Living life on the veg

With the rise of climate change awareness and plant-based diets, it’s time to talk eco-friendly cooking. I decided to have a look at my own recipes that I teach during A Day Cooking with the Duchess. So much of what we already do is naturally vegetarian or even vegan.

Preparation of the Pesto alla Trapanese – This and the following photos are courtesy of Paolo Araldi

Take Panelle for example, Sicily’s famous fried chickpea fritters as a finger-food starter, Aubergine Rolls or Croquettes. Then, Busiate with Pesto alla Trapanese (blanched almonds, tomatoes and basil), or Ruvidelli with Sun-Dried Cherry Tomato and Almond and Pistachio Pesto. Among the side dishes, everyone favours our Potato Salad with Tomatoes and Capers (Pantelleria Style) and Orange Fennel and Black Olive Salad.

And for dessert, Strawberry and Blood Orange Jelly or Jasmine Infused Watermelon Pudding, the famous Gelo di Mellone (with dark chocolate chips to replicate the seeds!)… the list of possibilities goes on and on! And of course, it goes without saying we use only the best organic, first cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil, the wonderful Monsu, that my guests can buy during my cooking classes.

One of our favourites for cooking classes when there is a mix of vegans and pescatarians is our Swordfish alla Ghiotta. This is made from onion, celery, garlic, parsley, tomatoes, green olives and capers. It’s a famous recipe from the town of Messina – and the perfect solution! Since the swordfish must only be added at the end, we cater to both because the sauce alone is a delicious dish, therefore everyone is happy! 

Food intolerances & preferences

We always cater to all food intolerances offering celiac-friendly and gluten-free pasta and bread and food preferences. In reality though, the Sicilian diet is mostly pescatarian anyway! Saying that however, spleen sandwiches (the infamous pani ca’meusa) are a Sicilian street food favourite… but I think many of those who don’t follow a plant-based diet would even be giving that one a miss! I myself am one of those – over my dead body!

Whatever you choose to eat, island-life Mediterranean cuisine really does offer all the goods. If you are an especially environmentally-conscious traveller, Sicily is the place for you… Why’s that?

Sustainable living

Well, it’s easy to live sustainably in Sicily. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or just health-conscious, this Italian slice of paradise really takes the cake.

The preparation of our Panelle Photos courtesy of Paolo Araldi

Naturally our food is locally sourced and seasonal with the belief that ‘fresh is best’. This has been ingrained into our culture and culinary-conscience from a young age. Sicily especially boasts extraordinary delicacies, from the ‘green emerald of Bronte’ pistachios to the clear crystal-like candied squash, zuccata, for instance. Both of which are treasured ingredients that we use as toppings on our accidentally-vegan almond-milk Biancomangiare pudding.

Of course, we make our own almond milk from the best Sicilian almonds. It’s always such great fun to prepare it and to see the white ‘milky’ liquid strain from a cheesecloth. All it takes to make the Biancomangiare is our almond milk cooked with sugar and cornstarch and decorated with pistachios, almonds, zuccata and the celebrated Modica chocolate which is completely dairy-free and vegan friendly. After that, the final touch is the heavenly-scented jasmine plucked fresh from our terrace garden that very morning, together at the beginning of my cooking class. 

Market tours in Sicily

All the best of the fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, fish, herbs and spices can be bought from the nearby markets. One of the most well known in Palermo is La Vucciria, which is just a short walk away from Butera 28 Apartments. With A Day Cooking with the Duchess, I personally take you on a guided tour of the king of all Sicilian food markets, Il Capo across town, or La Vucciria, closer to home. Bread is a staple of Sicilian culinary culture. We always choose bread made from ancient grains like Tumminia or the delicious olive wood-fire, oven-baked pane di Monreale. This is from the nearby town of Monreale, where you can find the spectacular architectural masterpiece of Arab-Norman art, il Duomo di Monreale. Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog about this!

Non-dairy milk alternatives

Even more near to home is where you can buy your non-dairy milk alternatives, at the Carrefour supermarket. This is just a few minutes walk away from your apartment. You’ll find this by turning right as you leave Butera 28 Apartments, take the first left, which will lead you to Piazza Marina. After that, walk toward the oldest tree in Palermo – a magnificent banyan tree, with roots reaching for the earth – you can’t miss it. Continue across the piazza. In the far left corner you’ll see the entrance to Carrefour (or just click here for directions). You can find everything from oat, almond, soya or just lacto-free milk

Or of course, you can go to the many health and organic food shops! The best that are closest to Butera 28 Apartments are Orlando (click here for directions), selling Sicilian organic produce mainly from their farm. Similarly, Ecologica (directions here) which is essentially a mini health food supermarket also with organic produce, both local and exotic! In addition, I highly recommend that you visit my beloved herbal store Erboristeria Arrivas (directions here). They offer sustainable, biological food and all different kinds of herbs, natural medicines and eco-friendly cosmetics.

And of course, more and more restaurants in Palermo offer menus with non-dairy, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free alternatives. Even dairy-free pizzas can be found very easily!

Although there has been a recent trend in becoming more and more food and health-conscious, I can boast that even long before I started my cooking classes, I have always paid the greatest attention to choosing healthy food.

This is bigger than making food choices though, this is my lifestyle. I take pride in enjoying, cooking and sharing the greatest and freshest seasonal food and of course, I always accommodate any of my guests’ dietary requests.

This is simply my philosophy.

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