My life in Puglia back in the 80’s

Grottaglie, Taranto.

Prior to arriving in Italy, I was holidaying in the south of France, I met  my Italian boyfriend ‘colpo di fulmine’, lovestruck, I decided to stay with him instead of returning home with my school friends, I was 17 years old ! My father sent Interpol to find me,  he came looking for me too. Eventually in October 1971 I was deported from France and sent back to UK, my boyfriend was not allowed into UK as my father wouldn’t guarantee for him, so, as soon as I got my passport back from Interpol, I got on the 1st train back to France and joined my boyfriend. In hindsight I regret causing so much distress to my parents.

I arrived  in Grottaglie winter 1971, a very young and naive young girl who had fallen in love with  an Italian boy from Puglia. For a year I lived with my mother in law who earned a living giving injections to the sick, everyone called her a ‘nurse’, she would spend a few hours at the doctors surgery every afternoon then every morning she would be out and about (walking miles) around Grottaglie (Taranto) , visiting  the sick who had been recommended  a course of injections by their Doctor.  I very rarely accompanied her, she said it distracted her clients and prolonged her day as they were curious to know who I was, where I came from, was I going to marry her son etc? That year I made a concerted effort to learn Italian, both written and spoken. I spent hours translating magazines and writing love letters to my boyfriend who had left to do his compulsory military service. Italy had mandatory military service, for men only, until 31 December 2004.

Not many women worked in Puglia back in the 80’s if they did they were teachers, nurses or part of a family business. My in-laws wouldn’t allow me to go out on my own, so I would go out with my sister in law.  You’re probably wondering  why on earth did I remain there? I wanted to return to the vibrant city of London where my family and friends were, but my Italian boyfriend said “if you leave me then don’t come back”, on the other hand my father said “once you return to UK you are NOT going back to Italy” in between a rock and a hard place my heart ruled my head and I stayed in Puglia, eventually  getting married June 1972. My father and 4 brothers did not come to the wedding and obviously didn’t approve.

Life in Puglia was the opposite to the life I had  in London. In UK we lived in a huge house with central heating (I mention this as there wasn’t any heating at my MIL’s place) enjoyed horse riding, ice skating, tennis and my own bedroom.  My mother drove a car and I had lots of friends, I appreciate  I’d had a privileged upbringing.  Thinking back to those years I believe I stayed in Puglia because my father was adamant I shouldn’t…I was at an age when being ‘ordered to return home’ was not what I wanted to hear.

To be continued…..





Tiramisu = lift me up!


Tiramisu, a well known Italian classic dessert, however, it only dates back to the 1960’s, most likely from northern Italy. There aren’t many dessert recipes originating from Puglia, as cakes and desserts were only available for special occasions. The locals eat fresh seasonal fruit,  dried figs and almonds for their dessert, certainly a much healthier option, although every now and they do indulge!

The Tiramisu I make here at Villa Magnolia is always alcohol enriched. Villa Magnolia is an adult only luxury B&B, so I’m not worried about the alcohol content of my tiramisu, although if requested I  am happy to make alcohol & nut free versions too.   I make tiramisu with my  homemade Coffee liqueur (like Kahlua), or Amaretto, I also like to vary the topping, sometimes cocoa powder,  grated dark chocolate or roasted almond slivers.

Come and stay at, maybe you’ll get a chance to taste my tiramisu!







Slow food


The opposite of Fast Food. The definition of slow food, food that is produced or prepared in accordance with local culinary traditions, typically using high-quality locally sourced ingredients. Follow the slow food movement on twitter

Slow Food means living an unhurried life, taking time to enjoy simple pleasures, starting at the table. The Slow Food founder  is Carlo Petrini from  Piedmont Italy.  It has since spread worldwide.  It strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.

Puglia is one of the best destinations in Italy for slow food and wine lovers.  Visit Puglia, join our 4 day food and wine extravaganza in *June or  September you will have the unique chance to sample several Slow Food Presidia products – high-quality, traditional foods at the risk of ‘extinction’  and other local delicacies from quality producers. Alongside tasting wonderful produce, discover a region of overwhelming beauty and history.

Dates: June 7th to 11th or September 8th to 12th 2016
Book soon as places are now limited!
Price pp 580 euro.  Suitable for couples. Accommodation, all food and plenty of wine as listed below included!

1) Arrival, light lunch, aperitivo. ( a few hours free time to sunbathe, tour the area) . Hands on cooking class in the chef’s kitchen, 4 course dinner with wine pairing.

2) Breakfast, a visit to a wine cantina, wine tasting and lunch with wine pairing. Afternoon: Limoncello making class ( free evening to discover the area, choose a local restaurant)

3)Breakfast, Tour to a local cheesemaker to learn how to make mozzarella, burrata etc. ( a few hours free in the afternoon) Fun packed Pizza making evening 3 course dinner (wines included).

4)Breakfast,  ( free morning to explore or chill out by the pool),  afternoon Bruschetta served al fresco with Prosecco, watch a show by the pool at Villa Magnolia of traditional Pizzica dancers!  Followed by an amazing organic dinner at a Masseria, 8 courses with wine pairings.















The importance of probiotics.


When sourcing food to serve our guests,  we pay particular attention to the quality of yoghurt offered at breakfast time. All yoghurts served here at Villa Magnolia have natural beneficial probiotics.

Yoghurt is a cultured or fermented milk product that is soured and thickened by adding specific lactic acid-producing cultures to milk. The basic cultures or probiotics used to make yoghurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Additional probiotics are often added. There’s a difference between the plain yoghurts and the fruit flavours you see on shelves, though. Many of these are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners.  We look for options without artificial sweeteners like aspartame or added sugars like high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar. We also make sure there is less than 12 grams of sugar per container.

To combat allergens, dust mites and disinfect the bedrooms and soft furnishings at Villa Magnolia we use Probiotics. We purchase our probiotic products from * (Chrisal) the founder of the company  is from Holland, we had the pleasure of meeting him a few years ago when he stayed here at Villa Magnolia for a week.  Bi-Safe is a range of cleaning and care products for the body and household use which are based on probiotics (good bacteria)and contain no bactericidal chemicals. Disinfectants attack microbes makes them defend themselves and become aggressive and resistant. when this happens the disinfectant to not work anymore.

By using Bi-Safe the microbes (human unfriendly bacteria) are overwhelmed with population of good bacteria which causes them to stop multiplying. This is a natural phenomenon that occurs when a smaller population of bacteria and even animals, face an unequal struggle for resources, causing them to stop multiplying. There is not enough food for their offspring, and the population of microbes is reduced to a number which is no longer harmful to humans. The microbes are not directly attacked, because that is not necessary, since they spontaneously cease multiply. The probiotic bacteria control the environment and microbes become less aggressive.

*The University Hospital of Ferrara, Italy has decided after thorough testing to use only the industrial variant of Bi-Safe (also developed by Chrisal) for the entire hygiene of the hospital!


Pizza making in Puglia

Once a week here at Villa Magnolia we fire up our pizza oven, guests have the opportunity to make their own pizzas, its a fun packed event! I have been making pizza dough for many years, the following recipe is the fastest and easiest, however personally I prefer the slow rise pizza dough ( I will post the recipe soon), let’s start with this  easy recipe.

My easy Pizza Dough Recipe, makes 4 personal sized pizzas.

Prep Time: 3 hrs


4  Cups of plain flour
1 ½ Cups Water (approximate)
1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Active Dry Yeast + a teaspoon of sugar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil


Mix some of the water  (half a glass) with the yeast, sugar, leave to react for a minute or so, when bubbles have formed then mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough.
Let rest for 10 minutes, then knead  (I always prefer  by hand)  for 7 to 8 minutes until smooth.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover  and allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at room temperature  until the dough doubles in size.
Punch the dough  and divide it into 4 equal sized balls.
Cover the balls of dough and let rest 60 minutes then shape.
To shape your pizza take a ball of dough and press into a disc shape.
Lightly flour top and bottom  with Farina di Semola (durum wheat flour)/cornmeal and gently press and pull the dough with your finger tips, turning it often to create a 10 inch circle, if you feel confident  throw your pizza dough in the air, be careful not to catch with your fingertips…use the back of your hand instead. Finally  top with your choice of ingredients.

The best pizzas are baked in a wood fired Pizza oven, if you would like to experience making your own pizza  then contact us

Turning point for wines of Puglia!

DSC00090.JPG                                                                                                           Puglia’s rich soils are abundantly arable and the region has long since been a primary source of produce for the rest of Europe, 50 years ago all of Puglia’s wine towns were near a train station, so the bulk wine in tanks could be shipped north. This has changed and quality is on the up, the past 10 years has seen a rise of outside investments, particularly from northern Italy.  Producers are upgrading and investing in vineyards and winery infrastructure, embracing new technologies and techniques.

Puglia’s indigenous varieties (led by the reds), to name a few are  Negroamaro, Primitivo, Susumaniello  these grapes are well adapted to the area and produce signature wines in talented hands. Sunny days ripen the grapes, while the largely clay based soil retain enough moisture for the sun soaked vines, wind promotes dry healthy conditions.

Puglia has enormous potential, tradition is a dynamic concept, a priceless asset! Another reason to visit Puglia, come and discover the food and wines of this region.


Ciceri e Tria (pasta and chickpeas)


Ciceri e Tria, is a traditional dish in Puglia, although the origins are Arabian. The finishing touches of flavour and texture come from frying some of the pasta and adding to the mixture of pasta with chick peas.

Ingredients for 4: – 200 gr Farina di Semola (durum wheat flour) 300 gr chickpeas, 1 carrot, 1 stick of celery, 1 garlic clove, 1 onion, 3 tomatoes or some tomato sauce, a little rosemary, EV olive oil, salt.

      Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl of water  and leave to soak overnight. The next day drain and rinse the chickpeas, place in a saucepan with the vegetables and enough water to make a watery soup. Cook on low heat, until chick peas are soft. Towards the end of cooking time remove the garlic and celery  ( or mince them with a fork and leave in),  add some salt.

      Meanwhile make the fresh pasta with the flour, water and a pinch of salt. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes then roll out the dough until its thin, cut into tagliatelle shape.  Fry one third of the tagliatelle in oil, when they are golden, drain and add a pinch of salt. The remaining pasta should be cooked with the chickpeas, serve the pasta and chickpeas with a handful of the fried pasta on top and add a drizzle of olive oil.  Some like to add grated cheese.  

Wine pairing with ‘ciceri e tria’.  A Vino Rosato Pugliese eg;  IGT Susumaniello Rosato ‘Tre Tomoli Rosa’ 2013’ dell’azienda Vigna Flora di Castellana Grotte (Bari), has won the gold medal for the  excellent producion of organic wines here in Puglia.