Walking Istanbul, Turkey

What do you do in Istanbul when you’ve seen most of the major sights? Or, to specify, when you’ve had enough of the museums and palaces no matter how very enchanting they might be? Well, you can do the same we do in any of the huge cities: take a long walk. Generally, walking seems to have been dying out as an everyday activity anyway but I couldn’t imagine a more splendid way to come to grips with a metropolis, albeit a micro-small portion of it.

So, we’d returned to amazing buzz of Istanbul, the giant doorway between good old Europe and exotic Asia, and it proved to be just as lively and colourful as we’d remembered. Continue reading “Walking Istanbul, Turkey”

Asparagus the Middle-Eastern Way

According to popular notion asparagus has some kind of cleansing effect on the human body, as is the case with many a springtime produce: dandelion, radicchio, artichokes – to name only the most obvious suspects. In terms of taste, the cultivated (garden) asparagus is not on the bitter side as opposed to wild asparagus, which is also thinner, but has a distinguished, typical flavour. And a particular smell too, which is manifested afterwards in the loo.

 

Market produce in April

Somehow, I have always perceived asparagus as an exclusively Mediterranean vegetable possibly stretching a bit beyond but not too much. It struck me by surprise then to have stumbled upon a recipe Continue reading “Asparagus the Middle-Eastern Way”

Under the Weather

Randomly and aimlessly clicking my way through the web becomes boring after a while. It’s no picnic giving in to illness and staying in bed all day. What with the headache, the running nose (as fast as Bolt, my son said), the cough. Even my skin hurts.

Then I find out about the rose that escaped the garden. She went for the sand dunes. Brava! And eventually she ended up in a museum. What a life! Continue reading “Under the Weather”

The First Run of the Year or The Curious Case of Storytelling

Here we are, in the coldest time of the year, and I ran for the first time this year yesterday. The morning was quite chilly with -13 Centigrade and the temperature didn’t rise significantly by the afternoon. Still, I chose running instead of skiing as day’s main activity. For a seasoned runner I consider myself to be the cold isn’t believed a hindrance. And one warms up running much more than skiing.

It’s one thing to be running and listening to music, but it’s entirely something else to be running and listening to spoken word in podcasts. I find that way, to simplify, the whole body is employed: the limbs and the mind. Sometimes I find myself so absorbed in the listening that I either run too fast or too slow. A human mind is a fantastic space. Especially the aspect of telling and listening to stories, which in a broader sense of all beings only humans are capable of, and I mean not only pure (fictional) stories but the act of being able to transform the heard word, the text listened to, to images in one’s mind is fantastic, isn’t it? It’s a complex activity of our brain: making up stories, storytelling, listening to stories and visualising them simultaneously. It is magic. I find it truly overwhelming.

So, where did this ability take me to yesterday on the coolest of afternoons? Sicily. There I was among the heaps of immense heads of green cauliflower in the Palermo’s market. I attended the lavish banquets together with the noblemen of the 19th century Sicily. I watched Garibaldi’s ships land at Marsala. I entered the not-so-secret-anymore chocolate making shops of Modica. Quite a journey. Just before arriving back home I noticed nasty cool wind picked up sometime during my run and if it hadn’t been for somewhat numb fingers I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. I wondered if and how these polar winter conditions are manifested in Sicily. From the warmth of our home it seems quite romantic. Deceitfully so, I know.

 

Related:

In fact, there’s a whole science on the subject: Brian Boyd on why do we tell storiescritics on the subject and On the Origins of Stories via auslit.net

Sicily’s secret chocolate obsession via BBC

Ever wondered what else to use cauliflower for?

The top-selling book in Italian history

Freezing Europe

Let’s Go Crazy

Yeah, let’s!

We watched Love Actually last night for the first time this festive season and it breaks my heart Alan Rickman left for good. One of my favourite actors if I ever had one, his super responsive face made all the impact. And his voice, deep and warm, man, what a voice. And his English, well, to a person feeling shivers down her spine by spoken British English, it was just perfect. He needn’t speak anyway.

Can someone please tell Him to conduct the 2017 with a bit of a lighter touch? We could all do with it thankyouverymuch although we’re pretty much all aware of the obvious and not so obvious.

I promise I’ll keep paying attention, reasoning and questioning, reading books and columns throughout the New Year. I can’t do otherwise anyway. I hope to get absorbed in exciting stories, travels and food. Speaking of food, just recently my man and I hosted two dinners at home. We approached the planning and preparations with lots of care, good will and joy and were working hand in hand throughout. We seem to have had everything going for us: great guests and truly smartly selected courses. Everyone was delighted. Bravo for us!

On both occasions I was asked for the recipes and voilà, my darlings, here they are, all included in the links below.

*********

Christmas Dinner Menu

The Leftoverist’s Thai Carrot Soup, a fantastic warm-up dish (minus broccoli and rice, plus tomatoes)

Sabrina Ghayour’s Citrus Spiced Salmon from her lovely book Persiana (minus rose petals and lime powder; used a 1,5 kg side of salmon, one piece not filets)

Nigel Slater’s Green Olive Pastries as a side dish – it’s the last recipe and shares a photo with the third one (I used a mix of Ligurian olives not the green ones)

Puy Lentil Salad as a side dish no. 2 from this helpful book (minus goat cheese and peppers plus feta and double on soaked dried tomatoes)

Photo of a recipe in a book Healthy Eating to Reduce the Risk of Dementia by Margaret Rayman et al.

The Delicious Days’ Chocolate Heaven served with whipped cream, the safest, the most delicious and certainly the most popular chocolate cake in our household.

*********

Post Christmas Dinner-for-friends Menu

Nigel Slater’s Brussels and Butternut Custards It’s the fourth recipe, you’ll have to scroll almost to the bottom (I used hokkaido instead of butternut – no peeling needed).

Rachel Roddy’s Spaghetti with Lemon, Parsley, Garlic and Chilli It might seem too vegetarian a selection especially for the main course but it was supposed to be a bit more relaxed after the Christmas binging for everybody.

Quince and Marzipan Tarte Fine An exquisit dessert. I poached and preserved the quince slices some two months beforehand to save them for this dessert.

Some additional points regarding the menus: every course was planned as to require minimum involvement away from the guests. Most of the food could be prepared in advance, some of it at least up to a certain point. It was completely no-fuss doable and non-exhausting. Several amuse-bouches can be served (and are not listed) and a variety of petit-fours or other sweat treats to accompany the main thing. In my opinion it’s very well worth it to serve one-bites, think cookies, kumquats, dates for instance, as they add even more vibrancy to the festive table.

Nevertheless, the rest of the holiday is for resting and enjoying it.

Happy New Year everybody!