Sunday, 23 July 2017

A long weekend in San Sebastián

A long weekend in San Sebastian

weekend in San Sebastian
La Concha - San Sebastian

Because of the oceanic climate of the province of San Sebastian, it reflects an intense green scenery which attracts a huge number of tourists around the world. Because of the fantastic views, the second source of income of San Sebastian is tourism and, the first is commerce. tourism. It attracts huge numbers of visitors every year.

The amazing San Sebastian is located in the Basque Autonomous Community in Spain. As a coastal city, it is along the boundaries of the Bay of Biscay, a couple of kilometres away from the French Border. The capital city, Gipuzkoa, is considered to be the smallest province in Spain. There are several ways to get to San Sebastian by trains that come from many parts of Portugal, Spain and France. Air travel, airports such as San Sebastian, Biarritz, Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Santander Airports are within easy reach.  If coming from the UK Bilbao airport then bus/car/taxi is about 1 hours away. I was told that in the Summer there are direct flights to San Sebastian airport. Or you can fly to Madrid and get internal flight to San Sebastian about 45 minutes away.

San Sebastian was the European Capital of Culture last year,  2016. It offers more than just beautiful scenary.  To start with, you can visit the Monte Igueldo, located at the West end of the La Concha Bay. From here, you will see breathtaking views of the entire town, harbour, and the lighthouse.

Plaza de Gipuzkoa

Plaza de Gipuzkoa - Romantic and charming green space in the city centre. It was designed by the prestigious French gardener, Pierre Ducasse. Home to a large number and variety of trees, flowers and plants, it also has a pond where ducks and swans swim around.

Another area to visit is the Miramar Palace, also known as Palacio Municipal de Miramar of Palacio Real. This 19th-century palace was built and commissioned by the Spanish Royal Family with its English style and impeccable architecture, the Palace is a must see!

The famous art piece by the sculptor Eduardo Chillida, known as the Peine del Viento or the Wind Comb is worth a visit. Located at the end of Ondarreta Beach.  Somewhat a symbol for the town, this installation of steel and granite is anchored to the rocks along the water.

 If you have time pay a visit to Victoria Eugenia Theatre, Maria Cristina Hotel, Port of San Sebastian and the Igeldo Lighthouse.
Peine del Viento

Porto San Sebastian
Zurriola Beach - Waves, surf and youngsters

Plaza de la Constitución - Old Town San Sebastian

 Eating in San Sebastián

 This is where the fun begins. San Sebastian is considered one of the world’s top food spot. Though small in size, this town has more Michelin stars per capita than any part of the world. It also houses two of the top 20 restaurants - Arzak and Mugaritz- according to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Another good news for  foodies and travellers is that within driving distance, you can also visit other Michelin star establishments like  Asador Etxebarri, Azurmendi,  Alameda, etc.  the list is long. Talk about food heaven! Read all about :  Alameda

If you don't speak the lingo and want to find out more about the local food it's worth going on a foodie tour during the high season.  Low season there are many tours happening.

 Food worth trying in San Sebastián

Breakfast at Mercado La Brexta  - Bar Azkena

Bar Azkena

Croquetas, crab cream, gamba gabardina and glass of Vermut

Vermut and pintxos
Gildas ( Gilda means lollipop, and the classic Gilda is a simple assembly of a guindilla (Spanish chilli pepper), olives,and anchivies,  bocadillhos and vermut

Squid in its own ink sauce
Kokotxas  - cod or hake cheeks

eggs and Hongos (local mushrooms)

Pan tomaca -
is a traditional Catalan breakfast dish that is also loved in other parts of Spain - I love it!  Brunch at La Madame is good!
Torrija - Spanish  sweet egg bread
finding some offal on offer at the bar at Martinez

More Pintxos  at Martinez

Pastel Vasco:  dense cake crust, soft  crème pâtissière, cherries or blueberries

bocadillos de tortilla

bocadillos de Jamon

Local Sidra (cider)

Croquetas - I love them!

Anchovie and crab cream and cava  at Bar Txepetxa in the Old town

More anchovies
Other dishes : Bacalao Pil Pil, Txistorra (sausage), txagurru  (local crab meat) and  percebes.

For Michelin suggestion in the region:  Hot&Chilli, Restaurant Alameda
With that, make sure to put San Sebastian in your next travel destination! Pack up your bags, shades and enjoy!

Until next time why not join me on  InstagramTwitter and Facebook…X 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Cooking with Santa Maria

A few months ago I was asked to take part of the  Latin Kitchen Supper Club; the dinner was to showcase the new range of sauces, rice, seasonings, tortillas, toppings and sides by Santa Maria.  Having been writing recipes for a few years now, I was looking forward to trying the new range and to produce recipes for three canapes, a palate cleanser and the dessert using some of the new Santa Maria range, as well as two cocktails to go with the appetisers.  The starters and main dishes were designed and incremented by Luiz Hara, the London Foodie.

This range is quite comprehensive of 39 Latin American influenced products sold in pouches and jars to keep in the cupboard making it easy to make fast and impromptu mid-week meals. Included in the range are the typical dishes from Cuban Chilli Sofrito Sauce, Argentinian Smoky Asado Sauce to Colombian Arroz y Frijoles (three bean rice) and the typical Costa Rican and Mexican staple Corn Tortillas. The range: 10 cook-in sauces, 5 unique flavoured rice variants, 7 dry seasoning mixes, 6 tortillas and wraps, and 11 toppings and sides to personalise any dish.  The whole range is very versatile, and they are now available in stores nationwide.

Here are my recipes for the very successful and exclusive Supper Club which took place back in June and was attended by the UK media.  Enjoy!


*Vegetarian Mexican Taquitos*  

Queso fresco version

canape size:  5cm diameter
makes: approx  64 canapes

1x pack of Santa Maria  8 corn and soft wheat tortillas
400ml of frying flavourless oil, 2 cups
3x cans of Santa Maria refried beans total of 600g
2x Santa Maria mild Guacamole style topping 600g
500g Queso fresco  (fresh cheese)
1 recipe for Pink Pickled Onions below

decoration: Coriander  and lime slices


1. Start by cutting the tortillas with the help of a round pastry cutter ring (5cm diameter). Reserve.
2. Heat a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil (you may need to add more, depending on how many you fry), fry the tortillas in batches for about 10-30 seconds on each side, until lightly browned
3. Place a paper towel on a shallow plate, rest the fried tortillas on it and continue the process. Add another layer of paper towel as you fill the dish. Reserve the fried tortillas in a warm place. 
4.Tip the refried beans into a pan and heat it gently according to the package instructions.
5.To assemble the canapes, put the tortillas presentation plate, spread the refried beans layer on the tortillas, next squeeze the guacamole, top with pickled onions (recipe below) and crumbled queso fresco.
6.Decorate with coriander and slices of lime.

Pickled red onions:
Makes a jar of approx 300ml

1 Peeled and thinly sliced large red onion
1 clove garlic
3 Tbsp caster sugar, 45g
1.5 Tbsp salt, 25g
 ½ tsp peppercorns
 1 cup white vinegar, 200ml

1. Slice the red onion finely and wash it with warm water over a colander in the sink. Let it cool completely.
2. In a medium bowl dissolve the white sugar, salt with 200ml of white vinegar.
3. In a jar glass or ceramic,  add the onions and the liquid, lastly the peppercorns.  The onions will transform into a shade of vivid pink after about 30 minutes.  It can be stored in the fridge best consumed in the first week.
Pulled pork version

* Patacones* 


Makes about 20-24 patacones

5 green plantains (do not use yellow, or yellowish green)
Vegetable oil for frying
Pinch of salt
Santa Maria Chipotle mayonnaise

1.Peel the plantain, and cut crosswise into 1 1/2 cm wide circles
2.Immerse the slices in salted water for 1 hour
3.Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet at 190C
4.Patch dry the plantain and fry the pieces on both sides for about 3 minutes, or until the pieces are slightly golden.
5.When they are golden, remove from the pan and place onto a plate covered with a paper towel.
6.Gently flatten the fried plantain with the help of bottom of a glass.
Place the pieces of plantain one at a time between 2 pieces of waxed paper, and flatten with hands or bottom of a glass
7.Place the plantain back in the hot oil and fry until both sides are golden brown
8.Drain on a fresh paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt
9. Serve immediately with Chipotle mayonnaise

*Santa Maria Colombian Crunchy Chicken Bites*

Makes about 40 pieces

400g chicken breast cut into small cubes (2cmx2cm)
200g plain flour
2 medium eggs, beaten
2-3 packs of Santa Maria Colombian Crunchy season
Oil for frying

1.Beat eggs with a pinch of salt in a bowl,  place the plain flour in a medium bowl and Santa Maria Colombian Crunchy seasoned corn coating in a third bowl.
2.Working with one piece at a time, gently press chicken into the flour to coat and shake off the excess flour. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg wash and then press the pieces onto the  Santa Maria Colombian Crunchy seasoned corn coating evenly. Reserve the coated chicken on a shallow plate while working on the rest; do not stack.
3. Heat the frying oil in a large skillet over medium heat at 180C.
4. Fry the chicken pieces until thoroughly cooked and place on a paper towel.
5. Served with slightly warm Santa Maria sticky pineapple & chilli sauce.

Palate cleanser: 

*Pineapple with mint and jalapeno  sorbet*

Makes 1L

600g of pineapple ready peeled and diced   
Juice of 1 lime
300g white sugar
300ml of water
10-15 leaves of mint
1 heap teaspoon of Green Jalapeno Sta. Maria drained, patch dry and chopped

1. Make a simple syrup with sugar and water. Place the sugar and water in a medium pot and let it simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Reserve.
2.Blend the pineapple, mint and Jalapeno until smooth,  strain the liquid and add the simple syrup.
3.Churn in an ice-cream maker following manufacturer’s instructions. Place in a container and freeze. Alternatively, tip the mixture into a large shallow container and freeze until it just about to set, then every hour or so break up the ice with a fork.


*Bom bocado* - coconut custard slices  

find the  recipe here: Bom bocado

*Chipotle Dark Chocolate ice cream with cocoa nibs*

Make: 700ml

500ml of good vanilla custard
200g good quality Dark chocolate, 70%
shot of strong coffee
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
40g Organic Cocoa nibs
1 tablespoon of chipotle paste, 15g (add more if more heat is required!)

1.Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie (hot water bath), make sure not to overheat it.
2.Mix the custard (room temperature) with the melted chocolate, the shot of strong coffee, vanilla extract, chipotle paste and stir well to combine. Let it cool completely. Place the mixture covered in the fridge.
3. Churn the mixture in an ice-cream maker following manufacturer’s instructions.  In the last 10 minutes of churning, add the cocoa nibs. Place in a container and freeze. Alternatively, tip the mixture into a large container and freeze until it just about to set, then every hour or so break up the ice with a fork.

The Cocktails

*Peruvian Classic Chilcano*

Pisco, lime, Canadian Ginger Ale, angostura bitters
Make: 1 serving

50ml of Peruvian Pisco
1/2 lime
110ml of Canadian Dry  ginger ale
2 drops Angostura Bitters
lime round for garnish
*15ml of simple syrup - optional

1.Mix the Peruvian Pisco,  juice of 1/2  lime and the simple syrup (optional) in a tall glass.
2.Add cubes of ice, and top off with ginger ale.
3.Add 2 drops Angostura bitter, stir, and garnish with a round slice of lime

*Peruvian Chicha Morada*

makes: 3L
Time: 5 hours

 3L water
 500g package dried purple corn (maiz morado)
 2 cinnamon sticks
 1 tablespoon of cloves
 5 large lemons, juiced
 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 300g
 1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped
 1 apple, chopped
1. In a large pan bring the water to a boil with the corn, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Reduce heat to simmer for 50 minutes.
2.Remove from the heat and strain the liquid through a mesh strainer. 
3.Stir the lemon juice and sugar into the chicha until the sugar has dissolved and cooled completely.  Place in the fridge.
4.Add the chopped pineapple and apple just before serving over ice.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Puglia: Eating and Drinking in Salento

Porto Cesareo Puglia , hotandchilli travel and food blog
Porto Cesareo

We had some excellent eating and drinking experiences in Salento. Not only this region is picturesque, but their food and wine are absolutely fantastic. Salento Wine Tours  took us to some amazing places  in the region. On arrival in Puglia, we stopped at Porto Cesareo. 

Porto Cesareo

Porto Cesareo Puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog
Porto Cesareo is a town and comune in the Italian province of Lecce in the Apulia region of south-east Italy.  The area around  Porto Cesareo is a beautiful example of "macchia shrubland", densely growing evergreen shrubs.  Tourism in Porto Cesareo is vital for the region. The shallow sandy sea remains low for tens of meters, and the transparent waters reminded us of the Caribbean sea. The coast is characterised by many capes, islets and reefs.

We had a fabulous meal at L'Aragosta da Cò in Porto Cesareo overlooking the Ionian Sea. There was plenty of fresh fish and seafood matched with the wines of Salento. Stunning views and delicious food, we couldn't ask for more.

Some of the scrumptious food we sampled at  L'Aragosta da Cò:
Food  in Puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog
Courgette white fish Sarago and courgette mousse
Food  in Puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog
Polpo alla pignata  with tomato chilli served with fried bread - amazing!
Food  in Puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog
Tuna tagliata
Food  in Puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog
Pasta with sea urchin and shrimps
with Leverano wine : Negroamaro 100% intense Rose, it has fruity and strawberry notes with low acidity 
Food  in Puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog
Platter of  Misto Fritto - seafood
Food  in Puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog

Food  in Puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog

We also had Polpo a la Catalan and delicious  Mussels gratin (above)
Food  in Puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog
Spumone: Ice cream with pistachio and caramelised nuts

L'Aragosta da Cò
Via Silvio Pellico, 38, 73010, Porto Cesareo, Italy

Campi Salentina

Campi Salentina in Puglia bu HotandChilli blog

Campi Salentina is a town and comune in the Italian province of Lecce in the Apulia region of south-east Italy. We stayed just outside the town about a ten minute drive away.

While in Campi we experienced some really stupendous food and wines. First stop was at Baccanera Restaurant, Enoteca and Pizzeria in town.  It was a balmy night, so an  'al fresco' meal was very welcome and the patio was magical with lights, beautiful plants and flowers.  The open pizza oven faces the restaurant floor, so we could see the bread and pizzas being baked in seconds.

Our meal at Baccanera

Campi Salentina in Puglia by Hotandchilli Blog

Campi Salentina in Puglia by Hotandchilli blog
Couscous veg, capicolla charcuterie Martina Franca, Puglia stracciatella cheese
Aubergine tower different presentation of parmigiana   and Panzerotti - potatoes cheese and mint bread crumbs (crust)croquette (off the picture)
food in Puglia, wine in puglia, hotandchilli food and travel blog
Malvasia Bianca wine from  Brindisi area a native Italian grape
Orecchiette pasta basil olive oil Salento formaggio ricotta (Sheep cheese)
Wine in Puglia, food in Puglia, Hotandchilli food and travel blog

making Oricchieta in Puglia
Misto Fritto di Carne

Oltreme red wine, Salento IGT,  varietal: Susumaniello,  dark ruby colour, aromas of red berries and plums. It's a rich with spicy, peppery aromas that went down really well with the Misto di Carne

semifreddo with hot chocolate sauce

Largo Cuore di Maria, 9, 73012 Campi Salentina LE, Italy

Pasticciotto Leccese - Pasticciotto is a typical dessert from the Salento area of Apulia, consisting of pastry filled with custard and baked in the oven. Thanks  to Chef Angelo Bisconti from Pasticceria Chèri for this fabulous tray of assorted  Pasticciotto

A Gourmet dinner at Verdalia's gourmet restaurant Folie

amuse bouche

The location of Verdalia is beguiling; it used to be a quarry which has now been transformed into a unique dining/events venue.  Folie is Verdalia's gourmet restaurant. Folie has only 24 seats which offer a refined and intimate ambience, ideal to fully appreciate the creativeness of Executive Chef Antonio Raffaele. Count on exclusive and impeccable service and a premium wine list; we had exceptional wines from Salento.

The Folie is a place for food lovers, where you can find cuisine that speaks of the Mediterranean culture, seasonality, hints of traditional recipes and surprise interpretations by Chef Antonio Raffaele. 

Frisa Leccese - modern twist on a Puglian dish

Carnaroli rice, pistacchio, shavings of dark chocolate, Sarawak pepper and anchovies cream
Juicy and tender Beef sous-vide with Negroamaro reduction and saffron potato cream

Palate cleanser: refreshing Semifreddo con Menta e Basilico
A selection of pastries  and sweet galore from the Chef!

Strada Provinciale Lecce - Novoli, Km 7, 73100
Villa Convento, Lecce LE, Italy
Phone: +39 0832 328259

L'Orecchietta in Guagnano

Pictoresque Guagnano

Salento's ancient tradition of producing fresh homemade pasta. This place sells fresh pasta and also offers pasta making courses.  We learnt to make Orecchiette, maccheroncini and focaccia.  We also had an excellent spread.  A visit to L'Orecchietta is a must when in the region.

food at L'Orecchietta
making fresh pasta at L'Orecchietta

Via Vittorio Veneto, 49, 73010 Guagnano LE, Italy
Phone: +39 334 722 0264

Osteria Origano in Minervino di Lecce

The Osteria Origano, founded by Gaetano Marangelli (a local, celebrated winemaker), it is a jewel in the historic centre of Minervino di Lecce. Their menu offers traditional Salento cuisine with a small modern twist.  The place is beautifully decorated and warm, a welcoming atmosphere in a Mediterranean-trendy style.

Burrata tomato cream fried bread
Octopus paprika potato cream rice flour basil parsley crispmatched with
Wine Novementi Rosato

Vegetables bacala red pepper extract (jus)
Risotto negroamaro cheese and peachesmatched with Red
Menhir -80% negroamaro 20%malvasia nera from Salice Salentino
Pancetta BBQ sauce onions paired with  Filo wine late harvest negroamaro 100%
Dessert - Coffee, milk, white chocolate powder, laurel sponge

Osteria Origano
Via Scarciglia, 18
73027, Minervino di Lecce, LE


Otranto in Puglia
Otranto, Puglia

The town of Otranto is a mix of history, architecture, views, sea-front restaurants and white sandy beaches - making it one of Puglia's most interesting, charming and scenic towns in the region.

Otranto sits right on the Adriatic sea, gazing out across its eponymous strait towards the Balkans and Greece, a strategic position that has profoundly influenced its history.

Otranto in Puglia by Hotandchilli food and travel blog
Beautiful Otranto

It is one of Puglia's most charming towns and is well worth a visit. The imposing castle has thick perimeter walls and robust towers, built after the town was liberated from the Turks in the late 15th century. The castle dominates much of the municipality before giving way to a small port, a series of seafront promenades with excellent fish restaurants and their very own beautiful white sandy beach with sparkling turquoise waters.

The stunning  Romanesque cathedral, dating back to 1088 and boasting extensive 12th-century-floor mosaics, is another highlight that should not be missed.

Puglia is absolutely beautiful. I can't wait to go back and explore more.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Salento Wine Tours for review purposes. All views are my own

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