Sep 30, 2009


For those of you who don't know, one of my dreams is to visit Italy from north to south, and early September I was south on the island of Sardegna, more precisely Cagliari. Before landing, I was aware of Sardegna's "jet-set" VIP reputation, and I was told Cagliari wasn't really a part of that- fortunately- as the last thing I wanted was to see rich millionaires on their yachts and people flashing bills everywhere.
One thing I was certain to expect however was beautiful emerald crystal clear water lining sandy white beaches. The rest? I really had no clue. When I travelled to Napoli, Rome or Palermo for instance I more or less had an idea of what to expect because those cities have such a strong identity in popular culture maybe, but Cagliari was just a big wave of turquoise water for me.
Indeed it was that but so much more too. The beaches were great, but so were the cute streets and the vintage Fiat's that drove through them, the food, the gelato, the people...but most of all what struck me was the lifestyle. I loved noticing how starting from 5PM the city would slowly get busy again perfectly timed with the shops openings and the people leaving the beaches to enjoy their ice-cream break which was usually timed between 6-7PM as they strolled up through the shopping streets and then sat down for a drink on Via Roma (which has the most lovely retro feel to it) at one of the many cafés watching people walk by perfectly demonstrating the infamous passeggiata and only very late is dinner served- good luck trying to find an open restaurant before 8PM!
Cagliari was not a city, but a lifestyle that I embraced wholeheartedly- I don't think I have ever unwinded and felt so relaxed as I was in Cagliari.
Laundry, Vespas, old Fiats, cute alleyways...what is there not to love?

What is a city without it's charming people and their charming habits?
Just one of the beautiful beaches in Cagliari (above: Poetto beach)

Bria is a tiny tiny place off Via Roma (one of the most central streets)- but the focaccias are out of this world!! The best (and messiest) I have had in my ENTIRE LIFE!
For typical Sardegnan cuisine, please stop by SaDomu Sarda. Authentic tasty genuine cuisine. Definately worth a visit.
The thin crispy bread above is typical Sardegnan- "pane Carasau", lots of it everywhere.

We thought maybe we should try some roasted donkey...but finally we didn't!
Simple antipasti- chickpeas, tomatoes, rucola, eggplants & saffron
Sardegnan pasta called "Pasta Fragola" (above)- here served with sundried tomatoes and ultrathin shreds of zucchini. It was delicious.
Above: inside a well-known fish restaurant along Poetto beach called "La Marinella". The interiour is filled with framed soccer jerseys signed by the players- who I assume have all eaten at the restaurant before.
We had lobster, pasta with tiny tiny shreds of salmon and the most finger-lickingly good mussels ever! Oh man, those mussels... amazing!
And of course, wherever you are in Italy, it is of utmost importance to have an ice-cream break...everyday!
P.S: I didn't manage to take pictures of flamingos, but I did see some though!

Sep 28, 2009


I love searching around the internet for websites that provide great recipes- but I must admit, often there is something wrong with the recipe. I always get the feeling that there is an ingredient missing or the oven temperature wasn't communicated if they were trying to hide something from us on purpose! So despite some repeatedly bad experiences with certain cooking websites, I'll still continue visiting them online to drool over the pictures- but I won't try another recipe from that website again. I guess you call that a culinary e-loyalty or something...
However there is one site where it works each and every time: BBC Good Food. Plus it's in metric which is so very convenient for us Europeans! I have the habit of searching through BBC Good Food on a regular basis, and recently I found a great keeper: cracked black pepper & figgy bread. The end result was excellent, the kitchen smelt fabulous for an entire day, and the bread was devoured much quicker then I had imagined! What more could I ask for?
Ready to enjoy on it's own or with goat cheese which might just be the perfect match!
650g strong white flour
2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp salt
7g sachet easy blend yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
425-450ml/¾ pint-16fl oz warm water
350g dried, ready-to-eat figs, roughly chopped

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, pepper, salt and yeast. Stir in the olive oil and enough warm water to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 mins until smooth and elastic.

2. Put the dough in a lightly oiled, large bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for about 1 hr or until doubled in size. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. When the dough has risen, knead it again to incorporate the figs, by pushing the dough and lightly kneading them in. Don't overwork the dough; it can look quite rough.

3. Shape the dough into a rough oval and put on a lightly floured baking sheet. Using scissors, slash the top of the loaf and sprinkle over a little flour. Leave it to rise again, uncovered, until slightly swelled, about 10-15 mins (if the kitchen is warm). Bake for 40-45 mins until it sounds hollow when you tap it underneath, then cool on a wire rack.

Sep 26, 2009


Can I admit I'm not a fan of store-bought vinegar? I have even stopped consuming it in the last couple of years- except for balsamic that is- and by all means prefer a squirt of fresh lemon juice instead of store bought vinegar. Don't ask why the dislike- it's just one of those things I guess!

A while back though I remember seeing this awkward looking "stuff" in a jar, all I could recognize was grapes but I had no idea what the end result would be. "It's going to be vinegar" my mother said, "in 30 days that is- your grandfather used to always make homemade vinegar this way".

Vineleaves growing in our garden...and the last grape below...

Isn't it crazy how priceless and wonderful family kitchen secrets can be? I always find recipes that go down from one family member to another so precious and often worth sharing!
Love you grandpa!!

Recipe for home-made vinegar:
Grapes & wine. Always match red grapes with red wine and green grapes with white wine.
Glass container- clean and dry.

Wash the grapes and leave to try very well. In a bowl, squash them with your (clean) hands until the juices start coming out. Transfer to a glass container- for every 10cm worth of liquid in that jar, add 1cm wine. Close contain and do not open before 30 days. Every 2 days swirl the container a bit. After a month's worth of wait, filter out vinegar through a sieve into a glass bottle and enjoy!

Sep 25, 2009


Often with recipes comes leftover ingredients. After my recent fig & violet tart, I had some lovely fresh figs remaining, and I really must share this wonderful jam recipe with you! It's a recipe my mother has been making throughout the years, and is consistently a success amongst family & friends: fig jam with walnuts and cloves. Mmmm...a delicious mixture of fruity goodness coupled with a nutty crunch and a dazzling fragrance that goes so well with the cold season that we are slowly getting into...
Cloves & figs are quite the match made in heaven!

And even closer up....!

Recipe for mom's fig jam with walnut & cloves (makes one standard jam jar):
500gr fresh figs (approx 6-7 figs)
250gr sugar
250gr water
1/2 a lemon, juice of
250gr walnuts, chopped
1gr ground cloves (approx 1/2 teaspoon- but you can reduce this to 1/4 teaspoon if you find it too strong)
Wash figs, dice and place in a pot. Add all the remaining ingredients except for the walnuts and the cloves. Place on high heat, until a first boil. Then reduce to a very low heat until all the water has evaporated and a jam texture is obtained. Add the walnuts and cloves, stir gently, and leave on low heat for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool for 24hours. Cover the pot with a cloth only- no glass or plastic material should be used to cover pot. Fill in jars and enjoy!
P.S: You can also use this same recipe for a dessert using full figs and serving it with crème fraiche on the side.

Sep 24, 2009


I've realized that a lot of my recent posts have been recollections of my culinary travelling experiences, but I will be back on track with recipes, recipes and more recipes! So I am taking a break from travel-blogging (because I have just one more destination to write about!! bear with me!) with this easy to make sweet treat using the last figs before they are out of season.
Figs are so beautiful- one of the most beautiful fruits in my opinion. From their colour, odour and taste... it's nature's divinity!
On sunny days (and there are not many left here in Paris!), I love making fruit tarts- generously rich in fruit on a crunchy base (I prefer puff pastry over shortcut pastry to be honest with you) and always with a little twist. The twist this time was a floral dimension to the tart- usually I love matching up figs with rose, but for a change I thought it would be great to give violet a try. I find that figs & violet complement each other in a very elegant way and adds a bit of a surprise effect to each bite.

Before going into the oven.... and after, with fragrant sizzling juices coming out of the figs...mmm

Would you like a slice? Or maybe try making it on your own? It takes less then 20 minutes to make!
Recipe for Tarte Figue - Violette
Violet (whatever form you can find, I used a syrup from the Monin range)
Ground almonds
Puff pastry
Butter (optional)
Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Wash figs, dry and slice. Prepare puff pastry into desired form, poke with a fork and brush over the violet syrup (if you are using another form then introduce as appropriate). Sprinkle a thin layer of ground almonds, and arrange fig slices on top. If you wish, you can add some diced butter on top of the figs. I didn't add sugar as well, but you might want to! Bake for 15mins.
Of course there are always other "interesting" options that go well with figs: rose, violet, red tea, etc...