One of the many pleasure about travelling to a country or city is experiencing new flavours and new aromas, and every place seems to have something that’s uniquely theirs. Although I often buy souvenirs when visiting somewhere for the first time, nothing reminds me of a favourite destination more than the taste of a dish I first tried there. So, when I recreate those favourite dishes at home, I’m immediately transported back to those places, those tastes and those memories.
During my recent visit to Porto, I come across this very simple but very delicious sweet squash dessert, Doce de Abobora, a compote like dessert native to Portugal. The original recipe is quite sweet and jammy, consisting of pumpkin and sugar, with the occasional addition of spices and coconut. My version of this recipe uses less sugar, but more of the flavours that remind me of this beautiful city and country.
Porto was built on Port wine, not literally of course, but the city did thrive because of the success of the industry. So I think it would be criminal not to add a splash of port to this dessert. I’ve also added toasted almonds for crunch and texture, and the hint of orange zest which gives each mouthful little bursts of sunshine. Served with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, the sweet and slightly savoury flavours create a magical combination. Although the deep orange, sweet squash compote feels a little autumny, it is just as enjoyable during the spring.
You will need
1 small pumpkin or squash – about 800g or so
light brown cane sugar 1 cup – 200g
1/2 cinnamon stick or cassia bark
finely grated zest 1/2 small orange
50ml white port wine
flaked almonds about 40g
Remove the skin and seeds from the squash, and cut in to pieces about 2 cm in size but no smaller. Add the squash to a heavy based pan along with the port and sugar and stir to coat the squash pieces thoroughly. Add the cinnamon stick or cassia bark and orange zest, and bring to a simmer without a lid over a med-high heat for about 2-3 mins. Next, turn down the heat to med-low and simmer for about 50-60 mins, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon. It’s cooked when the compote is slightly jammy looking and all of the moisture has evaporated.
Set aside to cool slightly while you toast the almonds. Place the flaked almonds in a large heavy based frying pan or shallow pan in a single layer and, over a medium heat toast until they are lightly browned.
Serve the compote with a sprinkling of toasted almonds, a generous helping of mascarpone cream and a dusting of ground cinnamon.
On a dried bed of the once Turia river, stands the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, a spectacular example of futuristic architecture in the heart of Valencia, Spain.
Designed by esteemed Valencia architect, sculptor and painter Santiago Calatrava Valls–whose award winning work can be found from Dallas to Dubia–the impressive city comprises of six uniquely styled buildings designed to educate and entertain: L’Hemisfèric, contains the IMAX cinema and planetarium complex; El Museu de les Ciències Principe Felipe, is a skeletal structured, interactive science museum; L’Umbracle, an open structured landscape containing indigenous plants native to Valencia; L’Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe and home to over 500 different species of marine life; El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, opera house and performing arts centre, and L’Àgora, which houses the sports and events centres.
The city is simultaneously simple and complex with smooth lines, cone shaped stairwells and suspended structures flowing seamlessly in a blend of water, glass, concrete and steel. Much like the designs of Barcelona’s Gaudi, Calatrava’s work is said to be reminiscent of living organisms with an emphasis on visual intrigue, balance and symmetry.
What I first noticed when I arrived in Porto, is how everything seems to lead up, then cascades down in colourful tiers to the banks of the Rio Douro in which it is intimately connected. Charming and highly photogenic, Porto is awash with colourful tiled buildings, swaying laundry, Azulejo adorned landmarks and famous bridges designed by Gustave Eiffel. Best known for its name-sake beverage, Porto is a city with a profusion of visual icons and edible treasures.
Arrive in Porto hungry, and you’ll be staggered by the range and quality of cafes and restaurants, sweet treats and tasting venues, both traditional and on-trend.
C. N. Kopke
From Porto make your way to Vila Nova de Gaia along the top deck of the Dom Luís bridge where you can enjoy stunning views up and down the Douro river. You’ll find all of the well known port producers from Sandeman to Crofts along the Gaia river bank offering tours and tastings. I opted solely for the tasting at one the oldest producers in the Douro valley, the German owned House of Kopke established in 1692. Tastings start at around 20 Euros per flight accompanied by a selection of chocolates and an in-depth history of each wine given by your host.
A fairly new addition to Porto’s tasting venues, specialising in the Duoro valley’s small and boutique wine producers. There’s an abundant selection of wines ready for tasting, the knowledgable sommeliers will help guide your preferences to create a very personalised and exceptional tasting flight. The short food menu, from tapas boards to pizzas, is designed to soak up the alcohol and not interfer with the business of tasting. An absolute must for anyone remotely interested in Portugese wines.
I have been looking forward to visiting this iconic book store for the longest time. Established in 1881 by brothers José and António Lello, the Hogworts-esque interior–a fusion of Neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau and Art-Decor styles– will leave book and art lovers gasping with delight. If you are hoping for a little whimsical photographic inspiration you will need to arrive early to beat the crowds. Purchase your ticket in the office next door, the value of which can be redeemed against any purchases.
Who knew a can of fish could be jazzed up this much! Sardines, of course, are synonymous with Portugal, and a few Portuguese concept stores in Porto have an enticing selection of merchandise geared towards the tourist. This stores’ decor– think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Cirque du Soleil–is probably not what you’d expect from a canned fish shop. But it’s a lot of fun and well worth a visit.
Another of Porto’s jaw-dropping icons is the Palacio da Bolsa. Designed in the Neo-classic and Neo-palladian architectural styles, the former stock exchange consists of a Tribunal Room, Assembly Room and Golden Room, each of which is impressively furnished, but it’s the Arab Room that impresses the most. Designed in the stunning Moorish revival style which was highly fasionable in the 1800’s, the beautiful reception room sparkles like a jewel.
If for whatever reason I were short on time in Porto, then this restaurant would be the only one on my list. It may look a little unloved from the outside, but don’t be deterred. Entering the lobby, you are met with 1970’s Las Vegas vibe decor: carpeted wall coverings and turquoise faux leather lift doors are just the beginning. Up in the dizzying heights of the 14th floor, you’ll find an equally retro bar and restaurant with dazzling views across Porto and the Rio Douro. The menu might begin with a mix of Petiscos (Portuguese style tapas), then either iberian pork in red wine, or traditionally baked Bachalau drizzled with thyme oil, followed by a traditional sweet pumpkin dessert, doce de abóbora. Each dish is served up old-style from the waiters trolley, which only adds to this restaurants charm and sophistication.
After enjoying the views of Porto from the banks of Vila Nova de Gaia, a meal at this restaurant would be a perfect addition to any travel itinerary. Set in the House of Taylor port wine cellars, the restaurant’s offerings are as tasteful as the views across the Rio Douro. The menu might include, pork cheek with crumbled Serra cheese, asparagus and chervil purée or, sea bass and mussels with scallop aioli and seaweed, followed by a stunning fresh raspberry mouse infused with port wine.
This bistro style restaurant uses traditional Portuguese slow cooking methods, and farm to table concepts, fused together with contemporary flare. The á la carte menu might include Black Angus beef in Port wine reduction with black pudding and sweet potato fritas, or traditional oven baked octopus followed by a dessert of sweet potato pudding with Mandarine ice cream, or a plater of Portuguese cheese covered in walnuts and chocolate.
When dinning in Porto you can expect stellar portion sizes, and going where the locals graze guarantees you’ll be full to the brim after your appetite inducing sightseeing. This very traditional, down to earth restaurant serves up excellent Portuguese dishes highly recommended by locals. You might like to try their bacalhau à Braga or polvo à dagareiro washed down with bottle of Douro valley wine. Great food, great wine all at really, really good prices.
Pure unadulterated indulgence in every sense of the word. The aroma alone as you walk into this store is sure to make any chocoholic weak at the knees. In the centre of the store are large bins containing everything chocolate from bonbons and brittles, while at the parameter oversized bars of exquisite high quality chocolate in handprinted wrapping can be found. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, port wine and chocolate tastings are regularly held to help you pair up your favourite flavours.
Yet another iconic Porto landmark which needs very little introduction. Established in 1921 the intensely charming decor and delicate coffee-house menu is an indulgence for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Open from breakfast time through to 11:00 pm Monday to Saturday, this is a must see for Art Nouveau and traditional coffee-house enthusiasts.
Set in the historic Papelaria Araújo e Sobrinho, this traditional stationery shop and printers is now home to A. S. 1829 Hotel. Spacious, comfortable rooms, excellent breakfast buffet and a short walk to most of Porto’s main attractions, this hotel is a perfectly positioned starting point for your sensory odyssey through Porto.
During my stay on Zanzibar Island, I would often sit on the beach quietly taking photos of the village women of Jambiani as they dug for clams on the shoreline. This took place mainly in the early evenings, just as the sun began to set. The vibrantly dressed women against the pale blue of the sea, and the golden hue of evening light was a vision to behold.
I asked a local man – the women did not speak to mzungu much – how the women prepared the clams they were gathering. “The clams are cooked in coconut with lime and salt” he told me.
Eating on the island was an absolute pleasure for the scenes. There are very few fridges in local cafes and restaurants, so everything is freshly prepared–fresh fish, fresh coconut, mango, passion fruit, limes, Thai basil and spices grown on the island were frequently used giving dishes the most delightful flavours and scented aromas.
This simple dish is an adaptation of the recipe given to me, but with a few additional ingredients which were abundantly used in the dishes of local restaurants.
You will need
clams 500 g
coconut milk 400 ml
zest & juice 1/2 lime
2 dried lime leaves
2 inches finely grated ginger
1 clove garlic crushed
1 level tbsp of tamarind
handful (20 g) of fresh Thai basil leaves roughly chopped*
salt & black pepper for seasoning
To begin, soak the clams in a large bowl of cold salted water for about an hour to remove any sand. Pour clams into a colander and rinse thoroughly under the cold water tap. Then swoosh around in the colander to remove excess water. Discard any clams that are fully open.
Place the coconut milk, dried lime leaves, ginger, garlic, tamarind, lime juice and zest and a generous pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper in a large pan and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes. With a slatted spoon remove the lime leaves and any large bits of tamarind that hasn’t dissolved. Pop the chopped Thai basil into the sauce reserving a little for garnishing. Turn up the heat slightly, pour in the clams, place a lid on the pan and let the clams steam for 5 minutes or so. Check to see if they are all open, if not give them a few minutes more. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Discard any clams that have not opened. Spoon the clams and sauce into dishes and garnish with the reserved Thai basil leaves. Serve with dense white bread or white rice.
Serves two as a main dish or four as an appetiser.
*It has to be Thai basil as regular basil doesn’t work as well
Carnevale di Venezia is one of the most well known and extravagant festivals in the world. As enchanting and charming as Venice itself, the festival dates as far back as the 1200’s. The wearing of masks and elaborate costumes meant that festival goers could hide their identity, class and social status. Head to St. Mark’s square during the month of February, where decorous partakers can be seen parading around in search of photo opportunities.
Zanzibar has long featured in my imagination. It has captivated and seduced vacationers and great explorers alike. Captain Sir Richard Burton said of the islands in 1856: “ earth, sea and sky, all seemed wrapped in a soft and sensuous repose […].” It’s difficult to not to get misty-eyed at the sight of tropical forests, white sands and glasslike seas in glistening shades of turquoise and indigo.
Our journey from the airport, skirting the capital of Zanzibar, takes us through jarring street scenes and chaotic traffic. The heat is unyielding. We drive through miles of thick, tangled forests of banana plantations and coconut palms in exuberant greens on both sides of the road–a mass of wild and cultivated foliage. Our destination: Jambiani.
Located on the south eastern coast of Unguja, the largest island of the Zanzibar archipelago, Jambiani attracts sun seekers and kite surfers. We arrive at the town on dusty dirt roads interjected with jagged coral, the village a mix of crumbling breeze block dwellings with corrugated roofs, pristine white lodges and tiny corrugated tin stores selling basic essentials.
Our room gives directly onto the powder white beach–basic yet spacious and comfortable–with the kite centre to our left. My husband is smiling from ear to ear! We’re the first to arrive for the kiting season, which is December through March, so he gets first dibs on all of the new season kite equipment.
The relatively small section of beach on which our hotel sits is isolated at high tide from the rest of its length by protruding rock ledges. The beach is a mosaic of vibrant colours and patterns. The locals’ whose lives seem shaped by this stretch of beach–a source of food, enterprise and recreation.
Each morning I’d wake early to the muezzin’s call, get dressed and make my way to the beach, strolling steadily to the sound of singing whimbrel enjoying the moments of calm before the rhythms of the day gently unfold. A handful of children were already combing the beach, digging for clams and gathering seaweed.
Two worlds conjoin on Jambiani beach: the everyday lives of the locals–womenfolk wade through water at low tide gathering seaweed collected in rice sacks, which is apparently sold to the Japanese; chatty vendors wander the shoreline in search of tourists introducing themselves by their adopted European names; tall and sleek young Maasai men, who have ventured from mainland Tanzania, lay out their red fabric on the sand welcoming everyone to their “supermarket;” and, the tourists, here for the high winds, the sea and a heavy dose of sun.
Drifting through leisurely days delightfully uncluttered by the constraints of a schedule, I would often sit and chat with the Maasai. They are gentle, inquisitive and somewhat innocent in their manner, and I’m eager to learn about their culture. I read, I ate, and was gently swayed into a blissful sleep under the shade of rhododendron trees and the sound of the sea caressing the shore.
Jambiani beach seems more fully itself during the golden hours of early evening. The children, always happy and smiling, take turns to walk along the tightrope erected in front of the kite school. A few boys master impressive backflips off of the centre of the rope. The older boys gather religiously every evening on the beach to play soccer. The village women dig for clams in groups of two or more. The beach vendors make their way home during the final call to prayer of the day light hours, as kiters fold away their gear in time for drinks before dinner.
On my last day, I walked from the shore out to sea along a sandbank as the tides began to recede. The sand was so fine it felt like China clay between my toes. As I walked, I felt a little hand slip into mine, I looked down as a bright young face beamed up at me. We walked and chatted in our own languages. I reclined in the bath-hot shallows and she splashing in the water in full hijab wanting to show me her swimming skills. I applauded and praised her efforts as any mother-figure would. Precious.
There were so many beautiful, rich moments like these during my stay here.
Would I return to Zanzibar? Absolutely, but for longer and deeper next time.
We booked our trip through Kiteworldwide.com
Red Monkey Lodge
While Hamburg may not be the first destination that springs to mind when planning a foodie weekend, the choice and quality available may surprise even the most devout food tourist. This is a quick list of our, meine Familie und ich, personal favourite eateries that we’ve discovered in Hamburg so far.
So when you are done cruising the Elbe and touring the Elbphilarmonie, why not grab a bite at one of these top-notch restaurants.
Kremeramtsstuben Restaurant Classic German
This was the very first restaurant I went to the day I arrived in Hamburg. It’s a cozy, traditional restaurant with a high quality classic German menu. Well worth a visit if you want to try a bit traditional German cuisine.
Henssler Henssler Restaurant SushiBar Contemporary Asian
If you are a sushi fan you will love this restaurant. The contemporary decor in colours of the Japanese flag, looks over the river Elbe. High end sushi made with locally sourced ingredients. The Henssler brother also have two other restaurants in Hamburg, Ono and Ahoi check their website below for details.
Mangold Restaurant & Bar at Gastwerk Hotel Contemporary International
You’ll come here for the creative international menu, but also enjoy the interiors visual feast. The contemporary red brick design of the restaurant and bar, built in a disused warehouse is cozy and spacious. Open for breakfast until 1 pm, followed by a three course lunchtime table menu, and dinner from 6pm.
Trific Restaurant Contemporary International
A stones through from Hamburg’s world famous warehouse district, Speicherstadt, and the Elbephilharmonie Tricif sits on the canal side in old town Hamburg. Excellent cocktails and market-fresh contemporary cuisine from the a la carte menu, or why not try the three or four course tasting menu.
East Hotel & Restaurant European & Asian
The 4 star menu at East, which is situated parallel with the entertainment district Reeperbahn, promises a culinary journey through Europe to Asia. Another incredibly designed space spread over multiple floors. East has a sushi bar, private dinning areas and cocktail bar on the upper level. At weekends the lights and music are turned up making this a trendy place for a night out or after hours cocktails.
Mash American Steak House Steaks
This Danish owned group of restaurants has a comfortable, relaxed lounge bar and restaurant has a gentlemen’s club look and feel. Enjoy views of the Elbe over superb steaks and fabulous cocktails.
Delta Bistro Steaks
You’d probably never find this restaurant if you didn’t know about it beforehand. Tucked away in Hamburg’s meat market, GrosseFleischmarkt, this place is a steak lovers paradise.
Atla Restaurant Contemporary German
This restaurant boasts the best schnitzel in Hamburg. Elegant dinning and, as with many restaurant cooking classes are also on offer.
Goldene Gans Contemporary International
Up-scale bistro cuisine at its finest. I can’t say enough good things about this restaurant, everything on the menu is always exquisite. Open for lunch and dinner, and breakfast up until 11:30 am during weekdays and later at weekends.
Brasserie La Provence Classic French
This is a Parisian style bistro with and exceptional Classic French menu. Choose mouth-watering dishes from the Brasserie Classique menu or the a la carte menu. Brasserie La Provence has been voted best french restaurant six times by Hamburg’s Gastro Guide.
Zur Traube Restaurant Contemporary German
I love, love, love this restaurant not only for the fabulous food but also for the traditional dark wood panelled interior and strange but interesting carvings depicting farm labourers and the like. This restaurant is first and foremost a wine cellar and has a large choice of German and international wines.
Kleien Brunnenstraße Contemporary International
My favourite time to visit this restaurant is during the summer when you can sit on their street terrace and enjoy the warm weather, the excellent menu, and wild flowers which sprout along the streets every spring and summer. Excellent lunchtime menu, and Chefs three or four course tasting menu in the evenings with wines chosen for each individual course.
Billy the Butcher Steaks and Burgers
Billy’s has become one of our go to eateries when we want a fairly low key but high quality meal. The burgers and steaks are excellent. The super friendly staff, all fully trained butchers, will help you personally choose your own cuts of meat which are on display.
Il Locale Contemporary Italian
This Italian restaurant is another of our favourites for low key, high quality dinning. Contemporary Italian cuisine, some of the best pizzas in Hamburg at really good prices.
I’m always on the look out for new and exciting places to eat.
Why not share your favourite places to eat in the comment section. Guten Appetit!
I wanted to create a warming drink for the winter season and as we are currently living in northern Germany, a Glühwein recipe seemed a natural choice. But, I’m just not in the mood for the abundant choice alcoholic seasonal drinks right now. So a Mexican friend introduced me to a drink that is on the stove top of pretty much every Mexican home during the holiday season – Ponche.
Traditionally made with Jamaica flower (Hibiscus), spices, Tamarind, dried fruits, cane sugar and Tejocotes, a fruit native to Mexico which is part of the Hawthorne family of plants. I’ve substituted some of these ingredients for ones that you may already have on hand. For example, I’ve used dark brown granular sugar instead of cane sugar which still gives a sweet warming taste to the punch, and Quince instead of Tejocotes, which adds a light aromatic flavour and are more readily available.
The punch is really simple to make, and will create a very inviting fruity, spicy aroma in your home. You can keep it warm on the stove, so that you have something warming to offer guests as they pop by during the holiday season, and as its alcohol-free kids can enjoy it too. Feliz Navidad!
You will need
40 g of Dried Jamaica flowers
40 g Raisins
30 g Tamarind (from a block of fruit or
you can use the fruit from about 8 pods)
40 g Dark brown sugar
2 Cinnamon sticks
6 Star Anise
2 Litres water
2 Clementines, chopped
1 Small Quince, cored and chopped
1 Small yellow apple, cored and chopped
Put the Jamaica flowers, spices, Tamarind, prunes, raisins, sugar and water into a large saucepan, bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove all of the ingredients with a slatted spoon. Add the chopped fruit and simmer for a further 20 minutes. The punch will absorb all of the lovely juices from the fruit. Serve with the pieces of fruit in mugs or punch cups.
I’ve found over the years that when it comes to cooking, like most people, I’m constantly re-adapting or re-inventing a recipe to suit my family’s taste, make it more seasonal or to use up any ingredients I have left over. These dishes often become favourites in themselves. But even classic, much loved recipes invite a little adaptation from time to time. I was initially going to make a tarte au citron a classic lemon tart, exchanging the usual pastry base for a gluten-free almond crust. However, with the bounty of citrus fruits available right now, it seemed fitting to create something more in keeping with the season. So, for the custard filling for my – not at all like a tarte au citron tart, I’ve opted for clementines, a delicious deviations from zesty lemons, with the addition of a little orange blossom water which enhances the delicate notes of the fruit. For the base, a combination of almond flour, fine oats and ground whole almonds gives the tart a bit of gluten-free texture. The result is a delicately aromatic tart, with a little crunch that gently lights up the taste buds.
You will need
For the crust
100 g Almond flour
50 g Fine Oats (Gluten-free)
150 g Almonds
1 egg yolk
50 g butter, melted plus extra for greasing tart tin
1 tbsp honey
23-24 cm tart tin
For the custard
5 med size eggs
Zest of 2 Clementines
Juice of 2-3 Clementines – you’ll need 100ml
150 g of brown caster sugar
1 tbsp of Orange blossom water
65 g of butter, melted but not hot
To begin, grease your tart tin. Pop the whole almonds in a food processor and grind to a medium texture. Mix all of the crust ingredients in a bowl and combine until it resembles a moist crumble. Empty the mixture into the prepared tart tin and, with your fingers or the back of a spoon press the mixture out evenly from the centre to and around the edges of the tin to form a base of even thickness. This may take a little patience, but persevere. Place in the fridge for about half an hour to set.
Pre-heat your oven at 180 C with convection. If you are using a loose-bottom tart tin, place on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly.
Turn the oven down to 160 C. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Zest the clementines with a fine grater, then squeeze the juice into a measuring jug and add the orange blossom water. Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Add the zest then slowly add the melted butter and then the juice. Pour the filling into the tart base, put it in the oven for 20 minutes or until the filling is golden and just set. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and a little mascarpone.
The base for this recipe was inspired by – Food and Travel Magazine May 2017 edition.
I had been wanting to visit Morocco for as far back as I can remember, and was awe-struck and inspired the moment I stepped from the plane. Morocco is one of the more politically stable nations of north Africa, and has enjoyed a thriving, well established tourist trade as far back as the 1930’s. Yet, in spite of the high tourism, for me at least, it still evokes a sense of other worldliness. It’s difficult to describe how the colours, textures, sights and smells exude such a sense of wonder.
Our journey through Morocco began in Marrakech. We would then venture to Essaouira, then through the High Atlas mountains to Aït-Ben-Haddou and the Sahara before returning to Marrakech. On our arrival we stayed at La Maison Arabe, a traditional Riad in the centre of old Marrakech, who’s past patrons include Sir Winston Churchill. I would have come to Marrakech just to stay at this hotel. The elegant, jewel coloured interior, intricate carvings and woodwork, central courtyard patios with ornate rose petals filled pools; and morning tea served in the most lavish silver-ware was like stepping back into a colonial past.
We arrive at our camp as evening draws near. Gathering around the camp fire as darkness begins to fall, we are served delicious tagine and sweet mint tea. Musicians entertain us as we take in the star filled sky, the most stars I have ever seen in my life. At dawn, we ride camels through the dunes before making our way back to Marrakech.
Where to stay in Marrakech – La Maison Arabe Marrakech
Where to stay in Essaouira – Villa Maroc Essaouira