Last February, I made a quick visit to Hiroshima for a family gathering. It was an auspicious occasion, so I booked a room for lunch at Sekitei which is famous for its rooms, garden and cuisine.
Sekitei, a traditional Japanese ryokan inn with a good reputation near Miyajima, is very popular among both the locals and tourists, so advanced booking is a must. Luckily, I could get my hands on the very last room/slot.
Before the lunch, we stepped out to the manicured Japanese garden for a stroll.
It was a chilly winter day with some snow and the garden was colourless, yet still pleasant to stroll around. Once winter is gone, it becomes bright with flowers and green leaves.
This time of the year, satsuki and fuji are in bloom.
I had ordered a kaiseki course menu for the special occasion.
After pleasing and satisfying meal, some of us enjoyed dipping in the onsen at 500 yen pp – it was a bit rush though as we were supposed to vacate the room by 14.45 (the lunch plan, 11.00 – 14.45).
We were all full but couldn’t resist Anago Meshi Bento from Ueno restaurant, their sister restaurant, to take away. Anago meshi is one of my favourites – somehow I am not into unagi, freshwater eel although both look alike! Anago from Setonaikai Inlandsea is superb!
It may be a good idea to order the bento at Sekitei if you don’t want to queue up for anago meshi at Ueno near Miyajimaguchi. If you are going to Miyajima and don’t mind standing still in a queue, try Fujitaya – oh, I didn’t know the restaurant had been awarded one Michelin star!! It was ages ago that I tried their anago meshi but clearly remember how scrumptiousit was!
We were all happy with the place, meal, staff and service and left Sekitei hoping to come back and stay overnight someday.
En route to Hiroshima Airport, I popped in Miyajima (no time for Fujitaya and of course, no room in my stomach!!)
One more thing – about tipping. There is no tipping custom in Japan, however, there exists old one called kokorozuke（心付け）. It is usually practiced at pricey ryokans, and to be given to nakai or a room attendant on arrival at your room. Kokorozuke should be a small amount in an envelop (1,000 – 3,000 yen, depends on number of guests and duration of stay) or a small gift, like a box of confectionery. Don’t worry, nowadays there are many who don’t know this custom, even Japanese, so they wouldn’t expect people from outside Japan.
For more photos or booking through booking.com, click here.
“Located in the Miyahama hot-spring area, Sekitei features spacious Japanese-style accommodations with traditional interiors…. Guests can relax in the hot-spring baths and enjoy the seasons at the Japanese garden. A free shuttle is available from JR Oonoura Train Station, which is a 5-minute drive away.
Some spacious rooms are located in the main tower, while many are individual cottages with 2 floors and a private wooden bath. Most rooms come with tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. Each room has garden or ocean views.
A traditional multi-course meal is served for dinner in the guests’ room. A Japanese set-menu is offered for breakfast, which guests can choose to dine in their rooms or in the dining room.
Sekitei Inn is a 15-minute drive from Miyajimaguchi Ferry Terminal. JR Hiroshima Train Station is a 50-minute drive away. ” — Booking.com
(other than mine, the photos from Sekitei website/Instagram)
I was invited to a small film screening party at a Sicilian restaurant the other day. The film that the owner/chef had chosen for the first screening was one of the most beloved films among many: Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, or Cinema Paradiso (1988).
No mater how many times I see the film, it touches my heart and makes me sob every time. (I prefer the shorter version. What about you?)
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso was mainly filmed in Palazzo Adriano, where the town and street-scapes remain the same and you can easily recognise where the scenes were shot. You might already know; however, Cefalù is also one of the filming locations.
Cefalù is located on the northern coast of Sicily, about 70 km east of the provincial capital, Palemo and 185 km west of Messina. Cefalù is known as a popular seaside destination, but its beautiful sandy beach stretching alongside the town is not the only reason to attract people.
Duomo di Cefalù, a Norman style cathedralerected in 1131, is another tourist attraction. Seen from a distance, the building with two spires dominates the skyline of the surrounding medieval town (See the photo above ).
Whilst the exterior of the Duomo is simple, the interior, especially the apse and choir are richly coloured and decorated with elaborate Byzantine mosaics and eighteenth century stucco. The large Christ Pantocrator on the gold background dominating the apse, above the Madonna, archangels and Apostles is particularly outstanding like the ones of Cattedrale di Monreale and Cappella Palatina.
Lavatoio, Saracen washhouse fed by a natural spring, down on Via Vittorio Emanuele is another sight worth a visit.
Towering above the Duomo and the town centre is the massive crag called the Rocca.
The ascent leading to the top of the hill is quite steep, but it’s worthwhile climbing!
I have visited Cefalù twice – stopped by on the way travelling from Lipari to Palermo in 2014, and made a day trip from Palermo in 2016. During the first visit, I explored the lovely medieval town and around to figure out the filming locations.
Outdoor Cinema Scene
Giancaldo Station Scene
Some believe the scene was shot at Cefalù Station, but actually it was at Lascari, one station away from Cefalù.
When leave the island, I usually take Alitalia at Palermo, which always play Love Theme from Nuevo Cinema Paradiso before taking off. It makes me about to cry and I always cry out inside: ‘Stop playing that! I don’t wanna leave!!’
For the second screening, the chef is going to play Il Postino, or The Postman (1996), set in Salina, Sicily. Unfortunately, however, I cannot make it that day…. What a shame!!!!
Every moment has its meaning.
Every word has its place.
Caltagirone is located in approximately 70 km southwest of Catania, and it is just a 1.5-2 hour journey from the airport by pullman. I made a quick visit after Agrigento and before heading to Lipari in 2014.
Caltagirone is one of the Sicily’s ceramics centres producing particularly maiolica and terra-cotta wares, and its most famous landmark is the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, a stairway of 142 steps running up a hill to the church of Santa Maria del Monte.
From my window:
What makes the staircase most significant and beautiful is that each of the steps has unique hand-painted ceramic tiles with two or three different designs.
I have to go back to see Infiorita held during the last two weeks of May when the steps are covered by an enormous floral display, or/and Illuminata on the 15th of August in which thousands of candles are lighted up and decorate the Scalinata at night.
I usually have just some fruit for breakfast, but how could I have resisted????
I’m sorry to tell you this, but the B&B is located at the halfway up the Scalinata – just right off the stairs….. Your arm muscles might ache – like mine did – after carrying your luggage up steps, but it is worth staying at Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo!
If you live or happen to be around in Tokyo this long weekend, why don’t you pop in Yushima Tenmangu, or Yushima Tenjin to sip umeshu, Japanse plum wine?
Umeshu (梅酒 : 梅 ume = plum, 酒 shu = sake) is made by steeping unripened Japanese plums in alcohol and sugar to allow the flavours to infuse. It is called plum ‘wine’ in English, but it is liqueur type of alcohol.
Over the weekend, the Umeshu Matsuri, Plum Wine Festival is held at the Shito shrine, which is famous for its beautiful plum blossoms in spring. Beer is nice – Oktober Fests are thrown here and there around this time of the year even in Japan, but it may be a good idea to try this aromatic, sweet and plesantly sour liqueur.
At the entrance, purchase 18 token coins for 1,600 yen (advanced ticket was 1,400 yen). 1 or 2 coins are required for a small cup of umeshu (about 30 ml/cup), but 3 for some or award winning ones. Okay, now you are ready to sip. Enjoy and find your favourit(s) out of 156 umeshus from sake breweries all over Japan.
If you find your favourit(s), you can buy it/them!!
I bought a bottle of 梅申春秋, Baishin Shunju from my fav brewery!
Umeshu Matsuri Facebook page
Period: 6th – 9th October 2017
Venue: Yushima Tenmangu
Access: Nearest staion is Yushima on the Chiyoda Line. Take Exit 3 and the left, turn left at the first intersection and walk down about 30 metres. It’s on the left hand side.
Now that you’ve come all the way, why don’t you look around the site?
Yushima Tenmangu（湯島天満宮）a.k.a. Yushima Tenjin（湯島天神）was originally founded for Ameno Tajikaraono Mikoto in 458, and became one of Tenjin shrines in 1355 – Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto is the most famous one.
‘Tenjin’ is the name ofMichizane Sugawara (845-903), a scholar and a high government official. Like other Tenjin shrines, Yushima Tenjin is visited by students to pray for passing exams and inscribe ema – small wooden plaques – with petitions for success in exams, esp. entrance exams.
Among lots of ema, you will find Michizane on a cow. A cow, a typical feature of a Tenjin shrine, is believed to be the servant of the deity.
In the precincts of the shrine, there is a bronze cow, which is known as nade ushi (a cow to stroke). People believe that touching or stroking the cow will cure physical illness, and that is the reason why its head and forehead are so shiny.
You will also see plum trees in the garden and bonsai as well.
Tenjin is strongly related to plum because Michizane had always favoured the trees and blossoms (There is a legend about him and his tree, called ‘Flying Plum Tree‘), so ‘plum’ became a crest of the shrines.
Strolling in the precincts, you might come across a wedding ceremony.
This Fettuccine recipe is adopted from the Raviolini al Limone I enjoyed whilst in Enna for the Holy Monday last year.
Instead of ricotta filled ravioli, I used fettuccine and added the cheese into the sauce. Also scattered with ground pistachios to make it Sicilian!!
(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)
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.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Put in the tomato and fry for a few minutes stirring consistently.
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.
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.
Plate the pasta, and sprinkle with the chopped pistachio and parsley.
MUST VISIT whilst in ENNA
Villa Romana del Casale, a 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 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.
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 😀
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.
I recommend the views over Split from the Marjan Park rather than from the Bell Tower of Saint Domnius – I am fearful of heights!!
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 😦
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 Srđ Mountain!
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)
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).
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!!
My photos cannot describe the beauty enough, so I uploaded below:
About 1.5 hour ferry boat trip from Gruž Port, Dubrovnik to Polače, 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.
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.
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)
retiring into the church 24 hours after (about 23 hrs in 2016)
As I mentioned last March on this blog (Kusatsu Onsen Hot Springs Resort), a friend of mine and I made a visit to another Onsen place. It was just before the New Year’s Eve and Kinosaki was ready for the 2017.
Kinosaki Onsen is one of the most well-known hot spring resorts in Japan. One of the reasons is that it appears in At Kinosaki (1917) by Japanese writer, Naoya Shiga – there still exists the ryokan, Mikiyawhere the author stayed. In the short story, the main character visits Kinosaki Onsen to recuperate from injury.
Not for recuperation, but I used to dip in the hot spring in winters when I was a resident in Kobe (Arima Onsenin Kobe is my another favourite). Kinosaki is getting popular among foreign tourists – but still less compared to Hakone, Kusatsu etc. – although it is far from Tokyo, and even from Kyoto or Osaka, it takes about three hours.
Whether it’s popular or not, you would surely be charmed once you visit the onsen town along a willow-lined river. Walking down the high street with old-fashioned shops, restaurants and amusement arcades, you would feel the ambience of good old Japan.
The top attraction at Kinosaki is sotoyu meguri, ‘public bath stroll’ although every ryokan has its own bath. There are seven public bathhouses in town, and in the evenings, people enjoy onsen hopping from one to another in yukata outfit and wooden geta sandals – also some in early mornings as well.
Sotoyu meguri is enjoyable, but you should be mindful of yuatari, bath dizziness, which may cause your blood pressure and heart rate to rise temporary. To avoid yuatari, we didn’t bathe too long or longer than our body can handle, and didn’t try all the seven bathhouses – just two or three a day at most is enough! – and had two at night and one in the morning.
Below are the seven along with the sotoyu meguri map:
The weather forecast expected snow for the days, however, we had some rain and occasional sleet or hailstone instead. Our bare feet in geta sandals miserably got soaked and frozen on the way to the baths, so we had to defrost them in the hot spring 😦
Other than that, we relaxed in the hot springs and enjoyed hopping (and a bottle of German wine afterwards 😀 )
The beer is good, but I would like you to try Japanese sake, Kasumitsuru. If you visit Kinosaki in winter, try Kasumitsuru Shiboritate sold only for winters.
If you drive to Kinosaki or can afford a one-hour taxi drive from Kinosaki, visit Kasumitsuru Brewery, where you can join the guided tour (booking is necessary) and try some samples.
Sake brewing at Kasumitsuru Brewery (in English)
To be honest, I prefer Kotsuzumi from adjacent province, Tamba. There are variety of Kotsuzumi, and among others, I like Akino Hiyaoroshi most. Unfortunately, this one is also seasonal product and only available in autumn months.
Visit the liquor store, Sakamotoya in Kinosaki where you can find the drinks I mentioned above and buy not only bottled but also a glass (glasses 😀 ) of sake at the counter.
crab crab crab crab
In winter months, from November to March when Matsubagani crab is in season, many, especially from Kansai region (I used to be the one of them), head to Kinosaki for Matsubagani cuisine – kani sashi, yaki gani, kani suki/kani nabe etc.
However, Matubagani is pretty expensive. If you find less expensive ones or dishes, they are not Matsubagani but crabs from Russia.
If you would like to enjoy sushi, sashimi, Matsubagani and other seafood dishes in high quality, dine at Orizuru, one of the best restaurants in Kinosaki. Reservation is a must.
As you can easily imagine, the bill would come out quite…, but their lunch menu is more affordable. I popped in the restaurant at lunch time after seeing off my company who headed for Izumo Grand Shrine, and took away a bento box of kani chirasi, scattered sushi with crab meat.
If you are Wagyu or Kobe Beef lover, Tajima Beef is a must!
How to get to Kinosaki Onsen
By bus (Zentan Bus)
From Osaka (nr Umeda Station) or Shin Osaka (departs from nr JR Shin Osaka Station): about 3-3.5 hour journey
From Kobe (nr JR Sannomiya Station): about 3 – 3.5 hour journey
By train (JR)
Click here for further information. Hyperdia – timetable and route search
Bolo Rei, or King’s Cake, is a traditional Portuguese cake usually eaten around Christmas, from 25th of December until Epiphany, 6th of January (This reminded me of my Kutia, Ukrainian Christmas Eve Pudding.)
Bolo Rei is a sweet rich fruit bread – rather than a cake – baked with raisins, various nuts and crystallised fruits. Also included is a dried fava bean, and the tradition dictates that whoever finds the fava has to pay for the cake next year.(Wikipedia)
As you can easily imagine from the name of and fève in Galette des Rois for Epiphany, Bolo Rei is originally from France although it looks like Frankfurter Kranz. (Click here to learn more about Boro Rei from a video.)
I didn’t know anything about Bolo Rei, but a Postcrosser in Lisbon gave me a recipe on the web, and it has stood by to be posted here since last August!!
The first try didn’t work out that much – the dough turned out to be hard rock buns 😀 so I changed plain to strong flour. Also altered some ingredients, quantities and process but I basically followed the recipe.
For the dough
85 g assorted crystallised fruits, to chop if necessary
35 g raisin
2 tbsp port wine
1 tbsp rum
35 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tbsp dried yeast
50 g strong white flour
50 g butter, room temperature
50 g caster sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, whisked
100 g strong white flour
100 g plain wholemeal flour
25 ml lukewarm milk
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp orange zest
20 g sliced almond
20 g walnut, chopped
10 g pine nuts
(optional: a dried broad/fava bean)
For the topping
1 egg white
crystallised fruits of your choice
For the glaze
50 g icing sugar
25 g honey (I used orange blossom honey)
2 tbsp water
Soak the crystallised fruits and raisins in the port wine and rum for 1-2 hours. Drain well and set aside.
Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Tip the 50 g strong flour into a bowl, and pour in the yeasty water to mix. Knead by hand for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Pour in some more water a little at a time if required. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, and cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm. Allow to rise in a warm place for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Remove the dough from the bowl, and punch down gently to degas. Shape into a ball, place back in the bowl and cover again and sit for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flours until just combined and stir in the milk to mix well. Then add the yeast mixture to the dough making sure it is evenly blended together, using your hand and create a sticky dough. Put in the zests, nuts and soaked fruits (and a fava bean). Lightly mix until all the fruits and nuts are evenly covered by the dough. Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 190 C.
Knead the dough for about one minute. Scrape the dough on to a greased baking tray, shape into a round loaf (about 20 cm in diameter) , and make a hole in the centre. Brush it all with the egg white. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil if the surface becomes too brown. Remove from the oven, brush the top surface again with the egg white and decorate with cristallised fruits. Put back into the oven, and bake for a few minutes (Do not burn the fruits!). Carefully lift out and place on a wire rack.
To make the glaze, put the icing sugar, honey and water in a small pan over low heat. Stir until completely melted and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and spoon over the cake.
Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Lisbon. I’m sure to make this again whether it’s Christmas/Epiphany or not!
I have been wishing to revisit Lisbon…. Night Train to Lisbon, both the novel and the film, added fuel to the wish. Once I planned train journeys from Nice to Lisbon via San Sebastian but it hasn’t come off yet.
What I enjoyed most in Lisbon are:
city views from above
and steep slopes of narrow streets and alleys. Above all, the slopes up to the B&B I stayed at. Whichever the labyrinthine alleys I took, I could go back to the place, which was really fun!
MUST STAY in LISBON
Casa Costa do Castelo is located at the foot of Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint George’s Castle, which offers gorgeous views by day and night.
MUST EAT in LISBON
I happened to find Fonte das Sete Bicas when exploring Alfama. It is a small family run restaurant like a trattoria, and many locals were in for lunch. You can enjoy dishes at reasonable price – I paid 8 – 9 euros for one course with bread and salad, a glass of wine, dessert and coffee (as of 2009)!
As for the wine, it doesn’t need to be expensive or high quality, but full bodied dry red wine should be used for the cake. So far, I have tried two varieties: Spätburgunder (German Pinot Noir) and Zinfandel. I chose wine with slightly smoky, spicy and cocoa flavours, and that goes well with chocolate. I used:
140 Jahre Spätburgunder trocken (2013) – Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoß-Altenahr
Napa Valley Zinfandel (2013) – Napa Cellars
The Napa Zinfandel matched with cocoa/chocolate so well that aroma of spices had been drowned out, so I added ½ tsp allspice more, i.e. 1 tsp allspice for the Zinfandel and ½ for the Spätburgunder cake.
The cakes baked with the each wine properly stored for a few days after opening taste better than with those two right after being opened.
For the people who prefer less sweet cake with very dry wine:
from Mendoza, Algentina Amancaya Gran Reserva (2013) – Domaines Barons de Rothchild (Lafite) and Nicolas Catena (alc. 14.5%, Malbec 60-70% Cabernet Sauvignon 30-40%)
from Puglia, Italy Chocolate Tube (2015) – Mare Magnum ( alc. 14.5%, Primitivo 100%)
If obtainable, do use Alter Eco’s Nor Intense chocolate. My brownies baked with this choc are divine 🙂 , and it turned out be perfect for the Rotweinkuchen as well!!
(for 16 cm Gugelhupf tin)
110 ml full-bodied red wine (I tried Spätburgunder / Zinfandel), warmed
40 g sugar free dark chocolate (I used cacao 60 %), grated
150 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ – 1 tsp allspice, to adjust
150 g butter, softened at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
2 egg, whisked
icing sugar, to decorate
(optional: whipped cream)
Preheat oven to 180° C. Add chocolate in the warm wine to dissolve completely and set aside.
Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and allspice.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition.
Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the wine mixture until evenly combined.
Spoon into a greased tin and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
Leave it stand for 10 minutes and turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
Dust with icing sugar to serve. Tastes better the next day or two than when freshly baked but store properly to keep the cake moist.
Some of you may already know, but I am into German wine, especially Ahr red wine. And again, I made a visit to the wine region this September, during the harvest season.
It was a bit early for the beautiful ‘Golden October’, but the leaves in the mountains and the vineyards had started turning yellow and brown.
The harvest of Frühburgunder, ‘pinot madeleine’ or ‘pinot noir précoce’ in French, had been done a week before my arrival and the vintners were about to move on to Spätburgunder. Frühburgunder is a mutation of Spätburgunder, and ripens approximately two weeks earlier than Spätburgunder. (früh = early, spät = late)
This year I enjoyed a different weinfest: Dernau Winzerfest, or Dernau Vintners Festival. It is one of the biggest wine festivals in Ahr, so tons of tourists got together in and around Dernau, which caused not only traffic (hikers) jams on the Rotweinwanderweg but also train delays! (What was worse, there were construction work on tracks and a fire somewhere on a track or at a station, which caused more delays, train cancellations, destination changes etc… and I almost missed my flight back to Tokyo!! )
I didn’t see such a number of people last August – pretty amazing – and I found that “most of Ahr wine is consumed locally and by the tourists” is completely true.
Do you remember that my previous visit was too early for Federweißer and Zwiebelkuchen (Zwiebelkuchen posted in September 2015)? Rotwein the Foodie never forgot about it 😀
Bought a 1.0 litre bottle of Federweißer and enjoyed it with Zwiebelkuchen, onion tart and Käsekuchen, cheesecake, which matched really well! Federweißer is sweet and low alcohol drink (about 8%) and tastes like juice, so I could manage to finish the bottle in 3 – 4 days! Sometimes I sipped it in the morning before going out 😀
Also enjoyed Federrotter made from red grapes. I prefer weißer though.
It’s worth visiting Ahr for its beautiful red wines but also worthwhile for Federweißer/rotter in autumn 🙂
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
As autumn deepens and it gets cooler, leaves change colour into bright red and yellow.
Wagashi of the Month in November is fallen Momiji, or Japanese maple leaves on the bottom of river.
Autumn colour from my album:
I’ll add some more photos from a local autumn festival last month.
There are countless local festivals (Matsuri) in Japan because almost every shrine celebrates one of its own. Most festivals are held annually and celebrate the shrine’s deity or a seasonal or historical event. Some festival are held over several days.
An important element of Japanese festivals are processions, in which the local shrine’s Kami (Shinto deity) is carried through the town in Mikoshi (palanquins). It is the only time of the year when the Kami leaves the shrine to be carried around town.
I’m a big fan of pistachio, but I don’t mean any. I fell in love with Sicilian pistachio when I travelled to the island for the first time in 2012. Pistachio gelato, biscuit, cake, pistachio cream filled pastry, etc…. I cannot help trying whenever in the island, and bringing back as many the nuts and the products as possible!
Above all, the nuts from Bronte, a small town on the west flank of the active volcano Mt Etna, is the best. Bronte pistachio, so called ‘green gold of Sicily’ or ’emerald of Sicily’, is characterised by its bright green colour and its marked aroma and flavour. Once I baked a loaf with Bronte pistachios and the flour along with some lemons from my parents’ garden, which was absolutely beautiful!
As for crema di pistacchio, or pistachio cream, I was no idea how to use it other than top over vanilla ice cream or spread on pieces of bread, pancakes etc. It could be used for cake filling, but one jar was insufficient in quantity…. The breakfast I was served at a B&B in Enna this March, however, gave me an idea: chickpea flour biscuit with pistachio cream filling.
And also, a recipe booklet the host gave me two years earlier inspired me. The booklet is a collection of sweets recipes for religious festivities around Enna, and a lovely handmade piece!
I added ground almond to make it more Sicilian – like pasticcini di mandorle, Sicilian almond dough biscuit, which is crispy and slightly chewy, but soft and moist inside. The first experiment turned out to be perfect except that the dough was dry and not sticky enough to wrap the cream up. Of course, it’s totally gluten free!! I wanted to follow the traditional Sicilian style and keep ingredients simple, so I made it ‘pinwheel’ as the solution!
Oh, I need to mention the black spiral one with sweetened black sesame paste. The dough was going to go with only pistachio cream at first, but the experiment with black sesame paste unexpectedly resulted in a good outcome! As I didn’t have sufficient cream, I attempted with several substitutes: peanut cream or paste (but not butter) was also nice, but chestnut cream wasn’t at all. I guess hazelnut cream would work.
To be honest, however, the pistachio cream ones are not photogenic at all – the colour becomes dull when together with the dough, so this is the main reason I added black spirals 😀
100 g chickpea flour
100 g ground almond/almond meal
80 g caster sugar
80 g lard or shortening (trans free palm shortening)
40g whisked egg
100 g pistachio cream (or sweetened black sesame/peanut paste as such but not runny)
Preheat oven to 140° C.
In a bowl, cream the lard or shortening and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the whisked egg a third at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and almonds until evenly combined. Divide half.
Using your hands, spread half of the dough evenly on a sheet of waxed or baking parchment paper (20 cm x 20 cm square). Trim the edges. Spread half of the cream or the paste over the dough.
Lift the end of the sheet, and roll up using the sheet like a sushi roll but pressing tightly. Wrap with the sheet when it comes to the end. Repeat with the remaining. Refrigerate the two rolls for at least 30 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator and unwrap, then cut into 1.5 cm slices. Put the slices apart on greased baking sheet. Bake at 140° C for 12-15 minutes. Cool completely.
note: If the baking time is not enough, the chickpea dough tastes a little bit grassy. If longer, they turn to crispy like ordinary biscuits. This baking might be a bit tricky. Please adjust the temperature and time.
MUST SHOPS in PALERMO
If you’d like to purchase Sicilian coffee, then go to Ideal Caffè Stagnitta, a roasting company, just off Plazzo Pretorio. Cannot find the way? No worries, the beautiful roasting aroma will lead you to the place. You can also try a cup first at its cafe, Casa Stagnitta adjacent to the shop.
Orland, which I mentioned on my Lemon Spaghetti post, is a good place to buy Bronte pistachios, but I found a new one near Teatro Massiomo. Genuino is a fantastic deli with good quality Sicilian food products, and Enrico will give you a warm welcome when you step into the shop. I recommend the foodstuff from his village: olives, cheeses, cured sausages, breads, sweets, nuts etc. The olives I tried were larger than normal ones, and more plump and juicy!
I don’t remember the name, but the cheese Enrico’s friend makes – he said it ‘invented’ – was superb! You must try it!!
My first stay at Bianko & Bianko was so pleasant that I went back again. The host helped me a lot to plan the visit during the Holy Week – sent me the programme of the processions with useful tips. Her restaurant recommendations are always superb!
On the following day after I saw U Signuruzzu a Cavaddu on Palm Sunday, I left Caccamo early in the morning for Enna. The commune holds traditional rites during the whole Holy Week, and I went up there to observe four religious processions on Holy Monday.
Once my Spanish friends invited me to Valladolid in Spain for its famous fiesta in Semana Santa, Holy Week (unfortunately I couldn’t make it because of my fracture 😦 ). So when I heard about the processions during Settimana Santa in Sicily, it rang a bell and I was right. The Sicilian Easter tradition dates back to the Spanish domination over the island of the 15th to 17th centuries.
Programme of Holy Monday Processions in Enna
9.30 – Confraternity of St Anne (departs from the Church of St Cataldo)
11.00 – Confraternity of Our Lady of Visitation (from the Church of St Mary of Jesus in Mount Salvo)
16.00 – Confraternity of St Mary of Graces (from the Church of St Augustine)
17.00 – Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament (from the Church of St Thomas)
18.00 – Confraternity of Our Lady ‘the New Woman’ (from its church)
Three flammkuchen – with bacon & onion, smoked salmon & courgette, fig & cranberry cheese – recipes to follow below.
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.
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.
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’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.
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!!)
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 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.
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.
(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
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 – 2 tbsp runny honey, to adjust (I used orange blossom honey)
For the dough, dissolve the yeast and honey in the lukewarm water, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
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.
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.
Remove from the oven, and i) sprinkle with the chive, ii) garnish with the dill, or iii) drizzle over the honey.
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.
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.
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)!
(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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. WhenI 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 Icould 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.
And also he plucked a flower and gave me. At home, fully enjoyed caponata, pasta, salad etc. with the capers.
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! 😀 )
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!
A year has passed since my summer holiday in Germany last year – beautiful and peaceful days in vineyards.
<Itinerary> Dusseldorf Airport – Cologne (Cologne Cathedral) – Ahrweiler (8 days; one day trip to Rühdesheim am Rhein) – Frankfurt Airport
I stayed in one of Germany’s least-known and northernmost wine regions, Ahr where, unlike other regions, red wines are primarily produced (about 85% of the total wine production), and enjoyed three wine festivals during the stay. If you wonder why not beer festivals or why red wine rather than white wine, you might want to read my post, Holiday in Vineyards.
Cologne – Cologne Cathedral (14th August 2015)
On the way to Ahrweiler, stopped over at Cologne to see the cathedral. It was almost suicide for exhausted, jet-lagged, sleepy and hungry Rotwein to climb up the tower – 100 m high and with 533 steps – after 17 hour journey and just before lunch!
Heimersheim Weinfest (14th – 16th August 2015)
After checked in a holiday apartment and had a shower, headed to Heimersheim, adjacent to Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, the capital of Ahrweiler district, for the opening of the festival and the proclamation of the new wine queen.
The admission was 6 euros (valid for 3 days; 5 euros for Sunday only), and 3 euros for a wine cup (See the pic above – the admission wristband and the cup).
I had (only 😀 ) two cups at the wine stands that night, but many were enjoying a bottle (presumably, bottles) with their family or friends. There were also food stands available.
On the following day, went back there (of course with the cup 😀 ) for the historical vintners’ procession followed by the wine queen.
The most famous winery in Heimersheim is Weingut Nelles (VDP). Although I had no chance to visit their office/winery for wine tasting, tried two wines from the winery at the festival – Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) RUBER and Blanc de Noir – Trocken (dry), and loved the latter so much that I brought the bottle back home.
‘Blanc de Noir’, or Pinot Noir Blanc/White Pinot Noir, is made from Pinot Noir grapes in a white wine style, produced quickly removing the skins from the juice after the grapes have been pressed. ‘Blanc de Noir’ is often used for Champagne or sparkling wine. In Ahr, however, it refers to white still wine made from Spätburgunder grapes.
‘Blanc de Noir’ tastes richer than white, and the colour, as you can imagine, is pinkish but lighter than rosé. Nelles’s is slightly orangish or light salmon (See the pic with the cup above). They describe it ‘on the nose, vineyard peach, passion fruit and pineapple, in the mouth these aromas are supported by the elegant fruit acidity.’ It was perfect for summer drinking.
The day after the procession, I took a train down to Rüdesheim am Rhein for another weinfest. Rüdesheime is located in Rheingau, one of the most famous German wine regions for its high quality Riesling. In Rheingau, white grapes cover about 85 % of the vineyards, and as for the vine varieties, Riesling approx. 78% of the total wine production (2014 statistics).
Drosselgasse is a major draw for visitors. There are wide range of wine bars, garden taverns and traditional restaurants – a good place to sample local wines! Also a place to try famous ‘Rüdesheim Kaffee’, Asbach brandy and coffee with a topping of whipped cream. I wanted to try the coffee, but I couldn’t…. Well, the thing was I couldn’t take anymore alcohol after Rüdesheimer Weinfest!!
It was a rainy and chilly day (about 13°C）and not an ideal day for Riesling….
And yet, had 3 or 4 wines (I can’t recall!) shivering in the rain: Sekt, German sparkling wine from Solter and Riesling Spätlese from Leitz (VDP), which I liked most at the festival.
Rüdesheim am Rhein is not only the place for drinking! The cable car ride up to the Niederwald Monument offers you panoramic views over vineyards and the scenic views of the Rhine. I was going to take a Rhein River Cruise from Rüdesheim on the way back to Ahrweiler, but rain and fog discouraged me 😦
Well, that was fine as Hausgemachter Sauerbraten vom Rind ,,RHEINISCHE ART”, Kartoffelklößen und Apfelmus – Braised beef (marinated in vinegar), dumplings and applesauce at Ratsstube compensated it 🙂
Later at home, I learnt that one of the most popular travel bloggers was also in Rüdesheime for the festival. Her posts will give you more details about Rüdesheimer Weinfest and Riesling in Rheingau:
Ländliches Weinfest Walporzheim (21st – 23rd August 2015)
Rural Walporzheim Wine Festival is held on the 4th Weekend in August with winegrowers’ parade on Sunday and fireworks on Monday. I was supposed to go home on Saturday, so I just saw the opening and the announcement of the new wine queen on Friday evening.
It was a bit smaller than Heimersheim one, but I liked the cozy and intimate atmosphere – perfect for the last night in Ahr. I had had enough red wines, especially Spätburgunder, for 8 days, so topped off the last night with white wine and rosé sparkling.
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.
(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)
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.
Meanwhile, drop the butter in a pan and melt over lower heat. Put in the lemon zest and fry for two minutes stirring consistently.
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.
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.
Plate the pasta and sprinkle with the parsley.
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!
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 place, kePalle, 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.