Sunday, June 21, 2015

Istanbul - Where Orient Meets Occident

Just close your eyes and imagine a far away place where Orient meets Occident, where a bridge connects Asia with Europe, where the old Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Osmans erected stunning buildings and now people from all over the world come to visit, admiring it's beauty.
Got the picture? No more guessing, it's Istanbul the former Constantinople, Capital of the East Roman Empire.
The sights, sounds and scents of the city are amazing.
When you walk through Istanbul, open not only your eyes but experience the place with all your senses.
So many long gone Empires ruled here and left their traces, the stunning Byzantine Hagia Sophia , one of the most beautiful  buildings the world has ever seen, the amazing Blue Mosque, The Basilica Cistern, for sure the world's most beautiful water reservoir.
After hours of strolling through the city, visiting the many sights it has to offer, we decided to experience the ambience of Istanbul,  enjoying a Turkish coffee at the garden of the Archeological Museum.
Surrounded by stunning vegetation, it's a place where time and the noise of modern Istanbul  stand still for a precious moment and the old Greek columns, sarcophagus and sculptures seem to speak to the visitors.
The nights are long in Istanbul and in the evening there are many restaurants serving excellent Turkish cuisine making it quite difficult which one to choose.
Pricy roof top bars with amazing views invite visitors to sip drinks and enjoy the amazing views over the city.  
Later, trendy nightclubs for the young and beautiful ones open their doors with the beat of Arabic and International Dancefloor music.
The next morning, I would recommend you to try some Anatolian Breakfast to recover your energies. It offers different kind of fruits, veggies, cheese, Philo past filled with spinach or cheese and wonderful honey with fresh made yogurt, the perfect treat to start a new day.

The perfect beauty of Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century.
It's central dome was often interpreted as the dome of heaven itself.

The splendor of the Ottoman Empire captured in this room at the Topkapi Palace.

Charms and decorations, used to repel the evil eye.

A colorful selection of hand made soaps.

Tasting Turkish Coffee at the Grand Bazaar

Sharing ou breakfast with this cute little fellow

A huge variety of bath sponges on display

The right ilumination for 1001 nights

The legendary Blue Mosque

Having tea at the garden of the Archeological Museum

Rich sweets made of honey and pistaccios called rightfully Turkish Delights

A symphony in blue at the Topkapi Palace

 Freshly made bread at a restaurant

The old city seen from the Bosphorus side

Our last evening at Istanbul - dinner at a friend's place with a to die for view over the city and the sea

Places to visit:
Hagia Sophia-
Chora Church -, one of my favorites, it-s mosaics are stunning. Unfortunatly, the main part is under restauration until 2016, but the entrance, which is open to the public is worth the visit.
 Basilica Cistern -
Blue Mosque -
Topkapi Palace -
Insider Tip:
-A beautiful place to enjoy Turkish tea or coffee is the garden of the Archeological Museum
-Instead of the quite pricy and very touristic Bosphorus cruises take one of the regular ferry boats - an enjoyable aprox. 2 hours boat trip at a moderate price.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Celebrating Spring With Music at Ernstbrunn Castle and Elderberry Delights

Ernstbrunn Castle in Lower Austria

Elder flowers in the castles gardens

Two weeks ago we left behind the grey winter days in Lima to enjoy spring time in Austria.
So far so good, sounds great to enjoy two summers in one year, travelling to nice places but the truth is we were living several days of pure chaos, stumbling around lots several pieces of luggage (3months is a long time) and trying to get organized.
Now we are finally settled down and enjoying the company of family, friends, spring, cultural events and culinary highlights.
Today is a holiday here in Austria and we made an excursion to Lower Austria, assisting to a wonderful concert in a fairy tale setting, the castle of Ernstbrunn situated in the soft hills of the region of Weinviertel.
The castle dates from the eleventh century and was constantly enlarged during the following centuries.
It actually belongs to the princely family of Reuss.
Beethoven, Reger and Mozart were on the program and the musicians members of the Viennese Philharmonics.
And as concerts make me hungry,a picnic in the shadow of flowering elder bushes with an out of this world view ended the day in style.
Elder flowers are in season here and there are so many wonderful drinks, jams and desserts made with them that it was a quite difficult choice which one to share with you.

 The outline of Castle Ernstbrunn dominates the landscape what you see here is the castle's back side, which dates from another, elder period then the front side. 

The entrance of the castle of Ernstbrunn

The code of arms

The second entrance gate

A deer watches over the staircase

Details of the ceiling

A beautiful Baroque sculpture shows us how to age gracefully

A room with a view

Another courtyard, sleeping beauty like, is waiting to be restaured

So many entrance halls - this one was my favorite ones.

The Festival hall where the concert took place. There is no electricity, just gorgeous candle light.

Concert programm

A rather grim ancestor watches over the festival hall.

Sleeping beauties - pot-bellied pigs at the nearby Wild Life Parc. Any suggestions for a diet?

La vie en bleu. Starting to unpack our Picnic.

A fairy tale view.

So romantic- a pair of weather beaten horse sculptures guarding the entrance to the garden

If you are interested about information regarding the castle and cultural activities go to:
Elder flower Delights:
*Elder flower and strawberry sorbet:
4 cups strawberries
1/cup boiling water
1 1/4 cup elder flower cordial
Zest of 1 organic lemon
Place all ingredients in a foodprocessor and process until combined.
Fill in a freezer safe container and place in the freezer for about 3 hours.
When the sorbet starts to freeze around the edges, take it out of the freezer and  place in a food processor, process until smooth.
Return the sorbet to freezer until ready to serve.
Serve in Coctail glasses, add 1/2 glass of Prosecco (optional) and decorate with fresh mint.
Serves 8-10 p.
*Recipe adapted from Donna Hay.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Easy And So good: Spanish Chorizo Chicken

Have you met "El Niño"?
El Niño means Christ Child and the term was originally used by Peruvian and Ecuadorian fishermen, referring to a warm current that spears around Christmas time the Peruvian and Ecuatorian coast and can last for several months.
When this climatic phenomena makes its appearance ,dramatical changes in temperature, marine life and even in climatic conditions around the globe are the consequence. 
Here in Lima it's supposed to be autumn, but sun is still shining bright and people walk around in summer clothes.
Now YOU are supposed to say: How wonderful, but wait, we are not living in a perfect world, and other regions of the country are suffering from heavy rain and floodings.

Still a lot of summer veggies around at the farmer's market.
On a visit to Lima's colorful fish market of Lima I noticed the display of strange, exotic fishes that are not seen around here in normal times.
Populations of fish and seabirds vanish and anchovy catches ( one of the world's richest fisheries is off the coast of Peru) dwindle.
As the saying goes "one man's trash is another man's treasure."
The ones of you who read my blog regularly know that whenever I talk about sunny weather, it's followed by easy, light but still yummylicious food.
Spanish Chicken with chorizo is a crowd pleaser that never disappoints and will not keep you in the kitchen the whole day long.
Robust and delicate flavors are in perfect balance in this dish and for me it was love at the first bite.
For the Spanish Chicken With Chorizos you need:

 8 chicken thighs
150 g chorizo ( I prefer the spicy one, it adds a wonderful flavor)
2 red onions, chopped
1/2kg baby potatoes
4 rosemary sprigs
The zest of 2 lemons
 2 spoonful olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 220C
Wash baby potatoes carefully under rinsing water.
Put the onions at the bottom of a large baking tray, add the chicken thighs,
 baby potatoes, then scatter over the chorizo, rosemary and the lemon zest.

Chorizos and rosemary add lots of flavor

Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and tender.

*(For a lighter version of this dish, remove skin from chicken 
Serves 6p.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Molten Chocolate Cake (Fondant Au Chocolat) for Mother's Day

Remember Juliette Binoche in "Chocolat" preparing all these sinfully delicious chocolates that put a whole village upside down?
I suppose you suspected it already from previous posts but I'm a confessed and convicted chocoholic.
Maybe it's a legacy from the time we lived in Switzerland, the world's top chocolate consumer.
There I learned that there are worlds within the world of chocolate.
The most common types of chocolate are dark, milk and white chocolate, depending on the proportion of coca used in the fabrication.
The quality of the cocoa beans, the way they are roasted and the quality and proportion of fat and other ingredients used in the process are crucial for flavor, aroma and price.
Of course, chocolate is rich in calories, but oh boy it's worth a try once in a while.
The good news is that chocolate, (especially dark chocolate) if consumed moderately, can be beneficially for your health, stimulates the brain, is considered an aphrodisiac and, most important of all, makes people happy.
Have you ever seen somebody eating a delicious piece of chocolate and looking depressed?
A praise to the Mayas for leaving us this fantastic legacy.
So if you are still looking  for the perfect sweet treat for Mother's Day celebration, look no further.
These mini cakes are so good; they will melt your heart.
Please don't let yourself impress by their sophisticated looks, they are actually quite easy to prepare, the whole trick lies in not overbaking them.
A crunchy rind and a delicious liquid chocolate filling at the center are heaven for chocolate lovers and they are addictive too, no rehab needed.

For the molten chocolate cakes you need:
100g of butter
60g of (powdered)  sugar
150g excellent quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 medium size eggs
2 yolks
2 spoonful of all-purpose flour
A pinch of salt
1\2 cup of whipped cream
With a brush,grease bottom and sides of six (  FOUR 6 oz.)  standard muffin molds evenly with liquid butter and dust them with cocoa. 

Remove excess cocoa by turning them upside down. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 175 C  (400 F).
In a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate over simmering water (water should not boil!)

the color of rich, dark choclate and melted butter

Set aside.
In a large bowl, add the eggs and the egg yolks one at a time
and beat well with an electric mixer together with the sugar

 until the mixtures is pale in color and fluffy.

Then beat in the melted chocolate and flour

  Mix well until the batter is smooth.

 Spoon into prepared cups.

Let me share a little baking secret with you: Place one small piece of choclate in the center of the muffin moldit will help to obtain the chocolate filling liquid in the center of the cakes.

 Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges of dessert are firm but centers are still soft. 

(Tops will be puffed.)
Let stand 2-3 minutes.
Run small knife along sides of cakes to loosen.
Invert into heat proofed dessert plates.
Dust with powdered sugar.

 and serve warm with a bit of whipped cream  (optional)   
Serves 6 p.
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