Sunday, 28 July 2013

Souvenirs from Portugal

Happy Sunday,

Although I am arriving later in good old Europe today, I prefer giving you a last prepared post before I can finally share my East Asia experiences.

Instead I dedicate this post to fashion (believe it or not) and food (easier to believe).

What I don't like about a globalized world is that you find nowadays the same things everywhere: A McDonalds in Shanghai and New York, an H&M in Stockholm and Dubai, Vodafone in South Africa and India. It's no wonder that shopping avenues resemble the same. Only few items are truly traditional and can be called "unique".
The Spanish company Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear) could at least limit its multinational presence: Most of the brands are only available on the Iberian Peninsula (except Zara and only until now). Obviously, they were my target when I went to Lisbon and heureka! - I was successful.
Jeans shirt (Stradivarius)
Floral summer dress (Blanco)
Light shirt (Bershka)
What do you think about the new items in my closet?

When all my friends packed their suitcases before departure they quickly went to the next bakery in order to import the famous and delicious Pastel de Nata. Well, I wasn't too avaricious to buy them. I'd rather said that I want to try them at home by myself. In the beginning I was really skeptical whether they would turn out with the same traditional taste but I was then surprised positively. The fluffy pastry with the mildness of the vanilla filling are exactly the right snack for a Sunday afternoon.
Pastel de Nata
Ingredients (for 12):
  • Puffed pastry
  • 0.5l milk
  • 250g sugar
  • 35g flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 5 yellows of eggs
  • 1 package vanilla sugar
Roll out the puffed pastry and stamp out circles with a diameter of about 10 cm. Those pastry circles are put into a buttered muffin tin and then set aside. For the filling bring the milk and butter to a boil in a pot. Then add sugar, salt and flour while stirring constantly. Boil up the liquid and then set aside. Now add the egg, the yellows and the vanilla sugar to the filling. Fill it then into the prepared pastry tarts and bake it in a 235°C oven for about 10 minutes. Normally they should turn out quite dark, in my case our oven wasn't in the right regulation. Bon appétit!
A glass helps to cut out circles
Before the oven
Thank you so much for reading.

Next week - finally - the report about four weeks in Asia will be the topic!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A second shot from Portugal

Capture I
Good morning,

I have the feeling that my single post about the city of Lisbon didn't reflect all what I have experienced. Here comes the second shot!

June turned out to be the perfect month for visiting. Less tourists stroll through the city and the Lisbon people are still in town. For them the "Festas de Lisboa", taking place in exactly this month, are the traditional festivals where they meet friends, have some drinks and dance to traditional music all night long. Main places are the districts of Bica and Alfama where tourists feel like outsiders on Friday and Saturday nights. As the atmosphere was so inspiring I prepared a short video for you.

All tourist guides lead you to Cascais, a maritime village 40 minutes away from Lisbon. Instead of seeing tanned Lisbon people at the beach, you face pale (or/and red) British tourists that roast in the sun. Well, Lisbon people have better places to go.
One of them is the beach of Carcavelhos: it is only 20 minutes away from the city and full of Portuguese people on the weekends.
Why? Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean are known to be a perfect spot for surfers and you will find them here. The waves are enormously high. When we were there we were surprised by the high tide that forced us to move back three times in 5 hours because our towels got wet all the time. For bronzing in the sun this phenomena is slightly an inconvenience but for the surfers it is exactly what they want: great conditions.

(Personally I like WATCHING surfers but I wouldn't dare to stand on a board myself as I am far too afraid of the ocean)

Thank you so much for reading!
Decoration in our apartment - call for inspiration!
Harbour of Belém
Capture II
Capture III
Capture IV
Traditional Portuguese music: fado

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Wine Lands

Good morning dear readers,

Since I am still on my great adventure without Internet, I want you to familiarise with my home environment: wine lands. Today is the French national day which is actually a perfectly fitting coincidence.
Home sweet home
Before we start the tour, we need to prepare a culinary highlight: the savoury apple & onion tart. It is so easy to make, but such an explosion in your mouth that I cannot keep it back from you. The mixture of the apple's sweetness and the spiciness of the onions are a great meal on a tepid night.

For the pastry: (you can also buy a ready pastry (pate brisee) and leapfrog the first section)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Make your pastry dough. Put the flour and the salt in the food processor and pulse a few times. Add 1/2 of the butter and do a couple 5 second pulses. Add the rest of the butter and do a couple more 5 second pulses. Add the water, a few tablespoons at a time, pulsing briefly after each addition. You need just enough water to form a dough. Remove your dough from the food processor and quickly shape it into a disc, wrap it in plastic and stick it in the fridge to chill.

For the filling:

  • 3 large tart apples
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice

Caramelise your onions. Toss them in a heavy bottomed pan with the olive oil and salt and cook over low heat approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and golden. While the dough is chilling and the onions are cooking, peel and slice your apples. Take the onions off the heat and toss them with the apples. Set aside. Roll your dough into a large circle. Lay it in some sort of pan. The edges will fall over the sides. Spread the filling out inside, sprinkle with your shredded cheese and then gently bring the edges over and towards the middle. Bake in a 200 degree oven until the pastry is pale gold (approx. 45 minutes). 
But how to get to the wine lands? My favourite transport is the scooter. It is easy to drive, not too fast in order to get a glimpse of the environment and big enough to take a second person on the back. I would like to explain you how I got to learn to drive this machinery...
... It was my brother who taught me how to do it. Two years younger but while I was allowed to drive a car, he needed an option to be independent. Only a few weeks ago I asked him to show me how to drive such a thing. Once you know how to drive a car, a scooter is more driving a bike - easy. However, I was glad to have my brother around me who showed me where what was and who laughed at my failure attempts in the beginning. Everyone is still alive. Even the scooter. And my brother, too.
Since I now know how to handle it I'd like to take it every single minute when the sun shines. It gives a feeling of liberty and reminds me of a lot of fantastic summer movies.
Three summer movies worth watching
Finally arrived in the wine lands, it is time to unpack the basket and to start eating the savoury tart. Stop! Not without the fitting beverage. For such a perfect summer day, a cool Cidre is needed. It is made out of apples (a little alcoholic) and complements the culinary meal.
Drink Cidre and you will live a long life - that's my credo
Maybe it is now your turn to begin your trip. It might be for a romantic picnic or another special occasion. And you don't need the wine lands around you to get this feeling - just imagine them: You might want to watch movies like Roman Holidays (I love Audrey Hepburn!), sit in your garden or listen to some music.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

I pack my backpack

Hello my dears,

While you are reading this, I am strolling through the busy capital of Vietnam: Ha Noi. On Friday my adventure has finally begun - Vietnam, Laos, Thailand & Cambodia.

My week consisted of the following: sleepless nights, my birthday and preparations for the big trip.

Let's start with the shortest chapter that is sleepless nights. My head was turning mainly due to thoughts about organisational stuff and the upcoming trip. Unfortunately diarrhoea hit me additionally, letting my circles around the eyes appear even darker. Might be that my psychological uncertainties led to the illness and tied a knot in my tummy. I only hope that I won't have the same symptoms in Asia although it is very likely.

103 posts on my facebook wall. 20 whats app messages. 18 facebook messages. One postcard. A few calls & SMS.
On Wednesday I turned 21. A big number and in normal circumstances a huge party worth. Since I am at my parents, I am far away from all my university pals and former school colleagues who left home for their studies. Only few people come back in summer and if, only for a couple of days. Luckily I could spend a lunch break with a good friend who - coincidence! - currently lives in Ha Noi. Therefore we chatted about my trip, about Vietnamese habits and how to say "No, thank you!". In the evening I went to have dinner with my parents at an excellent Italian restaurant.
And presents? Not really. When I was younger I always asked my parents what they want. And I hated their answer that they wish the family to be healthy and good people. At 21 I have grown up because it's what I said to my parents when they asked. During the last year I faced a few critical situations in our family that have changed not only me, but all of us. So no cake and no presents... except one t-shirt my Mom bought me. She couldn't resist.

Shirt with bow detail (1 2 3 - Un deux trois)
Last but not least my preparations for the trip kept me busy: applications for visa, checking for hostels, checking for the flights, buying mosquito-spray and earplugs and packing my backpack. What does an inexperienced traveller take to her first trip to Asia? Besides lots of shirts and shorts, I took the following:
  • Rain jacket: I arrive in South East Asia during the rain period. As long as I am not washed away I don't mind rain at all. 
  • Sports clothing: Perfect for humid areas as they are light and dry fast after having them washed. 
  • 2(!) pairs of shoes: trainers and flip flops is all I need. And who knows what I find on the typical markets?
  • Colourful foulard: especially in Laos temples require to cover shoulders. The African foulard sets me into mood for far away travelling.
  • Pillow: Yet I don't know 100% where we stay, so I proper pillow is always a reasonable idea. In the plane, too.
  • Medicine: Malaria and diarrhoea might occur in such regions; to be well protected is mandatory. 
  • All-over-the-world-adapter: Needless to say that I need to recharge my mobile phones. 
Sport cloths (Shirt (Odlo) - Pants (McKinley)) - rain jacket (No Name)
Foulard (from Tanzania) - Flip flops (Cobian) - Trainers (Nike)
Pillow - adapter - medicine