It was a hot Summer's night and she sat outside with her sister... the sky was so deep and dark ... so many stars, so many sounds... familiar sounds of a past life filled the Italian night.
A sudden breeze brought the scent of waves and seaweed. As she closed her eyes, she smelt freesias... sweet scented freesias... that scent was there, again...
"Did you smell that?"- she asked her sister "Yes, I did... it's her scent!" Was she there with us? I don't know, but I felt love all around.
My mother smelt of freesias, her lips were as red as tulips and her eyes as silver as a deep lake. I liked to think that she had come to "visit."
She loved Spring. In Spring, our house was filled with the scent of almond blossom, tulips and freesias. When she opened the windows, every morning, a sea of multicoloured anemoni ran through the house, whilst the swallows sang a beautiful love song and I imagined ancient olive trees running towards the sea, as the wind bent and chased them. I knew it had done that for hundreds of years...
Our mother brought scent, beauty and colour in our lives... she brought sun, she brought life and love. She had a wonderful smile...
She loved Spring and blue skies, most of all. I believed my mother "was" Spring. We lived in the city, but our mother always brought us gifts which told stories about the sea and the countryside.
Spring didn't last very long, in Italy, as the weather suddenly got so hot, you went straight into Summer.
I knew it was Spring, as our house was filled not just with flowers, but also with lots of culinary "joys": silvery green artichokes, zucchine flowers, bright green peas still in the pod and... ricotta! When I say ricotta, I don't mean a tiny, little ricotta, but something which could weigh up to 1 kg! Beautiful, creamy, white, soft ricotta...
At Easter, we made "Pizza di Ricotta" a lattice pie, filled with a sweet filling of ricotta, egg, sugar, vanilla and lemon peel. We also had "ricotta fritta" slices of ricotta, dipped in flour, then beaten egg, just simply fried and dipped in lots of sugar (Spring delight, believe me!)
My mum made the loveliest soft biscuits, or were they cakes (?) using ricotta as one of the main ingredients. I found the recipe and decided to make the little cakes. This is how I made them:
a few drops of vanilla essence
Place your ricotta in a bowl and, with help of a fork, mix it, till it reaches a creamy consistency. Set aside.
Put the flour on a surface or a large pastry board, and make a well in the middle. Add your caster sugar, eggs lemon peel, vanilla, baking powder and carefully incorporate. If the mixture is too liquid, add more flour.
Your dough should be solid, but soft, at the same time. Cover the dough and leave to rest for half an hour. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, and wait...
Half an hour later...
Make your dough into a big cylinder shape, then start making your ciambelle. Cut the dough into slices, about 2 cm wide, roll each one into a thin "sausage" shape, join the two ends, to form a round "ciambella" (a circle) and... that's it... your first one is done! To make the cake look prettier, as it cooks, you can, like I did, make a few incisions into the dough, with a knife.
I managed to make eighteen ciambelline. In fact, I made ciambelline and a few knot shaped little cakes, by simply using the "sausage" to make a knot.
Each of my ciambelline and knots were dipped in some caster sugar I had set aside on a plate, and then placed on greaseproof paper, on a baking tray.
The cakes only took about twenty minutes to cook.
Once out of the oven, I let them cool down, then decided they would look prettier if I sifted some icing sugar all over them. And they did!