The unusually hot weather has brought with it an abundance of flowers and foliage already this year, so a bit of foraging seemed like a very pleasurable thing to do to make use of this bounty. Elderflowers are one of my favourite foods for ‘wild’ cooking, and as the season seems to be drawing to an end, this week may be the last chance to make use of the delicious blooms. This is another simple and tasting recipe that is quick to prepare and makes a lovely snack or dessert.
You will need
20 Elderflower Blossoms
1 Cup Rice Flour plus extra
2 Cup Sunflower Oil
1 Cup Ice water
1 tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
Icing/Confectioner’s Sugar for dusting (Optional)
Trim away the leaves, leaving a short stem on each flower head, then bathe the flowers in cold water to remove any bugs. Make sure to dry them thoroughly before frying.
Pop the extra flour into a bowl, you will need this to coat the flowers before dipping them into the batter. In a large bowl add the cup of flour, egg, baking powder, salt and combine with a balloon whisk. Then slowly add the ice water making sure the batter has no lumps.
Heat the oil until it is nice and hot (about 190 degrees). Take a flower head, coat in flour and then dip into the batter gently shaking off the excess. Drop into the hot oil and fry for a minute or two until lightly golden. Place on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil and repeat with the rest of the flowers.
Serve with a light dusting of icing sugar and cream.
I still remember the feeling of absolute awe when I first arrived in Morocco. And in spite of its flourishing tourist trade, Morocco still holds a sense of mystic and seductive allure. Hearing the early morning call to prayer, watching the celebrations as pilgrims return from Mecca. The fields of mint and coriander, emerald coloured oases and stunning casbahs conjure images of old Arabian tales and epic movies.
We stayed at a nomadic camp in the Sahara. Our host an older gentleman, who wore his life on his weathered yet pleasant face, his voice deep brown and gravely, welcomed us like old friends. At dinner, we were served the most delicious tagines and salads, all vibrantly coloured like platefuls of jewels.
The colourful food of the Arabian lands is among my favourite world cuisines. This Moroccan inspired recipe is fresh and light and so simple to make. It’s equally delicious as a sweet dessert or as a side to savoury dishes – a slow cooked lamb tagine perhaps!
Serve with the syrup for a dessert or a dusting of ground cinnamon as a side dish.
You will need
For the salad
3 Medium Size Oranges
3 Medium Size Blood Oranges
1 Extra Orange for the Juice
Seeds from 1/2 Pomegranate
6 Fresh Mint Leaves
Ground Cinnamon (Optional)
For the Syrup
2 Tbsp of Orange Blossom Water
200g Light Cane Sugar
3 Tbsp Freshly squeezed Orange Juice
250 ml Water
To make the syrup, pop the water and sugar into a medium pan. Simmer over med-high heat, continually stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved and it begins to thicken. This will take about 5 minutes or so. Stir in the orange blossom water and orange juice, continue to simmer until you get a thick, viscose syrup. Remove from the heat, place a lid on the pan and set aside to allow it to cool and the flavours to infuse.
Peel the 3 oranges and 3 blood oranges for the salad, removing the white pith. With a sharp knife cut the oranges into thin slices, but not too thin. Arrange slices on a serving plate alternating orange and red. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves and spoon over the syrup. Alternatively, put about a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon in a fine mesh sieve, and lightly dust over the fruit.
Serve with cream or natural greek-style yoghurt.
Treat yourself well also when you are in distress.
When you are dead there is nothing left of life.
Just do what you want, the people are talking nevertheless.
A little luck and a little wine with a little maiden.
O Lord, the life is fine!
Much of what is interesting about Hamburg seems to lay indoors rather than out, largely due to the weather perhaps. There are palatable selections of cafes, bars and restaurants in various styles and themes, but every now and then you happen upon somewhere that’s totally alluring.
The charming inscription above is carved into the ceiling beams of the Zur Traube Weinstube und Restaurant, located here in Hamburg and translated for me by their ever-lovely sommelier, Sandra.
From the very first moment I entered this wine bar, I was captivated and knew I would be visiting often. Stepping into Zur Traube you are hit with a potent dose of Germanesque nostalgia and uncommon old world charm. Established in the late 1800s as a wine room, the intriguing interior is a little nook of curiosities. As you sit in the cosy, creaky seating booths, your eyes are drawn along dark panelled walls to the carved figures depicting labourers in various occupations, from coopers to blacksmiths. The central ceiling light has carvings of various figures one of which is Bacchus the God of wine. Characterful and candlelit, the snug, otherworldly ambience and endless supply of wines help stave off Hamburg’s cold winter evenings.
When you eventually shift your gaze from the decor to the wine list, Zur Traube offers over 250 carefully curated German and global wines, and with around 50 bottles opened at any one time for tasting by the glass, every visit is a new tasting adventure.
Humorous scenes of drunken iniquity are intricately carved into the stairwell panels, which leads up to the restaurant. Added in the early 1900s, it has a more modern feel to its decor and offers a sumptuous, seasonal, bistro-style menu to tantalize your tastebuds further.
Gōnn dir was auch wenn du in Not bist
Was hast du vom Leben wenn du tot bist
Do wat du willt, de Lud snadit doch.
Ein bissen Schwein und ein bissen Wein, dazu ein kleines Māgdelein.
Herrgott, wie ist das Leben fein!
Open Mon-Sat from 19:00 – Sundays from 18:00
One of the many pleasures of 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 into 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 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 Dubai–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 namesake 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 interfere with the business of tasting. An absolute must for anyone remotely interested in Portuguese 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 fashionable in the 1800s, 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 waiter’s 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 a 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 dining 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 a 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 are 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.
Zanzibari Clams in Coconut | Recipe
During my stay on Zanzibar Island, I would often sit on the beach quietly taking photos of the village women in 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. “They cook the clams in coconut with lime and salt,” he told me.
Eating on the island was an absolute pleasure for the scenes. There were very few fridges in local cafes and restaurants. Everything is freshly prepared: fresh fish, fresh coconut, mango, passion fruit, limes, Thai basil and spices are either gathered or grown on the island are used to give 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 medium heat for 15-20 minutes. With a slotted 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 1200s. 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 captured my attention. 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 southeastern 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 digging for clams and gathering seaweed.
Two worlds conjoin on Jambiani beach: the everyday lives of the womenfolk who 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, they 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 daylight 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 sandbanks 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 showing me her swimming skills. I praise 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
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 of 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 slotted 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.