Tag Archives: travel

Lemon and almond pudding

One of the pleasures of the cold season is the beautiful citrus fruit that we can look forward to! The lemons, oranges and mandarines that our body craves in the winter cold; but also the more exotic bergamot, lime or grapefruit… I am just back from Morocco where citrus groves adorn the immaculate parks and roads of Marrakech. I have brought back many scents and spices in my luggage but before I lay it all out on here, I give you a lemon infused pudding that should warm your soul with the fragrances of sun-scorched bazars and lemon scented gardens. Morocco is an assault on all of our senses, but the sense of smell is the most abused and ravished of all… Anything else seems bland and monochrome for a while afterwards…

Rioting colours in a dish

Rioting colours in a pottery dish

Ingredients list:

  • Lemons, thin skinned and unwaxed, 4
  • Sugar, 175g
  • Eggs, 4
  • Ground almonds, 175g
  • Bicarbonate of soda, 1/4 tsp

Top and tail the lemons and rinse them under hot water.

Put them whole into a large pan with 600ml of water and cook on a slow boil for 1 hour. Making sure there is always enough water: you should end up with about 300ml of liquid – add some if you do not!

Open the lemons and take out the pips.

Put it all through a blender with the cooked juice and make up a thin semolina-like, quite soupy mixture. I sometimes put this through a fine sieve if it looks to rough or if there are impurities.

Mix the sugar and the eggs and beat on high speed until creamy.

Add the ground almond and the bicarbonate. Add the lemon purée.

Set into 6 to 8 small “dariole” moulds or one shallow tin.

Bake in the oven at 180º for 30 to 35 minutes and serve at room temperature, inside the pans.

It will raise a little and produce an intensely lemony creamy pudding. You can also try this with clementines or thin-skinned oranges.

Serve a warm, sweet mint tea with this to transport you right back in Marrakech…

Intense lemon

Intense lemon

WHAT TO DO IN MARRAKECH:

Go and spend a night in the desert and experience the beautiful skies of Africa at La Pause,30 km out of Marrakech,just before the village of Agafay. Have a memorable beef “tagine”, under a low hanging Touareg tent, served by candlelight.

Dine with a view over the lit Koutoubia tower in the Café Arabe, near the Mouassine Mosk in the medina.

Go for a drink at the Mamounia hotel and have a stroll in the beautiful gardens of Churchill’s favourite hotel.

Visit the delightful Musée de la Palmeraie, route de Fés, and explore the Andalous garden, the cacti garden and the water garden with its little hut in pisé (a traditional mud and grass building), then admire the contemporary art in the galleries that lead from one part to another. This museum is a little out of the beaten track but worth the visit for its soothing calm and the absence of tourists… 

The cacti garden in Musee de la Palmeraie

The cacti garden in Musee de la Palmeraie

Lunch above the shops after browsing the souks by climbing to La Terrasse des Epices. Mist is sprayed around the arab-style shaded eating areas and the cool bar has a view over the old markets. Later get tempted by the beautiful craft sold all around the maze-shaped alleys. Everything looked tantalising to me…

 

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Caponata siciliana

If there is one recipe which could be chosen to represent the sicilian soul in the kitchen, it would be the caponata. It has the hallmarks of a national dish: it gathers the best local ingredients, it is done by each family with endless variations and it was even written into Sicily’s best loved historic novel “Il Gattopardo” by Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. It is Sicily’s equivalent to ratatouille or chouchouka. A  great tasting sweet and sour dish, served chilled as starters with some bread.

Cooking lesson in Taormina

Cooking lesson in Taormina

The version my son and I first tasted in the Ballaro market in Palermo was succulent and thick with tomato sauce even though tomatoes had not yet been introduced when caponata was first invented in the ninth century. At the Melograno restaurant in Taormina, chef Massimo taught us his family version (sans tomato) and I liked them both but here in mine I did put a bit of Passata… In Palermo, they sometimes add swordfish to it, which we tasted once over pasta and in Modica they sprinkle dark chocolate over it, which we did not – even though it was Easter…

Ingredients list:

  • White onion, 1
  • Aubergine, one
  • Courgettes,2
  • Celery heart, a few stalks
  • Capers, 25g or two large spoonful
  • Red pepper, one large
  • Black olives, a handful
  • Chopped parsley or basil to serve
  • White wine vinegar, 2 tbsp
  • Pine nuts, a sprinkling
  • Raisins, 50g
  • Olive oil to taste

Massimo’s version had sugar but I can’t bring myself to use sugar in a savoury and sooo healthy dish- so I figured that the tomato sauce would provide enough sweetness to balance the sourness of the vinegar and it did!

Caponata, sicilian style

Caponata, sicilian style

Coming back from our tour of Sicily with a wealth of flavours, recipes and memories of delicious meals, it was tricky to choose what to start with here on the blog but caponata seems the obvious choice . It is a real family dish, it is delicious – that could have been enough- but it is also foolproof and very easy to customise. The preparation is not quick though because each vegetable needs to be fried separately – but it is worth the effort and once done, it keeps well for a few days.

Wash and chop the vegetables– trying to cube it all roughly in similar format.

Sprinkle the aubergine cubes with fine salt, rub it all in with your hands, then soak in a bowl of water while you fry the rest. When you will need to add the aubergines, you will rinse them and squeeze them in your hands to release all their water and hopefully some of their bitterness.

Fry each batch of vegetable separately until tender and then reserve. Fry the red pepper last because the oil will then get very hot and peppery…

When all that is done, chop the onion and celery  very finely and then fry  in a new pan until they turn brown. Then had the capers, pine nuts  and heat it up.

Add the vinegar and let it steam off.

Sprinkle a little salt, add a few glugs of Passata or some tomato paste with a bit of water. Then put back all of the fried vegetable and let it reduce further on medium heat. Add a little water or oil, or both, if necessary.

Leave the caponata to cool aside and sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

Note: There are plenty of cookery schools in Sicily and restaurants willing to provide cooking lessons. It is well worth it but do shop around. I booked mine through Best of Sicily.

A Sicilian Feast – Ideas for Cooking Sicilian Food, and Ciao!

Sicilian Recipes – Ideas for Cooking Sicilian Food | Think Sicily.

As I am about to depart for a food and art Odyssey in Sicily , I want to share with my readers the wonderful flavours and ideas I have been sourcing already on the net…

So even before I set foot in Palermo, here are a few mouthwatering sicilian recipes, courtesy of the brilliant site www.thinksicily.com., winner of two Traveller’s awards.

I have downloaded their “Think Sicily” App for iPhone, I have packed a small cabin bag for each of us , taken the passports and my driving licence, charged the kindle and even downloaded lots of nutrition and health podcasts on my tiny Ipod for the flights. I am SOO excited… I am heading off to a a country of lemon groves, sandy beaches, fabulous food and gorgeous Greek temples…

Hoping to bring back lots of pictures, food bits and recipe ideas…

Ah, and I have left a full fridge for the family, with menus ideas stuck to the door! In the mad hope that the rest of the posse will actually COOK and not just order pizzas… Indeed, I am only taking Number Three on this trip: Have teenager, will travel!