Friday, January 23, 2009

Lemon Delicious

Pockets of earth housed in the ancient walls of forgotten villas, bed lemon groves, abandoned to themselves in the heart of Positano.

Smells are so evocative. Oregano reminds me of my grand-mother. Herbal shampoo takes me back to our beach house in Australia. But basil and lemons are the smell of Positano.

The Amalfi Coast is Lemons.

One is inextricably linked to the other.

They do so well in the climate, that often there is a surplus notwithstanding the numerous creative uses that the locals have invented.

Granita (lemon ice) spikes iced teas on the beach, homemade (or not) volatile Limoncello is offered gratuitously at restaurants as a digestive after the meals, and rice, fish, pasta and desserts al limone abound.

Delizia al Limone is a typical dessert on the Coast of a sponge cake soaked in the liqueur then covered in a lemon cream.
Their images decorate plates, ceramics and house numbers; they share their names with hotels and houses in the area.
They are sold to tourists as an over sized novelty on road side stands and are recently even made into natural soaps by Saponissimo.

In our gardens, the lemon trees are trimmed and tied pergola style.

This way, the roots are shaded by the foliage, the lemons are within arms reach and they can be covered in winter by a strong net which protects them against the fierce Tramontana wind which can strip their leaves in a matter of hours.
The icy wind coming down the mountain, swirls along the walls and tunnels in stair wells creating havoc in our gardens which are particularly exposed to the elements but strangely enough, sparing those alongside the house or below us.

We planted a tree of a different variety for each of our children when they were born, and when they were young they delighted in picking the lemons off their tree and showing me proudly.

'Make Lemon Delicious Mum' would soon follow, if they didn't eat the lemon there and then !

Lemon Delicious is an old fashioned light self-saucing dessert pudding which I often make, but use untreated lemons if you don't have them in your garden.

Lemon Delicious

grated rind of 1 lemon
60g softened butter
3/4 cups of Castor sugar
3 eggs separated
3 tablespoons of sifted flour
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of milk
icing sugar for dusting

Cream butter sugar and lemon rind. Add egg yolks one at a time. Mix well. Add flour and mix in. Mix liquids together then stir in . Beat egg whites till stiff then fold into mixture.
Put into a shallow 4 cup oven dish. Set dish in a pan of boiling water (to come up halfway up the dish). Bake for 45minutes in a slow oven (170. F) or until the top is firm.
Dust with icing sugar then serve hot.

Serves 4 -6.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pearl of the Amalfi Coast ? Send us Obama !

There were two articles in Positano News today which made my hackles rise.

The first regards the state of the road that goes through the town of Positano.
Via Pasitea is the only road to wind its way down through the town and connects with the state road at both ends. It is a one way road.

Recently a water pipe was reported leaking half way down the hill, but attempts to repair it were only started yesterday. After the heavy rain during the night, the already soaked area under the road gave way and rocks and debris were washed in a land slide onto the connecting footpath and stairs which lead to Via Fornillo damaging the paths and the gardens below.

Now this shortcut between the road and Via Fornillo is my favourite path to take, as I prefer not to walk along the road laden with shopping bags. It was very lucky that no one was passing at that moment and that the ambulance normally parked in that spot, was elsewhere.

The Council has equally been ignoring our requests to repair and maintain the sewerage pipes alongside our house for years, doing only salutary patching which doesn't last the season. Puddles of dirty water have ruined retaining walls and killed centenary trees. Cracked brick work comes away from the garden and we need to plant canes to stop the soil from eroding completely. The house is sitting on a high land slide risk area of Positano. What will it take for them to react?

The second article was submitted by a local and deplored the state or rather non existence of postal delivery in Nocelle, Montepertuso and the top areas of Positano. The delegated postman has gone on holiday and no one thought to replace him. The new Director when confronted said that there was nothing he could do about it as it depended on the Maiori head office to send another ! Can you believe it?

The Positano News wondered how these things can happen in the Pearl of the Amalfi Coast. I think that that term Pearl needs to be rethought...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nocelle - The Sounds of Silence.

Are you sick of the cold ? Let me heat you up a touch.

It's high summer. I decide to go for a late afternoon trip to the village of Nocelle in the mountains above Positano, to catch the last rays of sun long after Positano sits in the shade.

The bus from Positano to Nocelle quickly fills with sticky bodies scantily clad in after-beach wear and after the main Mulini bus stop it is impossible to fit anyone else on. The bus driver begs anyone not going as far as Montepertuso to wait for the next bus, but very few people condescend to his requests.

It sets off immediately, winding along the sinewy bends, windows thrown open to let a minimum of fresh air in.

A Spanish couple standing crushed above my seat ask if the bus is stopping at Montepertuso in broken Italian. They want to dine at Donna Rosa where Jamie Oliver gave rave reviews. I'm sitting on the mountain side as the curves sweep past, and cannot tell how far we've gone as the mass of people in the bus block my view. It's hard to tell how far up the mountain you are just by looking at the battered cars sitting snugly in their roadside spot against the cliff. Some have been there a long time, the fact that they are covered in brambles a testimony.

Positano nestled in the shade

Finally we arrive at the bifurcation at Montepertuso which I was looking for, and I tell the Spanish couple to get off. Fortunately more than three quarters of the passengers gets off with them and we are less than a dozen to continue on to Nocelle.

Many years ago, my first excursion to Nocelle was in September. We had caught the bus to Montepertuso but for the rest of the way we had had to walk as the road didn't yet reach the tiny mountain town. I had gone with my then -to -be -husband on the romantic path above the mountain gorge.
I remember the welcome we had got at the village on our arrival, as many recognized him and the fritatta con cipolle which we had had at the only trattoria in the place with an incredible view. 'Bellonia' now gone, was the buxom lady who prepared the meal and she had a fearsome deep voice. If you wanted to eat anything else you had to order it beforehand otherwise it was just make do with what was available from her garden. We had taken the stairs down the mountain all the way to Positano in the early evening and I had fallen in love with the place.
Praiano in the distance
This time I arrived with some of my children but no husband in tow as he was meeting us later.
The reception was all together different. As soon as the locals has disappeared into their homes a heavy silence befell the village. We entered almost as if we were trespassing. I felt as if we should be on tiptoe so as not to disturb.

There was an elderly lady who had come to her door to inspect the newcomers arriving with the bus and she gave us a buona sera. On our way back, she was seated on a kitchen chair outside her front door on the lane with two others chatting. The rest of the place was deserted. The tiny piazza with its breathtaking views to rival Ravello and its shade tree was all for us. Even a whisper sounded too loud.

Eventually modern technology caught up with the silence and a deafening mechanical contraption for bringing goods up stairs broke the peace. A wife and husband made several trips up stairs from the device to their car, both equally laden with heavy boxes on their heads carrying the freshest vegetables I have ever seen in Positano straight from their garden.

A cross on the tip of the mountain
The mountains seem to churn out hard working people. 'Angelo' was our postman from Nocelle for many years. He would walk down along the 1700 proclaimed steps to Positano everyday from the mountain; do the rounds of Positano delivering mail on the endless staircases with a towel draped around his neck with which to wipe the sweat in the heat, then return home in the late afternoon to tend his garden. This was in the days when the road didn't reach the village !
We take the easy way back and wait for the bus, the sun still lingering on the mountain top.