Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Denis Island - Marooned in paradise

No shoes, no keys, no phones - no worries. Leave the outside world behind on this tranquil private island, accessible only by light aircraft and just a 30-minute flight from Mahe. A small coral dot in the Indian Ocean, Denis is swathed in tropical vegetation and ringed by pristine beaches.

Originally a pirates' lair, Denis' secret treasure hoards are still to be discovered on its 375 acres. The island's real riches, however, are its natural delights: giant tortoises, rare bird species and colourful marine life. Few places in the world offer richer rewards underwater and Denis Island is a mecca for both sports fishermen and scuba-divers.

Heavenly surroundings are complemented by Denis Island Lodge's wonderful hospitality, fine cuisine and luxurious cottage accommodation. It's the perfect choice for discerning castaways. So if you want to be marooned in paradise, simply choose your Man Friday and... go.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Melanzane alla parmigiana (Aubergine and tomato bake)

This isn't the quickest dish to prepare, but it tastes amazing.


450g (1lb) of aubergines
1 large onion
olive oil
sunflower oil to fry the aubergine slices
2 garlic cloves
2 x 400g (14oz) cans plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
glass of red wine
225g (8oz) mozzarella cheese cut into 6mm slices
50g (2oz) grated Parmasan

Slice the aubergines into thin circles about ½ cm thick. Salt and leave to drain in a colander for ½ an hour.

In the meantime make a tomato sauce. Peel and chop the onion and peel and crush the garlic. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the onion, adding the garlic about 5 minutes later. Fry for a few more minutes, then add the tomatoes and their juice, the red wine and oregano. Break the tomatoes up a bit with the wooden spoon. Cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes. The sauce should reduce a fair bit so it is nice and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Fry the aubergine circles in batches in the sunflower oil. Make sure the oil is hot otherwise the aubergine will soak it all up. When each batch is finished, drain on kitchen paper to remove the excess oil.

Put a layer of aubergines on the bottom of a lasagne dish, cover with some of the tomato sauce and then with sliced mozzarella. Continue until you have finished all the ingredients (you can usually do about 3 layers). Finish by sprinkling the grated parmesan on top.

Bake in a hot oven (220C, 425F, Gas mark 7) for 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden and the mixture is bubbling.

Serve with fresh bread and a green salad.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Loving words from a Grandmother

One thing I’ve always loved about Italy is the attitude towards children. You can take them anywhere and everyone seems to adore kids.

But slowly, as my Italian has improved, I’ve realised that this isn’t always the case. Take, for example, the scene I witnessed on the beach yesterday. A Mother was with her two daughters and their Grandmother. I’m guessing the girls were about one and six. Mum was in the sea with her two daughters, holding the one year old whilst the six year old was floating on an inflatable of some sort.

So the baby’s had enough and it’s time for her to get out of the water. Instead of the Grandmother wading into the sea to collect the tot, she waits on the shore with a towel whilst Mum brings her over, leaving the other daughter on the inflatable alone in the sea. The girl on the inflatable gets scared. “Mum” she cries “come back”. Her Mother says “I’m coming, I’m coming. Wait a minute”. The Grandmothers’ response to her Granddaughters’ pleas? “Stai zitto stronsa”, (shut up you piece of shit). Yeah – everyone loves children here.