November 23, 2014

Busy summer chilling out in Northern Cyprus

November is here and the summer is dancing away. Weather is changing. Wind whistles. Trees bend beneath its strength. Dust fly in the wind. Clouds darken the sky. Thunder rolls. Heavy rains strike the ground. Stretched out on the deck chair, the red cat remains unruffled and continues its nap. He knows it is a matter of time. In a few hours, the wind will have chased away the dark clouds. The blue sky will be streaked with only a hand of cottony clouds and the sun will shine again.

The last six months were no surprise but spotless blue sky and hot temperature, very typical Cypriot summer. Under that blazing sun everything slows down and the main activity is lounging. We discovered our new favorite spot for lounging, in Northern Cyprus*.

Saturdays would start easy with salted butter or homemade jam spread on my tartines, tea and my newspaper. None of my day can start without my tea and my newspaper…
Slowly we would head toward Nicosia, the last divided capital. On the way Nati would practice his French and we would laugh loud… un pain au chocolat à la boulangerie, s’il vous plaitla bou-lan-ge-rie… in French please! Nati is determined to learn French… At the border we would switch driver. Chill out time would start then.

We would continue north, impressed with the Kyrenia range rising in front of us like if there would be no way to escape or cross over. The road would weave in and out the range and we would reach Kyrenia just on time for a lunch at Niazi’s, our place for charcoal mixed grill and mezes.
This restaurant was opened first in Limassol in 1949. There are old yellowed pictures from those days on the walls. They had to relocate in the north after the partition of the island.

Niazi's since 1949
Same waiter, same table and same food… that is how we like it… One of the waiter asking if we knew his father… he lives in Paris and goes to the Eiffel Tower every Sunday… large smiles and friendly conversations…

Satisfied, we would keep going, driving along the coast, turquoise-blue water and golden sandy beaches all the way.

Karpas Peninsula
And the day would go by, enjoying the sun, sea, food and, peace and quiet… an ice cream stop from time to time…

Alagadi Beach
On Sundays we would just follow the same routine… Tartines, tea and newspaper for breakfast before heading the road back home…

Shall we cross the border at Nicosia or shall we go through the Troodos Mountain so we can stop at our other favorite place for grilled fish and salad, by the sea?

Grilled chicken and Haloumi cheese
Village Salad
For a change we would decide to come home crossing the border far west next to Pyrgos village… nice scenic route along the same turquoise-blue water…

we would wander around and end up on a hilltop overlooking the sea… there remains what is left of the Vouni Palace, built by the Persian rulers around 5th BC… nice change…

Vouni's Palace
But yet we would stop at our other favorite place, by the sea, for lunch…

Club Güzelyali, Vasilia
Club Güzelyali, Vasilia

We would be home by Sunday afternoon, content and relaxed from our little escapade in the North, looking forward for the next weekend…

* The island of Cyprus is partitioned since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a Greek military coup. We live in Southern Cyprus, officially call the Republic of Cyprus. Northern Cyprus is a self-declared state recognized only by Turkey under the name Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The UN drew up the commonly called “Green Line” as a ceasefire demarcation line in 1963. Travel restrictions are eased since 2013, enabling people to cross the border.

October 19, 2014

Lime Cheesecake by Siba… from Siba’s Table

Three judges, four chefs hungry for success, three rounds and only one winner! Competitors will be judged on the taste, presentation and creativity of their plates.

Chefs, please open your basket. Today the mystery ingredients are: Chinese okra, lamb brains, green tea and, popcorn!… You have 30’ to create an unforgettable meal. Good luck!

“Chopped” is a great food challenge we enjoy watching: interesting food discovery, source of inspiration sometimes, odd ingredients often, and suspense always!
…Excepted when a French chef enters the competition… the proud rooster in me is crowing… lot of technique in the execution and the French touch. Of course, he won the competition!

Chefs, two minutes left. Time’s up! Please stand back! Whose dish is on the chopping block?

There is now a South African version of this program, “Chopped South Africa” and the mystery ingredients are pretty exotics: Chinese pickled mustard, Championship boerewors, Quince jelly, Guinea-fowl, Chakalaka, Pickled Galangal… I know the Amarula cream liquor from previous trips in Africa… but Mebos, or Nasterfal?... exotic mysteries…

Lion's Head, Cape Town, South Africa
Credit photo: my sister Véronique who lives in Cape Town @Verostrip 

One of the expert judges of “Chopped South Africa” is the vibrant Siba Mtongana! Her cooking-show, “Siba’s table” is my absolute favorite.

Siba is such a passionate and inspiring cook. She hosts her show in the beautiful Cape Town, South Africa. I have a penchant for the African culture so I like the African influence on her cooking.
Siba is authentic and the program stages her own life: date night with her husband, brunch with friends, picnic on the beach, Sunday lunch with family…
Her recipes are simple, modern and, have a certain je ne sais quoi… I just love it!

I have successfully tried several of her recipes. One of them is the delicious “Perfect no-bake cheesecake”… I have never been cheesecake fan. I am very picky when it comes to dessert and I rather like the French delicacy.
But I must admit that this one is really good. The freshness of the lime, the silkiness of the filling, the vibrant green… “Siba-li-cious!”

And so far this is a hit at home, at the office, with friends and also with the B.B. girls!… 

Note to self: Experiment on the base I. The cinnamon and spices of the Speculoos biscuit overpower the cheesecake… keep the Digestive biscuits for the base.

Note to self: Experiment on the base II… attempt with the French Petit Beurre... the smell of the melted butter with the Petit Beurre reminds me so much of my childhood… but it makes the base too crumbly… maybe to be tried with more butter…

June 08, 2014

Life List # 7 - Read 100 works in world literature

I love books. I am not an avid reader but a very slow reader. I appreciate each word, as I would be savoring each bite of a unique and delicate meal, preferably dessert. My preference goes for the big and heavy books, as you never have enough of a refined dessert…

For me, books are a tangible source of knowledge and comfort, an invitation to an unknown journey… I need to pile them up as if I was afraid that one day I would be running out of it. In a bookstore I feel like a child in a candy store. It is hard to walk away without a new book. I am an obsessive and compulsive book collector.

My father would buy most of the books, they would recommend in his favorite literary talk show but would barely read them, as he was already busy reading nearly every single article of his daily newspaper. The accumuation of all those books in the attic like a precious treasure was driving my mum batty.

I am very similar to my father in this regard. My books are a precious treasure. I may have more books that I will ever read in my entire life and I still make list of books to buy…

My literary tastes might look eclectic but the books that I picked for this list have all in common to sharpen my appetite for travel… the trip can take the form of a spiritual journey or the discovery of a different culture. I sprinkled with a few classics for the sake of my ignorance…

1. My african journey by Winston Churchill
2. Soul mountain by Gao Xingjian
3. The dream of the celt by Mario Vargas Llosa
4. Kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami
5. The shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
6. Them by Joyce Carol Oates
7. The Cairo trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz
8. Ake, the years of childhood by Wole Soyinka
9. The home and the world by Rabindranath Tagore
10. Black box by Amos Oz
11. The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro
12. The god of small things by Arundhati Roy
13. Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Gosh
14. The little prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
15. The catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
16. Sunset oasis by Bahaa Taher
17. Travels to Jerusalem and the Holy Land by François René Chateaubriand
18. Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago
19. Snow by Orhan Pamuk
20. The stranger by Albert Camus
21. Germinal by Emile Zola
22. Eugenie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac
23. The satanic verses by Salman Rushdie
24. Anna Karenine by Léon Tolstoï
25. The arabian nights
26. The lover by Marguerite Duras
27. Dangerous liaison by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
28. In search of lost time by Marcel Proust
29. Candide by Voltaire
30. Crime eand punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
31. Alice’s adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll
32. Around the world in 80 days by Jules Verne
33. A sentimental education by Gustave Flaubert
34. The pessoptimist by Emile Habibi
35. The confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
36. Les miserables by Victor Hugo
37. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
38. The grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck
39. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal
40. The devil’s pool by George Sand
41. The count of Monte-Christo by Alexandre Dumas
42. Tropic of cancer by Henry Miller
43. Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
44. The castle by Franz Kafka
45. Don quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
46. The upstart peasant by Marivaux
47. The adventures of Huckleberry by Mark Twain
48. Congo by David Van Reybrouck
49. One hundred years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
50. Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais
51. The 120 days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade
52. Azazel by Youssef Ziedan
53. Shira by Samuel Joseph Agnon
54. The three musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
55. The sun also rises by Ernest Hemingway
56. West with the night by Beryl Markham
57. Jacques the fatalist by Denis Diderot
58. Fear and trembling by Amelie Nothomb
59. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
60. Uncle Tom’s cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
61. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
62. The athenian murders by Jose Carlos Somoza
63. Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant
64. The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
65. The autobiography of Malcom X by Alex Haley
66. Ulysses by James Joyce
67. The handsome jew by Ali Al-Muqri
68. The mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir
69. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
70. Children of the new world by Assia Djebar
71. In cold blood by Truman capote
72. The human stain by Philip Roth
73. Jazz by Toni Morrison
74. A bend in the river by Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul
75. The english patient by Michael Ondaatje
76. The shining by Stephen King
77. The spy who came in from cold by John Le Carré
78. The name of the rose by Umberto Eco
79. A prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
80. The New-York trilogy by Paul Auster
81. Schindler’s list by Thomas Keneally
82. The dark child by Camara Laye
83. To kill a mocking bird by Harper Lee
84. Before night falls by Reinaldo Arenas
85. My father’s glory by Marcel Pagnol
86. The complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
87. The collected stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer
88. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
89. The bachelor girl by Victor Margueritte
90. The great Gasby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
91. Middlemarch by George Eliot
92. Fables by Jean de la Fontaine
93. Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen
94. Travels in the Congo by Andre Gide
95. Republic by Plato
96. Losing my virginity by Richard Branson
97. Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk
98. Balbala by Abdourahman Ali Waberi
99. Long walk to freedom by Nelson Mandela
100. Bitter lemons by Lawrence Durrell

Happy Reading!

April 22, 2014

Life List # 3 - Attend a cooking class in Italy or, my Food adventures in Sicily – Part 2

… So here I am, back to Palermo airport. Nice to see again my luggage lost somewhere in Rome… and ready to meet the other participants to this lifestyle and cooking workshop.

We are twelve women coming from different background and culture... The promise of meaningful encounters…
Jana, talented artist from New York ; Angelica, poetic storyteller from Venezuela ; Ericha, my teammate in food styling exploration ; Heather, adventurous globetrotter from Canada ; Elyse, our chef next door from Brooklyn ; Zoe, one of the most attentive student when all in the kitchen, hands on cooking ; Melissa, meticulous food reporter from Philadelphia ; Kat, healthy writer from Canada ; Nicole, photographer with a cheerful laugh from Philadelphia ; and, Jasmine, my passionate roommate from Milan !

After a gourmet breakfast made of a large assortment of homemade jams, breakfast pastries… with lively conversation around the table… we get started with a tour of the Casa Vecchie estate… a gorgeous place…

The cookery school is in an elegant country residence surrounding a square courtyard where you will encounter Gino, the rooster and its court wondering around. Stepping outside the courtyard, you are blown away by the amazing landscape. Beautiful vineyard all around as the cookery school is located within the family estate where wine is produced.

Wherever you look, your eyes are instantly enthralled and so your camera… an inviting wooden stairs here take you to the vegetable garden and its hamac, a path there walk you to the winery across the rolling vineyard, or Oh look, another path ! And you get lost in the Sicilian countryside… Beau-ti-ful !

Serious things started soon with food styling, composition and photography sessions… Baskets full of fresh-cut vegetable from the garden, antipasti, props… Missing anything ? Just sneak into the kitchen ! Very interesting and inspiring to pair and to look at other participant settings and working process as well.

At some point, shooting food makes us hungry. Time to head to the kitchen. Early evenings would start with a cooking lesson.
All gathered in the open-plan kitchen with antipasti and a good glass of wine from the winery, we would be chatting. Fabrizia would start to cook telling more about the recipe, the ingredients, the culinary traditions…


Hands on would be more than welcome but hands would be busy shooting anything food related or, holding on a glass of wine…
After the antipasti would be all gone and the glasses would be empty, dinner would be ready to be served and we would all move to the large table to fill our hungry estomac after such a promising cooking lesson.
More wine, more passionate chat and loud laugher would go on and on all evening.

No need to mention that each dish is a feast for the senses… I still recall those amazing gnocchi di ricotta made with fresh ricotta, of course…

We visited a dairy farm where an artisan cheese maker demonstrated the art of ricotta making. From the sheep to the ricotta… from the ricotta to the gnocchi di ricotta!

Since it is all about food and photo, we went to Palermo at the largest outdoor food market for more food and photos. Imagine a group of twelve women wandering at the food market all together with their big camera, all shooting at the same time, the same aubergine, the same cauliflower, the same orange… oui, that was fun !

Our last day was very special. March 19th is Saint Joseph’s day, San Giuseppe in italian. In Sicily, people honor San Giuseppe for preventing them from starvation during the Middle Ages, with impressive altars. The altars are covered with food and flowers. The family members or villagers would gather for a week to prepare the offering.

We were very fortunate to visit the Saint Joseph’s altars in several villages around the cookery school…

That was a year ago and I recall amazing memories, food memories of course, but as well stunning countryside and nice people…
By the way, Béatrice announced another workshop in Sicily this coming October… Go for it, you are going to love it !!!

March 20, 2014

Tomato soup by Nati

The association of words, « Cyprus » and « winter soup », sounds pretty odd. Winter in Cyprus, really ? What are you talking about ?
I know I cannot talk about winter when the sky is outrageously blue, when the clouds are anecdotal or when the temperature does not drop below 15 C° at daytime.

This is not an authentic winter in comparison with our icy-cold winters in Paris : freezing temperatures, short and dark days, frozen or snowy sidewalks, runny noses, steamy glasses, everybody hide under several layers of cloths and smokes mist… I never thought I would be missing those winters.

So when they announced heavy snow in the Troodos mountains, I was all excited : « Bad weather conditions across Cyprus. Many roads leading to villages remain closed due to heavy snowfall. 80 cm height of snow at the Mount Olympos (1.952 m). Temperatures dropped below 0 C° in the montains… »
… I was already looking forward to drive up there and enjoy an authentic winter in Cyprus… before it all melts…

So here we are, driving up to the Troodos mountains with a large smile and as excited as kids. Something funny and unique is to see the cars driving down, with a little snowman made on their windshields. « We are all kids » like Nati says !

We are all kids!
Now that we have our winter, we can have our winter soup ! It is going to be a tomato soup.
For this recipe, I sat back with my notebook and enjoyed the show : Nati demonstrating how to make a tomato soup. Of course, no soup can involved!

Needless to say, the snow melted long ago but as I was making this tomato soup a couple of days ago, I thought I would share this recipe with you… regardless of the outrageous blue sky, the absence of clouds and the 23 C° we are having those days… so boring !

January 21, 2014

Life List # 23 - Become a wine connoisseur or, my wine tasting in Burma

I’m French so people assume I know about wine, but I don’t !
I don’t want to become a wine connoisseur for the cliché. But I must say I’m actually enjoying this nectar of the gods and in the past years I have found myself deepening my pleasure of experiencing new wines and discovering the complexity of the vinification …

A few months ago I was traveling in Burma and in a conversation with backpackers in Rangoon, the words « Wine tasting » popped up. Wine Tasting in Burma, really ? So I grabbed my Lonely Planet to find out that there were two wineries in the region of the Inle Lake, in the eastern part of the country. A must try !

So I tried. But I would like to clarify my intentions: I was planning to go to Inle Lake regardless of the winery tour !
After days of intense heat it was nice to enjoy much cooler temperatures…

Back to business ! Myanmar Vineyard or Red Mountain Estate ? I went for the second.

The project of a vinery in Burma started in 2002 : French winemaker. Winery equipment from Italy. 75 hectares. Altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level. Plants from France, Israel and Spain. Oak barrels from Hungary. Bottles from France. Fresh nights and sunny days. First harvest in 2008. Production of 85,000 bottles in 2011, 120,000 bottles in 2012… My wine tasting in 2013*.

The wine tasting takes place outside on the terrace. The winery overlooks the vineyard. The sun sinks. We can guess Inle Lake in the distance. Peaceful silence. A couple of visitors, breathless, push their bike uphill toward the winery…

Sauvignon blanc : dry, fruity, metallic aftertaste
Rose d’Inle : Dry, savorless, strong, dull color
Shiraz – Tempranillo : Strong
Late harvest : Semi-sweet, fruity

Not very moved by this selection so I order a glass of my favorite wine : Pinot noir !
Amazing Pinot noir… Bright color, clear, dense, ruby at sight. Rich in aroma, toasted-smoky smell. Another swirl… fabulous bouquet. Well balance as I don’t like so much excessive acidity.

Amazing view, good wine, few vegetable tempura and the peaceful silence turns into loud laugh !

I went home with one bottle of Pinot noir 2012 and I wish I had brought home some more !

* This reflects only my personal taste. Make your own opinion.