A foodie family's diary of travel, food, and photos

Seeking the Slow Life

September 25th, 2012 | Posted by Ruby in Favourite Places | Italy - (Comments Off on Seeking the Slow Life)

From the region known for its Slow Food movement we’re hoping to find a slower, more enriching lifestyle.

For some time now we’ve been talking about relocating to Italy.  We being Cheri and her family, Gareth’s mother Trish and me when I can retire sometime in the future (hopefully near future).  The intention being that Cheri, Trish and the children will make this a permanent base and Gareth and I will commute to our various work commitments.  Having spent many months researching areas we have decided that the Piemonte region, and in particular somewhere within the Asti province is where we need to look.

Why Piemonte – well that requires a fairly lengthy answer.  Firstly – Geographic:  its proximity to the mountains (skiing for Jacques and the children), the Mediterranean (beaches, seaside and fish), 3 nearby international airports (so that Gareth and I can commute for work), and close enough to a few big cities for necessity or convenience but far enough away to be rural countryside within the Monferato hills..

Secondly – Food:  I probably don’t need to elaborate but I will.  Beautiful fresh produce (tomatoes that taste like tomatoes – do you remember those?), fruit and nuts in abundance and some fabulous typical Italian dishes and ingredients – all at affordable prices.  Each of the villages hosts weekly markets as well as regularly celebrating various harvests and events with great feasts. And then there’s the wine, at truly ridiculous prices, possibly the most underrated quality wines in Europe.

Thirdly – Lifestyle:  rural countryside within the Asti Province – we’re looking for a house that has some land – possibly a hectare or a little more, close enough to village schools for the children with lots of great restaurants nearby for when we don’t want to cook and yet close enough to Turin to be practical (culture, retail therapy).  Here the pace is slow – not surprising the slow food movement was born in this region.

Part of our plan is to grow at least some of our own produce, raise a few goats (to make cheese) and experiment with growing a few items for sale to nearby markets.

We’ve been house-hunting on-line for quite a while and have, with the help of a few local agents, shortlisted some possibilities. Jacques and I will be visiting soon to start making the usual arrangements and to view our shortlisted properties.

Colin’s Half Century or not

September 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Ruby in Friends - (Comments Off on Colin’s Half Century or not)

A few weeks ago Rebekah started arranging Colin’s surprise 50th birthday party, the surprise being that he was in fact turning 49.  But since she caught him out on this 40th birthday with a surprise party she knew she wouldn’t get away with it a second time round so stole a march (or a year) on him.   Somehow she managed to keep it a secret, and right up until just before the party he was out ferrying kids to and from karate with not an inkling of the behind the scenes events.

When I arrived the party was well under way with champagne flowing freely and the teenage kids recruited to serve canapes.  The party was off to an excellent start.  Quite unexpectedly but nonetheless enjoyed by all, a nearby (unknown) neighbour put on a spectacular fireworks display that provided some gratuitous entertainment.

Having appointed myself the unofficial photographer for the night with camera in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other I roamed through the various rooms that were hosting groups of guests – the kitchen where all the foodie action was on the boil; the living room retaining a suitable level of decorum where guests relaxed in big comfy sofas; the dining room with a buffet dinner where the hungry or greedy were congregated; the billiard room where the teenagers were ‘hanging out’ once their waiting services were over; and the patio (hosting the liquid refreshments) where the hard core were camped within easy reach of the champagne, beer, wine…

Perfect Pickled Fish

September 17th, 2012 | Posted by Ruby in Lunch | Starters | Summer - (Comments Off on Perfect Pickled Fish)

Most South Africans are familiar with pickled fish. It’s a typical Cape Malay dish and one of those dishes that I must eat whenever I go to SA. Having not been back to SA for well over a year now and with no plans to return in the foreseeable future I decided it was time to find the right recipe.

Cheri and I have had some interesting experiences lately with our attempts to recreate typical south African dishes.  The recipes are usually easy enough to find but very few produce a perfect result and so it was for the pickled fish.  After a few attempts, the first too vinegary, the second too bland I’ve finally arrived at my version of perfect pickled fish.  Almost any white fish can be used, and either sea or fresh water fish.  I’ve used haddock, tilapia and red snapper with equal success.

For those of you who’ve never eaten pickled fish it’s a lot better than you might imagine.  It’s usually eaten cold or at room temperature with a salad of your choice and a hefty chunk of artisanal bread.  Although I usually skip the salad and eat it with bread and lots of butter.


Pickled Fish Recipe


4 Tablespoons oil + 1 extra spoon
2 pieces white fish fillets about 400grams (haddock, hake, tilapia)
2 Tablespoons flour +1 extra spoon
1 onion thickly sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (medium strength)
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar +1/4 cup extra
1 cup water
1. Dust fish in flour
2. Fry fish in old till lightly golden on both sides then remove with slotted spoon to a plate
3. Add the extra oil to the frying pan and fry the onion over a slow heat until softened  (about 8-10 minutes)
4. Add all the spices and extra flour and fry for a further 2 minutes
5. Add the vinegar, sugar and water and turn the heat up and simmer briskly for about 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to reduce and thickens slightly
6. Remove from heat and add the extra vinegar.  Remove the bay leaves and allspice.
7. Layer the fish and sauce in a dish and allow to cool.  Keep in the refrigerator until about 30 minutes before needed.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
Is best eaten a day or 2 later so that the sauce has time to soak into the fish.
It’s also available from the SA stores dotted around the planet – looks like this: