Ichijiku no Kanroni – Japanese Fig Compote

 

Figs are fully in season, so I made Ichijiku no Kanroni.

 

 

Ichijiku means ‘fig’ and its kanji spelling is 無花果, which denotes a plant that bears fruit without flowering: 無=naught,  花=flower, 果=fruit.

Kanroni is a cooking method or type of dish, and it spells as 甘露煮: 甘=sweet, 露=dew, 煮=simmering /simmered. The ingredients stewed in sweet sauce or syrup are not necessary to be fruit, and fish like sardine, smelt etc. are also common for kanroni served as an appetiser or a side dish.

For kanroni, green, firm and less sweet ones like White Genoa or Kadota varieties are preferable, and they need to be just before fully ripe and not splitting open.

 

left: White Genoa for kanroni / right: Horaishi to eat raw or for jam

 

Being seasoned with some say sauce, it may taste a bit like mitarashi or daigaku imo.

 

my daigak imo, Japanese caramelised sweet potato (click here for the recipe)

 

Ingredients

1 kg fig,  green, firm and less sweet such as White Genoa or Kadota (just before fully ripe and not splitting open)
200 g caster sugar
2 tbsp sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp koikuchi shoyu (dark Japanese soy sauce, not tamari)

 

 

Method

  1. Wash the figs and remove the stems. Put the figs in a large pot with plenty of water to cover, and bring to the boil over medium heat. When boiled, take out the figs and drain off the water.
  2. Pour the sake in the pot, place the figs and sprinkle over ¹⁄3 of the sugar. Cover with an aluminum foil or baking parchment lid (on top of the figs so as to circulate heat and the liquid), then bring to simmer over low heat for about 60 minutes. While simmering, do not stir but shake the pan occasionally, so it will not burn to the bottom.
  3. Add another ¹⁄3 of the sugar, and the rest after 60 minutes. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, stir in the soy sauce and honey, and simmer for further 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for overnight.
  4. Bring back to simmer for 15 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. It can be store at room temperature for a week or so unless in hot weather, but keep in refrigerator for longer storage up to 3 weeks.

 

Ichijiku no Kanroni with Yukimi Daifuku, mochi icecream

 

The juicy, chewy and nicely sweet fig is scrumptious as it is, but really goes well with ice cream!

 

 

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Sardine Escabeche and Croatia

The Nanbanzuke recipe I posted earlier this month intended to allude this Sardine Escabeche recipe.

I came across savur, a.k.a. ‘savor’ or ‘saor’, Croatian escabeche when I was making  my ‘To-Eat in Croatia’ list picking out the local dishes from Taste of Croatia. It describes savur that ‘Traditional way of preparing and preserving fish, usually sardines and anchovies, that is very popular in regions where ancient Venetian republic ruled but very similar recipe can be found even in distant Japan’, which attracted my interest on the propagation: the Portuguese  or Spanish dish was passed on eastward – e.g. to the Mediterranean regions, Philippines, Japan etc. as I mentioned on the Nanbanzuke  post (also spread westward to their colonies in the new continent as well, though).

Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to try escabeche in Croatia, so I made it myself referencing a recipe on the web and adding some changes.

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

6 butterflied sardine fillet
salt and pepper
15 g plain flour
15 g  cornstarch
50 ml olive oil, to shallow fry

[Marinade]
100 ml water
75 ml white wine vinegar (acidity 6%)
60 ml white wine (I used medium bodied Riesling)
½ tsp caster sugar
60 g red onion, finely sliced
30 g carrot, julienned
30 g celery, julienned
3 small sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
½ tbsp salted capers, rinsed
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ tsp fennel seeds
1 dried bay leaf
fresh rosemary springs
fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp juice of fresh lemon

extra virgin olive oil, to garnish
sweet paprika, to garnish (optional)
celery leaf or flat leaf parsley, to garnish (optional)

Method

  1. Season the fish with salt and pepper, and lightly dust with a mix of the flour and starch. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry over medium heat, skin-side down until lightly brown and drain excess oil. Set them aside in a wide non-reactive tray.
  2. Place the celery, carrot, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, bay leaf, rosemary, sage, fennel seeds, sugar, vinegar, water and wine in a non-reactive saucepan, bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, and pour over the fish. Set aside to cool completely, and scatter the lemon juice before place in a fridge. Leave for at least 2 hours or overnight to marinate.
  3. On a platter, top with sardines, garnish with the paprika and green leaves, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil when serve.

I tried as many dishes as I listed whilst in Croatia this summer and learnt that Croatian cuisine has received influences from neibouring cultures and the countries ruled the territory of Croatia throughout history. It has similarities with Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish etc., but each region has its own distinct culinary traditions. I stayed mostly in Split and Dubrovnik, the coastal Croatia, and enjoyed lots of seafood cooked in traditional Dalmatian way.

Seafood Dishes

Brudet: fish soup served with polenta
Gulaš od Hobotnice: octopus stew
Škampi na Buzaru or ‘Skampi Buzara‘ @ Villa Spiza in Split – this place is getting very popular and takes no reservations. Go earlier to avoid the long queue, prob. by 7.00 pm at latest.
Crni Rižoto: black cuttlefish risotto @ Amfora near Gruž Port in Dubrovnik – loved the wild fennel adittion! Their Miso Fish Soup and Chilled Fennel Cream Soup looked nice.

Meat Dishes

Pašticada, so called ‘Queen of Dalmatian Cuisine’, served with potato gnocchi – meat dish but one of the most popular Dalmatian dishes.

I tried Ćevapčići in Bosnia Herzegovina where it is considered a national dish. Ćevapi or Ćevapčići is well known and eaten in all parts of the former Yugoslavia once under the Ottoman Empire. Next time Dubrovnik, I will try Taj Mahal (funny, it’s not an Indian restaurant!) near Lapad, not in the Old Town, to explore more about Bosnian food. Sofra in Zagreb was pretty good.

‘National Plate’ @ Sadrvan in Mostar – dolma, japrak, ćevapčići, lepinja, ajvar, đuveč, Bosanski Kolacic

Those I mentioned above were all nice, however, what I enjoyed more was the food cooked with bare minimum of seasoning and really brings out the full original flavour of ingredients.

grilled trout @ Plitvice Lakes

The octopus salad at Konoba Menego in Hvar Island is highly recommended. All the ingredients were fresh and tasty, especially the caper! They don’t sell their homemade capers, unfortunately…. Instead, they advised me to find ones preserved in vinegar at farmers’ market. Their cheese and dry-cured ham platter looked yum.

octopus salad @ Konoba Menego

In Dalmatia, fresh seafood grilled over open flame is superb. It is simple, but tastes different as it is cooked with fresh olive oil and Mediterranean herbs over olive tree or grapevine wood fire, which gives it deep flavour. So the grilled meat and vegetables are flavourful, too.

grilled sea bass @ Miličić Winery

Lady Pi-Pi, one of MUST places in Dubronik, offers delicious BBQ food at reasonable price considering to the location (within the Wall), a great view over the Old Town and good atmosphere under the grape trellis. They don’t accept reservations, so I avoided dinner time and dropped in just before lunch time (breakfast is served until 11:00). I had to wait a bit for a table to be ready, but there wasn’t a queue.

left: my lunch – grilled squid @ Lady Pi-Pi

You absolutely must try peka while in Dalmatia! Peka is a slowly baked dish with meat or seafood along with vegetables in a pot or tray, but it is actually a method of cooking, and also a dome or bell-shaped ceramic or metal lid. The dish is also called ispod čripnje, or ‘under the bell’ – food cooked under the bell-shaped lid in fireplace.

dome-shaped peka -(souce: Travels with Tricia)

The lid is covered with hot coals while the ingredients are being slowly cooked in their own juices under the ‘bell’. That is why they are moist and flavoursome. It is said that it probably is the oldest way of food preparation in the Adriatic, even Mediterranean area – according to some archaeological researches, the artifacts of peka was found in the layers of Bronze Age.

It may be a primitive way of cooking, but the result is more than satisfying!! Even the potatoes accompanied by were moreish!

fireplace for peka @ Miličić Winery

I wish I could have joined sunset tuk tuk tour followed by dinner at Konoba Dubrava, one of the most popular peka places in Dubrovnik! Unfortunately, it was not available for just one person…. Anyway, I had a chance to try some, which was divine!

peka @ Miličić Winery

Some locals I met while in Dubrovnik dreamily said octopus peka is scrumptious and much tastier than meat one. It was too late to notice some restaurants near Polače Port in Mljet serve octopus peka – little time was left until departure back to Dubrovnik…. Peka usually needs to be ordered in advance and takes some time to be prepared. Stop by and ask restaurant staff before you visit the Mljet National Park if you make a day trip to the island.

octopus peka (source: Croatia Travel Guide & Blog)

In Dubrovnik, I rented a holiday apartment halfway between the Old Town and Gruž Port – less expensive and much quieter than staying inside the Wall. There are very frequent bus services to/from the centre until late, however, it was just about 20 minute walk and very safe even at night. I sometimes walked down for a glass of wine or a scoop of ice cream enjoying cool evening air after dinner at the apartment.

There are fish and green markets near the port, where I popped in almost every day to get some fresh fruits for breakfast, and vegetables etc. for my cooking. I cannot recall well, but I think the mussels were about 15-20 kunas per 1kg.

my cooking: mussels cooked in Pošip (Croatian white grape variety) wine
Also made my lemony pasta with ricotta filled raviori instead of adding the cheese (click here for the recipe)

Dalmatian cheese and dry-cured ham also are a must, which I shall mention when I write about Croatian wines.

Sicily and Lemony Ricotta Fettuccine with Tomato & Pistachio

This Fettuccine recipe is adopted from the Raviolini al Limone I enjoyed whilst in Enna for the Holy Monday last year.

 

Raviolini al Limone @ Centrale

 

Instead of ricotta filled ravioli, I used fettuccine and added the cheese into the sauce. Also scattered with ground pistachios to make it Sicilian!!

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

200 g dried fettuccine
2 liter water
2 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil
400 g fully ripe tomato, finely chopped
200 ml water from boiled fettuccine
100 ml heavy cream (whipping cream, fat 35%)
2 tbsp ground pistachio (pistachio powder/flour)
100 g ricotta cheese
2 tbsp juice of lemon, freshly squeezed
a few pinches of lemon zest (organic unwaxed), freshly grated
ground white pepper (to taste)

flat leaf parsley  (to sprinkle)
unsalted pistachio, roughly chopped  (to sprinkle)

 

 

 Method

  1. Bring a large pot of the water to the boil. Salt the water and cook fettuccine until 2-3 min short of ‘al dente’. Reserve the cooking liquid for the sauce.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Put in the tomato and fry for a few minutes stirring consistently.
  3. Transfer the fettuccine into the pan and add the cooking liquid. Increase the heat to high and mix well by stirring consistently for 1-2 min or until the liquid thickened. Make sure it doesn’t get dry. Add some more cooking water if required.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium. Pour in the heavy cream and pistachio stirring constantly as it thickens. Add the ricotta, lemon juice and zest, season with the white pepper and toss it well. Once mixed, turn off the heat immediately. Taste it and add salt or some more lemon juice if required.
  5. Plate the pasta, and sprinkle with the chopped pistachio and parsley.

     

    Calascibetta – view from Enna

MUST VISIT whilst in ENNA

 Villa Romana del Casalea large and elaborate Roman villa or palace located about 3 km from the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Excavations have revealed one of the richest, largest and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world, for which the site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The villa and artwork contained within date to the early 4th century AD. (source: Wikipedia)

the Great Hunt

the ‘Bikini Girls’
the Giants

The Villa is famous for so-called ‘Bikini Girls’ mosaic, but for me, the most impressive one was the Giants.

The mosaic with the Giants shot by the arrows of Hercules is one of the most expressive in the entire residence. The figures are isolated and emerge clearly from the white background, heightening the drama of their poses.

The dying Giants have powerful bodies with reddish brown skin and are called serpent-footed because their lower limbs end in the form of sinuous snakes.

As in the central field, Hercules is not shown in the scene, which instead depicts the result of his vanquishing of enemies who dared challenge Olympus.

 

 

How to get to Villa Romana del Casale

1. to Piazza Armerina 

  • by Pullman (intercity bus) – arrives at Piazza Marescalchi
    from Enna and Palermo – by SAIS
    from Catania, Catania AP, Caltagirone – by Interbus

2. from Piazza Armerina to Villa Romana del Casale

  • by local bus: Villabus (1st May – 30th Sept. only)
  • by taxi: leaves from Piazza Marescalchi (main bus station)
    If you cannot find any taxies, try the bar at the piazza/near the bus station. They have the phone numbers and will probably call for you if you don’t speak Italian (so I could manage to take a taxi!!). Make sure to book for return. The return fare (both ways) costed about 20 euros as of March 2013.

Click here for more access tips

 

MUST STAY in ENNA

This newly opened B&B, P&G Design is run by the same owner of Bianko & Bianko I mentioned on my post, Chickpea & Almond Biscuits and Sicily. She kindly sent me the information for my future visit to Enna.

P&G Design (source: Booking.com)
breakfast (source: Booking.com)


MUST EAT in ENNA

Centrale was recommended by the owner, whose restaurant tips never disappoint me 🙂
Antipast al Buffet is a MUST as well as Raviolini al Limone!!

Antipast al Buffet @ Centrale

 

Croatian foods will follow later on….

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
¼ tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh coriander stalk, finely chopped
100 g onion, finely chopped
70 g carrot, finely chopped
½ 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
½ – ¾ 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  – Thank you Kay for sharing the review
Berber & Q – Shawarma Bar
Maroush
Karma Bread Bakery
Pilpel
The Good Egg

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 😀

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)
½ tsp coconut sugar
2-2½ tsp caster sugar (to adjust)
½ 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.

 

Honey Yuzu Marmalade

Tomorrow, the 21st of December this year is Toji, or winter solstice. The two most commonly practiced Japanese customs associated with the beginning of true winter are eating kabocha and having a yuzuyu, a hot bath with yuzu citrus fruit floating in it.

Yuzuyu is a tradition with its roots in prayers for safety and good health. It is said that bathing with yuzu at winter solstice keeps a cold away during winter. And besides, the strong smell of the citrus is believed to remove evil from the body and purify it.

In fact, a component of yuzu is known to be good for skin protection, and to warm the body, and it is also known that the aroma has a stress relief effect. Actually, the fragrance is very pleasant and soothing!

Yuzuyu with my duckies 😀

What I’m posting here today is not ‘how to make’ or ‘how to have a yuzuyu’ but the recipe of pleasantly bitter Honey Yuzu Marmalade.

Ingredients

500 g yuzu, preferably organic
100 g caster sugar
35 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)

Method

  1. Wash the yuzu thoroughly and pat dry with paper towel or something. Cut the citrus in half crosswise, squeeze out juice and strain. Reserve seeds and any removed membrane.
  2. Scoop the pips and pulp into a non-reactive pan and add the seeds and membrane. Pour in enough water to cover and simmer for 10 minuets on medium heat. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, remove the seeds and push to draw out pectin, using a wooden spoon.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the peel into very thin pieces, put into a large bowl of water and wash gently by squeezing. Change the water and repeat the process two more times for a total of three washes.
  4.  Place the peel in a large pot with a plenty of water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and simmer for a few minutes. Then remove from the heat and drain in a strainer. Repeat this process two more times.
  5. Put the peel into a non-reactive pan along with the juice, pectin liquid from the process 3 and 50 g sugar. Simmer on lower heat for 10 minutes, skimming off scum.
  6.  Add in the rest of the sugar and simmer stirring regularly for further 10 minutes or until thick. Spoon in the honey and bring back to simmer, then remove from the heat.
  7. Cool completely. Keep refrigerated and finish in 1-2 weeks. 

Scotch Broth & Potato Scones and Isle of Skye

On St Andrew’s Day


Once I had a precious person up in the Isle of Skye, off the northwest shore of Scotland. Scotch broth is one of my unforgettable memories with the person.

When visiting Skye, I usually take a coach which arrives late in the evening. She always waited for my arrival with her homemade Scotch broth on stove because it was my favourite.

She was like my grandma, and I just loved her. I liked spending time together – attending Gaelic service, chatting and watching telly by the fireplace with a nice cup of tea and some biscuits…. Even the silence for a wee time in dim light before retiring to the bedrooms –  only the sound of clock, light wind and rain around us, and a seagull noise far away – I liked a lot.

My cherished memories.

Ingredients

For the broth (for 4-6 servings)

1.7 ltr water
250 g lamb shoulder (without bones)
50 g pearl barley
1 bay leaf
100 g potato, diced
100 g carrot, diced
100 g swede (Swedish/yellow turnip, rutabaga), diced
100 g  white cabbage (leaves, soft inner stems and leaf stalks), chopped
100 g leek, halved and chopped (white portion only)
50 g fresh or frozen green peas
salt and pepper, to taste

St Andrew’s Cross?

For the tattie scones (8 pieces)

250 g floury potato
25 g melted butter, and more for frying
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp buttermilk
70 g plain flour, and more for rolling
½ tsp baking powder
25 g grated cheddar cheese

Method

Scotch Broth

  1. Put the lamb, barley and bay leaf in a large saucepan with 1 liter water and bring to simmer. Cook over low heat for 60 mins, skimming off the scum.
  2. Pour in the rest of water and add the vegetables into the pan, then bring back to simmer. Cook for 20 mins or until the vegetables tender.
  3. Take the lamb out of the broth, cut into small cubes and return into the pan. Add the peas and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note:
I didn’t skim off the fat for cold winters and for better flavour. Remove excess fat if you wish.
For better taste, let the broth stand overnight without adding the peas. Skim off solid white fat layer if desired.

Potato Scones

  1. Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain, peel, and mash thoroughly with the butter and salt. Stir in the buttermilk, then shifted flour and baking powder to form a soft dough. Add the cheese and mix well.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead lightly and divide into two equal pieces. Roll out to about 15 cm in diameter or about 4-5 mm thick. Cut into quarters and prick all over with a fork.
  3. Place on a hot greased griddle or heavy pan and cover. Cook over gentle heat for about 5-6 minutes or until golden brown and crisp all over on each side.

MUST Visit in SKYE

My photos cannot show you the beauty of Skye enough, so I downloaded some from isleofskye.com which gives you useful tips on the island.

Cuillin Hills (source: isleofskye.com Facebook page)

Old Man of Storr

Enjoy the walk up to the place where beautiful scenery awaits you. I also enjoyed cream tea – climbed up with a cream tea pack from Morrisons’ – at the foot of ‘Old Man’, whose face in profile you will see from distance on the main road.

source: isleofskye.com Facebook page
Can you see his face? (source: isleofskye.com Facebook page)

Neist Point Lighthouse

I had always wanted to see the site where some scenes of Breaking the Waves (1996) were filmed (also at the Quiraing), and eventually made it! Unfortunately, the weather was bad – no good photos at all – and it was quite hard to get to the lighthouse in the strong wind. Yet, it was still stunning! Hope you have a nice weather when visiting!

neist-point
source: isleofskye.com website
source: isleofskye.com Facebook page

The Quiraing

One of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland. It has appeared in many films, which attracts lots of tourists to Skye. Actually, I had never seen such an amount of tourists in the island before, and neither had the islanders.

source: isleofskye.com Facebook page

Talisker Distillery 

Islay whisky is wonderful and I like its smoky, peaty and seaweedy flavour – love to visit the distilleries one day – but mellow Talisker gives me more comfort.

Made a visit in 2011

free sample(s) – I think this was 10 yr old. Also sipped Talisker 57° North (alc. 57% !! )

 

MUST Eat in SKYE

What a shame! The Harbour View closed down…. So I tried a newly opened seafood restaurant, Cuchullin in Portree. Their mussels and oysters, along with a dram of Talisker Port Ruighe (pronounced ‘Portree’, old Gaelic spelling), were satisfactory. Book a table to avoid disappointment.

If you are a seafood lover and hungry enough, try the seafood platter!

Cuchullin’s seafood platter (source: tripadsivor)

 

MUST Stay in SKYE

I’m afraid there is no accommodation I can recommend at the moment, because my fave B&B has stopped taking any guests. I miss their porridge and poached smoked haddock for breakfast…. I will post here if they go back to business again.

 

How to get to the ISLE OF SKYE

We don’t have to travel on horseback any longer like Samuel Johnson and James Boswell did in the 18th Century 😀

If you are not driving up to the isle, Scottish Citylink coach services are available.

  • Edinburgh – change at Inverness – via Kyle of Lochalsh – Skye: runs along Loch Ness – you might bump into the famous monster!
  • Glasgow – (a few via Glasgow AP) – via Fort William and Kyle of Lochalsh- Skye: drives through Glencoe

En route, both pass by (or stop for passengers) the most romantic castle in Scotland, Eilean Dona Castle near Kyle of Lochalsh.

Many films were shot in the castle – Made of Honor (2008), Elizabeth – the Golden Age (2007), 007 – the World is not Enough (1999), Rob Roy (1995) etc. (photo from Eilean Donan Castle website)

ScotRail offers more scenic journey.

  • Inverness – Kyle of Lochalsh (then Scottish Citylink onto Skye)
  • Glasgow Queen Street – Fort William (then Scottish Citylink)

From London to Scotland, night train travel is an option.

from my trip in 2010

Caledonian Sleeper for Inverness and for Fort William (Glasgow and Edinburgh routes also available) depart from Euston, not from Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross 😀

@ King’s Cross Station

Book in advance, and you can get a bargain berth.

Took the upper bed.
Scottish breakfast – morning delivery (included in the fare)

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

As I wrote the other day, I received a birthday postcard from one of my Postcrossing friends in Germany. The curried butternut squash soup I am posting here is based on her recipe she had shared with me earlier. (In return for the recipe, sent her a tourist postcard while in Scotland, and then the birthday card reached.)

Oh, what a timing! Just received another mail from her – with a cutting of newspaper article on a German pumpkin festival on the very day of Halloween!! Danke!!

Have to study German really hard, don’t I??

I followed her recipe with some simple alterations: used butternut, shallot, coconut sugar and vegetable bouillon instead of pumpkin, onion, white sugar and chicken bouillon, added ginger and coriander, and also sauté process. Quantities of the ingredients were not specified, so I prepared them according to my taste.

Ingredients

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
50 g French shallot (eschallot), finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander/cilantro stalk, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 kg butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
150 g potato, peeled and cubed
800 ml water
2 tbsp no sodium vegetable bouillon
1 ½ tsp fine sea salt (adjust according to the bouillon package instructions)
¾ tsp ground cumin
½ tbsp coconut sugar
a smidgen – a pinch of cayenne pepper, to adjust
ground black pepper, to taste
fresh coriander/cilantro, coarsely chopped (optional)
crème fraîche
fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, to garnish

Method

 ( For 3 -4 servings)

  1. In a large saucepan, put in 2 tbsp olive oil and the ginger and fry over low heat stirring consistently until fragrant. Add the shallot and coriander stalk, and sauté for a few minutes but not brown. Spoon in the curry powder, then carry on until fragrant. Add the rest (1 tbsp) of the olive oil and increase the heat to medium. Add the squash and potato, and cook stirring constantly until it starts to soften but not brown.
  2. Pour the water into the pan, stir in the bouillon, salt, cumin, sugar, cayenne and black pepper, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover to simmer for about 20 minutes or so until the vegetables have softened.
  3. Purée the soup in a food processor or a blender until completely smooth. Return to the pan and reheat over low heat. Pour in some water if the soup is too thick. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. (optional: Stir in the chopped coriander and ) remove from the heat.
  4. Serve the soup in bowls with swirls of crème fraîche and coriander leaves.

Mmmmm so tasty! I like the soup so much that I can eat this enough for two, or even three! 😀  Thank you, my dear Postcrossing friend  in Germany. I will write you back later on. 🙂

with my Rhine postcard collection

Flammkuchen and Ahr Wine Region

Three flammkuchen – with bacon & onion, smoked salmon & courgette, fig & cranberry cheese – recipes to follow below.

flammkuchen with fig & cranberry cheese

As I posted last month, I went to Germany last year to see the wine festivals. What I enjoyed most there, however, is  Rotweinwanderweg, i.e. Red Wine Hiking Trail, rather than the festivals.

A view from Rosenthal Vineyard – St Laurentius Kirche in Ahrweiler Markt

Rotweinwanderweg runs high above the floor of the Ahr Valley along the River Ahr which flows into the Rhine just south of Bonn. It offers beautiful views over the vineyards and spectacular ones overlooking the valley.

The trail is 35.6 km long and takes in the winemaking villages in the Ahr wine region en route (More about the region, read my Holiday in Vineyards): from Altenahr in the west, it stretches via Mayschoß, Rech, Dernau and Marienthal, passing by Walporzheim (where I saw the festival), Ahrweiler (where I stayed) and Heimersheim (where another festival was held), then to Bad Bodendorf in the east.

 

Rotweinwanderweg Route Map with vineyard names

Unlike in the Lower Ahr Valley between Walporzheim and Heimersheim with flatter vineyards and mainly loess soil, in the Middle Ahr Valley, vines grow on the steep terraced cliffs of volcanic slate. The grapes on the south-facing vineyard slopes can receive a greater intensity of the sun’s rays, with sunshine falling on an angle perpendicular to the hillside, and the soil has an ability to store heat during the day, and gently releases it during the night. This is one of the reasons why full-bodied wines can develop here despite the northern location.

See? How steep the vineyards are!

I felt myself as if I were a ski jumper on a takeoff ramp!!

I’m not a wine expert. I don’t know much about Terroir and how different soils affect the flavour of wine, but I liked the wines from the Middle Ahr Valley more.

I hiked about 3/4 of Rotweinwanderweg – 26.1 km between Altenahr and Bad Neuenahr Ahrweiler in 3 days. Sometimes I walked down to the villages for some break and sometimes got lost in the mountains 😀  – cos it intermingles with the Nordic Walking Trail!! So I reckon I walked at least 30 km in total.

Walking in the mountains and vineyards, in the fresh air and pleasant sunshine, I felt myself extremely happy – almost natural high like a marathon runner! This is when I decided to start a blog, hence my name, ‘Rotwein Wanderer’.

Most of the trail runs through open vineyards, and various descents and paths lead you from the vineyards into the winemaking villages.

Some parts of the paths are tarmacked for agricultural vehicles.

Each village has some wineries or wine estates where you can sample some wines in their tasting rooms, and cozy restaurants and taverns which serve the local wines. (Read Rhine and Around: Ahr on wine tasting at a wine estate in Ahr – I’m glad she also found the hidden gem! and jealous cos I couldn’t try Jean Stodden’s!!)

pretty buildings in Altenahr
Mayschoß
Dernau

As usual, well-organised Rotwein the foodie had already planned where to have a break and what to eat – like a marathon runner who plots out. 😀  Then headed down a ramp for the first water station, more precisely, DRINK station in Marienthal.

Weingut Kloster Marienthal
A view of vineyards from Klostergarten

Weingut Kloster Marienthal was once state owned, but two cooperative wineries, the Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoss-Altenahr and Dagernova Weinmanufaktur, and two private wine estates, Weingut Brogsitter and Weingut Meyer-Näkel, have managed since 2004. In the vinotheque, you can taste some Kloster Marienthal wines and also purchase a limited range of the four owners’ as well as Kloster Mariental’s.

Weingut Kloster Mariental is located in the former Marienthal Convent with a cafe/restaurant. I took a seat in the patio with a wonderful ambience – surrounded by the ruins of the convent and a view of the greenish vineyards ahead of me.

I ordered „Klassisch“ – ‘Classic’ or traditional flammkuchen – with bacon, onion and cheese along with a glass of their Blanc de Noir as I had found it my very ‘cup of tea’ at Heimersheim Wine Festival a few days earlier.

Flammkuchen with Blanc de Noir @ Weingut Kloster Marienthal
„Klassisch“ mit Speck, Zwiebeln und Käse @ Weingut Kloster Marienthal

The flammkuchen was superb – the best one I’ve ever had! Very crispy rather than crunchy, rich but light at the same time, perfect saltiness….

It was so good that I couldn’t help experimenting at home although I knew it was difficult to roll out the dough very thin and to make it really crisp in high flame – my electric oven isn’t enough!! I believe, however, it turned out rather good! Other than ‘Classic’, tried something different. I wanted to use Wensleydale cheese with cranberries but not available in this country, so substituted Boursin’s – the black pepper gave it a good kick!

If you would like to enjoy with some wine, try Blanc de Noir if available, or Riesling if not. As for the dessert flammkuchen? Hmmm…. Spätlese,  Auslese…. I don’t store sweet/er German wines, so paired with sweet Sicilian spumante made from Moscato Bianco, or Muscat Blanc, which went nice together.

Guten Appetit!

Ingredients

(makes 2: about 20cm x 20cm each)

for the dough (makes 2)

1 tsp instant dry yeast
1/4 tsp honey
100 ml/cc lukewarm water
150 g bread flour
30 g whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil plus some for coating

for the topping

i) Klassisch (for 2)
80 g sour cream
2 tsp Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
white pepper, to taste)
30 g eschallot (French shallot), finely chopped, squeeze and pat dried with paper towel
50 g bacon, chopped
40 g red onion, thinly sliced
fresh chive (to sprinkle), chopped

ii) smoked salmon & courgette (for 2)
100 g sour cream
½ tsp truffle salt (I used black truffle salt)
white pepper (to taste)
30 g eschallot (French shallot), finely chopped, squeeze and pat dried with paper towel
100 g smoked salmon
½ – 1 courgette, thinly sliced
fresh dill (to garnish)

iii) fig & cranberry cheese (for 2)
100 g Boursin Cranberry & Pepper cheese
7 – 8 fresh fig, sliced
balsamic vinegar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 – 2 tbsp runny honey, to adjust (I used orange blossom honey)

Boursin® Cranberry & Pepper
flammkuchen with smoked salmon & courgette

Method

  1. For the dough, dissolve the yeast and honey in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Tip the flours and the salt into a bowl, and mix and form a well in the middle. Pour in the yeasty water and the oil, then mix thoroughly. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add in some more flour or water a little at a time if required.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and coat the surface lightly with the olive oil. Place in a bowl, and cover with a clean tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Divide into two equal pieces, shape both into a ball, and grease with the oil. Cover again and allow to rise a second time for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine i) the sour cream and yogurt in a small bowl. Add in the eschallot, nutmeg, salt and pepper, or ii) cream the sour cream in a small bowl. Add in the eschallot, truffle salt and pepper, and mix well.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  7. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough pieces (2-3 mm). Prick all over with a fork. Spread half of i), ii) the cream mixture or iii) the cranberry cheese onto the dough, but leave a small border around the edge.
  8. i) Scatter with the bacon and onion on top, ii) Top with the courgette and smoked salmon, or iii) Top with the fig, drop the balsamic on each figs and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are nicely browned and the bottom is crisp.
  9. Remove from the oven, and i) sprinkle with the chive, ii) garnish with the dill, or iii) drizzle over the honey.
flammkuchen with bacon & onion and Weingut Kloster Marienthal Blanc de Noir

Caponata/Fish Caponata and Lipari, Sicily

I love caponata and cook it quite often (as I posted in June). This time, however, I made it a little bit different – more Sicilian and summery with vegetable and fish in season. (If you are a vegetarian/vegan or not in the mood for fish, just omit it and add some more vegetables since this recipe is just to combine caponata and fried fish.)

Well ripened and juicy tomatoes at their best are abundant now, so I made Passata di Pomodoro myself to add in. This intense tomato purée is absolutely tasty – natural flavours, especially sweetness, are brought out. You would love to use the passata not only for caponata but also for pasta etc. – I’m going to make Moussaka with this passta and aubergines below.

San Marzano tomatoes to bottle

We are in fresh swordfish months here and it has arrived in stores. In Sicily, swordfish, also in season, is eaten well  and there are various dishes: Involtini di Pesce Spada (stuffed swordfish rolls), Pesce Spada al Salmoriglio (grilled swordfish with lemon Salmoriglio sauce), Pasta con Pesce Spada e Melanzane (pasta with swordfish and aubergine) etc… and of course, Caponata di Pesce Spada. Yes, I’m posting a caponata with swordfish recipe today.

Aubergine Season! aubergines suitable for deep frying: White Bell, Black Beauty, Zebra

There various caponata recipes exist in Sicily with local variations: with pine nuts, almonds or pistachio, mint or basil, sugar or honey; with or without garlic, raisins, peppers (capsicums), anchovy are the examples. You might think ‘!!’ or ‘??’ but adding cacao (cocoa powder or grated chocolate) is also one of the varieties. I’m not sure if this is authentic or not. My Sicilian friend in Palermo hasn’t heard of it and says it may be a new recipe while some mention on the web it’s from Syracuse and Catania areas – I though it might be from Modica, a Baroque town famous for its chocolate.

I tried to enhance the flavours to make it summery adding some more vinegar, for example. The first experiment lacked depth. Honey was added instead of sugar, but not enough and still something missing. I was thinking about using balsamic vinegar instead…. After some more experiments, settled on the two recipes:  i) with unsweetened cocoa powder (thick and rich) and ii) with raisins soaked in red wine vinegar (mildly sweet). Seems my caponatas are a melting pot of Sicily!  😀

Enjoy the summery caponata(s)!

Ingredients

(for 2 – 3 servings; for 4 as antipasto)

for the Passata
1 kg tomato
300 ml/cc water

for the Caponata
500 g aubergine (preferably ‘Black Beauty’), cut into 2.5 cm dice
1 tsp salt

200 g swordfish, cut into 2 cm wide pieces
1/2 lemon, squeezed
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

80 g celery, cut into 1 cm dice
vegetable oil to deep fry (I used sunflower oil)

1tbsp olive oil
120 g onion, sliced
100 g red pepper/capsicum, cut into 2cm thick slices
1 tbsp caper in sea salt, rinsed, soaked for 10 min and drained
50 g pitted olive, halved
200 ml/cc passata
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 tbsp red wine vinegar (acidity 7%)
1 tsp honey (I used orange blossom honey)
i) 1 tsp (a little less than 1 tsp) unsweetened cocoa powder  or ii) 20 g raisins
salt and pepper (to taste)

20 g almond
fresh basil (to garnish)

salted capers  and dried oregano from Sicily, and homemade passata.

Method

  1. For the passata (Prepare in advance or while salting aubergines), place the tomatoes in a large pot with the water. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from the water and drain for a while, at least 30 minutes, until water doesn’t come out of the tomatoes (Do not press or squeeze!). Strain through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using a wooden spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Put the passata in a pan and cook over small heat for 15 minutes or until thickened stirring constantly.
  2. Place the aubergines in a colander, rub with the salt and let it sit for about an hour. Before using, squeeze and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Rub the fish with the lemon juice and leave for 10 minutes. Pat dry with paper towel, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry until cooked through and lightly golden. Set aside.
  4. In a pot, bring the vegetable oil to 180°C and deep fry the celery until slightly brown. Then boil the oil again to 190°C and deep fry the aubergines until really brown (but not burnt). Drain the fried vegetables well on paper towel to remove excess oil.
  5. Dissolve the honey in the vinegar – ii) and soak in the raisins for 10 minutes. Set aside. Clean the frying pan, sauté the onion with another 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat until tender.  Add the red pepper and fry for a few minutes, then olives and capers for a minute.
  6. Spoon in the passata with the dried oregano – i) and cocoa powder. Then pour in the vinegar mixture – ii) including raisins, and mix well for a minutes or until pungent aroma subsides.
  7. Add the deep fried vegetables and the fish, and stir gently to combine. Season with ground pepper, taste it and add salt if necessary. Cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
  8. Lightly toast and chop the almonds, and scatter over or mix in the caponata. Garnish with the basil and serve.

If swordfish is unavailable, try fresh tuna, another popular fish in Sicily. Mackerel is one of the options, too. Next time I will cook with polpo, or octpus!!

 

Memoirs of a Foodie 

I always bring lots of foodstuff back from Sicily: sun dried tomatoes, dried oregano, pistachio (nuts, powder, cream, pesto), anchovy… and salted caper is one of them.

In 2014, I sailed to a smaller island, Lipari in the Aeolian Islands off the northeastern coast of Sicily. When I was enjoying the breathtaking scenery at Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani, a local farmer talked to me and showed me around the field behind the church explaining the crops and plants (I don’t speak Italian but I could understand what he said as I had studied Spanish). He seemed very happy with the arrival of spring and as if he wanted to share the joy with someone. Baby leaves of fig and olive…. It was the first time for me to see caper plants, so I was a bit excited. I think that was why he fetched a jar of homemade capers in sea salt for me! What a surprise and what an encounter!! This is one of the reasons I love travelling on my own.

My rental bike and Salina

And also he plucked a flower and gave me. At home, fully enjoyed caponata, pasta, salad etc. with the capers.

the capers and the flower

 

MUST SEE in LIPARI

Chiesa Vecchia di Quattropani

It was early April and still off season – there were some tourists but very quiet. No one up there, and I had the spectacular view and tranquility all to myself!! (but the farmer disturbed! 😀 )

Chiesa Vecchia
Salina, where il Postino/the Postman (1994) was shot

 

MUST EAT in LIPARI

Popped in Gilberto e Vera twice while in Lipari for just wine (aperitivo) and for a panino. Friendly Girberto chose red wine for me – Salina Rosso from Salina Island. (Tripadvisor reviews)

Oscar is a not to be missed pasticceria/gelateria in Lipari. Their cannolo is just divine and the best one I have ever had. Ricotta cream was stuffed in a homemade shell in front of me!! They offered me some almond biscuits, which were superb and I couldn’t resist buying two packets!

pic from TripAdvisor

 

How to get to Lipari

Milazzo Port – Lipari: about 1 hour by hydrofoil or about 2 hours by ferry (Check with ok ferry)
Access to Milazzo Port: Read tips on TripAdvisor Travel Forum

 

Lemon Spaghetti and Palermo

I make Spaghetti al Limone when I come across ‘good’ organic lemons. I started doing this two years ago when I was offered some lemons and oranges at an organic shop in Palermo. (Maybe because I purchased lots of foodstuff there – like pistachio, almonds, preserves, wine, cheese, almond biscuits, torrone, dried herbs, deli dishes etc. 😀 )

At home, I found their lemons were really nice – juicy, fragrant and agreeably pungent, and Spaghetti al Limone cooked with them was fantastic. Since then, I have been trying experiments whenever I found organic ones. So far, the recipe below is the best result, which I made as simple as possible so that the zesty lemon flavour can be fully enjoyed.

 

sicilian lemons
Sicilian citrus fruits from an organic shop in Palermo

 

Ingredients

(for 2 servings)

200 g spaghetti
2 liter water
2 tsp salt
40 g butter
1 tbsp lemon zest (organic unwaxed – about 2-3 lemons)
2 tbsp juice of lemon
200 ml water from boiled spaghetti
ground white pepper (to taste)
parsley (to sprinkle)

 

Spaghetti al Limone
Spaghetti al Limone

 

 Method

  1. Bring a large pot of the water to the boil. Salt the water and cook spaghetti until 1 -2 min short of ‘al dente’. Reserve the cooking liquid for the sauce.
  2. Meanwhile, drop the butter in a pan and melt over lower heat. Put in the lemon zest and fry for two minutes stirring consistently.
  3. Transfer the spaghetti into the pan and add the cooking liquid. Increase the heat to high and mix well by stirring consistently for 1-2 min or until the liquid dries off, but make sure it doesn’t get too dry. Add some more cooking water if required.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the lemon juice, season with the white pepper and toss it well. Taste it and add salt if required.
  5. Plate the pasta and sprinkle with the parsley.

 

Lemon Spaghetti

 

 

MUST BUY & EAT in PALERMO

Orland – the organic shop I mentioned above. They offer high quality products. If you want to take the cheese back home, they would happily vacuum-pack it. Actually, I brought back a vac-packed Pecorino Siciliano covered with black pepper!

Orland (pic from their Facebook page)
Their artichoke caponata was so tasty! (takeaway)

 

La Cambusa is one of my favourit restaurants in Palermo, and there is another one I repeatedly go back whenever in the town. Il Vecchio Club Rosanero is a family run trattoria and always full of the locals (a good sign!): no frills, less touristy, and much less expensive (I’d rather say ‘cheap’). If you are tempted to try what Palermitano eat, then go to Il Vecchio. They would never disappoint you – both your appetite and budget!  I usually order a starter, like fritto misto, carpaccio or caponata and as a secondo, pasta (both half potion) with a ‘piccolo’ bottle of water and a glass of wine, which cost around 10 euros in total.

It’s located just off Via Maqueda and used to be a bit difficult to find, but now a landmark will help you – from Quattro Canti, walk down Via Maqueda towards Teatro Massino and turn left at the ‘sophisticated’ arancini placekePalle, then take the first left.

Photos below are the pastas I had at Il Vecchio Club. Of course they serve nice seafood ones, but nowadays I prefer something more local.

Pasta alla glassa – pasta with (a kind of) meat and potato stew
Pasta anciova – pasta with anchovies and breadcrumbs
Pasta melanzane e pesce spada (pasta with aubergine and swordfish)

 

 

 

Caponata or Shakshuka?

Caponata? Shakshuka? Or Huevos a la Flamenca  (Flamenca Eggs)? 😀

My lunch today: Caponata + Shakshka with homemade Pitta bread
I made a pot of Caponata (going to post the recipe sometime later) last weekend and have been enjoying it for the last X days LOL! and feel bored …. So I added some garlic (fried in olive oil), chili, paprika and eggs, then garnished with basil. Also baked some pittas to accompany.

 

Caponata or Shakshuka?

 

Memoirs of a Foodie 
I have had really nice Shakshuka in Yaffo, or Jaffa near Tel Aviv – the best Shakshuka I’ve ever had.  I wish I could go back to Dr. Shakshuka again …. Their hummus was tasty as well!

 

Shakshuka @ Dr. Shakshuka
Hummus @ Dr. Shakshuka
Interior of Dr. Shakshuka – full of antiques
Yaffo / Jaffa

 

I was invited to a friend’s wedding in Israel five years ago. It was a tight schedule, but I could manage to see Jerusalem.

 

Jerusalem

 

After the Old City, enjoyed bites at Mahane Yehuda Market! 😀
The Halva was sooooo fantastic!! Unforgettable ….

 

Halva halva halva!

Bakrava

 

Onigiri – Rice Balls

My lunch today: Onigiri (Mame-gohan and Takenoko-gohan), Tamagoyaki and Tsukemono & Umeboshi

Rice balls (green peas rice and bamboo shoot rice), rolled omelette w/ Nori seaweed and preserved vegetables (cucumber and aubergine) & pickled plum

 

Onigiri on bamboo sheath, once used to wrap onigiri

 

 

 

Lamb and Fennel Stew – recipe from Tasty Eats

 

My ‘Sunday Roast (Braise)’ yesterday

 

Ronit's Lamb and Fennel Stew
Ronit’s Lamb and Fennel Stew (pic from her Tasty Eats blog) – looks much better and must be much much much more yummy than mine!

I have been playing with fennel for the last one month as I’m really into the vegetable lately (read my posts: Macco and Bucatini con Sarde). This is like I did with beetroot last year, so Ronit’s Lamb and Fennel Stew recipe was added to the top of my to-do list as soon as it appeared on the Worldpress Reader. I gave it a try yesterday, which turned out to be satisfaction – no, more than that!

This was absolutely fantastic!! The sauce tasted really beautiful even before oven braising!! (I realised why Ronit recommends orange blossom honey when adding it.) I couldn’t hardly wait for two hours! Well, it was worthwhile waiting though!!  Of course, lamb and fennel bulb were tasty as well!

I basically followed her recipe, but substituted some ingredients that I couldn’t find:

lamb chops
1 tbsp preserved lemon paste (for preserved lemon)
1 tbsp salsa sauce (for hot sauce and pickled hot red chili pepper)
Arak (for Uozo)

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Ronit. I will probably try this again before I drink up the bottle of Arak 😀 and another stew, Lamb Stew with Tomatoes, Okra and Dried Apricots, while Okra is in season but before it gets really hot in the summer.

Enjoy Ronit’s wonderful stew!


(Pics and article from Ronit Penso’s Tasty Eats blog with lots of intriguing recipes)

This quick and easy to prepare stew is the perfect dish for this season, when spring somehow refuses to fully arrive, yet the heavier winter’s stews are not as happily accepted. Fennel is a wonderf…

Source: Lamb and Fennel Stew

 

Kaki Meshi – Oyster Rice

Before the oyster season ends, I made Kaki Meshi, oyster rice – kaki is not the fruit (柿)but oyster(牡蠣)in this case/dish! Winter is oyster season here, and people say, ‘Do not eat oysters after cherry blossom (beginning of April)’ to avoid food poisoning.

I’m fond of Takikomi Gohan, a Japanese rice dish seasoned with dashi, or cooking stock, and soy sauce along with vegetables, fish etc., so I was going to post a recipe of Kuri Gohan, chestnut rice in the autumn, but alas, missed the season…. Phew, I barely made it this time!!

 

kaki meshi

 

 Ingredients

(for 3-4 servings)

[for dashi stock]
5 cm x 5 cm dashi kombu (dried kelp)
400 ml water (ideally soft water)

300 g Japanese short grain rice
(to soak: at least 400 ml water, ideally soft water)

200 g oysters, shucked
(to wash: 3 tbsp cornstarch, saltwater — 1 liter water + 1 tbsp salt)

2 tbsp + ½ tsp usukuchi soy sauce
2  tbsp sake
½ tsp mirin
a pinch of salt

handful mitsuba, 3 tbsp chopped stems, leaves to garnish
(If not available, sprinkle with 1 tbsp finely chopped spring onion)

 

kaki meshi
Kaki-meshi, Miso Soup (with Daikon/Japanese radish) & Horenso no Ohitashi (boiled spinach salad)

 

Method

  1. Soak the dashi kombu in the water for overnight.
  2. Put the rice in a large bowl with some water and wash gently in a circular motion for about 10 seconds, then discard the water. Repeat 3-4 times and drain with a sieve or strainer. Soak the rice in the 400 ml water for 60 min (30 min in summer).
  3. To wash the oysters, dissolve the salt in the water and set aside. Put the oyster in a bowl and add the cornstarch with some saltwater, then wash gently. Rinse well with the rest of saltwater. Dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Pour the dashi stock along with kombu in a pan and spoon in soy sauce, sake, mirin and salt. Set the pan on medium heat and remove the kombu just before it starts boiling.
  5. Add the oysters in the stock and simmer over lower heat for 2 min. Remove from the heat and take out the oyster to set aside. Cool the stock down.
  6. Drain the rice well with a sieve or strainer. Put the rice in a heavy-bottom pot and pour in the dashi stock and juice/stock from the oysters (do not squeeze!) , and cover with a lid. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Once water is boiling (judge from the noise and do not open the lid), cook for 2 min, then slightly reduce the heat and cook for another 3 min. Turn the heat to low and cook for 5 min. Uncover and check if the water is completely absorbed (take a quick peek). If not, cover again and continue cooking until absorbed (check every 1 min and do not overcook!). Turn off the heat and let it steam with the lid on for 5 min. Add the oysters and chopped mitsuba in and leave it covered for another 5 min. Fluff the rice with a rice paddle when it’s done.
  7. Ladle the rice with oysters into bowls and garnish with mitsuba leaves.

I made it subtle and light taste as I’m from western Japan (If interested, read the article on East vs. West in Japan). If you prefer it richer, taste the dashi stock (Method 4) add another ½ tsp usukuchi soy sauce and ½ tsp mirin as necessary.

 

 

kaki meshi

 

Cullen Skink (Scottish Fish Soup) and Glasgow

Cullen Skink – a Scottish gentleman told me about the unfamiliar dish long time ago.

near Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Once I studied Scottish history. Unlike today, it was much harder to collect primary source records from outside the UK. One day an ad on the Scots Magazine I was subscribing caught  my eyes, then faxed an enquiry to the secondhand bookshop in Glasgow (email was not yet common those days!) . Very luckily,  the owner made his best endeavour for me and found out a useful material, which was more than I had expected, and besides, even a research book on my study!

catalogues he found for me
Scottish Lion Rampant on the back

In the following year, he and his girlfriend kindly invited me to their place for dinner while I was doing some research in Glasgow. At the table, he told me about his favourite Scottish dish and explained how tasty Cullen Skink is. The name sounded really weird to me (skink? stink?? stinky soup???), but it turned out some time later that he was absolutely right, and it attracted my appetite as well!

City of Glasgow's Coat of Arms
‘Let Glasgow Flourish’ : City of Glasgow’s Coat of Arms with its motto @ Loch Katrine – the waterworks linking the loch to the city was officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1859.

This is the story of Cullen Skink and I. The soup reminds me of him whenever I eat it, but unfortunately, I have lost his contact. I cannot say thank him enough because I couldn’t have completed my thesis without those materials, which gave me lots of ideas and helped to construct the argument.

Here is my recipe. I used smoked salmon in place of smoked haddock because salmon appears in Glasgow’s Coat of Arms (see the pic above)… I’m kidding 😀  The truth is that smoked haddock is not available here… tried fresh fish instead and even smoked it myself, but both were something different!  So I followed the one I had at a restaurant in Isle of Skye, and smoked salmon worked so well!!

 

cullen skink

 

Ingredients

(for 2-3 servings)

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
550 ml whole milk (ideally non-homogenised)
200 g smoked salmon
1 bay leaf
15 g butter
1 large French shallot (eschallot), peeled and finely chopped
1/2 leek, thinly chopped
50 ml white wine
2 tbsp sour cream
salt and pepper (to taste)
chives, finely chopped (to sprinkle)

 

cullen skink w/ Scots Magazine

 

Method

  1. Put the potatoes into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook until soft. Drain well and dry them out tossing continuously over medium heat. Take a third  out of the pan and set aside. Mash the rest and pour in 50 ml milk, then whisk for a few minutes on low heat or until fluffy.
  2. Place the salmon in a pan with 300 ml milk and bay leaf. Gently bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and poach in the milk for 5 minutes. Take the fish out and strain the stock. Break the fish into flakes and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a frying pan on lower heat and sauté the shallot and leek until tender. Add the wine and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour the fish stock into a pot with the rest of milk, the sautéed leek mixture and the mashed potatoes. Blend well over medium heat and bring to the gentle simmer, then reduce the heat. Add the diced potatoes and the fish. Reheat gently for a couple of minutes but not overcook the fish. Stir in the sour cream and season to taste.
  5. Serve in a warm bowl with chives.

 

 

Cullen Skink @ View Restaurant
cullen skink @ the View Restaurant in Skye (March 2013) I will ask for the recipe next time 🙂

 

MUST EAT in Glasgow

Afternoon tea at the Butterfly and the Pig

afternoon tea @ the Butterfly & the Pig

 

MUST SEE in Glasgow

Architecture and designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

willow tea rooms
Another option for tea @ the Willow Tea Rooms

The Glasgow School of Art (NB: No visitor access to the interiors  due to the damage by fire in May 2014. What a disaster!!!!) and the Hill House (in Helensburgh – about 50 min train ride away from Glasgow Queen St Station. Check with ScotRail) are highly recommended!

 

Scotland’s favourite painting: Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross

If you visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to see the painting, you may want to have a stroll in beautiful Kelvingrove Park where the gallery located. The park was designed by Joseph Paxton who also designed the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. If you learn the history of the museum and the park – about Charles Rennie Mackintosh as well, you would also learn how Glasgow enjoyed its prosperity in Victorian and Edwardian periods.

cullen skink

Ukrainian Borsch

Still playing with beetroot at weekend 😀

beetroot flipped (sig)

The Ukrainian school girl, who sent me a birthday card last October, kindly gave me a Borsch recipe with a ‘Ukraine National Dish’ postcard. Her recipe doesn’t have ingredient quantities, so I tried as follows:

 

Ingredients

[soup stock]
1 liter water
200 g beef
200 g pork

1 large or 2 small beetroot, shredded (stems and leaves, chopped)
1 large carrot, shredded
1 medium onion, sliced
vegetable oil (to fry)
1/2 tbsp tomato paste

600 cc water
salt & pepper (to taste)
1 large potato, diced
4 cabbage leaves, thinly chopped (make double if no beetroot stems and leaves available)
200 g cooked or 1 tinned haricot beans, drained
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf

fresh parsley (to sprinkle)
sour cream (optional)

Ukraine Borsch

Method

  1. For stock, wash the meat in cold water and place in a large soup pot with 1 litre water. Then bring to the boil and simmer on low heat for one hour and a half skimming off the scum when it appears.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the carrot and onion until the onion becomes translucent. Set aside.
  3. Fry the beetroot for a few minutes. Spoon in the tomato paste, mix well and fry for another 8 mins.
  4. Remove the meat from the stock. Put in the potato with 600 cc water and bring to the boil again.
  5. Add the cabbage with some salt, then cook for 5 mins over low heat. Stir in the beetroot and simmer for further 10  mins. Add the carrot, onion and beans, and cook for a few mins.
  6. Put in the raw garlic and bay leaf. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and turn off the heat and let stand for a while.
  7. Ladle into serving bowls, and serve with a dollop of sour cream and the parsley.
  8. Enjoy the result!

 

borsch postcard

 

I followed her recipe with some simple alterations. It doesn’t specify ‘what’ beans, so I chose haricot – red kidney beans might be better because of its colour. The Borsch is deeper in colour than the soup I usually make – more reddish and beautiful! Maybe because I add some lemon juice or vinegar, and don’t fry tomato paste but just put into broth. It doesn’t have meat itself but satisfying enough – with lots of vegetables and beans. I like this so much that I will follow this recipe from this time forward.

Thank you again, my dear postcrossing friend  in Ukraine. I will send you something later on 🙂

 

borsch postcard stamps

 

Ukrainian Borsch image

 

Kutia – Ukrainian Christmas Eve Pudding

In early December, I received an ideal postcard for this time of year from a Postcrosser in Ukraine – a recipe card of Kutia or Kutya, a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dish. I picked this out for the fifth try (as for the 4th, pls read Grechka Soup), and have saved it until today.

kutia postcard

As usual, browsed the unfamiliar dish on the internet and learnt that:

Kutia is a sweet grain pudding, traditionally served in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and some parts of Poland. Sochivo, a dish similar to kutia, is very popular in Russia. Kutia is often the first dish in the traditional twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper (also known as Svyatah Vecherya). It is rarely served at other times of the year.

Kutia was also part of a common Eastern Orthodox tradition in the Russian Empire….  (from Wikipedia)

The Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 7th of January, so Kutia is supposed to be eaten on 6th January. The sweet dish seems like dessert, but served first out of the twelve! Kutia is very auspicious because the ingredients such as wheat berries, poppy seeds and dried fruits symbolise abundance, fertility and prosperity.  (This is like we eat Kazunoko, or herring roe for New Year’s.) Someone mentions on the web that the dish is traditionally eaten with a wooden spoon, but not clear if it’s a special one for Kutia….

It sounds like ‘porridge’ rather than ‘pudding’…. I’m fond of porridge and eat it for breakfast whenever in Scotland, so I happily gave it a try.

 

Ingredients

( For 2-3 servings)

125 g pearl barley, well rinsed and soaked in water overnight
400 cc water (plus 100 cc to adjust)
a pinch of salt
25 g raisins
30 g poppy seeds
50 g honey
50 g walnuts, roughly chopped
25 g dried apricots, chopped

kutia

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150 C.
  2. Drain and put the barley in a pan with salt and 400 cc water, then bring to the boil over low heat.
  3. Place the barley into an uncovered baking dish with the boiled water, and cook in the oven for 60 mins or until the barley becomes tender. Stir occasionally and add 100 cc water little by little as required to prevent sticking and drying out.
  4. Meanwhile,  place the poppy seeds in a pan with adequate water and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins.  Drain through fine sieve, then grind the seeds with a food/coffee grinder (or something). Set aside.
  5. Rinse the raisins and soak in boiled water for 10 minutes, then drain and dry.
  6. Combine everything and mix well.

 

kutia

 

I basically followed the recipe, but altered a bit: reduced quantities of the ingredients, and added some procedures and ingredients. Pearl barley was used instead of wheat berries, which I couldn’t find anywhere, and a baking dish as a substitute for a cray pot.

I should have ground the seeds more finely! They are so tiny that my Suribachi, a Japanese mortar and pestle for sesame seeds, didn’t work well 😦 Anyway, it doesn’t matter as it tasted good. Not sweeter than imagined – omitted sugar from the recipe! – and the sourness of the apricot gives it a good kick. I like the crispy and chewy texture and nutty flavour of the walnuts in the slightly sticky and soft ingredients.

Kutia is one of the twelve-dish supper, which represents the 12 apostles, containing no meat or dairy…. Well, it’s not 6th or 7th January yet, so I unhesitantly poured some heavy cream over the pudding! 🙂

Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Ukraine! I’m wishing you blessings and joy this Christmas, and hope your dream comes true.

And also thanks a million to another friend in Ukraine for the information and advice. I’m looking forward to your letter!

 

Ukrainian stamp

 

kutia on table

Vinegret Revisited (+ Borsch)

 

I’m really into beetroot these days….

 

beetroot

 

I’ve been making Borsch every single weekend for the last one month since I obtained fresh beetroot for the first time in my life  😀

Here in this country, the vegetable is not that common and not easily available, but I luckily found it IS available during the winter from a farmers market near my workplace, which opens every Friday! That’s why I’m cooking the soup at weekends.

 

Ukrainian Borscht w/ Russian Black Bread
Ukrainian Borsch w/ Russian Black Bread (Borodinsky?)

 

The other day, while I had been addicted to the dish, I received an exactly the same postcard from another Postcrosser in Russia: the Vinegret recipe postcard.

 

two vinegret postcards

 

Hmmmm… seems as if it had been sent on purpose to remind me to make Vinegret again, not with tinned one but with fresh beetroot!! Yes, I wrote “I’ll definitely make this again, and it’s a must if I could run into fresh beetroot” on my 10th of September post! (As for the card and cooking, please read Vinegret.) Well, I was too obsessed with Borsch, and it had slipped out of mind….

 

vinegret russian salad
My first Vinegret in September 2015

 

So I was urged to make the Russian salad again. Not reluctantly, of course!! 😀

 

vinegret
My second Vinegret in December 2015

 

vinegret

 

How beautiful…. I like the magenta colour, which is more vivid than of tinned beetroot salad. This tastes more fresh and tasty, and its earthy flavour is less intense. I wish it were obtainable in summer as well!

Thank you so much for the reminder, dear Postcrosser in Russia!

 

vinegret stamps

 

Grechka Soup – Russian Buckwheat Soup (and a bit about Japanese Soba)

The fourth try (as for 3rd, pls. see Apple Pandowdy), the recipe of which from St Petersburg, is a Russian dish again. The simple but nutritious buckwheat soup is ideal for winter, so I gave it a try on a chilly, rainy Sunday in late autumn.

buckwheat grains
buckwheat groats

I had learnt from PetersFoodAdventures that buckwheat is a common crop in Eastern Europe, and Russia is one of the largest producer and consumer. Buckwheat is consumed a lot in Japan as well; however, I don’t think I myself have eaten the grains – actually, it’s not a grain but a fruit seed though – or groats themselves (of course cooked ones!) except a tiny amount in buckwheat tea. I might have had some cooked with rice…. Hmmm… I can’t remember.  I like Gallete, a crepe from Brittany, but that is made from the flour.

In Japan, the large amount of buckwheat production/import volume is consumed as Soba. Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat crops, and also refers buckwheat flour noodles, one of the most popular noodle dishes in Japan. For me, to be honest, Udon, thick white wheat flour noodle, is more familiar. There exist many food cultures in Japan, but basically it can be divided roughly into two groups based on regions: Eastern or Western Japan – you can find the most obvious differences in soy sauce or Dashi, soy sauce based broth. I’m not from Soba culture or Soba growing regions in the East, so this might be the reason I hadn’t had the grains themselves??? 😀 Well, it’s just because ground buckwheat products are much more commonly used for dishes in Japan. Actually, the grains cannot always be purchased from any shops, and it was a bit difficult for me to obtain them.

There are many varieties of Soba dishes, and the below in the photos are two of them:

Zaru Soba - chilled buckwheat noodles
Zaru Soba: chilled buckwheat noodles with soya based dipping sauce (above right: Tempura Maitake Mashrooms)

 

Soba - buckwheat noodle soup
Tempura Wakame Soba: buckwheat noodle soup topped with Kakiage (mixed vegetable tempura) and Wakame seaweed

There is another way to enjoy Soba. I mean it’s not the noodles but the hot water in which Soba has been boiled, which is called Sobayu (‘yu‘ means ‘hot water’). Sobayu is sometimes served when you order Zaru Soba (see the photo above) which comes with dipping sauce. After you finish the noodles, you can add some Sobayu to the remaining sauce, and drink it. It is not only tasty but also good for your health.

Buckwheat is rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber etc. and very nutritious. Its beneficial effects are to lower blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, and increase liver function.  Lots of the nutrients are dissolved in Sobayu, so you cannot waste the liquid!!

Soba Cha - buckwheat tea
Soba Cha: roasted buckwheat tea – caffeine free – is also good for your health. You would love the toasty flavour!

Oops, sorry for the long introduction. Grechka soup in which the super grains are cooked must be as much nutritious and beneficial as Sobayu.  Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

(for 3-4 servings)

1,250 cc water
250 g chicken breast
1 bay leaf
1 large potato, diced
1/2 carrot, diced
1/2 onion, diced
50 g buckwheat groats
salt and pepper (to taste)
dill, parsely or chervil

Grechka Soup w/ postcards from St Petersburg

Method

  1. Put the chicken breast in a pan with the water and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 mins.
  2. Take the chicken out of the pan. Cut the meat into small cubes and set aside.
  3. Add the vegetables and the buckwheat groats into the chicken stock and cook over low heat for 20 mins.
  4. Return the cubed meat to the broth and season salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle into deep bowls and scatter with dill, parsley or chervil.
  6. Bon appetite!

stamps from St Petersburg

I followed the recipe (almost), but halved the quantity of the ingredients as none of my pans are big enough for 2.5 liters water 😦   and added onion, bay leaf and fresh herb.

Thank you so much for the winter recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Russia! I like the grains very much, so will put in some more next time I cook it. Maybe double? 😀   I will also try Kasha, buckwheat porridge, and Kasha Varnishkes, kasha with farfalle bow-tie pasta I came across while I was browsing the soup on the web.

Grechka Soup w/ bread