Tag Archives: travel

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?

Top 10 Foodie Moments (Part 1)

It’s our 100th post! We weren’t sure when we started this blog back in July that it would get past the first month but we’ve absolutely loved writing it, and we’re so chuffed that so many of you read our babbling on. To mark this little milestone we thought we would share with you some of our absolute favourite “foodie moments”. You know when everything just comes together? The food, the company, the view, the atmosphere all combines to make a memory that never fails to raise a smile. Well – these are ours. We’ve split this post into two so as not to cause eye-strain from reading it all in one go! We battled this out over cups of tea in bed one Saturday morning, so many great memories failed to make the top 10… we love eating! So without further waffling, here’s our top moments counting down from 10 to 6.

10. Mackerel on the seafront in Brighton

Mackerel is so fresh in Brighton, you can buy it straight out of the old fishermen’s huts on the beach, and they also cook it fresh for you there. A perfectly cooked fillet or two of mackerel, crispy skin and all, in a fluffy bun with salad while you sit with the sun beating down on your back and people watch, just bliss! We got these while visiting Bird’s parents, an ice cold beer in hand, on one of those magical completely cloud-free weekends that you occasionally get in Brighton.

9. Cafe Rouge in Bristol

A bit of a soppy one here… this was our first date *vomits*. We went to Cafe Rouge and then to see The Imaginiarium of Doctor Parnassus at The Watershed. Bird had a salmon salad Niçoise and, like the forgetful sod he is, Fats can’t remember! It was all washed down with a bottle of white wine, lovely service and incredible conversation. The nerves and excitement probably make this memory stand out more than other, possibly better food-wise, memories but it will always be treasured.

8. Vegetarian meze on Santorini

We’d gone for a visit to Ancient Thera during our holiday island hopping in Greece. Ancient Thera is an amazing set of ruins on top of a dramatic cliff (most of Santorini is on top of a dramatic cliff) and although we wussed out and got the coach up there we decided to walk down the other side to see the famous black sands and try to find some lunch. After half an hour clambering down in midday heat we were desperate for a drink and some great food. On inspection however the only place we could see open had some cheesy parasols on the beach and a small shaded garden area outside the restaurant. Too tired and hungry to argue by this point we nipped inside and we were so glad we did! We opted for the vegetarian mixed meze and got two beautiful platters of food – sadly we can’t remember exactly what we had, there was fava, dolmades, vegetables in flaky pastry and many other delights. All topped off with a view of the crystal clear water and black sands, pretty tough to beat!

The restaurant is somewhere down there in Perissa! Shot taken from Ancient Thera on Santorini
The restaurant is somewhere down there in Perissa! Shot taken from Ancient Thera on Santorini
Delicious Meze on Santorini
Delicious Meze on Santorini

7. Nannini, Siena

The. Best. Coffee. Shop. Just incredible. This old-fashioned feeling cafe has great glass counters displaying a mindblowing array of baked goods, every biscuit imaginable, delicate pastries, larger cakes – all you can do is gawp for a good few minutes. You select what you want, tell them what coffee you would like and pay at the counter and then take your receipt round to the coffee bar and tell the barista exactly what you would like. As with most cafes in Italy you will pay a premium for sitting down so we opted to have ours standing at the bar. The coffee was some of the best we’ve ever tasted and the biscuits were divine, especially the ricciarelli which are the famous almond biscuits of the region. We didn’t stop smiling for a moment we were in there and went back for a second helping the following day!

Nanini in Siena
Nanini in Siena

6. Bell’s Diner, Bristol

Bell’s Diner is a delightful restaurant in Bristol, tucked away in the most unlikely of places on a quiet residential street in Montpelier. Our visit was a rather wonderful surprise present from Bird for my 23rd birthday – I was told to dress smart, and be ready at half 7… She picked me up in a taxi and whisked me off for a quite astonishingly good evening of food. This was our first seriously good meal out in Bristol, an eight-course extravaganza of exquisitely prepared food (with wine flight, of course!). On the menu was tomato caviar served in an eggshell, scallop and belly pork served with apple and chorizo, rabbit with lemon risotto topped with Parmesan foam, and more besides! The staff were lovely – we felt very uncouth when we had to ask we should to go about tackling one particular dish, and the sommelier was a lovely, warm, enthusiastic but very shy french man who gave introduced each glass as if he’d grown the grapes himself! Bell’s diner has had a bit of a makeover – it’s now a trendy bistro joint – but we fully intend to pay them another visit.

Stay tuned for our top 5 foodie moments – we’ve loved writing these, they’ve really brought a massive smile to our faces!

Update: you can find our top 5 foodie moments here!

Underground Cookery School

On Monday we had the extreme good fortune to be invited to the Underground Cookery School in Shoreditch, London. Having followed that up with a most excellent dinner with some good friends last night, it’s fair to say that right now we’re both feeling pretty tired. Not since our days as students have we come off the back of a Monday-Tuesday late-night double-whammy! As well as the exhaustion (being a foodie is hard!) we also feel extremely lucky, and we’re excited to tell you all about it (but please forgive us if we start talking jibberish).

The day started off like any normal Monday (work, ugh) but the morning flew by and come lunchtime we were able to sack off our day jobs and don our foodie mantles! We stopped at Friska on the way to the station to pick up some really excellent crispy pork pho (Vietnamese noodle soup – if you’re in Bristol, or Vietnam for that matter, try some!) and pretty shortly we were on our way to the big city.

Crispy Pork Pho from Friska... Great start to a foodie afternoon!
Crispy Pork Pho from Friska… Great start to a foodie afternoon!

Since we had a free afternoon and the whole of London at our disposal, we took a short wander through Hyde Park to stretch our legs and meet some of the locals (swans, a heron and a moorhen!) before heading to the Victoria & Albert museum. It was the first time either of us had been to the V&A, and it’s one of those places we could get lost in for days! Apparently if you were to see everything in the Louvre in Paris it would take you a solid week, and while we’re not sure it’s quite that big, it was nevertheless impressive. We wound our way through some 19th century sculpture, historic Japan, took in the gardens, stumbled around mediaeval Europe and finally, feeling quite overwhelmed, decided it was about time to find some good coffee.

Heron Hyde Park

Swan Hyde Park

Courtyard in the V&A... We've decided we need one for our house
Courtyard in the V&A… We’ve decided we need one for our house
Inside the V&A
Inside the V&A

Deciding to neglect tea and cake in the V&A for some strong coffee we did a quick Google and came up with Shoreditch Grind, a rather trendy looking place right on Old Street roundabout. We weren’t quite sure we were cool enough to go in – there was a cinema sign, neon and plenty of industrial barstools – but we put our best hipster faces on and went in. We knew right away that this was the place for us, the aroma of amazing roasted coffee hit us and shook any thoughts of tea from our minds! Fats went for a flat white while Bird chose a macchiato, both were incredible, they even rivalled our Bristol favourite, Small St Espresso.

Macchiato and Flat White at Shoreditch Grind
Macchiato and Flat White at Shoreditch Grind

After working out how to sit on a barstool without almost falling off every few seconds we happily whiled away the hour or so before it was time for our cooking lesson. There was a brief thought of going somewhere else for a slightly more intoxicating drink (Dutch courage and all that) but a candle and a bar list was plonked in front of us so we settled in for a cider (Bird) and a beer (Fats). Minds lubricated and inhibitions fractionally lowered, we headed off to our first ever blogger event!

Dutch Courage!
Dutch Courage!

We’ve been to a couple of cookery schools in Bristol, but the Underground Cookery School is a bit of a different proposition to what we’ve experienced before – they promised a “fun and informal” approach to cookery, as well as a “Hoxton Brasserie” vibe – and it certainly delivered! On entering the stylish and modern underground kitchen/diner we were warmly greeted by Carlos, who immediately thrust a welcome glass of Prosecco into Fats’ hand while Bird dived straight in with some mussel de-bearding. After a few delicious canapés Matt – founder and head chef at the school – gave us a short introduction explaining what was on the menu (moules marinière, ballotine of chicken and tarte Tatin) before splitting us into two groups of 10 and setting us to work.

Canapés on Arrival
Canapés on Arrival

We started off by learning how to de-bone a chicken. This is a great skill to have, and is not something that we have done before. It was great to see an experienced chef do this with such ease, it immediately filled us with confidence! We’re going to blog a tutorial about this sometime soon, so watch this space. Once we’d de-boned it, we took the breast and flattened it with a rolling pin (by whacking it! Great way to unwind…) before laying it on a couple of leaves of lightly wilted cabbage and spreading with a mixture of cream cheese, leeks and bacon (definitely didn’t sneak a cheeky taste of that…) and rolling tightly in cling film and kitchen foil.

Chicken Ballotine
Chicken Ballotine

We were then shepherded quickly to the next lesson of the night, tarte Tatin. This was done in teams, with a couple of us slicing apples, a couple of us making caramel and the rest assembling and covering with pastry. This lesson especially was a great way to get to know some of our fellow bloggers – there was a really great atmosphere, and a bit of competitive spirit (who can assemble the most perfect tarte Tatin? Who can slice the thinnest apples??) didn’t hurt!

Tarte Tatin

Onion slicing like a pro came next, where we also learnt that they make you cry by wafting into your eye and promptly turning into sulphuric acid (we can thank our fellow blogger Heidi for that one!). Throughout the evening the chefs were absolutely great, taking a really relaxed approach and happy to go over anything again if we didn’t quite get it the first time.

Moules marinière turned out to be about the easiest thing we’d ever cooked! Cook off some onions and garlic, throw in a healthy slosh (like, half a bottle) of wine, reduce a bit, then in with the mussels until they open up! Toss in a bit of oil and parsley and serve. Just don’t eat the ones that stay closed.

Muscles

Moules

All of the food we cooked was totally delicious, and we shared a real combined sense of achievement (we were all eating each others’ food, so a bit of trust helped!). The wine and conversation kept flowing through dinner and too soon we had to run to catch our train home to Bristol (but not without boxing up our tarte Tatin for the road).

We had a great time at our first blogger event – we met some really great people and learnt some useful skills! Big thanks to Matt and the team, they really made us feel welcome. We can thoroughly recommend the Underground Cookery School for any event, we can’t imagine a better way to spend an evening. Here’s to many more blogger events to come!

The Underground Cookery School offer team building, hen parties and private events. They can be found near Old Street roundabout in London and at undergroundcookeryschool.com.

Dining

Ricotta, Aubergine, Prosciutto and Tomato Salad

This recipe was heavily inspired by a trip we took to Tuscany in June last year. We’re planning some special posts to celebrate 100 posts on the blog (only 4 more to go!) which will expand more on this and some of our other top foodie moments so keep an eye out for that! We had the most brilliant moment eating ricotta, a creamy gorgonzola, the most heavenly vine tomatoes, and two types of focaccia under the arches of the Uffizi gallery in Florence during a spectacular storm. Cuddled up together, in our anoraks (nerdy love), attracting all manner of jealous stares from everyone else who was trapped by the rain but hadn’t thought to bring lunch… the memory never fails to make us smile. We took a couple of elements of this perfect picnic, a bit of inspiration from a classic Tuscan dessert and added in our current obsession of chargrilled aubergine and a beautiful salad sprang into creation.

Salad Detail

Ingredients

  • Vine tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 aubergine, sliced into 0.5cm thick slices
  • 1 sweet, pointed red pepper
  • Ricotta
  • (Prosciutto – optional)
  • Mixed salad leaves – we chose lettuce and peppery leaves like watercress to add some bite
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Coat the tomatoes in 1tbsp of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and then place in a dish and put into a preheated oven at 140°C – the idea is to cook these slowly, dry them out to concentrate the flavours. The tomatoes we had in Italy were the best either of us have ever tasted and we knew that we wouldn’t get anything that delicious here so by semi-drying them we’ve managed to get a little closer. These should take around 1 hour altogether.

Slow Roast Tomatoes

Once they’re in the oven it’s time to prepare the pepper. You know those whole roasted red peppers that you get in a jar? Well this is one of them, but done fresh so it doesn’t have any of that vinegar-y taste. You can start off just holding it over a flame but we ended up rigging up a little system with two skewers going through the length of the pepper so that we could get every bit charred. The whole thing needs to be pretty blackened, it looks scary but will taste like heaven! Simply hold over an open flame, rotating every now and then to char the whole pepper – this should take about 10-15 minutes. Once it’s done pop in a freezer/sandwich bag, seal and just leave it to cool, once it has the skin will just rub off leaving you with sweet, soft flesh.

Charring a Pepper

Pepper Charred

For the aubergine salt the slices – sprinkle table salt on and stand upright for around twenty minutes then dab with kitchen paper. Mix 1 tbsp of olive oil with salt and pepper in the bowl/ramekin and then brush the slices with this before laying them on a hot griddle pan. They should only take 1 minute on each side as they are quite thin, you’ll have to do this in batches but the salad is supposed to be warm, not hot so just pop the ones you’ve done on a plate.

Aubergine Chargrilling

Now it’s assembly time – scatter some leaves on a plate, add the tomatoes, slice up the red pepper and add this. Blob some ricotta on and then drizzle each blob with a little honey and crack some black pepper on – this is a classic Tuscan dessert which we tried while dangling over the Arno, using it in a savoury dish is a little unconventional but it really works.

Tasty Ricotta

Place on the aubergine and the prosciutto if using, we used about 3 slices between us. For the dressing just mix equal quantities of good quality balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper and drizzle this on.

2 Salads

Salad on the Table

We’re submitting this recipe for Fromage Homage’s Cheese, Please! Challenge, this salad will forever remind us of one of the most amazing, joyful moments we’ve had and it’s been great playing around with the flavours and putting our own spin on it.

Fromage Homage

Moroccan Lamb Steaks

Earlier this year Bird and I took a trip to Morocco and were absolutely blown away by the food!  This lamb dish uses harissa and ras el-hanout to evoke the flavours of Marrakech.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 lamb steaks (we used boneless leg steaks)
  • About 200g couscous
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 pepper
  • ½ red onion
  • ½ lemon
  • ~2 tsp harissa paste (to taste – different brands have different intensities)
  • 2 tsp ras el hanout
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Firstly, mix together the harissa paste, 1 tsp of the ras el hanout, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, and just enough olive oil to make a sauce, and use this to marinate the lamb.  We left our lamb steaks to marinate for about 2 hours.  While the lamb is marinating, chop up the veg and put it in an oven dish along with a good drizzle of olive oil, the rest of the ras el hanout and some seasoning.  Put this in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes.

Fats Possibly my favourite piece of cookware!
Fats Possibly my favourite piece of cookware!

When the veg has about 15 minutes left to roast, put a griddle pan onto a high heat.  Once it has heated up, put the lamb steaks in.  Be careful not to move them around too much while they’re cooking, as you want nice char-grilled lines on your steak from the griddle pan – they don’t just look good!  Depending on the thickness of your meat a nicely blushing steak will take between 3 and 5 minutes per side, adding on a couple of minutes per side for a well done steak. Leave the steaks to rest for a couple of minutes once they’re done.

It's such a shame the smell of the ras el hanout doesn't make it across the interweb
It’s such a shame the smell of the ras el hanout doesn’t make it across the interweb

Lastly, cook the couscous – about the same volume of water to couscous, and squeeze half the lemon in for a bit of flavour.  Cover it to keep the steam in once the water has been added, and when it is done run a fork through it to lighten it up a bit.

Moroccan Lamb Done

That’s pretty much all there is to it!  We fell in love with the smells and tastes of Marrakech, and this takes us right back there.  We have a few more Moroccan dishes up our sleeves, and can’t wait to share them with everyone.

Nothing can prepare you for the streets of Marrakech.  We'll be back!
Nothing can prepare you for the streets of Marrakech. We’ll be back!