‘Taormina’s past is Sicily’s history in a microcosm: Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, the French and the Spanish all came, saw, conquered and left.’
Taormina has been the most popular tourist destination in Sicily for a couple of hundred years. Although normally, we try to avoid too touristy places, this time we couldn’t possibly miss this little place. If it was worth visiting for Oscar Wilde, Goethe, Alexander Dumas, Truman Copote, Greta Garbo and many others, it should be worth visiting for us too. So we did, we visited and liked it a lot.
Taormina is home to one of the most famous Greek Theatres in the world. Here, in summertime the main events of the International Film, Music, Dance and Theatre Festival of Taormina Arte take place. Hence so many celebrities gather here. Besides the ancient Greek Theatre, it has many old churches, lively bars, fine restaurants and all sort of shops(mainly expensive!).
Taormina is not by the sea, it is above the sea, at 200 meters. You can walk up to the top or take a cable- car. To be honest, it is usual to find an absence of any signs in Sicily, here was the same. So we didn’t see the cable-car straight away and decided to take a walk. Luckily it wasn’t a mid summer day, however, it still was rather warm and it took us nearly an hour to climb up there. We recuperated after with a large drink… Aperol Spritz. 🙂
We’ve just returned after our week-long holiday exploring the east coast of Sicily. What a great country, full of surprises. Before we even left, we had a surprise – Etna started to erupt the day before our departure. Luckily, it didn’t affect out flights. Actually it was just a bonus for us, to see it quietly bubbling away, spitting the lava it was something magical. (Note: it wasn’t bad eruption, no-one injured, so it’s all good!)
Our trip started in Catania, Sicily’s second city. Catania is vibrant, loud, full of traffic, shabby but beautiful! It is like ginormous hot pot, with Etna on top, literally bubbling at the time we were there.
I read somewhere an interesting fact that Ancient Greeks believed Mount Etna to be the home of Vulcan, the god of fire. To the Ancient Greeks, every time Mount Etna erupted, it was merely a sign that their god of fire Vulcan was creating weapons for their God of War, Mars. Despite the frequent volcanic activity, people still choose to live in the vicinity of Mount Etna though.
With its delicious mix of flavours – mint, spinach, coriander, it is a great curry, which will keep you wanting more. Not only is it packed with all of the wonderful herbs and spices, but it has a punch of fibre, iron and vitamins from the dose of spinach.
GREEN CHICKEN CURRY
(Adapted from Simon Rimmer’s recipe)
3 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
about 200g potatoes, cut into cubes, blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained
3 tablespoons frozen peas
lime wedges, to garnish
rice or naan bread, to serve
3 green bird’s eye chillies
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
400g spinach leaves
1 bunch of fresh coriander
good handful of mint
400ml coconut milk
- To make a curry paste, in a food processor, blend the onion, chillies, garlic, sugar, tamarind paste and ground coriander to a fine paste.
- In a large saucepan heat the oil, add the curry paste and gently fry for about 5 minutes.
- To make the sauce, in a food processor, mix the spinach, fresh coriander, mint and coconut milk. Add this sauce to saucepan with the paste and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes – you may need to add a little water or stock to thin it down – then season with salt.
- Add the chicken pieces to the sauce and simmer for about 30 minutes or until cooked through, adding the blanched potatoes about 10 minutes in and cooking them until tender and cooked. Add the frozen peas for the last 5 minutes.
- Serve with rice or naan bread, garnished with limes and more fresh coriander, if you wish.
Fresh, bright, full of goodness salad to brighten up your winter dinner.
WINTER SLAW WITH HERBS AND POMEGRANATE
1/2 medium head of white cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 small batch of parsley, finely chopped
even smaller batch of mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
seeds from 1/2 – 1 head of pomegranate (depends on the size, optional)
Place the shredded cabbage in a bowl, sprinkle the salt on it, mix and allow to sit for 15 minutes, until it starts to soften. Add the lemon juice, herbs, oil and mix well. Taste, season well with salt and adjust to taste. It should be sharp and lemony. At the end, sprinkle the pomegranate seed on top, if using. Enjoy!
This is one of the easiest recipe for creamy panna cotta, infused with thyme and lemon, and served with berry sauce.
PANNA COTTA WITH THYME, LEMON AND BLUEBERRY SAUCE
(Based on Simon Rimmer’s recipe)
For panna cotta:
3 gelatine leaves
250 ml milk
250 ml double cream
1/4 cup sugar
about 3-4 sprigs of thyme
1/2 lemon zest
For blueberry sauce:
1 cup blueberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
water, if needed to thin out the sauce
- Soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water, set aside until soft.
Place the milk, cream, sugar lemon zest and fresh thyme into a pan and bring to a simmer. Remove the thyme springs and discard.
Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add to the pan and take off the heat. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved.
Divide the mixture among four ramekins and leave to cool. Place into the fridge for at least an hour, until set.
- To make the sauce place the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the blueberries are hot and popped. Remove from heat and add in the lemon juice. Add water, if needed, to achieve the proper consistency. Allow to cool completely before topping the panna cotta.
- To serve, turn each panna cotta out onto a serving plate. Spoon over the sauce and garnish with more fresh blueberries.
Although we don’t eat lamb (or meat in general) very often, if I had to choose, lamb definitely would be one of my favourites. I like slow roasting the shoulder or leg of lamb, but I’ve never cooked a rack of lamb before, somehow I worry that I’ll mess the timing up and it’ll be dry and chewy. Luckily there are plenty of other ways to enjoy lamb, like these baked lamb meatballs. I’ve been experimenting with these meatballs lately, adding different spices, and so far I like this way the best. Especially the addition of cinnamon and ginger makes such a big difference. Another advantage of this dish is that it takes no time to cook, but you’ll have dish full of flavours.
BAKED LAMB MEATBALLS IN TAHINI SAUCE
500g lamb mince
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
For the sauce:
1/2 cup tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt & pepper to taste
chopped fresh mint/ pistachios to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- In a large bowl mix together the lamb, onion, garlic, spices, olive oil and coriander, using metal spoon or just using your hands. Shape the mixture into the meatballs and arrange them in a single layer in a baking dish.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile the meatballs in the oven, combine the tahini, lemon juice, cumin and slowly add 3/4 cup of water to create a smooth sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the sauce over the partially baked meatballs and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until meatballs are thoroughly cooked. The sauce will look like a thick glaze. Garnish with chopped nuts or mint. Serve with boiled rice/spinach pilau rice or lentil.
This tray bake is for anyone who really likes peanut butter, just like my boyfriend, who can eat it with a spoon from the jar, instead of lunch, occasionally. The bake has both peanut butter in the cake mixture and also in the contrasting chocolate layering, which will swirl by itself when in the oven. For extra texture, you can scatter some chopped peanuts on the chocolate layer. I used crunchy peanut butter for the filling and smooth for the base mixture. The cake is dense, so better serve with cream or even ice cream, to take it to the next level.
This recipe is taken from ‘Baked in America’ book, which I found rather good. It is full of exiting recipes that I never heard of, like Pennsylvania Dutch spice loaf or Nutmeg coffee cake. I’m not a massive fan of cheesecakes but the Almond Cherry one caught my attention. And I am intrigued to try the author’s version of Apple Cake which he suggests to serve with lemon curd.
The one thing that slightly concerns me however is that the majority of their recipes have a shocking amount of sugar. For instance, this one required 450g of sugar. I’m afraid I had to cut down more then half and it was just fine.
PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE CRUNCH CAKE
For the chocolate/peanut swirl:
150g semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
For the crumbs & batter:
3 cups plain flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
200g butter, softened
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
cream/ice-cream for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter a 30 x 23 x 5 cm baking tin and line with the parchment paper.
- To make the swirl, in a small pan melt the chocolate and peanut butter over a gentle heat, stirring often until all melted and smooth. Set aside.
- Then, in a big bowl, combine together flour, sugar, butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer until coarse crumbs form. Take away about 3 cups of the mixture and set aside for the crumb topping later.
- Then add the eggs to the base batter, one at a time, followed by milk, vanilla, baking powder, soda and salt. Mix well until the batter is smooth.
- To assemble the bake, spread half the batter in the prepared tin. Drizzle with the half of the chocolate mixture, then cover it with the remaining batter, followed by the remaining chocolate. Finish it with the reserved crumb mixture over the top and gently press the crumbs onto the chocolate/peanut butter swirl.
- Bake it for 50-60 minutes or until the wooden stick comes out clean from the centre. Let the cake cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Serve it with cream or ice-cream.