Sunday, 11 February 2018

12 Sicilian Love Stories

L'amuri e come a tussi ... nun si po ammucciari (Love is like a cough ... impossible to hide) an old Sicilian proverb

Sicily is an land full of myths, legends and romance.

There are many love stories associated with the island both fact and fiction. From stories of nymphs and river gods from Greek mythology, love struck Hollywood movie stars, books written by some of the worlds most famous literary authors of all time, films about Sicily and filmed in Sicily and dramatic operas that depict lives of lost loves and loveless marriages. Some with happy endings and some with not so happy endings.

Sicily is a place where once you visit you are immediately seduced by its beauty, food, culture and its people.

I myself first visited Sicily after reading an article in a magazine. The article was called "Alternative Valentines Weekends Away". After a lot of research I booked a flight to Catania and a villa in Taormina and immediately fell in love as soon as my feet touched the tarmac at the airport, so much so that two years later we bought our Sicilian house.

So with love and romance in mind and with it being the most romantic month February, in no particular order, here are 12 tales of Sicilian love, fact and fiction.

Aci and Galatea ... a Greek Love Story 

In ancient Greek times there once lived Aci, a handsome shepherd boy who fell in love with Galatea, a beautiful sea nymph, with whom Polyphemus the Cyclops, who lived on Mount Etna was infatuated with.

Polyphemus was jealous of the two lovers so he murdered Aci by throwing him against a large rock.

In appeasement of the Gods, Aci was transformed into a river so that Galatea could swim in it and be with her beloved Aci forever.

Aci's name was also given to the three towns on the eastern coast, Acireale, Aci Castello and Acitrezza.

Where to go ... In the beautiful town of Acireale you will find in the public gardens a beautiful sculpture of Aci and Galatea.

Aci and Galatea
Public Gardens of Acireale

Tancredi and Angelica ... The Leopard

Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa is a novel that chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the period when Garibaldi swept through Sicily with his forces to overthrow the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The novel's main character is Prince Fabrizio of Salina. 

During the book we learn about the romance between the Prince's nephew Tancredi and the beautiful Angelica. Whilst staying at the families country home in Donnafugata, Tancredi falls in love at first sight with the local mayor's daughter Angelica at a dinner hosted by his uncle. This devastates Prince Fabrizio's daughter Concetta who is also in love with Tancredi.

Later in the book the author gives us every detail about the young romance between Tancredi and Angelica. The two of them love to wander through all the secret rooms of Donnafugata and meet for secret trysts amongst the citrus trees in the surrounding land. 

A grand ball is held for the Prince's aristocratic friends and it is here that Angelica is presented as Tancredi's bride to be after the Prince watching them dance happily together comes to realize and accept that whatever happiness the couple feel should be celebrated. 

Where to go ... The novel was made into a movie in 1963 staring Burt Lancaster, most of the movie was filmed in the beautiful Villa Boscogrande in Mondello a seaside resort north of Palermo.

Villa Boscogrande
Filming Location for The Leopard

Michael Corleone and Apollonia ... The Godfather Part I

In The Godfather Part I, after having to leave America for safety in Sicily, Michael Corleone takes a walk to visit Corleone the town of his father's birth.

Whilst walking he encounters a breathtakingly beautiful Sicilian woman and falls in love at first sight. His bodyguards comment that in Sicily women are more dangerous than shotguns and exclaim that he has been hit by a thunderbolt.

After stopping for a drink at Bar Vitelli the trio enquire about the beautiful girl with a purple ribbon in her hair that looks more Greek than Italian. The owner of the bar says "NO" and it becomes apparent that the girl is the bar owners daughter. At this point Michael asks for his permission to court his daughter and offers his hand in marriage, thereafter a grand wedding is held.

Tragically, Apollonia is killed by a car bomb intended for Michael planted by one of his trusted bodyguards.

At the end of The Godfather Part III an elderly Michael sits alone thinking of his life and lost loves suddenly slumping over in his chair and falling to the ground.

Where to go ... Don Corleone takes his name from the town of Corleone however the town in Sicily's mountain interior was not deemed suitable to be used as a movie location. Therefore the movie was filmed close to Taormina in the hillside towns of Savoca, Forza d'Agro and Motta Camastra. The scene of Apollonia's death was filmed at the Castello degli Schiavi in Fiumefreddo.

Bar Vitelli in Savoca
Location for Michael's Proposal to Apollonia

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton ... Cleopatra

The film Cleopatra is best remembered for the love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who fell in love on set.

Whilst filming the blockbuster movie the couple snuck away and no one knew where they had gone.

They were in fact sipping cocktails in Taormina's glamorous bars and cafes whilst staying at the Grand Timeo Hotel where it is said that on another visit Elizabeth broke a guitar by smashing it on Richard's head during a row.

In a excerpt from his diary written in Taormina on 30th July 1967 he wrote "A slow day, marking time, with a walk in which we bought sunglasses at a little shop. As we left, the crowd which had gathered applauded us. Elizabeth thought it very sweet, which indeed it was. We dined in somnolence and some self-satisfaction as we compared our ancestors and former wives and husbands. Elizabeth has become very slim and I can barely keep my hands off her. She is at the moment among the most dishiest girls I’ve ever seen. The most. I mean the dishiest".

Where to go .... Follow in Elizabeth and Richard's footsteps and sip cocktails at the Wunderbar Caffe in Piazza Aprile IX in Taormina.

Piazza IX Aprile

D H Lawrence ... Lady Chatterley's Lover 

From March 1920 to February 1922 Taormina became home to the author D H Lawrence and his wife Frieda living as the guests of Don Cicco Cacopardo in a house called Fontana Vecchia.

The writer fell in love with Taormina and once wrote in a letter to a friend "We love Taormina and in particular our house, I like this place more than any other, I love the sunrise over the open sea to the East".

It is said that he wrote Lady Chatterley's Lover here after drawing inspiration from an English noble lady living in Taormina who fell in love with her Sicilian gardener.

Where to go ... On Via Fontana Vecchia in Taormina you can see the house where D H Lawrence lived and wrote. Visits are by appointment only.
Via D H Lawrence 
Alpheus and Arethusa ... Greek Mythology

Arethusa was a Greek nymph who fled from her home in Arcadia beneath the sea and came up as a fresh water fountain on the island of Ortigia in Syracuse.

The myth of her transformation begins in Arcadia when she came across a clear stream and began bathing, not knowing that stream was in fact the river god Alpheus whose waters flowed down from Arcadia to the sea. Alpheus fell in love with Arethusa but she fled after discovering his presence and intentions as she wished to remain a chaste attendant of the goddess Artemis. After a long pursuit by Alpheus, she prayed to her goddess to ask for protection. Artemis hid her in a cloud, but Alpheus was persistent with his love for her. Arethusa began to perspire profusely from fear and soon transformed into a stream.

Artemis then broke the ground allowing Arethusa another attempt to flee. Her stream travelled under the sea to Ortigia but love struck Alpheus followed her through the sea to reach her and mingle with her waters so that he could be with his love forever.

Where to go  ... The fountain of Arethusa is a natural fountain on the island of Ortigia boasting abundant papyrus plants and a variety of ducks happily swimming in the fresh water fountain where Arethusa returned to the earths surface. 

Fountain of Arethusa
Ortigia, Siracusa

Toto and Elena ... Cinema Paradiso

In this Academy Award winning film Salvatore (Toto) a filmmaker recalls his childhood when falling in love with the movies at the cinema of his home village and forms a deep relationship with the cinema's elderly projectionist.

About a decade into the movie Toto now in high school is operating the projector at the Cinema Paradiso after a tragic accident leaves his mentor blind. Their friendship has strengthened and Salvatore often looks to him for help and advice. Salvatore has been experimenting with film, using a home movie camera and he has met and captured on film a beautiful girl with blue eyes, Elena who is the daughter of a wealthy banker.

Toto woos and wins Elena's heart only to lose her due to her fathers disapproval.

As Elena and her family move away, a heart broken Toto leaves town for compulsory military service. His attempts to write to Elena are fruitless and his letters are returned as undeliverable.

After returning to Sicily without Elena he decides to move to Rome to pursue his dream of being a film maker only returning to Sicily for the funeral of his old friend the projectionist. Whilst in Sicily  he is reunited with a now married Elena.

Cinema Paradiso is one of the most beautiful, moving and memorable movies ever made and is a must watch.

Where to go ... The fictional town of Giancaldo is based on Bagheria near Palermo. The town of Castelbuono is the location for the school that Toto and Elena attended. The seaside town of Cefalu was used to film the scene where the outdoor screening of Ulysses is interrupted by rain and Toto is surprised by a kiss from Elena. 

Cathedral of Cefalu

Benedick and Beatrice / Claudio and Hero ... Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy play by William Shakespeare thought to have been written between 1598 and 1599 as Shakespeare was approaching the middle of this career.

The play is based in the north eastern Sicilian town of Messina in the 16th centrury. Messina is a bustling sea port but its climate makes it agricultural as well, meaning the male characters of the play returning from war viewing Messina as a welcome respite from the battlefields of northern Italy.

With the war over, Pedro Prince of Aragon with his followers the Knights Benedick and Claudio visit Leonato, Duke of Messina, father of Hero and uncle of Beatrice.

Claudio falls in love with Hero and their marriage is agreed upon. Beatrice and Benedick despise love and engage in comic banter. The others plot to make them fall in love with each other by a trick in which Benedick will overhear his friends talking of Beatrice's supposed secret love for him and vice versa.

Meanwhile Don John, the prince's evil half brother, contrives a more malicious plot with the assistance of his follower Borachio. Claudio is led to believe that he has witnessed Hero in a compromising situation on the night before her wedding day. In fact it is her maid with Borachio.

Claudio denounces Hero during the marriage ceremony. She faints and on the advice of the Friar, who is convinced of her innocence, Leonato announces that she is dead. Beatrice announces that Benedick should kill Claudio.

After a policeman overhears Borachio boasting of his exploit the plot is exposed. Claudio promises to make amends to Leonato and is then required to marry a cousin of Hero's in her place. When unveiled she is revealed as Hero much to Claudio's joy. Beatrice and Benedick declare their true love for each and Beatrice agrees to marry him.

Where to go .... In Shakespeare's play we learn a lot about society in 16th century Messina. Messina is the third largest city on Sicily and is well worth a visit during your stay on the island. In Piazza Duomo a clock tower with mechanical figures comes to life each day at noon. 

Cathedral of Messina

Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini ... Stromboli 

Filmed in 1949 on the Aeolian Island of Stromboli and directed by Roberto Rossellini, Stromboli stars Ingrid Bergman who plays a displaced Lithuanian in Italy who escapes the internment camp by marrying an Italian POW fisherman, whom she met on the other side of the barbed wire. He promises her a great life in his home island of Stromboli. Her character speaks little Italian and discovers that the island is not what she expected and eventually wants to escape.

The film is the result of a famous letter from Ingrid Bergman to Roberto Rossellini in which she wrote that she admired his work and wanted to make a movie with him.

When Ingrid and Rossellini met on the volcanic island two worlds collided. On one side a beautiful Hollywood superstar and Alfred Hitchcock's muse and on the other the director of neorealist monumental films. Rossellini instantly fell in love with Ingrid.

Stromboli is perhaps best remembered for the love affair between Ingrid and Roberto that began during the production of the film. Some say that without the scandal during the filming, the film itself would have sunk into insignificance.

Ingrid married Rossellini and had two children by him, one of which was the beautiful actress Isabella Rossellini. 

Where to go ... On Stromboli you can visit the house where Ingrid Bergman lived in 1949 whilst filming. 

Ingrid Bergmans House
Stromboli, Aeolian Islands

Turiddu and Lola ... Cavalleria Rusticana

This opera was written by the composer Pietro Mascagni and was adapted from a play and short story by Giovanni Verga.The story takes place in a 19th century Sicilian village on Easter morning.

A young villager named Turiddu has returned from military service to find that his beloved fiancée Lola has married the local carter Alfio while he was away.

In revenge, broken hearted Turiddu seduces Santuzza, a young woman in the village.

As the opera begins, Lola still in love with Turiddu and overcome by her jealousy of Santuzza, has begun an adulterous affair with Turiddu.

The opera ends with Alfio challenging Turriddu to a duel. Turriddu asks his mother Mamma Lucia to look after Santuzza and dies at the hands of Alfio. Cavalleria Rusticana has stirring melodies including the famous 'Easter Hymn'.

The opera was also featured in The Godfather Part III.

Where to go ... The Greek Theatre in Taormina has set the scene for many performances of Cavalleria Rusticana. A visit is a must do to experience the ambience of this ancient theatre with its natural scenery of Mount Etna and the Bay of Naxos. 

Ancient Greek Theatre
Salvo and Livia ... Inspector Montalbano

Inspector Montalbano is an Italian television series based on the bestselling detective novels by the author Andrea Camilleri and came to UK screens on BBC4 with English subtitles. It was soon followed by a spinoff series  The Young Montalbano.

Salvo Montalbano is the police commissioner of the fictional Sicilian town of Vigata, a gruff character who is responsible and serious but also open and friendly with the people he knows he can trust. Montalbano must investigate various criminal acts, which with thanks to his great mind and help of numerous assistants he always manages to reconstruct the exact event to find a solution to solve the case, whilst often failing to resist the seductive qualities of fine Sicilian food.

He really loves women but always ends up running away from them as they make him feel uneasy and insecure.

Montalbano has a long-term girlfriend called Livia, who lives and works in Genova. They started dating after they met through one of his investigations. 

When Montalbano is lonely and melancholy, Livia is happy to adjust her schedule and hop on a plane to Palermo to calm and comfort him.

The couple have a sometimes tempestuous relationship but true love always prevails. Montalbano always responds to Livia's loving attentiveness and contemplates the possibility of not only being a husband but a father at some point too. As viewers, we are always kept thinking will they or wont they ever marry.

Where to go ... In the south eastern seaside village of Punta Secca you will find Inspector Montalbano's house overlooking the sea. The scenes filmed in the house between Salvo and Livia are written with tenderness and sentimentality. 

Inspector Montalbano's House
Punta Secca 
Angelica, Rinaldo and Orlando ... a Sicilian puppet love story

Puppet theatres have been popular in Sicily since the fourteenth century but really became popular in the 1800's and provided nightly entertainment for thousands of Sicilians who would watch the good guys fight the bad guys in stories of adventure and romance. The most traditional stories are derived from the stories of the Holy Emperor Charlemagne and his Paladin Knights battle for Christianity against the Saracens and Turks, involving raucous sword fights. 

Angelica is a princess in the epic poem Orlando Innamorato (Orlando in Love) and is a regular character in the stories told in the Sicilian puppet shows.

Angelica comes to court with her brother Argalia and all the Knights of the Court are smitten with her, especially the cousins Orlando and Rinaldo, but the protective Argalia will only let her marry a man who can beat him at jousting. When Argalia eventually falls at the hands of a Saracen knight, Orlando and Rinaldo threaten to destroy each other over her. As the Saracens lay siege, Charlemagne promises Angelica's hand to whichever cousin fights best for him. The battle is lost and the characters go on to further adventures. Rinaldo and Angelica drink from magic fountains twice, each time leaving one madly in love and the other indifferent, while Orlando loses his wits to his passion for Angelica. This epic love story is always left unfinished but Angelica is continually pursued by Orlando and Rinaldo who both compete for her love endlessly.

Where to go ... A visit to a puppet theatre is an amazing experience or why not visit the workshop of Pupi Salamanca near Catania where the maestro Sicilian puppet maker Francesco Salamanca has been making puppets for over fifty years. 

a Love struck Orlando
Puppet made by Pupi Salamanca

Why not plan a romantic trip to Sicily
and create your own Sicilian Love Story?

 The Island is the perfect destination for Romantic Holidays and Weekends Away,
Honeymoons, Marriage Proposals and Destination Weddings

From Luxury Hotels with glistening Swimming Pools,
Historic Castles and Restored Ancient Villas,
Agriturismi, Boutique Hotels, Private Villas and Apartments 
In Sicily you are spoilt for choice where to stay with your loved one

Search my Blog archive for my accommodation and venue reviews

If you enjoyed reading this post then you will love from my archive
"15 Romantic Things to do in Taormina"

Love is all around
at Castello San Marco near Taormina
for more information and booking
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Love Sarah and Daisy x

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Tasting Sicily UK ... Dolce Vita Wine and Food Tasting

Last week I had the pleasure of attending an Italian Wine and Food Tasting event at one of my favourite places in London Tasting Sicily UK Enzo's Kitchen hosted by Dolce Vita Wines.

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", Enzo is also the President of the FIC UK (Federation of Italian Chefs in the UK). The restaurant is managed superbly by Luisa Ingoglia with an amazing team.

Dolce Vita Wines was founded several years ago in London by a group of friends united by their passion for wine and a desire to create and introduce an exquisite portfolio of Italian Wines to London. Their ethos is the promise that their wines will enrich body and mind through time honoured crafting and the use of the finest grapes with nothing else in between. Dolce Vita Wines have compiled an extensive wine list from more than 40 producers offering some well known wines as well as wine made from rare indigenous grapes, giving their customers a wide range of choice. They also supply wines to many top restaurants in London including Enzo's Kitchen. Our host and sommelier for the evening's wine tasting was Tatiana Nikitina.

Along with my lovely work colleague Carola, originally from Rome, we were excited for our evening of wine and food tasting. This would be Carola's first time wine tasting. We were to taste four different wines which would be paired with traditional Sicilian dishes chosen and prepared by Chef Enzo which would compliment each wine we tasted.

On arrival we were greeted by restaurant manager Luisa who is always a pleasure to speak all things Sicilian with and Tatiana who told us a little bit about herself and Dolce Vita Wines.

As the guests arrived we were joined at our table by a lovely gentleman named Carmino who is the president of the International Maitres Association of Hotels and Restaurants in Great Britain. Once all guests arrived we began the evening's festivities.

Tatiana explained that we would be tasting two white wines and two red wines, first we would taste each wine alone and then again after food to compare tastes.

The first white wine we tasted was a Grillo 'Idiallico' from the Cummo Winery in Sicily. Grillo is one of my most favourite Sicilian wines. With 100% Grillo grapes this wine has a wonderful mineral content and is very elegant, harmonic and persistent with intense and rich floral aromas. This wine would compliment white meat, fish and vegetables. 

To accompany this wine Enzo chose Sicilian arancini which are balls of rice stuffed with a meaty ragu sauce, which are then rolled in breadcrumbs and then deep fried. Their round golden shapes resemble oranges (aranci) hence their name. 

After Tatiana described the Grillo to us Enzo regaled us with the history and story of Arancini.

The next white wine was a 'Reisling' from the Endrizzi Winery in the Trentino region of Italy. This wine had a beautiful straw colour with a peachy and fruity bouquet with hints of grapefruit and citrus as well as a flowery note with spicy mineral aromas. It has a fresh taste and is pleasantly dry in a true representation of its northern character. This wine goes well with fish dishes such as clams, scallops, oysters and mussels as well as boiled or grilled fish.

To accompany this wine Enzo chose Pasta Casarecce alla Messinese, a pasta dish originating from the Sicilian city of Messina consisting of swordfish, which is in such abundance in the Straits of Messina, cooked in a tomato and aubergine sauce. It is one of my personal favourite Sicilian dishes, but then again everything Enzo cooks is delicious.

Next came our first red wine.

Our first red wine was a Nero d'Avola 'Goccianuda' again from the Cummo Winery in Sicily. The Nero d'Avola 'Goccianuda' is "the most natural" wine creation made without sulphites. This wine has beautiful freshness and creates an impression of drinking pure fruit nectar. Produced at an altitude of about 500 metres above sea level this wine has a deep red colour with violet reflections and the intense aroma of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and mulberry. To me Nero d'Avola is pure Sicily in a glass and on tasting this wine I felt propelled to Sicily. Luisa told us that this is one of their most popular reds on their wine list and I can see why.

This wine is best matched with tuna dishes, roast salmon or white meat. To accompany this wine Enzo chose Parmigiana Catanese which is a Sicilian dish made with an aubergine filling layered with cheese and tomato sauce then baked in the same way the dish is made in the Sicilian city of Catania.

Our final wine was a Aglianico del Vulture 'Viola' from the Tenuta Le Querci Winery in the Basilicata region of Italy. This wine had a ruby red colour and is intense and persistent on the nose with pronounced vegetal notes, tones of tobacco, leather, red berry fruits and cherry. The wine has an underlying slight note of graphite and spices and is intense and powerful on the palate. Dishes to enjoy it with would be steak, lamb, game and mature cheeses.

Therefore to accompany this wine Enzo chose four different Sicilian cheeses accompanied with Tasting Sicily jam and honey.

Tatiana was the perfect host and sommelier together with Enzo and Luisa. Tatiana's passion for her wine shone throughout the evening. 

The wines were unique in taste along with the accompanying delicious dishes which each wine complimented to perfection. 

After our wonderful wine tasting experience we retired downstairs to the main restaurant area where we enjoyed a dessert of cannoli, ice cream and a glass of limoncello. 

This evening is the first of many to be held by Dolce Vita Wines, the next event will be held on 8th March 2018 on International Women's Day featuring a different selection of wines.

Why not join the DV Club? DV Club is for those who love wine and want to learn more about it. Club members receive special offers and discounts, invitations to wine events and advice about wines from their sommeliers. 

 For more information on Dolce Vita Wines visit 

 For updates on future events at Tasting Sicily UK Enzo's Kitchen visit

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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Making Panelle

Pane e Panelle
Sicily is famous for its street food and one of the most popular is Panelle which is a Sicilian fast food snack available in bars, from street vendors and are occasionally found in restaurants.

Panelle (or panella di ceci) are Sicilian fritters made from chickpea flour and other ingredients.

They are popular in Palermo and are often eaten between slices of pane (bread) or in a roll like a sandwich and as such become known as Pane e Panelle.

A visit to Palermo would not be complete without sampling them.

Although chickpeas (ceci) are thought to have been cultivated by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, Panelle themselves are believed to be of Arabic origin. Panelle means 'Little Breads'. In Sicilian dialect they are called Paneddi and they are known in Spanish as Garbanzos.

The Panelle is made by pouring chickpea flour into boiling water with salt and herbs, typically parsley or fennel seeds and they are then cooked in bubbling hot oil for just a few minutes.

Panelle are easy to make at home if you have the patience for constant stirring.

A while ago we were watching one of our favourite UK chefs Rick Stein in his television series "Rick Stein's Long Weekends". Rick is a big fan of Sicily and Sicilian food and in this particular episode we were watching he was in Palermo. It was not his first visit to Palermo and the city was previously featured 10 years earlier in his "Mediterranean Escapes", but in this episode he featured the bustling markets and increasingly popular street food culture.

Rick is a big fan of the powerful novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the period when Garibaldi swept through Sicily with his forces to overthrow the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Sicilian Street Food
Panelle, Croquettes and Arancini

We have watched this episode several times and one of our favourite parts is when Rick visits Palazzo Lanza Tomasi the home of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and meets the Duchess of Palma, Nicoletta Polo Lanza Tomasi, daughter in law to the author. Together in the grand surroundings of the Palazzo, Rick and the Duchess make Panelle together and they are the perfect team.

The Duchess is a wonderful character and after making the Panelle, Rick says to her "I know you probably wouldn't agree with me but I think this would go well with a cold beer" to which Nicoletta replies "I think I have one", he then exclaims "I didn't even know Duchesses had beer in their homes" and she responds "Duchesses have everything my dear".

Every time we watch this episode, which is quite a few times now, I always say to my husband I really want to have a go at making Panelle.

So a couple of weeks ago I had my first attempt.

Completely inspired I used 300g of chickpea flour, 900 ml of water, a teaspoon of salt and for flavours I added my favourite Sicilian herb fennel (I am obsessed with the flavour of fennel).

First I prepared a shallow baking tray with olive oil.

Rick and the Duchess
(Photo credit:
Following the Duchesses method I poured the chickpea flour, water, fennel seeds and salt into a saucepan and mixed it well. Then brought the saucepan to the boil whisking continuously, heating, beating and stirring until thick and creamy like polenta dissolving the lumps and scraping the bottom of the pan as per her instructions "Stirring, Stirring and Stirring".

With the mixture thickened and spluttering I removed it from the heat and poured it into the baking tray, in the programme the Duchess uses an old oil can.

I pressed the mixture down to make it even with a thickness of around 5mm and then put it in the fridge to cool down.

Once cooled I cut the mixture into rectangles ready to be immerged in the hot oil that I had just prepared. Alternatively you can use a deep-fat fryer.

After around 5 minutes and once golden brown the Panelle was ready to be drained on kitchen paper.

Traditionally in Sicily they would be turned onto a marble worktop to cool them down quicker.

With a squeeze of Sicilian lemon juice we enjoyed our home made Panelle with of course a bottle of cold beer.

Well if its good enough for the Duchess who are we to disagree?

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
is available on

Self Catering Apartments are available in Palazzo Lanza Tomasi
A day cooking with the Duchess can be booked by appointment
visit for more information 

Rick Stein's book "Long Weekends"
is also available on

This year Palermo is the Italian City of Culture
Why not book a Long Weekend in this fabulous city?

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Stirring, stirring and stirring



The final product ...
The Perfect Panelle 

If you enjoyed reading this I invite you to read my most popular post to date
"Making Arancini"

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