Finally, spring: sunny spells and warm afternoons, a whole new beginning. I still wear a light coat in the morning but now I prefer colourful shirts, long dresses and scarves to match. Getting rid of all the winter layers and heavy clothes was liberating and the warmth of the sun on my back is reinvigorating. In this exciting atmosphere, I had a go at the Jubilee cake; it is a multi-layered lemon trifle created by Jemma Melvin, the winner of the Platinum Jubilee pudding competition. Here are two links to the recipe of this special treat:
I took some short cuts. I made the swiss roll, the custard cream and the jelly, but I bought the amaretti and the lemon curd, and instead of the mandarin coulis I used jam. About the white chocolate bark shard, I just spread some crumbled amaretti and poured white melted chocolate on top of the whipped cream. It was a long process but eventually we had a delicious, superb pudding.
I watched the Eurovision song contest, of course, one of my favourite programs ever. It was spectacular, a relief in this difficult period. Ukraine eventually won but the real winner was Sam Ryder’s song Space Man. Ukraine’s first place was a demonstration of the audience’s support against Russian invasion. The show at Turin’s Palasport Olimpico was hosted by the Lebanese-British pop star Mika, Italy’s X Factor Alessandro Cattelan and the popular Italian singer Laura Pausini. They looked smashing wearing outfits by Armani, Versace and Valentino. I loved Pausini’s dresses; the drapery fitted her statuesque body and she looked like the Roman statue of a matriarch or an empress. I also liked the different colours of Mika’s suits from shocking pink to white and blue. The most exciting moments were when the jury’s and the audience’s scores were announced. After the disappointing scores of the past years, the UK finally came first after the jury’s votes. Ukraine got 439 votes from the audience, so the UK came second. Italy came sixth, which is not bad considering they won last year. Space Man is a great song and Sam Ryder’s performance was amazing. The lyrics are a bit surreal and the music reminds me of Elton John’s and David Bowie’s sounds. The Ukrainian song, Stefania, by the Kalush Orchestra, is about mothers and also about finding the way home. Though it was apparently written before the war, it is now inevitably linked to the conflict. The song is a mixture of traditional folk rhythm, hip hop and rap. Here are the links to the videos:
Probably the 2023 final will not be hosted in Ukraine. It would be great if it were in the UK. I would certainly attend it.
My favourite song was the Australian one: Sheldon Riley’s Not the Same, about his autistic experience as a boy and a young man. Here is the link to the video:
I also enjoyed Norway, Moldova and Serbia’s performances. They were weird and funny according to the best tradition of Eurovision songs:
Give that wolf a banana https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adCU2rQyDeY
In corpore sano https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBtQj1MfNYA
I was bewildered, almost shocked by the recent repercussions against the abortion law in the US. The Supreme Court seems to have the intention to overturn the Roe v Wade case, which occurred in the 1970s, that declared the denial to abortion unconstitutional as it violates the right of privacy. The bill was regularly attacked by conservative Catholics and then also by Evangelicals. They even murdered doctors that practiced abortion believing that life in the foetus starts at conception, so the doctors were committing a crime. Certainly, the foetus starts to be a living creature at a certain point of the pregnancy, a creature capable of having feelings and probably suffering pain, and abortion would kill this creature. But this concept is controversial. Conservative churches believe this happens at conception but there is no scientific proof to support this idea, only precepts. A six-month foetus is certainly a living creature. Around week 7, the foetus develops a heart, a brain and moves in the womb later on (around week 16-17), which is the so-called ‘quickening’. These might be some believable starting points when a foetus might be considered a living creature. On the other hand, as Margaret Atwood remarks, ‘making abortion illegal doesn’t stop it; it just makes it more dangerous’. Here is the link to her article, which shows a thoughtful and insightful analysis of the problem:
This is an unbelievable setback against woman’s rights that might threaten other rights such as birth control and same-sex marriage in the future. Though the majority of the abortion laws all over the world have some restrictions, abortion seemed to be an acquired right that especially protects low-income women. I feel there is a sense of going back to a dark past when people were controlled and constrained in fixed inescapable roles instead of marching towards a more equal and diverse society.
Finally, I was flabbergasted by the marvellous Gucci sfilata Cosmogonie at Castel del Monte. The octagonal castle was built in the 1240s by Frederik II on a mountain in the south of Italy, in Puglia. The catwalk lasted less than an hour featuring marvellous outfits created by Alessandro Michele. This is where fashion becomes art and creates culture. I know this stuff is for the rich and for celebrities to wear at dress galas, not for ordinary people like me. However, Michele’s creations are enchanting, a pleasure to watch, like works of art in museums.
Here are the highlights and the link to the video of the show:
And here are some more recipes I experimented with my mother when I was in Italy for the Easter break:
Baccalà (dried salt cod)
This is a dish we usually have on a Friday. If the fish is too salted, we soak it in water for half an hour. There are different ways of cooking it according to the different regional traditions. My mother made it with milk. She cut it in squares and coated it with flour. Then fried it in hot olive oil. Finally, she put it in a saucepan and covered it with milk and let it simmer until the fish absorbed the milk.
Torta pasqualina (Easter pie)
For the dough you need: 250 g of plain flour, 4 g of dry yeast, one egg, a tsp of salt, two tbsp of olive oil, some lukewarm water.
For the filling you need: 250 g of ricotta, 250 g of spinach, five eggs.
Mix all the ingredients for the dough and let it rest for one hour in a warm place.
Cook the spinach in salted water and drain it. Let it cool and add the ricotta.
Roll out half of the dough and line a round greased cake tin. Pour the spinach and ricotta mixture then make 5 ‘holes’ in the middle of the mixture. Break the eggs and place them in the ‘holes’. Roll out the rest of the dough and cover the pie. Bake at 180 C for half an hour-45 minutes.
Quiche with greens
For the dough you need: 250 g of plain flour, 3 g of dry yeast, a tsp of salt, some lukewarm water, two tbsp of olive oil.
For the filling you need: 500 of greens, 200 g of crème fraiche, 4 eggs, salt and pepper.
Mix all the ingredients of the dough and let it rest in a warm place for one hour. Cook the greens in boiling water and drain it. Blend the greens and add the eggs, crème fraiche, salt and pepper. Line a greased quiche tin with the dough and pour in the greens mixture. Bake at 200 C for 30-45 minutes.
You need: 250 g of risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli), olive oil, a small onion, a stalk of celery and a carrot, two tbsp of red wine, one tin of borlotti beans, oregano, two tbsp of tomato passata, salt, pepper, parmigiano, chilli (optional).
Cook the beans with celery, carrot and onion in water. When the beans are ready remove the onion, carrot and celery and add some olive oil and the red wine. Add the oregano, tomato passata, salt, pepper and chilli. Once it is boiling, add the rice and let it simmer until the rice is ready. Serve with parmigiano.
Biscotti all’olio d’oliva
I made this recipe for my granddaughter Violetta who is not having milk or butter yet. I used olive oil instead.
You need: 250 g of self-rising flour, 150 g of sugar, two eggs, two tbsp of olive oil, vanillina or some drops of vanilla extracts.
Mix all the ingredient, knead the dough and let it rest for half an hour. Prepare the biscuits making balls and pressing them between your palms to obtain a sort of round flat shape. Place them on a greased oven tray and bake at 180 C for 10-20 minutes or until ready.
You need: 250 g of self-rising flour, 50 g of pistachios, 50 g of almonds, 100 g of sugar, 30 g of dried apricots, two eggs, 2 tbsp of olive oil, some milk.
Chop the nuts and cut the dried apricots into pieces. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. The mixture should be a bit sticky. Place the mixture in a greased oven tray forming two rows. Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes or until half done. Cut the rows in slices about an inch thick and bake for another 20-30 minutes or until ready. The biscuits should be golden brown.
Almond cake with orange icing
For the cake you need: 250 g of self-rising flour, two tbsp of cornflour, 3 tbsp of honey, 100 g of golden caster sugar, 100 g of ground almonds, one tsp of baking powder, ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 100 g of melted butter, 4 eggs, zest of an orange, juice of half an orange, some vanilla drops.
For the filling and the top you need: 200 ml of double cream, juice of an orange, icing sugar, 20 g of soft butter and flaked almonds.
Whisk the sugar and the eggs with an electric mixer for 10-15 minutes. Fold in the rest of the ingredients and bake the cake mixture in a greased tin cake at 180 C for 30-45 minutes or until ready. Let it cool and prepare the filling and the icing. Whisk the cream in a bowl with a tbsp of sugar and add half of the orange juice at the end together with some flaked almonds. For the icing, mix the rest of the juice with icing sugar and the butter. Cut the cake in half and wet it with milk mixed with sugar. Spread the cream on the base and cover with the other half of the cake. Spread the icing on top and decorate with flaked almonds.
Special chocolate cake
For the cake you need: 200 g of self-rising flour, 70 g of cocoa powder, 4 eggs, one tsp of baking powder, ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 100 g of sugar, 50 g of brown soft cane sugar, two tbsp of olive oil.
For the filling you need: 200 ml of double cream, 50 g of melted dark chocolate.
For the top you need: 50 g of melted chocolate, 50 g of icing sugar, 30 g of soft butter, some sprinkles.
Whisk the sugar and the eggs with an electric mixer for 10-15 minutes. Fold in the rest of the ingredients and bake in a greased tin cake at 180 C for 30-45 minutes or until ready. Let it cool and prepare the filling and the icing. Whisk the cream in a bowl with a tbsp of sugar and add the melted chocolate at the end. For the icing, mix the melted chocolate with icing sugar and the soft butter. Cut the cake in half and wet it with milk mixed with sugar. Spread the cream on the base and cover with the other half of the cake. Spread the chocolate mixture on top and decorate with sprinkles.