Maeve Haran talks about the process of researching her latest book, An Italian Holiday on the Amalfi Coast, and shares a delicious Limoncello and Prosecco cocktail recipe inspired by her time there.
Last April I went to the gorgeous Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy to research my new novel An Italian Holiday. I invited my Italian-speaking friend, Vicki, to translate and we had an amazing time asking endless questions and finding the locals only too happy to answer them all. We both fell in love with the dramatic landscape, glorious weather and intoxicating scent of lemon blossom – known locally as la zagara.
An Italian Holiday is the story of four women – bossy Angela, extrovert Sylvie, unconfident Claire and mousy Monica - whose lives have stalled in different ways. They leave a depressing and wintry England and find themselves thrown together in a beautiful house in Italy where, despite their initial reluctance - if not outright hostility - gradually they thaw in the spring sunshine and end up helping each other as well as the local community.
One way they help out is by getting involved with growers of the famous Amalfi lemons. One of the characters, Claire, falls wildly in love with a lemon grower who is struggling not to go bankrupt. She has the lightbulb idea that he should use the Limoncello he produces to create a new cocktail which will sweep the hipster world like Aperol has! I was always amazed how quickly Aperol became popular – so why not base a cocktail on Limoncello?
So Claire (or rather I, as author) invented Cellono! The cocktail consists of Limoncello and Prosecco plus a mystery ingredient, as all Italian aperitifs like Martini, Cinzano, Campari and Aperol have a mystery ingredient.
And then I discovered the marvellously named Grains of Paradise. What are grains of paradise? Although they sound like something hallucinogenic I remember from the Sixties they’re actually seeds from Africa tasting of black pepper, ginger, cardamom and coriander with a hint of citrus aroma. Perfect for my cocktail. They even have a fascinating history in the UK. They were banned by George III because they were used for strengthening beer and he thought they were leading to his people getting addicted!
Nervously I mixed the Cellono for the first time. To my relief it was rather delicious. And it was the mystery ingredient that made it (you can buy Grains of Paradise here). So here’s the recipe for Cellono, my Limoncello and Prosecco cocktail so that you can try it yourself:
50 ml Limoncello
250 ml Prosecco
Pinch of ground Grains of Paradise