July 2008 Archives

Jul 30, 2008 status: In Devon eating roast beef and Yorkshire pudding

Jul 29, 2008 status: Back in Whitstable eating grilled razor clams

Taking the slow way home

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Smplantatpath0001.JPGBy the time we got back to France, we'd reached the last few weeks of our journey - well, of the first half, anyway - and were feeling the need to slow things down a bit.  Being constantly on the move has been very exciting, but it can get a bit wearing too; fortunately, we now had some opportunities to stay put for a while, and we took them.

This also meant opportunities to get into kitchens and do some home cooking for the first time in a while, and we took them too.  That meant finding good quality ingredients - but this being France, that really wasn't very difficult.  Every small town and village we visited had a good food market at least once a week, and usually more than one butcher, baker and greengrocer.  Not only will the shopkeepers and stallholders sell you excellent produce at reasonable prices (compared to the UK, at least), they'll make sure you know how to cook it.  In fact, we even got the impression they wouldn't sell us their ducks or celeriac if they weren't satisfied that we'd treat them properly ...

Bells de jour

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Smabondancecows0001.jpgToday we went to the valley of Abondance, here in the Haute-Savoie, where they make the delicious gruyere-style Abondance cheese.  We walked up to one of the high alpine pastures where farmers graze their cows in summer, to let them eat the lush green grass that gets covered in snow in winter.  Finding a farmhouse, we sat down to tuck into their cheese, just as the cows came home after their day's grass-eating work in the fields, the bells round their necks ringing.

This is what they sounded like.

Click here to listen.

And as a special treat, we even have a couple of video clips of them walking home ringing their bells:

Video 1 (quite big, about 12Mb)

Video 2 (smaller, about 5Mb)

Click here for more audio samples.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy

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Smbarnabycitronpresse10001.jpgToday Barnaby spent the morning browsing the market in Samoëns.  The fruit and vegetables were lovely, as was the enormous array of cured sausages, but he spent most of his time admiring the cheese: Beaufort, Abondance, Tomme, and in particular the Reblochon which reminded him of the wonderful time he had all those months ago in Munster.

Anyway, all that cheese can give a bear a thirst, so he stopped for a refreshing drink.  Trying to look like a local, he casually asked for a citron pressé - he'd never tried one before but has picked up enough French to know this means "lemon in a hurry" - or something like that.

Smbarnabycitronpresse20001.jpgImagine his dismay when they brought him a glass of pure, sour lemon juice.  Yuk!

But once we'd explained that you're supposed to add your own sugar and water, he gave it a try - and its zingy fresh taste cheered him up immediately.

Until he asked for the bill and they charged him €3.60, that is.  Cheeky.

Jul 22, 2008 status: Watching them make reblochon at the fruitière

Jul 14, 2008 status: Eating pain au chocolat with Becky and Jasmine

Italy part 2: right to left

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Smparmesancap0001.jpgOne moment we were admiring Roman soldiers parading through the palace in Split; one fast ferry ride later, and we were negotiating one-way systems around Ancona.  Tricky, but worth it - we were soon happily tucking into excellent pasta, fish and verdicchio at the Villa Amalia, and pretty sure we were back in Italy.  On the first part of our Italian trip, we'd had some wonderful experiences, but felt as though we'd barely scratched the surface.  So this time, we were determined to get to the bottom of things.  Just what does make Italian food different?  Why is the prosciutto here different to the pršut we'd just been learning about in Croatia?  And you can call it "balsamic" if you like, but isn't it just vinegar?

Jul 08, 2008 status: Confusing tortellini with agnolotti and cappelletti

Jul 05, 2008 status: Making green walnut liqueur with Giulia

From gnocchi to njoki

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Smslovenia0001.jpgWe sped over the border from Italy heading straight for the Istrian peninsula, and the small village of Sveti Petar u Šumi - we'd booked ourselves into an agritourism-style place we'd found on the internet, where they said they could teach us all about the local cuisine.  Sadly, this meant completely ignoring Slovenia (well, we stopped for lunch) - we'll have to go back.  On the up-side, it meant more time in Istria, supposedly the gastronomic centre of this side of the Adriatic. 

We didn't quite know what to expect from Istria (or Croatia in general in fact).  We knew there'd been a lot of Italian influence in the past (and the architecture on the Slovenian coast certainly looked like Venice to us) - but was this still true?  And looking at the map, we also weren't far from where we'd been in Hungary all those months back.  Or would it remind us of Slavic Bulgaria?  Or even Turkey - the Ottomans got this far at one stage.  We were keen to find out ...

Jul 01, 2008 status: A good pašticada is hard to find


Culinary Anthropologist