BARI, ITALY

Travels

I had a great beginning of the year starting it with trip to Bari, very beautiful town in Southern Italy. This town and surrounding pampers you with the sun, fresh seafood and beautiful nature even in the middle of January.

Bari is an old town with a strong history, many old churches, narrow streets and charming architecture. Every day early in the morning I was listening to ringing bells at nearest church through the opened window. Somebody can consider it as a noise, which disturb the sleeping, but I usually enjoy it and start to prepare my mind for a new day.

Morning is my favorite part of the day, that’s why any sign of coming wake-up time is the melody for my ears 🙂

Just listen to it:

The old town is very small, you can walk through it within 10 min, but the tricky thing is to find the way without map. It seems you already getting familiar with the surrounding, but as soon as you rely on yourself and don’t use navigation, you can walk looping around targeted spot and can’t find it anyway. It is an enchanted town, full of very small, narrow and confusing streets. Don’t worry if you are getting lost all the time, nothing wrong with you or your party. As I told you, the reason is the town, stay calm and do not scold your leader.

But my story is not about the town.

Puglia is a region with golden land or just puglians have golden hands, anyway, if you look around everywhere are plantations of olives, figs, cherries and almond trees. If you go to Bari from airport by train you will see that even along the train line there are plantations and trees, trees and plantations. No any piece of land is in vain. The same if you drive between the cities.

We had a trip to Matera with a guide to see the city, visit cheese factory and nearest winery.IMG_0921

Puglia produces more than 40% of all Italian olive oil and more then 10% of worldwide olive oil production. They harvest olives 3 times per year and there are more than 60 million olive trees in Puglia region. Olives are growing here many centuries and the oldest olive trees reaches age of 1000 years. Can you imagine how many centuries these trees have seen and how many stories they have heard? Unbelievable.

I have got a wild bay leaves and rosemary growing on the way.

Smells amazing!

CHEESE

Being the third largest cheese producer in Europe Italians are damn good at it. Mozzarella, Burrata, Ricotta, Parmigiano and many others. Who don’t know Italian cheese and who don’t like it?

Have you ever tried fresh mozzarella just made in the factory? This is inexpressible. Our supermarkets don’t offer anything like that.

We have visited a small family cheese factory, where they produce different type of cheese from stretched-curd as mozzarella, provolone and caciovallo.

Mozzarella is a fresh and soft type of cheese. It is made by heating curd until it reaches easy stretching consistency and can be formed into various shapes as you can see it from my video. It can be kept up to a week when packed in vacuum, but nothing can be compared to the taste of just freshly made mozzarella.
Another type of the cheese, which is produced by the family we have visited, is Provolone cheese. Provolone is a cousin of mozzarella cheese and is made from the same crude, just slightly different technique. The hardness of the cheese depends on the aging time. There are two types: a milder, less aged version, and a much sharper, spicy, aged version. The more age, the more piquant it becomes.

Caciocavallo is also a type of stretched-curd cheese, which looks like a drop and is hanging in a rope and is being eaten fresh or getting aged by hanging like this for few month or sometimes even up to one year.

PISTACHIO AND ALMOND PARADISE

Pistachio ice-cream, croissants with pistachio cream, pistachio cakes and buns. Pistachios are everywhere and extremely delicious with extremely rich flavor. That’s obvious, pistachios are growing in Italy, but unfortunately I wasn’t lucky to run into pistachios or pistachio cream in the shops along my way, but you can easily find almonds and almond butter made from almonds grown in the region. I was told by locals that there was a good harvest of almonds this year in Puglia, so it is worth to bring it.

People very nice here and are very keen to help, but many of them don’t speak English though. So be ready to practice Italian language without pre-knowledge, I can convince you now that it is possible with their determination. Don’t hesitate to talk to Italians in the port at fish market as well. They are very opened to help you to deal with your seafood.

SEAFOOD

Bari is located on the Adriatic sea and is a port city. Every day fishermen bring a catch and selling fresh seafood in the port. Italians, and only men by the way, meeting their mates in the daytime here for chatting, drinking beer, eating fresh seafood and playing cards. Standing at the tables, dressed clean and nice as Italians used to look, they are quite deftly with own knives cleaning the catch. We have met only few tourists at the market. This place doesn’t seem very popular for tourists, what make this place even more charming and attractive.

Here you have a chance to try fresh raw seafood. I have tried sea-urchin for the first time and as well raw octopus, so crunchy and fresh. I was surprised how raw seafood can be fresh and tasty, it is like to find a taste of sea breeze finally, which could be only smelled before. Especially, raw shrimps!  Just drizzle over lemon juice and enjoy it soft texture and light sweetness.

Any seafood is offered in restaurants as well, mostly cooked and also very fresh and delicious.

MATERA

Few words about Matera to generate your interest.

Matera is 70 km away from Bari. This town totally differs from anything I have seen alive before, just maybe in movies. People were living here in caves until 1962! Around 40-50s government has started transmigrating Matera habitants to the nearest newly built neighbourhoods and the rest part of people, who didn’t want to leave their homes voluntarily was departed by force.

Just imagine the town, which is looking and functioning as a medieval town in 20 century. There was no electricity until the 1930’s.

The movie „The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson was filmed in Matera and probably you are familiar with the town from the screen.

Here is the hill in Matera, where Jesus was crucified in the movie.

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PASTA

Italians are also famous for it’s pasta of course, but there is one pasta dish specific for Bari region. It is made with turnip greens, which are called “cima di rapa” and are getting sold everywhere. This pasta had been considered as a food for poor people before and is a main dish cooked by people in mountains and is made with orecchiette type of pasta.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to try it, but I have got the recipe and as soon as I find turnip greens in Latvia I am going to cook it and share with you. I have no doubts that poor people are having tasty food made from natural products and since they are limited with product variety the dishes they cook comes through a lot of experiments and are mastered till high level.


If you decide to go to Bari, you will definitely like it. So I wish you to enjoy it fully and I hope that my blog post will be a helpful guide.

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GEORGIA

Travels

Georgia is a famous place for it’s cuisine. I could bite my fingers every time the food is served. Khachapuri, khinkali, pkhali, lobio, churchkhela… is a never ending story in Tbilisi. From breakfast to lunch and from lunch to dinner, and from dinner to breakfast, and so on, and again. So delicious food, that I couldn’t stop eating.

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COOKING IN TBILISI

For the reason to bring some recipe back to Latvia I have visited some local villages in order to make my own Georgian bread Puri and sweets called Churchkhela.

October is a perfect time for visiting Georgia. This is a season of grapes and we had a chance to taste young wine and make fresh churchkhela.

We have visited wineries in Khakheti tasting very good Georgian wines, enjoying walk in wine yards, beautiful view to the mountains along the road and cooking Georgian traditional food with locals.

CHURCHKHELA

Churchkhela is a traditional Georgian sweet, which rather looks like a sausage, but don’t judge it by it’s appearance. It is very qualitative sweetness made only from natural ingredients and very delicious, especially if you are a connoisseur of dried fruits and nuts, who I am.

Georgian lady shared her experience for cooking traditional dishes with us.

COOKING PROCESS:

Churchkhela is being cooked from two prepared ingredients.

  1. Filling. It consists of nuts, rather walnuts, but other nuts also can be used. Take whole pieces and needle with thread. Thread the nuts through the center and knot both ends. Make a strips around 20cm long and put aside.
  2. Tatara. Is a dough, which covers the nuts and made from grape juice cooked for 40 minutes with adding flour and sugar. The mixture should be is sticky and dark brown colour.

Take the strip with nuts and put it down in the tatara holding the edge of the strip. Take it out and hang it for drying. Drying can take up to 3-5 days until it stops be sticky.

Freshly made churchkhela (right away at the season of grapes) is the total love and joy. The biggest mistake is to try stale churchkhela, which can spoil all impression about this special product. Be picky, especially when you buy pieces for souvenirs. There are only one spot in Tbilisi airport with good fresh churchkhela in the main hall before you move to gates control.

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PURI

Georgian bread Puri is made simply from flour and water, but the interesting thing about this bread is a special technique how it is being cooked in a deep circular clay oven called tone. That was very nice experience to make Puri myself, but this is impossible to repeat it at home. I will need to come back to Georgia to repeat it again 🙂

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TOMATO-CUCUMBER SALAD WITH WALNUTS

A standard salad served in any Georgian restaurant as appetizer. The main specialty of this salad is the sauce made with walnuts. Grown in Georgia fresh cucumbers, ripe and juicy red tomatoes, and red onions are delicious by itself, but salad dressing make it even more special.  Salad sauce cooking style varies from place to place. Some make it creamy by blending nuts in food processor, but some grinding in a pestle. I do choose second option, since I love to feel small pieces of nuts.

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DRESSING INGREDIENTS:

Walnuts

Sunflower oil (I am using a walnut oil)

Garlic

Cilantro

Vinegar (I like to use pomegranate vinegar)

Salt and pepper

COOKING PROCESS:

It is too simple to describe long.

  1. Cut cucumbers and tomatoes in medium size pieces and slice red onion.
  2. Cut cilantro and grind walnuts.
  3. Mix all dressing ingredients together and put over cut vegetables.

 

Enjoy the taste of Georgia at home any moment 🙂