A foodie’s guide to Europe’s Christmas fare

December 10, 2013 at 8:00 AM
During the festive season you'll have no trouble finding Bûche de Noël in pastry shops across France.

During the festive season you’ll have no trouble finding Bûche de Noël in pastry shops across France. (Photo: appaloosa)

There is more to Christmas travel than just winter sports and Christmas markets. One of my favourite things about this time of year is that no matter where you travel, delicious food is inevitably a part of the celebrations. Christmas is a great time of year to experience culture and tradition through your taste buds. If you’re a travel-loving foodie who takes delight in new flavours and aromas, then here is a guide to some of Europe’s most fabulous Christmas fare.

Summer in the UK: Outdoor eating in London

June 27, 2013 at 5:26 AM

With more of us choosing to stay closer to home than ever before, we asked our  U.K travel experts to showcase the best places to visit. We might not boast the balmy climate of our neighbours, but here at home, we sure have plenty to offer. Whether you’re looking for an alternative to the festivals of Europe, or seeking out reminiscence of the café culture of Paris, we’ve got it covered. Join us each week as we deliver tips for alternative holidays, and discover summer breaks to remember – right on your doorstep.

Italy’s capital Rome is known for its love of coffee, and famed for the beautiful old cafés strewn around its vine-draped Piazza. There are so many quaint squares to discover, and little eateries off winding side streets, that it’s easy to see how the café culture became a pivotal part of Roman life. But, as Fiona Maclean shows us below, our fair capital London knows a thing or two about al fresco dining.

Shades at the ready: these are some of the best outdoor bites in the Big Smoke.

Outdoor eating in Covent Garden's Piazza: (Photo: Karen Roeka)

Outdoor eating in Covent Garden’s Piazza (Photo: Karen Roeka)

A foodie’s guide to marvellous markets of the world

June 5, 2013 at 1:58 AM
Treat your senses to a celebration of colours, flavours and aromas at the world's best food markets (Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis )

Treat your senses to a celebration of colours, flavours and aromas at the world’s best food markets (Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis)

Local food markets are a must-see for any traveller, particularly if you’re staying in a self-catering holiday rental. Not only are food markets the perfect place to pick up fresh items for a picnic, or fresh ingredients so you can try your hand at making a local dish, but it’s also a great cultural experience. If you’re a foodie who likes nothing better than to treat your senses to a celebration of colours and flavours and aromas, then here is a mouth-watering guide to some of the world’s most marvellous food markets.

The world’s best wine regions

February 4, 2013 at 8:29 AM

Tuscan grapesFor some travellers, one of the best ways to experience new countries and cultures is by indulging in local food and wines. Some of the most memorable holiday experiences are created around local cuisine and wine. Gastronomic tourism allows you to experience local culture through great food and wine, all the while enjoying beautiful surroundings and creating memorable holiday experiences. More specifically, vinitourism allows travellers to combine the pleasures of travel with the joys of fine wine, so if your idea of the perfect holidays is touring wineries in Bordeaux or Napa Valley, read on. For those vinitourism enthusiasts, here is a list of my favourite wine-producing regions around the world.

Olive time

October 7, 2012 at 4:36 AM

Olive trees

The end of the summer and the autumn is the time for olive picking in the Mediterranean. And we Spaniards love our olives. Spain is not only the biggest producer of olive oil in the world, but table olives are eaten as a “tapa” or accompaniment all over the place. I would say that maybe a handful of olives served on a tiny “barqueta” (a boat-shaped dish) is the most ubiquitous tapa of all.

It all begun with the olive trees that spread into Europe from Africa in Prehistoric times. The Phoenicians are said to have taken olive trees to the Greek islands and Hellenic Peninsula. From there they were introduced in Italy and then into the whole Mediterranean area by the Roman Empire. The Romans brought olive trees to the Iberian Peninsula too, where they were subsequently adopted by the Arabs. The olive trees adapted well to the harsh weather conditions in the territory, such as drought and extreme temperatures, but olive trees found there what they needed most: above all they thrive in plenty of sunlight.

Nowadays there are around 300 varieties of olives in Spain, originating from a single type that adapted through time to different soil and climate conditions; some of the present varieties being the result of grafting too. Certain varieties of olives have always been used for oil extraction while others always for processing as table olives. Similarly to what happens with wine-making and table grape varieties, the table olive varieties need to be of reasonable size and fleshy.

Although olives belong to the same fruit family as plums and peaches, for instance, they are very bitter when raw and cannot be eaten picked straight from the olive tree. All olives need to be treated in order to make them edible and also to preserve them. Olives destined for the table are mostly picked unripe. Then green olives are left to soak in a lye solution (yes, sodium hydroxide) for several days, which neutralizes their bitter taste. Subsequently they are thoroughly washed and submerged in brine, to induce lactic fermentation, or in a marinade. The length of the fermentation or curing process depends on the olive variety and requires a minimum of two to three months.

Maybe the most popular varieties for table olives are Manzanilla de Sevilla, a pretty oval and bright green olive, and the famous Gordal, a variety larger than most, with the size of a small walnut. Other varieties have beautiful names such as Hojiblanca from Andalusia, Manzanilla Cacereña from Extremadura and Empeltre from Aragón.

A large proportion of the table olives consumed in Spain are stoned olives stuffed with a variety of fillings: anchovies, red pepper or almonds to name a few. Do you know what a Gilda is? Well, it is a famous tapa made by skewering an olive, an anchovy and a “guindilla” (chili pepper) on a stick, funnily named after the American movie character of the same name. There are plenty of other tapas that include olives too, from the delicious “ensaladilla rusa” (a hugely popular potato salad with mayonnaise), through all kinds of tomato and lettuce salads or anchovies in vinegar to canapés.

Miriam García is the GO! Travel expert on Spanish cuisine. She can also be found on her blog The Winter Guest.