Locked down in London

We are living in extraordinary times.

When we closed the door to our Sicilian home at the end of November last year who would have thought that we would not know when we would be able to return especially due to a pandemic which would spread across the world.

I have received many messages from friends and my Blog followers asking if we are in Sicily and the answer is no we are at home in London where we are in partial lockdown.

Last month I had to cancel a trip to Sicily, a trip when I would fly out alone to get the house ready for our return in Spring and now it is with a heavy heart that we will have to cancel our annual spring road trip home with our dog Daisy next month until further notice.

I am absolutely devastated that Italy including Sicily has been put into lockdown in respect of Coronavirus and that so many Italians have lost their lives but I am glad that many more have made a full recovery.

We are very sad that we will not be able to travel as planned, but it is what it is for us all to combat this virus. We were looking forward to seeing our friends and contacts and slipping back into living life the Sicilian way and getting back that Sicilian glow after a winter of rain and storms in London.

Unfortunately this virus will have a big impact on tourism in Sicily and will effect a lot of our friends in the tourist industry, so therefore please don't cancel your trip, just postpone it and please when booking your trips, excursions and small group tours keep it local as every time you book through a small business an actual Sicilian will do a little happy dance.

Across Italy children have been drawing pictures of rainbows with the words "AndrΓ  tutto Bene" meaning everything is going to be alright and every evening Italians have been going out onto their balconies to sing songs and play music. 

Everything will be alright.

We are missing Sicily and our friends very much and so we have been trying to do activities to make us feel close to our beloved island.

Therefore here are 14 things we have been doing to keep Sicily alive in our minds.

Catching up with Inspector Montalbano

Inspector Montalbano is an Italian television series based on the bestselling novels by the Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri, it has been broadcasted in Italy since 1999 and came to UK television screens with English subtitles. 

The Inspector Montalbano stories are set in the imaginary Sicilian town of Vigata and the television series was filmed in the south eastern corner of Sicily which boasts beautiful countryside, baroque towns and amazing beaches.

We have been re-watching the series feeling nostalgic for Sicily and as it is filmed in Italian, with some Sicilian dialect, it is a great way to practice the language with the subtitles.

Learning Sicilian Dialect

Sicilian is a regional language, while Italian is the national language. Most Sicilians speak Italian but sometimes they do slip into a Sicilian dialect. The Sicilian dialect can differ in each region on the island too.

I have downloaded a new App called "Learn Sicilian" whose features include lessons and quizzes that will give you a strong foundation of the dialect and also lists of numerous words, phrases and verbs with audio for pronunciation. You can also choose to learn the dialect of a particular area or city.

Learn Sicilian is a great portal and then by the time you travel on your rescheduled trip to Sicily you will be able to converse with the Sicilians.


Making Caponata

In the UK people have been panic buying and our shop shelves have been pillaged and stripped bare of pasta. So without pasta we have been making a lot of caponata, as a little goes a long way. 

Caponata is a classic Sicilian dish which can be served warm or at room temperature. The recipe combines vegetables that grow in abundance on the island. The main ingredients include aubergine (eggplant), tomatoes and red peppers and what gives this dish its own unique taste is the addition of sugar and red wine vinegar.

It makes an excellent side dish and leftovers are delicious on freshly baked bread the next day when the flavours are more infused.

Baking Bread

Bread has been another item that has been hard to find in stores.

In this stressful time we all need something calm and therapeutic to do and for me that is kneading bread dough. It is really relaxing.

I love baking bread as it really does give you that feel good factor and homemade bread makes the perfect toast and is great for all that leftover caponata.

To make my bread a bit more Sicilian I add fennel seeds and chopped olives.

Watching The Godfather Trilogy

In The Godfather Trilogy oranges pop up with great frequency in the three movies. The director Francis Ford Coppola states that this started out as an accident but once he realised that he had used oranges so frequently he started to purposely use them in subsequent movies. There are up to twenty scenes where oranges are featured so now you have an excuse to watch the whole trilogy to see how many you can count.

It is also the perfect opportunity to see all the filming locations in the movies that you are going to visit on your rescheduled trip.

Squeezing Juice 

A recent study found that our ability to absorb the nutrients from citrus fruits is actually better in liquid form, so we are making the most of the delicious goodness from them and squeezing oranges ourselves. Unfortunately we cannot buy Sicilian oranges very often in the UK as most of our produce is imported from Spain.

Oranges are highly beneficial for your body as they offer lots of vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are chock-full of Vitamin C which helps to boost your immune system which is essential in this moment to keep viruses away.

Drinking Wine

One of the most amazing experiences we enjoy in Sicily is wine tasting.

The wine industry on the island has been going through a period of rapid change over the past twenty years and the popularity and prestige of Sicilian wine is rapidly on the rise.

We have been enjoying some great Sicilian wines that we brought home with us in November.

A glass of wine here and there is good for you and with moderate consumption can ward off infections and keep your immune system in check.

Cheers !!!!

Reading Books

I am constantly trolling the internet for new books about Sicily or set in Sicily and if anyone asks me what to buy me for Christmas and birthdays I have a list. 

I prefer to read these books when at home in Sicily on our roof terrace with Mount Etna keeping a watchful eye whilst soaking up the Sicilian sun.

For my birthday this year I received three Sicily inspired books and so now in lockdown in London I am immersing myself in 'Sicilian Splendors' by author John Keahey which is transporting me in spirit to Sicily.

Making Crostata 

I love cooking and one of my favourite things to make is a crostata.

When my 'adopted' Sicilian big brother Gianfranco spent three winters living with us in London he would eat crostata for breakfast. My husband likes to eat crostata for dessert so one crostata would only last two days.

For three winters my fingers were almost broken from constantly crumbling the ingredients for the pastry and my hair seemed to be constantly covered from plumes of flour.

Flour is another ingredient that is scarce in our supermarkets right now but luckily I always have some in my store cupboard. I usually use blackberry jam as the filling which I make in the summer time in London from blackberry brambles behind our house.

Making Biscotti

I used to work for a lovely Italian husband and wife in London. The lovely Franca is from Calabria and she used to spoil me with delicious home baked Italian cakes and the best cappuccino. When I used to arrive at their home the smell of baking was always a warm welcome.

Franca also used to make amazing crostatas and told me off once for throwing away any excess pastry because I could use it to make biscotti.

So in lockdown I am leaving nothing to waste and I have been using my leftover pastry to make Daisy shaped biscotti.

Pizza Competition

I am gradually running low on flour but luckily I still have some "00" flour that we brought from a Italian delicatessen in London. Therefore we have been teaching ourselves how to make pizza.

My husband and I have had our own competition to see who can make the best dough and then we have devoured each others creation. 

I think the shape of my dough has a lot to be desired for.

Growing Tomatoes

Last year I started to grow tomatoes.

I was really excited each time a new tomato appeared and I had a great harvest.

One of the things we had planned on our return to Sicily was to visit a tomato farm and learn about the cultivation of tomatoes on the island. Pachino at the south eastern tip of Sicily is renowned for tomatoes. As you drive around this corner of Sicily through low hills you come across curious long white tunnels, in fact hundreds of them leading down to the coastline. These are the plastic tomato greenhouses of Pachino and one of the great market gardens of Sicily. 

But our research trip is on hold and for now I am nurturing and talking to my new tomato plants in London that I grew from seeds last month.

Making Passata

One of the other things that we are lacking in supermarkets in London is passata and tins of chopped tomatoes. Along with pasta these were one of the first items to be pillaged once people started panic buying. 

For some reason fresh tomatoes seemed to be in abundance so I decided to make my own passata. We cannot get Sicilian tomatoes in the UK so I bought Spanish tomatoes instead. 

If we were in Sicily we would have plenty of tomato sauce as each summer families come together to make a years supply of it. It is a huge event and a fun activity to get involved in. 

This week I simply slit the tomatoes open removed the seeds and cooked the pulp in a large saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of sugar. When the skin started to peel I passed the pulp through a large sieve and set aside to cool. The sauce was ok in the fridge for three days.

Working on a Special Project

This year I have been working on a special project for a media company but unfortunately it is now on hold until further notice.

Whilst I still have my Blog to carry on with I now have all this extra time at home for me to work on a personal project that I have been wanting to do for a long time and it is one that several of my followers and friends have urged me to do.

So watch this space …..

I am thinking of all our friends, family and my followers, in UK, Sicily and Italy and to everyone throughout the world.

Thank you all for your ongoing support.

We hope that this sad time will be over soon and that we will be able to return to our beloved Sicily and our Sicilian home shortly. 

Keep safe and keep posted for new Blog posts

Sending you all a Socially Distanced Hug,

Love Sarah

If you enjoyed this Blog post you might enjoy these ones from my archive

"Making Caponata" 

"14 Ways to use Sicilian Oranges"

"The Montalbano Filming Locations Tour" 

"The Godfather Movie Locations" 


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Love Sarah

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