Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Fish market at Ortygia, Sicily

So many holiday drinks or foods just don’t taste the same when you get them home.

That bottle of the local speciality that tasted amazing on those hot evenings but tastes like jiff when you try it at home.

Thankfully the Sicilian diet, with its combination of nuts, fruit, vegetables and fresh sea food, is so delicious and fresh that it works really well back here in England.

It is also perfect for the vegetarian as it offers such a good balance of nutrients.


On a hot day in Ortygia recently, having spent the morning looking at the Greek Amphitheatre at Syracuse, we stopped at a small fish restaurant where we had a range of delicious seafood.

Fresh seafood salad

One of the dishes we all adored was the prawn and pistachio pasta. It was simple yet tasty and one I decided I had to recreate.

Back at home, after a couple of attempts, I came up with this recipe below.

The key is to add the crushed nuts to the oil as it warms slowly allowing the pistachio flavour to infuse. The first time I tried it I didn’t do this and just added them at the end but we lost the subtlety of the flavours.

So if you want an easy, delicious healthy dish..try this.

It is as good here as it was under the scorching Sicilian sun.

Prawn and pistachio spaghetti


Serves 6
Preparation time 3 minutes


50g shelled pistachios crushed
2 packets of small cooked peeled prawns about 350g
Large Splash of olive oil
Handful of basil leaves ripped up
Small jar of  Pesto Genovese approx 180g
2 medium sized tomatoes chopped
Juice of half a lemon

Quick cook spaghetti..the sauce takes 3 minutes so you need to have your spaghetti almost ready when you start!!


1.     Put on the water for the spaghetti and crush the pistachio nuts loosely
2.     Put the olive oil in large saucepan add half the crushed nuts and warm the oil very slowly
3.     When it is hot add the pesto and chopped tomatoes and stir for a couple of minutes and stir on the lemon juice
4.     When the spaghetti is done drain and leave to the side.
5.     Add the prawns to the pesto oil and stir in well for one minute then addthe spaghetti and stir in well.
6.     Put all in a bowl sprinkle with the remaining nuts and torn basil leaves

Market Palermo, Sicily

Boxes of basil, Palermo

Tastes of summer.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Runner bean stew

What has happened to me...I find I am enjoying spending time in the garden..planting ..growing things..

I have really enjoyed being able to pick vegetables I've grown. This year my crops have been limited due, I suppose, to the bad weather.

Normally I have bundles of beans piles of courgettes by now. 

This year despite my efforts the first lot of beans were zapped by the frost and slugs and the courgettes..don’t go there. The plants looks stunted and there isn’t a hint of a courgette or flower, more’s the pity.

Runner beans

This makes the runner beans we have had even more special. They hang hidden in the leaves entwined with the green beans, a few stray sweet pea flowers and the odd raspberry.

Home grown sweet peas

It is like a treasure trove out there and was a pleasure to return to after a few weeks away.

Inspired by the Mediterranean way of cooking what we have simply I returned to an old favourite recipe for the special beans.

runner beans

It is a simple runner bean stew with tomatoes, garlic and anchovies.

Perfect for the veggie and non veggies because the flavour is so rich.

It’s also delicious and so quick and easy to make...always a bonus!!

Runner bean stew with home made bread

It is inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe (Grilled butterflied monkfish with a sweet runner bean stew from Jamie at Home)
 He uses dried chilli and sprigs of rosemary as well our version doesn’t need them.

 Personally I love the flavours of the anchovies, garlic and beans and so think it is delicious just served as above with fresh homemade bread as a stew or with thin home made pasta.

runner bean stew


5 minutes
Cooking time 15minutes


600G runner beans
5 cloves of garlic
2  50g tins of anchovies in olive oil
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes or passata
2 tbsp olive oil


1.     Chop the garlic and place in large saucepan with the olive oil and anchovies and gently fry until the anchovies have broken up.
2.     Whilst the above is cooking de-string and chop into 1 inch pieces the runner beans.
3.     When the anchovies have become a mush add the tomatoes and add the beans and simmer for 12-15 minutes depending on how well cooked you like your beans!

Half way through a bowl of runner bean stew!

So if you want a tasty change try this and enjoy. 
Also if you are out of garlic don’t forget the Isle of Wight garlic festival this weekend. 

It looks fab.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Mercato del Capo, Palermo, Sicily

After a morning wandering round the Mercato del Capo, the wonderful street market in Palermo, Sicily, and dipping in and out of hundreds of churches hidden in the labyrinth of Palermo streets, we stopped at a local cafe.

Olives, Palermo, Sicily

Olives, Sicily

It was wonderful to see the mounds of olives in the market having seen endless olive groves on our journey across the country.

Olive trees, Sicily

In need of something light and refreshing that wasn’t gelato, we were taken with the bowls of orange salad. 

The day before we had had the most delicious lemon jelly with the Countess of Butera28 the 18th century Palermo Palazzo where we were staying. 


The Palazzo is the home of the Lampedusa family and overlooks the seafront in the historic Kalsa quarter. The family have apartments in the Palazzo to rent, each is uniquely furnished and offers a wonderful base from which you can discover the city. 

Nicoletta, the Countess, also offers cooking courses, which interested me. Unfortunately I didn't have time this trip, as we weren't in Sicily for long enough but Nicoletta showed us around the beautiful palazzo, the tiled kitchens, and treated us to a delicious bowl of local lemon jelly decorated with jasmine from her garden. 

We hadn't had much citrus fruit in the South of Sicily so we were enjoying the change form all the almonds! 

 Anyway back to the cafe..

It was literally a few tables on the side on a piazza with no formal cafe just a small cucina, yet it was packed.

We opted for the fresh orange and olive salad, crispy potato and mint fritters, the traditional chick pea panelle and  the tomato, onion and mackerel salad, all served on paper plates quickly by friendly local Sicilian waiters.

Sicilian lunch 

Orange and olive salad

It was delicious.
The orange salad was so refreshing.
So simple.
So easy to do at home!


 A week later, on a sunny day here in England, we sat in the garden and had my version of the Sicilian insalata di arance.
It was delicious and brought back happy memories of lunch in Palermo.

Feeds 4


Under 5 minutes- for cutting up the oranges and onion.


4 Oranges -chilled
1 small red onion
2 handfuls of green olives
Splash of olive oil


1.     Peel the oranges and cut into small slices and lay on a dish with any juice from cutting.
2.      Finely slice a small onion- the finer the better. Scatter over the orange pieces
3.      Add the olives....and a splash of olive oil.
4.     It’s ready to serve. The colder the better.

Orange and olive salad

This is a great summer salad.
Ideal with a BBQ or for a picnic.

Its simplicity and freshness of flavours makes it so refreshing and different. 
Give it a try you won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, 12 August 2012


Almond ice cream at Caffe Sicilia, Noto

“How many gelati have you had today Mum?” asked one daughter on our recent trip to Sicily.

“It must be at least four maybe even five!” said other daughter in a disapproving tone.

I was suddenly aware of the parent /child roles reversing. Surely it should be me reprimanding them for eating too many ice creams shouldn’t it?

Not Today!!

The extreme heat and the desire to taste all the amazing flavours on offer proved just too tempting for me!!

“Hey who’s counting,” I relied as I slurped another almond ice cream happily, (not wanting to admit that it was probably my fifth..)

 “Anyway, some of them were granita’s, and they’re really just like frozen drinks so they can’t count!!” I replied unconvincingly!

With temperatures of 35 degrees and above, I felt my gelato gluttony was justified!

Everything about Sicily is just so wonderful.

Gardens in Noto
Noto, Sicily

The climate is consistently warm, the people friendly and the food..sigh...the food is just gorgeous! Then there’s the ice cream!!

I had thought I would do the odd post whilst away but NO CHANCE!


I was far too busy eating gelato and wandering around Greek amphitheatres and temple ruins. Not to mention swimming in the crystal clear water of three different seas...I won’t go on!

We stayed with some fantastic people who were generous in explaining more about the history and cultural influences of their island, all of which helped deepen our respect for the people and their food.

Almond groves in Southern Sicily

The hill sides around Noto, the Baroque town in the South, are dotted with almond groves. Almonds feature heavily in the cuisine of the Southern regions. In cakes, pasta sauces and gelatti is no exception.

Cathedral, Noto, Sicily

In Noto I had my first almond gelatti...it was so subtle, so delicate, so refreshing...
Obviously in the name of research I had to sample a huge range of gelatti and granitas...flavours include watermelon, peach, mandarin, orange, lemon, basil, pistachio...the list is endless..but the almond gelato in the south was just so special.

We visited run down looking gelatteri, and beach vendors to the smart Cafe Sicilia


 in Noto where the waiters are immaculate and the flavours a work of art!

Here we tried the almond and cinnamon gelato, which was so smooth and subtle it was incredible and the basil ice-cream.

Saffron ice cream and basil ice cream, Noto, Sicily

One of the most refreshing granita’s was from a beach vendor walking along the crowded beach near Agrigento pushing his huge papier-mâché lemon on a trolley, that he restocked throughout the day with delicious lemon granita.

Lemon granita guy,  on the beach near Agrigento Sicily

So apologies for my silence and lack of posts.

I have come back inspired by the different flavours of the simple traditional Sicilain dishes. Their food is perfect for the teenage vegetarian and their family as we found out. 
They use a great mixture of nuts, fresh and dried fruit, vegetables and herbs with pasta and fish....delicious!

In the mean time I leave you with a recipe for a citrus lemon ice devised back here by Not Just For Rabbits but inspired by tastes of Sicily. 

It’s simple to make and so refreshing for this warm weather we are finally having here in England.

Citrus Granita


15 minutes
Cooling time 40 minutes
Freezing time 4 hours minimum


½ litre of freshly squeezed lemon, orange and lime juice (roughly 8-10 lemons depending on size, one orange and a lime)
The Zest of one each of the above fruits
300g caster sugar
½ litre of water


1.     Mix the water and sugar together in a saucepan and simmer on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and it has become more like a syrup. Cool.
2.     Grate the zest of one lemon the orange and lime and keep separately.
3.     Juice and sieve the lemons, lime and orange until you have ½ a litre of juice.
4.     Mix the syrup with the lemon juice and cool again.
5.     Place in your ice cream maker with the zest and follow the instructions of your machine.
6.     If you don’t have an ice cream maker pour into a large sealable tub with the zest and mix well. Then place in the freezer for 2 hours before removing to stir occasionally then refreeze.

This is not a smooth ice-cream rather more of a water ice, sorbet sort of texture that is very refreshing. It is great on its own, with a sprig of mint or blueberry as in the pictures, or if you are feeling very indulgent dark chocolate brownies.

Citrus Granita

Watch out for more tastes of Sicily over the next few days.