Over the years we have visited the countries that border the Mediterranean – Spain, France, Italy, Sicily, Cyprus, Corsica, Croatia, Malta & Gozo and Greece and her islands, then Turkey. We have also recently begun to explore the North Africa lands of Tunisia and Morocco with their Arabic influences.
The Atlantic coast – we have travelled many times to Portugal staying first of all in the Algarve when it was still quite rural, then in the north above the river Douro, and also in the central part of the country in the Alentejo region. There is still a Portuguese influence on the wonderful islands of the Azores, which are set in the Atlantic halfway between Europe and America. The same applies to Madeira and the rather exotic Cape Verde Islands though the latter do have a more African feel.
In Sweden and on the Faroes we found Scandinavian food to be of a very high standard and beautifully presented if rather expensive. Rhubarb, beetroot, fish including herring, arctic char and salmon dishes (such as gravadlax) are popular.
Further afield were our trips to Canada and New Zealand. Whilst visiting Christchurch in the latter we ate the best lamb ever but our memory is tinged with the fact that the restaurant and indeed the whole block was destroyed in the earthquake a few years ago. In Canada we had fantastic wild Alaskan salmon grilled on the barbeque, watching hummingbirds but with snow capped mountains in the distance.
We have long since given up buying souvenirs. Instead we buy bags of dried butter or haricot beans, dried apricots, speciality pastas, tins of sardine pate from Portugal, truffle oil from Istria or interesting preserves. Hardware shops are well worth exploring and we once bought back a large paella pan from Andalucia. It fitted quite snugly into a suitcase.
Here are a few recipes gathered over the last few years. We shall add more as we continue to travel.
Yoghurt drink known as ‘Tahn’
This was most refreshing after one of our walks.
Take a tall glass and fill it about quarter of the way up with good thick plain Greek yoghurt and blend with a fork until nice and smooth. Add some water gradually while stirring and then top it up with more until the glass is full. Add a sprinkle of salt, some ice cubes and a little chopped mint.
Courgettes with garlic and yoghurt
- 2 or 3 medium sized courgettes – sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt
- 2 tbsp pl. flour
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves crushed
- chopped mint
- black pepper and sea salt
Put the sliced courgettes in a bowl and add the flour and mix till coated. Heat oil in the pan and add the courgettes a few at a time and cook until golden brown and fairly soft. Remove and drain. To make the sauce put the yoghurt, garlic, salt and pepper and some chopped mint plus a little olive oil in a bowl and mix well and then simply pour over the courgettes. Ideal as a side dish or as a starter.
- A piece of fresh tuna pan-fried and then cut into chunks or a tin of tuna caught in an environmentally friendly way
- Tin of tomatoes
- 2 finely chopped onions
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 2 or 3 bay leaves
- 2 pieces of ready to use lasagna pasta
- 1tsp sugar
Make about ½ half a pint of Béchamel sauce made with 1oz butter, 1oz flour and ½ pt milk and a bay leaf (The bay leaves really do make a difference). Cook onions until beginning to soften and then add the chopped pepper and cook gently until tender. Add the tinned tomatoes and a bay leaf and a teaspoon of sugar and cook until the mixture has thickened a little. Assemble by layering the tuna chunks, the tomato and pepper mixture and the lasagna slices into a shallow ovenproof dish. Cover with the creamy white béchamel sauce and sprinkle over a little grated cheese. Bake in moderate oven for about 45 mins until the top is a light golden brown. Ideally leave to cool a little before serving.
Fiadona – Corsican cheesecake
Bought from the local patisserie these were ideal for a picnic.
- 250g ricotta cheese
- 3 beaten eggs
- 170g caster sugar
- zest of a lemon
Beat all the ingredients together until you have a smooth paste. Turn the mixture into a buttered flan dish or individual dishes and put in a medium oven until the surface is light golden in colour. This will take between 45 minutes and an hour. Cover the top if it gets too brown.
Briam – a good vegetarian dish
- 4 large potatoes
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- dill, parsley and basil
- sea salt and black pepper
- 1lb courgettes, sliced
- 3 large tomatoes, sliced
- 3 tbsp tomato puree and a little extra water
Cook potatoes until tender but not too soft and then slice and put to one side. Sauté chopped onions until they begin to soften and then add the chopped garlic and cook a little longer. Add the wine and the herbs and half of the tomato puree and water mixture. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove from pan. Cook the sliced courgettes in a little oil until tender. To assemble – put a little olive oil on the bottom of a baking dish and lay half the potato slices on it. Add half the sliced tomatoes and then the other half of the sliced potatoes. Then put the cooked courgettes on top and end up by pouring over the tomato puree mixture. Bake for 1 hour in a medium oven. When ready you could crumble a little feta cheese over it.
Istrian beetroot carpacchio
Slice some cooked beetroot very thinly. Finely chop hard boiled egg and then cube some apple very finely. Mix a fruit vinegar with a little oil and pour over the mixture. Serve it on a bed of rocket or other green salad.
Rich and Creamy Polenta
- 1 cup milk
- 1oz butter
- half a cup of thick cream (or yoghurt)
- pinch salt to taste
- 2oz polenta
- half a cup of cold water – add more if necessary
- 2oz grated cheese
- a few chopped leaves of rosemary
Use a thick-bottomed pan. Combine milk, butter and cream and over a low heat slowly bring the mixture almost to a boil, stirring often and watching so that the mixture does not burn. Mix the polenta with some cold water and, stirring constantly, slowly add the polenta to the milk mixture. Over low heat, stir with long handled wood spoon until the mixture thickens. Once the mixture begins to leave the side of the pan and looks rather like mashed potatoes it should be ready. It will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and then you could add some grated cheese and some rosemary.
Leek and Stilton Suet Pudding
We enjoyed this in a pub in Haworth, Yorks.
- suet pastry made with
- 6oz flour
- 3oz suet or vegetarian suet
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 oz chestnut mushrooms- wiped and chopped
- water to mix
- 1 medium leek – cleaned and chopped
- 2 oz Stilton – crumbled up
Mix together flour and suet with the salt and then gradually add water until you have dough. Remove one quarter of the dough and put to one side. Form the dough into a ball and roll out as thin as you can and line a pyrex bowl. Sprinkle a little flour over the leeks and toss and then layer the leeks, mushrooms and Stilton quite tightly into the bowl. Fill it up as high as you can, as the contents will subside as they cook. Roll out the quarter of the dough that was left into a circle. Dampen the edge and then press down to form a lid. Leave a little hole in the middle for the steam to escape. Cover the lid tightly with greaseproof paper and foil and then put in a steamer and steam about 2 hours.
This is a popular breakfast dish from Brittany
- ½ litre milk
- 125g sugar
- 125g flour
- 3 eggs
- 125g prunes- ready to eat or Agen
Soak prunes overnight to plump up and then simmer in water until soft. Cool and then cut in half and lay at bottom of flan dish. Mix together the other ingredients into a smooth batter and then just pour over the prunes. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes in a medium oven until it has set without getting too brown.
Pork with ouzo, lemon and honey
Our earliest holidays were to Greece and this is a good way of using up any left over ouzo – it never tastes quite the same in the UK.
- Loin of pork for 2 people – boned
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- 2 tbsp ouzo
- parsley, oregano
- salt and pepper
- black olives
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 lemons
- 1 orange
Marinade mixture – put the rind and juice of 2 lemons and 1 orange together with the herbs, honey, garlic, seasoning and ouzo in a bowl and mix. Put the pork joint in a shallow dish and cover with the marinade and then refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Turn the pork over so the juices are absorbed. When ready to cook remove pork from marinade but keep the mixture for later. Place the meat in baking dish and brush some of the honey mixture over it. Bake, uncovered, in moderately hot oven for about an hour, brushing occasionally with some of the reserved marinade. Once the pork is almost cooked pour in the remaining marinade with the olives and then bake another 10 minutes or so. You could remove the pork and olives and stir the juices in a pan over a high heat until they reduce and thicken. Slice pork up and pour over the juice and serve.
Sicilian rice pudding
This recipe came from Richard Simon who lived in Edinburgh
- 1pt milk
- 2½oz Arborio rice
- 3oz sugar
- ¼ pt black coffee
- 1½ oz plain melted chocolate
- zest of an orange
Put milk, rice, sugar and coffee in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a slow simmer and cook until the rice is creamy. This will take about an hour so stir frequently. Take off the heat and add the melted chocolate and orange zest. You could also add a little brandy or a liqueur for a special occasion.
Tagine with preserved lemons
Shown to us by M’bark at the Atlas Kasbah Hotel
- 1 chicken portion per person plus about a tsp of:
- ground ginger
- ground paprika
- ground turmeric
- 2 chopped cloves of garlic
- preserved lemon chopped
- handful of chopped green olives
- handful of sultanas per person
- sea salt and black pepper
- 1 red onion sliced
- 1 medium sized potato sliced
- bunch of parsley chopped
- sunflower/Argan or olive oil
Pour over a little oil over base of tagine or casserole dish. Mix the spices and garlic and sprinkle over the oil and lay the chicken skin side down on the top. Cover the dish and cook for a little while. If using traditional tagine dish use a heat diffuser on a gas or electric cooker or use a casserole dish that be put on the top of the oven as well as inside. Put the sliced potatoes and the red onions on top of the chicken. Cook for a while. Add sultanas to the juice that is forming in the dish then add the chopped olives with the chopped preserved lemon on top. Add seasoning and then chopped parsley. Once the contents are bubbling away steam will emerge. Lift the lid to let a little steam out. Cook until the chicken and vegetables are tender but add a little water if it gets a bit dry. Serve with steamed couscous or rice.
Scrub lemons well and place in a bowl and cover completely with cold water. Leave to stand for 4 days. Remove from water and using a sharp knife make 4 cuts into each lemon, taking care not to cut right through them, so that they are still held together by the uncut ends. Push open the cuts slightly and fill each lemon with 1tsp salt before placing it upright in a preserving jar. Bring the water in which the lemons were soaked to the boil, simmer for a few minutes and pour carefully over the lemons in the jar. Put on the lid and allow to stand for 4 weeks. They will then keep for about 6 months. You can keep them in the fridge. When serving use only the peel as the flesh should be discarded.
Chicken in a Pot
- 4 pieces of free range chicken
- 4oz ham
- 8 small onions
- 1 tin tomatoes
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ pt white wine
- ¼ port (preferably white port or use a sweetish white sherry)
In a large bowl combine tomatoes, ham, chopped onions, chopped garlic, mustard, paprika and chilli together with the wine and port and then mix together. Lay the chicken pieces in a casserole dish and pour over the tomato and ham mixture and leave to marinade for a couple of hours. Heat oven to moderately hot, 190 C (375F) and cook the chicken until tender.
Radicchio and red wine risotto
We enjoyed this in a restaurant in the capital, Llubjiana.
- A nice fresh radicchio – washed and chopped
- 1 medium onion – chopped
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves – chopped
- Good chicken or vegetable stock
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup of risotto rice
- a dash of red wine
- Parmesan cheese
Chop the onions and fry in olive oil until beginning to soften and then add the chopped garlic. Pour over the rice and cook gently for a couple of minutes before adding some of the stock. Gradually add the rest of the stock stirring every now and then and making sure it doesn’t dry out or stick to the bottom. Once the rice is tender add the red wine and then add the radicchio. You don’t want to cook the radicchio for long as you need to retain the nice red colour. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as you think fit. When ready to serve sprinkle over with Parmesan cheese.
We have enjoyed this pudding at Molino del Santo hotel in Andalucia.
- 2½ cups of milk
- 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
- 1/3 cup plain flour
- ¼ cup cornflour
- ½ cup of sugar
- grated orange rind
- vanilla essence
Combine milk, cinnamon and orange rind in a non stick, thick bottomed pan. Bring to boil watching carefully. Remove from heat and stand for about 10 minutes. Whisk the eggs and yolk, cornflour, flour, sugar and vanilla essence together. Whisk egg mixture into the warm milk mixture and stir over heat until it boils and thickens. Simmer until custard leaves the edge of the pan and then pour into lined and greased dish. Put in fridge to cool. When you are ready to serve the pudding dust the cooled and thickened custard mixture with flour and then cut into small shapes. Fry in hot oil until golden brown but not burnt. Drain carefully and then sprinkle over some cinnamon and a little sugar.
Swedish Rhubarb Cake
- 1lb rhubarb
- Crumble mixture made with
- 2oz butter/margarine
- 4oz caster sugar
- 4oz plain flour.
Wash and chop rhubarb quite finely and roll in sugar and flour. Place the crumble mixture and the fruit in layers in a shallow ovenproof dish and firm down well. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Bake at least 30 minutes until the rhubarb is cooked and the top is crunchy.
This was given to us by Claudia Lehmann from Hotel Bernerhof in Kandersteg,
- 4 tbsp muesli – use your favourite brand
- 1 eating apple – grated
- 3 tbsp thick natural yoghurt
- a little single cream
- runny honey
- extra fruit and nuts as you wish
This is best done the night before. Simply stir the grated apple into the muesli and then blend in the yoghurt and cream. The mixture needs to be reasonably runny as during the night it will thicken up considerably. Put in the fridge and then in the morning if it is too thick then just stir in a little milk. Serve with a drizzle of runny honey and extra fruit or nuts.
Photos : Aali451, Easy French Food, Frente, Jan Harenburg, Richard Hobbs and Sally Ward