Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Tasting Sicily UK ... Enzo's Kitchen

Photo credit: Flora Luna Photography
Sicily is where Europe ends and Africa begins. It began its history as part of Ancient Greece and soon became part of the Roman Empire. Thereafter the island was invaded by the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish and Bourbons before unifying with Italy. Each conquest left its mark on the island including its cuisine.

When in London I miss and crave Sicilian food, so I was super delighted when a new restaurant was due to open in London's Piccadilly called 'Tasting Sicily Enzo's Kitchen'.

Tasting Sicily UK was born from an existing company founded fifteen years ago named Gusta la Sicilia (Tasting Sicily) and its goal is to spread the Sicilian taste worldwide.

Enzo's Kitchen has been created by the esteemed chef Enzo Oliveri who was born in Palermo and moved to England in the 1990's. He is also known as "The Sicilian Chef" and owns several restaurants in the UK including, Sicily in Epsom Surrey and Olivenzo in Bromley Kent. He starred in the television series "Sicily with Aldo & Enzo" with fellow celebrity chef Aldo Zilli and also with Gordon Ramsay on Channel 4 in "F Word goes Octopus Hunting in Sicily", and hot off the press this week is that Enzo is now the President of the FIC UK(Federation of Italian Chefs in the UK). Congratulations to Enzo.

I was desperate to visit the restaurant and sample the tempting looking dishes that I had seen on their Instagram account and so my lovely friend Francesca Marchese, who is a Sicilian journalist living in London, put me in touch with the restaurant manager Luisa Ingoglia. Together with another friend, Laura founder of Aeolian Adventures we set a date to book a table.

Tasting Sicily Enzo's Kitchen is located where a restaurant called The Stockpot once stood. The Stockpot was very popular and was famous for its gastronomic breakfasts. I know this because I was a frequent visitor from when working in Central London.

The outside of the new restaurant is enticing and the logo is inspired by the Carretto Siciliano (the Sicilian cart and horse).

On arrival Luisa and her lovely husband Andrea welcomed us with a delicious crisp glass of prosecco and yummy marinated Sicilian olives.

Before we ate Luisa gave us a tour of the restaurant. The décor has a bright, fresh and modern style with a long bar and a seating area at the back. The walls are adorned with beautiful hand painted works of art by a young Sicilian artist Lia Coniglione, which depict re-enactments of the Paladin, Norman and Saracen sword fights from sixteenth century Sicily and behind the bar there are shelves heaving with the best Sicilian wines and Tasting Sicily jars of produce. The tables are made from lava stone from the town of Giarre which sits on the lower slopes of Mount Etna and they are hand painted in a typical Sicilian style. There is also a large TV screen with a slide show of their dishes to tempt you and make your mouth water.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have an obsession with Sicilian majolica tiles therefore I totally fell in love with the staircase leading up to the second floor which draws inspiration from the Santa Maria del Monte stairway in the Sicilian city of ceramics Caltagirone which has 142 steps each decorated with a different design of majolica tiles. Next to the stairs on the wall was another of my favourites a hand painted Sicilian cart wheel. Love, love .......

As you ascend the stairs on the left side of the wall there are more beautiful tiles and nine stunningly hand decorated plates each representing one of the nine Provinces of Sicily. Upstairs can be used for private celebrations, family reunions, charity events, parties and corporate dining. This floor boasts some of Sicily's most traditional pieces of artwork including Moorish heads, Figurines, Pupi (Sicilian puppets), and Coffa's (Sicilian straw bags). All the ceramics and tiles in the restaurant are from Santa Stefano di Camastra which is another town on the northern coast of the island also famous for its beautiful ceramics.
Enzo Oliveri "The Sicilian Chef"
Photo Credit: Flora Luna Photography

Luisa, Andrea and their team are the perfect hosts and offer special care and attention to all their customers. You can see that they are passionate about their restaurant and of course their homeland of Sicily. Luisa joined us for dinner and we had a good chat about all things Sicilian.

So what did we eat?

We all opted for the Antipasto Tasting Sicily sharing platter which is one of Chef Enzo's signature dishes. On being served by our delightful waiter the dish was full of Sicilian antipasti, a selection of cured meats, Tasting Sicily caponata, sweet and sour pumpkin, olives, crostini with Tasting Sicily pates, pecorino cheese, asparagus and artichoke hearts. It was delicious.

For main course ... another one of my Sicilian obsessions is Salsiccia (Sicilian sausage) so I ordered Risotto Montagnola (creamy rice tossed with Sicilian sausage and mushrooms), Laura opted for Pasta del Commissario Montalbano (bucatini pasta with sardines, wild fennel, onions, raisins and pine nuts) which is a very Arabic inspired dish. Luisa chose one of Chef Enzo's signature pasta dishes, Casarecce con Guanciale di Suino Nero dei Nebrodi e Pistachio di Bronte (Pasta with Nebrodi cured Black Pig Cheeks and Tasting Sicily Pistachio Pesto from Bronte, a town famous for its pistachio production).

We all sampled each others dishes and each one was sublime and made our taste buds explode. On closing your eyes you feel like you are sitting in a restaurant in Sicily. Luisa told me that when Sicilians eat there they say that they really do feel like they are back home on their beautiful island.

We had eaten so much that we decided to forfeit dessert and I asked Luisa if could take some Cannoli home with me (Cannoli another obsession). Cannoli are sweet pastry tubes filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and garnished with Pistachio.

What did we drink?

To accompany our meal Luisa chose a delicious Sicilian white wine, a Grillo Cavallo delle Fate Sicilia DOC 2015 from the Tasca d'Almerita winery. After dinner we sampled Liquore di Fico di India (prickly pear) and Liquore di Arancia (orange) produced by Terralcantara, both different tastes to each other but both totally scrumptious.

Tasting Sicily Enzo's kitchen has a warm and welcoming atmosphere and I would highly recommend a visit for anyone from your first time trying Sicilian food to Sicilian food lovers, people planning a holiday or those who have enjoyed a memorable time on the island and want to bring back nostalgic memories. Its central location makes it an ideal place to eat for pre-theatre shows or why not just sit at the bar for a quick bite and a glass of wine.

Last week they have just started opening for breakfast and following in the footsteps of the previous occupants there are two menus, the traditional Stockpot menu and a Sicilian breakfast menu.

Luisa has a lot of amazing ideas and projects in the pipeline and starting next week you can enjoy live music, every Thursday from 7:30pm to 11pm the restaurant welcomes amazing artists performing live. Click and like their Facebook page for updates www.facebook.com/TastingSicilyUK/

Myself and Laura had an utterly fabulous experience and both went home with our Cannoli knowing that, yet again, as is always the Sicilian way that we had made new friends for a lifetime. A big thank you to Luisa and her team.

For restaurant reservations visit www.tastingsicily.restaurant
or call +44 (0)207 839 5142

You can find them at:
38 Panton Street, London SW1Y 4EA

For more information on Enzo Oliveri, visit www.thesicilianchef.co.uk

For more information on Tasting Sicily products, visit www.tasting-sicily.com

Now for a taste of true Sicilian hospitality in London enjoy this video of the
Tasting Sicily UK Enzo's Kitchen
launch party earlier this year:

White Almond Sicily
Photo Gallery


Marinated Olives

Moorish Heads

Sicilian Pupi (Puppets)

Tasting Sicily Produce

Sicilian Coffa

Carretto Siciliano (wheel)

an abundance of Wine

Lava Stone Table

The Nine Provinces of Sicily

Upstairs Area

Sicily Time

Valley of the Temples, Agrigento

The Greek Theatre Taormina and Mount Etna

Love these Stairs


Downstairs Dining

Downstairs Area

Handpainted Works of Art

Arancini

Grillo by Tasca Winery

Antipasto

Menu

Risotto with Sicilian Sausage and Mushrooms

Casarecce Pasta with Nebrodi cured Black Pig Cheek
and Bronte Pistachio Pesto

Bucatini with sardines, Wild Fennel, Onions,
Raisins and Pine Nuts

Prickly Pear and Orange Liquor

with Luisa manager of Enzo's Kitchen

with Laura of Aeolian Adventures

Sicily Girl Power in London

Takeaway Cannoli at Home

www.tastingsicily.restaurant


White Almond Sicily Loves ........
Discover the true taste of Sicily in the stunning
Aeolian Islands with Laura of Aeolian Adventures

Fun Cultural, Historical and Gastronomical holidays

Booking now for Summer 2017

www.aeolianadventures.co.uk



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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

14 ways to use Sicilian Lemons

"Lemons are not Real Lemons unless they are Sicilian" an old Sicilian saying

Spring is in the air and it is that time of year again when the lemon trees bloom and the Sicilian air is fragrant with Fiori di Limone which then turn into big juicy lemons.

The Sicilian climate and fertile volcanic earth creates a long growing season and the gathering of lemons takes place over three periods. First is the autumn harvest or Primo Fiore following the cultivation of the Bianchetti in Spring and the Verdelli between June and July.

I can remember once driving down a country lane behind an opened back truck full of lemon peel and the aroma was overwhelming, a traffic jam Sicilian style.

At this time of year everyone who visits our Sicilian home will bring bags full of lemons from their gardens or land. But what do we do with all those lemons?

Here are 14 ways I use our Sicilian lemons:

  1. With Water in the Morning ... best drunk on an empty stomach, a squeezed lemon in water is beneficial to your body. Lemons are packed with vitamin C which plays an important role in boosting your immunity. Lemon water can help shield your body from many immune system deficiencies, making sure your body stays healthy and fit. A glass of lemon water a day can really keep the doctor away.
  2. Cold and Sore Throat Remedy ... mixing honey and lemon with hot water for a sore throat is a time tested remedy. Honey can help coat the throat and lemon can help reduce mucus. For best results boil the water first then add the honey and lemon to dissolve. Make sure you use honey made by the Sicilian black bee who have the freedom to feed on the flowers of Mount Etna to make the best honey ever.
  3. Cleaning the House ... From cleaning microwaves and cutting boards, removing rust spots on knives and deodorizing fridges, lemons are a natural mild disinfectant that fits in the palm of your hand.
  4. Home Fragrance ... One of the best ways to kick a funky smell out of your home is to put lemon wedges into a saucepan of water with sprigs of rosemary and a teaspoon of vanilla essence, bring the water to the boil and the aroma will fill your home. The mixture can be kept in a jar in the fridge and used again.
  5. Home Décor ... If interior design and flower arranging are your thing slice some Sicilian lemons, pop them in a vase of water and add your favourite yellow flowers.
  6. Beauty ... We love the taste of lemons but our skin and hair love them too as they have a range of amazing beauty benefits. Make a mixture of Sicilian olive oil with lemon juice and soak your nails if they are dry and brittle or yellowed from nail varnish or alternatively for DIY highlights apply lemon juice to your hair before you sit in the Sicilian sun for a natural sun kissed colour.
  7. Cooking ... Lemons are indispensable to everyday cooking, from lemon chicken to creamy lemon pasta, salad dressings to wedges to squeeze on your Sicilian seafood salad, they are the perfect ingredient to add a bit of zingy taste to your food.
  8. Freeze them ... In the hot Sicilian summers I slice my lemons and put them in the freezer to add to water and drinks. Also you can freeze the juice into ice cube trays to use later for cooking.
  9. Salmoriglio Sauce ... The most famous of Sicilian sauces you will find this served with grilled sword fish, but I love it so much I would eat it with anything grilled or on salad. Simply add 6 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp water, 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, a pinch of salt, 1 garlic clove and 1 tbsp of oregano, put into a sealed beaker or flask and shake it up, recipe from my 'adopted' Sicilian nonna (grandmother).
  10. Baking ... I love baking and lemons are the perfect delicious things to bake with, I personally love lemon drizzle cake and lemon poppy seed cake, another yummy recipe is lemon ricotta cheesecake made with fresh ricotta delivered straight from our local farm.
  11. Make Lemonade ... few can resist the innocent charms of a chilled jug of homemade lemonade tinkling with ice cubes on a hot Sicilian summers day, maybe add a splash of gin for a grown up drink.
  12. Limoncello ... I guess this is where the lemon peel was heading for when we were stuck in that traffic jam. Limoncello is a liqueur made from the zest of lemons. When it is homemade beware, at my 'adopted' Sicilian big brothers house we were once served his father in laws homemade liqueur with 100% alcohol content. Eeeeeeek.
  13. Lemon Granita ... Part of the great Sicilian breakfast, lemon granita is a Sicilian signature food and best enjoyed at a bar with a warm brioche but it can still be fun to make at home.
  14. Wedding Inspiration ... Getting married in Sicily? Then why not use the lemon as an inspirational theme. From bouquets to table centre pieces Lemons will add a Sicilian twist to your big day and why not use a lemon as a place setting with a lemon leaf shaped place card pinned in, which will release a gorgeous fragrance all round.
I am now off to freeze my slices, clean the kitchen, bake a cake, prepare a seafood salad, soak my nails, highlight my hair all while enjoying a glass of chilled limoncello ...
Sicily Life with thanks to Sicilian lemons.

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