I hate to admit it but I am very jealous of Georgio Locatelli, (and desperately covet his book Made In Sicily) and Andrew Graham-Dixon, in Sicily Unpacked. That is my Sicily they are showing you. Not theirs. Not yours. But mine. I kind of mean that, but kinda don’t. You should go.
For 12 years I travelled to Sicily with the amazing Maxine Clark, (with the wonderful Tasting Places) twice a year to teach Sicilian cookery to English speaking clients. We went for 2-3 weeks at a time, in spring and early autumn, when the weather wasn’t so hot and harsh as the mid summer months. We stayed in a crumbling and stunning Palazzo belonging to the lovely Ravida family, which became like a second home. The Ravida’s had a farm too, producing wine grapes, lemons, and olives which they squeezed into an award winning extra virgin olive oil. This is what we cooked with in bucket loads. It is as deep and rich and olive green as Sicilian hills. Sicily is a place I could always go and disappear to.
Maxine, generously shared her knowledge and passion for Sicilian cooking, and together we discovered more. As I’ve said elsewhere, because of Sicily, and because of Maxine, fennel, tomatoes, aubergines, lemons, anchovies, sea salt, sausages, sardines, capers, basil, olives and olive oil will forever, and always, be my most favourite of all ingredients.
In the very first scenes of Sicily Unpacked, you are introduced to Vittorio and his restaurant Vittorio’s, right on the beach in Porto Palo. As soon as we arrived from the airport, we would race down there to get our fill of sea-foodie gorgeousness. Vittorio really does serve the best and freshest seafood I have ever tasted. Spaghetti con vongole, made here, is my desert island dish.
Maxine, with her intelligent knowledge of art history, also educated me in the history and art of Sicily too. The romance of it. The toughness of it. The roughness of it. The beauty of it. The ingredients of it. The mixed up history of it. The oddness of it. It’s an incredible, place. I adore Sicily.
Like I said Georgio and Andrew show me a Sicily I’m so familiar with and they make me home sick for Sicily, but they have also taught me another side of Sicily I didn’t know too. They passionately, and infectiously, share their passions for Sicily, it’s food and it’s art together. They remind me of my time with Maxine. I want to go back more than ever.
I hope they show us Noto……They did in episode 2……and Modica ….and Marsala……and Cedro…..and Sicilian bread made with semolina flour. Once again, once I smelt and tasted this bread, as soon as I could, as soon as I had arrived, I felt right at home.
Here’s a little video I made of the pastry chef at on the best pastry shops in Palermo, the Mazara Pasticceria, making the classic Sicilian dessert, Cassata. Made with sheeps milk ricotta, sponge, candied fruit and chocolate, brightly coloured and very, very sweet. So Sicilian.