Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey

Santorini is a breathtakingly beautiful place. You see the pictures of this amazing Greek island all over the place. In magazines, Pinterest, your Instagram feed and you never seem to come across a bad picture. The views are absolutely spectacular and definitely unforgettable.

On our way from Folegandros, we made a pit stop on the island of Santorini. We were lucky enough to stay in Oia, the little village at the very tip of the island known for its amazing sunset views. And amazing sunset views it did deliver. My husband managed to find a little cave house at the absolute tip of the island with an enormous private patio with nothing else to look at but the horizon. Needless to say, I was very fortunate to spend my birthday in this little slice of paradise!

Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey

The only downside was that we were only able to spend one day and night there and had little chance to explore the rest of the island (which I’m told is also beautiful). Oia is filled little boutiques and restaurants all with a great view of the caldera. The caldera for those of you that don’t know (I found out when I got there) is the collapsed remains of a volcano. Santorini’s windy, up and down paths are fun to navigate and slightly precarious at times. I managed to slip and fall on my ass within hours of being there, smashing our only postcard in the process. However, that could just be because I’m rather clumsy at times!

Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey Santorini, Greece | Fig and Honey

A couple of days in the high season would be enough to enjoy this paradise as it’s quite full of tourists. But if you can find a secluded spot like ours, I would recommend at least a week! 

Where we stayed:

White Pearl Sunset Villa

The views were magnificent from this villa. It’s located on the furthest point of the island and boasts the most amazing sunset view. It was lovely having a gorgeous patio to ourselves as many people start looking for the perfect spot to view the sunset quite early as space is limited in the village!

Folegandros, Greece

Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey

With our time in Europe flying by and traveling to see the best of what it has to offer, I’m really not sure why we waited so long to visit Greece and all its many islands. It was the perfect location for much needed relaxation for both my husband and I. The landscape is very inspiring and unlike a lot of the areas we have explored so far. Then you have the weather which makes it just perfect for a vacation.

The summer in Germany often leaves much to be desired and although it does have its good days, a lot of the produce is flown in so there is variety. Most of the time it comes from the south of Europe which for the most part has beautiful weather. When ever we travel to the south, we tend to stay in hotels so I never have the chance to cook with all this fantastic fresh and very local produce. This time we decided that we were going to do things a bit differently and try out a rental house for a week. Yes, I know people do this all the time, but in my head were visions of hideously decorated tiled apartments complete with dingy mini-kitchenettes. Wow was I wrong! These types of apartments still do exist, but there are some absolutely beautiful options out there.

Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey

We ended up renting a beautiful house on the Greek island of Folegandros. The island is perfectly quiet and relatively untouched by tourism which is exactly how I like it. The only way to reach the island is by ferry or by helicopter- we opted for the first option for obvious reasons! Once you leave the port, there is basically one road that goes straight up the island from one end to the other. After a few days of exploring the island by foot and getting some much needed exercise, we rented an ATV (or Quad bike if you’re British) and cruised down to the port to convince the fishermen to sell us some freshly caught Red Mullet. After a bit of help from a local who spoke fantastic English, the fisherman reluctantly sold us some and I started dreaming up ideas of how to cook it! Having a set of wheels also let us drive the entire island exploring secluded beaches and beautiful sunsets.

Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey Folegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey

Since there are no major sites to be seen on the island, we took full advantage of our free time and happily ate, drank, read, hiked and sunbathed the day away. I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else! After a whirlwind year so far, this was the perfect seclusion and relaxation to set us back on track to enjoy what the rest of the year has to bring!

Folegandros, Greece | Fig & HoneyFolegandros, Greece | Fig & HoneyFolegandros, Greece | Fig & HoneyFolegandros, Greece | Fig & HoneyFolegandros, Greece | Fig & HoneyFolegandros, Greece | Fig & Honey 
Where we stayed:

Villa Lithia – These beautiful villas are just a stones throw from Chora. They’re far enough to feel a bit secluded and close enough that you can walk into town, which is just what we wanted. We stayed in the larger of the three, Villa Levanda which had phenomenal views, was tastefully decorated and well appointed.  We were provided with lovely fresh bread, greek yogurt and loads of fresh fruit every day. Sara and Haris are great hosts and make you feel very welcome. If you’re in Folegandros, you must stay here!

Where we ate:

Chic Restaurant – The food was lovely here and the little square was very lively.  We really enjoyed the lamb with prunes and the giant beans! The best part was that everything was locally grown and raised either on the island or within 100km.

Rakendia Bar – It’s just on the outskirts of Chora and has the most beautiful view of the water, especially when the sun sets!

Cooking at Castello Di Verduno, Italy

Piemonte Italy | Fig & Honey

For the past two weeks, I’ve been spending my days in Turin, Italy. Lucky for me, my husband had to travel there for work and instead of staying home alone, I decided to go with him. Who wouldn’t want to sit in a lovely Italian cafe and have a coffee and go shopping for beautiful leather shoes! I had a lovely time to say the least and just couldn’t get enough of the amazing gelato and pizza – my favorite foods!

Piemonte Italy | Fig & Honey

On the weekend, we decided to get out of the city and drive south to the Piemonte countryside. It’s absolutely beautiful much like Tuscany with old medieval villages scattered across rolling hills of farmland. It was even better that Spring was in full swing and the blossoms were out all over the landscape. This corner of the world still has that untouched feeling that is fading slightly in other parts of Italy. Piemonte is home to the famous truffles of Alba, the famous chocolate of Torino and some of my favorite red wines in the world, Barbereso and Barolo.

Piemonte Italy | Fig & Honey

I’m always eager to try the local cuisine of the places that we visit. Usually I spend ages finding the perfect places to go and dishes to eat as I’m never satisfied with tourist fare. One of my dreams is to cook in as many countries around the world as I can! Lucky for me, that the lovely Alessandra from Castello di Verduno agreed to spend one day teaching me some traditional Italian dishes from the region in her kitchen. To start the day off, we went shopping for ingredients in Alba. The whole city of Alba is actually filled with market stalls every saturday selling everything from fruits and vegetables to cleaning supplies and clothes. All the people from the surrounding countryside come to do their weekly shop and catch up with friends.

Alba Italy | Fig & Honey

We headed straight for the farmers market which is tucked away in an open air shed across the road from everything else. Here, all the produce comes straight from the farm and is sold usually by the farmers themselves. It was beautiful to see such variety in produce from so many leafy greens to glossy onions. And did you know that during this time of year, most kiwis come from this region of Italy? Apparently even New Zealand has them shipped over since they’re out of season over there.

Alba Italy | Fig & Honey Alba Italy | Fig & Honey

I just loved seeing the relationship between the customers and the farmers. Everyone searching for the best quality and the farmers eager to provide it. Now if only I could find something similar here in Köln!

Piemonte Italy | Fig & Honey

After the farmers market, we headed back to Castello di Verduno to start cooking! We found so many seasonal goodies at the market that we had quite a lot of work to do in the kitchen preparing all sorts of different dishes.We spent quite a few hours learning and cooking the many dishes that follow and happily enjoyed it all after with lovely bottle of local wine.

Piemonte Italy | Fig & HoneyPiemonte Italy | Fig & Honey

The menu ended up starting with a fresh green salad with greens and radishes from the market accompanied by some fresh flowers that I picked in the garden. We then made Bagna Cauda which is an olive oil, garlic and anchovy sauce local to the area that goes perfectly with cardoon.

We also made a delicious stinging nettle soup with leek and potatoes. In the past, I’ve only had nettles in tea which I have a love hate relationship with.  However, it came out the perfect color green and was surprisingly good!

Piemonte Italy | Fig & Honey

After, we made some vegetarian agnolotti that were filled with cabbage, leek, green onions, and potatoes. These were fun to make and came out beautifully. The vegetarian versions were quite a bit larger than their meat counterparts but were the perfect size for a good bite and a lot of flavor. They tasted delicious with just a simple sage and butter sauce.

Piemonte Italy | Fig & HoneyPiemonte Italy | Fig & Honey 

We also were able to find some fresh hops at the farmers market which are found only in the spring. These are gorgeous blanched and served with a poached egg yolk and a cheese zabaglione. They have such a unique flavor and texture thats different to everything I’ve tasted before. It’s amazing these hops are used later on in the season for beer!

Vegetarian Agnolotti | Fig & Honey

Next for mains, we had some pan fried quail with sautéed artichokes and potatoes. With the little room we had left in our stomachs at this point, we finished it all off with the traditional Bunet – a Piedmontese steamed chocolate and amaretti cake.

Cooking in someone else’s kitchen is a treat for me. I’m always so excited to get out of my own and learn different cuisines and techniques. It’s amazing how similar ingredients can be used in so many different ways around the world. After a full day in the kitchen and overly satisfied stomachs we thanked our hosts and finally made our way back to our hotel. If you’re in the area definitely stop in to eat at this great place or if you’re feeling adventurous, try cooking your food too!

Piemonte Italy | Fig & Honey

Where we cooked: 

Castello di Verduno
Via Umberto I, 9, 12060 Verduno, Italia
Tel. +39 0172 470 125
http://castellodiverduno.com

Where we stayed:

The lovely Palazzo Righini is a luxuriously restored an old convent in the town of Fossano. The service is impeccable and the rooms and grounds are just beautiful. Definitely a perfect place to stay if you are in this area of Italy.

Palazzo Righini
Via Giovanni Negri, 20, 12045 Fossano Cuneo, Italy
+39 0172 666666
www.palazzorighini.it/EN/

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Zimtsterne – German Christmas Cookies

Zimtsterne - German Christmas Cookie | Fig & Honey

Christmas cookies are quite possibly my favorite thing about Christmas. I love that certain foods are very specific to certain times of the year. On Christmas Eve most years, my family and I bake a batch of sugar cookies and spend the afternoon decorating them in the most perfect way.

My sister always has the most precise and beautiful intricate creations.  My brother will normally spend the entire time decorating one prized cookie that usually looks too good to eat.  My husband usually piles on as much icing as the cookie can handle because he likes the more icing to cookie ratio. For me, usually the first few start out quite well, then I start getting more and more fed up and aim for quantity not quality! It’s always a struggle for the perfectionist in me. However, this afternoon is definitely one of my favorite traditions and the results are usually too good to eat!
Zimtsterne - German Christmas Cookie | Fig & Honey

This year we’ve been trying lots of different German Christmas cookies.  My favorite so far has been this Zimtsterne. These are traditional cookies that are found in bakeries, markets and supermarkets all over at this time of year.  Translated directly as Cinnamon Stars, they are a meringue based cookie with ground almonds and flavored with cinnamon and lemon zest.  It’s quite simple really and very delicious.  They are however, a pain to make!

The meringue base makes things extra sticky. Usually only copious amounts of powdered sugar can help to solve this problem. Then once you have managed to cut out the stars, the meringue topping must be evenly spread on top of each one. Though for others this might not be a huge issue, for me it’s super time consuming. I like everything to be perfect and that can only be achieved with time! In the end, they didn’t turn out perfect, but they were very delicious! I like to think that the rough edges add to the charm!
Zimtsterne - German Christmas Cookie | Fig & Honey

Zimtsterne

Makes about 40 -50 stars

  • 3 egg whites
  • 250 g powdered sugar
  • 360 g ground almonds
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • zest of 2 small lemons
  • pinch of salt

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy with the whisk attachment. Make sure your bowl is completely clean and free from any oils before you start. Begin adding the powdered sugar in small batches while the mixer is running. Beat until the meringue is very shiny, but before very stiff peaks form.

In a small bowl, remove 50 g of the meringue. Cover and refrigerate.

Next, fold in the ground almonds, cinnamon, zest and salt into the remaining meringue mixture. Fold until evenly distributed, but be careful not to over mix. Tip the contents out onto a large sheet of parchment paper sprinkled with powdered sugar. Sprinkle the top of the mixture with some more powdered sugar and top with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll out the dough till about 1cm thick. Place the whole thing in the refrigerator to cool for a 1/2 hour to an 1 hour. This step is not completely necessary, but things can get very sticky so it makes life a bit easier!

Once the dough is cooled, you can begin cutting. Remove the top sheet of parchment and sprinkle again with a bit of powdered sugar. Dipping your star cookie cutter into powdered sugar each time, cut out the stars and place onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Continue to collect the dough into a bowl and roll out until all is used up.

Preheat the oven to 150°C.Using a offset spatula or a knife, spread the remaining meringue mixture evenly across all stars making sure it doesn’t drip down the sides. Place into the oven and bake fore 10-12 minutes. Keep an eye on them towards the end of 1o minutes so the meringue doesn’t begin to brown.

Let cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy when fully cooled and store in an airtight container for up to a few weeks.

Valencia Mercato Central

Since I am obsessed with food, it’s only natural that one of my favorite places to spend the day is the market. To me, it’s a magical place full of colorful surprises with every step. In no other place do you get to see the beauty that is food in it’s most natural form. Well perhaps if you lived on a farm, but I don’t.

Valencia Mercado Central

Unfortunately for me, Cologne does not have a central market like most big European cities do. Usually the first thing I look up after booking a holiday is the market and when it is open!  This was again the case when we decided to visit Valencia.  Turns out the market was a big attraction in this little Spanish city.

Valencia Mercado CentralValencia Mercado Central

I love waking up early and joining the locals selecting the perfectly ripe piece of fruit, or the most sumptuous looking pastry from the local baker. The relationship between the buyers and sellers is so intriguing to me. Some are good and fast friends catching up on a weekly basis at the same place and time. Others come and go with just a word of thanks. Some sellers are passionate about their food, others can’t wait to get it off the shelves. It’s amazing how such a place ties people together in so many ways. How one seasonal vegetable can be made into hundreds of different dishes, each filling the stomach of an eager diner.

Valencia Mercado Central

The Valencia Mercato Central fast became one of my favorites in the world. Few that I have visited have had the selection and atmosphere like this one. The vendors were very friendly and place was chock full of amazingly enticing produce and seafood. The brightly colored green and purple beans were calling out my name.  The shimmering fresh fish, most of which I’d never seen before and the hand picked mushrooms were conjuring up recipes in my head.  I wish I could have packed everything into my  suitcase and spend days creating fabulous dinners.

Valencia Mercado Central

Unfortunately the language barrier and the lack of kitchen in my hotel room left me savoring the food through my camera rather than through my mouth.  So instead of filling a basket full of tasty treats, I will continue to spend my market time capturing the people and their treasures that make it so magical.  Well at least until the day comes when I can live in a city with a market like this!

Valencia Mercado Central

Where we ate:
Central Bar – Perfect location in the middle Mercado Central to get a bite to eat after perusing the gorgeous selection of fruits, veg, seafood and meats that you unfortunately can’t take home in your suitcase.  Have a taste of some of the daily seasonal items instead at this little restaurant.  Definitely try the Coca de Pisto -Bacalao Pinones (a flatbread with a very soft ratatouille topped with flaked cod and a pistachio pistou.

Valencia Mercado Central

Valencia, Spain

Valencia Anjanee Four years ago while planning our wedding, the one factor we did not take into consideration was that October is quite possibly the worst month to travel. Just about everywhere is in the midst of changing seasons, experiencing monsoons or hurricanes or is just plain cold.  This unfortunate decision has made our lives quite difficult when considering where to visit for each of our anniversaries.  The first year we celebrated our anniversary, we decided that we love nothing more than travelling (other than each other of course) and that we would always take some time to get away together to celebrate our nuptials.

 Valencia Santiago CalatravaSo this year, we procrastinated like crazy (as we normally do when we have to plan a holiday) and waited till the ultimate last minute to choose somewhere to go.  We wanted sand and sun. Then we wanted an extreme cultural experience (the kinds that are found in the eastern part of the world). Later we decided that we would forgo the culture and opt for luxury. As per usual, we were incredibly indecisive.

 Valencia Santiago CalatravaFinally, with time dwindling and with it, the options too, we decided on Valencia. Why not we said. It has luxury, it has culture, it has sand, it has sun, it also has amazing architecture. We booked it. I’m really glad we did. Valencia was precisely what we needed.

Normally, in the interest of trying to balance experiencing a place and being able to see as much as possible, we stay usually only 2-3 days in any given city. It’s almost always never enough (unless you are in Venice, then 1 day will do!) but since our time in Europe is short, we sacrifice.  However, this trip, we spent 6 days in Valencia and were so happy we did.

ValenciaIt’s not one of those cities where there is loads of sites to see or hundreds of recommended restaurants that need to be tried.  Rather it’s just one of those in between.  It’s a beautiful city with a good amount of places to visit and good food to be eaten. But it’s also one of those places where you can quite happily say that all you accomplished was a huge pan of seafood Paella, a couple bottles of wine and a long siesta. Having this much time let us leisurely experience the culture of this little gem in Spain.

Valencia AnjaneeQuite possibly one of my favorite parts is the Turia Gardens. Once an old riverbed that was diverted around the city, this area has been transformed in a beautiful park full of sculptures, fountains, opportunities for exercise and hundreds of varieties of trees.  All of it ending with the famous Santiago Calatrava buildings. The perfect place to run (that is if I were a runner) or just inhale the outdoors.

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