Saturday, February 20, 2010

A three course dinner in an hour


I invited a friend for dinner yesterday. I organized a four course dinner, and with a few easy solutions it did not take too much time. Preparing the food did not take more than an hour, and my oven took care of the rest.

Vol-au-vent with porcini stew

Vol-au-vents are puff pastry shells to be used for different stews. I prepared a stew made from dried porcini mushrooms picked by my brother at Langøya in Northern Norway. I soaked them in hot stock for 20 minutes.

I made a traditional stew from melted butter, flour, and the stock that had extracted the flavour from the porcini mushrooms. I balanced the flavours with sherry, a little sherry vinegar, single cream (20%), and truffle oil.

I added the mushrooms at the end, allowing them to cook for a few minutes. Then I cooled the stew.

I cut the top off the vol-au-vents, scooped out the excess pastry. Filled in the stew. Topped it with grated mozzarella, and baked it in the oven until the cheese had melted. Yum!!!!

Liveche chicken with Dijon mustard, tarragon and Parma ham

I have made this recipe before. This time I made a little twist by using some additional ingredients.

I placed the chicken in an oven proof dish, added a liberal amount of mustard and sprinkled dried tarragon over the mustard.

Then I placed two thin slices of Parma ham on top. I added a tbsp of butter in the bottom of the dish, and covered it with tin foil. I placed the dish in low oven (120C / 250F) for 4 hours.

I served the chicken with small oven roasted potatoes with herbs and garlic and baby carrots that I baked with the chicken the last hour.

I bought a packed of ready made sauce, as I did not want too much fuzz this Friday evening. The herb sauce produced by Stange was extraordinary good, and I added extra flavour by adding sherry and the rest of the porcini.

Chocolate cup with rum cream and raspberries

This is the easiest dessert I have made, and it was a success.

Use ready made chocolate cups, I did! I Use custard or rum cream as base for the fruit.

I placed fresh raspberries on top. A thin drizzle of icing sugar would have been appropriate.

You could make it even more delicious by pouring cooled jelly over the berries.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Riad Moulay Said - Marrakech


If traveling to Marrakech it is absolutely worth considering to stay in a Riad. These smaller hotels located in the Medina, the old part of the city, has a particular magic. Behind often old, decaying facades you will find beautiful secluded courtyard with rooms on each side. These traditional hotels are found in all prices, from the most luxurious to the quite inexpensive.


We discovered Riad Moulay Said, a reasonably priced Riad as we strolled down Riad Zitoun Kedim, a narrow street leading from Djemaa el Fnaa into the Kasbah area.

It had a sign outside, offering free tours of the Riad and you could use the swimming pool for 60 dirhams (€5). We decided to see what it had to offer.

All the rooms were centred around two courtyards, one with a beautiful swimming pool, where you could cool down in the shade during the hot North African days.

The other courtyard had a beautiful green oasis with palm trees, acacias, orange trees and other exotic plants. We were only 200-300 yards away from all the commotion in the dirty street outside, but inside Riad Moulay Said we were a world away, quiet and secluded.

The rooms were dark, and modest in size, but very clean and well maintained. When staying here, breakfast is included in the price. We were very surprised by the price. They started at € 45 per room.

I checked with tripadvisor and found three reviews from former guests. Two of three rated it as excellent, whereas the third found much to put his fingers on.

One of the happy guests wrote:
"But go soon, the riad will always be there but Marrakech is changing rapidly with a great deal of new building extending out from the city. The traditional way of life in the Medina may be affected by these new developments in the future, but for now it remains a very special, and Riad Moulay is just the place to experience it."
Sounds reassuring to me. I was so captivated by the Riad Moulay Said, that I there and then decided that I would return and stay here the next time I visit Marrakech.

More on Marrakech


See introduction to Marrakech and map here

Thursday, February 18, 2010

AirBaltic launch non-stop flights Tromsø - Riga


There is good news for the citizen of Tromsø, the capital of Northern Norway. From March 30th they may fly non-stop to Riga three times a week.

The airport have three international non-stop flights. The service to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk is operated by Nordavia while the non-stop flight to London-Gatwick is run by Norwegian Air Shuttle. The latter has not been a success, and Norwegian Air shuttle is considering shutting down this service.

It is AirBaltic that will start this new service, leaving Tromsø Airport every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, returning from Riga every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. The air carrier will use a Boeing 737-500 on the 2 hour and 30 minute flight.

Air Baltic is expanding in Norway and is currently running non-stop flights to Riga from Oslo, Stavanger and Bergen Airport.

Other AirBaltic stories
Other stories on Riga
(Photo: JuergenL)

Ryanair flights from Haugesund 2010 season


View International non-stop flights from Haugesund Airport - status December 2009 in a larger map

Ryanair are making some adjustments on their flight schedule to Haugesund airport. Bad news if you flying to London Stanstead. Good news is that there will be seasonal flights to Scotland in 2010.

Last summer Ryanair had 4 weekly flights from Haugesund Airport to London Stanstead. There will be flights to London from April 2010, but only twice a week.

The budget air carrier will also start flights to Prestwick Airport outside Edinburgh.

This means that the schedule from Haugesund Airport in 2010 will have the following non-stop flights.

  • Alicante
  • Bremen
  • Edinburgh
  • London Stanstead
Haugesund on Enjoy Food & Travel
Latest Ryanair stories
(Photo: Abutcher15)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

M3 CLOSEDIn cod we trust!

This Sunday, I went back to M4 Mat & Bar for Sunday dinner. They had fried cod with mash, grated carrots and remoulade on the menu. What a dainty dish!

Less is more, is motto when preparing good food from scratch. High quality ingredients should be the primary source of taste in with only basic seasoning to enhance the existing flavours.

I love fish, and I was thrilled when I discovered that fried codfish was on the menu at M3 Mat & Bar that day, served with home made mash, and remoulade.

When I tucked into this dish, It dawned on me why this small tavern slowly is turning into my favourite place to dine in Oslo - good service, and simple, traditional, great food.

The cod was no exception from my earlier experiences at M3 Mat & Bar - perfect, nicely brown, firm but flaky. The mash had those reassuring chunks, clearly telling me that this was nothing out of a packet.

And home made remoulade, rich, tasty mayo with chopped raw onions and pickled cucumber.

That Sunday dinner was wicked.......

If you live on, or visit Oslo, and urge for a nice treat, genuine Scandinavian grub, M3 Mat & Bar is the place. The food is awesome, and prepared in a way hardly found anywhere in the Norwegian capital. No towering presentations, no drizzled balsamic vinegar, but honest cooking as my mother would have done.

More on M3 Mat & Bar:
See location of M3 Mat & Bar on this map


View Oslo on Enjoy Food & Travel - from A-Z in a larger map

Massimino's Cucina Italiana - Boston MA


While walking in Boston during lunch time a day in September, a stranger recommended Massiminos's Cucina Italiana as an excellent place for lunch. Excellent? When looking back, I do not think so. Great location and reasonable price, but the rest of the experience was average.

Location: BBBB

Massimino's Cucina Italiana is located in 207 Endicott Street, in Boston's North End, a short walk away from Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market and other attractions in the historic part of Boston. Endicott street is a typical street in this area, a narrow lane with colonial style red brick buildings lined along it.

Interior & Amosphere: BBB-

Massimino's Cucina Italiana has an interior found in a million other Italian restaurants around the world. Mustard coloured walls with marble and terracotta tiles, rustic lamps.

A large number of wooden chairs and tables filled the room to capacity, and I would guess the room would feel over crowded during peak lunch and dinner time.

It felt more like being in a bathroom rather than an Italian tavern.

Tables nicely set with napkins, cutlery and glasses ready for the guest to arrive. I was, however the only to be there, as it had just opened for business, and one other guest arrived after me.

Service: BBBB

Reasonably good service. No heartily welcome from the staff, but I ordered swiftly, and did not have to wait long to be served. Why should I? I was the only person there.....

Food: BBB

I love gnocchi, and I was tempted to order the gnocchi al forno ($6,95) , and I did not have to wait long to be served.

It looked appetizing enough. The gnocchi were served in an oven proof dish, and the dish had been prepared in a proper oven, as the gnocchi were delicately golden brown on top.

Tucking into the bowl, I was first surprised and then disappointed. This was far away from the ultimate gnocchis. They had the strangest texture, possibly under cooked and they had a strange, sticky consistency.

Gnocchis are made from flour, eggs and potatoes, and these tasted of flour with no additional seasoning. The tomato sauce did not taste much either, neither garlic, nor sufficient sugar or salt. I had to add more seasoning, and even asked for extra Parmesan in order to heighten the experience further. This did not, however, make the meal more memorable.

Beverage: N/A

Rating the Massimino's Cucina Italiana experience: BBB+ (3,39 points)

Good location, but Massimino's Cucina Italiana is hardly the place for a memorable meal, or an interesting rustic Italian interior. Decent service and reasonable prices. Do not order gnocchi, but you may be more lucky with another choice from the menu.

I, however, will not revisit.

Address:
Massimino's Cucina Italiana
207 Endicott Street
Boston MA
Phone: +1 617 523 5959
Website: http://www.massiminosboston.com/

More memorable gnocchi moments on Enjoy Food & Travel
More to see at Boston's North End - see this map


View New England on Enjoy Food & Travel 2006 - 2009 in a larger map

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Skinny House - Boston

When I walked the Freedom Trail to its end in September, I stopped at Copps Hill Burial Ground. When I turned around, I looked into this strangely looking wooden building, squeezed between two large red brick buildings. Little did I know, at that point, that I was facing one of Boston's less known landmarks - the Skinny House!!

Its origin goes back to the 1860's - the time of the American Civil war. It is said to be built as a Spite House, i.e. a house built to uphold a small piece of land, and to irritate other people with land stakes.

There are two stories explaining this existence of this strange building.

One says that the Skinny House was built by one out of two brothers sent out as a soldier, and upon his return found that his brother had built a large house taking up most of the land, leaving him with a small plot. He was said to have built it to ruin the view from his brothers house.

Another source says that the Skinny House was erected around 1874 as a part of a feud between two neighbours. The plot appears strangely enough in The Hopkins Atlas of 1874, Boston Proper which may support the last story.

The Skinny House plot is, even in a city area with little space, tiny. The interior space has a width of between 6 and 9 feet, and at the narrowest point a grown up man may touch both walls with his fingers.

Sadly, you may not enter, but if you walk the Freedom Trail, you may turn around and take a peek of 44 Hull Street yourself.

Almoravid Qoubba - Marrakech

Close to the impressive Ali ben Youssef Mosque in Marrakech you find the Almoravid Qoubba. It is the oldest building in the city, going back nearly 900 years.

It is the only intact monument left by the Almoravid dynasty , except some of the old city walls of Marrakesh. Another monument left by the Almoravids is a minaret found in El Jadida or Mazghan, (Arabic:الجديدة "new"), a port city on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.

The Almoravid Qoubba escaped the widespread destruction by the succeeding Almohad dynasty. It was originally used for ablutions before prayer in the next-door Ali ben Youssef Mosque (relying on the revolutionary hydraulics of khatteras, drainage systems dug down into the water table), and also had a system of toilets, showers, and faucets for drinking water.

At the entrance and at the top of the prayer room is the inscription:

"I was created for science and prayer, by the prince of the believers, descendant of the prophet, Abdallah, most glorious of all Caliphs. Pray for him when you enter the door, so that you may fulfill your highest hopes."
The Qoubba was restored in the 16th and 19th century, before it was buried under one of the outbuildings of the Ali ben Youssef Mosque.

It was excavated from the rubble of the original Ali ben Youssef Mosque and Medersa in 1948. The fascinating building is resting on the 12th century city level.

You may admire the monument from the outside, or buy tickets at the nearby Marrakech city museum.

See the location of the
Almoravid Qoubba on this map of Marrakech


View
Marrakech A-Z 2010 in a larger map

Monday, February 15, 2010

What (not) to buy in Istanbul


Istanbul is a great place to shop. The biggest problem for us tourists is that there are so much beautiful to choose from, much at a very reasonable price, compared with what you would had to pay at home. If you travel by plane, you will have clear limitations to how much you are allowed to bring with you. My dream is to bring a car, and fill it up with goods. Here is information on what to buy, and what not to buy, when staying by the Bosporus.
  1. Carpets

    Carpets from Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries are on display in the Grand Bazaar and in many other areas in Istanbul. They vary in prices according to age, quality and provenance.

    Do look for Turkish kelims, as these colourful woven rugs are widely available, and you'll will always find one matching your taste and your budget.

    Do look for something you like, and do not believe all that the vendors try to tell you. When you have found the carpet you'd like to buy, you are expected to haggle. If you play your cards well, you can really get a bargain.

    Look around, and do not make up your mind immediately. Start haggling at half the offered price, and try to reach an acceptable middle ground. If you try to leave, you may strengthen your bid even further, and if you actually leave the shop, you may return the next day to an even better price.

  2. Astrakhan caps

    When I was a kid, many elderly men wore hats made from karakul pelts. In my home town this fur was called persianer, but in Istanbul it was called Astrakhan.

    I saw quite a few men wearing these hats in Istanbul, and I thought they looked so smart and distinguished. I decided to try to find one for myself, and I did find a shop, in the middle of the great bazaar. The many different hats were sold by a Russian, and they were expensive. 230 Turkish lire, or around €130 per hat.

    That was the point that even I managed to haggle, and the final price ended at 190 TL. If the vendor had not been Russian, I think I would have succeeded in getting an even better price. Now I wear my Astrakhan hat proudly, every day.

  3. Fez

    The Fez is the iconic Turkish hat, round with a flat top. If you do not want in astrakhan fur, a fez is an eccentric choice for those of you looking for a hat. It does not cost much, but may be difficult to bring, as it cannot be folded together.

    As I had bought my hat, the nearest thing I got to a fez, was when the staff placed this Turkish hat on my head during a photo session at Cennet restaurant in Sultanahmet. When seeing this pot-bellied man(read; me) in a fez, I fear that this is not my cup of tea.

  4. Silk slippers

    Another specialty are Turkish slippers, pointed and heavily embroidered, an all colours. You can get them in all qualities, from mass-produced, cheap (and clearly not silk) to the real thing, special made, high quality and very expensive slippers.

    Most of them are highly decorative, and absolutely a thing to buy for yourself or a gift. I bought a pair for my American cousin, as gift the next time I cross the Herring pond in September 2010.

  5. Colourful lamps

    Everywhere you find the most beautiful, colourful lamps in all sizes. Having one in your flat would provide a striking feature in your interior design. They are highly ornate, with brilliantly coloured glass.

    Sadly, they are often in sizes that make them difficult to bring home, if traveling on a plane.

    An alternative is to ask the store to pack and ship it for you. If choosing that option, do your shopping in a reliable shop. If not, you may risk that you pay a lot, without getting anything delivered to your door.

    I would LOVE to buy a pair of lamps for my flat the next time I visit Istanbul.

  6. Spices and herbs

    One of the best ways of bringing back a piece of Turkey, home with you is to buy spices and herbs. Then you can recreate some of the flavours you have enjoyed in your own kitchen.

    You can buy spices everywhere in Istanbul. The best place is the Spice Bazaar, also called the Egyptian Bazaar by the New Mosque close to the Galata Bridge. If you move towards the narrow streets surrounding the Rüstem Paca Mosque you'll find spice shops equally good, and much cheaper.

    What to buy? There is no shortage of different blends. I bought a large bag of Star Anise, dried mint, a strong spice mix for meat and dried mulberries.

  7. Ethnic jewelry

    Wandering around in the Grand Bazaar, you may find the strangest things for sale. I always look for something with character, that I can bring to our summer home. This time, I walked into some Turkmen merchants selling rustic jewelry.

    I looked through case upon case of beautiful rings, ornaments, bracelets, and pendants. I found a few ornaments that I suspect have been displayed on folk costumes. As I inquired their provenance, I was told that they were from the early to mid 19th century and originating from Afghanistan. This to avoid buying objects subjected to Turkish legislation on antiques.

    I immediately bought two pieces, and paid around 150 TL (€75), and when returning I will certainly see whether I could find more of this stuff

  8. Turkish Delights

    For those with a sweet tooth, you are recommended to buy a box (or two) of Turkish delights to bring home.

    These cubic, multi coloured sweets are made from starch and sugar and flavoured with lemon, mastic or roseater, and dusted with icing sugar in order for them not to stick to each other.

    They are around the city, and you can buy different sized boxes with your own selection, and you pay according to weight.

  9. AVOID: Antiques

    Turkey is an old country, and all over Istanbul you find shops selling antique carpets, icons, prints, paintings, maps, home decorations, furniture, glassware, old weapons.

    For those of you planning to buy antiques, be aware that it is strictly illegal to bring out artifacts made before 1900. The penalties are severe, and you are not to be tempted.

    There is also a large market for fake antiques, for sale at high prices. You may be tricked as well as punished if you try to bring out even a fake, if you believed it to be genuine.

  10. AVOID: Russian or Iranian Caviar

    I found this display of Russian and Iranian caviar in the Spice Bazaar. You may find these delicacies all around Istanbul, but I would never recommend anyone to buy them.

    A senseless quest for this delicacy has brought the sturgeon to the brink of extinction. For every box of caviar, big or small, you support an industry based on exploitation, and crime.

    So pass these shops - there are so much more delicacies to choose when going home.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Moroccan cuisine


I loved the Moroccan cuisine. I found a cooking based on a fascinating, eclectic mix of ingredients. Meats prepared with dried fruits, cinnamon, and fiery spices long roasted in rustic tagines. Light, fluffy couscous with chicken, or lamb, with an abundance of vegetables. Intriguing sausages with hot harissa, and pastilla, a crispy pie with a surprising twist. Moroccan cuisine is "like a box of chocolate - you'll never know what you'll get."

I knew the main elements of Moroccan cuisine. I was, however, surprised by the variation of spices, flavours, and heat. As Marocco is a Muslim country, you will never be served pork, as it is considered am unclean animal. We did, however, not miss that one moment.

Beef, lamb, and chicken was prepared to perfection, and there was a wide variety of fish dishes available. There was an abundance of vegetables, and food was prepared with skill according to traditions taking care of texture, taste, and balance.

Tagines

My favourites were the tagines, a wide variety of dishes named after the rustic terracotta pot they are prepared in. They are often found cooking over open fire. As they are allowed to cook for a long time, the tougher cuts of lamb or beef are most often used. Another ingredient used in tagines are chicken.

Cooking this way, the secret is (also always) in the other ingredients and the sauce. Moroccans use traditional vegetables blended with dates, apricots, figs, and an eclectic mix of spices as cloves and cinnamon, and additional sweetening as sugar or honey. All this creates exceptionally diversity in flavours from the more ordinary to the most exotic dishes with sweet perfumes and scents.

Texture vary from the most tender and succulent meats created by hours cooking, contrasted with crunchy almonds prinkled on top at serving.

Couscous

Couscous is a food consisting of granules made by shaping moist semolina wheat. They are then coated with finely grounded wheat flowers. It is for Moroccans, as pasta is for Italians, a very filling staple food.

Couscous is most often prepared in a couscoussière, a traditional steamer for this dish. Finely sifted grains of couscous is placed on top of larger pot for the meat, preparing all in one process. When the couscous is ready, you shape the grains into a large mound, pouring the liquid over, and arranging meat and vegetables on top.

I chose couscous for dinner twice, feeling completely stuffed to capacity after both meals, as this is seriously filling stuff. The meat and vegetables tasted more as a traditional stew, with less contrasting flavours and spices.

But you have to try couscous at least once, in order to get the whole culinary experience.

Pastilla and Harira soup


Occasionally you find local dishes that seriously challenge the distant part your culinary boundaries. Pastilla (above) is certainly one these.

Pastilla (pronounced "bastiyya"; Arabic: بسطيلة‎) is a pie found in different shapes in the Maghreb. It is made from warka dough shaped into very thin sheets of pastry. Sheet upon sheet is used to cover a pan to prepare a base for the filling.

On top of the warka dough you place pidgeon meat mixed with a savoury custard. The whole filling is seasoned with salt, sugar and spices. You can also get pastillas with other fillings.

Then you cover the top with more warka, before the the top of the pastilla is finished off with a sprinkling of sugar, cinnamon, and almonds, before it is lightly baked.

I had to try a Pastilla, at the Foundouk restaurant in Marrakech. It was an interesting culinary experience, but hardly one that I would do more than once. The pastry was extremely sweet, and the pastry was not salt enough to balance up for it.

Harira is another dish worth mentioning. It is a soup based on vegetables, lentils, meat and flavoured with Ras el Hainout (Arabic: رأس الحانوت‎), a popular blend of herbs and spices used across in the Middle East and North Africa. The name refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer. The soup is prepared with whatever ingredients available.

It is a very delicious dish, reminding me of an Italian minestrone, rich, tasty and sometimes very spicy. Do try it as a starter, we did several times, and we were surprised how differently they tasted at the different places.

At the restaurants Al Fassia and Le Fes in Marrakech, it was served with lime to squeezed over and sweet dates to be immersed in the soup.