The abbey of San Vincenzo in Molise was founded in 703 A.D. by Paldo, Taso and Tato, three monks from Benevento. They built San Vincenzo on the ruins of a 5th-century Roman oratory dedicated to St. Vincent and within a hundred years the abbey was one of the largest in Europe and had established itself as an important spiritual and intellectual centre.
Today, Mother Miriam admits she is glad she was unaware of the enormity of the mission she had accepted as she is sure she would have felt unequal to the challenges that awaited her. Thankfully for San Vincenzo, however, Mother Miriam and her fellow nuns went on to work veritable miracles at the abbey, restoring the physical structure and giving new life to the 1500 year old philosophy of St. Benedict, ora et labora – pray and work.
In respect for the abbey’s original function as a haven for pilgrims and in order to foster a strong sense of community, the nuns also offer the possibility of visiting San Vincenzo as a guest, where you can work alongside the abbey’s occupants, perhaps offering assistance during busy periods such as the olive harvest in late November.
You can also follow some of the creative courses held throughout the year, sharing food with the nuns and other guests and taking pleasure in an experience that unites creativity and spiritual development.
But in the meantime, enjoy a taste of the monastery in your own home with Mother Miriam’s traditional Easter Menu offered with sincere wishes for a peaceful and loving Easter.
When Mother Miriam and Mother Agnes ﬁrst arrived at San Vincenzo, they were determined to eat what locals ate for Easter. And when a farmer offered them fresh eggs to make the traditional frittata, they thought that meant simple fried eggs. They soon learned the difference!
(for four to six people)
1small onion, finely chopped; 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil;
6eggs; salt and freshly ground black pepper;
50 g Parmesan cheese, grated; a few chopped herbs of choice (parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives etc.); 75 g prosciutto crudo, cut into pieces.
Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a thick-based frying pan and cook onion for 5 – 10 minutes over a medium heat or until it becomes transparent. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs together in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Beat in the Parmesan cheese and the herbs and add the chopped prosciutto.Stir onions into the egg mixture. In the same frying pan, heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and pour in the egg mixture. Cook over a medium heat until the frittata seems cooked round the sides and on the bottom.
To ﬁnish cooking, pop under a hot grill until the frittata has puffed up and is golden brown on top. Serve immediately.
Grilled lamb with rosemary
Instead of oven-roasting her lamb, Mother Miriam roasts it over an open grill or barbeque. Keep the embers burning low and turn the lamb often.
(for four to six people)
1leg of lamb, approx. 2kg; juice of one large lemon;
extra-virgin olive oil; bunch fresh rosemary;
8 – 10 large cloves garlic; salt and black pepper.
Two or three days before you intend to cook the lamb, mix the lemon juice with an equal quantity of olive oil.
Place the leg of lamb in deep container and rub with the oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and throw in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and two or three cloves of garlic cut in half. Cover, place in refrigerator and turn a few times each day to ensure all of lamb comes in contact with marinade.
On the day you want to cook lamb, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Make deep slits all over the surface of the meat where you will insert quartered cloves of garlic and small pieces of rosemary.
Season once more with salt and pepper. Prepare grill or barbeque so it gives off a low, constant heat and place leg of lamb on a medium rack above heat. Turn lamb regularly to ensure it cooks evenly and after an hour or so begin to test to see if meat is done. Be careful not to overcook as spring lamb is at its best done pink. Serve with parmesan roast potatoes.
Steamed persimmon pudding
This dessert has become somewhat of an institution at San Vincenzo at Easter time and Mother Miriam carries it to the table after ﬂambéing it with whisky.
(for four people)
4 ripe soft persimmons; 175 g self-raising flour;
75 g butter; 75 g dark brown sugar;
2 eggs; 2 tbsp cold milk;
1/2 tsp vanilla essence; 4 tbsp whisky (optional); single cream for serving.
Thoroughly butter a 1.5-litre pudding bowl. Remove persimmon ﬂesh from the skin, and discard stones. Puree the ﬂesh and place to one side. Sieve ﬂour into a large bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Mix in the sugar.
Beat together the eggs, milk and vanilla essence and stir into the ﬂour mixture using a fork. Stir in half of the persimmon purée. Spoon the other half of the purée into the buttered pudding bowl and spoon the cake mixture over the top.
At this point you can either steam the pudding in the traditional way by sealing the pudding dish and steaming in a pan of simmering water. Or you can pop it in the microwave, uncovered, for 7 minutes on full until pudding has risen up to the top of the bowl and starts to come away from the sides.
Leave pudding to stand for three minutes, then serve with cream and a little extra persimmon purée if desired. Braver souls can douse the pudding with whisky while still hot and ﬂambé just before serving.