this case, I used the sweet, mild onions from Tropea, across the Straits in Calabria) and sometimes small black olives, not to mention Continue Reading →