Tag Archives: Food

Plah! A Journey through the Jungle

Last weekend, I was in Oslo. Originally, the plan was to meet my friend and co-author of the Hope Meadows series, Victoria Holmes. Sadly, Vicky became unwell soon before the trip and was unable to come. Charlie very kindly joined me instead for the weekend. Vicky did ask me, however, to record the things I saw and the food we would have eaten. So here is one of my favourite meals of the weekend.

The venue: Plah Thai Restaurant, Oslo

Our waiter for the night was the delightful Sebastian. He was very friendly and spoke excellent English.

I chose the vegetarian option.

The starter came in three parts.

Kaho grab – rice chip

Light rice crisp with flavoursome herb topping

Miang kam – “betel leaf” with pomelo

The stuffed leaf was served on a delicious bed of toasted coconut. I had to stop myself from eating the lot, knowing there was so much more to come

Karipap – Southern Thai samosa with sweet potato and curry

I think this was my favourite part of the whole meal! Crunchy pastry with a delicious filling

 

Then there were four further savoury courses

Kao tod – Rice ball with cucumber and sour mango

Sebastian recommended the rice ball should be crushed, then eaten with the crunchy salad

Gaeng klo wan – Green curry soup with bitter eggplant, fresh bamboo and basil

This was hearty and delicious, with a slightly hot and sour taste

Taohoo – Crispy soft tofu with pepper chilli and coriander

The tofu was perfectly cooked with a wonderful crisp coating. Perfectly contrasted with the colourful salad

Gaeng deng pak op – Baked roots, kale and curry

This was marvellous: sweet chargrilled root vegetables, some soft, some firm, with a delightful curry sauce. Extremely satisfying

Then there were three parts to dessert.

Kanun lae saowaros – Jack fruit and passion fruit

Like miniature tasty smoothies

Som chon – Kaffirlime and pandanus granite

Flavoured ice. Sweet and refreshing

We were offered coffee. My cappucino was as beautifully presented as the rest of the meal

Kanom dok djok – “Rosettebakkels”

This was the most amazing presentation of the evening. The rosette biscuits came under a glass container which had been filled with steam to carry the aroma of the dish to us. It was lifted at the table. There were edible flowers and small chunks of chilli jelly in the glass cover.

The biscuits inside were equally beautiful

And now, all I need to know is, when can we go back! A fantastic evening.

 

Palazzi e Piazze – a Weekend in Genoa

Charlie and I have been fortunate to travel to Italy a number of times. On this occasion, we visited Genoa in the Liguria region.

We stayed on the converted fourth floor of an Italian Palazzo. We approached by taxi, which was a hair-raising experience through the tiny streets.

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We entered our room, to be greeted by this view from the window.

The ancient city of Genoa still hosts a thriving port and the narrow streets of the old town are filled with life.  Gilded churches abound. Prostitutes sit in doorways in the half-light. Threading our way through the maze of cobbled streets, we emerged from dim ravines into sunlit piazze.

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As always in Italy, it didn’t take us long to find a coffee shop. Drawn in by the fragrance, we entered and our eyes were caught by this original coffee machine from the 1950s.

We began to ascend, through wider streets, rising steeply up towards the mountains that embrace the city. Up and up, unable to see past the lofty buildings that scaled the hillside.

Then we emerged to wonderful views of the city and the sea beyond.

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The city is stunning.

A night’s sleep and then we set off to explore some more.

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We sat and had coffee outside the Cathedral di San Lorenzo.

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We were unable to resist…

 

At street level, the city is intense, occasionally to the point of seeming almost oppressive. Not so bad in the April sunshine, I found myself wondering how it would feel in the depths of January.

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But as ever, in Italy, food was not far from our thoughts.

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I think this pizza was the best I have ever tasted.
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Similarly, this lasagne was sublime. Because I’ve eaten lasagne so often in Scotland, I had never tried it in Italy. I now know this to have been an error of judgement!
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Tarte tatin… another stand out food moment.
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Down in the market… you smelled this stall well before you saw it!
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Another coffee beside the harbour. Just out of view, a row of millionaire’s yachts.

On the last day, we took the funicular railway up into the hills and walked back down.

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There were a lot of steps!

And then we were back down into those narrow streets again.

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Deep fried milk for dessert? Who knew?

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Better than bread and butter pudding.

But as always, every trip comes to an end.

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Italian style, right to the end… in the airport lounge.

20th Wedding Anniversary – Barcelona

Again, this is a very belated entry. I wish I had posted sooner. These posts are the nearest thing I have to a diary and already, less than a year later, there are many details I cannot remember. Some of the more memorable things, I didn’t photograph. The rustic food we ate at Bar Casi was not aesthetically pleasing in a way that made me want to take pictures, but the friendliness of the owner, despite a significant language barrier made a lasting impression, as did the flavoursome bean stew.

The Sagrada Familia was, quite simply, the most stunning building I have ever been inside, mainly due to the warmth of the light that poured in through the stained glass, but also in the organic impression of the internal design. I have some pictures of that, but they don’t do it justice.

I’ll start though with the lovely gifts that greeted us on entering the hotel when we arrived.

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Twenty years – thank you Charlie

Although I describe the Sagrada Familia above as one of the most stunning buildings I’ve been inside, I have to confess that externally, I found the shapes of the towers disconcerting. I suppose it is difficult to adjust to unfamiliar shapes in architecture, though it did grow on me.

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Standing near the Nativity Façade entrance to the Sagrada Familia

 

At the time of posting, the Sagrada Familia is still only 70% complete. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi and has been built using donations. Because of its popularity, work is accelerating and it is hoped the building will be complete by 2026. I would love to revisit.

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This picture comes closest to showing the astonishing nature of the light that filters in.
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Looking upwards. The pillars are based on the design of trees. See also the photograph at the top of the page. I have no words to describe the intensity of feeling my visit inspired. Despite the number of visitors, it felt peaceful.

We went up the Passion Tower. Going up in the lift was easy, going down more disconcerting. Despite being relatively fit, my knees were shaking by the time we reached the ground. As well as views over the city, there were glimpses of parts of the construction that you would never see from ground level.

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Looking out over the city.
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A long way down

Later, we went out for dinner at Accés Restaurant. The staff could not have been more friendly.

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The food was fabulous
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We were presented with this at the end of the meal
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I think the barman thought we were hilarious. We may have been very slightly the worse for wear at this point.

The following day, we went on a bus tour. We saw some other buildings designed by Gaudi.

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To me, this one looked a bit like a gingerbread house

On Sunday, we went to visit Botero’s bronze cat.

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Fernando Botero’s bronze cat

We sat down and ordered some food.

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Meatballs in squid ink
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Catalan patatas bravas

I was pleased as I watched, to see that Botero’s cat was one of the most interactive pieces of street art I’ve come across. Everybody seemed to want to touch him. Many went further and climbed onto his back, or boosted their children up onto his tail.

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I’m not sure he’s anatomically accurate, but he’s certainly a tom

There were trees lining the street and many parakeets flitting around.

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Monk parakeet

We then wended our way back to the hotel. There were many beautiful buildings. Sadly, this is where my memory fails me as I don’t recall the names of the places we found.

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Sunday’s meal was less of a success. Charlie and I have a history of awful anniversary meals, which is astonishing, considering how much we normally enjoy eating out. I won’t mention a name, but we visited one of the most highly recommended restaurants in Barcelona, supposedly a real food experience. It was an experience, but sadly, for us, the food just didn’t live up to the hype. Still, it wasn’t quite as bad as the salt-flavoured soup and white sliced bread we once had in Bodrum. And unlike that night, we didn’t have to go for a second meal on the way home as we were still so hungry.

My last view of Barcelona is of something that intrigued me in the taxi on the way in from the airport, and caught a passing photograph on the way back.

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Montjuïc cemetery

I understand that in amongst all the graves and mausoleums set into the hillside, there are many fine examples of funerary art.

There are so many reasons to revisit Barcelona and spend longer exploring. A weekend was no time at all to do it justice. One day, we will return.

 

Venice in Spring

We visited Venice in Spring 2013, I have recently been looking back at the photos and wanted to share some of them here.

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Rooftops…
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…and a maze
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…from the bell tower of St Georges church.
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I was fascinated by the back-lane feel of these miniature canals.
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On the Waterfront
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Police, Venetian style.
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Who knew there were daleks as well as vampires in Venice?
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Grand canal from a gondola.
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Chaz’n’Saz
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The fish market.
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Buy one, get one free!
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And, of course…
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…the obligatory pictures of wonderful food.

Food ‘n’ Trams ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll

On Friday 20th November, Charlie and I travelled to Milan. The excuse for going (if one can be said to need an excuse for a trip to Italy) was to see Simple Minds, but I confess I was looking forward to the food as well. In this I was not disappointed.

Here is Charlie, about to consume (second) breakfast in a wonderful pasticceria.

Charlie in Sugar
Charlie in Sugar

I think actually we were very restrained as you will see from this picture of a small selection of the cakes in the window. Apologies for the poor quality of the photo due to reflection from the glass.

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As we were sitting, trams were rumbling past. The network seemed to be very extensive and there was an astonishing array of different types. With my father in mind, I thought I ought to photograph one or two, though I fear he might be disappointed in me for not being more selective in my choices.

This seemed to be the standard livery on these old trams.
This seemed to be the standard livery on these old trams.
But this one was definitely more festive.
But this one was definitely more festive.

We did pass the odd bit of culture in our extensive three day walking tour of the city. This is Castello Sforzesco:

Castello Storfesco
Castello Storfesco

And this is the Cathedral:

Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milano

But then it was back to the food. To whet the apetite, an Aperol Spritz is invaluable. This rather fine restaurant was the Ristorante Valentino Legend:

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The food was fantastic. Obviously photographs can never do justice to the full experience, but the meal really did taste as good as it looks.

Unfortunately I can't find this in the online restaurant menu, but it was one of the most incredible dishes I have tasted. It was a light pastry tart filled with asparagus with the most wonderfully savoury cheese sauce. There were also truffles included, though whether those were in the tart or the sauce, I'm not certain.
Unfortunately I can’t find this in the online restaurant menu, but it was one of the most incredible dishes I have tasted. It was a light pastry tart filled with asparagus with the most wonderfully savoury cheese sauce. There were also truffles included, though whether those were in the tart or the sauce, I’m not certain.
Sea Bass Ravioli with Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto of Capers
Sea Bass Ravioli with Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto of Capers
Scallops au gratin with Butter Lobster on a bed of creamed sweet Peas
Scallops au gratin with Butter Lobster on a bed of creamed sweet Peas
Prawns wrapped in Toscan Bacon and au gratin with cream of white Beans. Technically this was Charlie's, but we shared everything.
Prawns wrapped in Toscan Bacon and au gratin with cream of white Beans. Technically this was Charlie’s, but we shared everything.
Trilogia di lamponi
Trilogia di lamponi

All this food was consumed on Saturday before the main event, which was of course, the concert. Despite some reluctance on Charlie’s part, we managed to get a place very close to the stage. As anyone who reads this blog religiously will know, we have been to see the band a few times before, but they never disappoint and this was no exception. Jim Kerr seemed to be particularly enjoying himself. The only sad part was that he was conversing with the audience most of the time in Italian, so I had no idea what he was saying, but the audience roared their appreciation all around us.

Jim Kerr, still frisky...
Jim Kerr, still frisky…

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Charlie Burchill was right in front of us for most of the concert.
Charlie Burchill was right in front of us for most of the concert.

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I don’t have as many good photos as I have had for the previous two concerts. Not so long ago, Jim Kerr expressed his frustration that too much of the time he found himself staring into a row of phones so I was aware of that, as well as wanting to be in the moment when we had invested the effort to get so close to the stage. Charlie tells me that during Let There Be Love, Jim Kerr pointed to us and mouthed “You Two.” So now our twenty year love affair has been officially stamped with Kerr approval. Well, I’m looking forward to the next twenty years and I hope for many more weekends as wonderful as this one. Simple Minded ratification notwithstanding, I have published the few decent photos I have on a separate page for those who are sad interested.

The weekend did not end there. Sunday remained and we awoke to find the mist had lifted and the sky was blue. So did we spend this time enjoying the wonderful sights of Milan? No, we went out to eat, this time at Spoon. We arrived at about two and were presented with a Sunday Brunch menu. Initially, we were told the a la carte menu was not available, but after a quick word with the chef, our waitress returned with the real deal.

Crispy scallops with beetroot mayonnaise
Crispy scallops with beetroot mayonnaise
Tortellone with ricotta cheese and anchovies
Tortellone with ricotta cheese and anchovies
Apologies to the chef for not showing the original presentation, but for me, this was a perfectly cooked steak
Apologies to the chef for not showing the original presentation, but for me, this was a perfectly cooked steak

Our profound enthusiasm was not lost on the waiting staff. To our surprise, instead of offering us the dessert menu, they arrived with spoons and a moment later, announced that they were giving us a selection of desserts “on the house”.

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By the time we were finished, the sun had gone down. We spent a while looking round the centre. As those of you who know me well will know, this is about as near as I ever get to high fashion.

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Perhaps feeling that we had not spent enough time exploring Milan, Charlie felt that as a fitting end to our weekend we should pay a visit to the Navigli district, a beautiful area of the city built around canals. Following the GPS co-ordinates on Trip-Advisor, we took a tram and then a bus and alighted in an area that, to our surprise, appeared more Vauxhall than Venice. We walked a few minutes, passing shops with the lovely descriptive name “Sexy Shop”. This didn’t seem as tempting as the bohemian restaurants that Trip Advisor promised. Still, Charlie checked his map again and confirmed there was a canal nearby. So we walked some more (we averaged 20,000 steps per day… we needed to do something to work off all that deliciousness) and when we finally found it in the darkness…

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…there was no water.

Retreating to a down-at-heel coffee shop, where a man was pounding a slot machine with the dedicated intensity of the addict, Charlie, following a long session peering into his phone announced that yes, the person who had added the Navigli District to Trip Advisor had put in the wrong co-ordinates. Undaunted by our trawl through the red light district, we made our way to Central station and hopped on the Metro. By the time we found our way to the real canal, Charlie was hungry again and as we had not, as yet, had a pizza, we finished our weekend in style in a tiny pizza restaurant: I Segreti di Pulcinella.

Wood pizza oven
Wood pizza oven

All good things must come to an end and it was sad to wake up on Monday morning knowing that the weekend was over. Still, the wonderful staff in the Lancaster Hotel wished us well. And maybe one day, we will return.

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A Taste of Poraj Palac

A celebration of the wonderful food created by Leszek Kaźmierczak, head chef at the Poraj Palace Hotel in Northern Poland.

Chef Leszek Kaźmierczak selects the salad from his vegetable garden in the grounds of the Poraj Palace.
Chef Leszek Kaźmierczak selects the salad from his vegetable garden in the grounds of the Poraj Palace.

 

...and makes his way to the kitchen...
…and makes his way to the kitchen…

 

 

Carpaccio
Carpaccio
Herring in Cranberry Sauce
Herring in Cranberry Sauce
Steak Tartare
Steak Tartare
Stuffed Goose Neck
Stuffed Goose Neck

 

 

 

Nut soup.
Nut Soup.

 

Traditional sour rye soup.
Traditional Sour Rye Soup.

 

 

Sole Stuffed with Spinach in a Cream Sauce
Sole Stuffed with Spinach in a Cream Sauce
Potato Cakes with Cream
Potato Cakes with Cream
Roast duck with apple
Roast Duck with Apple
Sauté Cod
Sauté Cod
Trout in Cream Sauce
Trout in Cream Sauce
Cutlets de Volaille (with Spinach Pierogi)
Cutlets de Volaille (with Spinach Pierogi)

 

Greek Salad
Greek Salad

 

Pig's Kidneys
Pig’s Kidneys
Hungarian Potato Cake.
Hungarian Potato Cake.

 

Pierogi with Spinach
Pierogi with Spinach

 

 

Nut Pancakes
Nut Pancakes
Traditional Apple Pie
Traditional Apple Pie
Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Raspberry
Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Raspberry

 

 

A Polish Odyssey

We landed in Gdansk on Saturday evening. The first slightly disconcerting moment came when we went to Avis car hire and found an empty desk. Fears of a long session of negotiation with another company, or finding ourselves stranded in northern Poland with no means of proceeding to our accommodation were soon dispersed when we lifted the red phone receiver and the attendant explained that she had just nipped home for dinner, but would be back in fifteen minutes.

Half-an-hour later, safely ensconced in a Ford Focus,  we found ourselves rattling along a very rough road. When landing in a new country, there’s always a charged moment when you discover whether your 100 km journey will take one hour or ten. Happily within a few minutes, we found ourselves on a very efficient motorway. There were a few giggles elicited in the intervening period however, as the nicely spoken man in the GPS machine tried to get his tongue round ‘ Ulica Juliusza Slowackiego’ and ‘Ulica Jana Wojnarskiago’.

Slipping quietly through the outskirts of Tricity, I was interested to see the beautiful classical northern European architecture admixed with starkly contrasting utilitarian Eastern Bloc high-rises.  I was also struck by the shops which included Tesco hypermarkets and a plethora of Lidls. It is easy to forget, when I so rarely leave Norway, just what a closed shop my adopted home country is to external supermarket chains. It was also disconcerting to see so many signs and not understand a word. With a smattering of French, German and Latin (as well as Norwegian) it is rare to find myself so much at a loss. Still, for me it only added to the frisson of discovery. I love new places.

And so, after a couple of hours, we arrived at our hotel. The Poraj Palac is a substantial country house hotel surrounded by gentle rolling countryside. The grounds and surrounding area team with wildlife. The evening air is filled with the singing of frogs from the nearby pond, the night brings the screeching of barn owls and in the morning, the cuckoos begin calling. The staff are friendly and the food is wonderful and fresh. English speaking travellers are few and far between. I feel very lucky to be here.

Poraj Palac
Poraj Palac
Room No. 12.
Room No. 12.

Artwork in the grounds.

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Mieszko bringing us cocktails in the garden.
Mieszko bringing us cocktails in the garden.

 

Evening view.
Evening view.

And, just for Jan-Arne, some photographs of the very colourful food.

Traditional sour rye soup.
Traditional sour rye soup.
Hungarian potato cake.
Hungarian potato cake.

 

Nut pancakes
Nut pancakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nut soup.
Nut soup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roast duck with apple
Roast duck with apple

 

Mieszko's first ever iced coffee.
Mieszko’s first ever iced coffee.