Tag Archives: 1001 foods

The Great EU Quest: Greece – The Acropolis!

List Item: Visit all EU countries
Progress: 20/28

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am finally crossing off Greece from the list of EU countries to visit. This really feels like the last truly major country to tick off the list and what a better way to cross it off officially than by visiting one of the major ancient wonders… more on that later.

Country: Greece
Year first visited: 2018

Getting to the apartment last night was a bit of a misadventure as a mixture of plane delays and broken ticket machines meant that we didn’t get in until gone 11. Thankfully the bed was comfortable and our temporary digs are exactly what we hoped for. It’s also cool that each apartment takes a name from a Greek god, ours being Dionysus.

Due to our late arrival, we didn’t get up until about 9 (which for me on a holiday is rather late) and we made the decision to skip breakfast in order to get a start on the day. Of course the hundreds of local Athenians we came across doing a cancer run got a better start on the day than us. Oh well.

Since our apartment is about 30 minutes walk from the Acropolis we opted to walk there so that we could start to get to know Athens just that bit better. On the way we passed an interesting landmark: the stadium that hosted the visit modern Olympic Games in 1896. Pretty cool to come across this just as an extra site! I had to photograph it later in the evening due to the sun being right overhead.

A short hop from there was the first (of many) ancient sites of the day: the Olympieion. Back in the day this was a tall temple to Zeus, but now all that remains is 15 standing columns and 1 collapsed one. It really worked to see this first thing as we could still marvel at the height and not be spoilt by what is to come.

The Olympieion area also features Hadrian’s Gate which marks the then boundary between Ancient Greek Athens and Roman Athens. It’s amazing just how intact this particular gate. Also, if you stand in the right place, it provides a perfect frame for the Acropolis in the distance – our next destination.

We got a tip online that if you want shorter queues to get into the Acropolis area not only should you pre-buy your tickets online, but go to the South-Eastern entrance. Most people tend to go to the western entrance as it is the more direct route to the Acropolis itself, but with the entrance we chose there was plenty of shrines and other ruins to see on our way up.

The big one to see is the theatre of Dionysus, whose area spans a lot more than you would first think. The ruins of the theatre is a real mixed bag. Some of it is amazingly preserved whereas others are completely missing. Still, it gave us a cool chance to take a seat in a proper Ancient Greek theatre – something that we will be doing again in a few days time… where I hopefully won’t regret not packing a cushion.

After weaving in and around a number of ruins it was time for us to hit the big ticket item itself: the Acropolis itself.

 List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 81/100Sight: Acropolis
Location: Athens, Greece
Position: #28

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the Acropolis is the whole area at the top of rocky outcrop. The major part of this is the Parthenon, but other ruins (including the incredibly well preserved ‘Old Temple’ to Athena) can be found up here. Also feral cats, but those really are everywhere in Athens.

The weird thing about seeing the Parthenon for the first time is just how hard it is to process what you are being confronted with. Most of the times you see it in pictures you are seeing a zoom in from a nearby hill or the picture is being taken at a distance from a helicopter. Up close, it’s just difficult to parse the scale of the whole thing.

To allow the brain it’s time to process (and to get out of the way of some big tour groups) we went down to the ‘Old Temple’ to Athena (so-called because it predates he Parthenon as a place to worship Athena). It’s a bit of a marvel that is incredibly well preserved and has some interesting building quirks. This is a place that had to be built around a crack in the floor said to be where Poseidon struck the ground with his trident, the original olive tree as planted by Athena, the burial place of a mythic king and a substantial slope.

After this we still couldn’t quite process the Parthenon… so we climbed up a platform on the eastern edge of the Acropolis to take in some great views of the city (including a bird’s eye view of the Olympieion). I think it was the point where we turned around to face the Parthenon once again that it really hit us that we were here.

The Parthenon itself is truly vast. I can only imagine how it would have been to see this before most of it was devoured by the explosion in the 1600s. It will also be interesting to see how it will end up looking after the restoration work has been completed – although this really does feel like a project that will never be truly finished.

We ended up walking around the Parthenon itself two times to try and soaking he ambience as well as we could. It also afforded me the perfect opportunity to take a bunch of photos before we made our way back down the slope. I cannot over emphasise the number of great views that you get from up in the Acropolis – I can only imagine what it must be like to be there when it’s all lit up at night.

After finishing our descent it really was time for some lunch, and what could be more Greek than gyros! I feel that there is this big list of Greek food that I want it try authentic versions of whilst I am here – gyros being the top of that list equal to some proper feta cheese. We appeared to be the only people eating a meal of this size, but then again we had missed breakfast and (more importantly) who cares.

Next to the Acropolis’ slopes is the Acropolis museum – a newly built museum that houses all the findings from the Acropolis area as well as a lot of the original sculptures. However, before getting into that, we went around a temporary exhibition about Emperor Qianlong from China. This did serve as a bit of a palate cleanser for what was to come.

Sadly there is no camera policy in the vast majority of the Acropolis museum, so I’ll be brief. The sheer number of recovered statues and relics is truly overwhelming. There is so much that it makes you wonder just how much did not survive. Some of the best pieces are actually pre-Parthenon pieces that survived a massive act of arson by the Persian army. Some of these pieces still have visible paint on them!

The elephant in the room if the Acropolis museum are the missing marble pieces that are currently sat in the British museum. Being a Brit, it’s interesting to hear the Greek side of the story – especially as they characterise Elgin as essentially being an upper class pirate. Who knows if this will ever be fully resolved to the satisfaction of both sides.

It was pretty late in the afternoon when we left the museum, so we had to prioritise some sites from our Archaeological Sites of Athens ticket (with the rest to be done in a few days). We made our way down a lovely promenade and some really touristy ships to the Roman Agora.

There isn’t too much to this as most of the area compared to everything we’d seen previously, but it still had some columns and a gate intact. Also, and most interesting of all, the old observatory is nearly perfectly preserved. It really does help if a building has been buried for a long time.

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Salep Ice Cream
Progress: 753/1001

We had a bit of a walk between the Roman Agora and our final site of the day. A walk which took us down some busy shopping streets and gave us the chance to cross off some ice cream. Salep ice cream has a number of names, which has made the hunt confusing. The Turks call it dondurma and the Greeks call it kaimaki. If I did not know this piece of information, I would never have found it today. The key feature of this ice cream is texture, which is like regular ice cream infused with an almost marshmallow-like stretch and chew. I really did like this ice cream and it makes me want to see if they have different flavours elsewhere.

So we ended the day at the Lykeion, which was the most far flung of the sites on our ticket. It is also the flattest as pretty much nothing behind the foundations have survived to this day. We didn’t get a whole lot of time here as it was 20 minutes before closing, but we probably got as much out of it as we could. Still interesting to beamong history, even if it wasn’t entirely visible.

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Loukanika
Progress: 754/1001

For dinner, I found a place just around the corner from the apartment called Katsourbos. It was pretty high on Tripadvisor and apparently specialised in Cretan food. I guess that this sausage, which is meant to found all over Greece, can also be found there. Now, I have had a lot of different sausages for this food list, but this Greek sausage (smoked and flavoured with honey, herbs and citrus) is truly something else. Sure is nicer than both of the sausages from the French box and it gives the Cumberland sausage a run for its money. Something tells me this will not be the only time I eat this before I leave Greece.

My main was liver with skin-on fries and a honey-balsamic sauce. I didn’t get this for the liver, I got this because the sauce sounded really interesting. Man, this really was a great sauce. I hope that I’ll find a recipe to replicate this as it feels like of those that could go well with a lot of different foods.

I probably should have finished writing up hours ago as it is an early start tomorrow. How early, well we need to incorporate a 5 hour train ride. Wish me luck!

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Good Eatin’ – Grilled Dover Sole

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Dover Sole
Progress: 753/1001

Now that food items are becoming rare enough that I am only able to find them once a month or so, the ones in London with heftier price tags are becoming more and more enchanting. Especially when they’re actually cooked for me, which means I don’t have to fret about over-cooking or misusing them.

A number of restaurants in London’s Chinatown offer Dover sole (which I later found out is just the common sole – the name Dover becoming attached as the UK was the top supplier at some point) is pretty numerous. However, at £33 a plate, I have always put this off in favour of eating dim sum or some barbecue pork. Today was not that day.

The moment the sole arrived at our table, I knew that the training I had gotten from eating whole barramundi and silver pomfret was going to bear fruit. It also helps that Dover sole is perfect to be served grilled whole as the fillets slip off the bone with just a little bit of pressure from the rim of a spoon. The only issue was where to put the spine.

What can I say about the flesh, other than it was flaky, sweet and absolutely delicious. It was so good with the ginger, spring onion, soy sauce and mushrooms – the latter being incredible umami bombs when eaten with the fish. There was also a satisfying crisp crunch to the skin, which I only really started appreciating since I started eating special fish for this list.

I’m looking forward to trying more fish in restaurants, but I don’t know how many more I’ll be finding in the UK. Hopefully I will be able to find one or two in Greece next week… but seeing how I wasn’t able to find anything in Freiburg I’ll have to play it by ear.

World Cooking – Albania

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Albania
Progress: 20/193

I speak for a lot of people in my generation when I say that the reason that I first heard of Albania was because of a classic Simpsons episode where an Albanian exchange student comes to stay. That’s pretty much it when it comes to Albanian characters that I’ve come across in pop culture – with the exception of the show that inspired today’s dish. So thank you Archer for telling me about Tavë Kosi – the national dish of Albania.

So aside from the national dish of Tavë Kosi what else is there in the world of Albanian cuisine? With Greece to the south, Italy to the west and the Balkans to the north – the food in Albania is Mediterranean with a Slavic twist. I really could have taken the opportunity to make an Albanian dessert (like their version of rice pudding that looks really nice), but after spending nearly a whole day making a Venezuelan cake… I thought I would take the week off.

Main: Tavë Kosi

In the episode of Archer they make a big to-do about making this using the various cuts of meat from a sheep’s head (starting with the tongue and then the rest of the face). Whilst this would have been a novel way for me to cross eating sheep’s head off my my 1001 food list… I thankfully found a recipe (from the aptly named My Albanian Food) where I was able to use lamb shoulder. This recipe also, unlike the Archer version, did not feature mushrooms – which I think could have made for an interesting addition.

In essence, tavë kosi (which means ‘soured milk casserole’) starts with a mix of lamb, garlic, herbs and rise on the bottom layer and it’s covered in a layer of yogurt (with eggs and a roux mixed in) that’s baked in the oven so it has a golden crust on top. One thing I did not expect was how the whole thing just slid out of the dish and onto the plate – guessing that’s the rendered fat from the lamb helping out.

I wasn’t sure what to serve with this, so I made some spiced couscous and a bit of garlic yogurt to have on the side. Tavë kosi appears to be one of those dishes where it’s best to sample both layers at once. The sourness of the yogurt layer really helps to cut through the gaminess and fattiness of the lamb – although I think I could have made this with two-thirds of the yogurt layer.

Another cool thing about making this dish, I was able to cross another thing off the food list… which goes to show that there is still plenty of live in this list yet.

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Savory
Progress: 752/1001

I know that oregano was the herb used in the recipe (and that it is a very common herb in Albania) but I had a jar of Albanian savory in the cupboard… so I thought why not substitute it in. The smell and taste doesn’t exactly match oregano – in fact it’s more like a mix of rosemary, oregano and tarragon – but it really worked well in this dish.

The smell of this mixed with the garlic really helped to overpower the strong smell of lamb (I really do not like cooking with lamb). It also really reminded me of the bean soup that my nan used to make when I was younger, which means that I have had this herb before and I was unaware of it.

I still have a lot left in this jar, so maybe I’ll see if there’s a way I can replicate that old recipe… and develop a taste for pot after pot of bean soup.

World Cooking – Venezuela

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Venezuela
Progress: 19/193

It is my hope on this rainy evening in August that, when this post is published next year, that there has been some sort of resolution to the current problems and food shortages facing the country of Venezuela. Like with my previous post making food from Yemen, it feels a bit off making food from a country that is currently experiencing so many problems. Hopefully things will be sorted soon.

As I previously mentioned in my post making food from Chad, the reason behind Venezuela being today’s country is my very lovely neighbour and her daughter. Since I gave them a slice of cake that I made for Uruguay, I have received special maize flour and a recipe to make arepas for when I get around to Venezuela – so I had to expedite things so that I would be able to thank them… and then share some more dessert as further thanks.

Just looking at the list of foods seen as Venezuelan reveals just how much the native pre-European food has survived and, in some cases, co-mingled with the cuisines of the Old World. My main course is an example of such a mixing… whereas the dessert is something that it very much influenced by the Spanish settlers.

Main: Arepa Reina Pepiada

As a food stuff, arepas are nearly as old as you can get. They have been made for centuries by the original residents of Venezuela and are still incredibly popular to this day. In this recipe, which translates to Curvy Queen arepas, we see this New World food filled with  chicken mayonnaise and avocado. Not hard to believe that this combination is incredibly popular – I mean, why wouldn’t it… it’s delicious.

Arepa are, in essence, a small round fried bread made from pre-cooked maize flour. They are similar to pupusa,  but instead of filling them and frying them arepas are fried and then split to be filled with whatever filling you desire. I cannot argue with the use of shredded chicken, mayonnaise, avocado, lime juice and mustard  when filling these arepas.

Tastewise it’s a slam dunk, but it’s the texture difference between the thin crispy layer of the outside of the arepa and the cool and squishy chicken and avocado salad. I still have half a bag of this special flour left, so I feel like I have license to try and make more arepas with different fillings.

Dessert: Bienmesabe

Right so it’s been a month since I last made an insane cake – so why not make one that was even more insane? That’s what happened with this cake (whose name means ‘it tastes good to me’) where I had to make sponge, a coconut custard, a rum-infused sugar syrup and a topping of Italian meringue. Note: I have never made Italian meringue before.

The name of this cake (recipe from The Spruce Eats) is pretty apt. It’s delicious and it looked so amazing when I first removed the protective cuff of my springform tin. The Italian meringue topping in particular looked glossy and gorgeous perched on top of the cake.

Given the amount of coconut custard, I was so nervous that it would collapse, luckily it did not. In fact, it appears to be structurally sound and has lasted in the fridge for a few days without toppling over. It took a very long time to make this, but with a result like this… it was time well spent.

Next time in my world cooking journey, I will be in Europe and sampling a dish that I first heard about from an episode of Archer. Any guesses of what I might be making?


Right, so time for an important addition to this post. Thanks to the lovage that I found yesterday this world cooking post has a very special significance:

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Food item: Arepa De Choclo
Progress: 751/751 – COMPLETE

I wasn’t planning to hit the next landmark of my 1001 food quest in such a way, but it’s pretty cool that this completion happens as part of my  world cooking challenge.

Now, I’ve posted previously that I know will probably never complete this list. Some of the things are no longer being made and others are either threatened or endangered… which means it would be incredibly irresponsible for me to go after them.

With 751 of these eaten, I am still going to try and eat as many of them as I can. So I think that will be the phrasing of the final phase of this challenge:

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possible
Progress: 751/1001

It will be interesting to see how far I get before, you know, the end of me. To mop up some of these final ones I will need to make special trips abroad and make some interesting substitutes along the way, but that’s half the fun of it.

Good Eatin’ – Lovage

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 750/751Food item: Lovage

It has been nearly a month since my last food post, which just goes to show how much harder it has been to source these remaining ingredients. I almost didn’t buy this bag of lovage either as I had a sneaking suspicion that I had covered it not too long ago (I guess I was thinking about sorrel, which I did several months back).

Good thing I keep an up-to-date list on my phone or I would have really kicked myself once I’d gotten home.

Because of the Wikipedia page on lovage, I had the hare-brained idea of making a salad from the leaves and topping it off with some grated garlic and pepper Swiss cheese that I had also picked up from Borough Market. I hadn’t quite taken into account the intensity of flavour in the leaves… which made it fairly difficult to eat.

Lovage is one of those interesting herbs because the different parts have intensities in same family of taste, but there is no denying the strong aroma. This is probably best described as if someone was taking celery and parsley leaves and then proceeding to shove them up your nose. It’s rather extraordinary.

The stems are significantly milder than the leaves and have a dill-like quality in their taste. In stark contrast the leaves have such an intense taste that they are almost spicy. They really are for mixing in with other ingredients rather than eating a bowl of them by themselves. Still live and learn, now to find other things to do with the lovage I have left over…

 

Good Eatin’ – Ardrahan(ish)

So, a month ago I was faced with the sad truth that Ardrahan cheese was no longer in production. There are a number of other foods on this list (like the Doncaster Butterscotch and Toheroa) that are either not being made any more or critically endangered..

I know that lists like this aren’t too serious and are meant to be a fun reference book rather than something to follow religiously. However, it feels like I’ve gone too far to not try and eat as much of these things that I can. If I absolutely cannot find them, or they are an animal that is critically endangered, I am going to try and find the next best thing.

Which leads me to today’s post. I asked the cheesemongers at Neal’s Yard Dairy about the best substitute for Ardrahan:

So I did…

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 749/751Food item: Ardrahan (Durrus cheese as a substitute)

It’s always welcome to have a professional cheesemonger tell you, in person, that you have an excellent taste in cheese. Honestly, I didn’t want to lose the compliment on telling them the whole history of my buying a wedge of durrus cheese.

She said to me how this was a cheese that tastes like butter and, wouldn’t you know, she is absolutely spot on. I could have just had the taste of this in Neal’s Yard Dairy and could have counted this as done, but this was was such a good cheese that I wanted to have more than a taste.

Durrus is a very springy cheese that bulges around the edges because it cannot contain its own mild brand of deliciousness. The inside of the cheese is close textured with some tiny elongated holes running through it. Apparently it’s a cheese well suited to strong tastes like red wine, but I just enjoyed it with some crackers.

Good Eatin’ – Collioure Anchovy Bruschetta

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 748/751Food item: Collioure Anchovy

This is the last of the foods from the French box – I’m sad to see the back of the pile of ingredients as it really does mark the end of my last big push for the 1001 food list. I’ve left these for so long because I hadn’t been too sure of what to do with a jar of salted anchovies outside of making spaghetti puttanesca.

Then one day, thanks to the June-July heatwave, I figured that it would be a good idea to make bruschetta as a make-your-own dinner. The anchovies felt like the perfect choice of topping to go with the crushed tomatoes and garlicky bread… once they had been soaked (to get rid of a lot of the excess salt) and filleted.

This is the second of two varieties of anchovy on the list and yet they feel quite different. The other anchovy, the cantabrian boquerones, were slight with a melt-in-the-mouth quality to them. In comparison these Collioure anchovies are robust and incredibly meaty. Also, due to the preservation method, these French anchovies are saltier than their Spanish counterpart.

Due to this, these Collioure anchovies are much more suited to being used in things like bruschetta and pizza because they are strong enough to shine through other flavours. The cantabrian boquerones, in contrast, are ones I would definitely prefer to have on their own as tapas.

Good Eatin’ – Green Peppercorns and a Meatloaf Attempt

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 747/751Food item: Green Peppercorns

So I’ve had this little tin of green peppercorns in my cupboard for a while now and have been waiting for a good recipe to use them in. I know that my husband probably would have been pulling for these to be use to make a peppercorn sauce for some steak… but I’m not the best at cooking steak. Instead I decided to use them in something that I am even worse at making: meatloaf.

The recipe I used for this was meant to bring forth a beautifully pink loaf of leberkase… and because I’ve never succeeded in making a non-crumbly meatloaf I didn’t bother using this recipe for my world cookery challenge. My instincts were, indeed, correct.

 

In the end, I think that the meat wasn’t ground fine enough and that the meatloaf wasn’t cool enough before entering the oven. So, instead, what I got was a really moist regular meatloaf. It was a bit of a win in a way as this is the best meatloaf I’ve ever made, just not what I was hoping from as leberkase.

The green peppercorns added a fruity and summery heat to this meatloaf, which wasn’t too overpowering although it did drown out some of the marjoram taste. I tried some of the peppercorns by themselves and I just felt the heat of it slamming against the back of my throat for a solid ten minutes.

At some point I will use the rest of these to make a steak sauce, after all I should be nice to my husband. But he can cook the steak itself. I don’t want to be blamed for ruining a good steak.

Good Eatin’ – Provolone Valpadana

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 746/751Food item: Provolone Valpadana

I had already prepared to have to pay out of the nose for this cheese. For some stupid reason I didn’t buy some of this when I spotted it in La Boqueria in Barcelona. Since then, the only time I had seen this cheese was online for £155 for a 3kg block. Then fortune smiled on me. After my failed attempt to find Ardrahan cheese, I managed to find a place that offered this provolone cheese for about $4… so I bought two types of provolone Valpadana.

So, what are these two types? Well firstly there’s the dolce, which means sweet in Italian. A bit of a misnomer as there is nothing sweet about it, but it is a milder version that is softer and far more springy. It feels more like the type of cheese that you might use on a pizza or in a hot sandwich. Also, yes I know dolce also means ‘mild’ in Italian when used for cheese; I just enjoy words.

Then there is the piccante version, which means piquant or spicy. The texture, whilst still sligtly springy, lacks the rubberiness of the dolce version. In fact it has the start of a crumb, which moves it from being like mozzarella and into something more like Caerphilly. The taste is also quite different, with the extra maturing time and the introduced lactase givine it a lightly acidic taste (that’s also slightly oily). It would definitely still work as a melter cheese, but I think it would need to be with something strong like steak or smoked pork in order to truly shine.

Sometimes it’s good to wait with these food items as it gets you a better deal. Others… well I need to find a solution to the Ardrahan issue at some point. Maybe I’ll find a similar cheese from the same region and so a posthumous crossing off.

Good Eatin’ – Monkfish Liver on Crackers

So, a few days ago I made an enquiry into where to buy the final Irish cheese for the food list. I thought that since this cheese didn’t have far to go, it would be an easy one to cross off. Then I got this e-mail:

So… that means this list has become impossible to complete. I have asked the cheesemonger for their recommendation of a similar cheese so I can cross this food off in spirit. So, yea… I think I need to evaluate just how many of these are things I won’t be able to eat – whether it be down to ceased production, ceased growing or an embargo on harvesting.

Anyway, onto something a bit more positive.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 745/751Food item: Monkfish Liver

Oh, so what did you have as a late night snack whilst watching Review With Forrest McNeilI? Why, it was monkfish liver on Italian lingue crackers. Sounds a bit highfalutin, especially when I think how expensive monkfish steaks, but this tin was just over 3€ from the same website that I bought the figatellu from.

Honestly, there was a bit of trepidation as I opened this can. You’d think that after eating lamb’s brain and bull testicle I would have become a bit more cavalier about things. Then again, it isn’t every day you eat fish liver.

I’ve seen it written that monkfish liver is the foie gras of the sea… which isn’t the best thing to bring to mind as I didn’t think too much of foie gras. I guess that what struck me first about the monkfish liver was just how soft it was to slice, it was softer than butter.

The liver itself was rich and unbelievably mild. It had a mildly briny taste and aroma which came alive when it was topped with a pinch of salt on top and when served on a lightly salted cracker. Since the hub didn’t like it too much, I had to to eat the whole thing myself. To be honest, a whole tin made me feel a little bit sick. I guess it was just a bit too rich for me to eat in large amounts.