Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Silence is Golden



Il Gatto’ di Patate
 To say that one can scamper up steps to the hamlet of Nocelle tucked inside the hillside above Positano would be stretching the truth just a little.
 Over one thousand two hundred steep mountain steps mark the climb to paradise from the coastal town below.  Nocelle, a tiny village set in the Path of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast with barely more than 60 residents and one shop is like a trip back in time. The village, barren of roads, lifts and mobile stairs, is certainly worth the effort visiting, even if one does cheat a little and take the bus from Positano to get there.

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There is not much to do in Nocelle, other than to simply head to the little piazza and soak in the views or take part of the hike along the Path of the Gods for another perspective across the magnificent cliffs all the way to Capri.
The tiny town wallows in a deep mountain silence broken only by the evening arrival of a chatting group of locals with the bus from Positano, or at certain times in the afternoon, by a small group of children careering along the narrow alleys on their bikes. It is a town that prides itself in its surroundings, its heritage and its mountains.
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In keeping with culinary style, the two family run trattorie in the town offer only traditional homemade food.
You won’t find any of the gimmicky dishes served in the touristy restaurants on the beach. They don’t even have fixed menus, but will make suggestions based on what Mamma’s cooked that day. Vegetables feature heavily, mostly grilled and served marinated alla Scapece, with homemade bread, a pasta dish and the most tender and succulent grilled meat that I have EVER had, all eaten in a grotto-like balcony overlooking the town of Positano below.
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A dish featured in the vegetable antipasti in Nocelle is something my Calabrian mother used to make at home.
A baked comfort food based on fluffy mashed potatoes Il ‘Gatto`’ di Patate or Potato Gateau is simple to make, combining Italian cheeses and salami and is great served with a side salad. The authentic Neapolitan recipe includes a mildly smoked Scarmozza cheese to really bring out flavour.
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IL GATTO` DI PATATE
Ingredients
1.5kgs of floury potatoes, boiled, peeled and passed in a potato ricer.
Add 100gms of butter,
100gms of grated parmesan cheese,
100gms of grated Pecorino cheese,
100gms of chopped salami or ham,
a small bunch of chopped flat-leaved parsely,
4 egg yolks and 3 egg whites,
Salt and pepper to taste.
Method
Mix all ingredients together, add a little milk if the mix is too stiff.
Place half the mix in a baking tin.
Add slices of 100gms of smoked Scarmozza
and 200gms of Mozzarella.
Cover with remaining potato mix. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs, decorate with the back of a fork and add tiny dabs of butter. Bake in moderate oven for 30-45mins or until the Gatto` is golden. Rest for half an hour before serving.
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Then imagine that you are here in the silence of the olive groves and Oleander and enjoy!
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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Buon Natale

 

Buon Natale a tutti!


We had a delicious lunch on the terrace in the warm sunshine and are about to take a walk on the beach to work it off on the stairs. A very Happy Christmas in Positano.

 

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I wish you all peace and serenity in the New Year. Thank you for following Bell`Avventura.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fire in Positano

I wake to an unearthly yellow light and the throb of a chopper overhead. Sunlight is lost to a haze in the air, and an acrid smell of smoke clings to the washing hung out overnight. Ashes scatter as I throw open the terrace doors and a Canadair plane swoops low over our house to the water where it scoops from the sea with it’s gigantic belly. A second one thunders past at an angle, fast on the tail of the first one. It is so close that I can see the pilot. The sound similar to air raids in a war-torn country is deafening and continues all day, unremittingly  until dusk.

Today is the third day of a devastating mountain fire over the mountains of Positano. A fire which has destroyed the best part of the mountain’s pine forest and a loved walk of the Positanesi.

The fire started two nights ago in the hills above Chiesa Nuova, just before dusk, as always. The first flames were visible from our home.

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Helicopters were on the scene straight away dipping at Fornillo but had to stop in the dark. 121

Volunteers worked all night against the fire which fanned in the timber dry area until it had spread in an ever widening circle to include Montepertuso and the Monte Faito mountain in the Gulf of Sorrento.

When we set out in the morning in our boat the mountains looked like this, with pockets of fire scattered wide.

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On our return in the afternoon, I was there in time to witness the helicopter’s release of a  bucket of water over the forest beneath the mountain hole at Montepertuso. The scene was nightmarish. Blackened mountain as far as I could see.

If only tears could drench the flames.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday In Positano

 

It is early morning. The rustle of sheets gently nudges me out of my dream. But it is only the swell of sea breathing softly against the shoreline.

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As always I wake from one dream to another.

I look towards Fornillo Beach and have to make the decision of whether to go for an early swim in the transparent waters and brave the climb of steep stairs returning at 11.00 or climb the mountain in the other direction to buy food and stop at the Bar Internazionale for a coffee and chat.

 

 

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Rather than sit on the beach all day in the hot sun, I prefer to stay at home and watch the others swim from the shade of my terrace.

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But today it is Sunday.

I have ironing to do in preparation for a week’s holiday in Ischia to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary.

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But with this view from my window and Ingrid Michaelson singing in the background, that’s not such a bad thing…

For a post on What I Love about Living in Italy, visit An Italophile.

Buona domenica to you all!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Dark Side of Positano

Positano full moon

Getting down the stairs at night was an enterprise.

Blinking lights like an airport runway, turned on and off repeatedly only to reappear millimetres from where we were about to place our foot next. Each of our steps was a hovering indecision, a crucial life or death situation for the magical creatures lining the path.

Slowly we made our way back to our home, fireflies dancing at our feet.

Hundreds of them, as brash as could be, lit our stairs leading to the gardens of Fornillo below our home. They clung to the stucco walls, flittered towards the street light and rested, dozens on each  step, a moment or too before changing position.

Leaning over the balustrade on the terrace, we watched enchanted as the fairies of the insect world waltzed in the lemon groves at our feet, the tall grass fleetingly masking the light and making it reappear at a distance. They rose and dipped in the terraced gardens, pockets forming in the corners only to dissipate just as quickly.

Are you there my love?

The romance of the situation was not lost on me.

The Amalfi Coast known best for the sweeping views and its natural coastline, transforms into a beguiling woman at night.

Its mysterious shadows envelope a constellation of tiny lights along the coastline. Its curves reflect the lights of the small towns.  Its sea is always in sweet song and dotted with fisherman’s boats on the horizon.  When in full moon, this lady of the night makes a dramatic entrance, red and impossibly grand over the edge of the mountain.  Its mesmerizing moonlight grazes the surface of the sea with an elegant liquid silver.

If I were a firefly, it would be here that I would dance.

 

 

Late April, the days warmed by the sunshine and the nights cooled by its shadow, are the best time to see the dance of the fireflies in Positano. The abandoned gardens in Fornillo are a haven for the ecosystem of the Coast and these insects are replaced in summer by the tiny bats, owls and less appreciable blood sucking creatures called mosquitoes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Positano = Paradise

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In case you thought that I may have died and gone to heaven, I sort of did, just not in that order.

Waking up in Positano some days, is like looking out to paradise. But my laptop died so I couldn’t post this when I took it.

Just to let you know, I’m still here. Always in awe. Grateful in April.

xxx

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Donut Beauty Pageant.

Few of you will be aware of this, but in the midst of Christmas celebrations in Positano, a very special Festa takes place with contestants vying for a prize for sponginess, taste and hole-liness.

La Festa della Zeppola in Positano is a winter get together on the main beach which in amongst the organized games of football and treasure hunts, homebodies hibernate in their kitchens levitating dough and frying, dipping in sugar or dribbling honey in order to put their best donut forward to the judges.

But the donuts or Zeppole in Positano, which were once offered in a basket lined with lemon leaves, resemble not their industrial American counterparts, but are an ingenious way of putting together that which the Coast has best to offer.

Lemon zest, orange peel, pine nuts, and raisins grace the interior of these spongy delights, and local honey sweetens the exterior. Some add potatoes or milk to the mixture, others keep with the tradition of turning the dough over in the oil with a twig off the lemon or orange tree rather than the usual cooking implement, but most connoisseurs will agree that a hole in the middle is essential.

So when the proud ladies with their head held high present their wares to the judge and offer some to the bystanders what do I do? I skulk to the back of the crowd in shame, comparing these perfect beauties with my lot back home. Loving prepared, after an afternoon spent frying and filling oneself on oil fumes so that my husband has his traditional Positano donuts, I wonder how the heck do they get that hole to form so neatly in the centre. For if I were to present my Zeppole at this festa, they would be sure to get the ‘Ugly Betty’ award.

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My zeppole look as if they’ve been dredged from the bottom of a swamp (after being there a long time). With no hole to speak of they sprout antennas and feelers in all directions, their bloated bellies extending in defiance where there should have been a cavity. As they hit the hot oil, the yeast takes on a life of its own, a growing blob of dough reaches out gasping for air and then, like the sorry life forms at Pompeii, stays that way.

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But I haven’t given up on my Zeppole alla Positanese. My multi-limbed mutations still taste quite good, and despite the sniggers smiles from the kids, disappear as soon as I make them proving that you can’t judge a book by it’s unappetizing cover. Zero on presentation –ten on taste.

If anyone wants to give me lessons, I know I have a lot to learn.

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 Basic Zeppola Recipe:

Put 50gms of yeast to rise with 600-700gms of flour, add enough milk and water to create very soft sticky dough. Add a tablespoon of sugar, a good handful of raisins, grated zest from a lemon and an orange, pine nuts and a pinch of salt. Let it rise for an hour. Deep fry in small spoonfuls. Drain on kitchen paper. Drizzle with honey diluted in water or dust with icing sugar. Serve on the same day.

 

Merry Christmas from Positano! Buon Natale a Tutti !