Thursday, 20 December 2012

Turkey and Chickpeas

Turkey is a wonderful country with a diverse range of activities to undertake when visiting and a rich and interesting culture. Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, is commonly thought to be the place where East meets West and my trips to this mesmerising country have always been full of flavour and interest.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Travelling Foodies - Gift Ideas

Christmas is a good time to shower friends and family with gifts for travel, or food, or even better a combination of the two. Here are some of the best for 2012:

Saturday, 1 December 2012

San Martino food markets in Italy

On Sunday the 11th November I was in Grottammare, Italy for the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours. The rain was pouring and it was sadly a rather disappointing anti-climax to a weekend of celebrations.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Tomatoes, coriander and jalapeños - Hispanic Style

After my post about wild asparagus one of my readers pointed out that not everyone is lucky enough to be in and around the countryside, they are limited to what they grow on their balconies.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Edinburgh Castle and the Haggis


Edinburgh Castle
Author: Kim Traynor
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
My first trip to Scotland (without a camera, what was I thinking?) was on a work's networking do. Edinburgh was the port of call and the granite city provided me with all the  things I love - history, culture and good food.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

England - Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.


I travelled among unknown men,
 In lands beyond the sea:
Nor England! Did I know till then
What Love I bore to thee.

William Wordsworth

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Wales and Lamb Stew

Brecon Beacons
Attribution: Foto: Heinz-Josef Lücking, Lizenz: Creative Commons by-sa-3.0 de

When I asked people what they thought of when I said 'Wales', they generally came back with 'rugby', 'male voice choir', 'red dragon' and 'Tom Jones' (he's still got it, the old goat!).

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Champ of Ireland

This file is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA.
NASA copyright policy states that "NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted".
(See Template:PD-USGov, NASA copyright policy page or JPL Image Use Policy.)

There is so much to the small island of Ireland that it is hard to know where to start, and almost impossible to finish telling.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Worth the Trip? Bray and its Three Michelin Stars


Three Michelin stars - in Michelin's red book for restaurants and hotels this means that the restaurant offers "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey" - is something that many restaurants aspire to.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

British Cheese

Get the poster and support British Cheese Week
http://www.thecheeseweb.com/cheese-awards/british-cheese-week

Oh my word, without even realising it I am in the middle of British Cheese Week and I have not mentioned anything about Britain or cheese! As I tuck into my Cheddar and Red Leicester sandwich I shall rectify this immediately.

From the moment I started eating cheese I was hooked. I began as I imagine most British children do with the hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Red Leicester, Gloucestershire etc. before progressing to the more grown up cheeses (after I got over the 'I don't eat anything with mould or bits in it' phase) of Stilton, Stinking Bishop, Yarg and Y Fenni amongst others.

I was a little unpatriotic in my cheese eating at one point, preferring French Brie and Camembert, Italian Gorgonzola and DolceLatte and the Dutch waxed cheeses of Edam and Gouda to anything British. I was rescued from this sorry state of affairs by the cheese man in High Wycombe market. He had such an array of British cheeses, of which I would taste and take away a couple each week (whilst the cheeseman made sure that 'Wallace and Gromit' as he called them, my erstwhile husband and dog, had a little nibble as as well) that I took a far more balanced approach to my cheese consumption. I now mix my intake between British and continental cheeses but as this is BRITISH CHEESE WEEK I shall share some of my favourite British cheeses with you.

Cheddar

Versatile and the staple of many a sandwich you cannot say anything bad about Cheddar. I like the strong, crumbly versions to be eaten on their own or snuggled up next to a pickled onion but the less crumbly, milder types are good for the cheese and pickle sandwich unwrapped from its clingfilm or foil on a windswept beach on England's south coast.

Y Fenni

This was one that the High Wycombe cheeseman can take credit for introducing me to. The mustard seeds and ale add a lovely zing to the cheddar base. I have this with a sweet cracker or biscuit and a glass of red wine. Perfect.
Author: Dave Crosby
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Yarg

When I moved to North Devon just a few miles from the Cornish border I found in my village shop a cheese called Yarg wrapped in nettle leaves. I think I ate the whole shop stock in a couple of weeks. This cheese gives me several cheeses in one - the edible mouldy rind; the soft creamy cheese just under the rind, and the crumbly texture in the centre. It's only made in one place, Lynher Dairies in Cornwall. There is also a Wild Garlic Yarg which I have yet to try but have just made a mental note to order.
Wild Garlic Yarg
Author: Tristen Ferne
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Lanark Blue

A blue sheep's cheese and every time I have eaten it, it has tasted slightly different. This I am told is because the ewe's milk is affected by seasonal changes to their diet. I like the idea that the taste is so closely related to its source. Lanark Blue is made in Scotland at Braehead of Walston Farm.

These are just a few of my favourite British cheeses and I haven't even touched on Irish cheeses or goats cheeses. There is so much variety in flavour, texture and technique available in the British Isles that I fear I may not have time enough to taste them all...but I am going to have a bloody good go!

For all things cheese related  and to find out more about British Cheese Week go to www.thecheeseweb.com


P.S. On the theme of Britain my next four posts will be about dishes from the British Isles and Ireland with some rather tasty recipes.

Durban, South Africa - Biltong

Durban's Golden Mile


On South Africa’s east coast sits Durban, the largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. A busy port it is one of the most ethincally and culturally diverse cities of South Africa. Zulus are the largest ethnic group, with large numbers of Indians and white English and Afrikaans speakers also making Durban their home. This diversity of heritage is shown in the food that is available in this vibrant city.
Durban City Hall

With friends living in Durban I have been lucky enough to visit the city on several occasions, at one time sitting my accountancy exams at the University (when my plans had gone awry, not for the first time!). Driving through the city food markets could be seen filling open spaces, with spices galore as the Indians brought their food heritage to bear. Durban Curry and Bunny Chow are two curry recipes that bring together the elements of the Indian/South African heritage and make for a very tasty meal.

I used to like to visit the Biltong man with his stall in one of the shopping centres. For centuries man had been trying to find ways to preserve meat.  Pickling, salting and curing were the best ways to keep meat edible for long periods. During the seventeenth century as Africa fell under colonial rule, Dutch settlers brought recipes with them for dried meat. The raw meat is sliced, spiced and dried in the sun to create thick chewy slices of meat. The word biltong was created from the Dutch for rump – bil – and strip – tong.

As the Dutch settlers, Voortrekkers, moved north-eastward away from the British rule into the interior of South Africa the need for preserved meat was pressing and biltong was the answer. There may well have been other ways of preserving meat in Africa but biltong is the one that has stood the test of time. It is not just beef that is the preserve of biltong (forgive the pun) but any game meat or ostrich will do. I could have put the biltong man out of business with my penchant for tasting all the different varieties on offer but without fail I would walk away from his stall with a bag load of it to chew on.

Quiet beach in KwaZulu-Natal
As the settlers on their Great Trek knew, biltong is a portable meal that does not go off (not for a couple of years at any rate) and it was very handy to have in the backpack when we set off on trips along the coast. On one such trip we stayed at the house of a friend just to the north of Durban. We would all wake early, bathe in the sea which was also a good way to shake off the hangover and after breakfast everyone but me would return to their bunks for another snooze. It was therefore solely my pleasure, as I sat on the verenda reading, to be witness to the dolphins and whales playing in the surf as they made their way along the coast every day. As the dolphins jumped and surfed through the waves, the whales would rise in the deeper water blowing spouts of water before diving back under. It is an abiding memory.

Biltong remains a firm favourite of mine and whilst I have not been back to South Africa for a few years I cannot walk past a South Africa shop without dipping in and coming back out with arms full of biltong. I could, of course, make my own if I so chose. 

RECIPE

The recipe below is an adaptation of a High Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe but the taste, particularly if fully cured, is very reminiscent of the snacks I enjoyed in Durban.

INGREDIENTS

500g rump beef cut into strips along the grain of the meat – the thinner the strip, the drier the biltong

The curing rub

2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander seed, toasted and ground
1 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
3 tbsp malt vinegar

METHOD

Mix the spices together and sprinkle then coat the meat in them.  Rub the spices in so that the meat absorbs the flavours. Put into a dish, sprinkle the vinegar over the meat, and then refrigerate for 6 hours or so.  

Shake off any loose seasoning and pat the meat dry with kitchen roll. Hang each strip of biltong in a warm, dry place for at least four days. If you want the biltong to be harder then leave it for longer. Make sure the area in which you are hanging the meat is free from flies.

The biltong will now be semi-dried and will keep for a couple of weeks. To completely dry it either place it in the sun with a good flow of air or if the weather. If the weather is not suitable put it in a very low oven with the meat hanging from the top shelf until fully dried.


Enjoy whenever the urge takes you!


HINTS AND TIPS

To store the biltong keep it in waxed paper or a sealed food bag in a cool place.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Cayman Islands - Rundown

Seven Mile Beach
Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Author:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Burtonpe

The title may be a little misleading, the Cayman Islands are not rundown, but one of the traditional recipes of the island is so named.

Sitting in the Caribbean Sea, the three islands that make up the Cayman islands - Grand, Little and Brac - are a British Dependent Territory. Known for being an off-shore financial centre it is also a popular tourist resort with large cruisers pulling into the port of George Town on Grand Cayman.

Though first spotted by Columbus in the fifteenth century, the islands were not settled until the 1700s. Food was basic to begin with and the main easily farmed staples were the foods taken from the sea - conch, turtle and lobster. Turtle is still considered the national dish and is primarily sourced from the Cayman Turtle Farm. This farm, which you can visit and hold baby turtles (be aware their little flippers flap like crazy and are quite strong), is a research facility as well and releases hundreds of turtles into the wild each year.


The underwater world of Cayman is more exciting than the world on top to my mind. We explored the depths of the ocean in a submarine, as we were going down to 120 feet I got to see the faintest glimpse of a turtle in the wild - an absolutely brilliant experience. From a slightly shallower depth I snorkelled with the stingrays in Stingray City off of Grand Cayman. A series of sandbars create shallower waters to which snorkellers and divers migrate to swim with the elegant rays. We motored out in our own boat and caught a baby barracuda en-route which we chopped up to feed to the rays. Their bodies were like velvet as they brushed against us to eat from our hands.
Stingrays at 'Stingray City'
Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Author: Wikipedia author Lhb1239

On our return journey we managed to hook a full-size barrabcuda which we cleaned and simply barbecued in foil with herbs. Caymanians cook their fish generally as either a stew or fried in coconut oil on an iron skillet. The Cayman one-pot dishes of the 'meatkind' - fish, turtle, chicken, pork - or 'breadkind' - breadfruit, yam, cassava or starchy vegetables - are the original slow food. Cooked in covered pots in the cookrum, a separate cooking building, they would take hours for the meal to be prepared.

However, it is the rundown or coconut dinner which I will focus on. Coconuts are plentiful on the islands and a staple part of the diet. the rundown can be used to flavour or thicken stew and is really a form of boiling down coconut milk to form a custard.  A healthy oil can also be extracted during the process, whilst the custard can also be used as a dip.

Recipe

Ingredients:
2 medium-sized dried coconuts
Just enough water to chop coconuts in blender
Yields approximately 1 cup of rundown, a mixture of about 1/3 oil and 2/3 custard.

Process
Break open the coconuts. Remove the coconut “meat” from the shell with a knife. Be careful as this is not an easy task.. Cut the coconut “meat” into small pieces and chop up in a blender using the chop setting. Chop coconuts in batches so as not to overload the blender.

Blend the coconut in batches until the coconut is a fine consistency and the liquid resembles milk. Use a large strainer to separate the coconut from the milk. Hand squeeze any remaining milk from the residue. 

In a large uncovered cooking pot bring the coconut milk to a rapid boil then reduce the flame to medium and cook until the water evaporates and what remains is a combination of clear liquid (oil) and custardThis takes approximately 1 to 11/2 hours. Add salt to taste. As it cools, the custard will absorb most of the oil. Chicken, meat, fish or vegetables can now be added to the mixture.
Chicken Rundown

Monday, 13 August 2012

Rome – Jewish Artichokes

Rome – the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in a funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.
George Eliot, author.

Aerial view of Rome
By Oliver-Bonjoch (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
 or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Rome, a city where the history of centuries sits amongst the accoutrements of modern life, is not a place you can rush. After a week in its environs there will still be more to see – ancient Roman architecture and monuments, the power and glory of the Roman Catholic Church, sculpture that awes and the little gems that seem to pop up around every corner. Wherever you go in Rome be sure to take your imagination with you.

I stood in the Circo Massimo, rising up from behind trees vast arches of brown stone stand on the Palatine Hill as a reminder of Ancient Rome’s glory days. The Circus stretched away from me. Discussions continue as to whether it was large enough for chariot races to be held there. Some think that the cornering would have been too tight and that foot races were a more likely event. Standing in the centre I preferred to imagine the thundering of hooves, the snorting of horses, the creaking of the skin and leather bindings of the chariots and the yells of charioteers as they urged their steeds around the circus to raucous cheers from the crowd. Noise, heat, the smell of straining animals, the sight of man and beast working together to triumph – a far better spectacle than barely clad men running. Until there’s conclusive proof either way, in my mind it will be chariots competing in the circus.
Circo Massimo viewed from the Palatine Hill
Author=Photograph by Greg O'Beirne |Permission=GFDL / Creative Commons |other_versions

Jews, immigrants and foreigners were not allowed to reside in the city during various times in Rome’s history and the Ponte Fabricio bridge (Pons Judaecum to give it one of its other names) was their commuter route into it from the Trastevere area. A papal bull in the sixteenth century forced the Jews to live in a walled ghetto on the other side of the river to Trastevere and for some three hundred years that is where they remained until the unification of Italy in 1861 allowed them to live freely. Eventually the ghetto was demolished and modern buildings were erected. I found the ghetto to be one of the most charming areas of the city but you have to remember that this is a sanitised version of the area in which the Jews were incarcerated for centuries.
Arco delle Azimelle in Ghetto, Rome
Scanning of reproduction  Permission(Reusing this file)Author died more than 70 years ago







The synagogue that stands in the ghetto is a modern building erected in 1904 on the site of the old synagogue. I wandered along narrow, twisting streets coming across the Piazza Mattei with its Renaissance fountain and along the via del Portico d’Ottavia. It was quite a street with its plethora of kosher fast food joints, food shops and restaurants nestled amongst a mixture of medieval and modern buildings. Many of the eateries offered carciofi alla Guidea, deep-fried Jerusalem artichokes, a speciality of Jewish Rome.

Carciofi alla Guidia
Author=Simone.lippi |Date=2010-04-18 |Permission= GNU Free documentation license



Recipe

4 medium artichokes (if you can find the ones without thorns and hairy choke it makes preparation easier).
Lots of Olive Oil
Salt
Bowl of water with the juice of a lemon

·         Prepare the artichokes. See Hints and Tips as to how this can be done.
·    Place each prepared artichoke in the bowl of lemon water until they are all ready. This will prevent any browning of the vegetable.
·    Place the artichokes into a pot and cover with water. Simmer over a medium heat for approximately 15 minutes, or until they are tender to the touch of a fork. Drain them and pat them dry.
·        In a deep pan heat enough oil to cover the artichokes. The oil should be 300 degrees, hot but not spitting hot. Add the artichokes and fry for about 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove from the oil.
·         Leave them to cool, then separate the leaves out and sprinkle with a little salt before returning them to the hot oil for a couple more minutes to crisp.
·         Remove Artichokes from the pan, drain and they are ready to serve.

 Hints and Tips

How to Prepare an Artichoke.
This can be a fiddly business but is worth it for the yumminess that follows. Youtube has a host of helpful videos on how to prepare them - take your pick from the list http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=preparing+artichokes&oq=preparing+art&gs_l=youtube.1.0.0l3.170.3137.0.5206.17.11.2.4.5.0.158.979.9j2.11.0...0.0...1ac.m0cpPfBvqUo


Monday, 6 August 2012

Andalucía - Gazpacho

I have the great fortune to live in Andalucía. It is far more than the beaches of the Costa del Sol (though they are good) and worth a visit.
The flag of Andalucía


Largest by the number of inhabitants and second largest by area of the autonmous regions of Spain, Andalucía stretches from the Portuguese border almost across the width of the south of Spain. It has a varied landscape from the mountain ranges dotted with los pueblos blancos (white villages), the arid lands of Almería which have been used to film spaghetti westerns and a modern Dr. Who, to the popular costas lapped by the Mediterranean Sea. 

Sculpture outside
Málaga bullring
Bullrings are found throughout the region. Unlike Barcelona which has recently stopped this sport, the bullrings, large and small, are still home to these fights. If the sight of a live bullfight is not for you, visit the bullrings outside of fight times. Many of them can be entered without fees, though any attached museums may charge a fee.

Andalucía is a place for romantics, home to Flamenco and Carmen, the sultry summer heat can stir the passions. The coastline, whilst still hot, benefits from the winds off the sea. The Costa del Sol was also known as the Costa del Viento, Coast of the Wind - ideal for watersports such as windsurfing and sailing. The coastline is peppered with towns of repute - Huelva, Cadiz, Gibraltar, Marbella, Málaga and Almería. They offer a variety of cultural and historic insights along with the inland sites.

Andalucía's history is long. It's position between Africa and Europe, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, has made it a settling point and strategic prize for many civilizations since prehistoric times. The caves at Nerja are home to some of humanity's earliest paintings. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Visigoths all made areas of Andalucía their home before the arrival of the Moors.
Detail from Generalife, Granada

Andalucía boasts some of the most exquisite architecture influenced by the Islamic empire - Al Andalus - who ruled swathes of Spain from the conquest of Hispania in 711 to the final Christian reconquest of Granada in 1492. Granada, Córdoba and Sevilla are just three cities that boast incredible examples of this architectural style in their mosques and castle forts. Antequera, the heart of Andalucía, shows how the Islamic influence continues in the decoration of the Andalucían courtyards that open out from many of the town's front entrances. 
Entrance to an Andalusian courtyard, Antequera

With its rich cultural heritage Andalucía has seen its food influenced by its rulers. Some of the spices from north Africa, particularly saffron and paprika, permeate the dishes but generally the food is barely spiced but fresh and seasonal. Freshly caught fish will be cooked over fires in sand-filled boats at the many chiringuitos that line the beaches. Two crops of avocados and salad vegetables a year allow for healthy fresh salads for a good part of the year. During the summer, when the thought of hot food during the heat of the day does not spring readily to mind, a cold soup is the perfect lunchtime meal.
Gazpacho
Photo credit: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/73147794/ Alpha] {{cc-by-sa-2.0}}

Gazpacho is one, possibly the most well-known, of Spain's cold soups. Made with tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers it is light but filling and refreshing. As with all things the recipes vary from place to place. On a personal note I prefer the recipe with a good helping of cucumber as it lifts the soup from being merely a tomato offering. Gazpacho is a soup that should be added to every cook's summer repertoire.


Recipe

Serves 4
100g slightly stale crusty white bread, soaked in cold water for 20 mins
1kg very ripe tomatoes, diced
1 ripe red pepper and 1 green pepper, deseeded and diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
150ml extra virgin olive oil
2tbsp sherry vinegar
Salt, to taste
Garnishes – diced cucumber, diced red pepper, finely chopped spring onion

1. Mix the diced tomatoes, peppers and cucumber with the crushed garlic and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Squeeze out the bread, tear it roughly into chunks, and add to the mixture.

2. Blend until smooth, then add the salt and vinegar to taste and stir well.

3. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

4. Serve with garnishes of your choice

Hints and Tips

Ripeness is key. Gazpacho is a refreshing, cold soup and to attain that freshness the ingredients must be VERY ripe. A crunchy pepper or hard, pale tomato will not make a good gazpacho.

Garnish. I like the garnishes to reflect the soup’s ingredients but you can add anything you choose. Olives, croutons, parsley or mint are nice alternatives.



Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Budapest - Hungarian Goulash

If you come from Paris to Budapest you think you are in Moscow. But if you go from Moscow to Budapest you think you are in Paris.     Gyorgy Ligeti, Hungarian Composer

My visit to Budapest was in 2000 and it has remained in the forefront of my travel memories ever since. I intend to revisit Hungary’s capital again soon; there is so much to see in a city that with such a rich history.

I stayed in the Citadel Hotel at the top of Gellért Hill. The citadel had been built in 1851 by the Habsburgs with the intent to threaten the Hungarians. It has since been converted to a tourist centre and hostel. Our room, the dormitory, was absolutely enormous. The window was a narrow affair set into the thick stone walls. Standing on the walls of the Citadel we could see the Danube stretching away like a grey-blue ribbon curling around district of Pest; the two sides of the city united and divided by the ceaseless river.
Budapest at night from Gellért Hill.
Author: Christian Mehlführer,
Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Lined up against the farthest bank between two bridges was a flotilla of pleasure boats. Sliding along the river is a wonderful way to see the vista of the Budapest. We passed under the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a suspension bridge which was the first permanent bridge to span the Danube in Budapest.

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge connects Roosevelt Square on the Pest side to Adam Clark Square on the Buda side. From Adam Clark Square it is just a short hop on the Castle Hill Funicular to Buda Castle atop of Castle Hill. The area around the castle is known as the Castle District and houses medieval, baroque and nineteenth century living quarters and public buildings. Roosevelt Square on the Pest side is close to Gresham Palace, a neo-classical palace, now a hotel.
 Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Author: b k from Freehold, NJ, USA (www.joiseyshowaa.com)
Published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Marx and Engels - Memento Park
Author: Ferran Cornellà
Published under the under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
On the outskirts of the city is the greatest reminder of Hungary’s communist period – the Budapest Memento Park. With the fall of the Communist rule in 1989 the symbolic statues of that time were removed from the city centre to the park. It is an eye-opener to see just how much effort was made in the propaganda effort.

I do like an opportunity to relax where possible and Budapest was ten days into a fifteen day whistle-stop tour of Europe; that meant that a trip to the spa was in order. I chose the Gellert Baths as they were closest but with the natural springs and wells under the city, there are around 50 spas and pools to choose from supplied with the warm, mineral waters.

After a day of sightseeing, particularly in winter, there can be nothing better than a warming bowl of the dish that Hungary is possibly most known for – Goulash. A heavy soup, rather than a stew, it is made with beef and onions and Hungarian paprika. Combining the goulash with the dumplings would make a hearty main dish. There are a number of variations to goulash; as with most dishes every cook has their own way of preparing it. I like to make a veritable meal of my soups hence the number of ingredients in my soup.


Recipe

Following on from Czech dumplings of the last post is the Hungarian Goulash (gulyás). Combining the goulash with the dumplings would make a hearty main dish.

Ingredients (for 4 persons)
600 g beef shin or shoulder, or any tender part of the beef cut into 2x2 cm cubes
2 tablespoons oil or lard
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
1-2 celery leaves
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 tbs. tomato paste
2 fresh green peppers
2-3 medium potatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika powder
1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
1 bay leaf
ground black pepper and salt according to taste
water – enough to cover the ingredients. This will vary depending on the size of your pot

  1.  Heat up the oil or lard in a pot and braise the chopped onions in it until they get a nice golden brown colour. 
  2. Sprinkle the braised onions with paprika powder while stirring them to prevent the paprika from burning.
  3.  Add the beef cubes and and sauté them until they start to brown slightly.
  4. The meat will probably let out its own juice, let the beef-cubes simmer in it while adding the grated or crushed and chopped garlic (grated garlic has stronger flavour), the ground caraway seed, some salt and ground black pepper, the bay leaf, pour water enough to cover the content of the pan and let it simmer on low heat for a while.
  5. When the meat is half-cooked (approx. in 1,5 hour, but it can take longer depending on the type and quality of the beef) add the diced carrots, parsnip and the potatoes and the celery leaf. You may have to add some more (2-3 cups) water too.
  6. When the vegetables and the meat are almost done add the tomato cubes and the sliced green peppers. Let it cook on low heat for another few minutes.

Hungarian Goulash
Author:  Ralf Roletschek (talk).
Reproduced under licence: 
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

Hints and Tips

To thicken the soup leave the lid off for the final stage.


Budapest Tourist Information http://www.budapest.com/ Available in English, Deutsch, Magyar.

Monday, 23 July 2012

PRAGUE - Bread dumplings

Prague Panorama
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0


Travelling and sight-seeing requires energy, particularly if you are cramming in as many cities as my friend and I did in 15 days as we sped across parts of Europe by train. Our last stop was Prague in the Czech Republic and having walked up the hills, around the very interesting and intriguing Palace complex and with a hangover barely a memory, energy was low.

Astronomical Clock, Prague
Author:  Krzysztof Szymański.
Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic License
As a fan of dumplings I did not need a second invitation to indulge in a good serving of them with my lunch. The theory was that I would be full of boundless energy for the rest of the afternoon. I over ate and had to spend quite a while digesting some very yummy Czech bread dumplings.  Luckily we were in the centre of the city and could while the time away people watching before setting off for Wenceslas Square followed by the astronomical clock. I am fascinated by the clock, and I am not alone. Every hour crowds of people gather to watch the display of dancing skeleton, Turk and another animated decorations.

Traditional Czech bread dumplings - houskový knedlíky - are made with flour, milk, eggs and stale bread cubes. The alternative is a potato dumpling, but always one for ease the recipe below is for the easier bread variety. Formed into a loaf, boiled and sliced they soak up the gravy or stew that they accompany.  Unlike the English suet dumplings, these are suitable for vegetarians and an excellent way of using up stale bread. Traditionally the bread dumplings are served with roast pork and sauerkraut. A good Czech beer (and I haven’t had a bad one) is my suggested drink to go with them.


Recipe

Serves: 8
Ingredients
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk
10 slices of good-quality white bread, crusts removed, and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk. Pour the egg and milk combination into the flour.

Work the dough until it no longer sticks to the bowl. I use my hands but if you prefer not to get your hands sticky, the dough hook on your processor will be fine.

Cover and let stand 1 hour.
Slices of Dumpling
Author: Pastorius
 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Boil a pan of salted water.

Work the bread cubes into the batter until well incorporated. Using floured hands, shape the dough into three or four rolls that are about 8 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide.

When the water is boiling, place the rolls into the water.  Give them a stir so they don't stick to each other.

Reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Slice the dumplings into pieces about ¾ inch thick.

Serve warm with gravy, stew or roast pork and sauerkraut.




Hints and Tips

If you want to reheat any leftover dumplings they can be steamed – either in a steamer or in a colander over a saucepan - or browned in a saucepan in butter and sprinkled with sugar.

©Janine Rosenmöller



My trip around central and eastern Europe is told in City Chronicles: A Tale of Nine Cities. It is available as an e-book or paperback from Amazon or Lulu.com.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Milan and Vienna - Scaloppine Milanese

Milan
MILAN DUOMO
Author: Jiuguang Wang,
from Wikipedia.com under  GNU Free Documentation License


Milan, home to La Scala opera house, an ornate gothic cathedral and the Castello Sforzesco. Well-known for being at the heart of the Italian fashion industry, it has also been at the heart of a number of empires across the centuries. The Castello Sforzesco had been the ducal residence during the Visconti period, was demolished during the short-lived Ambrosia Republic and was rebuilt by the dynastic rulers of Milan, the Sforza family. It was later used as a barracks through the successive rules of the Spanish, Austrian and French empires. Milan adapted for its conquerors.


It was the cathedral, with its elaborate exterior decoration that captured me, even allowing for the  scaffolding and netting that was draped over it.  When Oscar Wilde had clapped eyes on it in 1875 he described it as ‘monstrous and inartistic.’ Mark Twain, on the other hand, was more effusive:
‘What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! […] They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter’s at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands…’ 
Admiring the duomo’s exterior, even with a scaffold encumbered view, I could only agree with Twain. The inside of the cathedral was disappointing compared to the outside, but a climb onto the roof was worth it. The views across Milan to the mountains, on a clear summer's day, is worth the trembling limbs brought about by a mild case of vertigo.

Vienna


Vienna has been described as the 'gateway to Eastern Europe' and with good reason. It is less than hour by train from Bratislava and the cities of Prague and Budapest are not much further. In typically contrary fashion I entered Vienna from the east. Vienna, before visiting, was known to me as the city of Mozart, cakes and pastries, waltzes and dancing horses; and they are all there. But that is not all, there is architecture, the history of a city that has been at the centre of European politics and intrigue over the centuries, and of course the churches and cathedrals. I am a bit of a church fiend, not due to any particularly religious yearning but I find their architecture fascinating and usually a cool sanctuary to gather my thoughts. 

St. Stephen’s Cathedral was not to be ignored. The heart of Vienna, the Cathedral has been
ST. STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL, VIENNA
Authr: David Monniaux, through Wikipedia
under GNU Free Documentation License

 one of the city’s defining buildings since its inception in 1147AD. It dominates the square in which it sits, a medieval and Renaissance architectural marvel. The proximity of the buildings around the square contribute to the impression of the church’s immense size. The south tower, steffl, does not need the presence of smaller buildings to emphasize its size – standing at over 400 feet high its spire extends heavenwards. The same cannot be said of the north tower. Work in the Gothic style stopped in 1511 with the north tower unfinished. A Renaissance spire seemed to have been hastily shoved on top to complete it towards the end of the 1500s giving the tower a stunted appearance. It is as if a grand wedding cake with three magnificent tiers of icing and decoration had been finished off with the addition of an iced bun without even a glace cherry on top. Somewhat incongruous. This was a cathedral of disproportionate parts to my untrained but discerning eye; an enormous south tower, a stunted north tower and a roof which appeared to be as high again as the walls of the main building. The intricate tiling of shades of blue and green and black zig-zags with a band of geometric patterns highlighted with yellow may have contributed to the illusion of the height of the roof. 

Milan and Vienna have a shared history and some common dishes, the most recognisable of which is the Scaloppine Milanese or Wienerschnitzel. Made with either chicken or veal, the cooking method is the same. The Viennese and the Milanesi have an ongoing debate as to who influenced who in the creation of the dish. I prefer the veal version and so for this reason alone, I award Milan with the honour of ‘owning’ the dish.  

Recipe
Scaloppine Milanese/Wienerschnitzel
Serves 4-6 depending on cutlet size


Ingredients
1 ½ lb veal cutlets
6 tbsp clarified (melted) butter
2 lemons
1 beaten egg
125g fine white breadcrumbs


Method
If the cutlets have not been prepared for you by the butcher for this recipe you will need to tenderise the veal cutlets and flatten into a thin escalope.


Dip each of the cutlets completely into the egg then press both sides of the cutlets into the breadcrumbs ensuring that they are totally covered.
Place the cutlets into the hot melted butter and fry until tender and golden brown on both sides.
Serve with salad or sautéed potatoes and a wedge of lemon.


Hints & Tips
To give a crisp, even coating do not move or turn the cutlets for the first 2-3 minues to allow the ccoating to stick to the cutlet, and not the pan.




Wednesday, 4 July 2012

VENICE - Peas and Rice

The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy.



It was raining when I first visited Venice but that was not going to stop me enjoying the city. The origins of Venice are as shrouded as the island had become as the clouds sank lower and emptied their contents in a fine mist. The stroke of noon March 25th 421AD is the traditional date of the city’s founding. In the years between its founding and the election of its first Doge around 726AD ports were built and settlements were expanded. Venice’s position at the head of the Adriatic made its military and merchant naval position almost invincible. Venice between the ninth and twelfth centuries flourished - a trade centre between the Western and Eastern empires. The city gained many towns and cities along the Adriatic in order to prevent piratical activity. Venice had its weaknesses; a lack of farming land meant that wheat was its major import. Its primary export was salt, but rice was grown on the plains of the river Po and became a staple of the Venetian diet.

The Bridge of Sighs
The Doge was the ruler of Venice. The Doge’s Palace stands at the corner of St. Mark’s Piazza on the Grand Canal. Possibly its most famous aspect is the Bridge of Sighs, across which prisoners walked from the court in the palace to the prisons on the other side of a narrow inlet. On feast days the Doge would decree that the dish, Risi e Bisi, or pea risotto, could be made and eaten by the Venetians. Luckily no such decrees are required now, Pea Risotto can be made and enjoyed any day of the year.



Venice has a labyrinthine charm. Its churches, small bridges spanning slim inlets, and narrow, winding lanes that suddenly open up into expansive squares, make it an interesting and intriguing city. Each time I visit I am charmed again (and have been luckier with the weather!)

RECIPE

Pea Risotto (Risotto Piselli)
Serves 4-6
This is a dish not to rush. It is not complicated but it needs your attention; when stirring you can float away on a gondola of dreams.

Ingredients
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400g good risotto rice such as arborio, carnaroli or vialone
Olive oil – a generous glug (approx. 4-5 tbsp)
100g unsalted butter
3 ½ lbs of unshelled peas
Bunch of parsley – very finely chopped
100g grated Parmagiano cheese –and more to serve
250ml of dry white wine
2 litres of water

Method

Shell the peas and make a pea broth from the discarded pods, a pinch of salt and pepper and about two litres of water.

Gently sauté the onion and garlic in the oil and 1/3 of the butter until the onion starts to colour slightly.
Add the rice to the pan and stir over a gentle heat for 3-5 minutes ensuring that all the rice is coated.
Add the pea broth, a ladle or two at a time, stirring constantly. When the broth is almost completely absorbed add the next ladle or two. Intersperse the wine with the broth.
Keep cooking this way for about 20 minutes over a low heat.
Add the peas and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. The rice will be creamy but retain a slight bite, ‘al dente’, and the peas will have started to soften.
At the last moment add the cheese and parsley; give a quick stir to mix them in.
Serve.

HINTS AND TIPS


It is important that the correct type of rice is used for making risotto. Risotto rice needs to be short and plump. The best risotto rices are Carnaroli and Arborio. These rice grains release starch and absorb liquids making them ideal for the sticky risotto dish.
©Janine Rosenmöller

If you like food and you like travel...

then this is the blog for you.

As a travel writer and blogger I am making my way across the continents (predominantly Europe to date) experiencing the diverse and interesting cultures in each place I visit. 

I believe that to taste a culture is to go someway to understanding it. The food and drink of each city, village or remote outpost encapsulates the history, beliefs and economy of that place, as well as generally tasting good (though you do get those, 'oh my word, what have I just eaten?' moments!)

I want to share the food of the places I have visited. I am not a chef, but I can put together a decent spread, and I will provide recipes, helpful hints and tips, as well as a little of the background to the dishes I have tasted.


Join me on my culinary tour of the world.

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