Cooking with Fiora: Sicilian Demo Cooking Ortigia, Sicily
One of my favorite ways to get a taste for the local food & culture when I travel is to explore the local market and take a cooking class.
When I was planning our trip to Ortygia (Ortigia in Italian), I knew I wanted to stay close to the infamous outdoor market and I really wanted to take a cooking class and learn about the food in this corner of Sicily. Through a friend in Milan, I discovered Sicilian Demo Cooking, run by a wonderful local woman named Fiora. She is passionate about sharing her town, home and the unique cuisine of Siracusa.
Fiora has crafted her classes by combining a trip to the market with cooking and learning about local dishes in her kitchen. How perfect is that?
And so on our first full day in Ortigia, Abby and I met Fiora and her other guests, a family of 3 also on holiday at a local bar across from the temple of Apollo in the heart of the historic center of Siracusa. Fiora was warm and welcoming and after having a quick espresso together, she invited us to walk across the road to the market.
Fiora led us past the ancient ruins and into the bustling market. We followed and chatted as she talked to the vendors that knew her by name. We wove in and out of shops, to colorful stands to pick out produce and into see her favorite fish vendor to choose what was fresh that day. My favorite shop was Fratelli Burgio- bursting at the seams with fresh meats, cheeses, bread, wine and beautiful little jars of jams and condiments. It was glorious!
Fiora had a rough idea of the menu she wanted to make with us, but nothing is fully decided until she sees what is fresh and looks best that day. The cuisine of Siracusa is unique and so delicious. It has Greek Arab, French, Spanish, and of course Italian influences. I could have stayed at the market for hours. (Luckily the apartment we were based in for the week was just a 3 minute walk and so we returned every day to soak up the sights, sounds and beauty of this place.)
After our shopping was done, we walked a few blocks to her home and got ready get our hands messy. We learned how to make Fiora’s ravioli, with 2 sauces. One of cuttlefish, and the other, a simple and always classic butter and sage. Something new to me was involtini di Pesce with a stuffing of breadcrumbs, herbs, and citrus- we loved it! Fiora taught us how to clean and cut an artichoke and we made crispy fried artichokes for a starter, hot, crisp and perfectly salty bites. I mentioned to her that I have been loving a raw artichoke and parmigiano reggiano salad I’ve had in Milan and she proceeded to make it for us. What a treat!
This was a huge highlight of our trip. We ate like kings our whole Sicilian trip, but this was such a special day. I learned so much and really loved experiencing the market with Fiora and seeing it through her eyes! We have been making several of her recipes, especially her version of fennel & orange salad, which has red onion and jalapeño peppers in it- a perfect addition to this famous Sicilian salad.
A huge thank you to Fiora for being so generous with your knowledge and time. I would return in a heartbeat and highly recommend spending a few hours with Sicilian Demo Cooking!
You can find out more about taking a class from Fiora at her website: www.siciliandemocooking.com