What’s the dealio with dairy?

We pour it on our cereal, splash it in our tea, our coffee, eat it as an after dinner dessert or slice onto crackers with chutney for a mid-afternoon snack. Dairy in all its forms is something we have been brought up on. In the western world we are told as soon as we stop breast feeding to drink our milk, so much so that is an integral part of most peoples’ diets.

Memories of a glass of warm milk before bed as it helps to send you to sleep, that minuscule red wheel of Babybel cheese you fished out of your lunchbox daily, and squeezy yogurts that you stuck in the freezer to make into ice lollies on those (more frequent back then) days of stuffy summer. Frubes I’m looking at you! Dairy, seemed to be a fundamental part of the diet.

Marketing campaigns encourage parents to feed their children dairy products, enforcing the fact that without it they won’t get enough calcium to grow and have strong bones, ‘it will make you strongerer’. The fear of rickets is probably on most parents minds, so if the guidelines say to eat dairy, the children will eat it. What if they were lactose intolerant though? Around 10-20 years ago the only option you had as a dairy alternative was fortified soya milk. Probably sweetened. Most likely a bit gross. There wasn’t really much development in terms of dairy free milks, yogurts and cheeses, and the free from aisle…what free from aisle? If you were lactose intolerant you either gave it up cold turkey, or suffered the consequences.

I can’t pinpoint when exactly, but here in the UK, let’s say 5 years ago? Something triggered a small amount of the population to go dairy free. We also became more aware of the effects of soya on the environment and how it disrupts hormone levels (particularly for us women). The dairy free market was steadily growing, the occasional almond and coconut milks were accessible, still didn’t taste that good- mainly water and emulsifiers – so the need for creamy dairy wasn’t ever satisfied. You know it’s become a thing when Starbucks catch onto the trend and almond and coconut milk become an optional extra, with a 30p charge of course. Soon the media channelled into it spreading the word that dairy is the devil, it leads to cancer and causes osteoporosis, and every other ailment under the sun.

Around the same time, another tribe of people were touting that low fat dairy should be avoided at all costs. You can still eat your cheese, yogurts, milk and butter, but ensure that it is full fat. The higher the better for some, swearing off high fat – low carb diets. Bulletproof coffee (that is indeed coffee blitzed with butter to supposedly give a creamy drink without the crash from the caffeine), full fat yogurt, choosing cheese over dessert and searching out raw milk if possible. Totally contrasting to the dairy free crowd, making it utterly confusing to us consumers.

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to this problem for the time being. The government guidelines include dairy as part of a healthy balanced diet, it’s a good source of protein and calcium ensuring that you stick to lower fat varieties as the amount of saturated fat can be high. Personally, I find a happy ground in between all this conflict. I eat full fat yogurt (organic if I can, Yeo Valley is my go to), spread salted butter liberally on my toast and eat cheese when I want. I enjoy dairy. Cutting it out from my life would make me miserable and being unhappy doesn’t contribute to a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve ever experimented with removing or reducing your consumption of something, you will have realised that it penultimately ends up in being substituted with something else. The best dairy substitute by far is nuts, healthy though they are, you can always over do it. Need some cream, use cashews, spread nut butter instead of butter on toast, make cheese from cashews herbs and garlic, and milk from, yet again, more nuts.

Nuts aren’t the only culprits in the dairy free gang. Rice milk has been a favourite for many for years as it’s naturally very sweet, and coconut milk too for something a bit creamier and richer. Oat milk hailing from Sweden and even hemp, quinoa and tiger nut milk can all be spotted. If you’re wanting to switch up your milk routine and try something new here’s a list of dairy free milks that I would always choose. They are tried and tested, all of them with a different flavour which lends themselves to different things.

  • Oatly – Oat Milk

oatly

A personal favourite, creamy milk which tastes as delicious chilled from the fridge as it does on your morning muesli or stirred into your porridge. Also note that it is one of the best dairy free milks for using in tea and coffee as its foams well and doesn’t separate. I tend to choose the blue Oatly carton as it is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, B12 and riboflavin and it is also cheaper than the organic version.

  • Rude Health

Rude_Health_milks_wide_large

I’m a huge fan of the company Rude Health, having sampled all of their range of milks (many times I may add) they still are a firm staple on my shopping list. Their almond, hazelnut and coconut milks all are made with a base of brown rice so are delicately sweet, perfect for those of you wanting some sweetness without adding sugar, and when blended into smoothies or lattes have a nice subtle flavour. Then there’s the ultimate almond for the purists – with a heftier price tag – and a higher percentage of nuts and none of the rice. The cashew milk too, which I’m highly fond of, purely made from cashews and water, it is the creamiest of the lot and makes a mean turmeric or matcha latte. All of the Rude Health milks have the added bonus that there are no emulsifiers or stabilisers so they do require a good shake before pouring. However if you’re worried about missing out on certain nutrients when you cut out milk, none of these are fortified so you may want to opt for another brand for the everyday use.

  • Alpro – Unsweetened roasted almond milk

Alpro-Drink-Roasted-Almond-Unsweetend-1L-trex-UK-vs22_540x576_p

Alpro is well known by the masses notably for soya products, which has a bit of a bad rap. This almond milk though is the best of the lot they offer. Unsweetened and fresh, it’s the sort of milk that fits into your everyday life. More cost-effective too at the cheapest on offer, but with a very low content of almonds and quite a neutral flavour it may not be the most exciting for your tastebuds.

  • Califia farms – Unsweetened almond milk

1491506082611_-5080865253321481708.1200w

New to the UK and currently found in Sainsburys, Califia Farms is a bit of a game changer in terms of almond milk. Carageenan free, no added sugars and utterly delicious I have to add, this one is something to hunt down. It’s so good I enjoy drinking it as is, from a glass (and when I’m that desperate straight from the bottle) and that’s that. Also brilliant for use in hot drinks as there is no curdling and it isn’t thin so you won’t require half a carton to get your tea how you like.

Now what’s my stance on dairy? I love the stuff and have tried (vow to never again) giving it up, and believe that if you aren’t allergic or intolerant and most importantly you enjoy it, don’t deprive yourself. Dairy is high in saturated fat but as long as you don’t overdo it, there will absolutely be no problems. Here’s some of the dairy products that I like to eat, I always try to stick to organic if possible and mix it up by consuming not only cows milk, but sheeps, goats and buffalo too. You will be surprised how many of your favourite cheeses aren’t actually made from cows milk.

 

  • Yeo Valley – Natural yogurt, Greek style yogurt and salted butter

 

I love this brand as all of their products are organic the cows are fed on luscious grass and made in Somerset . I always return back to their natural yogurt, or the greek style if I want something richer, as it has a good tang and you can find it in most supermarkets and even corner shops. The butter too is lovely, a bright marigold yellow with a little salt, spread it on sourdough. That’s what you call heaven.

  • St. Helen’s farm – Goats yogurt

33200011_0_640x640

This may be a dividing option. It’s rich, but with a salty savouriness that balances all out. The flavour too is much stronger than a cows milk yogurt so a little goes much further. Dolloped on a crumble, topped with strawberries or strained to make a labneh. Perhaps keep it real simple with just a drizzle of local honey and a little pinch of salt, bloomin’ marvellous!

  • Feta cheese

The most famous of offerings from Greece. That salty crumbly cheese that none of us can get enough of. It makes every meal better, whether that be avo on toast, a mundane salad, a sandwich or a pile of broccoli. Add feta and automatically it is elevated. Traditionally feta is made only from goats milk so try to opt for one of those, searching in your local Aldi or Lidl should do the trick.

  • Halloumi

Halloumi tends to be the vegetarians’ choice (and eaten by all the carnivores too) particularly when BBQ weather rolls along. You Nando’s aficionados will know the drill. Squeaky cheese, as my mum refers to it, takes on flavours well so when marinaded and griddled to leave blackened scorch marks, that rivals any sausage or chicken drumstick. Another cheese which traditionally is made from goats or ewes milk and found in the Mediterranean sunnier climes of Cyprus.

  • Longley Farm – Crème Fraîche

CREME-FRAICHE-200G-small

From a dairy local to me comes this crème fraîche. Alongside many yogurts, butters, milk and creams they produce, this is the better than any supermarket version. If anyone knows in more detail, please back me up on this, but supposedly this is the only variety of cream available to buy in France. Crème fraîche goes through a fermenting process to give it that tang, meaning it lasts longer in the fridge and is better for our digestion than cream.

  • Godminster – Organic Cheddar cheese

godminster-cheddar

Having worked a stint in a farm shop and on a cheese counter, a good few chunks of cheese came my way. Blue, Cheddar, Lancashire, Cheshire, Brie, goats cheese, I like them all, but when it comes to making a cheese board I know that a good cheddar will always be the first to disappear and everyone fights for the last slither. This Cheddar cheese from Somerset is mature and punchy enough to stand up to any chutney, but still creamy and lingers on your palate…until the next piece. Available to buy in the UK at many delis by the slice or in individual truckles. Grated into a cauliflower cheese or sliced in a cheese sandwich, guaranteed it will be the best you have ever made.

To wrap it all up, I still don’t think there’s an outright decision on whether we should be eating dairy or not. Do what works for you. I do try to limit my dairy consumption, so that means substituting dairy milk for a plant based milk instead, for environmental reasons mainly as methane production is one of the main causes of global warming. Milk is something in the western diet that is consumed at least once a day, particularly for us Brits – we’re all rather partial to a cuppa – very swiftly by switching that up you’ll be eating and drinking much less. Yogurts, cheeses, butter and cream don’t tend to be an everyday thing. Also yogurt and crème fraîche (and some butters if they’re french) are all fermented or cultured. They’re beneficial to our guts and if you’re not a huge fan of other fermented products such as sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi they are a good way of getting those good bacteria into your diet.

Do what’s right for you, your lifestyle and your budget. As long as we’re all ensuring to eat as many vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, mainly plant based, then that cheeseboard and a glass of vino, it’s there to ENJOY!

Until next time

X

April ‘Appenings

Can you tell I’m struggling to think up a title each time for these monthly posts? I will still need another A for August and just the one was hard enough.

I’ve resorted to improper English. Say it in a Yorkshire accent and I reckon it just about works.

So yes it’s the end of April. Already! Wow that really did fly by. So what’s happened for me this month? Apart from a new haircut, bleached to blonde and dyed back to brown again, that’s about it. Yes that’s the most exciting my life really does get. Not forgetting time spent gathering up the best bits to share with all you lovely readers.

I feel like I’ve neglected the blog recently, I’ve been ferrying around London and and up and down the country on trains, so there hasn’t been much time in my kitchen for some recipe crushing. Well, there has been a few baking attempts, majority of which ended up in the bin, let’s just forget about those. But panic not. I have some things waiting in the pipeline. A new dip recipe – perhaps I should change the blog name to ‘In Homage To Hummus’ it’s becoming a recurring theme – and talking about beans, a little sweet treat for that 4pm afternoon slump. For now, here’s what’s been ‘appening this April.

 

#1 Black patent trench coat, M&S

April showers. The saying has never rang truer. The past four weeks have included weather from all the seasons, sun, warmth, clouds, rain, hail, wind and snow. YEPP you read that right. It makes getting dressed in the morning incredibly difficult. A huge winter puffer coat isn’t really necessary (it’s still not packed away for winter yet…) but a light leather jacket is just too thin, and I don’t care about functionality there is no way I’m wearing a rain coat or pac-a-mac. Ok, it’s trench coat time. I bought this coat last year from M&S, before any mumsy thoughts pop into your mind your mum would have to be pretty sassy to wear this for the school pick up. A black patent trench coat, that squeaks when you move your arms. I just love it. Having been a fan of a classic trench coat for a few years, that beige colour that goes with EVERYTHING, this little black number is here to mix things up a bit.  And no you can never have too many shoes, coats and handbags. I will sit firmly on that mantra.

 

#2 Sunflower Seed Milk

Hulled_Sunflower_Seed_Kernels_Confectionery_Type

Have you ever made your own nut milk? If not and you need a little help, see this post, if you’re not a newbie perhaps it’s only almond you’ve attempted. Cashew maybe has been blitzed or you’ve even stretched as far as hazelnut (that in a chocolate milkshake would be utter heaven). I’m a bit obsessed with seeds lately, I’m trying to reduce my consumption of nuts as sometimes it becomes a bit excessive (particular when in the form of nut butter) so I seem to be turning towards their seedy friends for a dose of protein and healthy fats. I’ve been seeing many fellow bloggers making hemp seed milk recently, I reckon it would be lush and creamy, but alas I had ran out of hemp seeds. It’d been a good while since I last had a nut milk DIY sesh as I’m not entirely sure it works out any cheaper, it is a bit of a messy faff, it’s not fortified with vitamins and minerals we’re missing from not eating dairy but ignoring all of that the taste is miles miles better. I soaked some sunflower seeds for around four hours, drained and added 4 times the amount of water, a pinch of salt and blended it all up. A quick strain led to a subtle flavoured milk, lightly sweet which of course was drank up wayyyyy too quickly. Give it a try, pumpkin seed milk will turn out a lovely pastel green and sesame seeds will have that bitter toasty flavour we love so much about tahini. It’s not an everyday thing, but once in a while some proper nut and seed milk is called for.

 

#3 Masterchef

p04xjr5z.jpg

Masterchef is back, and it doesn’t get tougher than this. Although it seems only moments ago when it was last on telly. I love a good TV competition and the fact that this one also includes food, well it’s a no-brainer. John Torode and Greg Wallace host the UK version of the show, I’m not sure if it’s me but has Greg been coming out with some ludicrous innuendos this time around, a bit much for the BBC I would have thought, and he’s definitely no Nigella. It’s the perfect week night show that you can lie on the sofa and let your mind wander, forget about the stressors of everyday life and get stressed instead at the contestants making yet ANOTHER chocolate fondant that isn’t cooked enough and instead serve a plate of molten goo. Find it on BBC 1 or catch up on iPlayer.

 

#4 The First Mess cookbook

The-First-Mess-Cookbook-Covers

I’ve been a fan of Laura Wrights’ blog, The First Mess for some time now. A vegan plant-based centric delight to your eyes and your belly, using beautiful produce and no weird meat substitute business. Her cookbook came out earlier this year and with it being published in America and Canada and not here in the UK, I had to wait WEEKS for it to arrive. Oh but the wait was worth it.  I’ve already earmarked a number of recipes, particularly the miso turmeric chickpea scramble, fluffiest multigrain pancakes, sunshine crackers and a whipped chipotle lentil dip, all of which will be made ASAP. The photography is beautiful and everything looks doable with no need for fancy machines like dehydrators and sprouters which are a common feature in most vegan books. Take a look at her blog with the same name, The First Mess and follow her on Instagram @thefirstmess.

 

#5 Asparagus

What? It’s asparagus season? Perhaps my favourite of the vegetable family that I wait around allllllll year for, then fit it into as many meals possible between the months of April and June. Breakfast, lunch and dinner it will be sneaking onto my plate. FUN FACT: ever noticed that your wee smells after eating asparagus? It seems only 40% of us, more likely in women, have this ability to smell the particular whiff, all due to having a certain gene. I’m of the more dominant 60% of the population and don’t understand what all the fuss is about, but if you can smell it or not, it is definitely not going to affect my consumption. Green asparagus is most common here, but in the Mediterranean countries white asparagus tends to be a speciality and if you’re very lucky you might even come across the purple variety. Make sure to use it before we lose it again for another year!

 

For us in the UK it is the time of many bank holidays, the very beginning and very end of the month, time to spend picnicking, playing in parks, cooking up feasts and an extra day to relax (or party hard and spend the day in bed recovering). However you wish to spend yours, enjoy it fully with all of your heart doing what truly nourishes your soul.

Until then.

X

 

Some fashion week sustenance

It’s come around again, yet another season, 1/2 a year has been and gone. Something which first started off as a biannual event, has now spawned into hundreds of millions of shows new ones popping up each season, mens collection, cruise, couture, anniversary shows, pre collections, the fashion ‘week’ never ends for some.

From afar it seems a wondrous thing to be a part of – which it is when we eventually reach the following Tuesday and look back and say, ‘finally it is over!’ The slog though, it sure is a long and arduous one.

So the Monday before it officially begins on Friday we begin castings. Always one of the castings is the Fashion Scout event, a hall full of at least 20 designers where we must strut up and down, up and down, up and down until out little feet can’t carry us any longer. Add on top of that a good 5 or 6 castings and then crash on the sofa come 9 o’clock in a state of delirium.

And that’s only the first day!

Wake up and more castings again for the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Yayy no more on Tuesday!!). The list each day gets longer, castings start earlier and finish later and later and then the fittings, which can go well into the early hours of the morning as the teams behind the designers are putting the final touches to their shows.

All this running around, tube to bus, west to east and casting to show to fitting, it leaves us all rather hungry – ravenous fits the bill a bit more suitably. No matter how much the majority of models love you, Propercorn and Coconut water, I think we need some proper sustenance in our tummies.

So snacks are where it is at. Along with our heels, models cards and books (reading and portfolios) there will usually be a good array of snackage action in model handbags. I want to give some more ideas that stray away from said popcorn and popchips, because maybe they do fill that little hole but there’s not much in them to keep you going for very long. Things you can pick up quickly in supermarkets, cafes or have in your pocket for when that much needed energy dips. If you’re reading this and you’re not a model, they’re most definitely brilliant snacks to have on hand at anytime – the wait between lunch and dinner is hard enough to get though!!

 

#1 Squirrel sister bars

Find them in a trusty Boots, these fruit and nut bars are a delight. Sweet, but still full of nobbly nutty pieces that make it feel a satisfying snack rather than just a hit of pure energy. They come in four flavours: Cacao brownie, Raspberry ripple, Coconut cashew and Cacao orange, and each is portioned into two little finger bars, one for now and one for later, give one to a friend (if you’re feeling really kind), but most probably both at once because they are OH SO GOOD! If you can find it, make sure to get your hands on the cacao orange, I’m always out of luck as it’s sold out and it is definitely the best of the flavours!!

ssbars-600x600

#2 Hippeas

The new crisp on the block. These chickpea puffs are perfect for when you can’t get that bag of skips off your mind. The come in four flavours; Pepper Power, In Herbs We Trust, Sweet and Smokin’ and Far Out Fajita. Nicely savoury with a good puffy crunch. Thanks to incredible marketing and advertising I’m sure you’ve already heard of Hippeas as they’re so easy to find in the majority of healthfood stores around London, but also Whsmiths and Waitrose. Listen to the guys and, ‘give peas a chance’!

cj3tllmwsaanxz

 

#3 Deliciously Ella energy balls

Brought to you from the famed Deliciously Ella, these balls which currently come in three flavours popular from the blog, can be found in Starbucks, Waitrose, Sainsburys, The Mae Delis and various health food stores. They are very sweet, from the dates so will be perfect for a quick pick me up alongside your mochachococcino. The three flavours are Hazelnut and Raisin, Cashew and Ginger and Cacao and Almond, each made from only a few ingredients but all wholefoods, just fruit and nuts and some spices.

s3-news-tmp-85019-ella-2x1-940

 

#4 The Giving Tree, Broccoli crisps

Now for another savoury snackaroo. Little green broccoli trees which are vacuum fried and just a little salt is added. They are super crispy and munchable, you’ll find your way to the bottom of the packet in no time. There are a few options in The Giving Tree crisps, a mixture of sweet and savoury, the sweet ones are freeze dried and the savoury ones are vacuum fried both ways retaining all their nutrients.

packs.png

 

#5 A piece of fruit

Couldn’t write a snacks list without some fruit. I tend to opt for oranges, pears and apples because bananas usually end up as a big mush over my heels. Full of natural sugars, fibre and loads of vitamins and minerals, which are much needed as our tired-out bodies are pushed to their limits, all in one portable package.

 

#6 Trail mix

Another oh so simple one. I like to make my own up as it’s cheaper and I get to choose what goes in the mix. Chuck in any of your favourite nuts, seeds, dried fruit and perhaps some coconut flakes for a quick energy boosting snack. The protein and fats in the nuts should keep you sustained for a good while (at least hopefully until you get some proper lunch or dinner). Try a variety of nuts, not just your typical almonds and cashews for some interest. Also, if chocolate goes in there, I won’t tell.  Fashion week is a devilish time and chocolate soothes everything.

 

#7 Emily’s Fruit/Veg Crisps

Another of the vacuum crisped crisps.  My favourites are the Root Veg crisps and the French beans, Sugarsnaps and Black Edamame. Munch on the bus or add as a lunch topper for some crunch. Also available are fruit crisps in flavours such as pineapple, apple and banana.

emily-veg-crisps-spring-greens-veg-crisps-mixed-root-veg-crisps

 

 

#8 Rawsage

An unassuming snack bar I received once in a Lifebox. If you’re like me and crave something savoury to add to your snacking instead of all the sweet fruity based bars, this will be your new go to. A raw vegan version of the popular salami snack, Peperami, indeed a raw sausage! It tastes pretty fab, brazil nuts, sundried tomatoes, herbs and spices combine for a flavour full of umami and even a very similar texture to the original. Find it in Planet organic, and give it a try!

SMARTAD_19_2000000326_7176_LIFEFOOD_RAWSAGE_25G.jpg

 

#9 Rude Health ‘The Oaty’

A lot of the time I am sick and tired of fruit and nuts, and need a little biscuit, reminiscent of a Digestive but so much tastier and wholesome. The oatcakes from Rude Health are a great handbag snack and the best of the oatcake bunch. They come in a few variations, The Oaty, The Spelt Oaty, the Rye Oaty, the 4 Seed Oaty and the Ginger and Turmeric Oaty. In the box there’s portioned packets ready to take on the go. My favourite, the Ginger and Turmeric Oaty is lovely with a cup of milk, or perhaps a golden milk for a double turmeric hit, as a bedtime snack – the slow releasing carbs will help you with a restful sleep. In my humble opinion, the best oatcake out there, I’ve tried a few and these most definitely have no similarities to cardboard!!

 

So don’t let fashion week get you down, and don’t let boring snacking get you down either. There’s plenty of options out there, just pick something that you enjoy and that will help you keep on trudgin’. Also make sure it stands the handbag test, noone wants a mass of crumbs in the bottom or an explosion when you go to find your purse. Tupperware is the saviour in this scenario, oh and baby wipes!!!

Happy Fashion Week to you All, and GOOD LUCK!!

X

 

Croatia

So, it’s time for my post on Croatia. I was hoping to write this sooner but stress levels recently for me have been pretty high. Taking a driving theory test shouldn’t cause as much bother as it has done, but the feeling of not being prepared, most definitely not wanting to fail because doesn’t everyone pass? And I spent my holiday learning the Highway Code, poolside reading can’t get anymore depressing than that. It is all a recipe for panic. But it all ended fine and THANK GOD I passed.

Ok I know it’s not really a big deal, it’s not like it’s even the practical test, but hey one step at a time, and I’m one step closer to being able to drive. Alone. On the road. <SCARY

2016-08-11 12.30.16

The square on the old streets of Pula

img_0144
So, Croatia. It truly is a beautiful place, it’s a loving relationship that grew and grew over the week. I’m sorry to say I landed in Pula a bit unhappy and worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy my holiday. It all started badly enough when the travellator stopped and we couldn’t get our cases for an hour and then we stepped off the coach into a HUGE hotel and apartment complex. So large that it had its own supermarket, kids running left right and centre, and aqua aerobics in the pool, basically not my ideal holiday. After a little wander by the coast overlooking the BEAUTIFUL blue sea, mum and dad eating a pizza in a grotty beach cafe (I tried to hover above the seats), we caught the bus into Pula centre. I wasn’t expecting great. I’d read it was an industrial town, and to be honest that’s what it was. Sometimes I need to stop reading into everything so much and be a bit more spontaneous, don’t think that everything is going to be terrible before I’ve even arrived. There’s beauty hidden everywhere sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for it to find you.

The roman amphitheatre , which is still being used to this day for open air concerts

THAT grotty caff, however it was the first day, so sunshine and cold beer were on the agenda

We quickly found the Green Market, always my first stop in a new city. surrounded by smelly cheeses, meats and the sweetest of fruits I was in my happy place. Piles of neon green lettuces, mushrooms of all varieties, the reddest tomatoes basking in the late sun, and what we all get excited about on holiday…STONE FRUIT! Dribbley peaches and nectarines that cascade down your arm, you’re dive bombed by wasps but that’s all in the pleasure.

Shrooms a plenty

Before I go away to a new place, I always research the best places to eat, tourist traps are a big no no. It’s local and traditional allllll the way. We know what makes a holiday a holiday, copious eating and drinking, eating some more and then taking the memories back home with you. Swearing you’ll recreate that paella or spaghetti dish but, it won’t taste the same will it!! From my googling and watching of Rick Stein (I recommend his Venice to Istanbul series) I’d learnt to expect very simple food, but seriously fresh fish and seafood, an Italian influence meaning tonnes of pasta, lots of truffles, brilliant olive oil, a ham called prsut not dissimilar to prosciutto, not lots of vegetables on menus, lots of potatoes and of course cheeseeeeeee! And that’s exactly what I found in Croatia.

Can fresh produce really get any fresher or more beautiful than that!

Quickly I discovered something that I ended up eating every night. Blitva! A Dalmatian (no it’s not spotty) side dish simply comprising of spinach and boiled potatoes sautéed together sometimes with a hint of garlic and plenty of that Croatian extra virgin olive oil. When I was in Athens i fell in love with wild greens, boiled leafy green veggies drowned in EVOO with hunks of lemon to squeeze over. That’s me done, I’m that weird gal who loves vegetables, I truly do. It’s the perfect thing to eat alongside fresh fish with a glass of Malvazija white wine in one hand and a hunk of freshly baked bread in the other. Maybe the ‘Adriatic diet’ will become the new ‘Mediterranean’?

A shop in the market selling Istrian meats carved off the bone and local cheeses

Ok maybe not, I don’t believe a whole veal shin between three people is recommended to eat on a regular basis, which one night we did indeed. In Croatia they have restaurants called konobas. Think of a Greek taverna no frills or fuss, fill it with locals, add badly translated menus (pasta with seaSHELVES anyone?), sometimes there may be rude service it’s all part of the charm, and that’s a konoba for you. I was desperate to make it to at least one on our trip, so after a recommendation from a taxi driver (always get into a conversation about food with taxi drivers, they’ll tell you the best places to go) the three of us ended up in Boccaporta.

There’s two types of cooking in Croatia. Nearer the coast you get your fresh fish and seafood, but venture inland and you’re thinking spit roast lamb and slow baked meats influenced by neighbouring Hungary. After all the previous nights having our fill of seafood it was time for some meat. Slow baked veal shin, for god knows how many hours, the potatoes cooked in all of the fat served with a green salad, homemade bread and most definitely blitva. Now this is proper food. Good quality ingredients treated well. That night we left with full, OK stuffed to the brim, but happy tummies.


img_0130
Croatia is just across the Adriatic from Italy, and where I was in Pula was just a 3 hour ferry from Venice. So there is a hugeeeee Italian influence. In many of the Istrian restaurants and konobas I can guarantee there will be pasta,  usually homemade and called fusi, or ravioli which we tried with a cream sauce, truffles and prsut. However I’m sad to say I never had a chance for the traditional ‘must try’ dish of cuttlefish risotto. Picture jet black oozy rice tangled with the salty but sweet cuttlefish, it only means a second visit right? Also with quality olives, their olive oil lives up to any you’ll find in Greece or Italy, with a real peppery kick at the back of your throat, the sign of a true Istrian Extra virgin.

Shrimps in tomato sauce, called Buzara in Croatia. seriously DIVINE

Seafood pasta, the traditional Istrian shape called Fusi

Now what sticks in my mind most of all? Sorry to say it’s a dessert, actually I’m not sorry at all. I may avoid refined sugars and overly sweet things in my day to day life but life is for living, especially when on holiday. A lavender semifreddo with a hot fig and pine nut sauce sound good to you? Moussey but almost nougat like in texture and then the sauce, jammy and rich to cut through the malloweyness of the semifreddo. Utter BLISS.

I recommend if you’re a foodie and visiting Croatia, you must get a car. We managed without by walking A LOT, but there were so many places I wanted to visit that just weren’t possible. The best places aren’t in the centres of larger towns , but that’s typical of most tourist destinations. You need to visit the outskirts, they might look a lil bit dodgy, but you can always expect to pay less and eat better. Win win I say!

On the final night we went to a restaurant that I’m sure most tourists would pass by. Sitting at the side of a road on rickety metal table and chairs and no one around speaks a word of English. To order your food you walk into the kitchen point at what you fancy and that’s about that. The fish is all locally caught and changes from day to day, it will simply be grilled and served with salad and chips, don’t forget the blitva.

 

Of course we had mussels in a seafood restaurant. With obligatory bread for dunking!

And then came the main of squid, red snapper, langoustine, salad, blitva and chips

I really can go on and on about the gems we found. My favourite of them all, Vodnjanka. The best of the best in Pula. All local produce, organic wines and just two things on the menu, fish or meat. It has a feel of your grannies dining room and the food reflects that too. Everything handmade, using what’s best from the market that day and not trying too hard. For starters it was one of those plates, you know when you can’t stop eating? There’s so much deliciousness, where to start is a difficult decision. Both the fish and meat was such a celebration of all the tastes of Istria, that each mouthful we were all ooing and ahhing, saying ‘try this try that!’

We were guided through the courses by our lovely waiter, who explained what each thing was and gave recommendations of the best wines to go with the food. And of course he persuaded us to eat a hazelnut and ricotta cheesecake with a red wine and raspberry sauce. Along side some complimentary cherry grappa, that night I had my fill of alcohol, maybe I was pushed over the edge just a liiiitttleeeee…

 

A malvazijan white wine, organic and one of the nicest (few) glasses of the week

A starter of Istrian meat and cheese 

 

img_0140

So apart from eating, days were filled with a morning swim, shadow hopping (no tanning for me), wasp wafting and laughing at all the men attempting aqua aerobics who were ogling the girl instructors (classic), and getting slightly addicted to crosswords. By night we wandered in the cooler air around the charming streets of Pula, a haven for buildings with peeling paintwork and shutters galore. It was so nice to visit somewhere different, not the usual Spain or Greece and with only a 2 and a half hour flight. I would surely visit again, ideas for a tour along the coast spring to mind, and get to visit Dubrovnik after all then maybe on to Montenegro. If it’s a holiday with culture, sunshine AND nice beaches that you want? Then Croatia is the right place for you. Drop by pula, maybe only for a couple of days and wander round all the Roman remains. But make sure you get there quick, Croatia is increasingly becoming more and more popular for tourists. So before they take over, enjoy it for what it is, a country with undisturbed beauty and people with the kindest of hearts. And some seriously good grub.

 

img_0141

img_0143

2016-08-05 19.01.00

I hope you visit the country someday in the future, consider it for your next holiday. I’d love to know your thoughts so don’t hesitate to drop me a message, say hi!

On Instagram @theahudson

Much love and blissful holiday memories

X