Last September after the art course in Stromboli Island ended, myself and a friend took the ferry to Sicily and by train we slowly made our way to the most southern part of that region to visit the towns of Noto, Scicli and Ragusa-Ibla built in the 17th and 18th centuries following the massive earthquake in 1693.
These towns are known for their very typical architectural style known as Sicilian Baroque marked by curves and flourishes, grinning masks and putti and a particular flamboyance that has given Sicily a unique architectural identity. It was a feast for the eye.
As the trains were getting slower and the timetable less reliable we duly eased into Sicilian time and went with the flow.
We had some truly memorable moments made precious by the Sicilians’ warm welcome which had its high points at breakfast time. In all the B&Bs we stayed we were served magnificent food (and great conversation) where almond cakes and fresh ricotta cheese sprinkled with ground pistacchio nuts were the staple ingredients.
Friend Barbara having breakfast in Scicli.
Over the winter I have been scouring the internet looking for recipes that would combine those ingredient and remind myself of the taste of the summer.
Ricotta, almond and lemon cake.
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250 g caster sugar
6 organic eggs, separated
250 g almonds, roasted then ground
75 g self-raising flour
1 pinch of salt finely grated
zest of 5 organic lemons and juice of 4 organic lemons
400 g fresh ricotta
Preheat the oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4).
Butter a 25 cm round springform cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until very light and fluffy. With the motor running, add the egg yolks, one at a time, until all are incorporated.
Combine the ground almonds with the flour, salt and lemon zest. Fold into the batter. Whisk the lemon juice with the ricotta until light and airy. Fold into the cake batter.
Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold them carefully into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer into the cake. It should come out clean when cooked through.
Remove the cake from the oven and turn it out onto a cake rack to cool. It will remain nice and moist for a few days. Traditionally this delicious dessert or afternoon tea cake is served with a glass of Marsala (Sicilian dessert wine).
Recipe from Four Seasons by Manuela Darling-Gansser. Published by Hardie Grant Books.
Below: Still Life With Bowls of Citrons by Giovanna Garzoni (1600-1670). Tempera on vellum.