April newsletter from Rome

This month has been strange. We have had days when I have shivered by the radiators in cashmere sweaters and days when I have eaten breakfast and lunch on the terrace in the sun. But now finally the weather seems to have decided that it is spring. Yesterday we lunched in the sun on the Appia Antica at Cecilia Metella and today I am planting fresh herbs on my Rome terrace.

When I was in India I again became fascinated by the lives of the great Goan families who lived under Portuguese rule until they were liberated by India in 1961. I wandered round buying books on the period because I think it could make a fascinating novel. I bought an extra case, packed up all my new research books and summer clothes and sent them home by Qatar cargo. The case took only two days to arrive in Rome and Qatar sent me the flight number and arrival documents. I paid customs duty at the cargo deposit and waved my documents and receipts with mounting exasperation but to date, five weeks later, the case has not been found. Only in Rome is that possible.

When I came back from India my daughter, Caroline, had decided to move me forcibly into the age of social networking. Thank you, Caroline. I now have a business Facebook account, Twitter and a WordPress blog.  I enjoy writing the blog but I could do with a few ‘likes’ and ‘followers’.

This month has bought a new adventure. I have 10 young chefs from the Yemen who are planning on coming to the school in Rome for two weeks total immersion into Italian gastronomy. I have written the invitation letters for their visa applications and I am looking forward to the challenge.

Next month I am taking a small group to Istanbul to cook, shop and eat. Actually the order is wrong – to eat, shop and cook ! In June we are going to swim, eat, drink and cook in Sofia’s house on Symi in Greece. There are still 2 spare places. I am lucky because I get to do it all over again in September.

Puglia has been hailed as the holiday destination for 2013. There is still time to join my Gourmet Adventure 5-11 October, staying at the lovely hotel Don Ferrante.

Price – 1800 euros to include 6 nights, breakfasts, lunches or dinners, 3 hands-on cooking classes with Diane Seed and 2 demonstrations of local specialities. Do see the Luxury Travel blog

http://bit.ly/10i3o99

Recipe

Riso con gli “angeli”         –     Sicilian rice with angels (shellfish                                       

The joined mussel shells could seem like angels’ wings to a devote soul enjoying the heavenly flavours of Sicilian food, especially after a few glasses of crisp, chilled white wine !

This dish can be cooked in advance and quickly re-heated and assembled before the meal.

350 g. Carnaroli rice

500 g. mussels in their shells, scrubbed

200 g small squid, cleaned and cut into rings

200 g prawns, shelled and de-veined

2 T extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 small dry chilli pepper

1 T parsley, chopped

1 T dry white wine (optional)

Put the mussels in a covered pan with a little water and bring to the boil. Discard any mussels that fail to open. Pour the cooking liquid through a fine sieve lined with cheese cloth if possible and put to one side.

Heat the oil and gently cook the garlic until it begins to go golden brown. Add the chilli and stir in the squid. Cook gently until tender. Add the prawns and cook for a few minutes. Add a little salt and splash with the white wine. Let the wine evaporate then turn off the heat. Check the salt level in the mussel liquid before bringing to the boil with enough water to cook the rice. Add a little salt if necessary. Cook the rice gently for about 20 minutes. It should still have a little “bite”. Drain the rice and stir in the parsley and shellfish.

View from the school window

View from school window 

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