travel food experience

Hi everyone, I know that I’ ve been absent for a while but now I’m back with a new chapter of my blog. It is about my food travel experience. Lately I travelled to Alicante, in Spain; Helsinki in Finland and my hometown Ravenna,in Italy. 

Alicante

I’ve been to Alicante with my now ex partner for an end of the year holiday and we were both excited for the famous paella. We all know how a paella is cooked: rice with spices,fish or meat and vegetables. But….the one that we had was horrible,very disgusting and he had food poisoning from an uncleaned prawn. During our holiday we visited the city food market and it was amazing, full of uncredible products and the fish looked so good that we only expected the best from the paella but, OMG, what a disappointment!!

 All the food that we had was incredibly good,starting from the salad and the pork chops to the “choose your own fresh fish and we’ll cook it for you” experience. I have to say that the last one was something new for me and it has been very interesting and full of local people…we should have understood something from that but sometimes we are stubborn. Apart from the paella,the defining plate of the spanish culture in the world, my food experience of Alicante has been good and I’ve still got a nice memory of everything.
 Helsinki                                               Helsinki, a dream became true!! I’ve dreamed to go to Helsinki for such a long time, 20 years to say the truth! But finally I’ve been able to go at the end of the last May. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of food because I’ve read something about it and everything seemed so expensive, especially the real authentic finnish food. 

I’ve booked a cruise between the isles in the Helsinki’s archipelago with lunch included and I was excited by the experience, I was curios about the view and,obviously, the food. For a taste and an initial idea I went to the fish market near the shore and  I had a starter made of salmon and soft cheese that tasted delicious and went very well with a nice glass of white wine.

In the picture above there is an example of local food, rye bread filled with sardines. It is very local and it can be eaten as a proper street food. But the variety of choice is incredible,especially the fish.

And what really hit me was the size of the meringues and the other cakes,they were huge and looking absolutely delicious. I wanted to eat them all, it was like heaven for me!

At the end we opted for a nice cup of coffe, a cake and a box of massive raspberries from the market outside. Everything was good,very good and also the weather helped me to enjoy the full experience. 

On board of the boat there was a buffet filled of plenty of local specialities like fish, pork, charcouterie,vegetables and sauces. I had an amazing pork loin with a peppercorn sauce and boiled vegetables with a raspberries sauce. Honestly,it was so good that I had to go for a second ride with roasted ham,sauce and every kind of bread. 

Everything was good and really enjoyable. The quality of the food and the attention to the details really surprised me. On my finnish trip I’ve visited my friend’s family at their cottage on the lake and they cooked for me one of the best hamburger that I’ve ever had in my life. The dedication that they put in cooking it really made me understand how they are proud of themselves. I really loved Helsinky but I’ve been completely blew away from Porvoo, the most ancient town in Finland. The streets and the small little coloured houses fascinated me and the way they revamped everything building restaurants and terraces all along the river is brilliant. Me and my friend had a lunch on one of the terraces and it was so good, a good way to show that finnish people can cook really everything, from meat to fish. The fish that I had in Porvoo is still vivid in my memory as unbelievably good.

I had an amazing experience of Finland and the Finnish people. They know how to cook, they welcome you like a member of their families, they are funny and loyal with a great sense of the nature. They really love to live their country in every aspect and I respect them for this. They live in anamazing country and I’m feeling a bit jelous… Definitely I’m going back!!! There are so many things that I haven’t see and so much food that I haven’t taste.
  Ravenna                                                          Ah Ravenna, Ravenna!! My lovely hometown. Ravenna the historic, 3 times capital in 3 different empires. Ravenna the proudest, you can feel it in her people, proud of what they are and their roots. Proud of their 8 monuments in the Unesco list. Ravenna and the beach, the pineta and the long nights in the nightclubs and discos. Ravenna the cook, so many fell in love with our food starting from the piadina, our unique streetfood, and arriving to the cappelletti, cheese raviolis in the shape of an hat.

I went home to visit my family and it is always good to taste that familiar food that tells you to relax because now you are at home. It is what here in Great Britain people call comfort food. Our comfort food is a dish of mamma’s cappelletti, the ragu’, salami and prosciutti, the piadina…our typical “flatbread” that always put us in a fight with Rimini, our neighbour…it has to be thick or thin?! I honestly prefer the original from my hometown, thick!! It is the way how I always had it and I will always have.

Everytime I go home I can smell the food in the air, in the long streets of the city centre the food is everywhere, you can find it around every corner,  in a restaurant or a taverna or a kiosk selling streetfood. What you won’t find here is the massive presence of ethnic restaurants, we are too proud of our cuisine to open at the world. Someone could call us stubborn and arrogant, and I reckon that in a way it is true, but I call it pride and heritage. My mum teach me how to cook in the same way her mum did with her, it is something that runs in the family… That secret recipe that will always be better than everyone else’s.

But if you don’t live in Ravenna or you don’t have any family there you can still have that feeling that we, ravennati, have everytime we sit around a table. There’s a relatively new restaurant right  in the city centre called I Passatelli that cooks and presents the traditional food that made this small pearl of a town big. Here I rediscovered things that only my granny cooked and that taste,smell and pleasure that I thought lost forever. Even the building itself is part of the story of this incredible town because it has beem made from an old cinema and I still remember going there when I was a kid watching movies and loose myself in the story. Now I can still go there and loose myself in the food, the pleasure of sharing it with friends and family. But Ravenna is not only I Passatelli, there are other places like the more sophisticated Il Cappello or all the bars in Piazza del Popolo with their aperitifs and light meals

Ravenna is not only food, I know that. Ravenna is S. Vitale, il Mausoleo di Galla Placidia e quello di Teodorico, churces and basilicas, the mosaics that made the town a famous in the world and still make it… and then, then there is the sea, my sea. The sea that it is inside me, it runs through my veins and that comes with me wherever I go.. I honestly couldn’t live too far away from the sea and that’s why I’m here in Edinburgh, because in half an hour I can be on the beach and smell that odour, that smell,  it is a different one, colder, but if I close my eyes I can listen to the waves and feel like at home, my home…. my Ravenna

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Indian evening

 

Yesterday evening I’ve decided to try my abilities with my personal version of a traditional vegetarian dish from the Indian cuisine. I also made the naan bread and the rice. Here you can find the recipes to replicate them at home and enjoy a dinner full of Indian flavour that is good for everyone…not only the vegetarians!

 

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Naan bread

Ingredients for 2

  • 180 gr of white flour
  • 1 tsp of ground coriander
  • 1 garlic clove mashed
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 66 ml lukewarm water
  • 3 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (you can use the dried leaves but in this case the quantity will be 1 tsp)

Method

Put the flour, salt and ground coriander in a bowl then add the garlic mashed with the opposite tool and the yeast. Mix together. Make a hole in the centre and pour in the honey, water, yogurt and oil. Stir well everything until it starts to leave the sided of the bowl. Move the dough on a lightly floured surface and work it for 10 minutes or until it becomes smooth and elastic. Brush the bowl with some oil and put the dough in it covering everything with a damp tea towel. Leave it to rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours (I usually put it inside the microwave without turning it on).

After 2 hours pre-heat the oven at 220ºC and cover the 2 baking trays with baking paper. Take the dough from the microwave and work it for 5 minutes on a wooden floured surface. Divide it in 2 balls and start to roll the first in a teardrop shape, don’t worry if it isn’t perfect the taste will not change. Move the bread on one of the trays and do the same with the second ball. Remember to make them 8mm thick otherwise it will fall into crumbles when you eat it. Brush both the bread with some vegetable oil, sprinkle the onion seeds and the coriander taking care to press them well in the bread with your fingertips. Bake them in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until puffed up. Serve warm with the curry.

 

I use this recipe for my naan bread no matter which curry I’m cooking because it is quite basic and the flavours are good with everything. I’m encouraging you to prove doing it at home, first of all it is cheaper than a take-away and secondly the pride of presenting food cooked by you is something that no take-away in the world will ever give you.

 

 Aloo Saag Gosht

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Ingredients for the curry paste

  • 2 tsp of ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp of ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp of asafetida
  • 1 tsp of dessiccated coconut (if you are able to find it fresh it would be much better but the dessiccated does the job equally well)
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 red dry chilli
  • 1 thumb size fresh ginger
  • 3 spring onions
  • water if necessary
  • a pinch of salt

Ingredients for the curry

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • a bunch of curry leaves
  • a bunch of kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp of caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp of coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp of mustard seeds
  • 2 potatoes cut into chunks
  • ¼ of a bag of frozen spinach
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • lukewarm water
  • chopped coriander

Ingredients for the rice

  • ½ cup of basmati rice
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 cardamom seeds
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup of saffron vegetable broth

Method for the paste

Mix everything together in a blender or mixer adding some water if necessary until it becomes the consistency of a paste.

∗ you decide how spicy you’d like it to be adding more chilly. This recipe is for a mild one.

Method for the curry

In a small pan roast the 3 seeds (caraway, mustard and coriander) until they start to pop up then move them in a mortar and pestle them until they resemble a powder. In the meantime heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and when it is very hot throw in the potatoes. Cook them until they are brown on almost all the sides then remove them and set aside. Add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in the wok, put the curry leaves and the kaffir lime leaves followed by the seeds powder, let them cook for 2 minutes and add the paste. Stir well and add some water if necessary. After 5 minutes add the red onion, mix well and put the frozen spinach (if you have time you can use the fresh spinach. Personally I think that the frozen are perfectly good and easier to use). Keep adding the water if you think that it is too dry. After the spinach are defrosted add the coconut milk, stir well, and finally the potatoes again. Turn down the heat and let it cook for at least 30-45 minutes. When it is ready serve with the naan bread and the rice. Before take it on the table, sprinkle some chopped coriander leaves on top.

Method for the rice

Put the rice in a small pan with the spices and the broth.Remember to open the cardamom seeds and put in the rice only the little black seeds that are inside. If the broth is a leftover and it is cold just add a little bit of hot water and cook until the rice is al dente and has absorbed all the broth. Remove from the hob, take away the spices apart from the cardamom seeds and serve it warm. You will notice that the smell and the taste are so delicious and different from the rice that is in the supermarket…I’m sure you will find yourself wondering why you didn’t cook it at home before?!

 

Notes

You can make more of the paste just doubling the ingredients, when it’s ready put it in an airtight container or a jar in the fridge ready for the next time! Just think how lucky you will be…coming home from work and having a nice portion of curry paste in the fridge for you and your loved ones. You will be able to cook something delicious without any fuss, in a short time and it will taste delicious!!!

If there is some leftover re-heat it the day after with some chickpeas and cauliflower rice. It will still be delicious, maybe better than the original because the flavours had enough time to mix together

Japanese satisfaction

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Hello everyone, I’m here today with something different from the usual Italian recipes but, at the same time, it is as popular as a Bolognese sauce or a pasta dish. I always loved Asian food and when I’ve found the Sushi kit in my usual supermarket I could not resist and try it. Luckily with the help of my local Chinese supermarket and the local fishmonger it has been easy to find all the necessary ingredients. It is very simple if you’ve got a lot of patience and time, just put yourself in it and the final result will be so satisfying that you won’t believe your eyes

 

Homemade Sushi

Ingredients

  • 2,5 hg rice for sushi
  • rice vinegar
  • salt
  • 4 nori sheets
  • wasabi paste
  • cucumber
  • courgettes
  • surimi
  • smoked salmon
  • pickled ginger
  • tinned tuna

Sushi dip: fresh ginger and light soy sauce

 

Method

Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil. Put the rice in it and cook for 15 minutes.While the rice is cooking cut all your veggies and fishes in thinly slices. When the rice is cooked drain it well and mix it with the rice vinegar being careful not to overpowering the taste of the rice. Taste and season if requested. Set everything aside to cool.

When the rice is cold place 1 nori sheet on the bamboo mat , shiny side down. Spread part of the rice in a thin layer on the nori sheet, leaving approximately 2 cm free from the edges. Make a little groove in the rice and add some wasabi paste and the pickled ginger. Put your veggies or fishes inside and carefully, evenly, start to roll up the nori sheet  with the help of the bamboo mat.Sprinkle the open end of the nori sheet with a few drops of water, then place the other end on top and close the roll tightly. Cut the sushi roll evenly into 6-8 pieces.

Keep making the sushi rolls until you finish all the fillings and if you have got some rice left you can make some small “sausages” and cover them with slices of smoked salmon. Decor them with some small nori sheet ribbons.

Sushi dip: finely chop the ginger until it becomes a paste and mix it together with the soy sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figs, goat’s cheese and pomegranate salad

Passion at every mouthful

Another recipe for all of you that likes to express their feelings through the food, this salad will put you and your loved one in a very lovely mood. Figs are considered aphrodisiacs and if you want to seduce someone this recipe is the perfect way to do it….believe me, I talk by personal experience!!

Ingredients

  • fresh purple/black figs
  • goat’s cheese sliced
  • pomegranate seeds
  • 1 bag of mixed salad
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • lemon juice
  • honey

 

Method

Start by washing the figs without breaking them. Put the figs aside and slice the goat’s cheese, the slice must be as thin as you can without destroy the entire cheese.

Carefully wash the salad and display it on a nice and big wooden board. Cut each fig in half and, then, half again. Put the fig slices on the salad and add the cheese. Sprinkle everything with the pomegranate seeds. Try to make it look nice and attractive for the eyes but also for your stomach!!

For the vinaigrette: in a small jar mix together 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, some freshly ground pepper, 1 tablespoon of honey and the juice from half lemon. Close the jar and shake it until all the ingredients are well mixed. Pour it over the salad and serve with some plain cous-cous.

 

Ricotta gnocchi

Fast, different and very satisfying

Today I would like to talk with you about a recipe that I tried when I really didn’t know what to cook and my fridge was almost empty. My partner was coming home from work and I wanted to give him something new and good at the same time….what could I do with only some ricotta and Parmesan?! I always heard of gnocchi made with ricotta and so I tried them and the final result was so good that I’ve decided to share the recipe with all of you, hoping to help you in your desperate cooking moment.

Ingredients for 4 persons

  • 500 gr ricotta
  • 100 gr grated Parmesan
  • 200 gr flour
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • salt

Method

Put the ricotta in a bowl and start working it with a fork, add the Parmesan and the flour. Mix with the fork and add a pinch of salt and some grated nutmeg ( powder is also good). Start to put the mix together working with your hands and then transfer the dough on a wooden surface where you keep kneading it for other 10 minutes. After that make the gnocchi in the same way you would do the potato gnocchi (you can find the recipe under “cooking skills” section).

Cook the ricotta gnocchi in a big pan full of boiled and salted water, when they come to the surface they are ready. You can finish the plate with a nice tomato and basil sauce or a good homemade pesto.

making gnocchi

Potato gnocchi

To make the potato gnocchi I always use the proportion one each: 100 gr potatoes and 100 gr flour and the dosage changes based on how many people you’re cooking for. Cook the potatoes in a pan with some water, the Desiree version is the best for this recipe, and when they are tender drain. Let them cool and mash on a wooden surface, add the flour and some salt. Work everything together  and add more flour if required.

After the dough is ready, divide it in parts and start rolling each with your hands until you have a long, thick ribbon. Cut it in pieces and using your thumb rolling each gnocchi  on a floured fork. This will give to your gnocchi that nice shape useful to retain the sauce.

Keep working in the same way until all the dough is done and don’t forget to sprinkle your gnocchi with some flour at the end.

 

If you want to dare with something different you can add colour to your gnocchi using spinach, butternut squash, tomato paste, saffron or beetroot.The secret is to add the vegetable or the spice in the dough at the very beginning of the kneading process. If you decide to use spinach or butternut squash, always remember to cook them and to let them cool until they are cold before adding to the dough. In the spinach case you have to be sure that all the water has been drained away, otherwise your gnocchi will be a complete disaster. I remember my granny using nettles in the place of the spinach and the colour was so green and bright, if you want to do the same ALWAYS remember to wear gloves every time you handle the nettles or, at least, until they are cooked.

Welcome

Welcome everybody to my new and first blog. My name is Debora and I’m Italian. I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, 5 years ago and I’m proud to say that I took all my culinary roots with me. This blog is about what I learned from my mum and my grannies in the kitchen and what I’m still learning by myself. Cooking is a never ending lovestory, it’s made of passion and trust (trust in your ability to cook something decent no matter how bad you think you are). As in a love affair you learn everyday, so it is in the kitchen and, honestly, I’m not so confident to say that I know everything about it but I promise I’ll give you my best.

I come from an amazing town in Italy called Ravenna. It is part of the Emilia Romagna region and it is a secret treasure in terms of culture, history and food. Food is part of what we are and obviously is part of me, I can still remember making “cappelletti” every Sunday morning with my mum and listening to her lesson about the filling and the pasta dough. Every food in my mind is associated with a memory from my childhood and I think it is that connection that took me inside the fabulous word of cooking….the ability to create a memory through the love of food. 

With this blog I wish I’ll be able to share some of my  culinary experiences with all of you and I also hope to learn new things along the road.

Lots of love to everybody,
Debbie