This is my second visit to Sicily. We were here seven years ago with two of my three children. That time is was late June and it was hot. This time it was colder and raining. Sicily is an experience that no amount of words or photographs can capture. Especially when you do as I do and stay in a small village called Fiumefreddo with relatives of my husband. Life is completely different.
Although there are modern cities in Sicily, in the smaller places time has stood still.
We stayed in my husband’s uncle’s house which he has lived in for eighty years. He has a simple routine everyday that fills his life. He works on the family farm in the morning with his brother Pippo, leaving the house at about 6.30am, if the weather is fine. Comes home and showers, has lunch and later goes to the piazza and meets with friends and then home for dinner. Almost everything he eats is grown on the family owned farm. He presses his own olive oil, grows his vegetables and fruit and supplements this with a little meat and bread that is bought. The bread they prefer is the bread that is baked up in the hills in a small village called Piedmonte. Here they still use the wood fired oven.
Uncle Pippo with the wood fired bread
The view from the farm.
Zio Torido with an olive tree that he planted on the farm
While I was there I was lucky enough to attend the Festa di San leonardo a Mongiffi Melia. Which is the Festival of Saint Leonardo that takes place in Mascali a little town next to Fiumefreddo.
This happens once a year where they take the statue of Saint Leonardo out of the church and place him in a special gold chariot that is guided through the small village streets. People send there children up to the Statue with offerings of gold. The gold is taken by the priest and placed in a bag and then the children are allowed to touch or kiss the statue. This will give them special protection.
Everyone attends the occasion, even people from neighbouring villages. I was delighted to see teenagers taking part too. There are stalls selling food and drink, rides and fireworks. A special treat is served on the night. It is called Crispellis or Crispelleria. This is a special dough that has an anchovy or some ricotta in the middle and is deep fried in big containers of olive oil. Zio Pippo was kind enough to line up and buy some for us. I could have eaten them all.
While I haven’t had time to cook since I returned to Paris, I was lucky enough to find the recipe. If you would like to enjoy a real Sicilian treat, I have included it for you to try.
Recipe for Crispellis
2 cups very warm water
1 pound flour (or more to achieve desired consistency)
1 ounce yeast
1 ounce salt
1/2 ounce sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking power
1 can anchovies
2 cups oil, or enough to deep fry
Mix above ingredients except for the oil.
After the dough is made, let it rise for at least 45 minutes. You will have a very sticky dough that is hard to work with. For plain crispellis, you can scoop ping-pong ball sized dollops into hot oil.
For anchovy crispellis, take a handful of dough. Using lots of flour makes the job easier. Place an anchovy or two in the middle, wrap it in the dough to form a ball. Carefully drop into oil. You should have enough in the pan for the dough to float. Fry one side and then the other for a few minutes until they are a golden brown. Do not burn the oil.
Yields about 1 dozen.