Monday, June 11, 2018

Food Adventures in Montenegro Part 1 Sunday 10th June 2018

We crossed the border from Bosnia into a land of mountains. Montenegro seems to be made up of mountains and canyons everywhere except around the capital Podgorica. We first travelled to the spectacular coastline of the Bay of Kotor on a big new highway, winding our way down to the narrow coastal strip.
We stayed in an apartment, 30 minutes walk from the old town of Kotor, trying to avoid the cruise boat tourists who arrive in their hundreds every day even in the off season. Dinner in the old town on our first night was a bit disappointing mostly due to the bored waiter and the inflated prices. 

So for our second night we followed the suggestion of our apartment host Milos, and walked 5 minutes in the other direction to Konoba Portun. And what a good decision it was. We decided to splash out and have the seafood platter....prawns, stuffed squid, fried squid, black risotto and three types of fish. It was delicious. So delicious I forgot to take a photo of the risotto but it came in a black pot so it probably wouldn't have shown up anyway.
We then spent a couple of nights out in the countryside of the Lustica Peninsula, too far from restaurants so self catering using some of the wild sage growing everywhere to flavour chicken and fish we had bought.
Lake Skadar was our next stop and I had booked an Airbnb several kilometres out of the town of Virpazar which sounded promising. It was called an Etno house, home to a vineyard where they made wines, several flavours of rakija and fruit syrups. They also provided meals. We followed the very narrow road up into the hills where a natural spring had been tapped to water the garden of George and Mira. As soon as we arrived we were escorted into their cellar door area and given tastings of their red wine, pomegranate (slightly fizzy) wine, walnut flavoured rakija, coffee and some the natural spring water. We followed George for a tour of his small vineyard and Mira took us to a church which had slid 200m down the hillside and rotated 90 degrees after an earthquake a few hundred years ago and still stood where it had come to rest on a slight lean. Mira then whipped up the best meal we had in Montenegro....crispy trout, marinated carp,salad, home made cheese, fresh bread.

 Breakfast next morning was pretty good too. Prosciutto,eggs,cheese,tomato eggplant,zucchini, all locally produced.This gave us lots of energy to set off exploring for the day.
More narrow roads with great views and a hike following a stream past a small hydroelectric plant.

We decided to try Mira's cooking again that night. This time even though we had tried to indicate that we wanted smaller portions, we were still served a huge but extremely bony fish with a delicious paella style rice.
Next morning it seemed Mira couldn't bear the thought of us self catering our breakfast and brought us some jam filled pancakes as well as some spinach egg slice which we saved for our Albania.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Food Adventures in Bosnia Herzegovina June 7th 2018

Last month, Max and I spent three weeks driving around the Balkans, beginning and ending in Sarajevo. The scenery was fantastic but our experience with locals and local food was just as good. We spent 4 nights in Bosnia before heading over the border to Montenegro. After our AirBnb hosts welcomed us with Bosnian coffe and biscuits and broken conversation in German , our first meal in Sarajevo was in Baščaršija, the Old Town dating back to the Ottoman Empire. Sheltering from an afternoon downpour under a market umbrella, we tried some local fare, sitna cevapi (goulash) and potato pie. A very welcome meal after our long haul flight.

The next day's lunch of grilled vegetables and bread and dips was less successful in a smoky bar escaping another afternoon downpour so didn't rate a photo shoot.
We then travelled down the spectacular Neretva river to Mostar, home to the 16 th century stone bridge, commissioned by Suleyman the Magnificent, was destroyed by bombing In 1993 in the Croat-Bosnian conflict. The bridge was rebuilt by UNESCO in 2004 using original stones recovered from the river and now it and the beautiful Old Town surrounding it attract tourists from around the world. The Neretva River 20m below is the most stunning jade green and we saw a few fisherman on the banks trying their luck.
There is a real Turkish feel to the Old Town with several mosques in the area so we dined at Sadrvan , a Turkish style restaurant complete with waitstaff in costume. Delicious soup followed by Mostarian sarma ( dolma) and a kebab stew.

Our apartment hosts next morning surprised us with a free breakfast of freshly made fried pastries and kajmak,a thick semi soured cream to spread on them along with a selection of teas.

The next night after a road trip to the beautiful Kravice waterfall and the river at Blacaj,we were back in the Old Town for dinner.

This time I decided that I must try the Bosnian staple of cevapcici, hand rolled spicy sausages with pita bread while Max had risotto.

Dessert of fresh strawberries and cherries bought from our local fruit stall, waited for us back in the apartment. Next stop Montenegro.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Marinated Fava Beans. Sunday December 10 2017.

There's a bumper crop of fava / broad beans in my garden this year. Despite looking somewhat bedraggled today due to the strong westerly winds trying to push them over, they are laden with beans beans and more beans. I have frozen heaps already but when my daughter suggested marinating some, I immediately asked Google for some ideas. 
This recipe sounded good so I did a trial batch last night and then another two jars this morning.
Verdict....delicious. Somehow I can't see these making it through to Christmas but then........I still have lots to pick in the garden so that won't be a problem.
All you have to do is blanch the beans for 3 minutes then cover them with the marinade made of equal parts red vinegar and olive oil, some chopped herbs (coriander in this case), salt, black pepper, some cumin seeds, minced garlic and a little lemon zest.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Never Fail Raw Milk Yoghurt Tuesday 28th November 2017

 A couple of years ago I changed my method of yoghurt making and this one works every time with a delicious result. I can do it very quickly, leave it to incubate all day or all night and then put it in the fridge to firm up.
First I use about a cup of skim milk powder to achieve the thick consistency I am looking for. Add raw milk almost to the top of the container and mix well.  Heat in the microwave for 2 minutes 40 seconds. 

Add yoghurt culture ( keep in freezer) and mix well.

  Pour boiling water into the container so that it comes level with the top of the yoghurt pot. 

Put the lid on and leave to incubate. It takes about 12 hours but you can speed it up a bit if you replace the water with some very hot tap water once the original has cooled down.
 I especially love the creamy bit on the top!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Loganberry and Lime Gelato and guar gum. Tuesday 21st November 2017

I have been making ice cream and less often sorbet and gelato in my ice cream maker for a while now but have always come up with the problem of how to make the mixture thick with a good texture.  I am always looking to keep the amount of fat and sugar as low as possible so never use cream and try to reduce the sugar amount or substitute with stevia. I have tried gelatine in the mix but that doesn't seem to thicken it enough to avoid ice crystals. I have tried a custard base but sometimes that tastes a bit floury.  
Last week I was watching a program on SBS TV called Food Safari Earth and a gelati expert made a lovely looking strawberry gelato using guar gum to give it a stretchy quality and to thicken the mix. I didn't know anything about guar gum so started reading up on it. It is made from a bean grown in India and according to the people in my local health food shop is used ,along with xanthum gum, to give those same qualities to gluten free breads. So yesterday I bought a little bit to experiment with. 
Here is my first try , using only 1/4 teaspoon for the mix of sugar syrup, frozen loganberries and a little bit of lime juice to give it a bit of bite. I think I am onto a winner here. Looks pretty good and tastes good too. 

Maybe next time I might try to reduce the amount of sugar in the mix as my palate is now trained to prefer a lot less sugar in ice cream. I find commercial ice creams and gelati a bit sweet for my taste these days. Guar gum is meant to be better in a dairy mix than a citrus mix so next try will be with an ice cream or rather an ice milk mix. Have to eat this lot first though. 😜. Special thanks to the visitor from Panama the other know who you are. I think I need a Nicaragua flag if you are heading that way too!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Skyr in Tasmania Saturday 2nd September 2017

In general, the food in Iceland didn't rated high on my list of memories from my 2014 trip, but one thing did rate a mention. That was Skyr! Skyr is a thick yoghurt though technically a cheese as rennet is added in the process. I have never attempted to make it as I read that it required a Skyr starter culture and this was only available in...Iceland....or New York where some enterprising person called Siggi had started making it, perhaps from a culture smuggled out of Iceland. 
When my sister sent me a message the other day that she had bought some Skyr in her local supermarket, my ears pricked up! Lo and behold the other day,  I found Skyr in local version of the same supermarket chain here. So it was time for experimentation!

It is a pretty simple process. First of all, Icelandic tradition is that it is made with raw milk. Perfect for me. But if you don't have access to raw milk, I am sure it will still work with pasteurised as that is how it is produced commercially. Secondly it is meant to be made with skim milk to keep it low fat and high protein. I could have done that if I had left my milk overnight and skimmed off the cream in the morning but I was in too much of a hurry! So full cream Skyr it is. 
First step is always to sterilise all your equipment...pots cups spoons cheesecloth etc in a dairy sanitiser or by boiling water.  Skipping the pasteurisation step, it is then just a matter of heating the milk to 110 degrees F. Then mix a tablespoon of store bought Skyr into some of the milk in a separate cup. Add 4 drops of rennet to a quarter cup of tepid water (I was using 2 litres of milk). Then mix all together.  It would be interesting to try with less rennet as rennet adds to the sourness of the end product.  Now put the lid on the pot and wrap in a towel or blanket and put in a draught free spot for 12 hours. I sat mine in the oven all day. Have a double layer of sterilised cheese cloth sitting ready in a colander over a container if you want to catch the way or else the sink. Tip the contents of the pot into the cheesecloth. It now looks like curds and whey. Let drain for several hours. I left mine to drain overnight and think that was a bit long. I ended up adding some of the whey back in to make it more liquid and blending it to make it nice and creamy.
And the result? See for yourself. Even better with some fruit added. Be warned Skyr is more sour than commercial yoghurts which are heavily sweetened. Even mine was less sweet than the vanilla Skyr I bought. But your palate can be trained to enjoy less sugar if you persist and it is so much better for you. I find commercial ice cream almost sickly sweet these days after eating my own low sugar version for the past couple of years. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Dehydrating experiments. Sunday 16th April 2017

Recently my 25+ year old dehydrator started to make strange noises so I thought the time had come to invest in a new one. Since I bought my 'fan at the top ' design Sunbeam , a lot of new designs have come onto the market. Reading a lot of reviews, it seemed like the fan at the back design is the way to go these days. With this design, everything dries evenly and there is no need for swapping trays around. The Biochef dehydrator I ended up buying has temperature control and a timer which means I can set it to run overnight without worrying about things getting too dry. 

I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with a variety of foods since then.
Most of the foods I have dried for hiking as we used up quite a few of my supplies on our recent hiking trip to Argentina and Chile ( stayed tuned for a blog post on re food adventures overseas) but also snacking on while kayaking. 
First of all I dried some roasted beetroot dip, stored in a ziplock bag ready to rehydrate and spread onto a biscuit. 

I had read on a hiking blog page about dehydrating yoghurt so I tried a plain yoghurt ( homemade of course) and one with some whizzed up fresh strawberries. 
I found a recipe on a photocopied page I had kept for years for Taco chips- made from food processed corn cobs, capsicum and grated cheese. Delicious.Not sure if theses will last isn't the freezer as they are a bit too tempting to snack upon!

Next I tried some vege chips. Sweet potato sliced very thinly with a mandoline and tossed in a tiny bit of olive oil and salt, beetroot sliced, carrot slices all turned out really well. 

Finally, I dehydrated a mix of puréed strawberry and raspberry.