Croatia 2017 – Digest

I had never travelled to any seaside resorts during the peak season, so I was really amazed!! and learnt how Europeans (and others) spend their vacance, which was a good anthropological study ūüėÄ

Although fed up with the crowds (and prices!), I had a wonderful time in Croatia – enjoyed stunning views, encounters, swimming, sunbathing… and food + wine, of course!!

Before departure, I had asked one of my blogger friends for some tips.
Thank you, Martina on Crunch Crunch Away! !

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park

I advise you to take Entrance 2, not 1 if you visit the park in the high season, otherwise you would waste more than one hour to go through the entrance like I did.

 

Split

I recommend the views over Split from the Marjan Park rather than from the Bell Tower of Saint Domnius – I am fearful of heights!!

View from Marjan Hill

Trogir

Half day trip from Split by boat and local bus on my way back

OmiŇ°

Half day trip from Split by local bus (I’d love to try rafting in the river next time. )

Three island hopping by speedboat:

I was really looking forward to seeing the Blue and Green Caves. I waited for the tour while in Split, however, all were cancelled because of strong winds. As a Marphy’s Law, it went back to normal on the very day I left the city ¬†ūüė¶

Heading to Milna for morning coffee – Brańć Island (Try Milna Pekara for nice local bread.)
Paklinski Islands or Devil’s Islands
One of the highlights of my trip – Hvar Habour and Paklinski Islands from Spanjola Fortress

 

Dubrovnik

Lots of unexpected things happened in Split almost ruined my holiday but, thank goodness, Dubrovnik saved me!

To avoid (human) traffic jam on the Ancient City Walls and the long queue for the cable car, stroll early in the morning, then head to the top of¬†SrńĎ Mountain!

Mostar 

Joined a tour group from Dubrovnik and visited Mostar.

‘The historic town of Mostar, spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River, developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostar has long been known for its old Turkish houses and Old Bridge, Stari Most, after which it is named. In the 1990s conflict, however, most of the historic town and the Old Bridge, designed by the renowned architect Sinan, was destroyed. The Old Bridge was recently rebuilt and many of the edifices in the Old Town have been restored or rebuilt with the contribution of an international scientific committee established by UNESCO. The Old Bridge area, with its pre-Ottoman, eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and western European architectural features, is an outstanding example of a multicultural urban settlement. The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar is a symbol of reconciliation, international co-operation and of the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities.’ ¬† ¬†(source: UNESCO website)

View from the Minaret of Koski Mehmed PaŇ°ha Mosque – ¬†Stari Most after reconstruction completed in 2008. On the way to Mostar, I saw some remains of buildings destroyed¬†during the¬†Bosnian¬†War.
He is collecting 25 euros from passersby to jump…
into the river from the Old Bridge, about 25 metres high above water level.

If you plan to visit this pretty old town or Montenegro with a guided tour from Dubrovnik, choose one in a mini van or/on weekdays, otherwise it would take really long – 6 hours in the high season – to clear the border(s).

Mljet 

Last but not least, Mljet is the best highlight of my trip. I didn’t see¬†Odysseus¬†Cave, but the national park was marvelous enough to satisfy me. Walking around the salt lakes, dived into the water whenever/wherever I wanted. I highly recommend the small lake where the waves were calmer, the water looked more emerald green and there were few tourists. I loved the tranquility and calmness floating on the gentle waves. It was so peaceful and soothing, which brought me back to childhood as I brought up by the sea, that I almost fell asleep!!

Benedictine monastery on the Isle of St Mary in the middle of Veliko Jezero (the Great Lake)

My photos cannot describe the beauty enough, so I uploaded below:

About 1.5 hour ferry boat trip from GruŇ嬆Port, Dubrovnik to Polańće, Mljet (140 kn for return). The entrance fee to the ¬†Mljet National Park is 125 kn (incl. bus and boat fares in the park), but worthwhile paying.

Mljet National Park
Timetable: Gruz – Mljet

 

Lessons learned :

Next time on, I will avoid travelling in high season (and the places Game of Thrones were filmed – is it the reason why Isle of Skye was full of tourists last year? Nay, it’s not the filming location, isn’t it?). And next time in Dalmatia, to keep away from the major towns/cities and stay in a smaller and quieter village or island.

 

Anyway, my culinary adventure stories shall follow.

 

 

Eating Well?

My Bucatini con Sarde (click here for the recipe) e finocchietto

 

Hope you are eating well. I’ll come back soon ūüôā

 

My cooking from Sicily trip 2016

Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins

 

Sadly, the strawberry season has been over here… but I have been playing around with ¬†my strawberry confiture –¬†scones, Victoria sponge, strawberry choc brownies etc. Today, I am posting the best result from those experiments I have made so far: Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins.

 

 

Ingredients

(makes 6 jumbo muffins)

130 g plain flour
60 g polenta or cornmeal
10 g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
¬ľ tsp bicarbonate of soda
a dash (1‚ĀĄ8 tsp)¬†of sea salt
80 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
65 g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
¬Ĺ tsp vanilla extract
70 ml whipping cream (heavy cream, fat 35%), whipped
120 g strawberry confiture

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190¬į C. Into a bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt.
  2. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each, then add the vanilla extract.
  3. Fold in half of the flour mixture, the whipped cream and finally the rest of the flours gently until evenly combined. Add the confiture, stirring just to roughly mix.
  4. Spoon the batter into a greased or lined muffin tin.¬†Bake for¬†10 minutes, then reduce to 180¬į C and bake for about 15 minutes more or until well risen, golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack to¬†cool completely.

 

 

Wagashi of the Month: Minazuki

Here comes June again Р the month of Minazuki, June in the lunar calendar, and the month for Minazuki, a confection. One of my colleagues brought the latter Minazuki from Gionmanju in Kyoto for me, so once again I am posting this Wagashi.

 

Wagashi of the Month: June last year

 

Kyoto Trip in Minazuki Day 1  from my post last year:

 

Kyoto Trip in Minazuki Day 2 and Minazuki sweets from my post last year:

 

 

Strawberry Confiture

 

Here in Japan, the strawberry season is coming towards the end ūüė¶

 

 

So I have been cooking strawberries almost every night ūüėÄ
This strawberry confiture tastes sooooo good that I’m going to make¬†it until the last minute!!

 

Ingredients

(makes about 280 – 300 g)

500 g ripe strawberry,  hulled and large ones halved
100 g golden caster sugar
juice of¬†¬Ĺ – 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)

 

Perfect with vanilla ice cream!

Method

  1. Put the strawberries into a non-reactive pan along with the lemon juice and sugar. Simmer on lower heat , stirring from time to time and skimming off scum.
  2. Roughly mash the berries with a wooden spoon or fork, and leave to simmer until thickened. In all, it will take about 45 Р60 minutes to make.
  3. Cool completely. Keep refrigerated and finish in 1 week. (Alternatively, bottle or freeze)

 

Sunday cream tea ūüôā

 

I shall post a baking recipe with this strawberry confiture.

 

 

 

Bake-Off ! – Bara Brith and Welsh Whisky

I participated in a baking contest took place in Tokyo earlier this month. This is one of the reasons I had been a bit away from here. I don‚Äôt remember how many loaves I baked, and I have totally no idea how much flours, dried fruits etc. were consumed for this ūüėÄ

At first, I was just trying to bake Bara Brith, a Welsh fruit loaf made with tea and Welsh version of Irish Barm Brack, according to a recipe postcard from a Postcrossing friend in Wales. Then the announcement of the contest followed: ‘Irish & British Bake-off! looking for contestants’. This was organized by an English woman who runs a bakery and baking classes in Tokyo, and had nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off ūüėÄ

To be honest, it was really struggling to make a NICE Bara Brith since no butter (or no oil) is used for the cake. It didn’t work out the way as I wanted at all, so I adopted a Boiled Fruitcake recipe and mixed up the methods, which turned out to be pretty well.

Unfortunately, the cake couldn‚Äôt beat others. For me, however, the result was rather good ‚Äď I had assumed the physical appearance wouldn‚Äôt attract the judges and the cake would taste too heavy for Japanese. Surprisingly,¬†I got 6 votes! and¬†received some nice comments. Among others, ‘the cake was rich in depth and complexity and I loved it!’ satisfied me a lot.¬†I didn‚Äôt reveal the ingredients, but some noticed the ‘complexity’.

My cake – Entry No. 4

The ingredient that gave the cake complex richness is Penderyn, Welsh single malt whisky, and I selected dried fruits and preserves which go perfectly well with the whisky.

Penderyn Madeira

I guess most of you haven’t heard of Welsh whisky unlike Scottish and Irish counterparts. Actually, the whisky production once died out in the late 19th century, but some entrepreneurs endevoured to revive distillation in the 1990s and in 2000, the Welsh Whisky Company was founded, which is now known as Penderyn Distillery.  As of 2016, Wales has two whisky distilleries in operation. (Wikipedia)

Penderyn whisky is completely different from Scotch ‚Äď I have a kind of impression that Penderyn is feminine or womanly: smooth, fresh, sweet, elegant, flowery yet deep while Scotch is manliest: strong, powerful, earthy…. I tried some Scotch for the cake, but none of them created the ‘complexity’.

What makes Penderyn whisky unique is their still:

‘Our whisky still is a single copper-pot which produces a flavourful spirit of extraordinary strength and purity and was designed by Dr David Faraday, descendent of the ground-breaking Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday. As of 2013 we have a pair of these stills.

Whilst most Scottish and Irish distilleries use a conventional two or three-pot still system, the technology developed at Penderyn allows an extremely clean ‚Äėflavourful‚Äô spirit to be produced from a single still.’

I used Penderyn Madeira for the cake:

TASTING NOTES – Nose: A classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins. Palate: Crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appetising dryness. Finish: Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist. 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition ‚Äď Silver¬†(from Penderyn website)

Other than the whisky, my Bara Brith requires specific ingredients and products. I’m not sure if substitutes work or not, so I haven’t posted the recipe here. Please let me know if you would like to try to bake my Bara Brith. Anyway, I am going to develop this recipe and will post it later this year, hopefully before Christmas!

Next time in London, I’ll sign up for¬†the Great British Baking Workshop¬†(ex Celtic Baking Workshop) at¬†Bread Ahead Bakery & School.

Lemon Lentil Soup and London

We have reached¬†May already….¬†April has gone without any posts¬†–¬†things have been too hectic here to do blog hopping (sorry guys!) and posts.

This lentil soup is a copycat from Gaby’s Deli, a Jewish restaurant at Leicester Square, London. Not sure if I could succeed in copying it…. Or rather I should say I just tried to imitate their recipe, however, I like mine very much.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
¬ľ tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh coriander stalk, finely chopped
100 g onion, finely chopped
70 g carrot, finely chopped
¬Ĺ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
650 and 150 ml water
4 tsp no sodium vegetable bouillon (adjust according to the package instructions)
200 g dried red or yellow lentil, rinsed
1 tsp dried mint leaves
¬Ĺ – ¬ĺ tsp fine sea salt (adjust according to the package instructions)
1 juice of fresh lemon

fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
slices of lemon, to garnish

Method

 ( For 3 -4 servings)

  1. In a large saucepan, put in the olive oil, ginger, garlic and coriander, then fry over low heat stirring consistently until fragrant. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes but not brown. Spoon in the turmeric and cumin powder, and carry on until fragrant. Add the carrot and fry for further one minute.
  2. Pour the 650 ml water into the pan, stir in the lentil, bouillon, salt  and mint, and increase the heat to bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover to simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Purée the soup in a food processor or a blender until completely smooth. Let it sit for overnight if possible.
  4. Return the purée to the pan with 150 ml water and reheat over low heat. Pour in some more water if too thick. When boiled, add the lemon juice and simmer for a few minutes. Taste it and add more salt and/or juice of lemon if needed. Remove from the heat.
  5. Serve the soup in bowls and garnish with a slice of lemon and coriander leaves on top.

When in London, I pretty much enjoy Middle Eastern food. Below are the restaurants and shops I have tried:

Gaby’s Deli
Once it was forced to close, but fortunately still there! It’s no-frills but I enjoy their food and atmosphere. I pop in for a quick meal or when I’m away from home for a while and eager for vegetables.

Lentil soup (source: Yelp)

 

Honey & Co.
Very popular restaurant at Warren St. Booking is a must.

 

Mr Falafel

 

Hummus Bros

 

And I tried my blogger friend Kay’s recommendations last year. Thank you Kay for the posts, Yalla Yalla and the Barbary !

Yalla Yalla

At the corner of¬†Green’s Court, found a nice Italian deli, Lina Stores and took away a cannolo.

I’ll definitely go back for their fresh pasta!

 

The Barbary

Halva ice cream

 

Restaurants and shops on my list:

Ottolenghi
Honey & Smoke  РThank you Kay for sharing the review
Berber & Q – Shawarma Bar
Maroush
Karma Bread Bakery
Pilpel

Let me know if you have any recommendations! Also if you happen to know where I can purchase a bottle of Arak, Israeli anis liqueur.

 

If you¬†badly want tons of Halva…

It’s a Greek restaurant, but try the Greek Larder at King’s Cross when¬†Whole¬†Foods Market’s tiny package cannot satisfy you!¬†They would happily slice some for you ¬†– I bought about¬†500 g¬†ūüėÄ

Bubur Cha Cha

Burbu Cha Cha is a coconut milk based dessert from Malaysia or Singapore. Usually cooked with yam, taro, sweet potatoes, black eyed beans, pandan leaf etc., but I made it simpler with just sweet potato, banana and tapioca.

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2-3 servings)

800-1000 ml water
35 g tapioca pearls

500 ml water
1 tbsp salt

450 ml water
240 g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
110 g coconut cream (thicker and richer than coconut milk)
¬Ĺ¬†tsp coconut sugar
2-2¬Ĺ tsp¬†caster sugar (to adjust)
¬Ĺ banana, cut into small pieces
(optional: fresh mint)

 

 

Method

  1. Pour the 800-1000 ml water in a pan and bring to the boil. Add in the tapioca and simmer over low heat for 1-1.5 hours or until transparent, stirring occasionally. Rinse in running water and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, leave the sweet potato pieces in 500 ml water with salt for about 1 hour and drain. Put the potato chunks in a pan with 450 ml water and bring to the boil. Cook on medium heat until tender.
  3. Reduce to low heat, add the sugars, ladle in the coconut cream and simmer for about a few minutes. Add in the tapioca and banana, then cook for further 2-3 minutes. Taste and add more caster sugar if needed. Serve hot. Or let it cool and chill in fridge to serve cold.

NOTE: Change water before adding coconut cream if use purple sweet potato.

 

The Misteries of Trapani – Good Friday in Sicily

Easter is approaching again…. As I posted last year, I travelled around in Sicily during the Holy Week of 2016, and saw some religious traditions: U Signuruzzu a Cavad du in Caccamo,¬†Holy Monday processions in Enna¬†and so on. After Etna, I moved on to the western part of the island for the Holy Thursday Procession in Marsala and Processione dei Misteri di Trapani on Good Friday.

The Processione dei Misteri di Trapani or simply the Misteri di Trapani (in English, the ‘Procession of the Mysteries of Trapani’ or the ‘Mysteries of Trapani’) is a day-long passion procession featuring twenty floats of lifelike wood, canvas and glue sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion, a passion play at the centre and the culmination of the Holy Week in Trapani.

The Misteri are amongst the oldest continuously running religious events in Europe, having been played every Good Friday since before the Easter of 1612, and running for at least 16 continuous hours, but occasionally well beyond the 24 hours, are the longest religious festival in Sicily and in Italy. (source: Wikipedia)

Programme for Holy Week 2016

 

The Misteri are an artistic representation of the Passion and Death of Jesus through twenty sculptural groups, including two statues of the Dead Jesus and of the Lady of Sorrows. They were granted in trust, by deeds, by the Brotherhood of St Michael the Archangel, which instituted the rite in the late 16th century, to the members of the local Guilds in exchange of the promise to carry them during the passion procession every Good Friday. (Wikipedia)

At 2 pm, the procession commenced from Chiesa del Purgatorio accompanied by the local marching bands.

The statues are taken around Trapani by the portatori, volunteers who carry them on their shoulders and walk with a particular step called nnacata, rocking sideways.

  

Stood still for about 5 hours to observe all the 20 statues!

The procession continues throughout¬†the night…

even in rain…. (shower the following morning)

finale

retiring into the church 24 hours after (about 23 hrs in 2016)

 

The people

P√Ęine de CasńÉ & Khachapuri

The recipes that I’m posting here today are Romanian and Georgian origin.

I’ve never been to Romania, but the P√Ęine de CasńÉ, Romanian bread, from my favourite bakery in Japan has attracted me for many years. (It should probably be called p√Ęine de cartofi, or potato bread, rather than homemade bread.) I had always wanted to try to bake¬†the¬†bread with soft, moist and chewy texture, and finally did it recently. After a few baking attempts, it came out¬†sooooo good!!

The p√Ęine de casńÉ along with khachapuri wasn’t photogenic at all, so baked another one ūüėÄ

Another recipe is of¬†khachapuri (Adjaruli¬†type),¬†Georgian cheese bread. I didn’t know anything about Georgian food, but a¬†meal photo that one of my blogger friends posted grabbed my heart – my ‘stomach’, I mean ‘appetite’, to be precise – and I had been¬†hoping¬†to make the cheese bread since I had tasty¬†one in London. When my p√Ęine de casńÉ experiment went well, I wondered what if… and I was right! The p√Ęine de casńÉ filled with melted cheeses topped with a runny egg and butter turned out to be¬†a perfect match – much better¬†than the one I had in London ūüėÄ ¬†Trust me! My khachapuri would never disappoint you!!

Ingredients

for the dough 

180 g floury potato (for 150 g mashed potato)
150 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp instant dry yeast
150 g strong white flour

60 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp salt (for khachapuri bread; add¬†¬ľ tsp more for p√Ęine de casńÉ)
200 g strong white flour (plus some for dusting)
100 g strong wholemeal flour

for the filling (for 2 khachapuri)

100 g grated fresh mozzarella
80 g grated¬†Sams√ł¬†cheese
80 g crumbled feta cheese (I used milder)
1 tbsp Greek yoghurt
2 egg yolk
20 g butter

Method

P√Ęine de CasńÉ

  1. Place the potatoes in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook until tender but not falling apart. Drain well, peel the potatoes and mash thoroughly.
  2.  Dissolve the yeast in the 150 ml lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Put the 150 g mashed potato in a bowl, pour in the yeasty water, and stir with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the 150 g strong white flour and mix well to form a sticky dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave the dough sit overnight.
  3.  The following day, dissolve the salt in the 60 ml lukewarm water, pour in the dough and stir well. Spoon in the remaining flours and knead into the dough. The dough should be too sticky to work with, but do not add any more flour. Cover again with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 Р2 hours until doubled in size.
  4. ¬†Preheat oven to 220¬įC. Punch down and knead the dough for a few¬†minutes in the bowl. With floured hands, shape into a round loaf and place it on a floured baking sheet.¬†Bake in the oven for about 20¬†minutes or until well risen and crusty on top. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Khachapuri 

  1. Preheat the oven to 220¬įC.¬†Combine the cheeses with the yoghurt¬†and set aside.
  2. On a floured surface, divide¬†the p√Ęine de casńÉ dough into two equal pieces, and shape both into a ball.¬†Spread each piece into a circle about 25 cm¬†in diameter. Roll two¬†opposite sides of the circle towards the centre so it ends up have a boat like shape. Then pinch the corners together.
  3. Put half of the cheese mixture in the middle and repeat with remaining dough and cheese. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until the crust becomes golden brown. Make a well in the centre of each khachapuri with a spoon and drop one egg yolk into each well. Return to the oven and bake for another few minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on your oven, but the egg yolk should still be bright yellow and runny. Remove from the oven, place 10 g butter on each bread and serve immediately. When eating, mix the cheese and egg with a fork.

 

Little Georgia in London

¬†I learnt khachapuri from¬†the Wife of Bath’s travel story in¬†Georgia.¬†Unfortunately, there¬†is not a¬†Georgian restaurant in Tokyo – some Russian ones serve ‘the sort¬†of’ dishes though – so I had decided¬†to try a Georgian restaurant in London.

Then popped in¬†Little Georgia¬†in Islington – walked up from King’s Cross Road, about a 20 min walk, not from¬†Angel, the nearest tube station. It was Thursday night and the place was 80% full, so I reckon the restaurant is quite popular. It was a bit pricey for me, but it is normal in London and costs more for one person. Anyway, the food was good and satisfactory.

(source: TripAdvisor)
(source: Time Out London)
khachapuri with Georgian wine
Ask for khinkali (Georgian dumpling ) – it’s not on the menu.

Next time in London, I will try breakfast or lunch at the original Little Georgia Cafe in Hackney, a cafe with BYO policy.

Little Georgia Cafe (source: Miranda’s Notebook)
mezze platter of salads (source: Miranda’s Notebook)