October 1998

Topsham, Devon and Alicudi, Sicily October 20, 1998 Is summer really over? I guess so since the clocks go back this weekend, officially signalling the end of BST (British Summer Time) and the onset of days that shrink to pitiful brevity (by December it is sometimes dark here by 4 pm). But in fact, we've actually enjoyed some of the best weather of the year in recent days and weeks: last night for example it was almost balmy for our regular Monday tennis four while by contrast on some summer evenings earlier in the year we struggled against lashing rain, near gale force winds and shivering temperatures. The world's climate, they say, is being turned on its head. So why don't we kid ourselves for a few days longer at least by preparing this classic and delicious summer Italian favourite, the scent of lemon like a breath of warm wind carried to us by Aeolus, god of winds.

Spaghetti al limone

This dish reminds me of our time in Alicudi a few years ago, balmy evenings enjoying simple foods from Elda's terrace, overlooking the church below and across the sea to the pale outlines of the neighbouring islands of Filicudi, Salina, and sometimes even Stromboli. The lemons we'd use would be picked fresh from local trees. Here in Topsham, we may not have that luxury -- seek instead to find organic unwaxed lemons that have, well, quite simply a more lemony intensity -- but the view across the wide stretches of the Exe estuary and Exminster marshes to the Haldon Hills is no less stunning.

1 lb spaghetti

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled but left whole

1 whole dried peperoncino

1/2 bottle dry white Italian wine (preferably Sicilian)

3 unwaxed lemons, juice and zest

Handful of freshly and finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

Meanwhile, in a wok, heat the olive oil over a moderate flame. Add the whole garlic clove and the whole peperoncino, and sauté briefly for five minutes of so, until the garlic just begins to take on colour and the chili to release its oils. Remove and discard. Add the white wine to the flavoured olive oil, and reduce by half over a brisk flame. Reduce the heat, add the lemon juice and about half the lemon zest. Keep the sauce at a bare simmer.

Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and toss in the wok, together with the remaining lemon zest and finely chopped parsley; season with salt and plenty of coarsely ground black pepper. Serve at once.

Wine suggestion: A fresh, zesty white from Sicily, such as Rapitalà, Settesoli or Corvo Bianco goes well with this dish. Alternatively, serve with Frascati or Verdicchio, but always ensure that you choose an example from the most recent vintage.

Copyright © Marc Millon 2000


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Copyright © Marc and Kim Millon 2000