Sicily - A Foodie's Perfect Holiday

True food lovers will know that one of the best things about going abroad is the opportunity to taste another culture, and this was certainly the case for Carine. This Easter she travelled to Sicily for a well-deserved break - though it may come as no surprise to you that she spent the most part of her trip tracking down, eating, and cooking delicious food!

Sicily’s vibrant food culture is world famous, with pasta dishes to rival those of mainland Italy, Arabic influences which have survived since the 10th century, and – of course – seafood. It makes perfect sense then that the first thing Carine did on arriving in Modica was to seek out a fish market. After a considerable hunt, she found one, and on the evenings where she simply could not be kept from cooking, she treated her family to Spaghetti alle vongole made with fresh clams, and a whole octopus.

Although Sicily is well-known for its fish and its pasta, the ingredients which stood out to Carine were a little more unusual. The first was wild fennel which, along with wild thyme, oregano, and mustard, she saw growing in abundance. Part of the carrot family, this aromatic plant is one of Carine’s favourites to forage – especially when visiting her husband’s family in Sweden. Unlike its more common cousin, Florence fennel, when cooking with wild fennel you use the yellow flowers and feathery leaves, rather than the bulb itself.

The second was carob pods (also known as St Johns-bread and Locust beans), a member of the pea family often used as a chocolate substitute. Mildly sweet, the carob pods are mostly eaten dried or are ground into carob powder which is used to replace cocoa powder. Carine came across it everywhere - from carob-flavoured liquor to ice-cream.

And speaking of chocolate, there was a fair bit of Cioccolato di Modica involved in Carine’s trip (as is to be expected when travelling with a small child!) This traditional Sicilian chocolate is made from a recipe inspired by the Aztec’s xocoatl. It is characterised by its grainy texture and aromatic flavour which results from heating the cocoa at a low temperature so the cocoa butter melts but the sugar does not. This crumbly, specialty chocolate can be found all over Sicily…and currently there’s quite a lot of it in Carine’s kitchen too!

Finally, Carine and her family were lucky enough to eat at some wonderful restaurants as well so for anyone planning a trip to this wonderful island, here are Carine’s top picks.

1) La Locanda del Collonello, Modica

2) Osteria dei Sapori perduti, Modica

3) Osteria Antica Marina, Catania

4) Ristorante al Duomo, Taormina

And stay tuned for our next post, where we will be talking about an extraordinary couple fighting to keep one of Sicily’s oldest food traditions alive

Carine Ottou