Pork Chops with Celeriac Gratin

This dinner was stumbled upon by chance, completely inspired  by the lovely ingredients we picked up on our local high street. We’d gone for a walk on one of the first sunny Saturdays of spring with the intention of dropping by the greengrocers and the butchers to pick up a couple of bits for the coming week. In the greengrocers we nabbed a celeriac and some rhubarb (bang in season, and more to come on that later!) and in the butchers we picked up some beautiful Gloucester Old Spot boneless pork chops. Back at home we started to plan our meals for the week and realised we had a beautiful dinner sat right in front of us! Neither of us fancied a creamy gratin so we went with a boulangère potatoes-inspired dish, finely sliced celeriac layered with softened onions and apple slices to complement the pork.

This was really easy to prepare but felt pretty fancy, you could definitely wow a few people coming round for an alternative roast. It would be delicious with our roast pork belly recipe too!

Ingredients

  • Boneless pork chops, 2 per person
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 celeriac, sliced into 2-3mm slices
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 dessert/eating apple, peeled, halved, cored and sliced thinly
  • About 10 sage leaves, half finely sliced and half left whole
  • About 1/4 pint of chicken stock
  • 2 tsp butter
  • Greens to serve – we had sautéed leeks with cabbage

The slicing is by far the most tedious bit about this dish, once you’ve got all that done it’s just layering!

Gnarly Celeriac

Celeriac Posing

Thinly Sliced Celeriac

Start by frying the onions in half the butter and oil with the chopped sage. Cook for around 10-15 minutes until they’re nice and soft. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Onions Cooking for Pork & Celeriac

Start layering up your gratin in an oven-proof dish, we did celeriac-onions-apple finishing with a final layer of celeriac. Make sure you season well with salt and pepper on each layer too.

Celeriac Gratin Layering

Celeriac Gratin Layering 2

Pour over the stock – it should come about 3/4 of the way up your dish. On the top layer of celeriac take a couple of minutes to make it look pretty-ish (not really our strong point!) and then dot with the remaining butter and the remaining sage. Pop in the preheated oven – it should take about 45 minutes to cook perfectly!

Celeriac Gratin, Before Cooking

Our pork chops took about 20 minutes in total to cook, so roughly halfway through the gratin cooking time start these off. Coat with the remaining olive oil and heat a griddle pan over a medium heat. Render the fat off the chops by standing them upright in the pan for about 5 minutes until the fat has turned golden on the outside.

Rendering Fat From Pork Steaks

We then poured a lot of fat out of the pan as they were in danger of deep frying! Cook them on each side for a couple of minutes and then pop into the oven either in the pan if it’s oven-proof or transfer to a dish and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Pork Steaks Griddling

Celeriac Gratin Done

Beautiful Celeriac Gratin

Serve with some greens and enjoy. We love shopping local, there are some brilliant places and you end up inspired to cook dishes you might never have thought of otherwise!

Pork Steaks with Celeriac Gratin

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Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

When we were planning our weekly meals we decided to have some smoked haddock fishcakes just like these ones we made a while ago – they make a perfect light meal that feels a little bit special. But Sainsburys didn’t have any undyed smoked haddock for offer online so we had to change plans, and we’re so glad we did because it gave us the chance to come up with these little beauties!  These don’t come with a sauce unlike the smoked haddock ones so are even lighter and would make a great spring or summer dish – give them a try as the weather warms up.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 heaped tsp of wholegrain mustard
  • 2 spring onions, finely diced
  • A small bundle of chives, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 60g/1 small pack of smoked salmon, chopped/torn into bitesize pieces

Start by boiling the potato until tender and then drain. Mash this with the butter and mustard – give it a really good mashing so it’s nice and smooth. Then just mix in the rest of the ingredients and season! We only used a tiny bit of salt as the salmon is salty but put plenty of black pepper.

Mashed potato

Chopped chives

Salmon fishcake mixture

Shape the mixture into little patties (we did 2 per person) and pop into the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes.

Salmon fishcakes uncooked

As everything in the cakes is cooked they just need to get a nice golden colour so coat lightly in flour and shallow fry for a couple of minutes per side – try not to turn them too much as they are quite delicate. Serve as we did, we wilted spinach and a wedge of lemon or with a simple green salad.

Salmon fishcake dinner

Ching-He Huang’s Roast Duck Noodle Soup

We’re avid fans of the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen Live (isn’t James Martin such a pro?) and have been loving the re-runs of Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang’s Exploring China recently – we missed it the first time around. They’re such an enthusiastic pair, and so passionate about Chinese cuisine – its impossible for their excitement not to rub off on you. So we were delighted when we stumbled across Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy book in a North Street charity shop for £3 (plus another book free!). We snapped it up and this was the first recipe we made from it.

We love duck, though don’t cook with it very often as it can be quite expensive. Fats’ parents are lucky enough, living out in the country, to have neighbours occasionally drop by with a freshly killed duck or too – though his mum doesn’t always see it that way when the garage is full of them… This recipe makes a little go a long way, as the breast is sliced really thinly – in fact we adapted the recipe so it only uses one breast. We’ve also replaced a few of the harder-to-find ingredients with stuff that you can pick up in a supermarket (you should be able to find the rest in a Chinese food store, if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby). The result is still pretty authentic!

So for 2 people, you’ll need:

For the duck and marinade:

  • 1 duck breast fillet, skin on
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 3 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce

For the soup:

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 80 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 100 g cabbage, sliced
  • 200 g cooked noodles (we used udon, our favourite!)
  • 1 spring onion, chopped diagonally
  • 40 g bean sprouts
  • 1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, and place in a plastic food bag with the duck breast and seal. Wiggle it around so that it all gets covered, and put it in the fridge for anything between 20 minutes and overnight – as always with marinades, the longer the better.

Duck breast - after marinade. Lovely colour!
Duck breast – after marinade. Lovely colour!

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C. Remove the duck from its bag and pat it dry with some kitchen roll. Heat a pan over a high heat, and when it is scorching hot place the duck breast in the pan, skin side down, and cook for 1 minute. Turn it over and cook on the other side for a little longer – the breast should turn a nice golden brown – and then transfer to a baking tray, skin side up, and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

The duck crisps up a bit after frying
The duck crisps up a bit after frying

To make the soup, heat the chicken stock, soy sauce and rice vinegar in a pan. Add the mushroom and cabbage and cook for about 5 minutes, before adding the noodles to cook for a minute, and finally the spring onion, bean sprouts and chopped coriander. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Duck Soup Ingredients

Meanwhile, your duck should have finished in the oven – remove it and rest for a minute, to let it suck up all its juices. Carve into slices as thin you can – you should be able to get plenty of slices to feed 2 out of a decent-sized duck breast.

Duck Post Oven

Duck Sliced Thinly

Place the duck on top of the soup and sprinkle over a few coriander sprigs before serving.

Duck Soup

We thought this meal was pretty awesome – we’ve dabbled in Chinese food before but generally have stuck more with Thai flavours. Needless to say we can’t wait to get stuck in with the rest of Ching-He’s book!

Ching-He Huang

Brazilian Seafood Stew

We’ve been crazy for seafood recently! We can’t stop cooking up great fish recipes. We’re also really into South American flavours – lime, coriander and tomatoes are some of our favourites – and this dish brings them all together. This recipe for Brazilian seafood stew – or Moqueca – is taken from Allegra McEvedy’s Around The World In 120 Recipes – we can really recommend it, it’s got tons of amazing and varied recipes – we cook from it all the time! The recipe has a lot going on, but it’s pretty relaxed – the first part of it can be prepared well in advance, and there’s no need to rush at all. We’re cooking it with haddock fillets instead of halibut steaks, they’re a bit easier to come by in Bristol…

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 2 haddock fillets
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed with a good pinch of salt
  • 2 limes
  • A handful of coriander
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 3 vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 tin (200ml) coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 6 raw peeled king prawns
  • White rice, to serve
  • Salt and pepper

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The first thing to do is to marinate the fish – put your fillets into a bowl or other container with the garlic, the juice of the lime, most of the coriander and some salt and pepper, and leave for an hour (or longer) in the fridge.

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Put half of both types of oil into a pan and fry two-thirds of the onion slices – you want them to slightly caramelize but not burn, so don’t have the heat higher than medium. This should take around 10 minutes, after which point you can add half of the tomatoes and half the peppers and leave these to soften up for a few more minutes.

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Stir in the tomato purée so that everything is coated, and follow up with half the coconut milk. Simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes or so, then blitz to form a nice creamy sauce – we used a stick blender, but you could use a food processor (we have one but don’t agree with washing up).

Now put the rice on to cook, and heat up the rest of the oils in a wide saucepan on a high heat. Cover the fish fillets in the seasoned flour (we find it easiest to sift the flour with some salt and pepper onto a plate) and fry for 2-3 minutes each side – fillets will take a little less time to cook than thick steaks. Put these aside, and add the rest of the onions, peppers and tomatoes. Cook this lot for 5 minutes or so, before adding the pre-prepared blitzed mixture and the rest of the coconut milk.

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Add the fish fillets back to the pan, cover and cook for another couple of minutes before adding the prawns and a load of chopped coriander and cooking for another minute or so (we don’t think prawns need very much time at all to cook!).

Serve on a hearty bed of rice, topped with chopped coriander and served alongside a good wedge of lime – a perfect, comforting yet fresh meal.

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You can find a video of Allegra herself cooking this meal on lovefood.com – check it out!

Lunch at the Thali Café, Southville

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll probably have gathered by now that we absolutely love cooking – we were trying to figure it out, and we reckon we spend more time awake in the kitchen/dining room than anywhere else in our house! Sometimes though, you just have to get out and treat yourself – of course as a food blogger, you can treat this as “research”!

That’s why last week we toddled off to North Street, a short walk from where we live in Bristol, in search of some good lunchtime grub. We knew we wouldn’t be disappointed, as there are tons of great places to choose from. We learned recently that Bedminster was one of the poorest areas in the country only 20 years ago, but you would never be able to tell from the thriving community that has sprung up in the area, with North Street being a focal point of the regeneration – it’s packed with independent cafés, restaurants and shops, and barely a month goes by without a new place opening up.

We settled on the Southville branch of the Thali Café, a Bristol restaurant chain with a focus on Indian street food-style dishes. The chain started out as a van at a festival, serving one dish, but they soon expanded into their first permanent residence in Montpelier (that’s Bristol, not France… never figured out why there’s an area of Bristol called Montpelier… ). The Southville branch opened last year and we’ve already been a bunch of times, it’s a favourite whenever we have guests staying in Bristol as it’s sure to please. Their Thali is definitely one of the best meals out we’ve had in Bristol, for its deliciousness and its simplicity, but we were keen to try out their lunch menu.

Window Seat Thali Café

The restaurant was pretty quiet at lunchtime – we had no problem getting a great table for two by the window. The walls are covered in framed pictures from old Indian films and painted their signature pink and turquoise, and there were old radios and other paraphernalia scattered around the place, making for a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

Thali Café Inside

Lunch turned out to be quite the bargain! It was £5 each for a wrap or a special, and there was a glass of chai (Indian black tea spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves) thrown in. After agonising over the menu (everything looked excellent) Fats decided on a Pollock Kolkata Wrap, while Bird went for an Uttapam, from the South Indian Specials menu – a soft rice pancake with fresh herbs, tomato, red onion and grated coconut, and served with sambar and coconut chutney.

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First up, the wrap. This was great – big chunks of succulent fish deep fried in gram flour batter that was crisp and not at all greasy, wrapped in a fresh flatbread. This all came served with coconut chutney, which was light and refreshing.

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The Uttapam was light and fluffy, and stuffed with herbs, tomato and onion. It had a great roasted rice flavour, and was perfect for soaking up the delicious sambar (a vegetable stew made with tamarind, one of Bird’s favourite flavours!). Bird’s mum used to live in India and was very jealous when she learned that we could get fresh Uttapam 10 minutes from our front door! We’ve promised to take her for lunch next time she’s visiting.

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These dishes were pretty much perfect, and exactly what you want from a light lunch – filling and full of energy, but not the kind of meal that will send you to sleep for the afternoon. We still felt we had to try one last thing on the menu though – the Himalayan Pink Salt Lassi was calling out to us! This is an Indian-style smoothie made mostly with fresh yoghurt – ours came topped with cumin too. We were slightly worried that it might have been a bit too salty (neither of us were up for a glass of sea water), but we needn’t have been – the lassi was cool and refreshing.

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We left feeling completely satisfied, and like we had got more than our money’s worth. We’ll definitely be going for lunch again, and dinner too – just as soon as we’ve sampled all the other delights North Street has to offer!

The Thali Café have branches in Southville, Montpelier, Easton, Clifton and Totterdown. You can also get a take away – if you buy a tiffin, they’ll fill it up for you -what a great idea!

Thali Café Sign

Simple Grilled Sardines

Please, please would someone open a great fishmongers in central/south Bristol?? The two high streets near us have 5 butchers between them and zero fishmongers. And we’re really not that far from the sea! Anyway, these lovely sardines were picked up at the supermarket which is convenient, but we would love to be able to shop local and get an expert’s advice every now and then. This would have come in really handy when we got home and discovered that we had to gut the fish at which point Bird walked away and made herself very busy chopping tomatoes. Fats did a fab job though and they were soon cleaned up with minimal swearing.

Oily fish like sardines are great with really strong flavours like in our recipe with harissa and orange, but they also shine when cooked simply and served with some classic flavours. We grilled ours with just salt and pepper and served with thyme-roasted tomatoes, steamed broccoli and some freshly baked sourdough.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 sardines per person
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large handfuls of cherry tomatoes
  • Several sprigs of thyme
  • Salt & pepper
  • Green vegetables and bread to serve

To start with get the tomatoes roasting, these will cook on low for about 45 minutes until slightly dried out and the flavours have really intensified. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Cut the tomatoes in half and place in a roasting dish with 1 tbsp of olive oil, a good pinch of salt and pepper and then lay the thyme over the top. Place in the oven and leave for 45 minutes. Our grill is combined with our oven so when the time came to cook the fish we took the tomatoes out and left on the side – they kept really warm. Obviously if yours is separate then you can time it slightly differently so that they finish cooking while the fish grills.

Thyme roasted tomatoes

Make three deep slashes in each side of the fish and then rub all over with olive oil and plenty of seasoning. Place them on a baking tray covered with foil for an easier clean up. Pop under a preheated grill – they should take about 5-8 minutes per side, when they have been bubbling and spitting away for a while they should be ready to flip over.

Sardines raw

Serve with bread and green veg (or salad) and a wedge of lemon to squeeze over – so simple and delicious!

Sardines, tomatoes and bread

Jumbo Bacon and Apple American-Style Pancakes

As we’re fast approaching pancake day/Shrove Tuesday we thought it was only fair on you lot if we prostrated ourselves before the altar of batter and tested out a new pancake flavour! It’s been a really hard time, selfless aren’t we? We really can’t choose whether we like the crepe style pancakes more or fluffy American style but fear not, we plan on evening the score with some thin beauties in a day or two. Seeing as we decided on making thick pancakes first we thought we had to put some bacon in/on/near them – if we’re going American then we might as well go properly American. Apple and  bacon is a fantastic combination – salty, sweet, tart and smoky – it makes an ideal pancake topping or filling.

Ingredients (makes 4-6 pancakes)

  • 135g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 130ml milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp melted butter, cooled slightly
  • 2-3 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2-1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 tsp honey

To make the pancake batter sift the first 4 ingredients into a large bowl together then stir together the milk, egg and butter and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix together with a fork or whisk until combined and leave to stand for a few minutes.

Bacon and apple frying

Put the chopped bacon in a frying pan and then place over a very low heat so that the fat melts. Once it has melted turn the heat up and get some colour on the bacon. When it’s all lightly golden add in the apple, stir and cook for 1 minute then stir in the teaspoon of honey and cook for a further minute. Then tip all of this into a bowl ready to sprinkle on the pancakes.

Apple and bacon pancakes raw

Give the frying pan a wipe and then put it back on a medium heat and add a little oil or butter. Take a spoonful of the mixture and drop into the pan – don’t worry if they don’t turn out perfectly shaped! While the mixture is still wet on top sprinkle over some of the apple and bacon mixture and lightly press in. Cook for 2-3 minutes then flip over and cook for a further minute or so, until nice and golden. Keep them warm in the oven while you cook the rest and then serve with whatever you like – we went with just a little butter (as if we needed more) but these would be fab with some ricotta too and a side salad.

Apple and bacon pancakes cooking

Apple and bacon pancakes with butter

What’s your favourite topping for pancakes? And what style do you love most – thin or thick?

Try our fluffy lemon pancakes too – they’re incredible!

Butternut Squash Macaroni

We picked up a copy of Gennaro’s Italian Home Cooking recently to expand our repertoire of Italian classics. This book is all about BIG cooking – most of the recipes feed 8-12 people so we’ve had to scale things down a lot! This recipe jumped out at us as, even though we’re inching towards spring, we’re not quite ready to give up our beloved butternut squash yet. You can use any pumpkin or squash for this dish. His recipe made 8 servings so we decided to make half and freeze half of what we made, and we are so glad we did. We made a pretty special mac and cheese with the other half – unfortunately this was so exciting that we forgot to take photos!

Ingredients – serves 4

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1-2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1/2 butternut squash (about 500g clean weight), cut into small cubes. We cubed all of our squash and froze half so we have that to look forward to sometime too!
  • Salt & pepper
  • A small handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 250g macaroni
  • (optional: a few drops of white truffle oil)
The truffle oil is sort of (but not really) optional
The truffle oil is sort of (but not really) optional

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and when hot add the chilli, garlic and rosemary. As soon as the garlic starts cooking add the squash/pumpkin cubes and stir well to coat in the lovely flavoured oil. Season well with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley. Turn the heat right down and cook gently for around 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the squash is almost cooked.

Chopped Squash

Add the stock in, turn the heat back up and bring to the boil, then tip in the macaroni and turn down to a simmer. Cook this until the pasta is al dente, stirring frequently. You may have to top up the water a little, we didn’t need to. This is where Gennaro’s recipe ends but we decided to make this dish just a little more luxurious! Serve onto warmed plates or bowls and if you wish, add a couple of drops of white truffle oil to each plate – pure decadence! The truffle made this dish for us, we tasted some of the reserved pasta in the pan which we froze and we definitely preferred the truffled up version. Serve with a side salad, we had ours with a lemon vinaigrette to cut through the richness of the truffle.

Squash macaroni cooking

This is such a lovely dish, we can totally imagine it being brandished with pride for a huge Italian family! It’s a nice trans-seasonal dinner too, it’s still quite wintery but not too heavy, perfect for these chilly spring days.

Squash Macaroni Done

Sweet Chilli Salmon Skewers

We’ve blogged loads about our love for south-east asian flavours – especially chilli and lime (we have recipes for Thai-style Sea Bass, Thai Noodle Soup with Crispy Tofu, Thai Green Curry… you get the idea!). This recipe for sweet chilli salmon skewers couldn’t be easier, but it’s impressive and the flavours really pack a punch! We’re getting a bit of help from Mr. Vikki’s Chilli Jam here, which we got for Christmas from Fats’ parents. You can use any sweet chilli sauce though, or even make your own!

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 1 tbsp Chilli Jam/Sweet Chilli Sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 100g tenderstem broccoli
  • 1 pak choi, thickly sliced
  • 100g sugarsnap peas
  • 500ml jasmine tea
  • 180g white rice

Chilli Jam and Jasmine Tea

Start with the marinade by mixing together the chilli jam, lime and 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil in a bowl. Cut the salmon into chunks and coat it well with the marinade. Leave for at least 20 minutes or so. When they’ve finished marinading, skewer your salmon cubes and prepare them for a grilling – we did this by resting the skewers over a roasting dish lined with kitchen foil – the foil should ensure that the salmon gets cooked from both sides.

This was taken pre-foiling of the roasting dish... Don't forget! Looks good though, right?
This was taken pre-foiling of the roasting dish… Don’t forget! Looks good though, right?

Make your jasmine tea (brew for about 5 minutes in a jug), and add to a pan (being sure to sift out any leaves!), topping up with water as necessary. Bring to the boil and add the rice, cooking for about 12 minutes. Put your salmon skewers under a hot grill at the same time – they should take about 12 minutes too.

Mix together the oyster sauce and the soy sauce in a bowl, and heat the rest of the oil in a wok. Add your veg to the wok, keeping aside the green parts of the pak choi, and cover in your sauce. Toss to coat the veg and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

Stir-frying veg

If you’ve timed it right, everything should come together at the same time. Plate it up with an extra wedge of lime to squeeze over and enjoy!

Salmon Skewers Done

Top 10 Foodie Moments (Part 2)

Ok so here we are carrying on with our top foodie moments. Check out our post from yesterday to see our numbers 10 – 6. These five were really hard to come up with, we’ve had so many incredible moments, hopefully in another few years we’ll have a whole bunch more memories jostling for top spot!

5. Balcony food in Montefrio, Spain

We have the extreme good fortune of having a family friend who let us stay in her beautiful house in Spain for two weeks in September 2011. Bird had been before with her parents in 2009 and was so excited to show Fats the incredible view from the balcony! We cooked a lot while we were there – the dish in the photo is some chicken fajitas (we think!) but the stand out dish we made while there was a delicious pork and chorizo stew which is basically made the same as this recipe we posted recently, only using some of the region’s famously tasty pork. We ate in candlelight so as to attract as few insects as possible but it also added a little something to the meal! The place we were staying in was not touristy at all; it was a typical Andalucian village, and the food we got was wonderful – especially the pork and chorizo! Going on a self catering holiday is such a world away from staying in hotels, you really get to get stuck in and get a feel for the local food – perfect for us.

Chicken Fajitas on the balcony... Simply wonderful
Chicken Fajitas on the balcony… Simply wonderful
Yes, this was the view while we were eating dinner! The stunning Montefrio
Yes, this was the view while we were eating dinner! The stunning Montefrio

4. Spiced lamb meatballs on our first night in Marrakech

We’ve described how to make these beautiful little meatballs in this post from a while back, as well as the drama of arriving in Morocco! Our riad was a perfect haven, once we’d established we were getting dinner we were seated in one of the recesses off the indoor courtyard, on low seats, dimly lit and served some of the simplest, but most beautiful food we’ve ever had. We started with a salad consisting of lettuce, red pepper and olives with a citrusy dressing. Then onto the main event – a tagine was brought out and the lid was whisked off dramatically to reveal the meatballs covered in baked eggs with their little flecks of smoked paprika. We barely said a word to each other for the first few minutes, we were so busy stuffing our faces! This is one of the dishes we’ve managed to recreate most successfully and still make regularly, we had some friends over for dinner on Tuesday and this made up part of the Middle Eastern spread we served them. The heady mix of relief, extraordinary surroundings and delicious food make this one of our best memories.

This was the view from the roof terrace of our riad. The smoke in the distance is from the food stalls in the Djema el-Fna (the main square) - spectacular!
This was the view from the roof terrace of our riad. The smoke in the distance is from the food stalls in the Djema el-Fna (the main square) – spectacular!

3. Macarons and Champagne in Paris

Yeah, we know, it’s a tad pretentious right? But it also had to be done! We went to Paris in February 2012, right in the middle of a severe cold snap, it didn’t get above freezing the whole time we were there. This was a bit of a double edged sword – it meant no queuing times, we got to the front of the queue for the Eiffel Tower in less than 10 minutes which is practically unheard of! It also meant that we couldn’t bear to be outside for long, our wonderful weekend consisted of dashing from museum to cafe to art gallery to cafe to the hotel to dinner. Not that we’re complaining, there’s never enough opportunities for an espresso  in Paris! This day we’d ventured to Ladurée – famous as one of the best macaron makers in the world. We passed up on the ruinously expensive (but surely worth it!) afternoon tea in favour of a box of macarons packaged in a beautiful pistachio green box to take back to our hotel room. The flavours we went for were rose, dark chocolate, salted caramel and pear and chestnut – all were amazing but we think the rose and salted caramel were our favourites. We also happened to get a free dinky bottle of champagne from the hotel so we had an indulgent half an hour snaffling macarons, sipping champagne and watching the snow from our window.

Brrr... Winter in Paris
Brrr… Winter in Paris
Mmmm..... Slightly pretentiously arrayed champagne and macarons. We were destined to be food bloggers from this moment!
Mmmm….. Slightly pretentiously arrayed champagne and macarons. We were destined to be food bloggers from this moment!

2. Wine tasting on Santorini

So for those of you who haven’t been or drooled over pictures, Santorini was once a large circular island, and was blown up by the volcano in it’s centre which, after a few eruptions left a stunning crescent moon shaped island complete with a jawdropping caldera. Perched on top of the middle of this caldera we found a vineyard with wine tasting facilities. This was actually on the same day as our no. 8 moment – mixed meze – what an amazing day! For the bargain price of €12 we were served 5 generous glasses of wine, 4 normal wines of the region and 1 glass of the local vinsanto – a syrupy sweet dessert wine. Along with this came breadsticks, cheese and olives – amazing value. Perhaps our brains were a bit fuddled even before the wine but we forgot to snap a picture until we’d drunk most of it! We also had the terrace completely to ourselves for about an hour, we made a hasty retreat as a coach party turned up. It was one of the most tranquil hours, sipping beautiful local wine with great conversation, perfect weather and the craziest view!

That view is simply breathtaking - we're so lucky!
That view is simply breathtaking – we’re so lucky!

1. Picnic in a storm in Florence

We’ve already touched on this one in this post but it really is our favourite memory. Funny how the most humble meals can be the most memorable. The day started with a trip to an absolutely beautiful food market in Florence – the Mercato di San Lorenzo – just north of the Duomo. After managing to stop ourselves from buying everything we laid eyes on we ended up with some vine tomatoes, fresh ricotta, a creamy gorgonzola, two slices of different foccacias and some plums. We then hiked up to the other side of the Arno to get the best view of the city. Climbing up through rose gardens to be greeted with one of the most famous vistas.

We were up on the Piazzale Michelangelo admiring David’s turquoise arse when a serious storm rolled slowly in, so of course we hung around watching the spectacle until fat drops of rain started landing on us. Hastily packing up the camera (Fats) and clamping arms down to save flashing everyone as the wind howled (Bird) we scurried down the hill. Sheltering under a tower for a few minutes we eventually decided to just make a dash for it and aim for the arches of the Uffizi gallery.

David's arse has never looked more dramatic!
David’s arse has never looked more dramatic!
Yep, it's heading straight for us. Just a few more snaps!
Yep, it’s heading straight for us. Just a few more snaps!

We made it there just as the heavens fully opened, the sort of rain which causes flash flooding! It was busy with many other trapped tourists… however none of them had brought a picnic along! We opened our beautiful brown-paper-wrapped packages and had the best picnic either of us has ever had. The tomatoes were like nothing we’d ever experienced before – the sweetest, most flavourful tomatoes imaginable (we had been promised as much by the lovely Italian lady who sold them to us), and they complimented the cheeses perfectly. Wherever you go on holiday we fully recommend ditching the restaurants and cafes in favour of a simple picnic from a market for at least a few meals – local, fresh food at it’s best!

The remains of our lunch in our Florence hotel room. What an amazing day!
The remains of our lunch in our Florence hotel room. What an amazing day!

So, those were our top 10 foodie moments so far – they were so much fun to write, and a great way to celebrate our 100th post – here’s to many more! What are your top foodie moments?

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