Thursday, March 28, 2013

Interview of the week: Vijay Rajendran, from the Hungry Globetrotter

When I saw that the Hungry Globetrotter was created in 2010, I wondered where have I been all this time. I discovered the concept through a guest post of the founder, Vijay Rajendran, hosted by Monica Bhide. A couple of months after I have my own interview with Vijay and I am very thankful for this opportunity!

The interview was also published on my travel blog:

When food and customs meet!
- What does Hungry Globetrotter mean?  
The company name is derived from my many years of traveling and exploring the world’s cultures, in which food and the customs surrounding it play a major role.  We strive to offer subscribers the opportunity to experience these countries via their taste buds, if they cannot board a plane and visit for themselves.
- Who was your first customer?  
After friends and family, our first customers were folks who stumbled upon us online while searching for a better way to experience delicious foods from around the world.
Southeast Asian food is on sought
- What are the most wanted products right now?  
We see a lot of excitement for Southeast Asian food, this requires many sauces and spices and requires a balance of salt and sweet and spicy.
- How it is possible to order?  
Our monthly World Dinner Club subscription plan offers members one box representing a different destination each month. The boxes are meant to serve 4 people and include ingredients, detailed instructions, photos and background on the food and locale.  People can visit our website to join very easily.
- What is the minimal amount requested?  
People can also request individual boxes if they do not want to join the monthly club.
 - Are there any geographical restrictions? 
 No. We strive to offer an extremely diverse selection of cuisine and destinations highlighted.
- Do the program operate together with other systems, such as Miles and More, Dinner Club etc.? 
 Not at this time.
A big network of partnerships 
- What partnerships do you want to conclude for the next 12 months?  
We work with a variety of partners, a collection of which is always expanding.  Here are a couple of partners that we’ve highlighted recently:
- Do you plan to have any kosher and vegan products in the future?  
We aren't actively designing a kosher or vegan or gluten free subscription box, but many products on our web store can be enjoyed by people with very specific dietary regimens.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bulgarian food for your imagination

Bulgarian cuisine may not be very sophisticated, but it is very healthy. The famous pickles and the yoghurt can be eaten with some strong rakia, but also with the good wines produced in various regions of the country. 

A natural herbal wine taste

From the historical point of view, the wine traditions can be traced back to the Thracian past, but the winemaking as industry started its development from the 19-20th century. Each Bulgarian region produces different types of wine. I did not taste any by then, but according to the experts, the local wines have a lot of herbal tastes and very pleasant to the palate, without contrasts or strong accents. In the Northern region, the predominant wines are dry, while in the Eastern part, where the autumns are long, one may find especially semi-dry types. The largest wineries in the East are at Varna, Shumen, Preslav Khan, Targovishte. The sub-Balkan wine region is producing especially white wines. A unique variety of wine is Mavrud - ruby purple with excellent flavour -, produced in Asenovgrad, Pazadrzhik or Penshtitsa, all situated in the Southern part of the country. 

The secrets of the culinary tradition

The Bulgarian recipes use a lot of spices and vegetables: garlic, thyme, spearming, paprika, black pepper and basil. No bean soup without spearmint, and this goes all round the year, not only on special occasions. The traditional Bulgarian medicine uses as well various vegetables and leaves: parsley for kidney diseases and digestive problems and thyme for rheumatism or colds.

One of the most famous cuisine is the one prepared in the area around Rodopi. The usual favourites are: shopska salad - cucumber, white cheese, pepper, onion, tomatoes; the flatbread; smilyan, bean soup; kachamak - cornmeal porridge.

The yoghurt is added to soups and any other meals. In general, there are various types of milk products used in the daily cuisine, including the horse milk for the preparation of the kumis, a local drink. 

Another appreciated Bulgarian product is the honey, made of acacia, pine, honeydew. The polyfloral honey is special due to the use of some herbs that can be found only in Bulgaria. 

This is supposed to be only a theoretical introduction into the Bulgarian cuisine. Promise to come back soon with some cooking books and some recipes testing!

Enjoy your culinary trip!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The case against eating unhealthy

Why will someone prefer to eat fast food instead of slowly prepared food? Because, as the name said, 'fast food' is ready at any time to affect your stomach. You pay 2$ or maximum $5 and you have a well portioned slice of poison as a meal. 

The serious part of this life threatening joke is most often, with a busy schedule to cope with every day, a noisy family and a lot of chores to be done, the time for preparing the food, or even more, for acquiring the skills for preparing the food is considerably limited. 

The fast food industry should not be blamed and hated, as it answers certain needs that appeared in the society following the development of the industry and the increased degree of complexity of our lives. Compared with a decade ago, more salads and healthy alternatives entered the menus of the big chains and the consumers are more responsible when it comes to the choice of their daily food. 

At the same time, we may realize that by making a salad in the morning, instead of dreaming about a cheeseburger breakfast, is not so difficult and not even so expensive. In ten minutes, your healthy portion is ready. While preparing the salad one may get the calm and quietness needed for preparing for the hectic day ahead or for thinking what program you will do with your kids. 

As for special skills? Unless you pay enough attention to do not hurt your fingers while mincing the tomatoes, no building blocks will stop you having a delicious meal. Thanks to the Internet, you can easily find a lot of easy tutorials about almost everything - including about how to cut an avocado (a problem I faced when I was at the beginning of my cooking life) or the pineapple and many other strange yet easy situations you will go through. 

As for me, I realized early in the morning today that I don't have any bread left - Pesach preparations on the way, when no leavened products are allowed. Checked what it is left and found some barley. Prepared it in a couple of minutes, plus added: cherry tomatoes, cheese, a boiled eggs, olive oil and parsley and in 10 minutes I was done. While preparing I thought about writing this post and thus, I kept the track with my professional life as well.

Happy healthy day everyone! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wallpapers ideas: Louise Body

The search for the almost perfect decoration for the kitchen may take time. One may be in a certain mood for a colour or a special print, but once the new patterns are on the market, the change is in the air. But how can you change it without going through the big mess of the painting? 

The wallpapers are the easiest solution for a dynamic person with complex tastes. A wallpaper is easy to apply and is a relatively good investment in terms of quality. Especially when for a price of less than 100 you can have amazing walls that can be changed as often as you can afford it. 

A favorite of mine Source: Louise Body
During my researches, I discovered Louise Body, whose flowers and birds painted in soft light colors create that ambiance that I always expect from the place I would love to call 'home'. It brings peace and joy into any house. Body's website has many interesting models, many of them looking like out of the covers of a children's book. 

The wallpapers can go in any room and the prices are quite affordable, compared with the fine detail and unique lines. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Colours of my kitchen

As in the case of your home, the kitchen needs to be more than the place where you go to eat something because you are hungry. A pleasant ambiance created with the help of the wall painting and the design of the furniture will most likely invite you to spend more time there because you simply feel good around. 

My kitchen is quite simple, as I prefer to have a big table in the middle where to put all the ingredients and tools used for the preparation of the recipes. Especially when I am baking, I need more space than usual and I want to use the entire area of the table. The space of the kitchen is not as big as I wish to, but it is one of the best arrangement I enjoyed in years. 

Besides the table, the oven and the sinks, and the fridges, I have another wood closet where I put some of the cooking spoons and the reserves of flour, different bottles of oils and the usual pasta savings. The colour of the kitchen is not at all my favorite choice in terms of interior design - a combination of grey and dark blue - but I can live with this. 

But if asked, I would have said that I want my kitchen to have as much green as possible, in trends with my healthy diet, based especially on vegetables and fruits. I would have preferred a lot of wood furniture, with enough space for flowers. Maybe the idea to have different wall prints for different seasons, especially for spring and winter, is not an outrageous idea: for instance, I would prefer a lot of colourful wallpapers in the spring, with red and blue and orange and some purple. 

As for the tablecloth, I do have a lot of interesting models: during the week, I change between nuances of blue and green, but also some elephants print - a memory of a trip to Thailand. As I am waiting for the spring, I introduced the table clothes with flowers - right now, I have a light green one with yellow and red tulips. 

Honestly, I realize the lack of coherence when it comes to the style of my kitchen and I wish that I have more time and resources to redesign completely the concept of my house. But for the moment I am only looking for inspiration and I promise to share the best ideas here soon!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Why I love cooking

In less than 4 hours, I did the successful baking of challos, plus 2 salads and blintzes and mashes potatoes with nuts, a very new recipe that we will try in the next 3 hours. It was a marathon, in between shopping, and one hour of work and careful plans how to cope with the stage 2 of the Pesach cleaning. However, I made it and I am more than happy that I succeeded. 

This is not my first time when I go through such a cooking tour and in the last 2 years I experienced the success of new recipes whose preparation went smoothly and end up in a very tasty way. Then, my question a couple of minutes ago: what was in my mind that it took me so long till I turned into the queen of the kitchen? Why did I waste so much precious time that I would have been able to dedicate to new recipes and experimental cooking? 

First, I rarely had enough time as I was full time employed with a very busy social life and other professional obligations. In most cases, till 33 yo, I used my house as the place where I sleep and change and go back to work. Thus, the space dedicated to the kitchen was limited. Plus, as I had everything made and waiting for me while at home, I did not need to care what recipe I should prepare, because everything was waiting for me. In fact, most recipes can be done in less than 2 hours and the house looks and smells better after quality cooking.

Secondly, I never trusted enough my cooking skills for considering myself able to prepare on my own: pizzas, gnocci (my latest success), bread, complicated cakes. It is a matter of practice and knowledge and once you decide to spend at least one hour the day cooking or trying something new, the story will continue over and over again.

Last but not least, I was always worried that I may take weight. I wanted to keep myself fit and very slim. But by eating fresh fruits and vegetables and other delicious treats I only turned into a healthier person and happier woman and even though I took some little weight, I really enjoy my new life and my newly discovered skills.

All the best from my busy kitchen!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oma and Bella, the recipe of good life

When all the problems are over and they leave us alone, we prepare a fast and we enjoy together the taste of freedom. Oma and Bella, the two Jewish ladies cope with the terrors of the last century with a good recipe and a healthy meal. I've heard about them long before I saw the movie, and they are quite well known in the Charlottenburg/Wilmersdorf area of Berlin. 
One little lady with whom I watched the movie told me: 'But they are so active'. She is only 14 and Oma and Bella have at least 5 time her age. 

As I also learned during my latest years of cooking, food means more than the basic energy you must have daily for surviving. I entered into the world of cooking trying to share: good taste, recipes, stories. I got connected with other people around a good meal and I learned how to do good food to make people around me happy. 

Oma and Bella are telling their stories while preparing old recipes they do it without checking their notes all the time. They cook for the film director - who's asked to drink the orange juice because it is healthy - they cook for their afternoon five o'clock or for celebrating with friends. With the same hands they did the hard work for the Germans, they prepare small biscuits or clean the meat. 

'Sometimes it is good, sometimes less good', but it is always bad to be alone. The light feeling of life of Oma and Bella, the two Jewish ladies from Vilnius and Galizia, is part of the gratitude of life. They survived and their good lesson of life is what we need sometimes, when we feel that one small little drop of unhappiness will kill us. Remember, when everything is gone and it is no more pain, set the table and enjoy the kiddush. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to tell if avocado is ripe

For years, this is one of my biggest problems in choosing avocado: how can I know how ripe is without touching or even smelling it. Apparently, it was easier than expected, and thanks to the Internet and social media, even a clumsy person as me can recognize the right avocado. 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My piece of edible gold

Almost one year ago, a friend of mine who's always having an amazing variety of drinks available, showed me a nice bottle with golden pieces inside. When asked what the bottle contains, he was surprised that I never heard about Goldwasser. Honestly, I had no idea what it is, but realized that the shiny little pieces may be gold. No curious to have a taste, though.

A couple of months after this discussion, a friend of mine told me her experience of being offered the pleasure of a chocolate cake on a sheet of gold. As a decent and modest person, she refused to eat the gold. The gold, a domain that I used to work as a PR executive years ago, was haunting me, but in a very sweet and interesting way. Honestly, I did never approach aspects related to the edible side of gold and now I was feeling that I missed something.

Recently, while changing airplanes, I had a look at a local duty free shop and I saw that not only Goldwasser is using pieces of gold, but also some vodka producers decided that it is fancy to have some glittering inside.

A little bit of history

Using gold in the cuisine is not a discovery of the 21st century. In many circumstances - that I will not develop here by lack of medical skills - it was used for healing purposes first by the alchemists in the 15th century, at the time due to the frequent association of gold with 'magical' powers. 

For instance, in the 16th century, the Italian nobles used the golden leaves for their risotto decorations. In the sophisticated Elizabethan times, many of the fruits served regularly were covered in golden leaves. 

Danzig Goldwasser was around from the end of the 16th century, and Peter the Great or Catherine the Great were familiar with it. The wars and various partitions of Europe did not diminish the interest for this special drink and after the Cold War, the distilleries moved from Danzig/Gdansk to Berlin and further to West Germany where the golden water is still produced. The Goldwasser tastes anice, black licorice, cinnamon and citrus and can be used in combinations with vodka and martini.

On the other end of the world, in Japan, some producers had the idea to add some gold in the bottles of the traditional sake.

Is the gold leaf delicious?

As I never had the pleasure to taste an entire leaf, I cannot tell it. What I was told is that by using it the food - especially cakes and choco truffles, but also some fruits (apples, almonds, pears or any other fruit that your imagination can think about) -, and the drinks are looking better and appealing, mostly the cocktails. 

The edible gold is 22-24k; less carats mean more impurities and thus, more dangers for the health. The pieces of the gold sheet are not absorbed by the body. A high quality leaf is very delicate, and should be used with a lot of art. The leaves can be bought from various distributors, but also from It is important that before you buy, you do some basic research about the credibility of the company and the guarantee certificate it has. You can purchase it in flakes or sheets, but also in small golden buttons used for the regular decorations of the birthday cakes. 

The prices are not very high, with a minimal investment of 20$ in a 50x50 gold leaflets. 

Bon Appetit!

Eating flowers

As I kid, I was hard to be stopped eating the delicious rose petals from the garden. This was the breakfast, early in the early sunny mornings, to be continued with the delicious 5 o'clok rose jelly, when it was the gossip time for the ladies. I was not rebuked for my vegetarian compulsions, but was not appreciated either. For a long time, I took it as a manifestation of my eccentricity side.

However, when less than one month ago I discovered a lovely package of pansies on sale in a big shop in London, I was challenged to find out what it is new in terms of edible flowers. 

Historically speaking, the custom of eating flowers is older than I: in the Middle Ages, India, China but also in the Victorian British Empire. There are several flowers used regularly as part of salads, cocktails and cakes, and the latest trends towards more healthy vegetarian food may encourage flower-based recipes further. 

It is very important that the flowers are carefully washed before use. Any flower not sprayed is saved from the culinary point of view. Allergic people must be more careful than the rest of the world, but in general, eating flowers does not present high health risks. There are warning regarding apple blossoms, for instance, that in big quantities can have a high concentration of cyanide precursors. Many flowers who aren't fresh may have a bitter taste and you better avoid it. An important recommendation for someone at the beginning of the flower-based diet is to do not use the flowers growing by the roadside. Not the entire flowers are edible so, please, don't try to eat the bucket!

What to put in your salad

The most frequent meeting with flowers are in teas. Jasmin and dandelion are the most frequent examples. My dear roses, are not only part of delicious jams, but also included in salads and this is not only for the special design that the colour may give. 

Lavender is even used as part of oils and also for jellies, but I also heard about...lavender foccacia. Its pleasant citrus taste may add a special taste to your glass of champagne. Some also recommend them for ice creams or chocolate cakes. 

The chrysanthemus, for instance, are appreciated in the Japanese cuisine for various stir-fries, and in general as part of salads. The gladiolus taste like lettuce, and the pansies will always give to the soup a pleasant flavour, besides the colour. My favourite flowers, the lilly can be also eaten, but it is not clear for me if the special perfumes, one of the reason we love flowers, besides colour, is maintained during the cooking process or gives a special taste to the food after all. Violets are recommended as garnishing for various desserts, including chocolate or strawberry salads. I've also saw some recipes where they appear as ingredients for spinach salads. 

I was not surprised by the edible side of most of the flowers I've read about, I did not expect to see the carnations on the list. Probably because for me they look very 'artificial' and thus, not natural enough for being part of a meal. However, those who did not have such second thoughts before me say that they taste spicy and bitter and even close to saffron. 

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A visit in the world of Dr. Hauschka

my samples
The collaboration with Dr. Hauschka was one of the simplest in my short experience as a blogger. I applied on the website for some samples and the package arrived at my door a couple of weeks later. The package included samples of: a handcream - that is really addictive, as it solves all my problems caused by the long winter -, a face rosecream - very good influence on my skin, even though at the first sight it looks fattier that I am used to in terms of creams, a body Arnica oil - the smell may be discouraging but it makes the body looks like silk - and a lavender body moisturing.

Arnica Oil is recommended for anyone that like the relaxation feeling after hours of intensive training or sauna. It has also jojoba oil and some lemon accents. It is fresh and brings the necessary hydration to a tired skin. The same contribution is brought by the rose cream, that makes the face looks fresh and happy. 

The only think that discouraged me was the unusual smell for me, but in fact it is a guarantee that the products used are natural and do not have additives and other perfumes that may attract you with something else than quality. 

The products distributed by Dr. Hauschka cover many categories: cleaning milks, daily care - eye, face, lips - night products - especially creams, but also products recommended for intensive care, regeneration and weekly treatment, masks, after sun lotions, hair care as well as makeup. Both men and women can benefit of the advantages of using the products

No skin types

Dr. Hauschka is an appreciated brand situated in the South of Germany, close to the sources of natural wellness of the Jura area. It is present all over the German space - in Austria and Switzerland - but appreciated over the world. Recently, my friends from London asked me to find out for them some products for various types of sensitive skin. However, the products are not designed for specific types of skin, the main aim of the product is to reestablish the harmony between the skin and the rest of the body. Each product is based on natural products, from controlled areas. The process of production is over viewed by doctors and specialists.   

The company was created initially in 1935 by Dr. Rudolf Hauschka, a Viennaise chemist passionate about anthroposophy. Haunted by the national-socialists, he delayed the establishment of the business till late at the beginning of the 1960s, when he was able to set up his idea together with his future wife, Elisabeth Sigmund, an expert in cosmetics. The first products were launched in 1967. 

Luxemburg cheese

Snapshots from ITB 2013, Luxemburg Pavilion

Before attending the ITB Berlin, I did not know anything about the special cheese from Luxemburg. After a couple of hours of intensive reading the secrets of this cheese are not revealed yet, but at least I know more about the general context. 

Situated between France and Germany, the cuisine of Luxemburg mixes both the French and the German influences. There are a couple of meat products very similar to the German ones. Especially the wines are strongly influenced by the Riesling style of the German neighbors.

As for the cheese, the most famous is kachkeis, a combination of brie and camembert, based on cow milk. It is a simple and good taste, that it is always pleasant to combine with a glass of white wine.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Zucchini muffins: My own original idea

After a very busy week, I am desperate to cook something fresh and new and good and healthy. But I was completely out of ideas and as for many time I wanted to have some salty muffins, I focused all my energies for finding a recipe based on zucchini. Out of time and unhappy with what I found, I decided to put at work my own inspiration.

The result was the following combination:

- 2 zucchini, peeled and without seeds.
- garlic, on taste - I used 3 cloves
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 pinch of kosher salt
- 150 gr. palm butter melted
- 3 eggs beaten
- 2 cups flour

The zucchini and the garlic spent some exciting time in the mixer until they turned into a creamy composition. After adding each new ingredient, I tried to be sure that everything is smoothly. 

I poured the content in the muffins forms and waited for another 45 minutes - oven at 150C. The muffins are ready to be eaten this evening.

Bon Appetit!

Short trip in the world of Gozo's cuisine

The advantage of being in Berlin this time of the year was that I was able to attend regularly the main happenings at the International Tourism Fair. Most part of them, at least during the days when the public does not have access, are dedicated to corporate customers, but from time to time, at least for the media, there are interesting presentations taking place. At one of them I was invited yesterday: cuisine in Gozo, organized by Malta Pavilion. 

I must confess that I did not know too much about Gozo cuisine before, and the confusion with the generous 'Mediterranean cuisine' was prevalent. Of course, Malta and Gozo especially were influenced by the Mediterranean cuisine, but when we are talking about Mediterranean, we must be very careful which side of the sea are we referring too. This explains why within Malta one can encounter different styles and flavours.

In the case of Gozo, for instance, one should have in mind that it is one of the oldest trading routes connecting Europe to Africa and thus there were many spices and special recipes brought here by travellers from all over the world. If you wonder why you may find many chutney-like recipes, this is because of the British influences. As in the case of the olive oil, it always depends which side of the sun you are on.

The cuisine in Gozo contains many organic food, with vineyards and farming. Due to the rich wheat produced by the island, there are many types of bread that are delicious with the olive oil and dried tomatoes. The original Gozo cuisine does not used additives and is extremely healthy, especially if you suffer of too much fast food and hasty eating. There are some special types of wine produced on Gozo, and the island has its own Certified Denomination of Origin. 

The green beans, the grapes and the olive oil

A chef from Gozo explained life the secrets of the healthy cuisine

A big temptation

Homework for the next days: what's the secret of Gozo cuisine?

Another original product
I will come back soon with new information about this gorgeous cuisine, but also with other fresh recipes from the International Tourism Fair Berlin.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Banana bread, my own version

I was a bit lazy and not so creative with the cooking lately, but after I saw lots of recipes of banana bread on social media, I decided that I should try my own version as well. As I want to turn the page to a healthier and diet-oriented menu - Pesach is getting closer as well, I acquiesced to put myself on trial with a simple recipe.

The preparation lasts around 20 minutes. 

The ingredients are:

- 2 cups white wheat
- 1/2 cup sugar - alternatively, 3 tablespoon of honey may be a better idea
- 5 tablespoons coconut raspel
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 3 bananas, purée
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 tablespoon baking soda

First, mix the bananas+eggs+sugar+cocos+vanilla+baking soda. The wheat is added last. Let it in the oven - 150C - for 1 hour and wait another 15 minutes until you will taste the first slice. I added some whipped cream as well and consumed it with a great pleasure and a big cup of black coffee.