One of my favourite nights in is when BBC4 screens Inspector Montalbano. I love how Camilleri, the author, describes his characters and the way the series is shot really makes you want to go to Sicily and enjoy pasta col sugo di ricci o arancini. It even makes you want to learn how to make such delicacies, which is why I always switch the TV off thinking of taking a cooking holiday in Sicily.
I have actually gone as far as looking for such a holiday and I have found one that happens to be exactly in the land of Montalbano, in the south-east of the island, near the well know baroque cities of Modica and Noto.
This is a really interesting area, both in historical and culinary terms: Sicily is at the heart of the Mediterranean and over the centuries it has become the home of some of the greatest civilizations in history (Greek, Romans, Arabs and Normans just to name a few), all of which have left a fantastic culinary legacy.
Olive, figs, nuts, but also lemons, wheat and spices, they all make Sicily a real paradise for food lovers and of course one of the best places in the world to learn how to cook.
The Sicilians have a real passion for food and cooking is something that is deeply rooted in every family’s traditions. Katia, the lovely lady who manages this residential holiday and the cooking tutor, is a native Sicilian and has designed her cooking holidays just to be able to share all this with her guests. I haven’t had the pleasure to take part in her class personally, but I have spoken with her enough to be confident that her format and skills would guarantee a lovely stay and the gain of some pretty impressive culinary skills. This is my dream cooking holiday and to indulge a little more in this dream, I’ll share the details with you.
Please note that this post is unsolicited and unbiased and I have taken no compensation for it: it reflect my personal opinion about the holiday offered and the positive impression I gained from personal contact with the owner.
Cooking holiday in Sicily: some info
Katia’s course is a one week residential cooking holiday set in the beautiful historical town of Modica, in the south-east of Sicily. The course is taught in English and is a one week experience that includes cooking classes, local excursions and accommodation. Cooking classes take place over the course of 3 days, in the morning, and last about 3 hours each, with a coffee break mid-morning.
The holiday is for anyone interested in learning about Italian food. No experience necessary.
Accommodation: this is a residential holiday and accommodation is provided inside the school building. The school is hosted in a historical house in the centre of Modica, recently restored: the building dates back to the 17th century, but the inside has been carefully restored to give you all comforts. The school has 3 en-suite bedrooms, all with free wi-fi, air conditioning (you’ll need it in the summer!), flat screen TV and heating for the winter months.
Course outline, as presented by the school
Day one: This is your arrival day. The school offers a pick up from Catania airport and kicks off the week with a welcome dinner
Day two: In the morning the first cooking class takes place and in the afternoon a guided tour of Modica, to discover the back streets and the baroque architecture that make it so famous.
Day three: after your cooking class you will spend this day discovering the amazing coastline of south-east Sicily. You will visit a local winery and explore the Vendicari nature reserve and the newly restored Tonnara. You will then move on to Noto, world-famous for its architectural gems, and will taste their sweet wine, honey and almond based pastry
Day four: on this day you will not have your cooking class but will head to Siracusa to visit the local food market, which takes place in the city’s historical centre, Ortygia. After the visit to the market you will have time to explore Ortygia: prepare to be amazed by the temple of Apollo, the stunning baroque facades of its churches and the Norman Maniace caste. After lunch you will return to Modica.
Day five: on this day you head back to the kitchen to acquaint yourself with one of the products Modica is most famous for: chocolate! The Spaniards were the first to introduce chocolate to Sicily, bringing it back from their trips to Mexico, and since then chocolate has become a real specialty in this area of Sicily. You will be able to learn about its history and taste in the Bonajuto lab, during a private tour open to Katia’s students only.
In the afternoon you will visit Mulino Cavallo, where you will learn about durum wheat, the special wheat that the Romans cultivated in Sicily and that is at the basis of so many local products (pasta among others). For dinner you will head to the seaside village of Pozzallo.
Day six: On this day you will visit an olive grove and a winery near Chiaramonte and will learn about the process at the basis of the production of extra virgin olive oil and wine. Can you name Sicilian wines? Even if you think you can’t, you most likely know at least one or two: you’ll be amazed how many wines come from the island. In the evening you will have a farewell dinner.
Day seven: Departure day: if you are flying back, you will be accompanied back to the airport as part of the package. If you are lucky enough to have extra days to enjoy Sicily, let Katia know and she will be happy to help you make the most of your time in Sicily.
SO, what do you think: am I right in feeling this might be a great way to explore Sicilian culture and cuisine? If you think so and want to know more, you can visit Katia’s site directly on www.lovesicily.com