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Travelling the world, hopefully with a cuppa in hand

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Making and munching our loaves

We loved it burnt bits 'n' all

At the risk of sounding like a food blog, we’re going to tell you all about our bake day yesterday where we made our first decent loaf. After visiting the excellent Apple Day at Burwash Manor and meeting the lovely ladies of Cambridge Cookery school, we were inspired to give bread making a go ourselves. After hearing the River Cottage bread book highly praised by our friend Paul, we ordered ours last week and stocked up on some flour in anticipation of its arrival.

We’ve dived in at the deep end and are in the process of trying to make a sourdough starter. The premise is that you provide a cosy home of mixed flour, water and air and wild yeasts do the rest, bubbling and fermenting away. You then use a dollop of the starter mixture instead of yeast when making sourdough. Our starter has been going since Friday evening but there’s not much to report yet. Once it’s going, it’s a bit like having a pet. The starter needs feeding and splitting regularly. If looked after well, they last for years. Now next time we want to go travelling the question will be ‘who’s going to look after the yeast?’.

After setting that up, we got stuck into making our first white loaf. To save a bit of time we started on Friday night and left a bowl of flour, yeast and water bubbling overnight. On Saturday morning, we just had to add some more flour and salt to make a dough. The step-by-step instructions were really useful and guided us through kneading, rising, shaping and proving. As the day wore on, we felt increasingly proud of our breads and ourselves – we were baking naturals!

However, a series of mistakes later, we felt very much like the novices we are. It all started when we switched the oven on way too early (on max) while our breads still needed lots of time to prove. We followed the book here but we’ll know better next time. Secondly, thirdly and fourthly, our three loaves wouldn’t all fit in the oven at once, we cracked a pirex dish we’d put in the bottom of the oven to steam the bread and all our loaves got what could be kindly called as ‘over-browned’ but is more commonly referred to as burnt. Not to despair, we still felt proud of our achievement and even more so when we tucked into our yummy homemade bread for tea. It was soft, light and slightly doughy with a lovely nutty flavour from the pumpkin seeds on the crust. The other two loaves have been sliced and stored away in the freezer for us to enjoy another time.


Recipe for Torte de Limao

Our first attempt at torte de limao

It hasn’t all been hard work. On Sunday Jon’s sister invited us all around for Sunday lunch. We thought we’d try making a torte de limao which we’d tried and loved in Brasil. It’s kind of a cross between lemon cheesecake and lemon meringue pie, sweet and creamy, and can be made with lemons or limes. It went down very well after Karin’s superb lunch and so we thought we’d share it with you all.

Torte de Limao

The base
250g crushed ginger nut biscuits
75g melted butter
chopped stem ginger to taste

Mix all the base ingredients together and using the back of a spoon, press down into a greased, 22cm, loose-bottomed, deep flan or cake tin.

The middle lemon cheesecake layer
2 tins condensed milk
200ml double cream
juice and all the zest of three lemons (or five limes)

Mix (don’t whisk) lemon cheesecake layer ingredients together until the mixture stiffens (due to a reaction between the lemon juice and the condensed milk). Pour the mixture on top of the biscuit base and place into the fridge to chill for a couple of hours.

The meringue topping
3 medium egg whites
150g caster sugar
juice of half a lemon (or lime)

Preheat an oven to 160 degrees C (gas mark 3). Using an electric whisk on a high setting, whisk up the egg whites until stiff. Then continuing to whisk, add in a spoonful of sugar at a time and also the lemon juice. Check that the meringue forms soft peaks and spoon carefully onto the top of the cheesecake filling.

Place the tin on a rack in the middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes, checking carefully throughout cooking, then turn the oven off and leave the torte in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

After this time, remove the torte from the oven, cool and then chill until it’s time to serve. The torte will serve approximately 12 people.


Back to the delights of night markets in KK

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque, Brunei

We finally arrived in Kota Kinabalu (called KK for short) at about 7pm last night. We were slightly delayed in setting off due to heavy rainfall in KK but I’m glad we waited it out rather than fly through it. All our flights were fine, the food was healthier than usual inflight fare, there was a decent selection of films and the stops helped keep us interested and provided an opportunity for us to revive ourselves. The stop-over in Dubai was a good chance to stretch our legs and look at all the goods on offer in the transit lounge. We had about an hour and a half and we were able to browse all the expensive goods on offer in the transit lounge;  nice pens, jewelry, whiskies, electronic goods and rich Dubai men to buy them all.

Not your usual forecourt

We landed in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, at about 9am yesterday morning and headed straight out to explore. The place is called BSB for short and in our spare six hours we visited the riverside food market, had a stroll along the waterfront, took a watertaxi ride past the houses, schools, fire station and even petrol station all on stilts out in the water. Petrol here is only 20p a litre! Everyone gets about by taxi boat which zoom about in all directions. After our boat trip we stopped by the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque but were only able to peek through the doors as it’s closed to non-muslims during the month of Ramadam. Later on in the afternoon we looked around the Royal Regalia museum with photos, objects used in royal processions and also all the gifts and souvenirs the Sultan gets given by other countries  – quite an array of stuff, not all of it tasteful. We were surprised to learn how closely linked Brunei and Britain were; Brunei only became fully independent from the UK in 1984. The Sultan  actually studied at the Sandhurst military academy and has the honorary rank of general in the British Army. We were starting to droop by the time we’d finished the museum due to tiredness and the heat so we returned to the airport to wait for our final flight.

Fish, fish, glorious fish

In Kota Kinabalu our hotel is right by the night market so after arriving we just dropped our stuff, sprayed ourselves with DEET and then went straight out for some tasty food. We took a look at the fish stalls first – amazing whole fish with spots, stripes, orange ones, blue ones, ugly ones and spiky ones. For food we got a noodle soup dish which turned out to include tripe, liver and kidney but actually didn’t taste that bad, quite nice really once we’d added some lime juice, chili sauce and soy sauce. Then we had some barbecued squid with tasty fried rice (probably containing a health dose of MSG).

It feels great to be back in Asia even if it’s really hot here. When we landed yesterday evening the temperature was 29 degrees C and it must reach the high thirties during the day. Going outside is like stepping into a warm and steamy shower room. I’m afraid that we’ve been extremely lazy today; we got up for breakfast but then had another lie down and ended up sleeping until 2pm! We can blame it on jetlag. We managed to sort out a hiking package for Mount Kinabalu for Friday and Saturday and after that we are going to visit the orang utans in Sepilok and tropical rainforest at Kinabatangan valley. It’s doubtful that there will be any internet connection so it’ll be about a week before we can share our experiences and photos with you. Hopefully they’ll be worth waiting for and we’ll be able to tell you of some amazing times.


Learning how to make chocolate

Roasted cocoa beans

Back in Cusco yesterday we decided to recuperate from our hike with a 2 hour chocolate workshop at the highly rated ChocoMuseo. It turned out to be a great idea. Our chef first of all gave us a talk on the cocoa tree and we got to see some cocoa pods. Then back in the kitchen she took some locally grown cocoa beans that had already been through a fermentation process and slow roasted them on the hob. We all got to have a lucky stir and the aromas were amazing. We then all mucked in to shell the beans. She made the roasted shells  into cocoa tea (which we love anyway when we find it back in the UK). We ground the  remaining chocolate nibs using pestle and mortars (and then a grinder) until smooth and liquidy. At this stage the paste tasted chocolatey, but quite bitter and earthy as well. The chef then showed us how to make this into two different types of hot chocolate: one she just added water, sugar and a bit of chili like the Maya people would originally have made; the second version was inspired by the English, adding milk and sugar and then frothing it up using a twizzle stick. Both were great.


To make chocolate, the factory adds the  ground pure chocolate and sugar into a special grinding machine and lets it run for 24 hours. The proportion of sugar to chocolate makes the 70% or 50% dark chocolate we´ve come across in the shops. After this they temper the chocolate to make it smooth and silky. As we were only there for a couple of hours we were given some ready-made runny chocolate, moulds and flavourings and we got creative making some chocs.

Amongst the flavourings were whole almonds and brazil nuts, salt, ground chili, cinnamon, oreo cookies, peanuts, sugar, raisins, fennel, ground coca leaves, coconut, coffee beans and cocoa nibs. It was lots of fun making up our own combinations and initial results have been very positive!


Oink oink

The sound of little patitas - never again

We had our first menu disaster on our way to Arequipa when we stopped off just over the Peru border in Tacna. Usually, being adventurous and just picking something off the menu works really well but not this time! We asked the waiter what the dish was and got the impression that it involved salad and potatoes which sounded OK to me, going vegetarian would be a nice change.  What I got was definitely not vegetarian; it was a pile of little piggies´ trotters nicely garnished with red onion!!!!!!! I don´t like even slightly fatty meat so there was no way I was going to munch on one of those. Luckily, Jon is a lot less picky and did his husbandly duty and had a couple so the pile wasn´t quite so high when the waiter came to take it away again. We certainly won´t be ordering anything else with patitas in the title and we guess that this is one dish you won´t be recreating at home.

Later on as we continued our bus journey to Arequipa, Jon was rewarded by karma as he won the game of bingo on the bus and we now have one free return journey back to Tacna, just in case we want any more of those pig trotters!

Overall, our journey from Sucre in Bolivia to Cusco in Peru is nearly complete and we booked our bus tickets for the final leg to Cusco for tomorrow night. It´s been a long journey over the Andes; we had four hours waiting at the Bolivian-Chile border (Changara) at a cold altitude of 4700m but with great views of  the snow-covered Parinacota volcano and pink flamingos on the nearby lake. From Chile to Peru, we passed through the first desert of our trip and saw the vast expanse of the Atacama.

In Chile we broke our journey by spending a couple of nights in Arica, an oasis town bordered by sea on one side and enormous sand dunes on the other. While there we had a mini earthquake which was blithely brushed off by the locals as one of the daily tremors but was an interesting experience for us.

Santa Catalina convent

Arequipa is a beautiful city full of interesting Spanish architecture. We really enjoyed a peaceful afternoon wandering around the Santa Catalina convent built in the sixteenth century and described as a city within a city as it contains its own church, streets, houses, kitchens, gardens and even a cemetry. The nuns lived in comfort with four servants and luxuries provided by their families such as European tea services and furniture. From the deckchairs on our hostel´s rooftop terrace we also get an amazing view of the El Misti volcano that dominates the city. Arequipa is one of the places that Jon came to nine years ago, and it has changed quite a lot in that time, becoming hugely more tourist-orientated with boutique shops around the centre selling ´baby alpaca´woollen goods at London prices. We suspect Cuzco might be much the same, but we hope to join in with the centenary celebrations of Machu Picchu´s discovery and visit.