Walking and Eating in Bologna

Our five days in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy went something like this – explore, culture, lunch, walk, culture, relax, supper, sleep, on repeat. It was wonderful. The days were bright and sunny and I could almost smell summer…..almost. We covered a distance, on foot, of 10 miles a day, which meant we could completely enjoy the food without any guilt of being a little bit piggy. We used Bologna as our base and then did day trips to Modena, Parma and Verona – all under an hours train ride away.

I chose a fabulous Airbnb in the old part of the city, which is where you will find the oldest university in the world. It had a wonderful little roof terrance with vistas across the whole of the city.

A stones throw from the apartment is the University Library of Bologna, which was founded by Luigi Ferdinando Marsili, a noble of Bologna, in 1712 as an Institute of Sciences. He endowed it with his own scientific collections, 900 oriental manuscripts and 120 manuscripts relating to his work. It was later enlarged in 1755 by Pope Benedict XIV with 25,000 printed volumes and 450 manuscripts. In the same year a copy of every printed work was ordered and the following year the library opened to the public. We were given a free private tour by a very enthusiastic undergraduate who was able to tell us all about the history of the beautiful library. I think they get few visitors so you will be treated royally if you visit.

Within 10 minutes of the apartment is a ‘quadrilateral’ of ancient narrow streets east of Piazza Maggiore, which is bursting with meat, cheese and produce sellers. It’s the type of place that makes your heart beat faster with excitement and your stomach begin to moan with hunger, even if you’ve just had breakfast!

Amongst these streets you will find a covered market – ‘Mercato di Mezzo’, where you can eat and drink local produce. It’s open every day and stays open until midnight.

This area is as close as you will come to experiencing Bologna street food, so is definitely worth seeking out. We had lunch there on more than one occasion.

We particularly loved Salumeria Simoni – I recommend ordering a charcuterie of delicious hams, salami and cheese washed down with a glass of chianti.

What better way to walk off lunch than by walking along the Portico di San Luca, which is one of the longest covered walkways in the world, numbering 666 arches and gaining 215 meters. It was built between 1674-1793 and is 3.8 km long connecting Porta Saragozza to the Santuario di Madonna di San Luca.

The portico walkway starts off nice and flat, which eases you in, but when you reach Meloncello Arch it begins to steepen. I won’t spoil the surprise, but lets just say the locals don’t need to join a gym if they complete this walk a couple of times a week. There are 15 chapels along its path so you can chapel crawl if you are so inclined. The view from the top is pretty spectacular and the light breeze was most refreshing.

After making it back into town we rewarded ourselves with a gelato – I opted for my favourite flavour ‘bacio’. Ridiculously good.

Refreshed and eager to see more of what Bologna has to offer consider climbing one of the medieval towers in town to get the best vistas of the city from the centre of the city. Bologna used to have hundreds of towers – a sign of its prosperity, today however only twenty are still standing. The most famous are ‘Le due Torri’ – the ‘Two Towers’ Torre Degli Asinelli and the Torre della Garisenda. For five euros you can climb the highest one, the Asinelli Tower.

It’s not for the fainthearted or unfit but the trek up is so worth it for the beautiful views.

On the hill in the far distance you can see Santuario di Madonna di San Luca. Thats a pretty good hike there and back before dinner. You’ve got to work up an appetite after all right?

Before heading out for supper you may want to have an aperitivo at Le Stanze. The location itself is worthy of a drink don’t you think?

We ate in a number of lovely places in Bologna. One of our favourites was definitely Cesari on Via De Carbonesi, 8. It is a family run restaurant with a relaxed and informal vibe with a good mix of locals and tourists. The food was excellent and as we were there out of season and arrived promptly after opening, we didn’t need a reservation. I would suggest however, that you book ahead if you can. What we often tend to do in a new city is scope out a place for dinner in the day and then make the reservation, but it’s up to you.

For pizza, Trattoria Belle Arti was perfect. In fact, their pasta dishes are also worthy of a mention. Whilst it may not win prizes for decor, it became our local as our apartment was virtually next door. They serve all the traditional dishes too – their brodo (tortellini in stock broth) was excellent as was there pasta bolognese and carbonara. It’s relaxed and informal and was always busy.

For super low key – sawdust on the floor kind of place (almost, but not really) is the Osteria Dell’Orsa. It’s basic, has all the obvious local dishes, communal wooden tables and is probably a good place to go if you are a small group or not wanting to splash out too much.

My sources also recommend the following for memorable meals:

Trattoria di Via Serra.


Osteria Bottega

After all this eating don’t forget to visit all the beautiful churches and Duomo and the fascinating 17th century anatomical theatre carved from spruce.

Travels in Cambodia – Siem Reap (part 1)

Cambodia is a wonderful country that is most definitely worth visiting, but you need to be aware that it is still trying to find its way in the world after the horrific genocide that was carried out by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime between 1976-1979 killing up to 3 million Cambodians. There is clearly a huge amount of wealth in the country, if the number of Lexus, Porche and Range Rover cars on the roads is anything to go by, but this wealth is clearly not trickling down to the average Cambodian. Corruption is evident and the coffers tourists give to see the Angkor Archaeological Park are not all going into the restoration of other ruins as this seems to be done by overseas organisation and UNESCO.

Also as there are still a huge amount of unexploded landmines around the country that will take years to uncover, so wandering off on hikes in jungles is best avoided unless you are with a guide who knows where is safe to walk.

Our trip was split into three sections:

Siem Reap – to visit many of the temples and see the floating villages on Tonle Sap – the largest fresh water late in South East Asia.

Phnom Penh – to visit the Royal Palace and temples, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the Killing Fields, the markets

Kep – in the south to relax and visit the crab market

Siem Reap

We stayed at the beautiful Heritage Suites Hotel nestled in a quiet location in Siem Reap, near Wat Polanka. Guests are often collected from the airport in one of their old classic Mercedes, very Agatha Christie don’t you think? The hotel is at the edge of town giving really easy access to the Angkor temple complex, which is around 15 minutes drive away. The day we arrived our guide arranged for us to collect our 3 day temple passes – worth doing to avoid crowds queuing to get theirs the next morning. There seems to be a wide range of places to stay in Siem Reap for all budgets. We ate at great place called ‘Chanrey Tree‘ which I would recommend and they also offer boutique accommodation which may well be worth checking out.

Angkor Wat is probably the most well known of all temples in Cambodia and whilst it is incredibly impressive there were heaps of tourists, which is a shame (although expected/pre-warned). We went mid morning and others at our hotel went before dawn  and said even then there were still huge amounts of tourists waiting for the sun to rise. So my advice is to definitely go and visit but make sure you spend time also seeing some of the others, which we found less crowded and in some cases there were only a few others wandering around the ruins. Ta Prohm and Bayon temple were our favourites. Both are featured in the “Tomb Raider” movie staring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft.

Ta Prohm looks as if it is almost being eaten up by either the silk-cotton, thitpok, gold apple and strangler fig trees.

Tree and brick entwine and almost hold each other up. Ta Prohm is an ancient Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university built between the 12th and 13th centuries by the Khmer king Jayavarman VII. The walls are decorated with deep bas relief of female divinities, devatas or apsaras. It’s pretty impressive.

Health and safety doesn’t really operate in Cambodia so you can scramble around as much of it as you want, just be vigilant that there aren’t any snakes hiding! You’ll certainly see bats.

At Bayon Temple (below) built at a similar time, it was the official state temple and its most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene smiling stone faces on the towers and upper terraces. Apparently there once 54 towers each with four gigantic faces so making a total of 216 faces. Now however, there are 37 stone towers in ruins.

As to who the faces are remains a debate. Many think that it is king Jayavarman VII who built the temple. He apparently created these faces as a dedication to Buddha.  Others believe it to belong to Bodhisattva (Buddhist enlightened being) of compassion known as Avalokiteśvara. As King Jayavarman identified himself with Buddha and Bodhisattva it makes sense that the faces are a combination of both.

Back in Siem Reap it is really easy to get around. All tuk tuk rides seem to cost $3 and it was a fun way to whizz around town. Siem Reap river runs through town and it was certainly easy to walk from our hotel to see some of the temples and markets.

Being on foot you often get to see Cambodians going about their daily chores up close. The one below we found rather fascinating.

We visited the Old Market, known as Psar Chaa which is a good place to pick up some kampot pepper and a host of other interesting spices. The food hall was interesting with beautiful produce on display, although the meat and fish section is probably not for the faint hearted.

It’s sells a lot of trinkets and tat but there is always the odd unique gift.  For scarfs and blankets head to ……..

As far as eating out is concerned “social enterprise eating” is very in vogue and should be supported. The restaurants provide a training for vulnerable young adults from poor rural areas, orphanages or safe shelters, which can then help them in the real world, giving them a chance to end the circle of poverty they are trapped in.

A couple to recommend (although there are many more) are:

Haven it took us about 10 minutes by tuk tuk from Heritage Suite Hotel

Marum Restaurant It is literally 2 minutes walk from Heritage Suite Hotel.

There is one street to avoid or head to, depending on your idea of a good time, called ‘Pub Street’. We did venture there one evening and had a great and very reasonable meal at Khmer Kitchen which served up all the Cambodian classics.

After a days touring you may want to rest up or visit a spa (there are so many in Siem Reap), but if you want to be entertained I can highly recommend a visit to Phare – which is Cambodias answer to Cirque de Soleil. They were really impressive and fun to watch. You can book tickets here.

The other trip we went on from Siem Reap was to the visit the floating villages on the freshwater lake (which looks rather brown!), known as  Tonle Sap.

Around 90% of those living on Tonle Sap are Cambodia’s ethnic Vietnamese (circa 700k) who are forced to dwell on the water in really poor conditions and with very little opportunities.  Apparently law restricts land to Cambodian citizens only, but this does not apply to the water – hence the ethnic Vietnamese populations move onto the water.  Many are living mere metres from land.

Fishing provides them with a small income, although they have to pay arbitrary taxes as they can’t prove they are in Cambodia legally. It all seems unjust and unfair and they are caught in a limbo situation.

The lake does provide food to eat, but the lack of basic sanitation is apparent and disease is rife. There were a few tourists at the part of the lake we went to, which brings some extra income for them, taking tourist on their boats out onto the lake. With little opportunity or investment one wonders how the cycle of poverty will ever end.

If you do make a trip please be sympathetic to the communities who live on the lake. Whilst I enjoyed this trip, I do have mixed feelings about the predicament they find themselves in.

My next post will be on  the capital – Phnom Penh and Kep in the south, so be sure to check back in next week.




































Mini-Break at ‘The Old Rectory On the Lake’, Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Ever fancy escaping the big smoke for a mini-break to endless hills, green pastures and killer views? Staying in a B&B, that even caters spectacularly for supper on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (and Thursday if you ask nicely), that is nestled on the edge of a picturesque lake and where the sound of sheep, birds and perhaps the odd otter diving into said lake, is the only noise you will hear for miles around. If peace, fresh air and stretching your legs is what you are after, I have just the place for you.

Nestled in the southern part of  Snowdonia National Park, in Wales, is The Old Rectory on the Lake (the lake in question is Tal-y-Llyn) owned by the jovial raconteur John and his talented chef partner Ricky, who together work as a dynamic duo making sure guests are well fed and watered at the start and the end of each day.

John is on hand to help guests get the most out of their stay with helpful suggestions on which walks to go on, depending on the weather on that day, or other places of interest in the vicinity. Having owned The Old Rectory for the past 12 years he is very well tapped into the local knowledge of the area.

Waking up to this view every morning is pretty special don’t you think?


For those who prefer a gently amble to a demanding hike, walking around the lake will take about an hour and there is lots to see. The weather changes so rapidly in this area that in a single day you can go through cloud, rain, wind and sun. As long as you come dressed prepared for the elements then there really is nothing to worry about.

In the space of a short time the weather went from this


…to this sunset across the lake. Pretty stunning.


Just behind the B&B is Cader Idris – the second most popular mountain in Wales after Snowdon. Those who have climbed both claim that Idris is more challenging. You can climb it directly from the hotel, but instead we opted for the easier route via the ‘pony path’, so drove around a few peaks to the town of Dolgellau, where we left our car in a small car park at the base of the hike.

The hike is demanding at times, but we went at a gentle pace – our youngest is only 7 yrs old. Once we had reached the ridge by the very top the wind had come from nowhere, which prevented me and my daughters from clambering up the final 5 mins, for fear of being blown off the mountain – literally.  Mr B – my husband – quickly managed to nip up and take the obligatory photo from the top.

Anyway it felt like a huge achievement – 4h 30 mins walk – 6 miles. Back at The Old Rectory we relaxed in the hot tub to rest our weary limbs, drank tea and readied ourselves for supper.



(view from Precipice walk, which we did on another day – definitely worth walking this one too)

Each evening we were treated to a three course affair that had been cooked by Ricky, who clearly has huge passion and flair for cooking. It’s not often that you stay at a B&B and be treated to restaurant quality food – think Welsh lamb, confit leg of duck, seabass, beef and the most warming and flavoursome soups for starters (amongst other equally tempting sounding starters). Desserts were wide ranging: from mango creme brûlée, lemon tart, pancakes with fruits, chocolate fondants, to name a few. After a good days hike we felt we deserved such a feast! Breakfast also set  you up for the day with everything from a full English to smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, to eggs Benedict, as well as a plethora of fresh fruits, yoghurts and cereals.

It’s funny how quickly you relax into another routine and I think staying in The Old Rectory helped us do just that. From climbing peaks, to exploring old abandoned castles, visiting chapels, riding a steam train to the coast, walking stretches of wide sandy beaches and relaxing for a light lunch in Aberdyfi overlooking the sea.

Three days away and we felt we had been away for so much longer. It’s a four hour drive from London, although on the way back we drove cross country, stopping off at Hay-on-Wye for a browse around the bookshops


and the castle

before grabbing a bite to eat at Tomatitos tapas restaurant then making our way back to the bright lights of London town.


For rates and to book The Old Rectory On The Lake – press here. John and Ricky will delighted to meet you.

Please mention my blog if you make a booking.


chilliandmint paid full price when staying at The Old Rectory on The Lake. The views are my own and no discount was received to write this blog post!








Homemade Naan Bread, The Black Forest and The Knights Templar


Soft pillowy naan bread dunked into a bowl of dal has got to be THE ultimate comfort food. As those who have been reading my blog for sometime will know, whenever I return from holiday the first thing I cook is some dal. It’s quick, easy and you can determine the amount of fresh chilli that you put in it. There are so many dals you can make, but I often opt for  – red split lentil dal. You can add whatever vegetable you have to hand – tomatoes, peas, carrots – but I would advise not adding more than 2 max.img_4536-3

I had spent a week in the glorious Black Forest in the south west corner of Germany. Wifi is hit and miss – hence the lack of a blog post last week, apologies – so it allows you to unwind properly and relax in this beautiful part of the country. img_4524-3


The top of the hills were covered in snow, but down in the valleys the pastures were green, which gave us the option of walks in the meadows and through the forests or skiing at higher altitudes.


We were blessed with clear blue skies and warming winter sun. A stunning combination.


Whilst our days were spent out and about in the fresh air, our evenings were spent sitting by the roaring fires eating the local produce of venison, wild boar, cheese, breads, wine, an interesting salad leaf that can only be found in the Black Forest around February (name escapes me, but it was a cross between rocket and watercress) and Black Forest gateaux – naturally.



We drove from London, staying over for a couple of nights in Strasbourg on the way, admiring it’s impressive cathedral and quaint streets. In many ways in reminded me of Bruges or nearby Colmar – definitely worth a detour if you haven’t been.



Strasbourg is easy to explore on foot and has a number of museums and art galleries in close proximity. A boat trip on the waterways is also a must and helps you get your bearings.




To break up our homeward journey we stayed in Laon, in the region of Picardy. If medieval history is of interest to you then this place is an absolute must. We stayed in one of the old canon’s houses (there were  84 canons at one time living in Laon – it was the largest chapter in France in the 12th and 13th centuries) up in the attic with a view of the cathedral. Our airbnb host was a charming and well travelled French man who was keen to show us his eleventh century frescos and ruins in his cellar. The cellar stretched under the whole of his house and when we had seen what we thought was the extent of it, he revealed another doorway with steps leading further down to another level. We proceeded to explore this level and then found further steps leading to another level. It was a cavern within a cavern within a cavern.  It was without doubt the most incredibly historical cellar we have ever been in and an archaeologist/historians dream. Over the ages new floors were simply added – we could make out the old stables on one level. Apparently there are many passageways linking up the canon’s houses surrounding the cathedral. I imagine many of them are filled in or perhaps not yet discovered by their occupants living many metres above.


The Knights Templar spent much time both in Laon and the surrounding area. They built this magnificent church (above) modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1140. Unfortunately we only managed to spend a few minutes here before we were ushered out as it was closing time, so the museum that stands beside it will have to wait for a future visit.


The Cathedral itself is worth a visit and in fact it was what initially drew us to this hill top city a couple of years ago, as we could see it’s towers from miles away. Laon is only 80 miles north east of Paris and only a couple of hours from Calais so  it’s a good place to stopover before catching the Euro tunnel home.


Anyway enough of my travels and back to the matter at hand….naan bread. Believe it or not they are really easy to cook yourself. Making the dough is pretty straight forward and then you need to let it rest, in a warm part of your house, for 1-2 hours to let it increase in size.


Then it is simply a case of rolling out the naan into small, thin, oval shapes. You can add nigella (black onion seeds) or sesame seeds on the top or keep them plain. Sometimes I like to add a couple of teaspoons of garlic paste to make garlic naan. You can be as inventive as you like in all honesty.


I tend to cook mine in a frying pan – do not add any oil – but you can also cook them under the grill if you prefer, but be watchful as they bronze quickly.


It takes no more than a minute or so to cook them and then I add some melted butter on top. Equally if you prefer you can add some melted ghee or even milk.


My girls (and husband) love them both with a meal or an after school snack. Serve them warm and eat straight away. A wonderful treat and perfect for chilly February weather.


Homemade Naan Bread

makes around 9-10 naan bread

400g plain flour

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

5g dried yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg beaten

100g full fat plain yoghurt

100ml warm full fat milk

1 tbsp butter, melted

 optional: nigella/sesame seeds/fresh coriander as a topping

If you want to make garlic naan add a couple of tsp of garlic paste at the beginning and mix into the dough.

  1. In a large mixing bowl add the flour and then make a hole in the centre and pour in the oil, dried yeast, salt, sugar, baking powder and beaten egg.
  2. Mix gently using your hands and once it has become quite crumbly add the yoghurt and then continue to mix together.
  3. Now gradually add in the warm milk until all the mixture comes together.
  4. Remove from the bowl and place a little plain flour on a cold surface.
  5. Kneed the dough for 5 minutes until it become soft and pliable.
  6. Return to the bowl and cover with cling film and leave in a warm room for over an hour so that it can increase in size.
  7. When it is ready, split the dough into even balls and begin to roll them out thinly in oval shapes.  You may need a sprinkling of extra flour at this stage to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Pierce gently with a fork. If adding nigella/sesame seeds lay a few on the top and gently roll them into the top of the naan.
  8. Heat a non-stick frying pan. When it is properly hot add a naan bread and leave for around 20 seconds before turning over and leaving for a further 20 seconds. Turn once more for a few more seconds – or longer if it is not bronzing sufficiently.
  9. Remove from the pan and add a little melted butter to the top. Keep under a warm tea towel whilst you work on the remaining naan. As the naan’s I make are quite small I can often manage two in a pan at a time.



Rhubarb and Rosewater Tart and a visit to the Jurassic Coast

Fear not, my loyal subscribers, I have not abandoned you, although I realise it might have felt like that these past few weeks. Upon returning from my adventures in Turkey we headed off to the English south west coast, or to be precise, the Jurassic coast on the border of Dorset and East Devon. The old cottage, that we made our home for the week, was fairly remote and had no Wifi so there was no chance of blogging and also if the truth be told I was far too busy rock pooling, exploring coastal and in land walks, swimming – most refreshing although a little chilly upon entry but perfect after 15 seconds, playing board games and eating Devonshire cream teas.

We stumbled across characterful villages where time seems to have stood still and the same families have holidayed at the same place for generations. The weather can be a bit unpredictable but you can guarantee there is always adventures to be had. One such intimate village was called ‘Beer’ – we had to visit it out of curiosity. I liked the fact that the village still has an active fishing community and that you can actually buy fish direct from the fisherman.

Striped deck chairs are quintessentially English and I particularly loved this little advertising board – good honest advertising. Refreshing!

Boats waiting to be hired on the beach in Beer.

Cream teas and crab sandwiches in Beer  – things can’t get much better than this.

View from one of our many coastal walks


I gave swimming a pass on this day….

…………….but these guys just couldn’t resist a good storm

On our return journey we drove cross country in our bid to explore even more quaint, hidden away, little villages.  Not far from Milton Abbas – which is seriously worth a detour when you are next in Dorset – there is a charming little farm shop at Steeptonbill Farm, where we decided to stock up on supplies. We were greeted warmly by Tess who talked us through all the produce and meats. Seeing the sign in the right of the photo for ‘freshly pulled rhubarb’ gave me my idea for my next blog post.  I loved rhubarb crumble as a child but rarely eat rhubarb as an adult. It just so happens that I had stumbled across a recipe recently in House & Garden magazine for ‘Rhubarb and Rosewater tart’ and the combination intrigued me enough to try it out.

All the recipes on this blog, unless stated, are ones that I have cooked a number of times and work well. This recipe however was my first effort and I definitely think I could perfect the results further on my next try. The most important step with this recipe, which I found out a little too late, is to not overcook the rhubarb to begin with. The House & Gardens recipe states simmering the rhubarb in the dissolved sugar, water and rosewater for 8-12 minutes. I found that I cooked mine for less than 8 minutes and it was beginning to lose its shape. So my advice is to keep checking every 2 minutes when it is simmering; by 6 minutes it should almost be done.

You can see what I mean if you look at the bottom left hand side of the tart, which is more how I wanted the whole tart to look compared to the far right side which has rhubarb that has lost its shape.

What it lacked in presentation it certainly gained in taste. I hope you will think so too.

Don’t look too close at this photo, but you can see what I mean regarding the rhubarb loosing its shape on the middle to right of the tart.

You’ll find that you will end up with excess rhubarb and rosewater syrup so take a look at Heidi’s (from 101 Cookbooks) suggestions here on what to do with the leftover syrup.

Rhubarb and Rosewater Tart

Sourced from House & Garden July 2011 issue

Serves 6-8

150g caster sugar

250ml cold water

4 teaspoons rosewater (see another recipe on my blog using rosewater – here)

850g rhubarb, trimmed cut into 3cm pieces

250g ready-made puff pastry

handful of plain flour for rolling out the pastry

1 egg, whisked

300ml whipping cream

1. Wash, cut and trim the rhubarb into 3cm pieces.

2. Gently heat a deep pan with the cold water, sugar and rosewater so that the sugar completely dissolves; this will only take a couple of minutes.

3. Place the rhubarb into the dissolved sugar and water and simmer  for 6 minutes, remembering to cover the pan. You want to make sure the rhubarb is soft BUT  still holds its shape. If after 6 minutes the rhubarb is still firm, continue to heat for another couple of minutes until it has softened.

4. While the rhubarb is simmering, roll out the puff pastry so that it measures a rectangle of 35 x 25cm. Place onto a slightly larger piece of greaseproof paper.

5. Using a slotted spoon lift the rhubarb out of the syrup and place on a flat plate. With the remaining syrup continue to heat it on a high heat so that it is reduced, but that there  is at least 6 tablespoons of rhubarb rosewater syrup.

6. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, if using a fan oven, 20 degrees hotter if not or mark 6.

7. Arrange the rhubarb on the puff pastry leaving a boarder of 2.5cm. I find it is easiest to make a slight mark with a knife all the way around so that it is fairly uniform.

8. Before placing in the oven brush with egg mixture around the boarder.

9. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes so that the pastry is puffed and golden. Leave to cool for five minutes.

10. When the tart is baking, pour the whipping cream into a large bowl and stir in 3 tablespoons of rhubarb rosewater syrup. Whisk until the cream thickens and peaks form.  Chill until ready to serve.

11. Brush the tart with the rhubarb rosewater syrup and serve hot along with the whipped cream.

Turkish Delights and Coban Salatasi

I have just returned from two glorious weeks spent exploring Turkey’s ancient Lycian Peninsula, which is in the south west of the country, by the warm azure waters of the Mediterranean.

The area is steeped in history with numerous ruins and tombs dating back over 2000 years. I couldn’t help thinking when I was exploring  and clambering all over these ruins (no health and saftey in Turkey!) that our Stonehenge is well, how can I put this delicately, a little underwhelming, if you compare it to all the ancient Lycian ruins. In the cooler months (April and October) guided walks are on offer through Lycia taking in the ruins of lost civilizations, the flora and fauna of the mountain passes and ambling through the charming Turkish villages, many of which seemed to have stood still in time. Perhaps not an adventure to take on with small children but definitely on my to do list for the future.

Ruins of Patara 

We did however, get the chance to soak up the ruins of: Letoon, which was the main religious centre of Lycia, Xanthos – the captial city of Lycia in the late Hellenistic and Roman times, Patara – an ancient city party submerged (ready to be truly discovered) under 12km of sand dunes, Tlos with its spectacular rock tombs carved out of the rock face and Kekova – the sunken city from 2000 years ago. At Kekova you are forbidden to swim and snorkel as the treasures from the old town are there for you to see clearly from a glass bottom boat or canoe. It was quite easy to see the  pots as we sailed gently passed.


Patara’s impressive amphitheatre

Tlos amphitheatre beneath the Taurus mountains

In a bid to absorb ourselves in authentic Turkey as opposed to full on ‘tourist Turkey’, we based ourselves slightly in land, firstly in the Kaya valley and the following week high up in the Taurus mountains. Both locations where a stones thrown from the glorious beaches but far enough away so that we were able to sample another calmer, slower side to Turkey.

Cooler breezes gave us welcome respite from the coast and we enjoyed seeing how the locals pass their days.

our neighbour with her goat

On a couple of days we managed to hire a boat for the day (complete with on-board cook – result!) so that we could see the coast line from the waters and swim in sheltered bays only reachable by boat.

Pretty harbour at Ucagiz

I was amused to see a local selling ice cream from his boat, similar to the one I had seen a few weeks previously on the south coast in England. Clearly all the rage around the world!!

The absolute highlight of our time on the water was when Big A and Little Z both caught rather large fish at the same time. We were all so thrilled by this, even the Captain was impressed as I think he did not think they would catch anything using the hand held real as opposed to a rod. We took them to the local town where they gutted and grilled them for us so that we could have them for lunch. It was great for the girls to see the full cycle of catching a fish and then having it washed, cleaned and gutted before being grilled and then eaten, all within a couple of hours of being caught. Wonderfully fresh and we all agreed, very tasty. We weren’t too sure what the fish were exactly but they tasted delicious and the girls were delighted at being such able fisherwomen. Definitely a life long memory.

The morning’s catch!

When abroad I always enjoy discovering the different local foods and dishes on offer, as well as the spices and herbs that are commonplace.

At the spice market I bought: pink peppercorns, sumac, pul biber  (dried flaked pepper), dried mint tea, a marinade for fish

Turkey is bountiful with wonderful fruit trees bursting with offerings, some ready now – such as figs, grapes, peaches and cactus fruit (prickly pears) and others not quite ready for a month or two – namely pomegranate. I discovered the carob fruit that was completely new to me but I immediately took a liking to its sweet chewy undertones.

Carob fruit in centre of photo – they look like large vanilla pods.

I discovered that it has been cultivated for over 4000 years and that is also known as ‘St John’s bread’ or ‘locust bean’ as the pods were mistaking thought to be the ‘locusts’ eaten by John the Baptiste in the wilderness – although this was proved to be wrong as he ate migratory locusts. It has a honey taste to it and is in fact used as a substitute to sugar. I am certainly going to seek out the powder form and try baking with it this autumn – watch this space. Another interesting fact is that the beans are ground down to make a cocoa substitute, that although slightly different tasting, has a lot less calories and virtually fat free. It is also packed with vitamins (A, B, B2, B3, D). Check out this website which will tell you in more details about the carob fruit’s benefits. I also like John’s youtube summary of the fruit. I would love to grow a carob tree here in the UK, but I fear that our sporadic sun shine may not help it thrive like the ones in the Mediterranean and in California.

The girls discovered a new treat known as ‘gozleme’, which is basically Turkey’s answer to an Italian calzone. The dough is rolled out on a round surface and then half of it is stuffed with a contents of your choice – we liked spinach, feta and potatoes and then folded over to create a crescent. This is then put onto a hot circular surface that is heated underneath by an open fire. The whole process was mesmerizing to watch and the finished snack was polished off in no time at all.

Preparing our gozleme

As the weather was ridiculously hot, salads became a staple at meal times. The most popular salad in Lycia seemed to be ‘Coban Salasti’ otherwise known as ‘Shepherd’s Salad’. It appeared on every menu and is ridiculously easy to make and perfect in hot weather. The trick is to cut the vegetables up  really small – far smaller than I would normally when making a salad.

Coban Salatasi – Shepherd’s Salad

Serves 4

2 large tomatoes (or 3 small), finely chopped

3 Turkish green peppers (the long thin ones), finely chopped

2 small cucumbers, finely chopped

1/2 (half) a white onion

1 large handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1. Finely chop all the ingredients into a large bowl and gently mix together.

2. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and season to taste and serve.

So what have you been up to this summer? Any food foraging or discoveries in foreign lands? Don’t be shy and leave a message below, I’d love to hear from you.


Stunning Bali – in every sense

Bali Landscape

We returned very late last night from our galavanting in the tropics. Bali continues to be heavenly and a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan London. Although we have only been away for just over two weeks it seriously feels that we have been away for a month or so. We have experienced so much and met some wonderful characters who added to the charm of the trip. The slower pace of life, the culture, landscape, food and general cheeriness of the Balinese people makes Bali a fantastic holiday destination if you are seeking some serious time out and a change of scenery. Our taste buds went into overdrive sampling local cuisine: from babi guling (suckling pig) to tongkol sambal matah (grilled tuna in shallot and lemongrass dressing) to burbur injin (Balinese black rice porridge with banana) – yes can you believe it I actually really liked a pudding. Watch this space and I will be sharing some of these recipes with you over the coming months. I may pass on the babi guling as that may be tricky for me to replicate quite so easily, but I will certainly be showing you a number of other dishes, as well as sambals and marinades.

I don’t know about you but when I’ve been eating the same type of food over a prolonged period (ok maybe two weeks isn’t prolonged, but you get my drift right?) no matter how tasty it is, I really yearn for different kinds of food. I recall holidaying in Italy a number of years ago and after two weeks of eating pasta – which was divine mind you – Mr B and I sneaked off to one of the Chinese restaurants in Florence to fill our bellies with some spicy food. We felt a little guilty but enjoyed our chilli kick. I am kind of getting that same feeling now that I have returned to England, so rather that rushing to replicate all those delicious dishes I experienced, I will put them up gradually.

As we are all suffering from jet lag I’ll put up a new recipe later this week. In the mean time I will leave you with a few photos taken in Bali.

Its good to back. Having hot humid weather is great, but I’m a sucker for the seasons and even though the rain has just kicked in, this temperature suits me.


I particularly like this photo of the gecko as you can see the reflection of the beach and sea if you look closely at the centre of the photo.







Ever thought your shopping bags were heavy to carry? Well spare a thought for these ladies who swiftly walked by me with their heavy loads. Incredible.

We are off to the island of the gods


Our family summer holiday beckons. We are heading to the island of the gods – or as it is more recognisably known, Bali. Its been over a decade since Mr B and I have visited this wonderful island and we felt it was time to return, this time with big A and little Z in tow. Its a long way from London town, but we feel that the marathon journey is worth it when we get to this lush green island. We are heading for the jungle first for a week where we hope to be woken by the morning calls of unfamilar wild life. There will be lots to explore and the rhythm of daily life will change considerably. It will do all of us the world of good – well that’s the plan anyway.

I am not so sure how easy it will be for me to blog, so apologies in advance if it is not as frequent as you are use to. I am hoping to adopt some new recipes on my travels and any that make the grade I will certainly share with you.

When going on a journey it is comforting to have a few home comforts or in my case, home made morsels, to nibble on during the flight/drive/sail (delete as appropriate!). These parmigiano reggiano caraway (thats quite a mouthful!) biscuits should go down a treat with the girls and Mr B in moments of hunger on the flight. You can make the same biscuits with cheddar cheese as well, just use whatever variety of hard cheese needs eating in your fridge, and in my case its parmigiano reggiano. There are a number of potential ‘extras’ you can add to the biscuits, such as caraway, sesame or poppy seeds or chilli flakes on the outer rim so experiment and see which you like the best. Within the biscuits themselves I would also add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, but since the girls will be eating them, and we are going on a journey, I will keep them as plain and simple as possible whilst retaining their moreish quality.


They are great to freeze – pre cooking – so make a large amount and bring out the rolls as and when you need them. I also find they are great as a little canape when hosting dinners.

Parmigiano-Reggiano Caraway Biscuits

Makes between 50-60 small round biscuits

125g parmigiano reggiano (or any hard cheese – cheddar works equally well), grated

125g cold butter

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper, optional

1 egg

pinch of salt

2 tbsp of caraway seeds

1. For speed and ease I tend to use my blender and I literally put all the ingredients in together and whizz for around 30 seconds and by this time all the ingredients have come together to create a dough like ball. If you are doing it all by hand then sift the flour and then mix in the butter, cayenne pepper and salt with your finger tips to create a bread crumb consistency. Then add the grated cheese and the egg, which should then help to bind the ingredients together. If it is too dry then add a tsp of water or if it is too wet then add a little more flour to bind it all together to create a ball.

2. Place on a floured surface and knead so that the ingredients are well bound together.


3. Roll out your dough into a long sausage shape and cut in two if necessary. Then using either greaseproof paper or cling film place the rolled dough in the centre and spread the caraway seeds over the dough. It is best to gently roll then over the seeds so that they are spread as evenly as possible.



4. Wrap the dough in the greaseproof paper or cling film and either put straight into the freezer to use at a later date or place in the fridge for few hours. You will find that it holds together and is better to cut once it has had some time to rest in the fridge.


5. After some time in the fridge, unwrap the dough and slice it evenly into small biscuits using a sharp knife.

6. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and while it is heating up grease a baking tray and evenly spread out the biscuits.

7. Place in the oven between 8-10 minutes. They are ready just as they are beginning to bronze. Be careful not to overcook, so do check regularly. They are delicious warm or will store for a few days in an airtight container.

I couldn’t resist this last shot when little Z’s hand crept into the photo frame eager to try one of the biscuits.