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Jun
18
2013

Belgrade with kids- Our family trip + tips

Belgrade with kids

In the almost nine years that my husband and I have been together, we have visited Belgrade together many times.  But visiting Belgrade with kids is always a different experience, and one that keeps changing as our children grow.

We arrived to Belgrade on the 30th of April, from Athens, Greece, in a small Fokker plane from Olympus Airlines. Ahead of us was one week of extended holiday because, due to the proximity between the 1st of May and 2013′s Orthodox Easter, most shops and Government agencies were going to remain closed or with limited working hours on the days in  between the two holidays. As a consequence, the city (which is normally bustling with excitement and noise) was quite quiet and leisure-like, like a holiday spot

 

belgrade-fountainwm

I have mentioned before that, when we travel to Belgrade, we live like locals do, go to the places where locals go and pretty much avoid touristic spots. In this trip, this meant spending the 1st of May having lunch in one of the traditional restaurants that are located in the hills that surround the city.

Going to the hills on Labor Day is an old tradition that marks the beginning of the lovely Spring weather. The tradition, in fairness, is to go for a picnic, and people start arriving and setting up their picnic and camping spots as soon as they wake up, very early in the morning. Soon, the whole place is covered and there are families, and groups of friends chatting, drinking, eating and relaxing, children playing and runing all over, musicians, and even salesmen walking around selling ice cream, drinks, and children toys and balloons.

Belgrade with kids

 

Instead of a picnic,  though, this time we opted for a restaurant in the middle of the woods, that had a lovely playground for the children and a piece of land where Luka and Zoe blew dandelions in search of fairies.

When we had finished lunch and were waiting for dessert, something funny happened. A band that was at the restaurant, serenading customers with traditional Serbian music, approached our table and, realizing that I was not speaking Serbian, asked me where I was from. When I mentioned that I was from Argentina, one of them started speaking Spanish to me and they promptly starting playing La muerte del Angel, a tango by Astor Piazzola!

 

Belgrade with kids

 

Belgrade with kids

The leisurely feeling of the city influenced the rest of our days in it, as well. We strolled around the streets of downtown, especially the always beautiful Knez Mihajlova, where Luka and Zoe ran, ate ice cream and marveled at the water fountains; and where we could visit the tourist office shop to buy presents to bring back home as well as visit the wonderful math fair that was taking place all month of May.

Belgrade with kids

 

Belgrade with kids

 

The maths fair, which was full of young volunteers willing to help, was ideal to get children excited about science. There was a bicycle with squared wheels, a floor mat for people to find their way out turning only left (we all tried it and it was hard!), several math games, pendulums, dice experiments, a 3D printer and a fantastic table with thousands of straws that children could put together to create objects, thus bringing awareness to shapes and dimensions.

The squared wheel bicycle, as you can imagine, was a real hit with Luka and Zoe :)

 

Belgrade with kids

We also spent lots of time with family, which is something that, being expats, we don’t get to do often enough.

We took Luka and Zoe to amusement parks, the zoo, and open air playgrounds.

Belgrade with kids

 

 

We had cake at my brother in law’s traditional sweet shop, which dates from 1936.

We strolled in the esplanade along the Savva River.

We enjoyed the slow days and the quiet nights.

We relaxed.

Then, 10 days after we arrived, it was time to say goodbye. We took a plane back to Athens, then a plane back to Cyprus and here we are now. At home.

 

Belgrade with kids

 

And now, in case you are planning to visit Belgrade with kids (or with adults) I have put together a mini guide of things worth doing, worth seeing and worth eating!

Here it goes:

What to do in Belgrade with Kids

1) Visit Kalemegdan. The old city fortress is a real beauty, not only in itself but also because of the surrounding parks and the view of the Savva and Danube rivers. Lots of space for kids to run, and get excited about history. The fortress also hosts an army museum which kids love.

2) Go to the Zoo: It’s next to Kalemegdan and it’s very well kept. There are elephants, tigers, lions, penguins, seals, hippopotamus, giraffes, zebras, goats, tons of birds and much more.

3) Go to an amusement park: Also, in Kalemegdan. It’s not very big but it’s a nice stop before or after the zoo.

4) Walk around Knez Mihajlova. The most famous street in Belgrade, with its French inspired buildings, is a real beauty.

5) Have lemonade (or Boza) and cake at a traditional Poslaticarnica (or sweet shop). In Belgrade, sweet shops are where traditional cakes and pastries are sold. They are normally rather small and offer a mixture of Northern European cakes (due to the Austro-Hungarian influence) and Oriental delights, such as baklava (due to the times under Ottoman rule). Speaking about Baklava, you will find 3 different types: Greek, Turkish and Serbian (made with nuts mixed with Plazma cookies powder)

6) Try different types of bread at a Pekara (bakery). Cakes and sweets are sold in Poslasticarnicas, and Pekaras are were you can find exclusively bread. Delicious bread!

7) Rent bikes to ride around the Savva river

8) Take a boat ride on the Danube.

9) Have lunch  on a “Float” (restaurants on the Savva and Danube)

10) Take a tram ride

11) Buy Plazma cookies at the supermarket. Seriously, you cannot leave without tasting the iconic Serbian cookie with the famous tagline “A house is not a home without Plazma”. And since you are at the supermarket, you may also try Domacica cookies, bananica and cedevita juice. You will look like a local ;)

12) Visit the beautiful Orthodox churches and marvel at their works of art.

13) Buy burek or cevapcice at a local fast food shop and have an improvised picnic in one of the many Belgrade parks. 

14) If your kids are bigger than mine, you can go take a look at the buildings bombed by NATO during the war in Kosovo. They were not remodeled nor were they repaired,  and it may be a good opportunity to discuss war and recent European history. As a former peacekeeper, I find it important to discuss war and its consequences in times of peace.

15) Taste traditional Serbian food in the beautiful restaurants or Kafana of Skadarlija street (my husband recommends Tri Sesira, Ima Dana or Dva Jelena) For ideas on what to eat, keep reading!

Belgrade with kids

What to eat in a Belgrade Kafana

1)  Proja, corn bread (most of the times, it contains a cheese similar to feta inside)

2) Burek:  A puff pastry pie, filled with cheese (burek sa sirom) or with meat (burek sa meson). It is possible to find some varieties with Spinach and cheese as well.

3) Corba and other traditional soups. Strictly speaking, corba is soup that contains fish or beef and that is thickened with flour.

4) Sarma: Beef and rice wrapped in vine leaves and cooked for a very long time!

5) Punjene paprike: Red peppers stuffed with rice and beef.

6) Pasulji: Bean stew.

7) Cevapcice: long meat balls made with lamb, pig and beef meat.

8)   Tarator: Salad very similar to Tzaziki, made with yogurt, cucumbers, garlic and parsley. Ideal for Summer and for using as a sauce over bread.

9) Ajvar: Red pepper puree.

Belgrade with kids

 

What to eat in a Poslasticarnica

1) Northern European cakes, such as black forest, or struddel.

2) Triglav: a  chocolate buttercream cone, covered in chocolate.

4) Krempita: A bomb. A very thick layer of pastry cream between two slices of puff pastry. Here is a recipe, if you want to try it at home.

5) Baklava: A classic with its own Serbian version,made with plazma cookies and nuts.
6) Kuglof: A wonderful tea cake made with dried fruits.
7) Ratluk: fruit candies,covered in sugar.
8)  Tulumbe: Similar to churros.  This recipe sounds good.  
9) Vasa’s Torte:  A cake made with nuts, chocolate and lots and lots of cream. Nigella’s community has a recipe available online 
Did this post make you want to visit Belgrade? Or at least to eat some Serbian food? If so, mission accomplished :)
Have a lovely week, dear friends, and don’t forget to subscribe to get the  mini Summer recipes ebook that I created with wonderful Claire Stone!
Jun
11
2013

One day in Athens with kids: Our trip, part I

Athens with kids

Good morning dear friends! I am beginning today the series of posts about our last family trip to Athens and Belgrade, and, since the Summer holidays are almost upon us, I will take this opportunity to share with you all my tips and tricks for travelling with children of different ages.

But first things first, so today I will tell ALL  about our one day in Athens with kids!

 

Athens with kids

We had always wanted to visit Athens but, for one reason or another, we had never been able to until last April. I must confess, though, that we had not originally planned to do so in this occasion and that the Universe lent us a hand for making this this micro visit finally happen. You see, whenever we travel to Belgrade, we normally use the Serbian Airline Jat, because they have a 2 1/2 hour direct flight from Larnaca and, up until this year, a schedule that suited us. But in 2013 they started flying in the middle of the night, leaving Cyprus  at 2 am in the morning and, while I wouldn’t mind that too much as an adult, we believe that children are a different story. Leaving so late means disturbing  our children’s sleep (they are bound to wake up during the several security check ups) and, as a consequence, having to deal with two cranky kids once in Belgrade, and risking a jet lagged sort of change in their normal waking hours, so we started looking for options.  And we found them.

Athens with kids

 

Two months before travelling, we booked our tickets to travel through Athens and,  since we were already passing by, we decided to make a short stopover in Greece and try to see the Acropolis, at least!. We booked a family room at a nice hotel near   Syntagma Square and waited happily for the date of the trip to arrive. We couldn’t wait!

Then, three days before travelling Luka and Zoe got ill with tonsillitis and a ear infection, respectively,  and we knew our expectations for the trip had to change.

 

Athens with kids

Travelling with small kids, in general, is very different than travelling alone, with friends, or as a couple. And the key to a happy trip is, in our modest opinion, equal doses of planning and flexibility (and a good deal of patience).

What I mean by  equal doses of planning and flexibility is this:  We plan the basics carefully: make sure that plane tickets, hotel reservations and  documents are up to date and easy to access with one hand. We book hotels that are close to the main attractions of have easy access to them. For stays longer than two nights, we chose to stay in apartments where we can take care of the cooking, w pack with care, making sure that we put extra clothes in our luggage, tons of entertainment, snacks and water (to account for unexpected delays or cancellations), we prepare the children as much as possible by talking about what will happen, where we are going, what we will see.We pack extra money in case there are long delays, research airport websites to know what services are available in the waiting and boarding areas, learn where to get transportation out of the airport fast, how much it should cost to go to our hotel and we save spare cash for this purpose. We even ask our children’s pediatrician for advice on medicines we should bring with  us “just in case” (we always carry paracetamol and ibuprofen with us, for example).  We are thorough and meticulous in our planning before we leave.

But once we are at the airport/train station/bus station, we know that unexpected things happen all the time and we try to go with the flow.

Athens with kids

So,when we found out that Luka and Zoe were ill, we knew that we would need to travel with antibiotics and that they were not going to be feeling at the top of their game. And we knew that this meant quickly lowering our expectations about what we could do in Athens with our kids.

We love travelling and we want our children to learn to love it too. We want them to become globe trotters like ourselves and we believe that  the key for this to happen is for us to make sure that the travelling experience is one that is adapted to their developmental age, to what they can do and to what they like. We try to mix activities that we would love to do, with child oriented experiences. We walk a lot but have money ready for a quick taxi in case they are too tired. We know the times of the day when our children are in a better mood and plan more activities during those hours. We mix cultural activities with time in parks and playgrounds where they can relax and spend their abundant energy.  And when they are ill, we prioritize making them feel at ease and comfortable and we don’t push for anything at all. During our trip to Athens, this meant not walking much, not climbing to the Acropolis, and seeing the main monuments from the deck of a tourist bus.

And it was the best decision we made.

Athens with kids

 

We arrived in Athens on a Sunday, around noon, after a short but nice trip from Larnaca. We went through immigration control pretty fast and found a taxi to take us to our hotel, in a beautiful ride that took us through the hills that surround the ancient city. The streets were quiet, with just a few people strolling quietly, sitting in parks,  and many of them meditating and practicing yoga. From the windows of the car, we could spot a few dogs and cats here and there, a few open shops and some groups of tourists like us. But the most surprising thing of all was how at home my husband and I felt there, as if we had lived there before even though it was our first time in the city.

 

 

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We checked into our hotel, left our luggage in the room and promptly climbed to the restaurant situated on the last floor, from where we knew we would be able to see the Acropolis.

It was stunning.

We had a few drinks, our jaws dropped at its beauty, and then went down to the hotel’s reception to see how far it was and how easily accessible it was to evaluate the feasibility of going with our children.

Athens with kids

It turned out that it was pretty close by, and that the path to get there was a beautiful one, full of  little shops and cafés, so we decided to give it a try. It was almost lunch time already by the time we left the hotel, so we figured that, if Luka and Zoe got too tired on the way there, we could always stop at one of the cute little restaurants, grab a bite and then continue. Or, if they were not feeling well by the time we finished lunch, we could always go back to the hotel and let them rest watching cartoons, or take a nap.  In the end, this is what we ended up doing.

Athens with kids

After they had taken a nap, we started looking for things to do, for a way to take at least a brief look at the city, but that wouldn’t push Luka and Zoe beyond their point of comfort. We wanted them to enjoy the sightseeing, not to struggle!

We were brainstorming ideas in our room, when I remembered seeing the double-deck tourist buses around Syntagma square. I went down to the reception and found a brochure with all stops, packed snacks and water for the children, and we left.

Athens with kids

The bus stop was barely 200 meters from our hotel and, by the time we arrived, there was a bus there already. Luka and Zoe were very excited about travelling on the upper side, getting their headphones in their ears and being able to touch the tallest branches of the trees and the streets from above.

A few minutes after the bus began moving, however, the fell soundly asleep again!

Athens with kids

The afternoon was sunny, and there was a lovely breeze that prevented the weather from getting too hot. The city felt quiet and relaxed, and it was really nice to be able to, at least, get a glimpse of it.

During the 90 minutes that the itinerary lasted, we saw Melina Merkouri, Plaka, the New Acropolis Museum, the Acropolis and Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus, the National Gardens, the Benaki Museum,  Panathenaic Stadium, the National Library), the National Archaeological Museum, Omonoia Square, Karaiskaki Square, Thession Station, and Kotzia Square. We took pictures trying to avoid the heads of other passengers (a difficult task!), we chatted and we planned future trips.

Athens with kids

Athens with kids

By the time the bus tour was finished, we had already fell in love with the city, and decided to go back one day, to walk and walk and walk.

Athens with kids

 

Athens with kids

 

We took off the bus, treated Luka, Zoe and ourselves to a few scoops of delicious ice cream and went back to the hotel, where we later had dinner, watching the sun set over the city.

sunset-over-athens

Early the following morning, we took our flight to Belgrade…but I’ll tell you about it in my next post!

 

Have you ever been to Athens? Would you like to? 

Athens with kids

Dec
19
2012

Day 19: Things to do in Nicosia these days and a few local artisans I love {discover!}

Nicosia-Christmaswm

Good morning friends! I am publishing this post veeeeeeery late because I had problems all day with my internet connection, and I had my son at home, recovering from fever. But here I am!

Today’s post, corresponding to day 19 of the advent, is a small guide to holiday related activities in the city, and a  shout out to artisans I know and love. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may already know that I arrived to live in Nicosia on a 24th of December, so this season is a special one for me for many reasons. When I had just arrived I had absolutely no idea where to go or what to do, apart to our daily visits to Ikea to furnish our apartment, so in case you have just arrived or need a refresher or are looking for some original last minute gift, here’s some of what is going on in the city:

Activities: 

1) Christmas markets: Every year, during the weekends of December and especially right before Christmas, there are ad-hoc markets selling different things, from baked goods to home made cards (and everything in between) at the beginning of Ledra street, frequently accompanied by chorus that sing carols. Dowtown shops are also open on Sundays and some street, such as Stasikratou,  become pedestrian.

2) Gynaikobazaro or Women’s market at the end of Ledra street (near the crossing): This is a lovely initiative by My Shop, a vintage shop in the old town, which aims to bring back to life the traditional women’s markets, typical of  Cyprus. It is an open air market, where (mostly) women sell their handcrafted goods and it is open on the first Saturday of every month, and twice in December. The next one will be next weekend, and it will open both on Saturday and Sunday.

3) Christmas charity concert at Holy Cross Catholic Church (Paphos gate): It will take place on December 21st and all proceeds will go to charity

4) Christmas activities at Ikea and the Mall of Cyprus: They take place every day during December, and they are varied: cookie offerings, fashion shows, magicians, etc. Great for rainy days :)

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Artisans: 

1) Victoria Vasiliou:  She is an amazing artist, who makes découpage and knitted berry baby hats and shoes. The boxes above were made by her, for Zoe and Luka, when they turned 1 year old. I had seen her work at a baby shower and fell absolutely in love with it, so I immediately thought about her for making our children’s birthday present (in case you are wondering, they are “boxes to store love” and they have letters and greetings cards from loved ones who live near and far). Her wonderful taste and attention to detail are fantastic.  She now lives in Pera Orinis, outside of Nicosia and can be contacted by email at victoria.vasiliou@yahoo.com.

2) Suga Belle Boutique. Haroulla is an artist and graphic designer who recently opened her etsy boutique, where she sells adorable and eco friendly handmade  headbands, pouches and greeting cards. You can check her HERE.

3) For traditional Cyprus handcrafted items, visit the Cyprus Handicraft service. It is located in Athalassa Avenue 186, Strovolos and there you can not only buy goods, but also see the artisans at work in their workshops. Traditional items include pottery and lace work, among others.

In case you are wondering: No, I didn’t receive any money, goods or anything else in exchange for these recommendations, nor do I have an affiliate relation with any of the shops or artisans mentioned in this post. My opinions are entirely my own.

Do you like to shop artisanal products for the holidays and to visit Christmas markets?

Nicosia-Christmas_1wm

 

 

 

Sep
27
2012

A Farewell to Summer

Autumn is here.

September is almost over and, while Summer is still lingering in Nicosia, some trees have started to lose their leaves, and, early in the mornings and when the sun sets at night,  the air is fresh and a lovely, cool breeze signals the beginning of the new season.

I am, normally, an autumn-winter person. I thrive in cold weather, I love snow and even rain,  and I have a hard time putting up with high temperatures. I have always looked forward to seeing the first yellow leaves appear in the trees, to getting  cardigans and sweaters out of storage and to knowing that delicious apples and pears were going to fill the market stalls soon.  But this year, something changed and it wasn’t my love for cold weather, which remains intact.

This year, perhaps for the first time, I also embraced Summer.

It may have been the fact that, for the past 7 years, I have been living in countries with warmer weather climates (first in Ivory Coast, and now in Cyprus),  or it may have been the fact that this was the first year that Luka and Zoe went to school, so August felt like vacations and not just like “another hot month”. Or maybe it was because we didn’t travel and, as a consequence, we got to explore Nicosia and other parts of the island with fresh eyes, or perhaps because  after a hard first half of the year (2012 has been a rough one so far), we now take every single opportunity to connect, cherish our family, and celebrate.

For whatever reason, this past Summer we slowed down, we unplugged from all the media paraphernalia, we looked around us and we made it a point to be present, to be mindful, and to take advantage of what we have, of where we live, of who we are. We wanted to make this a fun-filled summer, so I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. I had been collecting ideas  for a while, and in August we put them to good use.

We wanted to have as much contact with nature as possible, so, at home, we planted spices to season our food. We also explored different parks and playgrounds daily, and took nature observation walks in the early hours of the morning, and then came back home to combat the heat in the paddling pool set up in the balcony. When it was too hot to get outside, we stayed indoors and spent our time doing arts and crafts.  We played with clay and play-dough. We did collages and paper mobiles and hang them from the windows to twist and turn with the afternoon breeze.

We made Toilet Tube cars, filled the house with balloons for no reason at all, glued a paper hospcotch to the floor and spent days jumping on it. We made a felt board for telling stories and singing rhymes.

We read a lot, old and newly- discovered  books, and we filled the ipod with readalong versions of our favourite stories.

We brought books to life, with a little imagination. We made lots and lots of origami boats and made them race in the paddling pool with the power of our lungs. We made origami airplanes and spent entire afternoons making them fly all around the house.

And Zoe wrote her name alone for the very first time!

 

On weekends, we took day trips around the island. We visited the Protaras Aquarium, where we saw octopus, sharks, upside-down fish, penguins, pacus and many other species. We visited the Limassol Zoo, where we saw owls, monkeys, birds and even deers. We visited the Troodos Mountains and had lunch at a lovely, shaded restaurant, next to the calming sound of a stream of water where little geese and ducks were bathing.

We spent a weekend at a hotel, by the beach, and it was wonderful. We bathed and sunbathed, we  played and relaxed. We saw beautiful sunsets, and the most amazing dawns from our balcony, and it all felt as carefree, peaceful and joyful as Summer should.

We celebrated Luka and Zoe’s birthday with not one, not two, but three cakes (each!). Yes, that’s right: one mini cake made from stacked cupcakes for the day of their birthday, one cake for each of them for a mini party at home (pictures in the next post!), and one cake for each to bring to school, to celebrate with their friends and classmates (these are cakes pictured below. Plain and simple on the outside, but with a surprise on the inside: They were rainbow cakes!).

We didn’t bake much, because it was too hot to turn the oven on…but we made ice cream! And plenty of it!

At the beginning of August, we bought the KitchenAid’s ice cream attachment and began experimenting with flavours.  I turned to the internet for recipes and I was not disappointed. We made David Lebovitz’ s vanilla bean ice cream (which is AMAZING), and chocolate ice cream, the famous one ingredient banana ice cream from The Kitchn (a wonderful guilt free treat!) , and an absolutely delicious vegan coconut chocolate ice cream.  We also made Food and Cook’s chocolate popsicles  and  her yogurt and raspberries popsicles. My advice: try them all! And if you don’t have an ice cream maker,  worry not, the recipes can be adapted (just let me know in the comments if you have any doubts about how to do it).

We enjoyed this Summer as Summers are meant to be enjoyed: fully. And now, as the last bits of ice cream disappear from our freezer,  the weather slowly starts to get chillier and we start thinking about adding blankets to our beds, we are ready to fully embrace the colder days of Autumn.

I hope you all had a lovely Summer, or a cozy winter, depending on where you live, and I hope that you are all ready for the next season.

Have a wonderful week!

 

El otoño está aquí.

Septiembre casi llega a su fin y, aún cuando el verano aún se resiste a irse de Nicosia, algunos árboles ya han comenzado a perder sus hojas y, temprano por la mañana y al ponerse el sol, el aire ya está fresco y una adorable brisa señala el comienzo de la nueva estación.

Yo soy, en geneal, una persona otoñal. Me siento mejor en climas fríos, amo la nieve, y hasta la lluvia, y me cuesta terriblemente tolerar las altas temperaturas. Desde chica esperaba con ansias ver las primeras hojas amarillas aparecer en los árboles, el momento de sacar cardigans y sweaters de los baules y colocarlos en los placares (closets) y, sobre todo, ese saber que las manzanas y peras más deliciosas pronto llenarían los estantes de las fruterías. Pero este ano, algo cambió, y no fue mi amor por el frío, que sigue fuerte e intacto.

Este año,por primera vez, me entregué al verano, y lo aproveché sin desear que terminara.

Quizás haya sido porque hace siete años que vivo en climas cálidos (Costa de Marfil, primero, y ahora Chipre), quizás haya sido porque este fue el primer año que Luka y Zoe fueron a la escuela, entonces Agosto se transformó en sinónimo de vacaciones, y no tan sólo de otro mes caluroso. O quizás haya sido porque, como no salimos de viaje, aprovechamos al máximo la ciudad en que vivimos y exploramos la isla con nuevos ojos. O tal vez haya sido que, luego de una primera mitad del año complicada (2012 viene siendo un año duro), aprovechamos cada pequeña oportunidad para conectar, disfrutar de nuestra familia, y celebrar que estamos juntos.

Por el motivo que fuere, este verano que acaba de pasar decidimos desacelerar, desconectarnos de la parafernalia mediatica, mirar a nuestro alrededor y asegurarnos de estar presentes en nuestro aquí y ahora, de vivir concientemente, y disfrutar de aquello que tenemos, del lugar donde vivimos, y de todo lo que somos. Quisimos que este fuera un verano divertido, alegre, así que aprovechamos para poner en práctica todas las ideas que había estado recolectando en Pinterest desde hacía un tiempo.

Una de las cosas que queríamos era tener tanto contacto con la naturaleza como fuera posible, así que plantamos plantas aromáticas en el balcón y nos aseguramos de explorar distintos parques todos los días, y de hacer caminatas de observación de la naturaleza, todos los días, temprano por la mañana. Cuando el calor comenzaba a arreciar, volviamos a casa, disfrutabamos de la pileta plástica que colocamos en el balcón y, si se tornaba insoportable, entrábamos a casa a hacer arte y manualidades. Así pasamos las siestas jugando con plastilina y masilla, hicimos collages y móviles de papel que colgamos de la ventana para que la brisa de la tarde los hiciera volar y dar volteretas. Construimos autitos con tubos de papel higienico, llenamos la casa de globos por que sí, pegamos rayuelas en el piso y pasamos tardes enteras saltando en ellas. Creamos un cuadro de felpa y contamos historias y canciones con sus personajes.

Leimos mucho, libros viejos y nuevos, y llenamos el ipod de audio libros de nuestras historias favoritas y, con un poco de imaginación, dimos vida a nuestros libros. Hicimos barquitos de papel y los hicimos correr carreras con la fuerza de  nuestros pulmones. Hicimos avioncitos de papel y pasamos tardes enteras haciendolos volar por toda la casa.¡ Y Zoe escribió su nombre por primera vez!

Durante los fines de semana, nos dedicamos a explorar la isla en viajecitos de un día. Visitamos el acuario de Protaras, donde vimos pulpos,tiburones, pinguinos, peces invertidos y pacus, entre otras especies. Fuimos al Zoológico de Limasol, donde vimos buhos, monos, pájaros diversos y hasta alces. Subimos a las montañas Troodos y almorzamos en un restaurant precioso, bajo las copas de los arboles, y delimitado por una corriente de agua fresca en la que se bañaban, contentos, patitos y gansos.

Pasamos un fin de semana en un hotel frente al mar, y fue maravilloso. Nos bañamos en la pileta (piscina), tomamos sol, jugamos y nos relajamos. Vimos atardeceres hermosos y amaneceres de ensueño, desde la calma de nuestro balcón y todo hizo que nos sintieramos tan tranquilos, relajados y felices como todos deberian poder sentirse en verano.

Celebramos el cumpleaños de Luka y Zoe con no una, no dos, sino tres tortas ¡cada uno!. Si, como lo leen: una mini torta de cupcakes el día de su cumple, una torta cada uno para la mini fiesta que hicimos en casa (fotos en el proximo post!) y una torta cada uno para llevar a la escuela, y así soplar las velitas con sus amigos y compañeros (estas son las tortas de la foto, que son muy simples y sencillas por fuera, pero con sorpresa adentro: son la famosa torta arco iris!)

No hicimos tortas ni cupcakes ni esas cosas que requieren horno porque hacía demasiado calor…pero hicimos muchos helados!

A comienzos de agosto compramos el accesorio helador de la KitchenAid y, a partir de entonces, comenzamos a experimentar y probar helados de distintos sabores.  Busqué las recetas y la inspiración en blogs de confianza, y en internet, y la verdad es que no me decepcionaron. Hicimos dos helados de David Lebovitz, el de vaina de vainilla (INCREIBLE!) y el de chocolate (que tiene una textura de chocolate con leche), el helado de un banana de un solo ingrediente, the The Kitchn, y un helado vegano absolutamente delicioso, de chocolate y coco. Tambien probamos dos recetas de Food and Cook, el de palitos de chocolate y el de palitos de yogur y frambuesas. Mi recomendación: haganlos a todos! Y no se preocupen si no tienen máquina heladora, las recetas pueden adaptarse (si no saben cómo, dejenme un comentario en el post!)

La verdad es que disfrutamos de este verano como los veranos deben ser disfrutados: completamente. Y ahora que los últimos restos de helado comienzan a desaparecer de nuestro freezer, que el clima comienza, lentamente, a tornarse más fresco y que empezamos a pensar en agregar colchas a nuestras camas, ahora sí estamos listos para aprovechar cada minuto de los días fríos, del otoño.

Espero que ustedes hayan tenido también un verano hermoso, o un invierno cálido, dependiendo de dónde vivan, y espero que esten listos para vivir al máximo  y disfrutar enormemente la nueva estación que apenas se asoma.

Que tengan una semana maravillosa!

 

 

 

 

Jul
21
2012

Something sweet for the weekend: Alfajores (semi) cordobeses

 Good evening dear friends! I hope you are having a lovely weekend.

Days have been incredibly HOT in Nicosia this past week,  with temperatures ranging from 40 to 45.5 degrees celsius. Summer is definitely here and this means doing our best to minimize as much as possible the heat that comes into the house. This is why we clean early in the morning, and then try to keep all window shutters down, to turn the stove on as little as possible and, you guessed it, we avoid baking! We tend to opt for meals that require minimal cooking, such as fresh salads, and, for dessert, we eat fruits and simple home-made  fruit lollies.

Sometimes, however, we do crave a little baked treat and, for those occasions, these alfajores are perfect: they are incredibly easy and they take only 5 to 7 minutes in the oven to be ready. After they have cooled down,  they are sandwiched with fruit jam or dulce de leche and covered in the simplest glaze of all: icing sugar to which we just add a few tablespoons of boiling water and a sprinkle of lemon juice. They couldn’t be easier!

 

You may have noticed that I called these alfajores “semi cordobeses” ,  and there is a reason for that. I had been looking for a while for a recipe of the particular type of alfajores from my home city. I never had one because, when I lived there, I always bought them from a nearby store but, now that I live abroad and that I have children whom I would like to introduce to my culinary traditions, I wanted to be able to make them at home.

The search, however, proved to be difficult. It turns out that Argentina’s cocina criolla (créole cuisine) is famous for being “unreliable” or “moody”. Now, I honestly refuse to attribute  human characteristics to any recipe and I believe, instead, that what happens is product of the typical way recipes are transmitted back home: as part of family heritage. Recipes are learned, first, by watching our elders prepare them at home and, later,  by making them together with them when we are older. At my own home, for example, we rarely measured ingredients and recipes were rarely written down. We just knew how they were supposed to turn out and how to fix common problems, because we had been making them our whole life.

This reminds me of an anecdote from my grandmother. One day, back in 1997, I was about to leave Argentina for a few months when I realized that I had never written down some of her delicious staple recipes and that I would not necessarily remember how they were done because they were not everyday dishes. So I sat down with her, in her kitchen, armed with a notebook and a mate, and she started trying to explain to me how the recipes were done. Our dialogues went more or less like this:

Me: So, let’s see, “rosquitas“. What ingredients do they take?

Grandma Antonia: 6 eggs, 3 tablespoons of alcohol, 1/2 kilo of flour.

Me: And how do I make them?

Grandma Antonia: Just mix everything until you get a smooth dough. But if you feel that it turns out to be too dry, add another egg.

Me:  (confused) But how do I know if the dough is too dry and I should add another egg or if I should  just keep mixing??

Grandma Antonia: I don’t know! I just know!

Of course, we ended up making rosquitas together and I took many more notes than the ones initially provided by my grandmother. She knew so well how to make the recipe that it was hard for her to put herself in my shoes, or in the shoes of anyone who, well, just didn’t  know everything that she did.

Most of the recipes I have from my home are like that. They mention “a drop of milk”, “a bit of flour”, or they get started with 100 grs of chocolate but then add unmeasured extra quantities of it as the preparation progresses, according to how we know the dish is supposed to turn out because we made it countless times before. This is perfectly okay when recipes are transmitted within families but it becomes a problem when one has never seen the dish being prepared before. People tend to transmit the initial ingredients and the basic procedures but, more often than not, they simply forget to pass down vital information that one only acquires when making the food with them. Then, of course, fiascos become very common!

Let me just tell you that I had many of those fiascos before achieving this recipe (which gave me a few headaches too!) and I still haven’t found a good one for our traditional colaciones. What’s more, I don’t think my search for the real alfajor cordobés is over yet. These are delicious cookies, the texture of which does resemble that of our traditional sweets…but the taste is not quite “it”, in my opinion, and that is the reason I called them “semi-cordobeses”. That being said, do try them, because they are really, really tasty!

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients (For 25 alfajores of 4 cms diameter/ 50 single cookies)

- 500 grs all purpose flour (0000)

- 10 grs amonium bicarbonate (or 12 grs sodium bicarbonate, which is less smelly)

-10 grs baking powder

- 120 grs soft butter or margarine

- 2 eggs (I used M)

- 200 grs sugar

- 50 grs honey

- 15 grs malt extract (I used barley malt extract, which I found in the organic food section  of my local supermarket)

- Fruit jam of your choice or dulce de leche, for sandwiching the cookies. I used quince jam, apricot jam and dulce de leche, for more variety. Traditional jams are quince, apricot, apple and pear.

- 4 cups of icing sugar

- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

-  3/4 cup of boiling water (or 12 tablespoons)

Preparation: 

1) Mix flour, baking powder and bicabonate.

2) Pour flour mix on the kitchen counter and make a hole in the middle

3) Add butter, eggs, honey, malt extract and sugar in the hole. Start mixing the wet ingredients with your hands, and once this is done, start incorporating the flour, little by little, until you get a uniform dough.

4) Cover the dough in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

5) In the meantime, prepare your baking sheets by lining them with baking paper.

6) A few minutes before removing the dough from the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 250 degrees C (maximum)

7) Roll the dough 1/2 cm wide and cut circles using a cookie cutter. Place the circles on  baking sheets and put  them in the freezer for 5 minutes. NOTE: The cookies grow in the oven, so place them apart on the baking sheet or they will join one another. Also, do not skip the freezer part or they will lose their shape!

8) Bake in a hot oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until they barely begin to brown. Be careful, they brown easily!

9) Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely

10) Add one tablespoon of jam or dulce de leche to one cookie, and sandwich it by placing another one on top. Now you have an alfajor! Continue until all cookies have been sandwiched together.

11) Prepare the glaze by adding the boiling water and lemon juice to the icing sugar and mixing well, until no lumps remain.

12) Place the alfajores on a wire rack and pour the glaze over them. Let the glaze cool and harden, and eat.

You may store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. I hope you will like them!

Buenas noches queridos amigos! Espero que esten pasando un hermoso fin de semana!

La semana pasada tuvimos unos días increíblemente calurosos en Nicosia, con temperaturas que iban de los 40 and los 45.5 grados centígrados. El verano se ha instalado aquí definitivamente y eso significa, para nosotros, hacer todos los esfuerzos posibles por minimizar la entrada de calor a la casa. Por este motivo, limpiamos bien temprano a la mañana y luego intentamos mantener todas las persianas bajas, cocinar lo menos posible y, se imaginarán, evitamos prender el horno! Así que optamos por comidas livianas, que requieran mínima cocción, como ensaladas frescas, muchas frutas y helados palito de fruta, bien simples.

A veces, sin embargo, nos agarren esos ataques de algo dulce-dulce y, para estos casos, estos alfajores son perfectos: son increiblemente fáciles de hacer y sólo requieren 5 a 7 minutos de horno. Una vez que estan cocidos y ya se han enfriado, se los une con mermelada de frutas o dulce de leche y se los cubre con el baño más sencillo que existe: azucar impalpable a la que se le agrega agua hirviendo y un poquito de limón. No pueden ser más sencillos!

Seguramente habrán notado que llamé a estos alfajores semi cordobeses  y esto tiene una razón de ser. Hace ya bastante venía buscando una buena receta de los alfajores tradicionales de  mi terruño (de los que hablé en este post). Cuando vivía en Argentina nunca los hice porque, en caso de antojo, no tenia más que ir al kiosco a comprar uno, pero ahora que vivo en el exterior y que quiero transmitirle a mis hijos mis tradiciones culinarias, comencé a querer poder hacerlos en casa.
La búsqueda, sin embargo, no fue sencilla. Descubrí, entre otras cosas, que la cocina criolla tiene fama de “poco confiable” “traicionera” o “temperamental”. Ahora bien, honestamente me niego rotundamente a asignarle a una comida caracteristicas humanas y creo que lo que en realidad ocurre, que el motivo por el que las recetas “no siempre salen bien”es otro, y está ligado a la forma en que se transmiten las recetas: como parte del acervo familiar de cada uno. Las recetas no se escriben, se aprenden mirando a nuestros mayores, cuando somos chicos, y haciéndolas con ellos, cuando crecemos. En mi casa, por ejemplo, rara vez mediamos ingredientes meticulosamente, ni escribiamos instrucciones detalladas. Simplemente sabíamos cómo  debía quedar el plato y cómo solucionar posibles problemas, porque lo veníamos haciendo toda nuestra vida.

Escribo estas líneas y recuerdo una anecdota, muy ilustrativa, que involucra a mi abuela. Un día, allá por el año 1997, días antes de que yo fuera a partir de Argentina por unos meses, caí en la cuenta de que nunca había anotado algunas de aquellas deliciosas recetas que mi abuela no hacía tan frecuentemente y que, por lo tanto, yo no conocía de memoria. Así que me senté con ella  en la cocina de su casa, con un cuadernito que aún conservo, y una pava de mate, a intentar que ella me explicara su recetario personal. Nuestros dialogos terminaron siendo algo más o menos asi:

 

Yo: Bueno, a ver, rosquitas. ¿Qué ingredientes llevan?

Abuela Antonia: 6 huevos, 3 cucharadas de alcohol, 1/2 kilo de harina

Yo: Y como las hago?

Abuela Antonia: Mezclá todo hasta que te quede una masa suave. Pero si ves que la masa está muy seca, agregá un huevo

Yo: (confundida)…pero cómo sé si la masa está seca como para agregarle un huevo o si sólo tengo que seguir trabajandola

Abuela Antonia: ah, no sé! Yo sólo sé!

 

Obviamente terminamos haciendo las rosquitas juntas y en ese momento tomé muchisimas más notas para complementar las instrucciones iniciales dadas por mi abuela. Ella conocía tan bien cómo hacer la receta que le resultaba dificil ponerse en mi lugar, o sea, en el lugar de una persona que no supiera aquello que ella sabía tan a la perfección.

La mayoría de las recetas que traigo de casa son así. Hablan de “un chorrito de leche”, “un poquito de harina” o mencionan 100 grs de chocolate, pero no cuentan todos esos “poquitos extra” que se van agregando durante la preparación, conforme cómo el plato “debe quedar”. Esto funciona de maravillas con las recetas familiares, porque uno las conoce de memoria y no necesita una receta detallada, pero se transforma en un problema para alguien que nunca hizo el plato antes. La gente tiende a transmitir sólo los ingredientes iniciales y los procedimientos básicos, olvidando transmitir tambien,  la mayor parte de las veces, aquellos datos extra que son vitales para obtener un buen resultado. Y en esos casos, claro, los fiascos son momumentales y uno se queda mirando el horroroso resultado final y preguntándose qué habrá ocurrido.

Dejenme decirles que, en la busqueda de esta receta he tenido muchos de esos fiascos, que, aun esta receta misma me dio varios dolores de cabeza al comienzo, hasta que logré  “rellenar los espacios vacíos”, y que aún no logro dar con una buena receta de colaciones. Y más aún, todavía no considero que mi búsqueda del perfecto alfajor cordobés haya culminado. Estos alfajorcitos son deliciosos, y tienen una textura muy similar…pero el gusto no es exactamente el del alfajor cordobés tradicional, en mi opinión, y es por este preciso motivo que los llamé “semi-cordobeses”. Dicho esto tambien les digo que no dejen de probarlos porque son realmente muy, muy ricos!

Aquí está la receta:

Ingredientes

- 500 grs de harina cuatro ceros
- 10 grs de bicarbonato de amonio o 12 grs de bicarbonato sódico ( que es menos oloroso)
- 10 grs de polvo de hornear
- 120 grs de margarina o manteca
- 2 huevos
- 200 grs de azucar
- 50 grs de miel
- 15 grs de extracto de malta
- mermelada de frutas o dulce de leche para unir las tapitas. Yo usé mermelada de membrillo, de damascos y dulce de leche. Las mermeladas tradicionales son membrillo, damascos, pera y manzana.
- 4 tazas de azucar impalplable
- 3/4 taza de agua hirviendo
- 1 cucharada de jugo de limón

Preparación:

1) Mezcle la harina con el polvo de hornear y el bicarbonato

2) Coloque la harina sobre la mesada en forma de corona (haciendo un huevo en el medio)

3) Agregue, en el hueco mencionado, la manteca o margarina, los huevos, el azucar, la miel, y el extracto de malta. Mezcle los ingredientes húmedos con las manos y, una vez incorporados, comience a agregar de a poco el harina, moviendola hacia el centro en pequeñas cantidades, hasta formar una masa uniforme.

4) Cubra el bollo de masa con papel film y lleve a la heladera por 20 minutos.

5) Mientras tanto, prepare las placas para horno recubriendolas con papel de hornear (antiadherente).

6)Unos minutos antes de sacar la masa de la heladera, precaliente el horno a maximo/250C

7) Saque la masa de la heladera y estirela con palote de amasar hasta que tenga un ancho de 1/2 cm. Corte circulos de aproximadamente 4 cms de diametro, coloquelos sobre la placa y lleve la placa al freezer por 5 minutos. NOTA: las tapitas crecen en el horno, asi que coloquelas suficientemente separadas la una de la otra o se unirán al cocerlas. Asimismo, no omita ponerlas en el freezer o perderan la forma!

8) Cocine las tapitas en horno fuerte por 5 a 7 minutos, hasta que esten apenas doradas. Tenga cuidado, se doran muy rápido, vigílelas!

9)Retire del horno, transfiera a una rejilla, y deje enfriar totalmente.

10) Una vez que las tapitas estén frias, unte la mitad con una cucharada de la mermelada/dulce de su elección, y cierrelas con las tapitas restantes, haciendo un sandwich. Una vez haga esto, usted tendrá en sus manos alfajores!

11) Prepare el baño de azucar agregando el agua hirviendo y el limon al azucar impalpable y revolviendo bien hasta que no queden grumos.

12) Coloque los alfajores sobre una rejilla y cubralos con el baño de azucar. Deje que el baño se seque y endurezca y disfrute!

 

Pueden guardarlos en el freezer por 3 meses. Espero que les gusten!

 

Have a wonderful weekend and a great start of the new week!

 

Jul
04
2012

Souvlaki,pitta bread and tzaziki: a very belated Cypriot lunch for Circulo Whole Kitchen

Good afternoon dear friends!

I hope you are having a lovely week! I hadn’t planned to take time off blogging but life took over my plans, and I had to attend to more urgent matters, which is why these recipes are being published late.I had originally planned to bring them to you on Monday the 18th of June (which was the official publication day for savory recipes at Circulo Whole Kitchen) but, as mentioned above, it was not possible. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of publishing them, however because June’s proposal is very special to me, and because all flavours are summery and ideal for barbecues and outdoor entertaining.

During the month of June, Circulo Whole Kitchen’s  savory proposal included three recipes which constitute a traditional Greek meal…and since I live in Greek Cyprus, they are a big part of my life and of my memories of this place . I have already shared one of these recipes with you, that of Tzaziki salad, and for the rest of the menu (which even included freshly baked pitta bread!), I used flavour combinations and marinades that I learnt here. It is my way of bringing you a part of my newly adopted culture, and my children’s first one.

The first time I came to Cyprus was in August 2007, to visit my husband. At the time, I was still working in Ivory Coast (where we had met), and he had arrived to Nicosia a month before. I was meant to join him by the end of the year but we didn’t want to spend 6 months apart, so I took 10 days of vacations and came to see him during the summer.  During weekdays, when he was at work, I would stroll the empty streets (Nicosia is a ghost city in August) and, on weekends, we would travel around the island, to get to know our new home. We visited  Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca, Aphrodite’s birth place, Kakopetria and other places in between and we were captivated by the calm, quiet, leisure-like mood of the island.

An important part of exploring a new place is, of course, tasting its food, and some of the foods we tasted were the ones that are the object of this post. Now, I had tasted souvlaki before, of course. We call them brochettes in Argentina, using the french word, and I had also had them as kebabs in Ivory Coast (called after their arabic denomination, which means “roast meat”) but the difference lied in the sauces used for marinating them. Until then, I was used to simply brushing meat and vegetables in olive oil and adding rosemary or thyme, or just lemon, and here were marinades that involved wine, cinnamon, yogurt, and french fries served with oregano. I was fascinated and remember scribbling the ingredients mentioned in the menu in paper napkins  to try to emulate the recipes at home.

It is through experimenting with the recipes and comments generously provided to me by the people that came into my life since I arrived to Cyprus that I ended up with the chicken marinade for this souvlaki. I accompanied them with traditional tzatziki (using the recipe that my sister in law shared with me many years ago), and with oven- roast mixed potatoes, brushed in olive oil and sprinkled with oregano.  For the pitta bread, I used the recipe provided by Circulo Whole Kitchen.

Here are the recipes:

Souvlaki:

Ingredients (for 8 sticks):  3 tablespoons greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove of garlic, crushed, 2 teaspoons paprika, salt and pepper to taste, 1 big chicken breast, 1/2 green pepper, 1 tomato, 1/2 red onion, 1/2 white onion, .

Preparation:

1) Mix yogurt, olive oil, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl. Dice the chicken breast and add the pieces to the yogurt marinade. Cover with cling film and leave in the refrigerator a minimum of 5 hours (preferably overnight).

2) Dice the vegetables and set aside. Remove the marinating chicken from the refrigerator and start assembling the souvlaki, mixing meat and vegetables. Place them side by side on a baking dish brushed with olive oil and pour any remaining marinade over them.

3) Grill or cook in the oven until ready.

Pitta bread:

Ingredients: 500 grs all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 240 ml warm milk, 240 ml warm water, 25 grs fresh yeast.

Preparation:

1) Mix flour and salt. Set aside.

2) Mix milk and water and pour over the yeast, mixing until dissolved

3) Add the the liquid mix to the flour and incorporate. Work the dough thoroughly, until really smooth and soft (this is important! do not skip this step!)

4) Form a ball of dough, place in bowl, cover with cling film and let it rest until it doubles its volume.

5) Flour the counter, put the dough on it, and pat it against the counter a couple of times, in order to remove air.

6) Cut the dough in small portions, cover with a kitchen towel and let them rest for about 15 minutes, in a warm place.

7) Once the small portions of dough have risen, roll them to give them a circular shape, until they are 1/2 cm thick. Place them in baking sheets, cover them and let them rise again.

8) Once risen, cook in a hot oven (220C) for about 6-10 minutes. They should not brown, only be crispy on the outside.  Store them one on top of the other, covered with a kitchen towel for maximum freshness.

Oven-roast mixed potatoes:

Ingredients:  1 big potato and 1 big sweet potato, olive oil, oregano

Preparation:

1) Peel and cut the potatoes alongside (as if you were making French fries)

2) Place them on a roasting pan, and brush them with olive oil.

3) Mix salt with one tablespoon of oregano and sprinkle over the potatoes. Cook in the oven until just tender.

Tzaziki (originally published in this post)

Ingredients: 1 cucumber, 1 clove of garlic, greek yogurt and a little bit of parsley for garnishing.

Preparation:

1)Cut the cucumber into thin slices, and then chop them finely. Place them in a bowl.

2)Chop a clove of garlic (or half, if you are not a very garlicky person ;) and add it to the cucumber.

3) Add greek yogurt (500 ml) and mix well.

4) Chop a few parsley leaves to garnish.

Con sabor latino...

Buenas tardes queridos amigos!

Espero que esten pasando una hermosa semana! No había planeado tomarme vacaciones del blog y tardar tanto en publicar pero la vida se interpuso en mis planes y tuve que ocuparme de asuntos más urgentes, motivo por el cual estas recetas se publican recien hoy. Mi idea original era publicar este post el 18 de junio (ups!), que era el día oficial de publicación de las recetas del Circulo Whole Kitchen, pero, como mencioné anteriormente, lamentablemente ésto no fue posible.  Elijo publicarlas, sin embargo, aún cuando haya pasado tanto tiempo, porque la propuesta del Circulo Whole Kitchen para el mes de junio tiene una importancia especial para mí, y porque todos los sabores incluidos son muy veraniegos, ideales para asados y reuniones al aire libre.

En el mes de junio,el Circulo Whole Kitchen nos invitó a preparar tres recetas tradicionales griegas…y como yo vivo en la parte griega de Chipre, estas recetas forman parte de mi vida diaria, y estos sabores forman parte de los recuerdos de esta tierra adoptiva que llevaré conmigo a donde vaya. Una de estas recetas (la de tzaziki), ya la compartí con ustedes en ESTE POST, pero la repito aquí para que no tengan que andar buscando en los archivos (aunque buscar en fácil ahora, no? ;) Para el resto del menú, utilicé combinaciones de sabores y marinadas que aprendí aquí. Esta es mi forma de acercarles una partecita de mi cultura de adopción- y la primera de mis hijos.

La primera vez que vine a Chipre fue en agosto de 2007, para visitar a mi marido. En ese tiempo yo aún estaba trabajando en Costa de Marfil (donde nos habíamos conocido) y él había llegado a Nicosia un mes antes. Ya habíamos decidido que yo me le uniría aquí definitivamente a fines de ese año, pero 6 meses nos parecía demasiado tiempo para estar separados, así que yo vine a visitarlo durante 10 días en el verano para acortar el tiempo a la distancia. En esas vacaciones comenzamos a conocer la isla. Los días de semana, mientras él trabajaba, yo paseaba por las calles desoladas de Nicosia (que es una ciudad fantasma en agosto!) y, los fines de semana, explorábamos el que sería nuestro nuevo hogar. Así visitamos Pafos, Larnaca, Limassol, la roca donde nació Afrodita, Kakopetria y otros lugarcitos, y quedamos cautivados por el animo veraniego, calmado, tranquilo de la isla.

Una parte importante de explorar un lugar desconocido es, claro está, probar sabores nuevos, y algunos de esos sabores nuevos para mí son los que incluyo en este post. No, no es que haya probado souvlakis por primera vez en este viaje, de hecho en Argentina los llamamos brochettes (usando la palabra francesa) y tambien los había comido en Costa de Marfil (donde los llaman kebabs, usando la palabra árabe, que significa “carne asada”), pero la diferencia estaba en los condimentos utilizados y en la forma de emplearlos. Antes de venir a Chipre, cuando yo hacía brochettes no marinaba la carne, sólo la pincelaba en aceite de oliva y espolvoreaba romero o tomillo o, simplemente, limón…y de pronto aquí me encontraba con marinadas que utilizaban vino, canela, yogurt, paprika y las papas fritas se servian espolvoradas con oregano. Estaba fascinada con los nuevos descubrimientos culinarios, y anotaba los ingredientes que leía en los menus en servilletas de papel para hacer pruebas en casa, e intentar emular las recetas.

La marinada que usé en estos souvlaki de pollo fue producto, justamente, de esos experimentos nacidos de los comentarios generosos y de las recetas que me brindaron personas que aquí conocí. Los serví sobre pan de pitta casero y los acompañé con la tradicional tzaziki (hecha con la receta de mi cuñada) y con papas y batatas rostizadas al horno, pinceladas en aceite de oliva y espolvoreadas con sal oreganada.  Espero que les gusten!

Aqui estan las recetas:

Souvlaki:

Ingredientes (para 8  palitos) :  3 cucharadas de yogurt griego, 3 cucharadas de aceite de oliva, 2 diente de ajo machucado, 2 cucharadas de te de paprika, sal y pimienta a gusto, 1 pechuga de pollo grande, 1/2 pimiento morrón verde, 1 tomate,  1/2 cebolla colorada, 1/2 cebolla blanca

Preparacion: 

1) Mezclar en un bowl yogurt, aceite, ajo y paprika. Cortar el pollo en cubos y agregar a la marinada de yogurt. Cubrir con papel film y dejar reposar en la heladera un mínimo de 5 horas (preferentemente toda la noche)

2) Una vez transcurrido el tiempo indicado, cortar los vegetales en cubos y retirar el pollo de la heladera. Armar los souvlaki cuidando de intercalar distintas verduras con la carne. Una vez armados, colocarlos en una placa para horno pincelada con aceite de oliva y verter encima todo restante de marinada.Llevar a horno mpderado a fuerte hasta que estén cocidos.

Pan de pitta (receta de Circulo Whole Kitchen)

Ingredientes: 500 gr de harina, 2 cucharaditas de sal, 2 cucharadas de aceite de oliva, 240 ml. de leche tibia, 240 ml. taza de agua tibia, 25 gramos de levadura fresca

Preparación:

1) Poner en un bol la harina junto con la sal.

2) Mezclar la leche con el agua e incorporarla a la levadura mezclando hasta disolverla. Agregar esta mezcla a la harina, poco a poco, junto con el aceite de oliva e ir mezclando hasta que esté todo el líquido incorporado.

3) Formar una masa y comenzar a trabajarla en forma continua hasta que esté bien lisa y suave. Es importante que la masa esté bien amasada.

4) Colocarla en un recipiente y cubrirla con un plástico y dejarla levar hasta que doble su volumen.Una vez levada la masa se vuelca sobre una mesa enharinada.

5) Desgasificar la masa y cortar en porciones que se dejan descansar sobre una superficie enharinada y cubiertos con un paño. Preferentemente en un lugar cálido. Esto hará que nuestro pan leve en aproximadamente 10 a 15 minutos.

6) Se toma cada porción y se estira de medio centímetro de espesor en forma circular o alargada. Se van depositando en placas limpias, se cubren con un paño y se dejan levar nuevamente.

7) El secreto de estos panes es cocinarlos en un horno a una temperatura alta , unos 220º, para que se inflen y formen corteza pero sin color, deben quedar blancos. Los dejamos hornear durante unos 6 a 10 minutos.

8) Para conservarlos blandos se apilan unos sobre otros en caliente y se cubren con un paño, o plástico.

Mix de papas y batatas oreganadas al horno: 

Ingredientes: 1 papa grande común, 1 batata, aceite de oliva para pincelar, oregano para espolvorear

Preparacion:

1) Cortar las papas en bastones, como si fueran papas fritas.

2) Colocar las papas en una fuente de horno y pincelar con aceite de oliva.

3) Mezclar la sal con una cucharada de oregano y espolvorear sobre las papas. Cocinar en horno moderado hasta que esten tiernas.

Tzaziki:

Ingredientes: 1 pepino, 1 diente de ajo (o medio, si no quieren espantar vampiros ;), yogurt griego (o yogurt natural, si no encuentran), perejil para espolvorear arriba antes de servir

Preparación:

1) Cortar en pepino en rodaja bien finitas, y luego picarlo hasta que quede chiquito.

2) Picar el diente de ajo muy finito.

3) Agregar el yogurt y mezclar bien.

4) Antes de servir, picar unas cuantas hojas de perejil y espolvorearlas encima.

 

I hope you like these recipes!

What is the dish that spells summer to you?

PS: Happy 4th of July to all my American followers! May you be enjoying a wonderful day with family and friends!

May
16
2012

An introduction to Argentina's sweets, part III: churros, milhojas, pastelitos.

Churros and milhojas

Good morning friends! Ihope you are having a wonderful week!

This is the last post on Argentinian sweets…well, not the very last one I will write, because I plan to bring you some recipes, but the last one of this introductory series. Starting from the next post, I will resume my regular posting of recipes, crafts and party ideas.

This post does not have many pictures and the ones it has were taken on the streets of Buenos Aires, whenever I could find local vendors selling the things I wanted to talk to you about ( this is just to show you how popular they are). Two extremely popular cakes are missing from the pictures, but I will provide you with links that have beautiful pictures, so that you can have an idea of what it is I am describing.

Let’s begin with a Latin American classic: churros! We used to eat them to accompany hot chocolate on winter days, home-made by my mother or my grandmother (who even had a “churrera”, which is the cylinder shaped machine to make churros with the traditional scalloped border). When I visited Punta del Este, in Uruguay, I tasted them filled with dulce de leche or chocolate for the first time. Later, chocolate, dulce de leche or cream filled churros became very common in Argentina as well, and now we can say they have become a popular favourite.

Milhojas de dulce de leche (pictured next to the churros, above, and here) is none other than a  “dulce de leche thousand layer cake”: a cake made with layers of “hojaldre” (which is similar to puff pastry) stuck together with lots and lots of dulce de leche repostero and covered in either dark chocolate or poured fondant (more commonly, the former). It is a traditional cake for birthdays and small versions can be bought at almost any bakery.

Pastelitos

Pastelitos (pictured above) are the sweets that are traditionally eaten during national holidays (25th of May, Argentina’s first national government day, and 9th of July, Argentina’s Independence day). They are made with a variation of puff pastry and traditionally filled with quince spread or sweet potato marmalade, though it is also possible to find them filled with (you guessed it!) dulce de leche or dulce de leche and walnuts. Once they are assembled, they are deep fried in either oil or grease, until golden.

Other two VERY popular cakes are Rogel Cake and Chocotorta. Rogel cake is made layering sheets of cake of a texture similar to the one of alfajor santafesino with dulce de leche repostero, and topped with Italian Meringue. It is extremely sweet, but delicious!

Chocotorta is a childhood classic which dates from the 1970′s, when a popular plain chocolate cookie brand (chocolinas) boosted its sales by advertising a simple cake that kids could do themselves using said cookies, because no baking was involved. The cake is made by layering chocolinas with dulce de leche (of course) mixed with cream cheese (queso blanco/fromage blanc), and it tastes delicious after 24 hours in the fridge, because the cookies fully absorb the filling and they become unrecognizable. Some people dip the cookies to moisten them more, either in coffee, syrup or dessert wines such as marsala or oporto. The cake is commonly covered with the same dulce de leche and cream cheese mix, and topped with chocolate swirls or simply cocoa. The cake is so popular that restaurants started serving it (see this article on the best chocotortas in Buenos Aires restaurants, for example) and couples started requesting it as wedding cake.

I hope that you enjoyed this series of posts on Argentina’s food culture. In the next post we will go back to our regular themes: recipes, parties and crafts.

Have a wonderful day!

May
10
2012

An introduction to Argentina's sweets, part II: Pinitos, nueces confitadas, bocaditos maroc, bocaditos cabsha, chocolate en rama

Good evening dear friends! I hope you had a lovely week.

This week, we continue with our introduction to typical Argentinian sweets, the ones we, Argentinians, love and miss when we are abroad. Today, I bring you some of my favourite bite-sized sweets. All of them, except branch chocolate and nuts confit, can be found in any kiosk, so they are great for an almost guilt-free sugar rush moment. Also, all of them, except for “bocadito maroc” include dulce de leche, because most of my fellow country-men would agree that “a desert without dulce de leche is not desert”. I have changed quite a bit in this regard since living abroad, but try baking a birthday cake with buttercream, jam or lemon curd for an Argentinian child (or adult!) and you will be met with a face of sheer disappointment!

 Let’s begin with Bocaditos Maroc, which are the bi-colour squares portrayed in the pictures above. They are made with a combination of peanut cream, milk and white chocolate. They are soft and truly melt in your mouth and, best of all, they are really easy to make at home so, if you want to give them a try, here’s how: Cover a square pan with foil. Process 100 grs of peeled roasted peanuts with 1 tablespoons of corn or canola oil until it reaches a pancake batter consistency. Melt 100 grs of milk chocolate and add 1/3 of the peanut cream to it. Mix well and place it in the pan, making sure it covers the pan evenly and smoothly. Bring to the fridge for about 15 minutes, so that the chocolate hardens. Melt 80 grs white chocolate and add another 1/3 of the peanut cream, mix well and pour it on top of the milk chocolate and peanut mixture. Put it in the fridge for another 15 minutes and, in the meantime, melt the remaining 100 grs of milk chocolate. Mix with the last 1/3 of peanut cream, and add it to the pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and place it in the fridge until hard. Once ready, remove from the pan, peel off the foil and cut into squares with a sharp knife (If you wet the knife in hot water, it will be easier to get a nice, clean-cut). And that’s all it takes!

The following treat is perhaps the most common of them all: Dulce de leche cones, or “Pinitos de dulce de leche”. They are simply, as you can see from the picture below, a truly decadent treat made of cookie, lots of dulce de leche disposed in a cone shape and covered in either dark or white chocolate.

Dulce de leche cones/Pinitos de dulce de leche

If you live outside of Argentina and you are familiar with regular dulce de leche, you may be wondering how  it is possible for the cones to keep their shape. The answer is this: the cones are not made with regular dulce de leche, but with dulce de leche repostero, or “baking dulce de leche”, which is firmer and thicker than the regular one (which has a jam-like consistency).

Dulce de leche repostero, unlike regular dulce de leche, is not made solely of milk, sugar and vanilla. Now, be warned, here comes a big surprise: Dulce de leche repostero has bean pulp (pulpa de frijoles) and cornstarch to give it its consistency. Argentinian friends, if you don’t believe me, go check the ingredients listed in a can…I did it back in November and couldn’t believe my eyes!

If you want to make it at home, you should know that the proportions are different from the ones for regular dulce de leche: apart from adding the above ingredients, it takes three times more sugar. So, for every 5 litres of milk (as I did in the original recipe), you will need 3 kg of sugar, 2 1/2 cups of bean pulp (made soaking the beans overnight, then boiling them until very soft and finally passing them through a sieve), 10 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1 vanilla bean  and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. The procedure is pretty much the same as for regular dulce de leche, except for the addition of the beans which has to be done after the milk and sugar mixture starts to thicken (see the first stage of browning of my earlier post on dulce de leche). Right after adding the bean pulp and mixing everything very well with a wooden spoon, you should also add the cornstarch previously diluted in half a cup of cold milk. Then let time run its course and after a few hours you should be able to enjoy wonderful baking dulce de leche!

Another special treat that I look forward to eating when I go home are nueces confitadas, or “nuts confit”:

Nueces confitadas- Nuts "confit"

There are many recipes and ways to make them, but most of them involve three ingredients: dulce de leche repostero (see why you should know how to make it? ;) , walnuts and poured fondant. The most traditional way consists of surrounding a full walnut in a spoon of dulce de leche and covering it all with poured fondant.  Some, however, do it in a different way (as the ones that you can see in the picture above), which consists in making a paste with dulce de leche repostero and processed walnuts, giving it a ball shape and covering each ball in either poured fondant or dark chocolate.

The following picture shows another personal favourite, called Bocadito cabsha:

Bocadito cabsha

They are made with host capsules (yes, like the host of catholic mass. In Argentina they can be bought at baking supplies stores), dulce de leche, glucose, rum, and chocolate. The procedure is very simple: you need to heat the glucose in a pan, together with the dulce de leche, remove the pan from heat and add the rum, and fill the capsules with this preparation  being careful not to overflow them. Finally, cover the capsules in chocolate, let them cool down for it to harden and enjoy!

Finally, chocolate en rama, or branch chocolate:

Chocolate en Rama- Branch chocolate

If you are curious about how it is made, check this video where  you can see a real  maitre chocolatier at work.

 

See you next week, with the last post on Argentinian sweets and a few recipes!

Have a wonderful weekend!

May
03
2012

An introduction to Argentina's sweets, Part I: Alfajores

Good morning  friends! Let’s finish the week on a sweet note, shall we?

Last year, during our stay in Córdoba, I started preparing a few posts about Argentina’s sweet food culture. I could not finish writing these posts at the time, but I did take the pictures with the aim of showing you what we,  Argentinians,  think about when we think about sweets, what we love, what we miss when we are abroad. So here is the first of these posts, three in total, showcasing a small selection of my favourite treats. I need to give you one warning, though: there are many more sweets that I could not find in Córdoba (because they are typical of other provinces) or didn’t have the time to photograph. I also owe you a post on the candies and cookies from my childhood, which I meant to prepare, but my children kept eating the items to be photographed ;)

So, let’s begin! Today’s post is about the most popular of Argentina’s sweet treats: alfajores. But what are alfajores? And why are they called this way?

Alfajores are basically two cookies sandwiched together by some kind of sweet filling, be it fruit jam, dulce de leche, mousse or even ice cream. Their name comes from the arabic word “alajú”, and it is, in fact, an arabic confection that entered Spain during the Moorish era (during the period of Al-Andalus) and was then adopted -and modified- by the Spanish colonies. The shape and the recipes for the cookie itself and its fillings vary greatly from one country to the other, and even from one region to the other. According to wikipedia, the original confection (which can still be found in Spain) contained flour honey, spices and nuts and had a cilinder form (like a crêpe),  while in Latinamerica alfajores are round and are normally filled with jams and mousses.Also, while in Spain they constitute a treat to be enjoyed mainly on special occasions (such as Christmas), except in the Medina Sidonia (where one can buy them all year long), in countries such as Argentina they are an everyday snack and can be bought in any kiosk.

Alfajores are different from a regular sandwich cookie, such as an oreo. The texture of the cookie itself is different: alfajores are moist and soft, and lack the crispiness of a traditional sandwich cookie. The filling is different as well, and more abundant. Whoopie pies, on the other side,  look like an alfajor, and that is probably what we would call them back home in Argentina.

Alfajores from Mar del Plata

Argentina has different kinds of traditional alfajores, which differ from province to province. There are, of course, those that are available in kiosks nation-wide, produced by big candy companies, such as Arcor, Bagley or Terrabusi (owned by Kraft foods), but what is really interesting, and what I recommend you to do if you travel to Argentina one day, is to taste the regional versions, and compare them. In the following pictures I will show you some of these alfajores for you to get a glimpse at the variety you can find, and once I have tested and tweaked the recipes I brought from home, I will share them with you here as well.

The first type of alfajores I am showing you is perhaps the most famous one: Alfajor “Marplatense”, the alfajor from Mar del Plata, a seaside city in Buenos Aires province, which is also a traditional vacation spot.

Alfajores (from Mar del Plata)

Mar del Plata has many alfajor factories and, one of them, Havanna, has opened cafés and stores in several other countries, such as Israel, Spain, Mexico and the US. Havanna alfajores can also normally be found in shops that sell Latin-american products, as well as in Argentinian restaurants.

Havanna alfajor and coffee at Triangle, in Barcelona

There are several types of alfajores from Mar del Plata: vanilla cookie with dulce de leche filling, covered in chocolate, vanilla cookie with dulce de leche filling covered in sugar glaze, vanilla and coffee cookie with dulce de leche filling and dark chocolate glaze, and vanilla and walnut cookie, with dulce de leche filling and covered in white chocolate glaze. They are all delicious, and their dulce de leche filling has the characteristic subtly smoky flavour that just burst in your mouth with the first bite and leaves you wanting more.

 

Chocolate and Dulce de leche alfajor (Mar del Plata)

Vanilla, nut and dulce de leche alfajor, covered in white chocolate (Mar del Plata)

 

Vanilla and dulce de leche alfajor, covered in sugar glaze

Alfajores from Córdoba are quite different, in two main aspects: the cookie is quite simple and light, the traditional filling is fruit jam instead of dulce de leche (normally, apple, pear or quince jam) and they are covered with a very simple sugar glaze made with only icing sugar and water that does not cover the cookie completely. Due to the popular love for dulce de leche, however, alfajores cordobeses with dulce de leche also exist, but they are not the traditional ones.

Córdoba’s traditional sweets

 

Alfajor cordobés (with fruit jam instead of dulce de leche)

The cordobese confection that traditionally carries dulce de leche are colaciones, which are characterized by the crispy, curved nature of the cookie (that contains many egg yolks and a little bit of alcohol in the dough).

Colación (Córdoba)

Alfajores from Santa Fé are also very popular. They are made of three layers of crispy, rather dry cookie (characterized because the dough has to be rolled and turned on itself 20 times, such as in the procedure for making puff pastry) , filled with dulce de leche (lots of dulce de leche, since the cookie itself is not overly sweet!) and covered with a sugar glaze made with icing sugar, water, lemon and egg whites.

Alfajor from Santa Fe

Another very famous alfajor, which I couldn’t find in Córdoba to photograph, is the Alfajor Norteño (from Argentina’s North-West region), which is filled either with layers of dulce de leche and turrón, or only with turrón paste made with honey, egg-whites, sugar and walnuts.

I hope you liked this small introduction to our sweets and, worry not!, recipes will come soon!

And in case you are wondering who ate all those sweets that were photographed, it was a little blonde elf that helps me style food whenever he can…

He, who ate them all ;)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Mar
30
2012

Our family trip part III: Buenos Aires

I love Buenos Aires.

I thought I should let you know how impartial I am about the city before even beginning to write about it, so that you would be warned. Because I am (impartial) and because I do love it very much. True, I have never lived there and I have only visited it as a tourist, but I have always had such a great time and I find it so incredibly beautiful, stimulating and full of life that I can’t imagine NOT liking it for any reason.

The first time I visited I was 7 years old and, when I went back to Córdoba, I asked my mum on the plane back home, full of guilt,  why Córdoba was not as beautiful. Since then, I have gone back several times, mostly on  short trips, and every time I go I am amazed at how beautiful the city is-at least, for me.

The Pink House

Plaza de Mayo

As I mentioned before, I have been to Buenos Aires mostly on short trips, so I explored the city little by little. Back in  2002 to 2004, I used to travel every 15 to 30 days, for 24 hs. I would take the bus at night, and arrive to Buenos Aires at dawn, when shops were opening, cafés were getting their delivery orders of medialunas from bakeries, apartment concierges were washing the sidewalks and streets were beginning to get crowded with cars full of people going to work or taking their children to school.  I like watching cities wake up, I find the early hours of the morning very magical so it was a special treat to see a city I love get ready for the day.

In those trips, I would generally have a meeting in the morning and then I would take the rest of the day to explore the city by foot, before taking the bus back to Córdoba. My meetings would generally take place downtown, and from there I would walk  wherever I wanted to go that day. This is how I visited  museums such as the wonderful Museum of Latinamerican Art-MALBA, or the National Fine Arts Museum , as well as landmarks such as the Recoleta Cementery, the Botanical Garden, the Japanese Garden,and the Floralis Generica.Sometimes I attended free lectures at Universities, or literary gatherings at local cafés, but most of the time, I just took pleasure in strolling the city streets.  I never bought anything because I didn’t have any money, nor did I take pictures, because I didn’t have a digital camera (and buying and developing films was expensive) but, to be honest, I didn’t miss either. Being there, surrounded by all that beauty was enough to feed my soul.

San Telmo

Buenos Aires is big, huge even, but I find it very walkable and it is easy to move around using buses or the subway, for longer distances. It is a very green city, with plenty of trees lining its streets, and big parks where people sunbathe in the summer (yes, they do!), run in the afternoons, grab a bite at lunch time or have a picnic during weekends. The city’s rhythm is hectic and everyone seems to be always in a hurry, yet I have always been greeted with a smile (some say I was lucky, but  I can only speak from my own experience, which was always positive). Taxi drivers love to discuss politics, to talk and to make recommendations, to ask where one is from and to give their opinion. I find this very funny and always enjoy my taxi rides because of this reason- but I must confess my husband doesn’t find it that amusing (insert smile)

Cathedral

Buenos Aires has plenty of cafés, some of which are important landmarks and are not to be missed, such as Café Tortoni (which is 150 years old) Café de los Angelitos or La Biela (which was my father’s favourite)- so please, avoid the local Starbucks if you are ever there, and get a real “café con medialunas” in a place that feels like Buenos Aires and not like any other café from the same chain in any other city of the World. The local magazine Planeta Joy made  a selection of the 10 best traditional cafés of Buenos Aires, if you are ever in the city, which you can find here.

 

Recoleta Cafés

Enjoying the breeze may cost more

Buenos Aires is also a very cultural city, full of libraries (like the incredibly beautiful El Ateneo Grand Splendid) where it is a pleasure to browse for new and old books alike. The city also has one of LatinAmerica’s most important Opera Houses, the Teatro Colón (which was recently refurbished and restored) and there is always a large offer of theatre plays, concerts, talks, seminars, art expositions and other interesting activities such as philosophical cafés (or café-filo). Musicians and artisans populate the streets and the city is famous for its interesting finds in design and vintage objects.

Musicians

When we started planning this trip, we had originally envisioned spending a week in Buenos Aires. I had already been there with my husband after we got married, and we were looking forward to showing it to our children. We wanted to rent an apartment, to be able to move freely and to explore the city by bits, so as not to end up with cranky toddlers. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible. Finding a rental apartment was so hard, and prices so exorbitant that, 3 months before the trip, we gave in and decided to change our tickets to spend a mere weekend there, and we booked a hotel.

In the end, this was the best decision because, 5 weeks already into our trip, Luka and Zoe had become exhausted, wanted to come back home and were in an almost permanent state of crankiness. So we kept our outings really simple, leaving all the explorations for another time and focusing on keeping them happy and meeting a handful of friends only.

We stayed in Recoleta, because of easy access, safety, close friends who live in the area and proximity to parks and museums, and we limited our outings to it (on Saturday) and Palermo (on Sunday). There are many other neighbourhoods we could have visited, and I do know the ones we chose are the two most touristy there are but, when travelling with small children, options are not as large as when one travels alone.

Buses

It was early December when we were there and the Spring weather was absolutely delicious, which was great for walking. Luka and Zoe travelled in the double stroller while we walked around, sleeping on occasions, lullabied by the breeze.

One of the places we visited was the Recoleta Cemetery which dates from 1822 and where all Presidents and other important persons such as writers, artists and sportsmen are buried. It was the first and, for many decades, the only cemetery the city had (until the creation of the Chacarita). Its most visited tomb is probably the one of Eva Perón but, to be honest we didn’t visit for the famous names. We visited, instead, because the whole place is a work of art and I find it particularly fascinating to see how a person’s character and taste has been portrayed by its survivors. There are heroes carried by crying angels, militars handing over their swords,  journalists being shown their way to heaven by angels, and even couples giving their back to each other because the wife had stopped talking to her husband after a discussion and had requested to be portrayed in this way since “she would still be angry at him after death” (It’s true! Look for the tombs of Salvador Maria del Carril and Tiburcia Dominguez!). In order not to miss the funny anecdotes, it is better to take the official guided tours, but if you don’t have time or money to do so, a simple walk around the place will prove interesting nonetheless.

Cementerio de la Recoleta

 

Cementerio de la Recoleta

 

Cementerio de la Recoleta

Cementerio de la Recoleta

 

Cementerio de la Recoleta/ Statue of Liliana Crocciati, who died during her honeymoon in Innsbruck

 

Cementerio de la Recoleta

 

Eva Peron's tomb

 

Living statue

In the Cemetery’s surrounding area there is also the famous Iglesia del Pilar ( del Pilar Church), the Recoleta Cultural Center, the National Library, several museums   (such as the Palais de Glace, the Museum of Fine Arts or the Xul Solar Museum) as well as plenty of restaurants, cafés, shopping malls (such as Patio Bullrich and Buenos Aires Design) and open fairs (during weekends). And if you like (and can afford) high-end shopping, this is your area as well.

Recoleta

Tango is everywhere

The Love van

 

Street shops

Choripán and churros

On our second day in Buenos Aires, we chose to visit Palermo, mainly because my husband had never been there, and I had been so long ago that I could hardly remember anything.

Palermo is a neighbourhood that has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Different parts of it have been popularly renamed according to their new vibe, and we can now find places known as “Villa Freud” (where there’s the highest number of psychologists and psychiatrists)”Palermo Soho” (the more bohemian side of the city) or “Palermo Hollywood” (where local TV stars live), for example. Unlike Recoleta (which is more conservative), Palermo has an artsy, laid-back feeling. There are artists selling their handicrafts on the streets, independent designer shops, as well as vintage and antique products, some cobblestone streets, and a myriad of cafés with tables on the sidewalks. Palermo is also the neighbourhood where the Japanese Gardens (which has a restaurant where you can order Tea served with the traditional Tea Ceremony), the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens are, as well as the Planetarium and the MALBA.

Japanese Garden

 

Japanese Garden

We kept our day very simple: we strolled around Recoleta in the early morning and then joined a dear friend for lunch at a Lebanese restaurant in Palermo, followed by a quiet walk, and some mandatory ice cream in Un’Altra Volta (seriously, ice cream in Argentina is so delicious it’s a crime not to have as much as one can. I’m not kidding!). By middle afternoon, we joined  a big group of friends who had organized a meet up in the Japanese Gardens  (travelling even from other provinces). We were around 10 families, with our children, talking,laughing and hugging each other in what was a real goodbye treat and a perfect way to bring our trip to a close.

Palermo

 

Palermo

 

Ford Falcon

 

Palermo

 

 The following day, we took the plane back to Paris-Belgrade, and two days after that, we arrived back home, to Cyprus. Exhausted but happy for what we lived and happy to be back home as well. Our time in Buenos Aires was short and quiet, but we left knowing that there will be future trips where we will be able to explore other places (like La Boca, San Telmo, Tigre) and to do other fun activities.  This trip to Argentina was not about exploring, it was about family and friends and, like that, it was perfect.

Have a beautiful weekend and get ready for some serious sugar rush, because in my next post I will start showing you Argentina’s traditional sweets!

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